Weekly Neuroscience Update

Neurons (stock image). "New neurons may serve as a means to fine-tune the hippocampus to the predicted environment," Opendak says. "In particular, seeking out rewarding experiences or avoiding stressful experiences may help each individual optimize his or her own brain.

Neurons (stock image). “New neurons may serve as a means to fine-tune the hippocampus to the predicted environment,” Opendak says. “In particular, seeking out rewarding experiences or avoiding stressful experiences may help each individual optimize his or her own brain.

The discovery that the human brain continues to produce new neurons in adulthood challenged a major dogma in the field of neuroscience, but the role of these neurons in behavior and cognition is still not clear. In a review article, researchers synthesize the vast literature on this topic, reviewing environmental factors that influence the birth of new neurons in the adult hippocampus.

An analysis of how nerve fibers make vital connections during brain development could aid the understanding of how some cognitive disorders occur.

Our hearing has a secret bodyguard, a newly discovered connection from the cochlea to the brain that warns of intense incoming noise that causes tissue damage and hearing loss, according to new research.

In a recent study scientists have found evidence of neuroinflammation in key regions of the brains of patients with chronic pain.

Three Austrian men have become the first in the world to undergo a new technique called “bionic reconstruction”, enabling them to use a robotic prosthetic hand controlled by their mind, according to new research

New research shows that infants learning more than one language do more lip-reading than infants learning a single language.

Finally this week, a new study confirms what has long been suspected: highly processed foods like chocolate, pizza and French fries are among the most addictive.


How the Brain Makes Memories

 

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Here’s a nice infographic on how the brain makes memories. It was created by Dwayne Godwin, a neuroscientist and Jorge Cham of www.phdcomics.com.

Click here for a higher image resolution.


Could your brain direct an Oscar winner?

Neuroscience is being used in Hollywood to measure and predict audience reactions.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

With the aid of this detailed brain map, researchers were able to identify previously unknown cell types, including six different types of oligodendrocytes and a nerve cell. This image of an oligodendrocyte is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Jurjen Broeke.

With the aid of this detailed brain map, researchers were able to identify previously unknown cell types, including six different types of oligodendrocytes and a nerve cell. This image of an oligodendrocyte is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Jurjen Broeke.

Using a process known as single cell sequencing, scientists at Karolinska Institutet have produced a detailed map of cortical cell types and the genes active within them. The study, which is published in the journal ‘Science’, marks the first time this method of analysis has been used on such a large scale on such complex tissue.

Researchers have identified five genetic variants that influence the size of structures within the brain, a discovery that could help determine the genetic processes that underlie neuropsychiatric diseases.

A new study sheds light on the brain cells that function in establishing one’s location and direction. The findings contribute to our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying our abilities to successfully navigate our environment, which may be crucial to dealing with brain damage due to trauma or a stroke and the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Meditation over many years is tied to smaller age-related decreases in brain volume, according to a new study.

In the social world, people constantly gather information through visual cues that are used to evaluate others and interact. A new study has determined that babies can make sense of complex social situations, and that they expect people to behave appropriately.

According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, clinical depression is associated with a 30 percent increase of inflammation in the brain. The study set out to investigate whether inflammation is a driver of clinical depression independent of other physical illness.

Finally this week, the brain’s speech area, named after 19th century French physician Pierre Paul Broca, shuts down when we talk out loud, according to a new study that challenges the long-held assumption that ‘Broca’s area’ governs all aspects of speech production.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

A neural network is like a social network: The strongest bonds exist between like-minded partners.  Credit: Biozentrum, University of Basel

A neural network is like a social network: The strongest bonds exist between like-minded partners.
Credit: Biozentrum, University of Basel

Neurons in the brain are wired like a social network, report researchers from Biozentrum, University of Basel. Each nerve cell has links with many others, but the strongest bonds form between the few cells most similar to each other. The results are published in the journal Nature.

Stroke survivors can have “significant” improvement in arm movements after using the Nintendo Wii as physiotherapy according to researchers.

Grasping an object involves a complex network of brain functions. First, visual cues are processed in specialized areas of the brain. Then, other areas of the brain use these signals to control the hands to reach for and manipulate the desired object. New findings suggest that the cerebellum, a region of the brain that has changed very little over time, may play a critical role. Findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

A process previously thought to be mere background noise in the brain has been found to shape the growth of neurons as the brain develops, according to research published in Cell Reports.

Applying lessons learned from autism to brain cancer, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have discovered why elevated levels of the protein NHE9 add to the lethality of the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma. Their discovery suggests that drugs designed to target NHE9 could help to successfully fight the deadly disease.

Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel claim to have overturned standard thinking on how the brain is able to perform different tasks by studying brain activity in blind people.

Previously, it was thought ability to repair DNA was the same throughout the body, but new research overturns this idea and shows organs vary in the extent to which they carry out a type of DNA repair called nucleotide excision repair.

Finally this week, a major study by an international team shows new evidence that long-term smoking could cause thinning of the brain’s cortex. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain in which critical cognitive functions such as memory, language and perception take place. Interestingly, the findings also suggest that stopping smoking helps to restore at least part of the cortex’s thickness.

 

 

 


Upcoming Talk On Empathy, Engagement and the Brain

empathy jpeg

As part of  Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival which takes place Monday 23rd – Sunday 29th March, I will be giving a talk on the topic of empathy and the brain.

The date is Friday, 27 March 2015 from 14:00 to 16:00; Tickets are free, but limited to 50 places only; book your place via Eventbrite if you wish to attend.


The Neuroscience of Memory


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

New brain research findings suggest long-term meditation may lead to less age-related gray matter atrophy in the human brain.

A new study has revealed that many mental disorders share a common structure in the brain. Six conditions were examined and found to be connected by the loss of gray matter in three specific areas related to cognitive functions such as self-control.

A new paper argues that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature of traumatic brain injury and how it causes chronic degenerative problems.

New research finds that there is not a single type of schizophrenia, as thought, but 8 different genetic diseases.

Scientists have discovered that babies of the age from 9 to 16 months remember the names of objects better if they had a short nap. And only after sleeping can they transfer learned names to similar new objects.

Cocaine addicted individuals may continue their habit despite unfavourable consequences like imprisonment or loss of relationships because their brain circuits responsible for predicting emotional loss are impaired, according to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists have discovered how a ‘mini-brain’ in the spinal cord aids in balance.

UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

New research has highlighted the structural improvements on the brain observed in bilingual people who immerse themselves in two languages.

Good sleep in young and middle-aged people helps boost memory up to 28 years later, a new review of the evidence finds.

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology.

Finally this week, we know that our existence depends on a bit of evolutionary genius aptly nicknamed “fight or flight.” But where in our brain does the alarm first go off, and what other parts of the brain are mobilized to express fear and remember to avoid danger in the future? New research sheds some light on this question.

 

 


The Science Behind Meditation


The Brain: Consciousness and Creativity


In this video Dr. Heather Berlin gives us a basic primer of consciousness and creativity. Dr Berlin is a cognitive neuroscientist and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. She explores the complex interactions of the human brain and mind with the goal of contributing to improved treatment and prevention of impulsive and compulsive psychiatric disorders. She is also interested in the neural basis of consciousness, dynamic unconscious processes, and creativity, and is passionate about public outreach and science communication.


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