Weekly Neuroscience Update

New artificial intelligence technology reveals previously unknown cell components. The findings may shed new light on human development and diseases.

A new mathematical model explains how the brain has the ability to continuously acquire new skills, specifically movement-based skills, without forgetting or degrading old ones. The theory, dubbed COIN, suggests identifying current context is key to learning how to move our bodies when acquiring skills.

Playing video games that are heavy on action can make you better at some new tasks. New research reveals that these games are helping by teaching players to be quicker learners.

The “background noise” in the brain disrupts long-memory signals by neurons. This noise interrupts the consistent rhythm of long-memory alpha wave signals in people experiencing identity confusion.

Memory errors may indicate a way in which the human cognitive system is optimally running, researchers say.

Housework is linked to sharper memory, attention span, and better leg strength, and by extension, greater protection against falls, in older adults, finds research published in the open access journal BMJ Open.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can be used to modulate brain rhythms and cognitive behaviors related to “giving up” during problem-solving tasks.

New research reveals that specialized cells within neural circuitry that triggers complex learning in songbirds bears a striking resemblance to a type of neural cell associated with the development of fine motor skills in the cortex of the human brain.

Finally this week, a new study links a propensity to binge-watch TV shows with personality traits. Researchers found those who lack impulse control and emotional clarity are most likely to binge-watch a television series.

 

The Neurobiology of Kindness #WorldKindnessDay

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Today is World Kindness Day. Kindness is a fundamental part of the human condition and bridges the divides of culture, religion, politics, gender, and social class.

Why does Kindness Exist?

Until recently, the task of applying what we know about the brain to the bigger question of personal human experience has been avoided by scientists. However the emergence of the new discipline of neuroscience – the scientific study of the nervous system – is helping us to bridge this gap by providing new ways to answer such age-old questions as why does kindness exist, and why is it important? To answer these questions we first need to consider an important property of nerve cells (neurons) in the human brain.

The Neurobiology of Kindness

The discovery of mirror neurons, a cluster of neurons in the brain that help connect us emotionally to other people, respond sympathetically towards others and allow us to anticipate others intentions is now believed to be the basis of human empathy. Mirror neurons were first discovered by neuroscientists in the 1990s while recording the activity of neurons in the brain where it was noticed that certain populations of neurons remain silent (observation) and active (imitation) when we watch others perform the same action, hence the name mirror neurons [1,2]. Scientists have extended this finding in the human brain to show that nerve activity in mirror neurons also behaves in the same way when we see another person expressing an emotion, and this nerve activity is not observed in disorders of empathy [3].

Kindness is the Engine for Personal Growth

Each person is a mirror of their environment which is then in turn mirrored by their own behaviour. This underlies the powerful phenomenon of social contagion – that information, ideas, and behaviors including kindness can spread through networks of people the way that infectious diseases do. For this reason, giving and receiving kindness can have a contagious effect.  Research also shows that optimal learning takes place in an environment that is creative, inclusive, rewarding and bolstered by firm, healthy boundaries, in an environment that is kind.  Even those in deep distress due to imprisonment, addiction, financial worries, and high anxiety also benefit greatly from an environment that is creative, inclusive and boundaried.

What to do when we encounter unkindness? Behaviours including anxiety, anger and rudeness can also spread through networks of people in the same way that infectious diseases do. The antidote to becoming infected with these miserable states is to be aware that every action must be consciously chosen, and not an emotional response. Another tip is to always give the benefit of the doubt when dealing with other human beings. More often than not you will be proven right.

Survival of the Kindest

Why is kindness so important? This question can be answered in the context that every single human being is unique because we each possess a uniquely complex brain, so complex that in all of human history no two human brains can be identical. This is because the unique combination of about 100 trillion tiny brain connections (synapses) that grow and change throughout life is an ongoing work in progress from conception to death. In this way we each one of us ‘evolve’ as true individuals as we each make our journey through life. Kindness is the green light to keep going. If you are not open to giving and receiving kindness then you may not be growing. In the same way, humankind will only evolve by making room for each and every individual to express their intellectual and spiritual evolution to the full.  In this way, the evolution of the human race has everything to do with being open to giving and receiving kindness.


References

  1. Mirror Neurons. Society for Neuroscience (2013) http://www.brainfacts.org/brain-basics/neuroanatomy/articles/2008/mirror-neurons/
  2. Kraskov A, Dancause N, Quallo MM, Shepherd S and Lemon RN. (2009) Corticospinal neurons in macaque ventral premotor cortex with mirror properties: A potential mechanism for action suppression? Neuron 64, 922-930.
  3. Corradini A, Antonietti A. (2013) Mirror neurons and their function in cognitively understood empathy. Consciousness and Cognition. 22, 1152–1161.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Image Credit: Dartmouth College

Distinct information about familiar faces is encoded in a neural code that is shared across brains, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A new study conducted in adults with a history of childhood maltreatment showed that two groups – those with a history of sexual abuse and those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – had reduced brain connectivity in the attention systems known as the ventral and dorsal attention network (VAN-DAN).

New findings reveals dopamine neurons that play a role in learning and memory also drive motivation.

For the first time, researchers have used human data to quantify the speed of different processes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease and found that it develops in a very different way than previously thought. Their results could have important implications for the development of potential treatments.

Musical therapy can help to improve fine motor skills in patients with Parkinson’s disease according to new research. 

A genetic predisposition for depression combined with exposure to high-particulate-matter air pollution greatly elevates the risk that healthy people will experience depression, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS).

Recently published research found people who continued to spend a higher amount of time sitting between April and June 2020 were likely to have higher symptoms of depression.

A new study, published in the International Journal of MS Care, found that the vibration training improved not only physical symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, such as increased walking speeds, but also cognitive functions, such as memory capacity and executive function.

A newly developed AI algorithm can directly predict eye position and movement during an MRI scan. The technology could provide new diagnostics for neurological disorders that manifest in changes in eye-movement patterns.

A team of researchers has found a possible connection between depression and anxiety for IBD patients and the vascular barrier in the brain choroid plexus closing. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of the gut-brain axis response to inflammation and its link to psychiatric illnesses.

Researchers have created the first body map of sensations experienced during hallucinations in people experiencing psychosis.

Recent resarch reveals the severity of PTSD symptoms was associated with fewer risky choices and increased activation of the amygdala. Decreased activity in the ventral striatum, an area of the brain associated with processing positive valence such as reward, predicted more severe PTSD symptoms 14 months post-trauma.

Finally this week, people who consume a diet containing anti-inflammatory foods, including fruits, vegetables, and coffee, are less likely to develop dementia as they age, a new study reports.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have investigated why many of us wake in the middle of the night and dwell on our fears.

In response to gut inflammation, such as that caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the vascular barrier in the brain choroid plexus closes, locking down access to the brain, according to a new study.

A multiyear study of older adults found that both short and long sleepers experienced greater cognitive decline than people who slept a moderate amount, even when the effects of early Alzheimer’s disease were taken into account.

A brain circuit that works as a “brake” on binge alcohol drinking may help explain male-female differences in vulnerability to alcohol use disorders, according to a preclinical study led by scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The Mediterranean diet does not only have beneficial effects for the cardiovascular health of those who follow it, but it can allow them to improve their memory and prevent or delay the effects of cognitive deterioration connected to aging. 

People with higher levels of anxiety have altered perceptions of their breathing compared to those with lower levels of anxiety. The altered perception of respiration can lead to an increase in feelings of anxiety, researchers report.

Finally this week researchers reveal the neurobiological basis of why we often find it more difficult to find the right words as we age.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Exposure to toxoplasma, a disease carried by cats, may increase the likelihood of developing psychosis in young people already at risk, a new study has found.

The development of drugs to treat cognitive problems in patients with mental illness may be a step closer after a team of researchers discovered that an existing drug—used to treat constipation—may be able to boost our ability to think more clearly.

The way a person’s brain responds to stress following a traumatic event, such as a car accident, may help to predict their long-term mental health outcomes, according to new research.

Researchers have identified how specific neurons in the cuneate nucleus help filter distracting information to coordinate dexterous movements. The findings have implications for the development of new prosthetics and robotic equipment that can fine-tune movement based on the sense of touch.

A new study has found structural differences in the prefrontal cortex and brain areas associated with empathy and cognitive control, between siblings where one displayed antisocial behaviors and the other did not.

It remains a central challenge in psychiatry to reliably judge whether a patient will respond to treatment. In a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany show that moment-to-moment fluctuations in brain activity can reliably predict whether patients with social anxiety disorder will be receptive to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Researchers have identified a brain rhythm associated with emotional conflict that appears to be a biomarker for anxiety disorder.

Finally this week, people with elevated blood pressure that falls within the normal recommended range are at risk of accelerated brain ageing, according to new research. The research also found optimal blood pressure helps our brains stay at least six months younger than our actual age. 

 

Mental Health Requires Courage #WorldMentalHealthDay

He who increases knowledge, increases sorrow but who wants to live a life of ignorance?

The key to a happy life

The key to a happy life is the ability to transcend personal suffering, find a balance, and recognise that the world has problems. This requires mental effort and those of us who strive to better understand ourselves in the world come out the other side as a new person, with some peace of mind and a way to live.

Fundamental or accidental?

A limit to understanding ourselves in the world is the fact that we do not know that some of the things we perceive to be truly fundamental today may actually be just accidental. For instance, the brain uses systematic patterns of thought to produce philosophy including science, mathematics, literature, ideas and beliefs including a belief in a deity to guide us towards new insights. What we need to understand is that none of these may be fundamental in themselves. They are just tools that our ancestors used to probe the unknown and to see what is possible – knowing that what is common for us is just a tiny sliver of what actually exists.

Accidental fundamentalism is often mistaken for truth

In the West we have made the truth our highest value. This motivation while important is weak compared to the actual power of belief. We are born into a culture which often insists on a particular religious or ideological philosophy as fact and the only way to understand ourselves in the world, but adhering to this belief may cause personal suffering by impeding insights necessary to achieve peace of mind. Resisting enculturation is the highest expression of human psychological development and is a hallmark of what is called in psychology as the fully self-actualised person.

Recasting reality

Self-actualisers reject accepted cultural ‘truths’ and see beyond the confines of an era to achieve a clearer perception of reality. A further subtle difference sets these people apart. Most of us see life as striving to get this or that – whether it be material things or having a family or doing well career wise. Self-actualizers in contrast do not strive as much as develop. They are only ambitious to the extent in being able to express themselves more fully and perfectly, delighting in what they are able to do. Another general point is their profound freedom of mind. In contrast to the conforming pressures around them self-actualizers are a walking example of free will.

Mental health requires courage

In this way happiness can be described as personal autonomy. The independence of mind to explore and choose the best skills and tools needed to achieve personal insight. Where you are no longer beholden to culture, creed or religion and without any attendant guilt or fear in abandoning old ways in order to try new ones as you evolve to become the master of your own fate.

What to believe?

Mental health is two things:(i) being in touch with reality and (ii) being open to new experiences. But here’s the thing – there is no reality only perception.

Understand that the world is not necessarily as you perceive it. Everyone has filters and only by acknowledging them can you begin to get a clearer picture. Even in a close relationship the same simple act can be viewed differently. A man will see paying all the bills as his duty while his wife will see it as an act of love. Appreciate that your views might be prejudices.

Most importantly make sure that the perceptions you do retain or adopt are grounded in verifiable fact and can be tested. Otherwise any actions you take based on your beliefs will be on shaky ground.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

With normal (top) and reduced SLK expression (bottom). Without SLK, dendrites branch less; moreover, the number of inhibitory synapses (green) decreases. Credit: Institut für Neuropathologie/Uni Bonn

Researchers have shed light on the function of the enzyme SLK for the development of nerve cells in the brain. Lack of the SLK protein results in less abundant dendrites. As a lack of SLK is apparent in many patients with epilepsy, the findings could pave the way for new treatments for those suffering from the neurological disorder.

Adults who experienced traumatic events, including abuse and household dysfunction, as children had an increased risk of developing neurological conditions later in life.

Researchers have designed new antibodies that might provide more effective treatment methods for Alzheimer’s disease. By designing antibodies that bind even to the smaller aggregates, or clumps, of the amyloid-beta protein, it may be possible to check the progress of the disease.

A new study traces the mechanisms that link environmental signals and our circadian clocks.

Adolescents can speed their recovery after a sport-related concussion and reduce their risk of experiencing protracted recovery if they engage in aerobic exercise within 10 days of getting injured, according to a new study.

A new study reports a reduction of atmospheric fine particulates and better air quality can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

A team of researchers has partially solved the mystery of why some people are less naturally resistant to COVID-19 than others. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of the interferon system and the role it plays in combating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Finally this week, researchers have identified a brain rhythm associated with emotional conflict that appears to be a biomarker for anxiety disorder.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Bacterial curli promotes the aggregation of α-synuclein through cross-seeding, which leads to mitochondrial stress and neurodegeneration. Credit: The University of Hong Kong

Growing evidence indicates that gut microbiota plays a critical role in regulating the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but the molecular mechanism underlying such microbe-host interaction is still unclear. Now a research team at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has discovered that bacteria-derived curli amyloid fibril promotes neurodegeneration in the host. This new study provides direct evidence to suggest that bacteria can secrete proteins that form an amyloid fibril, which enters the host neurons and promotes protein aggregation and neurodegeneration. Inhibiting the ability of the bacteria to secrete such proteins may be a preventative treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. 

Unusual visual inspection of objects by infants 9 months of age and older is predictive of a later diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research has found.

A team of scientists recently published intriguing research on a tiny, splinter-like brain implant that doctors can slide deep into the folds of the brain and use to restore both muscular control over and sensation from a paralysis patient’s limbs.

A new study has found a new way to look at brain networks using the mathematical notion of fractals, to convey communication patterns between different brain regions as people listened to a short story. 

An experimental gene therapy that involves injecting CRISPR therapy directly into visually impaired patients’ eyeballs has vastly improved most volunteers’ vision — even allowing some to see color more vividly than ever before.

Preliminary new findings are raising concerns about the long-term effect of mild COVID-19 infection on neurological health and cognition.

Use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT, also known as hormone replacement therapy, HRT) is not associated with an increased risk of developing dementia, regardless of hormone type, dose, or duration, concludes a large UK study.

Recent research provides empirical evidence to show the brain’s predictive ability forms the basis for musical phrasing.

Memories of past events and experiences are what define us as who we are, and yet the ability to form these episodic memories declines with age, certain dementias, and brain injury. However, a new study shows that low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation—or rTMS—delivered over the left prefrontal cortex of the brain can improve memory performance by reducing the power of low frequency brain waves as memories form.

Finally this week, a new brain imaging study shows that the hippocampus is the brain’s storyteller, connecting separate, distant events into a single narrative.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Microglial cells – (blue: the cell nuclei) can join together using tubular projections (red) to degrade dangerous proteins in a division of labor. Credit: AG Heneka/University of Bonn

To break down toxic proteins more quickly, immune cells in the brain can join together to form networks when needed. However, certain mutations associated with Parkinson’s disease can impair this process.

New work shows that neurons and other brain cells use DNA double-strand breaks, often associated with cancer, neurodegeneration and aging, to quickly express genes related to learning and memory.

New research has identified specific drug targets within the neural circuits that encode memories, paving the way for significant advances in the treatment of a broad spectrum of brain disorders.

Pioneering research shows that dopamine levels increase in response to stressful stimuli, and not just pleasurable ones, potentially rewriting facts about the “feel-good” hormone—a critical mediator of many psychiatric diseases. This discovery is cause to rethink treatment for psychiatric disease and addiction.

A new study links viral infections including mononucleosis and pneumonia experienced during adolescence with an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Researchers have discovered a new gene therapy pathway that has uncovered an important regulatory mechanism to keep our genome healthy. This pathway has the potential to protect us against serious life-limiting diseases such as cancer and dementia.

Neuroscientists have discovered specific types of neurons within the memory center of the brain that are responsible for acquiring new associative memories.

Amyloid protein made in the liver can cause neurodegeneration in the brain, according to a new study in the open-access journal PLOS Biology. Since the protein is thought to be a key contributor to development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the results suggest that the liver may play an important role in the onset or progression of the disease.

Higher glucose levels detected by a two-hour glucose test were an accurate predictor of poorer performance in tests of episodic memory ten years later, according to new research

A worsening cardiovascular profile after menopause may contribute to the fact that women are disproportionately affected by dementia. A new study identified a link between cardiovascular fat volume and radiodensity and cognitive function, as well as racial differences in this association.

Finally this week, a new study finds dopamine increases responses to stressful stimuli, not just pleasurable ones. The findings could have implications for the treatment of mental health disorders and addiction.

 

The Neuroscience of Change

Significant change can be stressful.

It challenges our ability to cope and drains our resilience.

With change comes a new set of challenges including how to take advantage of the change scenario and assert an element of control by managing our emotions.

I was invited to give a talk to staff of the British Embassy in Ireland on the topic of the neuroscience of change.

You can view a slide summary of my talk below.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research reveals that neurons in the visual cortex—the part of the brain that processes visual stimuli—change their responses to the same stimulus over time.

Menopause can mess with your memory, and a new study has identified four profiles of cognitive function that may help researchers understand why memory declines for some women and not others. This adds to the mounting evidence of the memory changes that can happen when menopause approaches and could lead to better guidance and treatment for patients experiencing memory issues.

Testing for some inflammatory proteins associated with the nervous and immune systems will help diagnose the earlier onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a Rutgers study.

Researchers have recently carried out a study investigating the role of the X-chromosome on human brain anatomy. Their findings, published in a paper in Nature Neuroscience, highlight the key role of the X-chromosome in human neurodevelopment.

A new study explores a new non-dopamine reward circuitry in the brain.

An analysis of data from 1.5 million people has identified 579 locations in the genome associated with a predisposition to different behaviors and disorders related to self-regulation, including addiction and child behavioral problems.

Virtual reality helps to relieve pain and anxiety for children undergoing medical procedures, researchers report.

Scientists have long suspected that religiosity and spirituality could be mapped to specific brain circuits, but the location of those circuits remains unknown. Now, a new study using novel technology and the human connectome, a map of neural connections, has identified a brain circuit that seems to mediate that aspect of our personality.

Finally this week, researchers reveal the neurobiological basis of why we often find it more difficult to find the right words as we age.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Two new research studies have identified the neural signals underlying music imagery. These neural signals are related to melodic expectations and predictions.

Short naps of up to 60 minutes in duration do not mitigate the effects of a night of sleep deprivation, a new study reports. However, the amount of slow-wave sleep achieved during a nap was related to reduced impairments associated with sleep deprivation.

30% of people reported changes in cognition, memory, and problems with information processing as a result of social isolation caused by pandemic lockdowns.

Some proteins in cells can separate into small droplets like oil droplets in water, but faults in this process may underlie neurodegenerative diseases in the brains of older people. Now, Rutgers researchers have developed a new method to quantify protein droplets involved in these diseases.

A new study reveals how dopamine may have a central role in maintaining our consciousness.

It’s long been known that opioid overdose deaths are caused by disrupted breathing, but the actual mechanism by which these drugs suppress respiration was not understood. Now, a new study by Salk scientists has identified a group of neurons in the brainstem that plays a key role in this process.

A new advanced imaging technique shows how cholesterol regulates the production of Alzheimer’s associated amyloid beta proteins in astrocytes.

A recent experimental study shows how regular physical exercise modulates iron metabolism in both the brain and the muscles. The findings also help to better understand the benefits of exercise in Alzheimer’s disease.

A new AI model can accurately classify a brain tumor of one of six common cancer types from a single MRI brain scan image.

A tiny region in the middle of the brain plays a far more important role than previously known in helping it respond to changes in the environment, a new study shows.

The brain’s white matter pathway organization during the first year of life may predict language acquisition and development at age five, researchers say.

Finally this week, mindfulness may provide modest benefits to cognition, particularly among older adults, finds a new review of evidence.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

An area (red-yellow) in the brain’s temporal pole specializes in familiar face recognition. Credit: Sofia Landi

New research reveals a class of neurons in the brain’s temporal pole region that links face perception to long-term memory. It’s not quite the apocryphal grandmother neuron — rather than a single cell, it’s a population of cells that collectively remembers grandma’s face. The findings, published in Science, are the first to explain how our brains inculcate the faces of those we hold dear.

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown repair process in the brain that they hope could be harnessed and enhanced to treat seizure-related brain injuries.

A new study demonstrates that puppets can attract and hold the attention of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), raising the potential for developing more engaging therapies that strengthen social engagement and facilitate learning.

Artificial neural networks is helping researchers uncover new clues as to why people on the autism spectrum have trouble interpreting facial expressions.

Researchers have revealed how proteins accumulate in the incorrect parts of brain cells in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and demonstrate how it may be possible to reverse the accumulation. ALS, more commonly known as motor neuron disease, is a progressive fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, with patients become increasingly paralyzed and losing the ability to speak, eat and breathe. 

Combining artificial intelligence, mathematical modeling, and brain imaging data, researchers have shed light on the neural processes that occur when people use mental abstraction.

A team of scientists has uncovered a system in the brain used in the processing of information and in the storing of memories—akin to how railroad switches control a train’s destination. The findings offer new insights into how the brain functions.

Finally this week, researchers have developed a powerful miniature brain platform to study the mechanistic causes of Alzheimer’s disease and to test dementia drugs in development.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows dancing to music may halt progression of Parkinson’s disease.

A new systematic review reports that individuals with more than five symptoms during the first week of a SARS-CoV-2 infection were at increased risk of developing persistent symptoms or long COVID.

Psychologists have advanced a new theory linking neurotic unhappiness and creativity, arguing that natural worriers may also have highly active imaginations and be more creative problem-solvers.

People who practice meditation often report feeling “pure awareness” in which they say they experience consciousness itself. The state encompasses specific sensations and non-specific feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. Researchers say their findings will help explain “pure consciousness,” and work to generate a prototypical minimal model for human conscious perception.

A recent study has reveals how the brain processes information about the natural environment and generates an aesthetic appreciation.

Researchers have found longer gestational age was significantly associated with better performance in tests of math, languages, social studies, and science at age nine. Children born at 41 weeks performed better in all areas, especially mathematics.

A newly developed questionnaire can detect autism in children between the ages of 18 to 30 months.

College students who experienced a high level of adversity in childhood have lower levels of social support, such as having someone to confide in, ask for advice or go to for emotional support. When students lack these supportive relationships, they are at an increased risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

In a world first, US researchers have developed a neuroprosthetic device that successfully translated the brain waves of a paralyzed man into complete sentences

A new wearable brain-machine interface (BMI) system could improve the quality of life for people with motor dysfunction or paralysis, even those struggling with locked-in syndrome — when a person is fully conscious but unable to move or communicate.

Finally this week, participation in elite adult rugby may be associated with changes in brain structure. This is the finding of a study of 44 elite rugby players, almost half of whom had recently sustained a mild head injury while playing.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

When perceiving rhythm, the brain makes two separate decisions based on grouping and prominence. The groupings mutually inform each other to generate an overall rhythmic perception.

Face pareidolia, a phenomenon where the brain is tricked into seeing human faces in inanimate objects, may occur as a result of the brain processing the perceived facial expression in the same sequential way it perceives a human face. Neuroscientists at the University of Sydney now say how our brains identify and analyse real human faces is conducted by the same cognitive processes that identify illusory faces.

Researchers have identified a novel population of neurons in the temporal pole that links facial perception to long-term memory.

Adults with ADHD are at higher risk of a wide range of physical conditions, including nervous system, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and metabolic diseases, according to a large register-based study from Karolinska Institutet published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

A new study reveals very young infants can perceive objects that older infants, children, and adults can not see due to a phenomenon called visual backward masking.

Infant boys with a gut bacterial composition high in Bacteroidetes were found in a new study to have more advanced cognitive and language skills one year later compared to boys with lower levels of the bacteria. The finding was specific to male children.

Brain cells snap DNA in more places and in more cell types than previously realized in order to express genes for learning and memory.

Researchers have found that a component derived from turmeric essential oil, aromatic turmerone (ar-turmerone), and its derivatives act directly on dopaminergic nerves to create a neuroprotective effect on tissue cultures of a Parkinson’s disease model.

New research shows daydreaming and mind-wandering appear to occur when parts of the brain fall asleep while other areas remain awake.

Finally this week, a diet rich in fermented foods enhances the diversity of gut microbes and decreases molecular signs of inflammation, according to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Children who are physically active have higher cognitive function and increased functional connectivity in the brain later in life than those who are less active, a new study reports.

Canadian researchers have built and validated an online calculator that empowers individuals 55 and over to better understand the health of their brain and how they can reduce their risk of being diagnosed with dementia in the next five years. Their process was published today in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, and the calculator is available at projectbiglife.ca.

Researchers studying prions–misfolded proteins that cause lethal incurable diseases–have identified for the first time surface features of human prions responsible for their replication in the brain.

Middle-aged people with depressive symptoms who carry a genetic variation called apolipoprotein (APOE) ε4 may be more at risk to develop tau protein accumulations in the brain’s emotion- and memory-controlling regions, a new study suggests.

Frequent strenuous exercise increases the risk of developing motor neuron disease (MND)/ALS in certain people, new research has found.

Combining brain scans with AI technology, researchers were able to accurately predict the likelihood of a person developing schizophrenia in those with a family history of the psychiatric disorder.

A new study reveals very young infants can perceive objects that older infants, children, and adults can not see due to a phenomenon called visual backward masking.

Subtle changes in fractal motor activity regulation in cognitively healthy women may be a sign of preclinical Alzheimer’s disease, researchers report.

Deep brain stimulation appears to be safe, effective, and provides symptom improvements for at least one year in patients with treatment-resistant schizophrenia.

New research details the interplay between proteins involved in controlling the body’s stress response and points to potential therapeutic targets when this response goes awry.

A new research paper published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition last week showed that a low Omega-3 Index is just as powerful in predicting early death as smoking.

Finally this week, a new study sheds light on how migraines may occur and why those who are susceptible to migraines see improvements in symptoms as they age.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Around 4000 nerve fibres connect to this single neuron
Google/Lichtman Laboratory

Google has helped create the most detailed map yet of the connections within the human brain. It reveals a staggering amount of detail, including patterns of connections between neurons, as well as what may be a new kind of neuron.

Researchers have identified three biomarkers in blood samples that confirm the link between exercise and improved cognitive function in older adults.

A new study reveals what goes on in the brain when a person embarks on a musical collaboration project.

Chronic inflammation in the gut may propel processes in the body that give rise to Parkinson’s disease, according to new research.

The largest study of its kind has unveiled new insights into how genes are regulated in dementia, including discovering 84 new genes linked to the disease.

A new study shows that a deep neural network model can accurately predict the brain age of healthy patients based on electroencephalogram data recorded during an overnight sleep study, and EEG-predicted brain age indices display unique characteristics within populations with different diseases.

Finally this week, scientists have identified an area of the brain that drives cravings for protein-rich food.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The place-memory network of the human brain, compared with the brain areas that process visual scenes (white). Credit: A.Steel et al.

Researchers have identified three areas of the posterior cerebral cortex that bridge the brain’s perception and memory systems.

A new study reveals that being overweight or obese significantly reduces blood flow in the brain. The study also shows that increased physical activity can positively modify, or even negate, this reduction in brain blood flow.

Soccer players who feel anxious at the thought of kicking a penalty kick and who miss the goal show more activity in the prefrontal cortex. Overthinking the shot, researchers say, could play a role in missing a goal.

Non-invasive neuromodulation delivered via low-intensity focused ultrasound can have cell-type-specific selectivity in manipulating neurons.

People born into families with members who live longer lives show better cognitive performance and a slower decline in cognitive processing speed as they age.

A new neuroimaging technique captures the brain in motion in real-time, generating a 3D view and with improved detail. The new technology could help clinicians to spot hard-to-detect neurological conditions.

Researchers found in a recent study that modulation of map-like representations in our brain’s hippocampal formation can predict contextual memory retrieval in an ambiguous environment.

A new study reports on an association between specific gut bacteria species and the manifestation of neurodegenerative disorders.

New research reveals why sleep can put people with epilepsy at increased risk of sudden death.

A new study uncovers the genetic architecture of progression and prognosis, identifying five genetic locations (loci) associated with progression. The team also developed the first risk score for predicting progression of PD over time to dementia (PDD), a major determinant of quality of life.

A newly developed artificial intelligence algorithm can accurately and reliably assess unconsciousness in patients under anesthesia based on brain activity.

Damage to highly connected regions of white matter in the brain following injury is more predictive of cognitive impairment than damage to highly connected gray matter hubs.

The cerebellum underwent evolutionary changes that may have contributed to the development of language, culture, and tool use in humans, a new study reveals.

A new study sheds light on how highly sensitive people process information. After experiencing something emotionally evocative, brain activity displayed a depth of processing while at rest. Depth of processing is a key feature of high emotional sensitivity.

Researchers have uncovered molecular clues that help explain what makes some neurons more susceptible than others in Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week tking a daily prebiotic supplement improves general wellbeing, reduces symptoms of anxiety, and promotes better gut health, a new study reports.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new algorithm that combines naturalistic driving data with machine learning is 88% accurate at predicting mild cognitive impairment and dementia in older adults.

People with schizophrenia and other neuropsychiatric disorders may have a more permissive blood-brain barrier which allows the immune system to become more actively involved in the central nervous system. The resulting inflammation may contribute to the clinical manifestation of psychosis-like symptoms.

Mindfulness programs can improve the mental health of school-age children and help them to feel more optimistic, according to new research.

A new study finds evidence of inflammation in the blood of patients during the early stages of Parkinson’s disease. The findings support the theory that inflammation is a driver of the neurodegenerative disorder. The effect was most noticeable in women with Parkinson’s.

Taking a daily prebiotic supplement improves general wellbeing, reduces symptoms of anxiety, and promotes better gut health, a new study reports.

Researchers propose a new theory of what happens in the brain when we experience familiar seeming visual stimuli. The theory, dubbed sensory referenced suppression, suggests the brain understands different levels of activation expected for sensory input and corrects for it, leaving behind the signal for familiarity.

A new study shows that heart brain interactions, measured using electroencephalography (EEG), provide a novel diagnostic avenue for patients with disorders of consciousness.

A multidecade study of young adults living in the United Kingdom has found higher rates of mental illness symptoms among those exposed to higher levels of traffic-related air pollutants, particularly nitrogen oxides, during childhood and adolescence.

The brain encodes information about our relationships and the relationships between our friends using areas involved in spatial processing, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have taken another step forward in developing an artificial intelligence tool to predict schizophrenia by analyzing brain scans.

COVID-19 may not directly infect the brain, but the virus is still capable of causing significant neurological damage, a new study reports. Researchers say the neurological changes seen as a result of coronavirus infection are likely related to inflammation triggered by viral infection in different parts of the body or the brain’s blood vessels.

Stroke risk for patients with traumatic brain injuries is at its highest in the four months following injury and remains significant for up to five years post-injury, finds a new systematic review.

A new blood test can distinguish the severity of a person’s depression and their risk for developing severe depression at a later point. The test can also determine if a person is at risk for developing bipolar disorder. Researchers say the blood test can also assist in tailoring individual options for therapeutic interventions.

Light therapy which consists of exposure to both controlled natural light and artificial lighting may be a new tool in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers link the inflammation associated with chronic sinus infections to alterations in brain activity in networks that govern cognition, external stimuli, and introspection. The findings shed light on why people suffering from sinus infections often report poor concentration and other short-term cognitive problems.

A new study recently published in eNeuro lays the groundwork for more detailed research on how humans hear in dynamic environments.

When people make eye contact with another person, their attention is immediately solicited and this causes a distortion in temporal perception. However, the shift in time perception does not change when people glance at non-social items or objects according to new research.

Sharing our personal experiences on social media may negatively impact how we feel about our memories, especially if the post doesn’t get many likes, a new study reports.

New research has shed light on how autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests in the brains of girls, prompting the scientists to warn that conclusions drawn from studies conducted primarily in boys should not be assumed to hold true for girls.

Finally this week, a shared set of systems in the brain may play an important role in controlling the retrieval of facts and personal memories utilised in everyday life, new research shows.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

Communication between the brain’s auditory and reward circuits is the reason why humans find music rewarding, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.

Multilingual people have trained their brains to learn languages, making it easier to acquire more new languages after mastering a second or third. In addition to demystifying the seemingly herculean genius of multilinguals, researchers say these results provide some of the first neuroscientific evidence that language skills are additive, a theory known as the cumulative-enhancement model of language acquisition.

A new whole-genome sequencing study has revealed thirteen novel genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found a new link between Alzheimer’s and synaptic function.

For people with Parkinson’s disease, problems with thinking and memory skills are among the most common nonmotor symptoms of the disease. A new study shows that exercise may help slow cognitive decline for some people with the disease.

Computer scientists have created a ground-breaking model that could improve our understanding of developmental disorders such as autism.

Researchers have succeeded for the first time in measuring brain waves directly via a cochlear implant. These brainwaves indicate in an objective way how good or bad a person’s hearing is. The research results are important for the further development of smart hearing aids.

New research suggests that chronic viral infections have a profound and lasting impact on the human immune system in ways that are similar to those seen during aging.

A study of Japanese university students and recent graduates has revealed that writing on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later. Researchers say that the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory.

Finally this week, a new study confirms that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex.

 

 

 

 

Using Your Brain To Improve Your Own Mental Health

He who increases knowledge, increases sorrow but who wants to live a life of ignorance?

The key to a happy life

The key to a happy life is the ability to transcend personal suffering, find a balance, and recognise that the world has problems. This requires mental effort and those of us who strive to better understand ourselves in the world come out the other side as a new person, with some peace of mind and a way to live.

Fundamental or accidental?

A limit to understanding ourselves in the world is the fact that we do not know that some of the things we perceive to be truly fundamental today may actually be just accidental. For instance, the brain uses systematic patterns of thought to produce philosophy including science, mathematics, literature, ideas and beliefs including a belief in a deity to guide us towards new insights. What we need to understand is that none of these may be fundamental in themselves. They are just tools that our ancestors used to probe the unknown and to see what is possible – knowing that what is common for us is just a tiny sliver of what actually exists.

Accidental fundamentalism is often mistaken for truth

In the West we have made the truth our highest value. This motivation while important is weak compared to the actual power of belief. We are born into a culture which often insists on a particular religious or ideological philosophy as fact and the only way to understand ourselves in the world, but adhering to this belief may cause personal suffering by impeding insights necessary to achieve peace of mind. Resisting enculturation is the highest expression of human psychological development and is a hallmark of what is called in psychology as the fully self-actualised person.

Recasting reality

Self-actualisers reject accepted cultural ‘truths’ and see beyond the confines of an era to achieve a clearer perception of reality. A further subtle difference sets these people apart. Most of us see life as striving to get this or that – whether it be material things or having a family or doing well career wise. Self-actualizers in contrast do not strive as much as develop. They are only ambitious to the extent in being able to express themselves more fully and perfectly, delighting in what they are able to do. Another general point is their profound freedom of mind. In contrast to the conforming pressures around them self-actualizers are a walking example of free will.

Mental health requires courage

In this way happiness can be described as personal autonomy. The independence of mind to explore and choose the best skills and tools needed to achieve personal insight. Where you are no longer beholden to culture, creed or religion and without any attendant guilt or fear in abandoning old ways in order to try new ones as you evolve to become the master of your own fate.

What to believe?

Mental health is two things:(i) being in touch with reality and (ii) being open to new experiences. But here’s the thing – there is no reality only perception. Understand that the world is not necessarily as you perceive it. Everyone has filters and only by acknowledging them can you begin to get a clearer picture. Even in a close relationship the same simple act can be viewed differently. A man will see paying all the bills as his duty while his wife will see it as an act of love. Appreciate that your views might be prejudices. Most importantly make sure that the perceptions you do retain or adopt are grounded in verifiable fact and can be tested. Otherwise any actions you take based on your beliefs will be on shaky ground.

As part of the Limerick Lifelong Learning Festival 2021 I will give a public talk on Thursday, May 27th @ 4pm entitled: What to believe? The brain and the nature of truth in a post-COVID world. In this talk you will learn how the brain provides insights, values and priorities in informing the mind as to what it believes to be true, and how you can use this information to improve your own mental health

Click here to register via Eventbrite https://bit.ly/3ffa2LQ 

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International Day of Happiness

Today has been designated International Day of Happiness. I’d like to take the opportunity to share again a video that I shared several years ago on some simple but profound changes we can make to create a happier brain.

Twenty years ago, Dr. Amit Sood, a Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic, came to the U.S. thinking he was coming to the Disneyland of the world.

He expected everyone here to be very happy.

What he saw surprised and shocked him.

In this funny, fast-moving, and deeply insightful talk, Dr. Sood shares his journey over two decades and across two continents, finding a way to help us outsmart our neural predispositions to suffering. I

n the process, he takes us on a back-stage tour of the human brain and outlines the gist of a structured program he is taking globally to decrease stress and improve focus, resilience, and happiness.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Illustration of a hand action in typically developed individuals and a foot action in individuals with dysplasia. A network in frontal and parietal areas, shown in yellow-orange, prefer a specific action type, regardless of the acting body part. Credit: Yuqi Liu, PhD

 

A new study of reaching and grasping with hand or food reveals novel brain insights. 

Researchers have discovered a new mechanism by which clumps of tau protein are created in the brain, killing brain cells and causing Alzheimer’s disease.

New research reveals a single brain region links depression and anxiety, heart disease and treatment sensitivity. 

A Danish study shows that people doing hard physical work have a 55-percent higher risk of developing dementia than those doing sedentary work.

A new theory suggests electromagnetic energy in the brain enables neurons and brain regions to create consciousness and our ability to critically think.

Brain cell dysfunction in low oxygen is, caused by the very same responder system that is intended to be protective, according to a new published study.

A new study reveals a correlation between multimedia multitasking, memory loss, and difficulties in maintaining attention.

A recent study reveals how gene control mechanisms define the identity of developing neurons in the brainstem. The researchers also showed that a failure in differentiation of the brainstem neurons leads to behavioural abnormalities, including hyperactivity and attention deficit.

The decline of striosomal activity in the brain may explain why people lose the motivation to learn as they age.

Finally this week, researchers have shown how a genetic mutation throws off the timing of the biological clock, causing a common sleep syndrome called delayed sleep phase disorder.

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

A new study reveals a new role for serotonin in the development of the human neocortex.

When the brain forms a memory of a new experience, neurons called engram cells encode the details of the memory and are later reactivated whenever we recall it. A new study reveals that this process is controlled by large-scale remodeling of cells’ chromatin.

Increasing time spent sleeping immediately following a traumatic event can help to significantly reduce the effects of trauma.

Brain cell dysfunction in low oxygen is, surprisingly, caused by the very same responder system that is intended to be protective, according to a new published study.

A new study reveals a new role for serotonin in the development of the human neocortex.

DNA variation in a gene called ROBO1 is associated with early anatomical differences in a brain region that plays a key role in quantity representation, potentially explaining how genetic variability might shape mathematical performance in children, according to new research.

Early childhood trauma has an impact on glucose metabolism and blood composition, which are passed on to the next generation.

Brain cell dysfunction in low oxygen is, surprisingly, caused by the very same responder system that is intended to be protective, according to a new published study.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

A new study reveals a high fructose diet could contribute to bipolar disorder, ADHD, and behavioral aggression.

In Alzheimer’s disease, impaired blood flow to brain regions coincides with tau protein buildup. This relationship strengthens as cognition declines, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.

A new lab test can accurately pinpoint and analyze the deadliest cells in the most common and aggressive brain cancer in adults.

A greater density of cells in a key reward center of the brain is associated with obesity in children and predicts future weight gain, a new study finds.

A team of researchers has found that an amino acid produced by the brain could play a crucial role in preventing a type of epileptic seizure.

The characteristics of language structure and writing system may explain why some bilingual people are dyslexic in English, but not in their other proficient language.

Finally this week,  a study of four drugs to combat chronic neuropathic pain finds Nortriptyline has the highest efficacious percentage and lowest quit rate.

 

How To “Vaccinate” Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

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Today is World Mental Health Day, which is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

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

Researchers used diffusion tensor imaging, which indicates the directionality of water diffusion in the brain, to examine how white matter connections lose integrity. These frontostriatal tracts are shown moving anterior to posterior (green), left to right (red) and superior to inferior (blue). Image is credited to the researchers.

As the human brain ages, the neural circuits that allow its different parts to communicate with each other gradually wear down, even in healthy adults.

Genetic risk score for bipolar disorder is associated with an increased risk of developing bipolar symptoms. The genetic risk factor for schizophrenia is linked to an increased risk of those with depression developing psychosis.

A new study into the causes of sensorimotor impairments prevalent among autistic people could pave the way for better treatment and management in the future, say psychologists.

New research details how the complex set of molecular and fluid dynamics that comprise the glymphatic system – the brain’s unique process of waste removal – are synchronized with the master internal clock that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. 

Future technology may be able to monitor and modify the brain to produce enhanced team performance, while increasing the efficiency and accuracy of decisions.

Parkinson’s disease can be divided into two variants that start in different places in the body. For some, the neurodegenerative disease starts in the intestines and spreads to the brain. In others, the disease begins in the brain and spreads to the intestines and other organs.

New research released from the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus proposes that Alzheimer’s disease may be driven by the overactivation of fructose made in the brain.

Anticholinergic medications, commonly used for conditions including allergies, high blood pressure, Parkinson’s disease, and motion sickness, have been linked to an increased risk of cognitive decline and memory problems, especially in those with genetic risk factors for Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, a new study links brain structure to color perceptual function. Microscopy revealed ‘hue maps,’ or color palettes, in the brain that are spectrally organized arrangements of hue responses.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

A new study identifies the neural markers of beat synchronization in the brain and sheds light on how auditory perception and motor processes work together.

Current sleep patterns could help determine your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as you age. People who experience more fragmented sleep and less non-REM slow-wave sleep are more likely to have increased levels of amyloid-beta.

An international research team reports that problems in spatial navigation can also be detected in people with a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s. 

A new study demonstrates that a technology developed at the University of Central Florida could serve as a more reliable clinically-based model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a better screening tool for novel therapies than currently use preclinical models.

New long-term brain monitoring technologies that can continuously record brain activity could help improve the treatment and management of epilepsy.

Scientists have developed a new theory as to how hearing loss may cause dementia and believe that tackling this sensory impairment early may help to prevent the disease.

A new study compares adolescent siblings to determine the impact of early and frequent use of marijuana on cognitive function

Finally this week a new two-stage model seeks to answer a longstanding philosophical debate over whether consciousness is continuous or discrete. Findings suggest discrete consciousness is preceded by a long-lasting unconscious processing period.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

Researchers have uncovered the neural mechanism underlying rumination. The study reports when rumination occurs, coupling between the core and medial temporal lobe subsystems of the default mode network becomes elevated while coupling between the core and dorsomedial prefrontal cortex decreases.

Researchers have made an important discovery about the mechanisms behind learning and memory.

Individuals who suffer trauma in child- and adulthood may experience a greater amount of cognitive decline as they age than individuals who haven’t experienced trauma, a new study found.

A newly designed synthetic compound could act as a prototype for a novel class of drugs to treat neurological damage.

A single dose of cannabidiol (CBD) helped increase blood flow to the hippocampus, an important area of the brain associated with memory and emotion, finds a new study.

Atypical brain development begins at the very earliest stages of brain organization, at the level of individual neurons.

Finaly this week, children born to mothers who experienced immune disorders during pregnancy, including allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, and autoinflammatory syndromes, are more likely to exhibit behavioral and emotional problems according to the findings of a new study. 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers argue COVID-19 should be considered as an inflammatory disease as the severity of the infection is associated with a dysregulation of the inflammatory immune response.

Cortical thickness and regional brain connectivity pay an equally important role in linking brain and behavior.

Adolescents and adults whose mothers experienced depression, either during pregnancy or shortly after, had a 70% increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

A research team has concluded that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. 

A pair of recently published studies add to our growing understanding of how fine particle pollution — the tiny, inhalable pollutants from cars and power plants — impacts our brains.

Scientists have discovered that humans use the visual part of their brain when processing sounds in the dark, even if they have never had sight in their lifetime.

A team of researchers has released new findings in Translational Psychiatry in an effort to better comprehend how gene expression associated with inflammation may be used to establish people with depressive disorders who are responsive to drug treatments.

Finally this week, new research shows that a patient’s pupils can reveal if they have suffered a traumatic experience in the past.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

#RespectForParentsDay (17)

Biased attention to sad faces increases the risk of teenagers developing depression, a new study reports.

Music training does not have a positive impact on children’s cognitive skills, such as memory, and academic achievement, such as maths, reading or writing, according to a study published in Memory & Cognition.

New findings show that scene selective cortical regions are more sensitive to age than face-selective regions when it comes to memory and perception.

Mapping the thalamic reticular nucleus, researchers have identified two distinct subnetworks of neurons with different functions. Findings offer insight into more specific targets for therapeutics to alleviate some sensory, sleep, and attention symptoms associated with ASD and other disorders characterized by sensory hypersensitivity.

In anxiety, neural activity becomes elevated across many specific brain regions, and normal coordination between the networks becomes decreased.

Activating p38gamma, a naturally protective enzyme in the brain, may help to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Researchers showed the naturally protective effects of p38gamma could be harnessed to improve memory in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Depending on the network state, certain neurons in the primary somatosensory cortex can be more or less excitable, which shapes stimulus processing in the brain.

Botox injections appear to improve symptoms of depression, regardless of the injection site, a new study reports. Researchers found depression was reported 40 – 88% less often in patients treated with Botox.

Finally this week, Alzheimer’s risk factors could be apparent as early as our teenage years, researchers report. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study provides the first evidence that rotigotine, a drug that acts on dopamine transmission in the brain, improves cognitive function in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Tiny eye movements can be used as an index of humans’ ability to anticipate relevant information in the environment independent of the information’s sensory modality, a team of scientists has found. The work reveals a connection between eye movements and the sense of touch.

A team of researchers has identified for the first time brain-wide neural correlates of the transition from fear to anxiety.

A new study provides evidence that hearing is the last sense to go during the process of active death. Many people become unresponsive during the final hours of life, however, EEG data revealed the dying brain responds to sounds throughout the final moments of life.

Neurological complications of Covid-19 can include delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage, finds new research.

A new study uncovers DNA hypermethylation is responsible for reduced amygdala volume in male patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Finally this week, new research has identified the specific brain cells that control how much sugar you eat and how much you crave sweet tasting food.

Pain and Your Brain

Why do people experience the same pain differently, and why can the same pain seem worse to a single individual from one day to the next?

Find out the answers in this recent online presentation for the Migraine Association of Ireland.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers using MRI have found that iron accumulation in the outer layer of the brain is associated with cognitive deterioration in people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

Examining the brains of frequent cannabis users, researchers have identified a pattern of connectivity related to craving the substance.

Auditory hallucinations, a common feature of psychosis and schizophrenia, may be the result of increased connectivity between sensory and language processing areas in the brain.

Nitrous oxide may provide temporary relief to veterans suffering from PTSD, a new study reports.

Light to moderate weekly alcohol consumption during middle age could help preserve brain function as we get older. Compared to non-drinkers, those who had a drink or two a day tended to have better performance on cognitive tests over time.

Low levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the GLIZ protein can trigger chronic inflammatory responses in the body, contributing to the aging process.

The placentas of sixteen women who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy showed evidence of significant injury, a new study reports. The placental injuries were consistent with abnormal blood flow between mother and baby in-utero, suggesting another complication of coronavirus infection in pregnant women.

Finally this week, a new study highlights the most common neurological and psychological complications that arise as a result of coronavirus infection.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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New findings suggest humans have a stereo sense of smell that subconsciously guides navigation.

The study of a man with a neurodegenerative disease that has robbed his ability to see certain numbers sheds light on how the brain processes information without any visual awareness of the stimuli.

Young adults who acquire fewer genetic mutations over time lived five years longer than those who acquired them more rapidly.

96% of patients hospitalized for coronavirus infections report experiencing PTSD as a result of their illness. Researchers also found an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders in those hospitalized for COVID-19.

Genetic deletions associated with neurodevelopmental disorders may also be linked to dysfunctional organ development, a new study reports.

A new study reveals the relationship between attentional state and emotions from pupillary reactions. Visual perception elicits emotions in all attentional state, while auditory perception elicits emotions only when attention is paid to sounds.

Statins lowered the death rate and decreased the need for mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized for severe COVID-19.

A new study has identified a different set of individual neurons in the medial frontal cortex that is responsible for memory-based decision making. The findings have implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and other disorders associated with problems in cognitive flexibility.

Elevated pulse pressure in blood traveling to the brain causes inflammation, oxidative stress, and apoptosis in the blood-brain barrier that leads to brain damage.

Researchers have found an unexpected set of mental illnesses in patients with a spectrum of a rare genetic disorder. Their study revealed the need for clinicians to consider the complexities of co-existing conditions in patients with both psychological and fragile X associated disorders.

Finally this week, people experience a flattening of emotions following a single night of poor sleep. Researchers also found a link between sleep deprivation, learning, and reaction time.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

molecular-depression-neuroscinews

Brain regions where symptoms of depression and anxiety were associated with decreased opioid receptor availability. Image is credited to Lauri Nummenmaa

New research reveals how the brain’s opioid system is linked to mood changes associated with depression and anxiety. Neuroimaging revealed, in those with depression, there is a decreased number of opioid receptors in specific areas of the brain.

Chandelier cells have an unusual direct method of communication. Unlike other neurons, chandelier cells connect directly to the part of a target neuron that initiates a spike.

Using optogenetics, researchers were able to manipulate oxytocin producing cells in a highly precise manner. They discovered oxytocin can amplify aggression as well as social friendliness.

Some coronavirus patients exhibit clinical and neurochemical signs of brain injury associated with the viral infection. 

When it comes to processing information about motion, neurons in the ventral intraparietal area of the brain are more flexible in switching between reference frames. The findings could be used to develop neural prosthetics designed for motion control.

The suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population according to a study published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Repetitive negative thinking in those aged over 55 is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and deposition of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have identified a specific, front-line defense that limits the infection to the olfactory bulb and protects the neurons of the olfactory bulb from damage due to the infection.

A new study offers clues to how neurons can rewire and restore pathways following injury or illness.

Older men who have a weak or irregular circadian rhythm guiding their daily cycles of rest and activity are more likely to later develop Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.

Finally this week, a team of researchers has created a new technology that enhances scientists’ ability to communicate with neural cells using light.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new review of neurological symptoms of COVID-19 patients reveals the disease poses a global threat to the entire nervous system, reports a study in Annals of Neurology.

Researchers have combined tools from machine learning and neuroscience to discover that the brain uses a mathematical system to organize visual objects according to their principal components.

A new system for high-density EEG helps with the imaging of the origin and path of both normal and abnormal neural activity.

Brain function depends on inhibitory cells that balance or ‘brake’ excitation. These neurons allow the brain to process information and also prevent runaway seizures. A new study however, reports that in some critical structures of the developing brain, the inhibitory neurons cause excitation rather than suppression of brain activity. The findings, published in Science Advances, could have implications for the treatment of neonatal seizures.

New research shows changes in gut mucus may contribute to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders.

Researchers have identified how specific genetic mutations cause ALS. The pathway, they believe, may also be responsible for the development of frontotemporal dementia.

Cancer itself, rather than chemotherapy alone, may contribute to the development of neuropathy some patients experience.

Finally this week, results from a new study suggest that whether certain genes are expressed — turned on or off– may play a role in susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image showing a map of the brain surface showing regions that preferentially activate during face (blue) and scene (red) identification. Image is credited to Oscar Woolnough, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.

A new study reveals areas of brain where recognition and identification occur.

Researchers have identified a hippocampal neural network that activates during stress. Activity in a hippocampal-hypothalamus network predicts greater feelings of stress, while connectivity between the hippocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex predicts less stress.

Researchers have identified27 protein biomarkers that can predict whether a patient with COVID-19 is likely to develop severe coronavirus symptoms.

While the amount of antibodies generated varies widely in patients who have recovered from coronavirus, most people generate at least some antibodies which are intrinsically capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus according to a new study.

Twenty-nine genes have now been identified as being linked to problematic alcohol use. 

Toxic versions of the protein tau are believed to cause death of neurons of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. A new study published in Nature Communications shows that the spread of toxic tau in the human brain in elderly individuals may occur via connected neurons. The researchers could see that beta-amyloid facilitates the spread of toxic tau.

Certain personality traits could increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a new study reports.

The anesthetic drug ketamine has been shown, in low doses, to have a rapid effect on difficult-to-treat depression. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet now report that they have identified a key target for the drug: specific serotonin receptors in the brain. Their findings, which are published in Translational Psychiatry, give hope of new, effective antidepressants.

Finally this week, a new study shows some infants can identify differences in musical tones at six months.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new neuroimaging study sheds new light on how we perceive colors. Activity in higher visual cortex areas matched the colors test subjects saw.

New neurostimulation technology works safely and non-invasively to modify brain activity. The findings may provide some foundational knowledge for the development of future technologies that could expedite cognitive processes.

New research has shown that certain presentations of memory concerns by older adults are predictive of future dementia.

A team of researchers has provided compelling evidence of the impact of adversity in childhood on neuropsychological functioning in adulthood. They also showed that neuropsychological difficulties may explain why early adversity is linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in later life.

A new machine-learning algorithm is more accurate at determining personality traits based on selfie photographs than humans are.

Neuroscientists have traced neural pathways that connect the brain to the stomach, providing a biological mechanism to explain how stress can foster ulcer development.

Researchers have identified both genetic and neural mechanisms associated with romantic love and attachment. 

The placentas of sixteen women who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy showed evidence of significant injury, a new study reports. The placental injuries were consistent with abnormal blood flow between mother and baby in-utero, suggesting another complication of coronavirus infection in pregnant women.

Researchers have developed a sniff test that can detect which patients in a vegetative state following a TBI will regain consciousness.

During early childhood, girls with autism tend to show greater reduction and less rise in their autism symptom severity than boys with autism, a new study has found.

Finally this week, a new study reviewing neuroimaging and neurological symptoms in patients with COVID-19 may shed light on the virus’s impact on the central nervous system.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Drumming in a group stimulates behavioral and physiological synchronization, which contributes to the formation of social bonds and the ability to cooperate.

Caffeine and urate have been associated with a reduced risk of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Researchers noted a lower caffeine intake in idiopathic Parkinson’s patients. Increasing caffeine consumption was linked to decreased odds of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Lower levels of blood urate were also associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The endogenous compound anandamide—often referred to as the body’s own marijuana—plays a role in erasing memories of a traumatic event. 

A recent neuroimaging study reveals the neural basis for the motivation to reunite with the ones you love. The findings could lead to new therapies for disorders associated with social behaviors, and may also help explain why social distancing is so tough.

Researchers have identified a new, early biomarker for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on the teeth of children.

Following a one year program of aerobic exercise improves memory function and boosts blood flow to brain areas critical for cognition in older adults with risk factors for dementia.

A new blood test can help predict which patients with multiple sclerosis will see a decline in their condition over 12 months. 

In late-stage multiple sclerosis, inflammatory cells no longer enter the brain via the bloodstream, but instead the cells arise in memory from local memory cells inside the brain. The findings suggest during the late phases of multiple sclerosis, the disease is occurring entirely inside the brain.

Women who take oral birth control pills have higher levels of oxytocin than women who don’t use the pill.

Researchers have uncovered the process by which air pollution can damage brain cells, leading to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Chemicals found in diesel fuel reduced autophagic flux, which is a major pathway implicated in neurodegeneration.

Finally this week, new evidence suggests the brain can update poorly formed memories with incorrect information, leading to the creation of false memories.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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It’s never too late to lace up your sneakers for brain health, according to a study published in the May 13, 2020, online issue of Neurology. The study suggests older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.

A new case study reveals a link between COVID-19 and clotting in blood vessels in the brain that results in an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

Rhythm begins in the womb and the heartbeat. And recent findings in neuroscience reveal that for the rest of our lives, rhythm will continue to have a fundamental impact on our ability to walk, talk — and even love.

Researchers studying the structure of the virus that causes COVID-19 have found a unique feature that could explain why it is so transmissible between people.

Recovered coronavirus patients show a wide range of immune responses following the infection, with about half from a current study showing sustained antibodies two weeks later. Results indicate which parts of the virus are most effective at triggering the immune responses.

Neuroscientists have identified memory cells that help us interpret new situations.

The strength of a person’s mental imagery is associated with excitability in the prefrontal cortex and visual cortex. Highly excitable neurons in the visual cortex may reduce a person’s ability to imagine mental images.

Finally this week, after studying global data from the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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In a new study, researchers identified the most common characteristics of 85 COVID-19 patients who died in Wuhan, China in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The study reports on commonalities of the largest group of coronavirus patient deaths to be studied to date.

Abnormal blood clotting contributes to death in some patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

A newly developed blood test for Alzheimer’s disease measures a specific variant of the tau protein. Early results show the test has a good capacity to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other tauopathies.

New findings support the theory that impaired prefrontal control of the dopamine system is a key mechanism for the development of schizophrenia.

Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts — fatty sections of a cell membrane — compared with non-depressed individuals.

A new genetics test for COVID-19 has been developed by an international team of researchers. 

Genetic variability in the human immune system may affect susceptibility to, and severity of infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Researchers have developed a new approach to prevent amyloid plaque formation by engineering a nanodevice that captures the peptides before they can assemble.

A new study puts into question conventional belief that the eyes communicate with the brain exclusively via one signaling pathway. Researchers have identified a subset of retinal neurons that sends inhibitory signals to the brain. This subset of neurons is also involved in the synchronization of circadian rhythms to light/dark cycles and pupil constriction to bright light intensity.

Finally, this week, a new study sheds light on the role brain insulin plays in weight and visceral fat accumulation.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers have created a new technique that can rapidly “print’ two-dimensional arrays of cells and proteins that mimic a variety of cellular environments in the body.
 

People who develop Parkinson’s disease before age 50 may have been born with disordered brain cells that went undetected for decades, according to new research. The research points to a drug that potentially might help correct these disease processes.

A new substance named Lu AF60097 may help reduce side effects from tricyclic antidepressants in those with severe depression.

Researchers have uncovered a key role of medial prefrontal cortex corticotropin-releasing factor interneurons for bidirectionally controlling motivated behavioral styles under stress. The findings could help in the development of new treatments for PTSD.

MIT researchers have identified a protein fragment that may inhibit COVID-19’s ability to enter human lung cells. 

Researchers have developed a new method to record brain activity at scale. The new technique could help in the development of new neuroprosthetic devices to help amputees and those with movement restricting neurological conditions.

New research suggests that eye movements may come before hand movements in actions that require a two-step decision-making process. 

A new method to accurately record brain activity at scale has been developed by researchers. The technique could lead to new medical devices to help amputees, people with paralysis or people with neurological conditions such as motor neuron disease.

Stress, loneliness, and sleep loss can weaken the immune system, leaving people more susceptible to COVID-19.

Finally this week. using robotics, researchers have uncovered mechanisms in the cerebellum and spinal cord that determine how the nervous system responds to induced changes in step length. The findings could have implications for physical rehabilitation programs for people with movement disorders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anatomy Of A Migraine Attack #BrainAwarenessWeek

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Scientists have learned a lot in recent years about what happens in the brain to explain the throbbing pain, nausea, heightened sensitivity to light or sound felt during a migraine headache and the mysterious ‘aura’ that both doctors and scientists use to describe the telltale period, starting up to an hour before a migraine attack, when a person sees dots, wavy lines, flashing lights, blind spots or difficulty with speech, sensation, or movement.

What triggers a migraine attack? 

Although researchers don’t understand exactly what triggers migraine attacks, they do know that certain foods, lack of sleep, changes in weather, and even stress can trigger a migraine attack in 1 in 200 people.

The anatomy of a migraine attack

Neuroscientists now see migraine as firstly a disturbance in nerve function rather than a disorder of the brain’s blood vessels. It is believed that in most patients, a wave of electrical activity passing through a major nerve that collects and transmits signals to the face – the trigeminal nerve – and stimulates the release of chemicals such as CGRP and other substances that cause inflammation, makes the nerves more sensitive to pain, and causes blood vessels near the brain to expand (dilate). This nerve irritation often progresses as an electrical wave from the skin to nerves located centrally in the brain.

The key to treatment is to act quickly to stop the irritation spreading.  In fact, anti-migraine drugs can offer relief only in the earlier stages of the attack, but not later, when the pain neurons in the brain have become sensitized. For this reason, patients are advised to take medication within 20 minutes of an attack and while migraine pain is still mild.

The wave that turns into a flood

A migraine attack is triggered when a wave of electrical activity that starts in the trigeminal nerve on the side of the face enters the brain and ripples across the surface of the brain. In fact, researchers have been able to demonstrate a possible link between this wave and the experience of ‘aura’ particularly as it spreads across the visual part of the brain. Several drugs used to prevent migraine attacks work by preventing this wave from spreading.

 


Notes

Migraine is a complex neurological condition that is classified by the World Health Organisation as the 7th most disabling disease worldwide, the 4th for women.

Migraine is the most common neurological condition in the world, affecting about 12 – 15% of people. It is three times more common in women than it is in men and is usually inherited. It is a very individual condition. Some people experience only one or two attacks per year while others suffer on a weekly basis. An attack can last from 4 to 72 hours.

For more information and support visit https://migraine.ie

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have developed a new method of measuring axons using MRI neuroimaging.

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to suffer malfunctions in a cell that produces a special coating around nerve fibers that facilitates efficient electrical communication across the brain. 

New findings about dopaminergic neurons in the striatum could have implications for treating Parkinson’s disease and Tourette syndrome.

Researchers have found that it is possible to assess a person’s ability to feel empathy by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than while they are engaged in specific tasks.

Boys who exhibit inattention-hyperactivity by age 10 have an increased risk for traumatic brain injury later in life.

Combining fMRI and behavioral data, researchers examined gender identity in cisgender and transgender individuals using a new machine learning algorithm. The AI identified at least nine dimensions of brain-gender variation.

New research has provided insights into why people often make unrealistic plans that are doomed to fail.

Finally this week, a new study has found that dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning — plays a direct role in the reward experience induced by music. The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.