Using your brain to beat addiction

billytalk.png

I was delighted to give a public talk in Mary Immaculate College, Limerick, Ireland for National Drug and Alcohol Awareness Week on the topic Using your brain to beat addiction.

The talk was also open to the University of Limerick, the Limerick Institute of Technology, to members of the public, and to those working in services involved in the area of substance misuse.

You can view a slide summary of my talk below.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

eating-796489_960_720.jpgA new study looks at the role the visual system plays in our food decisions.

Neurons found in the human eye naturally display a form of error correction in the collective visual signals they send to the brain, according to a new study in PLOS Computational Biology.

Researchers have created a new optical illusion which helps reveal how our brains determine the material properties of objects – such as whether they are transparent, shiny, matte or translucent – just from looking at them.

Genetic circuits can be isolated within individual synthetic cells, researchers report.

A new study identifies a sub region of the brain that works to form a particular kind of memory: fear-associated with a specific environmental cue or “contextual fear memory.”

Researchers have revealed multiple functions of visual attention, the process of selecting important information from retinal images.

As you age, you may find it more difficult to focus on certain tasks. But while distractions can be frustrating, they may not be as bad as we think. In a review published November 15 in Trends in Cognitive Sciences researchers  suggest that there may be some benefits to reduced focus, especially in people over 50.

Consuming a high fat diet during adolescence could contribute to cognitive impairment as an adult, a new study reports.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers at the University of Georgia has developed a new technology that may help scientists better understand how an individual cell synchronizes its biological clock with other cells.

A new study could be the first step to developing drugs that targets carbonic anhydrase in mitochondria to help protect against aging and neurodegeneration.

Researchers report altering synaptic plasticity leads to a computational switch in a hippocampal synapse which turns the presynaptic neuron turns into “detonator” mode, causing it to fire more readily.

Finally this week, a new study has revealed how three important brain signaling chemicals affect the way that we handle uncertainty.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

earworm-music-neurosciencenews-public.jpg

A new study finds those “earworm” songs that get stuck in our heads are usually faster, fairly generic and easier to remember, but with unique intervals that set them apart from ‘average’ pop songs.

Researchers have for the first time recorded how cells of the epidermis behave during the regrowth of adult limbs after amputation.

Proper communication between the left and right sides of the brain is critical for the development of advanced language skills, according to new research.

A team of researchers at TU Dresden has examined the underlying neural processes associated with short term task learning in a current imaging study. The results of the study are published today in Nature Communications.

A new study confirms that scanning a person’s brain with an fMRI is more accurate at picking up lies than a traditional polygraph test.

Contrary to popular belief, language is not limited to speech. A  recent study published in the journal PNAS, reveals that people also apply the rules of their spoken language to sign language.

Scientists at The University of Manchester have shown for the first time that if the brain is ‘tuned-in’ to a particular frequency, pain can be alleviated.

A new study appears to build on the previous research that suggests genetic mutations which affect mitochondria function could be critical to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, researchers have also discovered a possible new treatment for the disease after noticing the way in which insulin signaling works in the brains and pancreas of diabetic patients; and in another study degeneration of the basal forebrain appears before cognitive and behavioural symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur.

Researchers were able to predict the orientation preference of individual neurons by adding up the responses of their dendritic spines, a new study reports.

Scientists have mapped what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning.

The brain regulates social behaviour differently in males and females, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team of  researchers has uncovered new details about the biology of telomeres, “caps” of DNA that protect the tips of chromosomes and play key roles in a number of health conditions, including cancer, inflammation and aging.

A new study uses retinal prosthetics to assess the brain’s ability to process visual information years after blindness occurs.

People suffering medical conditions causing low levels of oxytocin perform worse on empathy tasks, according to new research. And a new measuring method has detected oxytocin at much higher rates in blood serum and plasma than researchers previously thought.

Researchers believe they may have pinpointed an area of the brain that plays a role in maintaining human consciousness.

Scientists have uncovered new details about how a repeating nucleotide sequence in the gene for a mutant protein may trigger Huntington’s disease and other neurological diseases.

Finally this  week, a new study reports context processing problems could help to explain some of the symptoms and neuroimaging findings associated with PTSD.

 

Why is yawning contagious? (video)

*Yaaawwwwwn* Did just reading the word make you feel like yawning yourself? Known as contagious yawning, the reasons behind this phenomenon have been attributed to both the physiological and psychological. It’s been observed in children as young as four and even in dogs! Claudia Aguirre visits the many intriguing theories that might explain contagious yawning.

Brain imaging at multiple size scales


MIT researchers have developed a new technique for imaging brain tissue at multiple scales, allowing them to peer at molecules within cells or take a wider view of the long-range connections between neurons. This technique, known as magnified analysis of proteome (MAP), should help scientists in their ongoing efforts to chart the connectivity and functions of neurons in the human brain.

Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/imaging-brain-multiple-size-scales-0725

Weekly Neuroscience Update

neurons-1773922_960_720.jpg

A new study has identified a novel signaling system controlling neuronal plasticity.

A lack of shrinkage in the area of the brain responsible for memory may be a sign that people with thinking and memory problems may go on to develop dementia with Lewy bodies rather than Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study published in the November 2, 2016, online issue of Neurology.

A new paper offers an overview as to how neurons ‘communicate’ with one another.

Researchers have confirmed a genetic link between mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA), which is passed on from the mother, and some forms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

A new study looks at how the digestive tract communicates with the brain and could help find new treatment options for obesity.

Scientists can now map what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning.

New studies may help to explain the path from stem cells to dopamine neurons.

Increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function in adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), new results from a recent trial led by the University of Sydney has revealed.

Researchers have identified a previously unknown stage of human brain development.

Finally, this  week  a new study finds that subtle, unconscious increases in arousal – indicated by a faster heartbeat and dilated pupils – shape our confidence for visual experiences.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

football-header.jpg

Heading a football can significantly affect a player’s brain function and memory for 24 hours, a study has found.

Researchers have successfully transplanted embryonic neurons into damaged neural networks, a new study reports.

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief.

Results from a new clinical study conducted suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health.

A new imaging technique that creates 3-D video of serotonin transport could aid antidepressant development.

Researchers have identified the cause of chronic, and currently untreatable, pain in those with amputations and severe nerve damage, as well as a potential treatment which relies on engineering instead of drugs.

A new study could explain why the ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating depression has been ineffective.

Using optogenetics to activate dopamine receptors in the ventral tegmental area could help people regain consciousness following general anesthesia, researchers report.

We all know that as we age, our skin loses its firmness and elasticity. However, researchers have now discovered our brains may also lose its elasticity as we age.

Researchers have identified a common culprit that may cause damage in stoke, brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

Finally this week, A new study provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and reveals how this happens in our brains.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

pills.jpg

A new study reports researchers were able to predict with 80 percent accuracy whether antidepressants would help patients by analyzing their brain function and personal history.

A neuroscientist studying how the brain uses perception of the environment to guide action has a new understanding of the neural circuits responsible for transforming sensation into movement.

Exercise may be associated with a small benefit for elderly people who already have memory and thinking problems, according to new research published in Neurology.

Researchers have developed a new machine learning tool capable of detecting certain speech-related diagnostic criteria in patients being evaluated for depression. Known as SimSensei, the tool listens to patient’s voices during diagnostic interviews for reductions in vowel expression characteristic of psychological and neurological disorders that may not be sufficiently clear to human interviewers.

Most people remember where they were when the twin towers collapsed in New York – now  new research reveals why that may be the case.

Communication between different areas of our brain increases when we are faced with a difficult task. Understanding these fluctuating patterns could reveal why some people learn new tasks more quickly.

Researchers have discovered a neural circuit that processes evaluations and have identified its sources.

Stimulating the brain via electricity or other means may help to ease the symptoms of various neurological and psychiatric disorders, with the method already being used to treat conditions from epilepsy to depression.

A new paper looks at why some of us are extreme thrill seekers, and others don’t even enjoy a gentle roller coaster ride.

Engineers are leading a research team that is developing a new type of nanodevice for computer microprocessors that can mimic the functioning of a biological synapse—the place where a signal passes from one nerve cell to another in the body. The work is featured in the advance online publication of Nature Materials.

Researchers report proteins produced by gut bacteria may cause protein misfolding in the brain and cerebral inflammation.

Taking a pill that prevents the accumulation of toxic molecules in the brain might someday help prevent or delay Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

A new tool is allowing researchers to interactively explore the hierarchical processes that happen in the brain when it is resting or performing tasks.

Finally this week, researchers have identified genetics mutations involved in a rare and unnamed neurological disorder.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

person-802090_960_720.jpg

Researchers explore how memory consolidation occurs during sleep.

Fetal brains use a special amplifier in order to transmit signals, according to research published in the journal eLife.

Scanning ultrasound appears to slow down ageing in healthy brains, a new study reports.

Two interconnected brain areas – the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex – help us to know where we are and to remember it later. By studying these brain areas, researchers have uncovered new information about how dysfunction of this circuit may contribute to memory loss in Alzheimer’s disease. Their results appear in Cell Reports.

A new tool is allowing researchers to interactively explore the hierarchical processes that happen in the brain when it is resting or performing tasks.

Researchers have identified a set of heat sensing neurons that prompt both nervous system and behavioral changes that help cool the body.

As estrogen levels rise in women, the volume of the hippocampus increases, a new study reports.

A new study reports on how the perceptual mechanisms in a person’s brain adapt in response to images of one’s own or other people’s bodies that have been manipulated to look thinner or fatter than they really are

Researchers have found evidence that challenges the intuitive division between a ‘deciding’ and a ‘responding’ stage in decision making.

Finally this week, a new method for inducing, modelling and measuring visual hallucinations in healthy individuals suggests these complex experiences share a common underlying mechanism with normal visual perception.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

bubbly-cold-drink-thirst-sensation-public-neurosciencenews.jpgA new study reports the oral perception of coldness and carbonation can help to reduce thirst.

Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of cardio metabolic conditions, may be a biological mechanism linking post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to structural brain abnormalities, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry.

How do we decide if something is worth the effort? A team of researchers has been finding out.

According to a new study, our ability to track and understand speech in both noisy and quite environments deteriorates due to speech processing declines in the midbrain of older adults.

Researchers have discovered a neural circuit that processes processes evaluations, with implications for understanding depression.

A new mathematical model that describes the molecular events associated with the beginning stage of learning and memory formation in the human brain has been developed.

Understanding fluctuations in brain networks may reveal how some people are able to learn new tasks more quickly.

Finally this week, researchers have developed an ‘epigenetic clock’ that calculates the biological age of a person from a blood sample and can estimate the person’s life span.

 

 

Why Are Teenagers so Susceptible to Addiction?

In this short video excerpt from “Arrested Development: The Teenage Brain and Substance Abuse,” Nora D. Volkow, MD, Director, National Institute on Drug Abuse, U.S. National Institutes of Health, speaks about addiction and the teenage brain.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

mri-math-brain-damange-neurosciencenews.jpg

A new mathematical model helps neurosurgeons map the impact of surgery on the brain.

Researchers have discovered a potential treatment that may help delay motor neuron loss in ALS.

A new paper offers an overview as to how neurons ‘communicate’ with one another.

The brain’s biological clock stimulates thirst in the hours before sleep, according to a study published in the journal Nature.

Researchers from the University of Amsterdam report the brain is more robust than previously thought.

Habitual short sleepers might be more efficient sleepers, but also more tired than they realize, a new study reports.

Data from the world’s largest brain and body scanning study has been released.

Researchers have identified gene expression signatures common to sensory processing that facilitates the brain’s interpretation of sensory input.

A new study reports continued heavy drinking in older people is associated with poor global cognitive and motor functions.

There’s growing evidence that a physical injury to the brain can make people susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder.

Researchers report an ancient area of the midbrain in all vertebrates can independently control and reorientate the eyes.

Finally this week, meditation can help people to take their negative emotions, a new study reports.

 

 

 

 

What Causes Mass Panic in Emergency Situations?

Study investigates crowd behaviour under stress in a virtual environment.

In emergency situations such as terrorist attacks, natural catastrophes, and fires, there is always a risk of mass panic leading to deadly crowd disasters. But what causes mass panic and where are the danger zones? An international researcher team examined these questions in a virtual environment and their results have been published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface.

Because these questions are difficult to study in the real world, the international research team exposed 36 participants to an emergency in a three-dimensional virtual environment. Each participant simultaneously navigated an avatar through virtual space on a computer screen. The researchers studied the participants‘ behaviours in several experiments, setting them various tasks under high-stress conditions.

To find out how the participants reacted in an emergency situation, the researchers simulated an evacuation from a complex building with four exits, only one of which was usable. Although most of the group did not know which was the correct exit, some participants were directed to it by an arrow at the top of their computer screen. Participants knew that some group members were aware of the correct exit, but they did not know who those people were. In addition, the researchers increased the stress level by putting participants under time pressure and monetary pressure: Participants had to escape the building within 50 seconds to avoid a substantial loss of points. At the end of the session, the points won were converted into monetary bonuses. Further stress-inducing elements were poor lighting, red blinking lights, and fires at the blocked exits.

The experiments showed that collisions and pushing increased quickly under stress. The most dangerous zones were places where decisions had to be made, areas where bottlenecks occurred and caused congestion, and dead ends where participants were forced to turn around and walk back against the flow of the crowd.

The researchers also looked at group dynamics during the stressful evacuation situation. Their analyses revealed that individuals were exposed to much stronger social signals under high stress and high density levels than in less stressful situations. In other words, they were more aware of where the group was going, what it was doing, and how it was feeling, and were thus more strongly influenced by the group. The study’s findings indicate that individuals are more likely to follow a group under the influence of these strong social signals. This can quickly lead to mass herding and dangerous overcrowding.

Source: Mehdi Moussaïd – Max Planck Institute

Weekly Neuroscience Update

art.jpg

Being told an image is a work of art changes people’s responses on both a neural and behavioural level, a new study reports.

Loneliness is linked to poor physical and mental health, and is an even more accurate predictor of early death than obesity. To better understand who is at risk, researchers conducted the first genome-wide association study for loneliness — as a life-long trait, not a temporary state. They discovered that risk for feeling lonely is partially due to genetics, but environment plays a bigger role. The study of more than 10,000 people, published September 15 by Neuropsychopharmacology, also found that genetic risk for loneliness is associated with neuroticism and depressive symptoms.

Researchers report that better education and standards of living may lower the risk of developing dementia than previously thought.

By applying an algorithm to functional magnetic resonance imaging, scientists have been able to see emotions at work in the human brain. The findings – recently published in the journal PLOS Biology – could enable better assessment of emotional states, which may help individuals who struggle to convey their feelings.

Bilingual people may have a cognitive advantage when it comes to maintaining attention and focus, a new study reports.

Both heredity and environmental factors influence our risk of cardiovascular disease. A new study shows now that the memory of a heart attack can be stored in our genes through epigenetic changes.

Researchers have developed a new theory that outlines how the brain separates relevant from irrelevant information.

Scientists are developing an early diagnosis system, based on virtual reality,  for neurodegenerative disorders. The system is intended to such diseases as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and others.

A new study supports the role of intrinsic reward in maintaining exercise as a long-term habit.

Recent advances in imaging have revealed that false memories can be held by the very same cells that hold accurate ones, but we don’t have much information about how false memories get there in the first place. A recent study published in PNAS provides some insight into this issue, finding that false memories may arise from similarities among the items being remembered.

Researchers have discovered a unique epigenetic footprint in specific immune cells that can identify people with HIV who have impaired cognitive function.

Engaging in fantasy play could benefit creative thinking in children suggests a study presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference.

A new study looks at the role glutamate plays in neuromuscular development.

People who suffer from synethesia are also more sensitive to the association between the sound of words and visual shapes, researchers report.

A pioneering new study shows that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia.

A study published in Biological Psychiatry found that training the brain using auditory or visual signals could guide people to regulate their brain activity after traumatic stress.

Researchers have identified the specific synaptic and post-synaptic characteristics that allow auditory neurons to compute with temporal precision.

Finally this week, a news study shows the anxiety response is not only seen in areas associated with emotion, but also in brain areas associated with movement.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

man-798989_960_720.jpg

A new study sheds light on how some older people retain youthful thinking abilities and the brain circuits that support those abilities.

Relying on clinical symptoms of memory loss to diagnose Alzheimer’s disease may miss other forms of dementia caused by Alzheimer’s that don’t initially affect memory, reports a new Northwestern Medicine study.

Bilingual people may have a cognitive advantage when it comes to maintaining attention and focus, a new study reports.

An EU-funded project is getting close to building combined brain and neuromuscular computer models to predict the progression of Parkinson’s and ensure the prescription of the correct medication.

A new study investigates what happens when we multitask and why it’s not such a good idea to drive and use a phone at the same time.

Researchers have found a switch that redirects helper cells in the peripheral nervous system into “repair” mode, a form that restores damaged axons.

A new study offers insight into the neurological processes involved in fear and anxiety.

According to researchers, a simple MRI brain scan could help diagnose people with a common cognitive disorder.

A new mathematical model could improve understanding of memory consolidation during deep sleep.

High stress between the ages of  5 and 8 is biologically embedded, posing mental health risks decades later into adult life, suggests US brain scans study.

Finally this week, a new paper reports on how understanding brain function has become more than a brain science.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

taste.jpg

Researchers report the gustatory cortex relies on all the senses to anticipate taste.

A research group has identified an enzyme whose production is turned off in nerve cells of the frontal lobe when alcohol dependence develops. The deficiency in this enzyme leads to continued use of alcohol despite adverse consequences.

Scientists have identified a brain circuit that’s indispensable to the sleep-wake cycle.

Studying brain electrical activity of volunteers, researchers found that language acquisition enhances brain plasticity and capacity for learning. In particular, they note that early language learning plays a significant role in the rapid formation of memory circuits for coding new information.

A new study reports that relaxing flexed muscles in your foot can reduce the ability of your hands to respond to stimulation.

We all know that we can quickly lose cardiovascular endurance if we stop exercising for a few weeks, but what impact does the cessation of exercise have on our brains? New research examined cerebral blood flow in healthy, physically fit older adults (ages 50-80 years) before and after a 10-day period during which they stopped all exercise. Using MRI brain imaging techniques, they found a significant decrease in blood flow to several brain regions, including the hippocampus, after they stopped their exercise routines.

Brain cells grow faster in children with some forms of autism due to distinct changes in core cell signaling patterns, according to new research.

Researchers have identified a brain mechanism that could be a drug target to help prevent tolerance and addiction to opioid pain medication, such as morphine, according to a study by Georgia State University and Emory University. The findings, published in the Nature journal Neuropsychopharmacology in August, show for the first time that morphine tolerance is due to an inflammatory response produced in the brain. This brain inflammation is caused by the release of cytokines, chemical messengers in the body that trigger an immune response, similar to a viral infection.

A new study reports researchers discover a signaling pathway that enables cells to reach their destinations through repulsion.

To remember events in the order they occur, the brain’s neurons function in a coordinated way that is akin to a symphony, a team of New York University scientists has found. Their findings offer new insights into how we recall information and point to factors that may disrupt certain types of memories.

Researchers have mapped out a serotonin-driven anxiety circuit that may explain the side effects of anxiety and fear experienced by some patients taking SSRIs. 

A new study published in the journal Neuron, delves into the anatomy and function of the striatum by employing cutting-edge strategies to comprehensively map one of the brain’s lesser-known forms of organization.

Finally this week, a new paper looks at why some of us are extreme thrill seekers, and others don’t even enjoy a gentle roller coaster ride.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

desk-1148994_960_720

Getting some sleep in between study sessions may make it easier to recall what you studied and relearn what you’ve forgotten, even 6 months later, according to new findings.

Metabolic syndrome, a cluster of cardiometabolic conditions, may be a biological mechanism linking posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) to structural brain abnormalities, according to a new study in Biological Psychiatry. The findings highlight the need to develop effective interventions for PTSD to treat not only the symptoms associated with the disorder, but also potential ensuing metabolic and neurodegenerative consequences, which may be suggestive of premature aging.

A new study strengthens previous research that claims performing cognitive tasks later in life may reduce the risk of developing dementia.

Your brain activity differs depending on whether you’re working on a task, or at rest — and just how much that activity differs may be linked to how smart you are, a new study finds.

Researchers have developed a new, non-invasive technique that could be used to treat patients with consciousness disorders.

New research published in the New Journal of Physics tries to decompose the structural layers of the cortical network to different hierarchies enabling to identify the network’s nucleus, from which our consciousness could emerge.

A new neuroimaging study links alcohol cravings to the right ventral striatum.

According to researchers, age related changes in the organisation of neural networks when performing short term memory tasks may help to compensate for other aspects of brain ageing.

Researchers have identified a circuit that seems to be related to serotonin-driven anxiety.

A test of how sticky a protein molecule is could help diagnose the early stages of Parkinson’s disease, a study from the University of Edinburgh suggests.

Finally, this week a new study reports dogs have the ability to understand human speech intonation and vocabulary by using similar brain areas to humans.

 

A Visual Nudge Can Disrupt Recall of What Things Look Like

Interfering with your vision makes it harder to describe what you know about the appearance of even common objects, according to new research.

Study participants were asked recall bits of visual information they know about specific objects. Half the time, they saw a blast of coloured static meant to disrupt the parts of the brain that process visual information. The static made a significant difference in their ability to recall the correct information, showing a connection between visual memory and the visual perception systems in the brain.

Visual interference selectively interrupted their ability to answer questions about the visual properties of objects. They had trouble trying to recall that kind of information. But it didn’t change how good they were at accessing what they knew about the nonvisual properties of the same objects.

For more on this study click here

How Things You Do Change Your Brain

Ever wonder how ballet dancers can spin and spin and spin, but never seem to get dizzy? Neuroplasticity, that’s how. This short video explains how it works, and how you can use your brain in the same way.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

reading-1156865_960_720

According to researchers, a brain area dedicated to reading skills has connections for the ability before children learn to read.

Researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have conducted studies to build a database on brain patterns that could help to predict how soldiers will react in  proactive and reactive states.

A new study reports vision relies on patterns of brain activity.

Eight people who have spent years paralyzed from spinal cord injuries have regained partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs after training with brain-controlled robotics, according to a study published Aug. 11 in Scientific Reports.

Contrary to an earlier study, researchers have discovered new hippocampal neurons formed as a result of exercise do not cause certain old memories to be forgotten.

Researchers report our gut bacteria is sensitive to melatonin and expresses its own circadian rhythm.

Researchers report the brain’s ‘physic engine’ helps predict how the world behaves.

A new study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging revealed that middle-aged adults who were overweight had reduced white matter volume in the brain, compared with their lean counterparts.

A new study reports transcranial magnetic stimulation can significantly reduce phantom limb pain.

MIT engineers have developed a new device that replicates the neuromuscular junction — the vital connection where nerve meets muscle –  that could help test new treatments for ALS and other neuromuscular disorders.

Finally this week, researchers have identified two areas involved in a neural network that helps interpret situations as positive or negative.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

hearing-loss-frontal-cortex-neurosciencenews

Regions with significant phoneme classification at the NoNoise condition for each group. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to the researchers/Nature Communications.

Researchers have pinpointed the specific part of the brain that older adults rely on to differentiate speech sounds in background noise, which could revolutionise the treatment of hearing loss.

New research has identified how cells protect themselves against ‘protein clumps’ known to be the cause of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Transcranial alternating current stimulation may help to improve memory when targeted to a specific kind of brain activity achieved during sleep.

Researchers in the US and Australia have made a breakthrough discovery in the international quest to discover a new and potentially effective vaccine targeting the pathological proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study identifies different brain regions that become active when a strategy of categorisation is applied.

Researchers have developed a new machine learning system that analyses the entire human genome to predict which genes may cause autism spectrum disorder, raising the number of genes that could be linked to the disorder from 65 to 2,500.

Results from a study published in the online publication Nature Genetics finds 15 genomic regions that are significantly associated with a diagnosis of depression.

According to researchers, age related changes in the organization of neural networks when performing short term memory tasks may help to compensate for other aspects of brain aging.

Researchers report smoking related deficits in dopamine return to normal three months after quitting.

Genetic changes associated with Parkinson’s disease have been found in liver, fat, immune and developmental cells, a new study reports.

Brain imaging, twin studies and transcriptome data reveal genetic relationships between lobes.

Finally this week, a new study suggests regular physical activity may lead to greater hippocampal volume and could stave off dementia, especially in older people.

 

 

 

 

 

Brain Imaging at Multiple Size Scales

MIT researchers have developed a new technique for imaging brain tissue at multiple scales, allowing them to peer at molecules within cells or take a wider view of the long-range connections between neurons.

This technique, known as magnified analysis of proteome (MAP), should help scientists in their ongoing efforts to chart the connectivity and functions of neurons in the human brain.

Learn more at http://news.mit.edu/2016/imaging-brain-multiple-size-scales-0725

Weekly Neuroscience Update

protein-alzheimers-study-neurosciencenews

New research, using a Bayesian inference model of audio and visual stimuli, has shown how our perception of time lies mid-way between reality and our expectations.

Researchers have developed a virtual brain that can mimic the brain of a person with epilepsy. The model can help provide a better understanding of the disease.

Resting state brain activity may predict how quickly people are able to pick up a second language, a new study reports.

Researchers report that an odour identification test may prove useful in predicting cognitive decline and detecting early-stage Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study uses cutting-edge technique to image the process of neuronal transmission.

By scanning the brains of subjects while they were hypnotized, researchers were able to see the neural changes associated with hypnosis.

Yale University researchers have developed a way to picture synapses in living brains.

Music can influence how much you like the taste of beer, according to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology.

According to researchers, sleep twitches in babies could be linked to sensorimotor development.

A new study reports anatomical patterning in the brain’s cortex is controlled by genetic factors.

Finally this week, researchers have uncovered what goes on in our brains when we are faced with the decision to take a risk or play it safe.

 

The Ultimate Brain Map (Video)

A new map of the human brain could be the most accurate yet, as it combines all sorts of different kinds of data. This might finally solve a century of disagreements over the shapes and positions of different brain areas.

Read more on this story in Nature.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

sleep

Sleep disturbances and long sleep duration are both associated with an increased risk for inflammation, a new study reports.

Abnormalities in brain regions involved in forming insight may help explain why some people with anorexia nervosa have trouble recognising their dangerous, dysfunctional eating habits.

A new study identifies different brain regions that become active when a strategy of categorisation is applied.

Researchers have identified – and shown that it may be possible to control – the mechanism that leads to the rapid build-up of the disease-causing ‘plaques’ that are characteristic of Alzheimer’s disease.

Using data from the largest ever genetic study of schizophrenia, researchers have shed light on the role of the immune system.

Using data from the Human Connectome Project, researchers have created a multimodal map of the human cortex that combines data from cortical architecture, function, connectivity, and topography. The map, detailed today (July 20) in Nature, identifies 180 brain areas, 97 of which are new to neuroscience.

A new study reports on how sensory neurons work together to transmit itch signals from the skin, via the spinal cord and to the brain.

A combination of transcranial magnetic stimulation and peripheral nerve stimulation may help in the rehabilitation of people with spinal cord injury, according to a new patient study conducted at the BioMag laboratory at the Helsinki University Hospital.

Researchers have discovered an interaction in neurons that contributes to Parkinson’s disease.

In a new study published in JAMA Neurology, researchers find stronger reason to be concerned about the long term effects of head injuries, particularly when it comes to Parkinson’s disease, which recently contributed to the death of Muhammad Ali.

Finally this week, researchers have identified how different parts of the brain interact with each other at different times in order to discover how intellect works.

 

 

How do neurons connect to each others?

One of the greatest challenges in neuroscience is to identify the map of connections between neurons. In a landmark paper published in PNAS, the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL)  Blue Brain Project (BBP) has identified key principles that determine synapse-scale connectivity by virtually reconstructing a cortical microcircuit and comparing it to a mammalian sample.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

iphone-1283665_960_720

Sending text messages on a smartphone can change the rhythm of brain waves, according to a new study published in Epilepsy & Behavior.

An international research team has found that our perception is highly sensitised for absorbing social information. The brain is thus trained to pay a great degree of attention to everyday actions. The results are reported in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

A new study unravels the mechanisms driving excess brain growth that affects as many as 30 percent of people with autism.

Researchers have developed a new technology that could lead to new therapeutics for traumatic brain injuries. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, provides a means of homing drugs or nanoparticles to injured areas of the brain.

Researchers have coupled machine learning with neuroimaging to detect early forms of dementia.

Neuroscientists have come up with a way to observe brain activity during natural reading. It’s the first time researchers have been able to study the brain while reading actual texts, instead of individual words. The research has potential implications for understanding dyslexia and other reading deficits.

A new study links hippocampal inflammation in multiple sclerosis with an increased risk of developing depression.

In a partnership melding neuroscience and electrical engineering, researchers have developed a new technology that will allow neuroscientists to capture images of the brain almost 10 times larger than previously possible – helping them better understand the behavior of neurons in the brain.

Researchers report acquiring new memories can interfere with old ones, making them more likely to be forgotten.

A European study has shown that the dopamine D2 receptor is linked to the long-term episodic memory, which function often reduces with age and due to dementia. This new insight can contribute to the understanding of why some but not others are affected by memory impairment. The results have been published in the journal PNAS.

Finally this week, a new study shows how new linguistic information is integrated into the same brain areas used for your native language.

World Mental Health Day: How to Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression

Mental-Health-Day.jpeg

Today is designated World Mental Health Day and to mark the day, I am reposting a blog from last year.

How To Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression

Depression is very common – it is estimated that at least one in five people in Ireland will develop depression during their lifetime.

Depression is not to be confused with the normal ups and downs of everyday life. Everyone can feel a bit ‘down’ from time to time as a reaction to an upsetting event, but will start to feel better after a few days or weeks. It is a natural, short-lived response to stressful times in life.

However, some people are unable to escape this low mood, and find it difficult to carry on with life as usual. They may experience low/sad, irritable or indifferent mood, loss of interest and enjoyment in daily life and a general lack of energy. This may be often accompanied by some or all of the following physical symptoms, fatigue and reduced activity, disturbed sleep or excessive sleep, changes in appetite and weight, loss of sex drive, unexplained aches and pains e.g. headache, backache and changes to the menstrual cycle.

Depression affects different people in different ways – not everyone has the same symptoms. Other symptoms include poor concentration or reduced attention, difficulty in making decisions, tearfulness, restlessness, agitation or anxiety, low self-confidence and self-esteem, feelings of guilt, inability to cope with life as before, avoiding other people, bleak view of the future, morbid thoughts, ideas of self-harm.

Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Starting in the 1960’s neuroscientists regarded depression as a kind of ‘anaemia’ in the brain – a lack of three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline in key emotional regions in the brain. Antidepressant drugs were then developed to bring the levels of these neurotransmitters particularly serotonin back to normal. Prozac is a good example of this type of drug and it has proved to be a safe and effective life saver for many the depressed patient.

However, recently neuroscientists have had a radical change of mind with respect to the nature of depression. This change of view is partially due to evidence from brain imaging studies in depressed patients showing dramatic changes in nerve activity in the frontal lobe of the brain.

The importance of the frontal lobe in depression

Nervous activity in the frontal lobes forms our attitudes, plans and strategies and is at least in part under our own control.    This view advocates that depression is in fact a disorder of thinking – a sort of obsessional pessimism from which the depressed patient can see no way out and this is what causes the low neurotransmitter levels.

Wisconsin Study

The WISCONSIN STUDY adds another twist by showing that the brains of depressed individuals actually exhibit the same initial levels of activity in positive/pleasure-generating brain regions. Instead they found differences in the ability to sustain those positive emotions.

Findings from my own research group and others show that three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline play a key role in sustaining attention and motivation the brain. Thus low neurotransmitter levels may impair the ability to ‘embed’ these new thoughts and emotions leaving the depressed patient feeling like they are back at square one. This study lends support to notion that depression is best treated by psychological/behavioral treatments or in combination of drugs, not drugs alone.

Thus while antidepressants can help treat the chemical anaemia – good mental heath in particular careful monitoring of your everyday thoughts and attitudes will ensure that negative thoughts are nipped in the bud is also vital in the treatment and even the prevention of depression.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

dog-624951_960_720.jpg

People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn’t hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on November 23 have evidence that dogs have this kind of “episodic memory” too.

PET imaging of new neurons in the brain promises to advance our understanding and treatment of depression.

Research from Mayo Clinic included in the November issue of JAMA Neurology identifies a new biomarker for brain and spinal cord inflammation, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The amount of GABA in person’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked the ability to keep several things in mind simultaneously. to new research.

A new study offers important insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins within the brain. The researchers found a relationship between inflammation, a toxic protein and the onset of the disease. The study also identified a way that doctors can detect early signs of Alzheimer’s by looking at the back of patients’ eyes.

An international research team has found that when the brain “reads” or decodes a sentence in English or Portuguese, its neural activation patterns are the same.

In a cross-domain study, researchers have discovered unexpected cells in the protective membranes that enclose the brain, the so called meninges. These ‘neural progenitors’ – or stem cells that differentiate into different kinds of neurons – are produced during embryonic development. These findings show that the neural progenitors found in the meninges produce new neurons after birth – highlighting the importance of meningeal tissue as well as these cells’ potential in the development of new therapies for brain damage or neurodegeneration. A paper highlighting the results was published in the leading scientific journal Cell Stem Cell.

A new study reports that a single stressful event may cause long term consequences in the brain.

Researchers have identified previously unknown neural circuitry that plays a role in promoting satiety, the feeling of having had enough to eat. The discovery revises the current models for homeostatic control — the mechanisms by which the brain maintains the body’s status quo — of feeding behaviour. Published online today in Nature Neuroscience, the findings offer new insight into the regulation of hunger and satiety and could help researchers find solutions to the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Finally this week, learning by taking practice tests, a strategy known as retrieval practice, can protect memory against the negative effects of stress, according to new research.