Tag Archives: brain research

Vital research into the illness of mind and brain

In this short seven-minute video Stephen Gentleman, Professor of Neuropathology at the Hammersmith Hospital in London dissects a recently preserved human brain according to international protocol.The brain sections are then stored in a ‘brain tissue bank’ for further research.

The brains are donated by people who suffered from Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (both degenerative and incurable diseases of the central nervous system), but sometimes ‘control’ samples of healthy brains (also donated) are required too for accurate comparisons.

While some viewers may find this video unsettling it is important to stress that this type of research is vital in discovering safer and more effective treatments for illnesses of mind and brain. Brain dissections may also be performed in autopsy when the cause of death is unclear.


Study Suggests Our Brains Have a ‘Sixth Sense’

Scientists may have discovered a “sixth sense” that relates to something called numerosity, which involves the ability to rapidly assimilate the number of objects within one’s field of vision. The team behind the study used fMRI scans to highlight the activity of a key area of the brain, which seemed to alter its response based upon the number of objects perceived.

Dubbed a “number sense,” the phenomenon is believed to manifest in a part of the brain called the posterior parietal cortex, situated around the crown of an individual’s head. The study’s lead researcher, Ben Harvey, who works at the Utrecht University in the Netherlands, explained that most people don’t need to methodically count a small number of objects presented to them, “… we just know how many there are straight away.” This has led many people to maintain that a person’s numerosity powers represent something akin to a “sixth sense.”


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Conceptual scheme of controlled release of ODN from a hydrogel composed of a CyD-containing molecular network by mechanical compression. (Credit: Image courtesy of National Institute for Materials Science)

A research group has succeeded in developing a gel material which is capable of releasing drugs in response to pressure applied by the patient.

New findings about how the brain functions to suppress pain have been published in the leading journal in the field Pain, by National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) researchers. For the first time, it has been shown that suppression of pain during times of fear involves complex interplay between marijuana-like chemicals and other neurotransmitters in a brain region called the amygdala.

Researchers report that they have found a biological mechanism that appears to play a vital role in learning to read. This finding provides significant clues into the workings behind dyslexia — a collection of impairments unrelated to intelligence, hearing or vision that makes learning to read a struggle.

A new study suggests neural ‘synchrony’ may be key to understanding how the human brain perceives.

Sleep plays an important role in the brain’s ability to consolidate learning when two new potentially competing tasks are learned in the same day, research at the University of Chicago demonstrates.

New research for the first time explains exactly how two brain regions interact to promote emotionally motivated behaviors associated with anxiety and reward. The findings could lead to new mental health therapies for disorders such as addiction, anxiety, and depression.

Researchers have designed a decoded functional MRI neurofeedback method that induces a pre-recorded activation pattern in targeted early visual brain areas that could also produce the pattern through regular learning.

A new study conducted by monitoring the brain waves of sleeping adolescents has found that remarkable changes occur in the brain as it prunes away neuronal connections and makes the major transition from childhood to adulthood.

New research suggests that depression, even in children, can increase the risk of heart problems later in life. Teens who were depressed as children are far more likely than their peers to be obese, smoke cigarettes and lead sedentary lives, even if they no longer suffer from depression.

Alcohol consumption affects the brain in multiple ways, ranging from acute changes in behavior to permanent molecular and functional alterations. The general consensus is that in the brain, alcohol targets mainly neurons. However, recent research suggests that other cells of the brain known as astrocytic glial cells or astrocytes are necessary for the rewarding effects of alcohol and the development of alcohol tolerance.

New research published in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that modifying signals sent by astrocytes, our star-shaped brain cells, may help to limit the spread of damage after an ischemic brain stroke.

The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain that acts like a filter, keeping any irrelevant thoughts, memories and perceptions from interfering with the task-at-hand. In a new study, researchers have shown that inhibiting this filter can enhance unfiltered, creative thinking.

A new study suggests that depression results from a disturbance in the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. The study indicates a major shift in our understanding of how depression is caused and how it should be treated.

 

 


Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new clinical study in the journal Brain and Behavior, has been undertaken to decide whether a non-invasive method, using musical tones to regulate brain activity, can actually reprogram the brain, resulting in insomnia prevention.

Researchers have shown that synchronization emerges between brains when making music together, and even when musicians play different voices.

People are able to detect, within a split second, if a hurtful action they are witnessing is intentional or accidental, new research on the brain at the University of Chicago shows.

Everyone knows that men and women tend to hold different views on certain things. However, new research by scientists from the University of Bristol and published in PLoS ONE indicates that this may literally be the case.

All patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) lose brain cells, which leads to a shrinking, or atrophy, of the brain. But the pattern of gray matter loss is significantly different in men and women, according to a study presented recently at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.


How to build a brain

A team of researchers from the University of Waterloo have built what the claim is the world’s largest simulation of a functioning brain.

The purpose is to help scientists understand how the complex activity of the brain gives rise to the complex behavior exhibited by animals, including humans.

The model is called Spaun (Semantic Pointer Architecture Unified Network). It consists of 2.5 million simulated neurons. The model captures biological details of each neuron, including which neurotransmitters are used, how voltages are generated in the cell, and how they communicate.

Spaun uses this network of neurons to process visual images to control an arm that draws Spaun’s answers to perceptual, cognitive and motor tasks.

For more information, see: http://nengo.ca/build-a-brain/


Which sound does our brain most hate to hear?

Picture: shelbyasteward, flickr.com

Scientists from Newcastle University have drawn up a league table of the least pleasant sounds we may encounter as part of everyday life – albeit a slightly old-fashioned life as the top five include the rasp of chalk on a blackboard.

Working with 13 volunteers, they tested reactions to 74 different noises both in outward response and more closely via small changes in the brain.

The results are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Neuroscience and show, among other things, that acoustically anything in the frequency range of around 2,000 to 5,000 Hz was found to be unpleasant.

Continue reading….


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Have you ever wondered why some people find it so much easier to stop smoking than others? New research shows that vulnerability to smoking addiction is shaped by our genes. A study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro, McGill University shows that people with genetically fast nicotine metabolism have a significantly greater brain response to smoking cues than those with slow nicotine metabolism.

When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music. But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop.

A team of Australian researchers, led by University of Melbourne has developed a genetic test that is able to predict the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Recent findings by an international collaboration including IRCM researchers hold new implications for the pathogenesis of myotonic dystrophy.

Researchers at Newcastle University have revealed the mechanism by which neurons, the nerve cells in the brain and other parts of the body, age. The research opens up new avenues of understanding for conditions where the ageing of neurons are known to be responsible, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Finally, this week…a new study has shown that it’s possible to predict how well people will remember information by monitoring their brain activity while they study.

Inside The Language Brain

Why is it that humans can speak but chimpanzees, our closest living relatives, cannot?

The human brain is uniquely wired to produce language. Untangling this wiring is a major frontier of brain research. Peer into the mental machinery behind language with this feature video, which visits a brain-scanning laboratory—Columbia University’s Program for Imaging and Cognitive Sciences.

Columbia neuroscientist Joy Hirsch and New York University psychologist Gary Marcus explain what researchers have learned about how our brain tackles language—and what’s left to learn.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows that sleep loss markedly exaggerates the degree to which we anticipate impending emotional events, particularly among highly anxious people, who are especially vulnerable.

Music training has a lifelong good impact on the aging process, says a new study out of Northwestern University.

New research by scientists at the University of University of North Carolina School of Medicine may have pinpointed an underlying cause of the seizures that affect 90 percent of people with Angelman syndrome (AS), a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.

Two U.S. scientists have updated findings that link a form of Chinese meditation to positive changes in brain structure, suggesting that just 11 hours of practising the technique over a month could help prevent mental illness. In a paper to be released this week in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael Posner report that the practice known as integrative body-mind training (IBMT) can have a positive physical affect on the brain, boosting connectivity and efficiency.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have demonstrated the effectiveness of a potential new therapy for stroke patients in an article published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration. Created to target a specific enzyme known to affect important brain functions, the new compound being studied at MU is designed to stop the spread of brain bleeds and protect brain cells from further damage in the crucial hours after a stroke.

A receptor recently discovered to control the movement of immune cells across the blood-brain barrier may hold the key to treating multiple sclerosis (MS), a neuroinflammatory disease of the central nervous system.

In a pair of related studies, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified several proteins that help regulate cells’ response to light—and the development of night blindness, a rare disease that abolishes the ability to see in dim light.

A recent breakthrough in the development of an artificial synapse suggests that assistive devices and other prostheses won’t be limited to just missing joints and failing organs. Researchers in Japan have shown that it’s possible to mimic synaptic function with nanotechnology, a breakthrough that could result in not just artificial neural networks, but fixes for the human brain as well.

Patients vary widely in their response to concussion, but scientists haven’t understood why. Now, using a new technique for analyzing data from brain imaging studies, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center have found that concussion victims have unique spatial patterns of brain abnormalities that change over time.

Using a new and powerful approach to understand the origins of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida are building the case that these diseases are primarily caused by genes that are too active or not active enough, rather than by harmful gene mutations.


Your Weekly Neuroscience Update

Drinking three cups of coffee daily could help keep Alzheimer’s disease at bay, according to the results of a new study.

People who frequently use tanning beds experience changes in brain activity during their tanning sessions that mimic the patterns of drug addiction, new research shows.

A research team at Aalto University and Turku PET Centre has revealed how experiencing strong emotions synchronizes brain activity across individuals.

A new study has begun to unravel one long-observed enigma in major depressive disorder: why, for most patients, it continues to come back, even after it seems to have been cured or gone away on its own.

A recent placebo-controlled study showed evidence of trans-cranial bright light’s effect to brain functions when administered through the ear. Bright light stimulation was found to increase activity in brain areas related to processing of visual sensory information and tactile stimuli. The findings are the first ever published scientific article about functional modulation of the brain with bright light delivered to the brain through the ears. Researchers from the Max Planck Florida Institute (MPFI) and New York’s Columbia University have discovered that the rewiring involves fibers that provide primary input to the cerebral cortex, which is involved in cognition, sensory perception and motor control.

When people close their eyes, they can form mental images of things that exist only in their minds. Neuroscientists studying this phenomenon at medical schools in the Texas Medical Center believe that there may be a way to use these mental images to help some of the estimated 39 million people worldwide who are blind.

A Canadian doctor has found a promising way to detect concussions using a simple blood test that can tell within the first hour after a blow to the head how severe the injury may be.


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