Author Archives: Editor
New results published by researchers at the Autism Research Centre (ARC) show both men and women with autism show an extreme of the typical male pattern on the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test.
Researchers at Mayo clinic completed analysis of a 4 year prospective study comparing detailed neurologic examination versus magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to localize neurologic dysfunction. The findings, demonstrated MRI’s superior performance to the clinical exam.
Researchers at the University of Oslo have tested a new device for delivering hormone treatments for mental illness through the nose. This method was found to deliver medicine to the brain with few side effects.
Researchers have performed the first focused ultrasound treatments in the United States for dyskinesia associated with Parkinson’s disease.
A computer-based brain-training game could improve the daily lives of people with schizophrenia, say University of Cambridge researchers.
A gene linked in previous research, appears to predict more severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as a thinner cortex in regions of the brain critical for regulating strong emotions and coping with stressful experiences. This study is believed to be the first to show that the spindle and kinetochore-associated complex subunit 2 (SKA2) gene may play a role in the development of PTSD.
Midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure levels and prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications, according to new research.
A ‘gene signature’ that could be used to predict the onset of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, years in advance has been developed in research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.
Sometimes, against a uniform, bright background such as a clear sky or a blank computer screen, you might see things floating across your field of vision. What are these moving objects, and how are you seeing them? Michael Mauser explains the visual phenomenon that is floaters.
Today, about one-tenth of the world’s population are southpaws. Why are such a small proportion of people left-handed — and why does the trait exist in the first place? Daniel M. Abrams investigates how the uneven ratio of lefties and righties gives insight into a balance between competitive and cooperative pressures on human evolution.
Understand the facts of dementia with this quick video overview.
Oliver Sacks died yesterday, Sunday, August 30th.
He was eighty two years old. Sacks was the author of several books about unusual medical conditions, including Awakenings (1973) which was based on his work with patients he came across in 1966 while working as a consulting neurologist in a chronic care public hospital in the Bronx, New York.
Many of these patients had already spent decades in strange, frozen states, like human statues and were forgotten. Sacks recognised them as survivors of the encephalitis epidemic that had swept the world from 1916 to 1927, and treated them with a then-experimental drug called L-dopa that woke them up after years in a catatonic (sleep-like) state. These patients then became the subjects of Awakenings – a deeply moving commentary on the human condition.
I was fortunate to meet Oliver Sacks 25 years ago in early 1990 while attending a week-long workshop on brain research at Rockefeller University in Manhattan when one morning Sacks suddenly turned-up at the meeting. A big, tall, burly, bear of a man with a bushy white beard, he was the closest thing I’d ever seen to Santa Claus.
Awakenings – the movie
He looked tired so at the coffee break I asked him if he was busy writing another book. He told me that he had just come directly from the set of a movie (later called Awakenings) which was filming at the then still functioning Kingsboro Psychiatric Centre across the east river in Brooklyn and that a local Manhattan actor called ‘Bobby’ de Niro was playing the part of a patient called Leonard – a key character in the book and the movie.
Having already read and enjoyed the book I was intrigued to hear Sacks tell me that it was his first experience of being on a movie set and he was concerned, exhausted even observing the intensity with which De Niro was preparing for this role, so-much-so that when he (Sacks) once invited De Niro to join him for lunch during a brief break in filming, De Niro continued to remain in-character making any dinner conversation between the two impossible. Sacks was no doubt relieved to learn later that de Niro received an Oscar for one of his best performances and the film received two more Oscars for best picture and best screenplay.
Keep learning and don’t conform
Sacks led a rich and varied life which epitomised the principle; keep learning and don’t conform. In this regard, he was interested in patients with unusual and unexplained medical conditions and his writings brought an enlightened understanding to their suffering. His books provide consolation to the outcast, the underdog and the misunderstood and they will be cherished for many years to come. I look forward to developing this principle in greater detail in future posts, but in the meantime, my deepest sympathy goes to Oliver’s loved ones at this difficult time.
Neuroscientists know that some connections in the brain are pruned through neural development. Function gives rise to structure, according to the textbooks. But scientists have discovered that the textbooks might be wrong. Their results were published this week in Cell Reports.
In 2011, MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe and colleagues reported that in blind adults, brain regions normally dedicated to vision processing instead participate in language tasks such as speech and comprehension. Now, in a study of blind children, Saxe’s lab has found that this transformation occurs very early in life, before the age of 4. The study, appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the brains of young children are highly plastic, meaning that regions usually specialized for one task can adapt to new and very different roles. The findings also help to define the extent to which this type of remodeling is possible.
New research suggests individuals with autistic traits may have more advanced creativity skills than those without such traits.
Physically fit people tend to have larger brain volumes and more intact white matter than their less-fit peers. Now a new study reveals that older adults who regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity have more variable brain activity at rest than those who don’t. This variability is associated with better cognitive performance, researchers say.
Young adults diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescence show differences in brain structure and perform poorly in memory tests compared to their peers, according to new research from the University of Cambridge, UK, and the University of Oulu, Finland.
People who will develop dementia may begin to lose awareness of their memory problems two to three years before the actual onset of the disease, according to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology. The study also found that several dementia-related brain changes, or pathologies, are associated with the decline in memory awareness.
People with Alzheimer’s disease have fat deposits in the brain. For the first time researchers have discovered accumulations of fat droplets in the brain of patients who died from the disease and have identified the nature of the fat.
Finally this week, a computer analyzing speech has correctly identified five individuals who would later experience a psychotic episode against 29 who would not among a group of high-risk patients in a proof-of-principle study. The findings raise the prospect of a clinical tool to aid the diagnosis and prognosis of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia.
In this short video, neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki talks about how exercise can stimulate creativity.
New research has identified the mechanisms that trigger disruption in the brain’s communication channels linked to symptoms in psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia. The study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, could have important implications for treating symptoms of brain disorders.
Genetic analysis of human patients has shown that mutations in genes involved in synaptic communication can drive neuropsychiatric and neurological diseases such as autism spectrum disorder and Alzheimer’s disease.
Researchers have discovered a way to predict human emotions based on brain activity.
Working 55 hours or more per week is linked to a 33% greater risk of stroke compared with working a standard 35 to 40 hour week, according to the largest study in this field so far, published in The Lancet.
The permanence of memories has long thought to be mediated solely by the production of new proteins. However, new research has shown that the electrical activity of the brain may be a more primary factor in memory solidification.
The hippocampus in the brain’s temporal lobe is responsible for more than just long-term memory. Researchers have for the first time demonstrated that it is also involved in quick and successful conflict resolution
A brief period of postnatal visual deprivation, when early in life, drives a rewiring of the brain areas involved in visual processing, even if the visual restoration is completed well before the baby reaches one year of age, researchers revealed in Current Biology.
New research published in the British Journal of Psychiatry suggests that serious disorders of mood such as bipolar disorder may be the price that human beings have had to pay for more adaptive traits such as intelligence, creativity and verbal proficiency.
Finally this week, people with psychopathic characteristics are less likely to be affected by “contagious yawning” than those who are empathetic, according to a Baylor University psychology study.