Tag Archives: memory

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The stage when a brain is actively engaged in a new experience can be described as “online” activity. On the flip side of this neurological process, “offline” activity, or neural replay, is the process by which the brain rehearses what has been learned in order to strengthen the most important memories. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: NIH.

The stage when a brain is actively engaged in a new experience can be described as “online” activity. On the flip side of this neurological process, “offline” activity, or neural replay, is the process by which the brain rehearses what has been learned in order to strengthen the most important memories. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: NIH.

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.

Sleeping not only protects memories from being forgotten, it also makes them easier to access, according to new research. The findings suggest  that after sleep we are more likely to recall facts which we could not remember while still awake.

The tendency of more intelligent people to live longer has been shown, for the first time, to be mainly down to their genes by new research published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.

Dogs have a specialized region in their brains for processing faces, a new study finds.

The first ever genetic analysis of people with extremely high intelligence has revealed small but important genetic differences between some of the brightest people in the United States and the general population.

A new study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Neurology, found a strong association between insulin resistance and memory function decline, increasing the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. Insulin resistance is common in people who are obese, pre-diabetic or have Type 2 diabetes.

New brain research has mapped a key trouble spot likely to contribute to intellectual disability in Down syndrome.

Fundamental differences between how the brain forms during adolescence have been discovered in children with schizophrenia and their siblings, a new study shows. The study opens up new avenues for researchers to explore when developing treatment for the illness, which can be hugely debilitating for children.


15 ways to boost your memory

memory

We expect too much of our memory. Instead of assuming that the memory is a sort of an effortless DVD recording device, we should realise that our ability to remember is influenced by a wide range of factors from what we eat to how we manage stress.

Here’s my list of 15 ways to improve it.

1 pay attention

Memory involves a form of learning or encoding. In order to encode information properly, you must consciously direct your attention at the thing you want to learn. Think of a squirrel who wants to hide a cache of nuts for the winter and is in the process of burying them when it is interrupted by a fox and runs away. That squirrel may have difficulty remembering where the nuts were buried because its attention was disrupted. It’s important to give attention and time to the information you wish to encode.

2 manage stress

Sharpen your ability to pay attention by examining the kind of stress you experience and deciding to learn how to manage your stress levels. Everyone has a different way of managing stress, but if you manage to control your stress, your ability to pay attention to things will improve.

3 meditate

Meditation is about paying attention on purpose – usually to the breath, and without judgement. If you develop a strong capacity to pay attention, he explains, your mind will be less distracted, thus focusing more easily, learning more quickly – and remembering things better!

4 breathe deeply

Oxygen is required by every cell in the body, and the brain cells, which encode the information which allows you to learn and remember, are no different. Oxygenating the brain triggers a process called neurogenesis, which is the growth of new brain cells required to encode the information you want to remember. This raises your IQ and gives you extra learning capacity by making it easier for the brain to focus on, and encode the appropriate information. Basically, to encode information, the brain requires plenty of oxygen – the more you oxygenate your brain the faster your learn.

5 be curious

Consciously improve your attention levels by focusing on your environment and teaching yourself to be observant. Learn to be observant and curious. Take notice of the things that are going on around you. Become interested in the green-ness of the grass for instance, because we know that fixed attention is very good for the brain. Make a point of taking note of the unusual around you. Notice the changing of the seasons and how they are impacting on your environment. “Be aware of where you are and what you are doing.”

6 chew gum

When you chew gum you exercise the major muscles of the jaw and this introduces oxygen to your brain, improving its ability to perform, and thereby increasing your capacity to learn and remember. When you physically exercise the big muscles of the jaw by chewing the jaw becomes tired. When it’s tired, it experiences an increased demand for oxygen, which prompts you to inhale more. As you inhale more, your brain receives more oxygen which fuels and improves its overall performance. The very act of chewing actually improves the ability to learn and remember.

7 get knitting

Knitting and crocheting are extremely powerful ways of training yourself to focus and improve your attention. This is firstly because it requires you to focus closely on an intricate knitting pattern and secondly to replicate the pattern through paying attention to achieving good hand-eye coordination. This is both a physical and psychological activity which sharpens your focus and strengthens your ability to attend to detail and to learn.

8 read more of less

Mental exercise is very important for the brain. Read one book which is challenging rather than skimming through 15 light novels. Your brain is active all your life and there is new evidence that in the teenage years, information processing peaks, in the mid-20s your short-term memory peaks. In your 40s your memory for faces peaks, while in your 80s your intelligence and wisdom peaks.

9 Eat memory foods

A diet high in fish oil is conducive to a good memory. Eat oily fish at least once a week; an inexpensive meal like sardines on toast rather than expensive fish oil supplements. You get the benefit of the oil and you also get a food rather than just taking it in a supplement. Other anti-inflammatory-and-anti-oxidant-containing foods such as berries, vegetables and fruits should also be included. Eat plenty of lean meat, vegetables, fruit and plants and fish oils – but of all of these, fish oils are the elite when it comes to the brain.

10 eat less

Some people advocate the Okinawa Diet, which involves eating a hot meal once every two days rather than every day, believing that it lengthens life and improves the ability to learn and remember. Because we are by nature hunter-gatherers, we are not meant to be over-fed. Our ancestors were often hungry. In fact, the optimal intelligent human being is slightly under-fed, slightly under-weight, extremely aerobically fit, highly focused, in touch with the environment, and excellent at assessing a calculated risk.

11 get motivated

To learn and remember, you need to want to remember! Motivation and a love of learning are crucial to remembering. When you are motivated, you are more open to trying something new – and the brain loves stimulation. Signing up for new courses, taking on different responsibilities at work and at home, learning new skills, for example playing a musical instrument and adopting an open approach to new challenges all refresh and stimulate the brain. Be a brain that is always learning new things. It’s really a case of use it or lose it.

12 be creative

Scientists have discovered that the parts of your brain which are involved in learning and remembering are the same parts of the brain which are involved in creative thinking, so the more creative you become, the easier you will find learning and remembering. There are lots of ways to stimulate your own creativity – ask more questions about everything and start consciously thinking beyond the obvious. Learn to use and trust your imagination, visualise, try new activities, listen to new music and learn to become comfortable with silence – experts suggest quieting your mind and visiting ‘within’ to discover the nuggets of creativity within yourself. Above all, the advice is to love what you do – and if you don’t, find a passion for something that you do love – and do it.

13 avoid drugs

We know that drugs like alcohol and cannabis can cause memory loss, particularly short-term memory loss, because they damage the part of the brain which is involved in laying down the short-term memory. We are not sure exactly what the physical impact is, but we know that these substances interfere significantly with short-term memory.

14 use the alphabet

Using your Mental Alphabetical Filing Cabinet can help enormously when you find yourself unable to remember a person’s name. First, detach from your struggle to remember the name itself. Then slowly start to go through the alphabet, letter by letter – and more than likely, the name you want will jump out from the file in which your memory originally place it. Another useful memory-consolidation technique is reading through the material you want to encode just before you go to sleep. Reading the information you most want to remember just before you sleep, will help your brain consolidate and encode the information, and you will remember it better the next day.

15 say it loud

Repeating aloud something that you want to remember during the learning process is an excellent memory aid. If, for example, you have a habit of forgetting where you put your keys, talk to yourself about where you are placing them the next time you are putting them down. This encourages you to ‘engage’ more actively with your brain in encoding the memory you wish to remember. On the other hand, if you’re trying to remember a phone number, divide it into three or four-digit ‘bits’ or ‘chunks’ – this is called “chunking.”

Adapted from an article which appeared in the Irish Independent  


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Current treatment methods used are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) – which is application of a low intensity direct (constant) current between two electrodes on the head, and transcranial alternating current simulation (tACS) – which sees a constant electrical current flow back and forth. Image credit: Monash University.

Current treatment methods used are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) – which is application of a low intensity direct (constant) current between two electrodes on the head, and transcranial alternating current simulation (tACS) – which sees a constant electrical current flow back and forth. Image credit: Monash University.

Researchers have discovered a new technique to enhance brain excitability that could improve physical performance in healthy individuals such as athletes and musicians.

The constant movement of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be distracting — but the fidgeting also may improve their cognitive performance, a study has found.

It is known that sleep facilitates the formation of long-term memory in humans. In a new study, researchers show that sleep does not only help form long-term memory but also ensures access to it during times of cognitive stress.

An international team of neuroscientists has proved the uniqueness of screams for the first time. In a study, they discovered that screams possess very special acoustic properties: This makes them a specific type of vocal expression which is only used in stressful and dangerous situations.

A new study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex suggests people who speak two languages have more gray matter in the executive control region of the brain.

Structural brain abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia, providing insight into how the condition may develop and respond to treatment, have been identified in an internationally collaborative study

Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light.

High blood levels of a growth factor known to enable new blood vessel development and brain cell protection correlate with a smaller size of brain areas key to complex thought, emotion and behavior in patients with schizophrenia, researchers report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Scientists have discovered a link between autism and genetic changes in some segments of DNA that are responsible for switching on genes in the brain.

Finally this week, new research has found that types of empathy can be predicted by looking at physical differences in the brain. This raises the fascinating possibility that some kinds of empathy might be able to be increased by training or that it might be possible for people to lose their empathy over time.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

This image shows an overview of the Rehabilitation Gaming System. Image credit: Rehabilitation Gaming System.

This image shows an overview of the Rehabilitation Gaming System. Image credit: Rehabilitation Gaming System.

Using virtual reality to increase a patient’s confidence in using their paralyzed arm may be critical for recovery, according to research published in the open-access Journal of  NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.

A pioneering study conducted by leading researchers at the University of Sheffield has revealed blood types play a role in the development of the nervous system and may cause a higher risk of developing cognitive decline. The findings  seem to indicate that people who have an ‘O’ blood type are more protected against the diseases in which volumetric reduction is seen in temporal and mediotemporal regions of the brain like with Alzheimer’s disease for instance.

A star-shaped brain cell called an astrocyte appears to help keep blood pressure and blood flow inside the brain on a healthy, even keel, scientists report.

Thanks to advances in brain imaging technology, we now know how specific concrete objects are coded in the brain, to the point where we can identify which object, such as a house or a banana, someone is thinking about from its brain activation signature.

A new study finds some people can be trained to learn absolute pitch.

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown link between the brain and the immune system that could help explain links between poor physical health and brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and depression.

A team of neuroscientists has determined how a pair of growth factor molecules contributes to long-term memory formation, a finding that appears in the journal Neuron.

Our understanding of how a key part of the human brain works may be wrong. That’s the conclusion of a team at Oxford University’s Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA), published in journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Until now, it was thought that working memory – the way in which we deal with and respond to immediate demands – was underpinned by stable brain patterns. The OHBA team discovered that instead, the areas of the brain responsible for working memory are changing all the time.

A new study finds people with higher levels of moral reasoning have greater gray matter volume in brain regions linked to social behaviour, decision-making and conflict processing, compared with those who have lower levels of moral reasoning.

Genes linked to creativity could increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to new research.

One of the major challenges of cocaine addiction is the high rate of relapse after periods of withdrawal and abstinence. But new research reveals that changes in our DNA during drug withdrawal may offer promising ways of developing more effective treatments for addiction.

According to a piece of research by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, the capacity to recall specific facts deteriorates with age, but other types of memory do not.

Finally, this week, a new study has found that the brain shrinks over the course of the day, ending up smaller in the evening – before returning to its full size the next morning.


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.

 

 


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality. Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

People with mentally taxing jobs, including lawyers and graphic designers, may end up having better memory in old age, research suggests.

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have identified a key neuronal pathway that makes learning to avoid unpleasant situations possible. Published online in the November 20 issue of Neuron, the work shows that avoidance learning requires neural activity in the habenula representing changes in future expectations.

Combining behavioral and physiologic measures depicts gradual process, may help diagnose sleep disorders. 

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 brain imaging technology is helping researchers to bridge the gap between art and science by mapping the different ways in which the brain responds to poetry and prose.

As methods of imaging the brain improve, neuroscientists and educators can now identify changes in children’s brains as they learn, and start to develop ways of personalizing instruction for kids who are falling behind.

Scientists have identified a weak spot in the human brain for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, revealing a connection between the two diseases.

A team of scientists has found a simple method to convert human skin cells into the specialized neurons that detect pain, itch, touch and other bodily sensations. These neurons are also affected by spinal cord injury and involved in Friedreich’s ataxia, a devastating and currently incurable neurodegenerative disease that largely strikes children.

Berkeley lab reports proper copper levels are essential to spontaneous neural activity.

Researchers are using an enhanced MRI approach to visualize brain injury in the blood brain barrier in order to identify significant changes to the blood-brain barrier in professional football players following a concussion.

A new study reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant information.

Finally this week, in the largest study of the genetics of memory ever undertaken, an international researcher team have discovered two common genetic variants that are believed to be associated with memory performance. The findings, which appear in the journal Biological Psychiatry, are a significant step towards better understanding how memory loss is inherited.

 


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Granule cells connect with other cells via long projections (dendrites). The actual junctions (synapses) are located on thorn-like protuberances called “spines”. Spines are shown in green in the computer reconstruction Credit DZNE/Michaela Müller.

Granule cells connect with other cells via long projections (dendrites). The actual junctions (synapses) are located on thorn-like protuberances called “spines”. Spines are shown in green in the computer reconstruction Credit DZNE/Michaela Müller.

New findings on the link between nerve cells at the interface to the hippocampus may have an influence on learning and memory.

People choosing between two or more equally positive outcomes experience paradoxical feelings of pleasure and anxiety, feelings associated with activity in different regions of the brain, according to research at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University.

Latest findings on how stress hormones promote the brain’s building of negative memories.

Researchers have studied the changes in the brain that are associated with impulsiveness, a personality trait that causes difficulties in inhibiting a response in the face of a stimulus and leads to unplanned actions without considering the negative consequences. These patterns can serve as an indicator for predicting the risk of behavioural problems.

People taking dopamine for Parkinson’s disease sometimes begin to generate a lot of artwork. New research differentiates their expressiveness from obsessive or impulsive tendencies.

Researchers have uncovered more than 100 genetic markers linked to developing schizophrenia.

A type of immune cell widely believed to exacerbate chronic adult brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), can actually protect the brain from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and may slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, according to research published in the online journal Nature Communications.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

By using a novel technique to test brain waves, researchers are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. Credit Beckman Institute.

By using a novel technique to test brain waves, researchers are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. Credit Beckman Institute.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute are using a novel technique to test brain waves to see how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. A group of international scientists has for the first time identified genetic mutations that suggest that schizophrenia and autism share underlying mechanisms. The research could help with future understanding of both conditions and may contribute to the development of treatments. Two psychologists have made a discovery that could revolutionize doctors’ perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders. A newly identified disorder affecting the human nervous system is caused by a mutation in a gene never before implicated in human disease, according to two studies published in the journal Cell. By performing DNA sequencing of children affected by neurological problems, two research teams independently discovered that a disease marked by reduced brain size, as well as sensory and motor defects, is caused by a mutation in a gene called CLP1. Insights into this rare disorder may have important implications for the treatment of common disorders.

Scientists at the Salk Institute have created a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event. This new framework provides a more complete picture of how memory works, which can inform research into disorders liked Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic stress and learning disabilities.

Stanford scientists have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain – 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

Finally this week, laughter triggers brain waves similar to those associated with meditation, according to a small new studyThe study included 31 people whose brain waves were monitored while they watched humorous, spiritual or distressing video clips. While watching the humorous videos, the volunteers’ brains had high levels of gamma waves, which are the same ones produced during meditation, researchers found.

 


Weekly Neuroscience Update

The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Credit Salk Institute.

The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Credit Salk Institute.

Scientists have created a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event. This new framework provides a more complete picture of how memory works, which can inform research into disorders liked Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic stress and learning disabilities.

A switch in the brain of people with epilepsy dictates whether their seizures will be relatively mild or lead to a dangerous and debilitating loss of consciousness, Yale researchers have found.

By predicting our eye movements, our brain creates a stable world for us. Researchers used to think that those predictions had so much influence that they could cause us to make errors in estimating the position of objects. Neuroscientists at Radboud University have shown this to be incorrect. The Journal of Neuroscience published their findings – which challenge fundamental knowledge regarding coordination between brain and eyes.

Extreme and traumatic events can change a person — and often, years later, even affect their children. Researchers have now unmasked a piece in the puzzle of how the inheritance of traumas may be mediated.

Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found. Participants’ brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery. The research, published in NeuroImage, suggests that an artist’s talent could be innate. But training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability, the authors report.

Certain errors in visual perception in people with schizophrenia are consistent with interference or ‘noise’ in a brain signal known as a corollary discharge, a new study shows.

Finally this week,  a recent study has shown that use of abstract gestures is a powerful tool for helping children understand and generalize mathematical concepts.

 

 


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