Weekly Neuroscience Update

The strength of brain areas mapped on to the cortical surface. Warm colors indicate high strength in the driver network and cool colors indicate low strength. Image credit: UCSB.

The strength of brain areas mapped on to the cortical surface. Warm colors indicate high strength in the driver network and cool colors indicate low strength. Image credit: UCSB.

A team of researchers provides new insight into what occurs in the brain during the learning process.

Neuroscientists have discovered how the powerful brain hormone oxytocin acts on individual brain cells to prompt specific social behaviors – findings that could lead to a better understanding of how oxytocin and other hormones could be used to treat behavioral problems resulting from disease or trauma to the brain.

Infants have innate knowledge about the world and when their expectations are defied, they learn best, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found.

Research on large-scale brain networks by the University of Michigan Medical School reveals that “hubs” in the brain – highly connected regions that like hubs of the airport system – tend to consistently attract information flow.

Over 70% of schizophrenia patients who are “treatment resistant” have apparently developed dopamine supersensitivity psychosis from long-term use of antipsychotic medications, according to a study in Psychiatry Research.

Meaningful activities experienced with others may reverse the normal brain shrinkage associated with the aging process.

Researchers from Royal Holloway, University of London have found that successful long-term learning happens after classroom teaching, after the learners have slept on the new material.

An international team of researchers have revealed in a collaborative study published in Neuron, that neurons in the eye change on the molecular level when they are exposed to prolonged light. The researchers could identify that a feedback signalling mechanism is responsible for these changes. The innate neuronal property might be utilized to protect neurons from degeneration or cell death in the future.

Finally this week, while recent reports question whether fish oil supplements support heart health, UC Irvine scientists have found that the fatty acids they contain are vitally important to the developing brain.

 


Building Ethical Brains

ethical brain

 

I was one of seven academics selected to write opinion pieces for the Royal Irish Academy’s Ethics & Society Opinion Series, as part of President of Ireland Michael D. Higgins’s Ethics Initiative.

The essay entitled Building ethical brains is published today on the Royal Irish Academy website at ria.ie and is a follow-up to my previous posts on the influence of science on society.

Some of the ideas in this essay are developed further in the weekly Irish Times ‘Unthinkable’ ideas/philosophy column under the headline: Is rewiring the brain the answer to ethics? – also published today in the Irish Times.  In this article I argue that ignoring developments in neuroscience means neglecting a chance to become more ethical.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

age-brain-related-changes-autism

Researchers at the University of Miami find that large-scale connectivity in autism changes with age.

Although scientists know that depression affects the brain, they don’t know why some people respond to treatment while others do not. Now a team of researchers has shown for the first time in a large cohort of patients that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), sometimes referred to as shock treatment, change certain areas of the brain that play a role in how people feel, learn and respond to positive and negative environmental factors.

Research by biologists at the University of York has identified new mechanisms potentially driving progression of an aggressive form of dementia.

A new study shows that the act of remembering leads to the subtle forgetting of other memories.

When we look at a known word, our brain sees it like a picture, not a group of letters needing to be processed. That’s the finding from a Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, which shows the brain learns words quickly by tuning neurons to respond to a complete word, not parts of it.

Scientists at the University of Bonn have discovered a new cause of temporal lobe epilepsy.

Brown fat tissue, the body’s “good fat,” communicates with the brain through sensory nerves, possibly sharing information that is important for fighting human obesity, such as how much fat we have and how much fat we’ve lost, according to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Finally this week, people who have suffered serious head injuries show changes in brain structure resembling those seen in older people, according to a new study.

 


Can We Reverse Engineer The Brain?

“The brain can do things computers can’t. We still don’t know the software of the brain, so we have to study its wiring and circuitry and build computer systems that work the same way,” says David Cox, Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and Computer Science, Harvard University.

Author: David Cox is an Assistant Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology and of Computer Science, and is a member of the Center for Brain Science at Harvard University.


Interactive Brain Map

Visit Thinglink to learn about the five parts of the brain –  the frontal lobe, parietal lobe, the cerebellum, the occipital lobe, and the temporal lobe.

 


Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A research team has used neuroimaging techniques to investigate how being in a romantic relationship produces alterations in the architecture of the brain. They found that being in love is associated with increased connectivity between regions of the brain associated with reward, motivation, emotion regulation, and social cognition.

Research from McGill University reveals that the brain’s motor network helps people remember and recognize music that they have performed in the past better than music they have only heard.

The human brain can select relevant objects from a flood of information and edit out what is irrelevant. It also knows which parts belong to a whole. If, for example, we direct our attention to the doors of a house, the brain will preferentially process its windows, but not the neighbouring houses. Psychologists have now discovered that this also happens when parts of the objects are merely maintained in our memory.

Researchers have found that teens who smoked marijuana daily for several years have an abnormally shaped hippocampus and do poorly on tasks involving long-term memory.

A new study has shown how intentional recall is beyond a simple reawakening of a memory; and actually leads us to forget other competing experiences that interfere with retrieval.

Researchers have identified key cells within the brain that are critical for determining circadian rhythms, the 24-hour processes that control sleep and wake cycles, as well as other important body functions such as hormone production, metabolism, and blood pressure

New York University researchers have devised a computer model to explain how a neural circuit learns to classify sensory stimuli into discrete categories, such as “car vs. motorcycle.” Their findings, which appear in the journal Nature Communications, shed new light on the brain processes underpinning judgments we make on a daily basis.

Queensland scientists have found that non-invasive ultrasound technology can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and restore memory.

Researchers at MIT have developed a method to stimulate brain tissue using external magnetic fields and injected magnetic nanoparticles — a technique allowing direct stimulation of neurons, which could be an effective treatment for a variety of neurological diseases, without the need for implants or external connections.

Researchers have come up with a new way to evaluate how well computers can divine information from images. The team describes its new system as a “visual Turing test,” after the legendary computer scientist Alan Turing’s test of the extent to which computers display human-like intelligence.

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale School of Medicine.

Finally this week, a new study finds that giving a drug that changes the neurochemical balance in the brain causes a greater willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as ensuring that resources are divided more equally.


5 Ways to Prepare The Doctors of The Future

Originally posted on ScienceRoll:

Years ago when I was a medical student I felt that lexical knowledge was more important than actually being able to find the information I need. And now there are 23 million peer-reviewed papers on Pubmed.com so the skill of being able to find information is becoming even more important than ever.

I thought that medical curriculum should be redesigned in a way that now we can serve this new need for skills such as digital literacy. That is why I launched the world’s first university course focusing on social media, mobile health and the future of medicine. The course is still running with full house.

In my new video, I described methods that help us prepare students for becoming physicians who can take care of their patients in a technological world. Here is the video and then summaries of the 5 methods.

Developing e-learning platforms

I launched an e-learning…

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Image of the Week: Smartphone Microscope

Originally posted on Wellcome Trust Blog:

smartphone microscope

2015 is the UN’s International Year of Light, and to celebrate, the Institute of Biological Chemistry, Biophysics and Bioengineering at Heriot-Watt University is launching a smartphone microscope competition for students.

‘Enlightenment: Build it, See it, Show it’ aims to get schoolchildren across Scotland building their own microscopes from kits, and using them to take amazing close-up images to reveal the hidden details of the world around them.

The Enlightenment team recently demonstrated the smartphone microscopes at the Scottish launch of the International Year of Light, which took place at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The image above shows a smartphone that has been transformed into a microscope being used to examine a leaf.

School pupils and adults alike were amazed by what they could see using their own phones and a simple piece of kit. We took visitors on a hands-on journey of fluorescent microscopy, demonstrating how animals such as…

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

RSR_Fig1_20140627

Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain’s striatum.

An over-active habit system may be at the root of many psychological problems involving repetitive behaviours like OCD, alcoholism and binge eating, new research suggests. The neuroimaging study, which is published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, found that people with Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD) had difficulty controlling their habits.

A new study suggests that the right hemisphere of the brain may be able to assist a damaged left hemisphere in protecting visual attention after a stroke.

Computer based ‘brain training’ can boost memory and thinking skills in older adults, but many programs promoted by the $1 billion brain training industry are ineffective, reveals new research by the University of Sydney.

Researchers have found that navigational brain cells that help sense direction are as electrically active during deep sleep as they are during wake time—and have visual and vestibular cues to guide them. Such information could be useful in treating navigational problems, among the first major symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders.

New technology could help researchers advance blood biomarker capabilities that show changes in low concentrations of specific proteins present following a neurological injury.

Our brains generate a constant hum of activity: As neurons fire, they produce brain waves that oscillate at different frequencies. Long thought to be merely a byproduct of neuron activity, recent studies suggest that these waves may play a critical role in communication between different parts of the brain.

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale School of Medicine.

People with anorexia nervosa and with body dysmorphic disorder have similar abnormalities in their brains that affect their ability to process visual information, a new study reveals.

Finally this week, overall fluid intelligence — the ability to analyze information, engage in critical thinking, and solve problems — is thought to peak in early adulthood, but a new study suggests that different aspects of fluid intelligence peak at different ages.

 

 

 

 


How does the brain change with age?

Some people’s minds remain sharp and intact well into their 80s and 90s, whereas others can slide into cognitive decline from their early 50s. Why such a divergence? And then there are the people struck by the spectrum of conditions known as Alzheimer’s disease; why do some people succumb to such a slow and debilitating fate, while others live longer, healthier lives?

A major £5M grant from BBSRC has established a new team called the Cambridge Centre for Ageing and Neuroscience (Cam-CAN) that seeks answers to these questions. By studying the brain and its cognitive functions using advanced brain imaging techniques and cognitive experiments, the team of researchers, based at the University of Cambridge and the MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, hope to unravel the mechanisms and processes of healthy brain ageing.


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