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#SfN14 highlights: DREADD-nought, or the role of the posterior parietal cortex in decision making

Editor:

Enjoying more blogs from Society For Neuroscience Annual Meeting

Originally posted on neuroscience and medicine:

I’m sure that you would like to improve on this terrible pun–feel free to chime in in the comments! And now let’s move beyond the acronym: this post is about a poster that was shown at #SfN14 on Monday morning, November 17, during the session on Executive function: Decision making.

358.21/SS34. Disrupting inhibition in posterior parietal cortex reduces decision accuracy. K. ODOEMENE, A. M. BROWN, M. T. KAUFMAN, A. K. CHURCHLAND

The authors, from Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, NY, are interested in understanding how sensory information is used by the brain to inform decision making. They trained mice on a visual discrimination task in which the animals had to learn to recognize that a slowly flashing light was associated with a water reward in one location and a faster flash with a reward at another place. They then injected a viral vector encoding a protein known as a DREADD: a designer receptor exclusively activated by a designer drug…

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The Story Of The Brain


#SfN14 highlights: Oscillations: EEG

Editor:

This is one of the first years I haven’t attended the Society For Neuroscience annual conference. I am catching up via social media instead.

Originally posted on neuroscience and medicine:

303.Poster session. Oscillations: EEG.
Monday, Nov 17, 2014, 8 AM-12 PM.

I really enjoy poster sessions and the unique opportunities for interacting with the authors that they offer. This morning, I spent some time at the session on brain oscillations as studied by EEG. Here are highlights from a couple of posters (three, actually) that I had the opportunity to discuss with their authors. My apologies to the presenters whose posters I did not cover. Note that any inaccuracy or outright misunderstanding in what follows is my responsibility alone!


303.03/C39. Phase dependency of long-range neuronal transmission in entrained neuronal networks: A combined tACS-TMS-EEG study. K. D. FEHÉR, Y. MORISHIMA.

303.05/C41. A method for removing tACS artifacts from EEG data. Y. MORISHIMA, K. D. FEHÉR.

The authors of these posters, from the University of Bern, Switzerland, have combined seemingly for the first time transcranial alternating current stimulation (tACS), a noninvasive approach to modulate brain rhythms, together…

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death. Credit Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin.

Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death. Credit Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin.

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made an important breakthrough in our understanding of Parkin – a protein that regulates the repair and replacement of nerve cells within the brain. This breakthrough generates a new perspective on how nerve cells die in Parkinson’s disease.

A new study, which may have implications for approaches to education, finds that brain mechanisms engaged when people allow their minds to rest and reflect on things they’ve learned before may boost later learning.

A study in which more than 43,000 children were evaluated for head trauma offers an unprecedented picture of how children most frequently suffer head injuries. For teens, top causes are assaults, sports, car crashes; for younger children, falls lead the list.The findings also indicate how often such incidents result in significant brain injuries, computerized tomography (CT) scans to assess head injuries, and neurosurgery to treat them.

Neighborhoods that motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults.

People who are depressed often complain that they find it difficult to make decisions. A new study provides an explanation. Researchers tested 29 patients diagnosed with major depression and 27 healthy controls and they found that the people with depression had an impaired ability to go with their gut instincts, or what we might call intuition.

Learning a new language changes your brain network both structurally and functionally, according to Penn State researchers.

Finally this week, being shown pictures of others being loved and cared for reduces the brain’s response to threat, new research from the University of Exeter has found.

 


Inside The Developing Brain

New investigation methods using functional magnetic resonance tomography (fMRT) offer insights into fetal brain development. These “in vivo” observations will uncover different stages of the brain’s development. A research group at the Computational Imaging Research Lab from the MedUni Vienna has observed that parts of the brain that are later responsible for sight are already active at this stage.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Reviewing MRI data, researchers found the brain anatomy of people with autism above the age of six was mostly indistinguishable from that of typically developing individuals. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit McZusatz.

Reviewing MRI data, researchers found the brain anatomy of people with autism above the age of six was mostly indistinguishable from that of typically developing individuals. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit McZusatz.

Brain anatomy in MRI scans of people with autism above age six is mostly indistinguishable from that of typically developing individuals and, therefore, of little clinical or scientific value.

Some types of dementia are actually a result of many tiny, unnoticed strokes damaging the brain over time, researchers at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre in Toronto, Canada, have found. This suggests that this type of dementia could be treatable — probably through lifestyle changes.

Therapists could pick up signs of depression just be listening to how their patients talk, after a study found that unhappy people speak in a different tone.

Why do we remember some things and not others? In a unique imaging study researchers have discovered how neurons in the brain might allow some experiences to be remembered while others are forgotten. It turns out, if you want to remember something about your environment, you better involve your dendrites.

Looking at the brain as a highly interactive network of nodes, rather than a collection of individual areas of activity, could offer a new way to diagnose the memory disorders that tend to affect older people.

An international study has identified genetic markers that may help in identifying individuals who could benefit from the alcoholism treatment drug acamprosate. The findings, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, show that patients carrying these genetic variants have longer periods of abstinence during the first three months of acamprosate treatment.

New research on how the brain leads us to believe we have sharp vision.

Disturbances in the early stages of brain growth, such as preterm birth – when many of the brain’s structures have not yet fully developed – appears to affect the brain’s neuro-circuitry, which may explain premature babies’ higher risk of neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.

Data from 50 laboratories around the world has found that rare mutations in dozens of genes may be responsible for 30% or more cases of autism.

Researchers have been tracking the traces of implicit and explicit memories of fear in human. The study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory; it describes how, in a context of fear, our brain differently encodes contextual memory of a negative event and the emotional response associated.

A major breakthrough in the development of stem cell-derived brain cells has put researchers on a firm path towards the first ever stem cell transplantations in people with Parkinson’s disease. A new study presents the next generation of transplantable dopamine neurons produced from stem cells. These cells carry the same properties as the dopamine neurons found in the human brain.

The brain’s plasticity and its adaptability to new situations do not function the way researchers previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Cell.

Finally this week, researchers have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain.

 


Anchoring the Brain’s Compass

The brain has a complex system for keeping track of which direction you are facing as you move about; remembering how to get from one place to another would otherwise be impossible. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania have now shown how the brain anchors this mental compass.

Their findings provide a neurological basis for something that psychologists have long observed about navigational behavior: people use geometrical relationships to orient themselves.

The research, which is related to the work that won this year’s Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine, adds new dimensions to our understanding of spatial memory and how it helps us to build memories of events.

Original Research: Abstract for “Anchoring the neural compass: coding of local spatial reference frames in human medial parietal lobe” by Steven A Marchette, Lindsay K Vass, Jack Ryan and Russell A Epstein in Nature Neuroscience. Published online October 5 2014 doi:10.1038/nn.3834


Weekly Neuroscience Update

The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

Complex biochemical signals that coordinate fast and slow changes in neuronal networks keep the brain in balance during learning, according to an international team of science researchers.

An imaging study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators has found distinct differences between the brains of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and those of healthy people. The findings could lead to more definitive diagnoses of the syndrome and may also point to an underlying mechanism in the disease process.

Breakdown in gut barriers to bacteria may promote inflammation and craving in alcoholics. 

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.

All physical activity benefits the brain. This is the main message of a new study that compared the effects of different kinds of exercise on cognition in older adults.

Finally this week, certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University, published in Mindfulness.


Can meditation make you more creative?

Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking even if you are not a practitioner. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, published in Mindfulness.

Long-lasting influence
The study is a clear indication that you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we conceive new ideas. Besides experienced meditators, also novices may profit from meditation.

Different techniques, different effects
But the results demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. Test persons performed better in divergent thinking (= thinking up as many possible solutions for a given problem) after Open Monitoring meditation (= being receptive to every thought and sensation). The researchers did not see this effect on divergent thinking after Focused Attention meditation (=focusing on a particular thought or object.)

Setup of the study
40 individuals participated in this study, who had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks. There were both experienced mediators and people who never meditated before. The study investigated the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity:

Divergent thinking
Allows for many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.

Convergent thinking
Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular problem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The participants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.

Source: Medical News Today


Recreating The Brain

Can we replicate basic brain functions? In this talk, computational neuroscientist and Harvard Professor, David Cox reveals how vision works in the brain and explains how his research can help pave the way towards prosthetics that restore or enhance brain function, as well as enabling the design of computer algorithms that “see” like we do.


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