Weekly Neuroscience Update

An experimental therapy which involves a face-to-face discussion between a person with schizophrenia and an avatar representing their auditory hallucination may help reduce symptoms, when provided alongside usual treatment, according to a study led by King’s College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Researchers have identified a number of variable locations in the genome that influence hippocampal gene activity and may contribute to brain disorders.

For the first time, scientists have found a connection between abnormalities in how the brain breaks down glucose and the severity of the signature amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain, as well as the onset of eventual outward symptoms, of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgment.

The amount of close and comforting contact between infants and their caregivers can affect children at the molecular level, an effect detectable four years later, according to new research.

The brain’s auditory system can be shaped by exposure to different auditory environments, such as native language and musical training.

Contrary to a popular theory, a new study has discovered the brain remains connected during non-REM sleep. The study reports not all forms of communication within the cerebral cortex are disrupted during this sleep phase.

Cannabis use in youth is linked to bipolar symptoms in young adults, finds new research.

According to researchers, when shifting attention from one spot to another, the brain blinks. They report these blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception.

How well we are able to complete simple and complex tasks depends upon the organization of subnetworks in the brain, a new study reports.

Researchers are working to create a neurochip capable of transmitting a signal to healthy brain cells. The neurochip can be used in devices intended to replace damaged parts of the brain.

A new brain mapping study reveals smokers could be predisposed to their addiction due to the molecular make up of their brains.

In a new study, researchers describe a unique model for the biology of Alzheimer’s disease which may lead to an entirely novel approach for treating the disease. The findings appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Scientists hope to have found a new neurobiological marker to help recognise patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers have identified a mechanism that drives hunger. A new study reports the sight or smell of food can temporarily turn of AgRP neurons, which drive the urge to eat. These neurons remain inactive until the brain receives a signal from the gut that calories have been consumed.

Finally this week, a new study reports that certain brain regions interact more closely, while others are less engaged, in people with higher intelligence.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Sleep-deprived brain cells react more slowly and fire more weakly, and their signals are more drawn out. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to UCLA.

A Japanese research group has revealed that elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have a particularly weakened ability to memorize human faces in the short term when compared to healthy elderly people. MCI patients also had a different gaze behavior when trying to memorize a face. This research may lead to the early detection of dementia.

Researchers provide new insight into human consciousness, reporting we don’t consciously choose our feelings or thoughts; we simply become aware of them.

If a mother’s immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a new study has revealed.

People on the autism spectrum appear to have different reactions to subliminal social odors, researchers report.

Information from brain MRIs can help identify people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and distinguish among subtypes of the condition, according to a study appearing online in the journal Radiology.

Migraine triggers can increase oxidative stress, a new study reports. Targeting oxidative stress may help to prevent migraines.

A new study reveals how the mechanism for storing olfactory memories differs slightly from erasing unnecessary memories. Understanding how the brain gets rid of unimportant memories could help unlock new avenues of research to better understand memory loss in aging, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers report a developmental abnormality more prevalent in premature and male babies, may contribute to SIDS risk, in conjunction to the sleep position.

 

 

How Do Drugs Affect The Brain?

Most people will take a pill, receive an injection, or otherwise take some kind of medicine during their lives. But most of us don’t know anything about how these substances actually work. How can various compounds impact the way we physically feel, think, and even behave? Sara Garofalo explains how some drugs can alter the communication between cells in the brai

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

 

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Credit: Herz et. al./Brown University

new study provides the first direct evidence that within each person, smell sensitivity varies over the course of each day. The pattern, according to the data, tracks with the body’s internal day-night cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Researchers have revealed the neural signatures for explicit and implicit learning.

Neuroscientists have discovered precisely where and how to electrically stimulate the human brain to enhance people’s recollection of distinct memories. People with epilepsy who received low-current electrical pulses showed a significant improvement in their ability to recognize specific faces and ignore similar ones.

Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research.

Researchers propose a new theory of memory formation, reporting memory storage does not rely on the strengthening of connection between memory cells, but on the pattern of connections that form within the first few minutes of an event.

A new Finnish study shows that individual circadian preference is associated with brain activity patterns during the night.

According to researchers, the size, shape and number of dendritic spines in the brain may determine whether a person develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, migraine triggers can increase oxidative stress, a new study reports. Targeting oxidative stress may help to prevent migraines.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

forest-868715_960_720.jpgA neuroimaging study reveals city dwellers who live closer to forests were more likely to have healthier amygdala structure and were better able to deal with stressful situations.

New research has found that a specific combination of techniques will increase people’s chances of having lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming while it’s still happening and can control the experience.

A new study reports women who are exposed to trauma and suffer post-traumatic stress are at an increased risk of developing Lupus.

When mental and physical tasks are put in direct competition, cognition tends to win out. Researchers suggest more energy is directed to the brain than the body, supporting the ‘selfish brain’ theory of evolution.

Researchers have revealed the neural signatures for explicit and implicit learning.

A delayed neurological response to processing the written word could be an indicator that a patient with mild memory problems is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

A new study reveals MRI brain scans can help identify neurological changes associated with multiple sclerosis before symptoms appear in children.

Researchers have shown for the first time a comprehensive picture of cell diversity in the amygdala, a vital brain region involved in the regulation of emotions and social behavior, as well as in autism spectrum disorders, depression and other mental disorders. As part of the study, the team also reported on a new method for systematically linking the distinct types of brain cells to specific behavioral functions.

Using three different training models, researchers report mental training, mindfulness and meditation can induce structural brain plasticity and reduce social stress.

Most cases of autism appear to be associated with the appearance of new mutations that are not inherited from the child’s parents, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine report.

A new brain-imaging study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests scientists may be able to predict how likely children are to develop depression. 

Researchers have developed a new assessment model that breaks emotional regulation into three different elements. The MAS assessment will provide clinicians a new way in which to diagnose mood and mental health disorders.

A new study reports transcranial magnetic stimulation of the prefrontal cortex improves a person’s ability to evaluate their performance during a working memory task.

Researchers at Salk Institute report astrocytes initiate communication between pairs of neurons during early development, inducing specific neural changes. Findings may have implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD.

Researchers have discovered a cellular mechanism that may contribute to the breakdown of communication between neurons in Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

How stress affects your brain (Video)

Stress isn’t always a bad thing; it can be handy for a burst of extra energy and focus, like when you’re playing a competitive sport or have to speak in public. But when it’s continuous, it actually begins to change your brain. In this video, Madhumita Murgia shows how chronic stress can affect brain size, its structure, and how it functions, right down to the level of your genes

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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A bidirectional brain-computer interface (BBCI) can both record signals from the brain and send information back to the brain through stimulation. Credit: Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE).

 

Researchers are investigating advances in brain-computer interface technologies and considering the implications of linking our brains up to technology.

A new study published in the online journal Radiology suggested that disconnections in the areas of the brain, which are involved in attention and visual processing might lead to visual hallucinations in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers present a new theory about dreaming, suggesting dreams may be an accidental byproduct of our waking cognitive abilities.

Scientists have long deemed the ability to recognize faces innate for people and other primates — something our brains just know how to do immediately from birth. However, the findings of a new Harvard Medical School study published Sept. 4 in the journal Nature Neuroscience cast doubt on this longstanding view.

Genetic processes that allow cells to transform so they can mend damaged nerves have been identified by scientists.

For the first time, researchers have been able to see changes in the neural structures in specific areas of the brains of people who suffered severe abuse as children.

A new study reveals molecular details of what happens when axons are damaged or completely severed.

A researcher has discovered the molecule that stores long-term memories — it’s called calcium/calmodulin dependent protein kinase (CaMKII).

Finally, this week, how well we are able to complete simple and complex tasks depends upon the organization of subnetworks in the brain, a new study reports.

 

 

How To Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

World-Mental-Health-Day-10th-October-2016Depression is very common – it is estimated that at least one in five people in Ireland will develop depression during their lifetime.

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

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

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

Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

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

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

The importance of the frontal lobe in depression

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

Wisconsin Study

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

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

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

Weekly Neuroscience Update

dog-2751115_960_720.jpgThe tendency of dogs to seek contact with their owners is associated with genetic variations in sensitivity for the hormone oxytocin, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden.

A new study reveals schizophrenia is up to 79% hereditary.

Metacognition of a tactile working memory task has been demonstrated by researchers for the first time. Understanding this brain function might help in the development of new treatments for neuropsychiatric illnesses in the future.

Researchers have shed light on how motor signals help sharpen our ability to decipher complex sound flows.

Increased communication between distant brain regions helps older adults compensate for the negative aspects of ageing, reports a new study published this week in Human Brain Mapping.

Scientists report brain network organization changes can influence executive function in young adults.

A news study has found that brain functions in young men and women are changed by long-term alcohol use, but that these changes are significantly different in men and women.

Mindfulness and meditation can affect brain plasticity, resulting in the ability for adults to acquire new social skills, researchers report.

A new study has found that chronic tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

Finnish researchers have revealed how eating stimulates brain’s endogenous opioid system to signal pleasure and satiety.

Finally this week, sleep deprivation — typically administered in controlled, inpatient settings — rapidly reduces symptoms of depression in roughly half of depression patients, according to the first meta-analysis on the subject in nearly 30 years.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers report people with poor sleep quality were less likely to experience symptoms of depression if they had higher activity in the ventral striatum.

A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has uncovered a simple, measurable explanation that can determine your preference for one song over another.

Almost a quarter of girls and one-tenth of boys show signs of depression at age 14, say researchers from the University College London.

Excessive neurogenesis following brain injury may lead to neurological problems and cognitive decline researchers report. The findings challenge common assumptions that excessive brain cell growth following injury is advantageous.

Whether we are consciously aware of seeing a familiar face and object or not, our brains actively notice

A new study has investigated which neurons react to different vocal pitches, discerning between different voices and reacting to emphasis. The findings help us to understand how the brain gains meaning from the sound of speech.

A new report examines the effect stress can have on our bodies and general health.

Finnish researchers have revealed that exercise-induced endorphin release in the brain depends on the intensity of the exercise. Endorphin release induced by exercise may be an important mechanism which affects exercise motivation and maintenance of regular physical activity.

Researchers reveal people who report higher levels of moral reasoning show increased activity in brain areas associated with reward. 

Finally this week, for most people, laughter is highly contagious. But researchers reporting in Current Biology on September 28 have new evidence to show that boys at risk of developing psychopathy when they become adults don’t have that same urge.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Scientists have developed a virtual reality computer game as part of the world’s biggest dementia research experiment. It is designed to test one of the first things to go with dementia – the ability to navigate.

Researchers have developed a robotic system that allows them to focus in on specific neurons in the brain. The technology could help answer questions such as how neurons interact with each other as we recall a memory.

Benzodiazepines—the family of popular sedatives that includes Valium and Xanaxseem to bring about structural changes in the brain, according to a European study running in the August edition of Psychiatry Neuroimaging.

Researchers report people who report higher levels of moral reasoning show increased activity in brain areas associated with reward. The study may improve understanding as to why some people are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors.

Tinnitus, a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears, has eluded medical treatment and scientific understanding. A new study found that chronic tinnitus is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

Researchers have identified a specific area of the brain responsible for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with schizophrenia. The researchers were able to control the hallucinations with the help of transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Finally this week, a new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Brain scans from a 38-year-old, left, and a 73-year-old. 

Researchers are embarking on a new study to answer how some people are able to stay sharper than others as they age.

Neurons in the brain that produce the pleasure-signaling neurotransmitter dopamine also directly control the brain’s circadian center, or “body clock” – the area that regulates eating cycles, metabolism and waking/resting cycles – a key link that possibly affects the body’s ability to adapt to jet lag and rotating shift work, a new study has demonstrated.

A molecule produced by insulating glial cells facilitates the functional wiring of brain cells involved in motor coordination.

Using the latest MRI scanning procedures, a team of researchers has shown how certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy. The team has discovered biomarkers that – if used for screening – could massively improve treatment options for epilepsy. The researchers have published their results in the online journal eLife.

A new study reveals the role circular RNA plays in brain function, including synaptic transmission and sensorimotor gating.

Depression has been shown to alter the structure of the brain’s white matter, which contains the circuitry that allows brain cells to communicate with each other, and which underpins brain function.

According to a new Nature study, in order for our taste system to work, the connection between neurons and taste bud cells have to rewire correctly each time.

A new optogenetic method called Optobow is helping researchers to discover specific and individual components of functional neural networks in the living brain. A Nature Communications report states this new method can help provide more detailed insights into both brain function and structure.

A neuroimaging study reveals people who report widespread pain have increased gray matter and functional connectivity in sensory and motor areas of the brain.

Finally this week, a large scale SPECT imaging study reveals women’s brains are significantly more active in more regions than males, including the prefronal cortex and limbic areas. Visual and areas associated with coordination were more active in males, researchers noted.

9 Ways To Cut Your Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease

Only 40 years ago it was widely believed that if you lived long enough, you would eventually experience serious cognitive decline, particularly with respect to memory. The implication for cognition was that achieving an advanced age was effectively equivalent to becoming senile – a word that implies mental defects or a dementing (1) illness. Since then there has been a major shift away from the view of “aging as a disease” and towards the view of “aging as only a risk factor” for a number of neurological diseases.

A recent Lancet report, by 24 leading dementia researchers from around the world, zeroed in on nine of the best-known lifestyle factors that contribute to the illness and account for more than a third of dementia cases. Not smoking, doing exercise, keeping a healthy weight, treating high blood pressure and diabetes can all reduce the risk of dementia, as well as cardiovascular disease, and cancer. The researchers say they did not have enough data to include dietary factors or alcohol in their calculations but believe both could be important.

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Source: Lancet

The takeaway: 1 in three cases of dementia could be prevented if more people looked after their brain health throughout life.

Related Reading: 15 Ways To Stave Off Dementia

 


(1) Dementia is how we describe symptoms that impact memory and lead to a decline in cognitive performance, often in ways that disrupt daily living. There are different brain disorders that cause dementia, but Alzheimer’s is the most common, followed by cerebrovascular disease and Lewy bodies disease.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

optogenetics-living-brain-neurosciencenews.jpgA new optogenetic method called Optobow is helping researchers to discover specific and individual components of functional neural networks in the living brain. A Nature Communications report states this new method can help provide more detailed insights into both brain function and structure.

A new Translational Psychiatry report suggests physical exercise may help protect neurons and reduce symptoms of dementia in older people.

Researchers have developed a software tool that analyzes functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of patient brains and with 74% accuracy diagnoses schizophrenia. Moreover, the software’s algorithms were also able to reasonably estimate how bad the symptoms of the disease were in individual patients.

A new study reveals a drug currently used to treat dementia may be helpful in the treatment of traumatic brain injury.

Individual differences in the pattern of release of the hormone cortisol in response to a stressful experience reveal how stressed a person actually feels, suggests a study of healthy women published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This approach could help to better identify and treat individuals more susceptible to the negative feelings associated with the physiological stress response.

A new study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new research.

A small patch of neurons fires in complex ways to encode movement of much of the body according to new research.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, researchers have been able to capture how glutamate opens glutamate receptor ion channels. The Nature study provides significant insight into how receptors can mediate brain function.

Finally this week, a team at the University of Wollongong, Australia, has used a 3D printer to create nerve cells found in the brain.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Thousands of branches and branchlets emanate from an astrocyte’s cell body, which is the dense portion in the middle of the image.

A new study published in Neuron challenges the idea that astrocytes across the brain are largely identical.

Researchers have identified a new protein, CIB2, that is key to helping the auditory system to turn soundwaves into meaningful brain signals. Mutations of this gene leave people unable to convert the soundwaves into signals that the brain can interpret, and are deaf.

The more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life, a large-scale online trial has found.

How short-term memories become long-term ones has frequently been explored by researchers. While a definitive answer remains elusive, scientists conclude that this transformation is best explained by a “temporal hierarchy” of “time windows” that collectively alter the state of the brain.

Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers at King’s College London have identified a molecular mechanism that allows neural connections to adapt as a result of experience. This adaptation fuels our ability for memory and learning.

Researchers have developed a concept called Empowerment to help robots and humans to work and live side-by-side safely and effectively.

A study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has identified a new potential mechanism contributing to the biology of the disorder that may be targeted by future treatments.

A new study reveals those who die at 100 tend to suffer from fewer diseases than those who die at younger ages.

A new paper identifies 100 of the most cited neuroscience research papers. Of these papers, 78 focus on five topics. According to the authors of the paper, the most cited neuroscience research topics include the prefrontal cortex, neural connectivity, methodology, brain mapping and neurological disorders. The findings could have significant impact for future neuroscience studies.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

The same mechanisms that quickly separate mixtures of oil and water are at play when controlling the organization in an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study.

New research has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.

Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala may help explain a person’s preference for uncertain outcomes, as well as a preference for order and certainty, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Our brain is especially good at perceiving lines and contours even if they do not actually exist, such as the blue triangle in the foreground of this optical illusion. The pattern of neuronal connections in the brain supports this ability.

Researchers have identified how our brains are so good at perceiving contours and edges. The study, published in Nature, reports neurons are most likely to connect if they react to edges that lie on a common axis and the structure of the world around us is mirrored in the pattern of synapses.

A new study reports bilingual people think about time differently depending on the language context they are estimating event duration.

The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and appear to have no more effect on healthy brains than video games.

Scientists report that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

Researchers are investigating why certain language abilities are lost as a result of a traumatic brain injury, and how others can be regained.

A recently published study investigates time perception and temporal information processing in people with schizophrenia. It reveals the internal clock in schizophrenics does not necessarily run slower or faster than in healthy individuals, but rather it does not run at a consistent speed.

Finally, this week, using music to learn a physical task develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Practicing paying attention can boost performance on a new task, and change the way the brain processes information, a new study says. This might explain why learning a new skill can start out feeling grueling, but eventually feels more natural — although right now, the study’s findings are limited to a simple pattern-recognition game.

A new study reports traumatic brain injury is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia in people of working age.

According to researchers, the ability to assess memory quality appears in children, and metamemory continues to improve beyond childhood into adolescence. The findings could provide new insights into effective learning methods and assist teachers to devise new educational strategies.

Researchers report harmful plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease may build up in the brain as a result of high blood pressure and decreased cerebral blood flow.

A new paper may help answer some questions as to why some infants die suddenly. Looking at blood samples from infants who had died of SIDS, researchers discover 31% of the children had elevated levels of serotonin. The researchers concluded that abnormal serotonin metabolism could indicate an underlying vulnerability that increases SIDS risk.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

Poor sleep may be a sign that people who are otherwise healthy may be more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life than people who do not have sleep problems, according to a study published in Neurology. Researchers have found a link between sleep disturbances and biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease found in the spinal fluid.

A new study reports that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

Finally, this week, higher intelligence (IQ) in childhood is associated with a lower lifetime risk of major causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, smoking-related cancers, respiratory disease and dementia, finds a study published by The BMJ.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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This latest research builds on the pioneering use of machine learning algorithms with brain imaging technology to “mind read.” The findings indicate that the mind’s building blocks for constructing complex thoughts are formed by the brain’s various sub-systems and are not word-based.  Image is credited to Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers report they can use brain activation patterns to identify complex thoughts. Their findings suggest the building blocks for complex human thoughts are not word based, but formed by the brain’s sub systems. The study provides evidence that the neural dimensions of concept representation are universal across people and languages.

A new study considers how echolocation can benefit visually impaired people to navigate safely through the environment.

Neuroscientists have used a classic branch of maths in a totally new way to peer into the structure of our brains. What they’ve discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.

People tend to change the pitch of their voice depending on who they are talking to, and how dominant they feel, a new study has found.

Researchers have identified a network of neurons that plays a vital role in learning vocalizations by aiding communication between motor and auditory regions of the brain.

A new study reinforces the idea that serotonin, a molecule associated with mood, directly contributes to the actions of cocaine.

A new report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine shows evidence supporting three interventions for cognitive decline and dementia—cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity, which might slow down cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.

Therapies to change the bacteria in the gut, through diet, pro-and prebiotic supplements, faecal matter transplants or antibiotics, could treat autism.

Finally this week, researchers say a protein usually associated with the immune system could play a role in the development of neurological conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

girl-1990347_960_720.jpgA new report reveals how the development of music is so closely tied to our own evolution.

Even a single bout of physical activity can have significant positive effects on people’s mood and cognitive functions, according to a new study in Brain Plasticity.

A new study reports on the complex brain connections employed during word retrieval.

New research provides an unprecedented level of resolution and insight into disturbances in cortical GABAergic microcircuits, which are thought to underlie cognitive impairments in schizophrenia.

A sign language study helps researchers better understand how the brain processes language.

Researchers say the goal of memory is not to transmit the most accurate information over time, but to optimize intelligent decision making by holding on to valuable information.

A new study reports microglia may play a role in a diverse array of neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses.

A new brain imaging study shows for the first time that brain inflammation is significantly elevated – more than 30 per cent higher – in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition.

A research team has studied two structurally-similar proteins in the adult brain and have found that they play distinct roles in the development of dementia. 

Neurons found to be abnormal in psychosis play an important role in our ability to distinguish between what is real and what is perceived, researchers say.

A new study sheds light on the neural mechanism behind why some people with autism are unable to make eye contact with others.

While researchers report the risk of developing psychosis from cannabis use is relatively small, those who use the drug and already suffer from schizophrenia may notice their condition worsen.

Finally this week, researchers have discovered a mechanism of glucose sensing by muscles that contribute to the regulation of blood sugar levels in the body.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

4121A56E00000578-4574260-image-a-57_1496767085907.jpgElectrically stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex can enhance our ability to ‘think outside the box’, a new study reports.

An international team of researchers has found, for the first time, seven risk genes for insomnia. With this finding the researchers have taken an important step towards the unravelling of the biological mechanisms that cause insomnia. In addition, the finding proves that insomnia is not, as is often claimed, a purely psychological condition.

Researchers have developed a neural network based AI system that can decode and predict what a person is seeing or imagining.

A new study reports artificial intelligence used by the military to help shoot down fighter planes can accurately predict treatment outcomes for people with bipolar disorder.

New research sheds light on how the brain codes navigation behaviour at larger scales.

The visual cortex, the human brain’s vision-processing center that was previously thought to mature and stabilize in the first few years of life, actually continues to develop until sometime in the late 30s or early 40s, a neuroscientist and her colleagues have found.

Clusters of a sticky protein — amyloid plaque — found in the brain signal mental decline years before symptoms appear, a new study finds.

According to researchers, brain signals in specific brain areas change during a lifespan in ways that could be vital for maintaining flexibility.

Two new studies shed light on how the brain encodes and recalls memories.

People with voice disorders may have a problem with correctly utilizing auditory feedback to control their voices.

A new study reveals the role the motor system plays in the perception of language. 

According to researchers, bilingual children perform better at voice recognition and processing than monolingual children.

Fascination with faces is nature, not nurture, suggests a new study of third-trimester fetuses.

Finally this week, the mystery of how human eyes compute the direction of moving light has been made clearer by scientists at The University of Queensland.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

memory-codes-neurosciencenews.jpgIn a pair of studies, scientists at the National Institutes of Health explored how the human brain stores and retrieves memories. One study suggests that the brain etches each memory into unique firing patterns of individual neurons. Meanwhile, the second study suggests that the brain replays memories faster than they are stored.

A machine learning algorithm shows that during sleep, the brain actively reprocesses information learned the previous day, strengthening the memory.

Scientists  have revealed how laughter releases endorphins in the human brain. The more opioid receptors the participants had in their brain, the more they laughed during the experiment.

Researchers believe they may have cracked the code for facial recognition in the primate brain.

Theta oscillations, a type of rhythmic electrical activity that waxes and wanes four to eight times per second, may play a fundamental role in processing scent in the human brain, according to a new study recently published in Neuron.

Researchers investigate how neurons work together to help us make decisions.

A new Finnish study has now demonstrated that seeing others in pain activates the same brain regions involved in firsthand pain, which suggests that a shared neuromolecular pathway processes both types of pain. Specifically, the researchers showed that the endogenous opioid system, but not the dopamine system, contributes to vicarious pain.

Finally this week, a new study could help explain how neurons achieve greater efficiency and reliability.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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In a collaboration between Swedish and Italian researchers, the aim was to analyse how the brain interprets information from a virtual experience of touch, created by a finger prosthesis with artificial sensation. The result was – completely unexpectedly – a new method for measuring brain health.

Stroke patients who learned to use their minds to open and close a device fitted over their paralyzed hands gained some control over their hands, according to a new study.

As children age into adolescence and on into young adulthood, they show dramatic improvements in their ability to control impulses, stay organized, and make decisions. Those ‘executive functions’ of the brain are key factors in determining outcomes, including educational success, drug use, and psychiatric illness. Now, researchers have mapped the changes in the network organization of the brain that underlie those improvements in executive function.

Despite numerous claims, researchers discover transcranial direct current stimulation likely adds no meaningful benefit to cognitive training.

Neuropsychiatric symptoms, specifically sleep behavior and irritability, are linked to metabolic dysfunction on specialized positron emission tomography (PET) imaging and may be an early noncognitive symptom of Alzheimer’s dementia, according to results published in Neurology.

Individual neurons can learn not only single responses to a particular signal, but also a series of reactions at precisely timed intervals.

Researchers from the Radboud University in the Netherlands have observed the human brain’s ability to visually “predict” future events. By scanning the brains of students during an experiment, they saw this predictive imaging in action.

Vicsoelasticity in the hippocampus is associated with better performance on both memory and fitness tests, a new study reports.

The visual cortex, the human brain’s vision-processing centre that was previously thought to mature and stabilize in the first few years of life, actually continues to develop until sometime in the late 30s or early 40s, neuroscientists have found.

New Finnish research reveals how brain’s opioids modulate responses towards other people’s pain.

Finally this week, researches report memory isn’t a single entity and memory formation can be enhanced by different brain states.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Scientists have unpicked the regions of the brain involved in dreaming, in a study with significant implications for our understanding of the purpose of dreams and of consciousness itself. What’s more, changes in brain activity have been found to offer clues as to what the dream is about.

A machine learning algorithm shows that during sleep, the brain actively reprocesses information learned the previous day, strengthening the memory.

A new study of obese people suggests that changes in their brains’ reward regions make them more prone to overeating, and that women and men exhibit different brain activity related to overeating.

A plasma membrane protein affects the generation of new neurons in the adult hippocampus, a new study reports.

The brains of youth experiencing elevated depressive symptoms early in adolescence appear to develop differently from those experiencing depression in late adolescence, reports a study in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Specifically, the MRI study found that cortical surface area was lower in youth with early depressive symptoms compared with those in the other groups.

While some researchers believe oxytocin is released to enhance a romantic relationship, this might not always be the case, a new study reveals.

Researchers have developed a new method to induce visual hallucinations in healthy people. The study could help to develop new treatments to control hallucinations in people with Parkinson’s and other disorders.

Exercise may bolster the brain function and thinking skills of people with dementia, according to a new report.

When prompted to use verbal thinking, people create visual images to accompany their speech, implying visual thinking could be hardwired into our brains, a new study reports.

Researchers report brain network organization changes can influence executive function in young adults.

What happens in the brain when we see other people experiencing a trauma or being subjected to pain? It seems the same regions that are involved when we feel pain ourselves are also activated when we observe other people who appear to be going through some painful experience. This is shown in a study from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden published in Nature Communications.

A new study reports EEG could accurately predict which newborn babies will have neurodevelopmental disorders.

Finally this week, new research, published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience makes the case against fixed starting times, i.e. a fixed one-size-fits-all approach for students and employees.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

visual-perception-real-inferred-neurosciencenews.jpgHumans treat ‘inferred’ visual objects generated by the brain as more reliable than external images from the real world, according to new research published in eLife.

Scientists have identified Lgl1 as the gene that controls the production of neurons and glia cells in the brain. Previously unknown functions of a neurodevelopment gene clarified.

Findings about the brain-body connection may also have implications for treating those with opioid addiction, researchers believe.

Neuroscientists have for the first time have come up with a way to observe brain activity during “natural reading,” the reading of actual text and not just individual words. The findings are already helping settle some ideas about how we read.

Researchers have discovered the molecular mechanism behind lithium’s effectiveness in treating bipolar disorder.

Scientists have developed a robust, efficient method for deriving microglia, the immune cells of the brain, from human stem cells. Microglia are increasingly implicated in neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, among many others. However, research into the role of human microglia in these disorders has long been hampered by the inability to obtain them from the human nervous system. This new protocol now enables scientists around the world to generate this critical cell type from individual patients and improve our understanding of the role of microglia neurological malfunction.

A new study describes how advances in technology can help us avoid aging and age related diseases.

Researchers have made an important step in understanding the organisation of nerve cells embedded within the gut that control its function — a discovery that could give insight into the origin of common gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation.

New research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, has identified a protein that could help patients with epilepsy respond more positively to drug therapies.

Finally this week, a new study on “fear memory” could lead to the development of therapies that reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new generation of prosthetic limbs which will allow the wearer to reach for objects automatically, without thinking – just like a real hand – are to be trialled for the first time.

Researchers have discovered both the structure of specific brain areas and memory are linked to genetic activity that also play important roles in immune system function.

Understanding the structure of our brain is as important as understanding its size when it comes to evolution, a new report suggests.

Scientists have published ground-breaking scans of newborn babies’ brains which researchers from all over the world can download and use to study how the human brain develops.

A new study reports that contrary behaviour of blood vessels in the retrotrapezoid nucleus help keep us breathing.

Researchers have developed a non-invasive means to measure whether infants are in pain, which could prevent babies from undergoing excessive discomfort during medical treatments.

A landmark study has identified the first genetic locus for anorexia nervosa and has revealed that there may also be metabolic underpinnings to this potentially deadly illness.

Finally this week, researchers have identified how two distinct areas of the developing brain communicate and report REM sleep is key to this communication.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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This is a simulated seizure activity on cortical tissue. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Y. Wang.

A new study explores which of the two main patterns of brain activity may be seen during the onset of an epileptic seizure.

Researchers link obsessive behaviours in frontotemporal dementia (FTD) to immune pathways and suggest targeting the immune system could be a new strategy for the treatment of FTD.

Scientists have identified a gene that plays a vital role in the production of neurons and glial cells in the brain.

Reviewing brain scans of bipolar patients, researchers observe notable differences in the thickness of gray matter in areas of the brain associated with motivation and control inhibition compared to those without the disorder.

Researchers use optogenetics to study impairment to the CA2 region of the hippocampus.

Stimulating the brain by taking on leadership roles at work or staying on in education help people stay mentally healthy in later life, according to new research.

Our brains process foreign-accented speech with better real-time accuracy if we can identify the accent we hear, according to a team of neurolinguists.

The puzzle of how the brain regulates blood flow to prevent it from being flooded and then starved every time the heart beats has been solved with the help of engineering.

Researchers say stroke prevention strategy is also helping to reduce dementia in people aged 80 and over.

Finally this week, a new study reveals the amygdala has distinct neurons that can judge ambiguity and intensity of facial expressions.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

vegas-nerve-parkinsons-neurosciencenews (1).jpgAccording to researchers, Parkinson’s disease may start in the gut and spread to the brain via the vagus nerve.

You probably know that walking does your body good, but it’s not just your heart and muscles that benefit. Researchers found that the foot’s impact during walking sends pressure waves through the arteries that significantly modify and can increase the supply of blood to the brain.

An international collaboration of neuroscientists has shed light on how the brain helps us to predict what is coming next in speech.

A recently published study, which combines four studies of extreme longevity, has identified new rare variants in chromosomes 4 and 7 associated with extreme survival and with reduced risks for cardiovascular and Alzheimer’s disease.

Scientists have discovered that neurons in brain regions that store memory can form networks in the absence of synaptic activity.

A new study reports estrogen fluctuations can alter brain circuit activation in women with a variant of a specific gene.

Your brain may not be the same age as your body, and an “older” brain may be linked to an increased risk of dying at a younger age, a new study finds.

Zapping the brain with just a bit of electricity at the right time may help to improve memory function in some people, according to a new study.

Gentle noise stimulation can enhance sleep quality and improve memory in older people, a new study reports.

Like air-traffic controllers scrambling to reconnect flights when a major hub goes down, the brain has a remarkable ability to rewire itself after suffering an injury. However, maintaining these new connections between brain regions can strain the brain’s resources, which can lead to serious problems later, including Alzheimer’s Disease, according to researchers.

Researchers have discovered a new cellular mechanism that may be a root cause of multiple sclerosis.

Combining brain training programs with transcranial direct current simulation can lead to cognitive improvements and better working memory, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a new video game is helping to speed up neuroscience research by allowing players to reconstruct the architecture of neurons.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new research project sheds light on the role played by a specific area of the brain in our moral judgements. The more developed it is, the more understanding we show towards those who have unintentionally caused harm.

A new study could help explain how pain often follows a chemical induced itch.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have identified the basis for how a single gene mutation can cause a rare neurological movement disorder known as dystonia.

A new sensor could help to reveal the role dopamine plays in learning and emotion.

Researchers have developed a method using MRI to identify when HIV is still present in the brain, despite effective drug treatment.

Pupil dilation is at its largest when people are most uncertain about their situation, a new study reports.

Sleep deprivation increases the number of available A1 adenosine receptors, but restorative sleep helps normalize them again, a new study reports.

Scientists report doxycycline, a common antibiotic, could help to disrupt the formation of negative memories associated with PTSD and in another new study the power of oxytocin in combating PTSD will be tested.

Brain researchers report the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain associated with empathy, activates very weakly in people with autism.

Non-invasive ultrasound improves the delivery to the brain of a therapeutic antibody targeting Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have found.

A new blood test has been developed that could help to identify infants who may be experiencing bleeding in the brain as a result of abusive head trauma.

Researchers at the University of Zurich have identified the brain mechanism that governs decisions between honesty and self-interest. Using non-invasive brain stimulation, they could even increase honest behavior.

Finally this week, a new study reveals acute stress can increase prosocial behavior and empathy.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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image is credited to McGill University. Philippe Albouy

A new study reveals people showed improvements in auditory memory when transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied.

The part of the brain that creates mental maps of one’s environment plays a much broader role in memory and learning than was previously thought, according to new research published this week in the journal Nature by researchers at Princeton University.

Researchers have developed new tests to help quantify automatic moral and empathetic judgement.

Neurons in the prefrontal cortex “teach” neurons in the hippocampus to “learn” rules that distinguish memory-based predictions in otherwise identical situations, suggesting that learning in the present helps guide learning in the future, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published April 5 in the journal Neuron.

Neuroimaging technology can help determine the success of failure possibilities of cochlear implants for those who lose their hearing during adulthood.

Scientists have known that a lack of sleep can interfere with the ability to learn and make memories. Now, a group of researchers have found how sleep deprivation affects memory-making in the brain.

Reducing stress in those with epilepsy may be a beneficial, low risk preventative treatment for seizures, researchers report.

Using PET scans of the brain, researchers have shown that dopamine falls and fluctuates at different times during a migraine headache.

MRIs show a brain anomaly in nearly 70 percent of babies at high risk of developing the condition who go on to be diagnosed, laying the groundwork for a predictive aid for pediatricians and the search for a potential treatment.

A new study reports the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain associated with empathy, activates very weakly in people with autism.

Scientists at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience developed a light-sensitive technique to visualize and manipulate neuromodulation with unprecedented spatial and temporal precision.

Finally this weekk, new research indicates that some autobiographical memories are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than others.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Different people age at different rates and the same goes for their brains, according to scientists who have discovered a link between a common genetic variant and an increased risk for neurodegenerative diseases. The new biomarker becomes active around age 65 and may provide a new means of evaluating, preventing, or treating Alzheimer’s and other age-related brain disorders.

According to a new study, adolescence may be a crucial period for remodeling of the human brain.

The brains of those who are born blind make new connections in the absence of visual information, resulting in enhanced, compensatory abilities such as a heightened sense of hearing, smell and touch, as well as cognitive functions (such as memory and language) according to a new study.

Scientists have developed a new genetic test for Alzheimer’s risk that can be used to predict the age at which a person will develop the disease.

Using a satnav to get to your destination ‘switches off’ parts of the brain that would otherwise be used to simulate different routes, reveals new research.

Researchers trace the Pavlovian response to a small cluster of neurons in the striatum.

Finally this week, a new neuroimaging study reveals how different parts of the brain represent an object’s location in depth compared to its 2D location.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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image credited to Per Uvdal

New technology allows researchers to produce images that predate the formation of amyloid beta in the brain. The findings have prompted researchers to suggest stabilizing the protein, rather than attempting to limit it, in order to reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.

new study shines light on the process by which head injuries lead to brain disease later in life. 

A new type of long-term potentiation that is controlled by kainate receptors has been reported by scientists. The finding could have major benefits to understanding how the brain works and what goes wrong in neurodegenerative disorders such as epilepsy and dementia.

According to researchers, axons coordinate each other’s destruction, contributing to neurodegeneration.

Dendrites are not just passive conduits, a new study reports. The finding could change scientists’ understanding of how the brain works, and lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders.

Structural differences have been found in the cerebral cortex of patients with depression, and these differences normalize with appropriate medication,  a new study reports.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet collaborating in the large-scale Karolinska Schizophrenia Project are taking an integrative approach to unravel the disease mechanisms of schizophrenia. In the very first results now presented in the prestigious scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers show that patients with schizophrenia have lower levels of the vital neurotransmitter GABA as well as changes in the brain’s immune cells.

Finally this week, researchers have identified a genetic variant that can accelerate normal brain aging in older people by up to 12 years.

 

 

 

 

 

The Transcendent Power of Music

West Australian instrumentalist and drummer Sam Maher performs on the handpan, exploring the ability for this instrument to transcend language and medicine.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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Fathers given boosts of the hormone oxytocin show increased activity in brain regions associated with reward and empathy when viewing photos of their toddlers, a new study finds. The journal Hormones and Behavior published the results of the study, the first to look at the influence of both oxytocin and vasopressin – another hormone linked to social bonding – on brain function in human fathers.

A new study looks at the association between tiredness, genetics, environment and health.

A genetic ‘switch’ has been discovered by researchers at the University of Leicester which could help to prevent or delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In a paper published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation, the team discovered that a gene called ATF4 plays a key role in Parkinson’s disease, acting as a ‘switch’ for genes that control mitochondrial metabolism for neuron health.

A new study supports olfactory testing as an early method to detect those at risk of develop dementia.

Researchers have experimentally confirmed the hypothesis, whereby comprehension of a word’s meaning involves not only the ‘classic’ language brain centres but also the cortical regions responsible for the control of body muscles, such as hand movements. The resulting brain representations are, therefore, distributed across a network of locations involving both areas specialised for language processing and those responsible for the control of the associated action.

Better quality sleep is linked to improved emotions and fewer stressors the next day, researchers report.

New research shows that patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), even without evidence of brain lesions, may exhibit changes in brain connectivity detectable at the time of the injury that can aid in diagnosis and predicting the effects on cognitive and behavioural performance at 6 months.

Finally this week, preschool aged children who took naps after learning new verbs better understood the word when tested 24 hours later, a new study reports.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Salk scientist finds similar rule governing traffic flow in engineered and biological systems.

An algorithm used for the internet may help researchers learn about the human brain, researchers report.

A new blood test may be as accurate as a test requiring a painful spinal tap for differentiating Parkinson’s disease from similar disorders, according to a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers report neurons move the site of microRNA maturation away from the cytoplasm out to the dendrites.

Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, researchers conclude in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A new study reveals some brain systems in a dish, dubbed circuitoids, exhibit coordinated and spontaneous rhythmic activity that can drive repetitive movements.

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age.

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

New findings suggest that language-specialised brain areas work in constant interaction with other areas known to support other cognitive processes, such as perception and action.

Scientists have identified two distinct mechanisms in the brain that control the balance between accuracy and speed when making decisions.

When it comes to perceiving music, the human brain is much more tuned in to certain types of rhythms than others, according to a new study.

The effects a concussion has on driving a vehicle may continue to linger even after the symptoms disappear, according to University of Georgia researchers.

Scientists say neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be linked to defective brain cells disposing toxic proteins that make neighbouring cells sick.

New research from Lund University in Sweden has shown that intestinal bacteria can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

New research uncovers the brain circuit involved in processing fear, which could eventually lead to new treatment options for people with mental health disorders.

Finally this week, infants as young as 20 months of age expect adults to display surprise when discovering a false belief, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Under the microscope, staining highlights a network of vasculature amid the ball of neurons that make up a minibrain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Hoffman-Kim lab/Brown University

Scientists have recently made a variety of mini-brains — 3-D cultures of neural cells that model basic properties of living brains — but a new finding could add to the field’s growing excitement in an entirely new “vein”: Brown University’s mini-brains now grow blood vessels, too.

A new study reports astrocytes may be a driving force behind a number of neurodegenerative diseases.

While many of us find the sound of a person chewing or breathing heavily annoying, for those with misophonia, such noises are unbearable. Researchers have identified the neural networks and brain changes associated with the disorder.

New research reveals the shape of our brain can provide surprising clues about how we behave and our risk of developing mental health disorders.

A team of investigators have found that exposure to phobic images without conscious awareness is more effective than longer, conscious exposure for reducing fear. The investigators used fMRI to determine that areas of the brain involved in fear processing were much more strongly activated by unconscious exposure. Results of the study will be published in the journal, Human Brain Mapping, on February 6, 2017.

Depression poses a risk for cardiovascular diseases in men that is just as great as that posed by high cholesterol levels and obesity.

In the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), New York University neuroscientist David Heeger offers a new framework to explain how the brain makes predictions

Researchers have developed new technology that utilises infrared light in order to treat memory loss conditions.

Scientists have discovered a cell in the retina that may cause myopia when it dysfunctions. The dysfunction may be linked to the amount of time a child spends indoors and away from natural light.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

New sensors that can monitor dopamine secretion in a single neuron could help researchers better understand how dopamine influences brain activity.

Scientists have developed sensor technology for a robotic prosthetic arm that detects signals from nerves in the spinal cord.

People who use sign language have better reaction times in their peripheral vision, a new study from the University of Sheffield has found.

Finally this week, researchers report concussion can accelerate Alzheimer’s symptoms in people with a genetic risk for the disease.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol are a step closer to understanding how the connections in our brain which control our episodic memory work in sync to make some memories stronger than others. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected division of memory function in the pathways between two areas of the brain, and suggest that certain subnetworks within the brain work separately, to enhance the distinctiveness of memories.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn’t blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the brain works extra hard to stabilize our vision despite our fluttering eyes.

Our personality traits are linked to differences in the thickness and volume of various parts of our brains, an international study has suggested.

Researchers have found significant differences in the brains of teens with bipolar disorder that attempt to take their lives over those with the disorder who have never attempted suicide.

Women with lower estrogen levels may be more susceptible to developing PTSD according to new research.

A new study raises the question of whether a genetic mutation associated with neurodegeneration in one environment could act in a positive way in a different setting.

Researchers report early indicators of depression and anxiety may be evident in the brain from birth.

A cutting edge, non-invasive brain stimulation technique could improve cognitive control for people with conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

A new computerized ‘mirror game’ has been shown to give more accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia than clinical interviews.

A new study reports on how a single instance of extreme stress can lead to long term neurological changes and trauma.

Social difficulties in people with autism are exacerbated by how other people perceive them at first meeting, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers have revealed regions of the brain implicated in delusional misidentification syndromes.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study sheds light on how the brain helps us to learn and make decisions in the real world.

Scientists have shown for the first time that non-invasive brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel, rather than like a hammer, to cause a specific improvement in precise memory.

Neurons in the subiculum appear to encode the current axis of travel, a new study reports.

A new study has shown for the first time that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) strengthens specific connections in the brains of people with psychosis, and that these stronger connections are associated with long-term reduction in symptoms and recovery eight years later.

Researchers have discovered a mechanism the brain uses to help compensate when noise obscures speech sounds.

An international team of researchers has found evidence that the specific type of protein clumps in a person’s brain might help identify different ‘types’ of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new technology that allows researchers to examine circulation in the brain could help to identify early signs of neurological problems.

A group of neurons in the forebrain release dopamine when activated by visual or tactile stimuli, a new study reports.

Finally this week, researchers report using neuroimaging to map the brains of preterm babies soon after their born could hold clues as to possible disabilities they may develop.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Contrary to popular belief, exposing children to stimuli early can help to boost their development, researchers report.

Dementia is more common in people who live within 50 metres of a major road than those who live further away, according to a study looking at 6.6 million people published in The Lancet.

According to a new study, clinically depressed children show a blunted response to reward compared to those who were not depressed.

Cerebral blood flow is reduced in the Broca’s area of people who stutter, researchers report. Additionally, the more severely a person stutters, the less blood flows to this area of the brain.

The same area of the brain can motivate and suppress a learned behaviour at the same time, a new study reports.

Exposure to false information about an event usually makes it more difficult for people to recall the original details, but new research suggests that there may be times when misinformation actually boosts memory.

Using objects when trying to solve problems may help to find new ways of finding a solution, researchers report.

A new study looks at how our brains process information when we pay attention and attempt to ignore stimuli.

Finally this week, researchers report Alzheimer’s can be detected before diagnosis by looking at, and applying mathematical analysis, to their painting styles.

 

 

Why Breaking New Year’s Resolutions Is All In The Mind

Happy New Year!

So have you made any new year’s resolutions this year? Despite the high failure rate of these resolutions – research by British psychologist Richard Wiseman in 2007  has shown that 88% of all resolutions end in failure – many continue to make the same resolutions year in and year out. But just why are our old habits  so hard to break?

The science of willpower

The brain area largely responsible for willpower is the prefrontal cortex (located just behind the forehead). This area of the brain is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.

Author Johan Lehrer writing in the Wall Street Journal proposed that adding new year’s resolutions to an overloaded prefrontal cortex is a sure-fire recipe for failure.

He refered to an experiment led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, where several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad.

What do you think happened?

The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a “cognitive load”—making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation. “A tired brain, preoccupied with its problems, is going to struggle to resist what it wants, even when what it wants isn’t what we need.” writes Lehrer.

So instead of blaming our own lack of discipline in not keeping to our resolutions, perhaps this research shows that  the power of will is not enough due to the very nature of the brain.

So now we know what doesn’t work when it comes to keeping those resolutions, let’s take a look at what might help.

How to keep New Year’s resolutions

Lehrer suggests we think of willpower as a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Prof Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University who has pioneered the muscle metaphor, suggests that it might be possible to strengthen willpower by exercising it.

He asked a group of students to improve their posture for two weeks, thereby practicing mental discipline in one area. The students showed a marked improvement on subsequent measures of self-control, at least when compared to a group that didn’t work on posture control.

If this sounds like too much hard work, you could always try the tried and tested goal setting approach to making positive change stick.

Goal Setting

Think about some small changes you could make in your lifestyle that would help to bring about your ultimate goal.  The cumulative impact of a modest change to your daily routine will restore in you the feeling that you are in control.

Above all, don’t use your resolutions as a stick to beat yourself with. Ditch the negative connotations and instead focus on what those small changes will bring to your life in a positive way in the coming year.

Using your brain to beat addiction

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

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

You can view a slide summary of my talk below.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Why is yawning contagious? (video)

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

Brain imaging at multiple size scales


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

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

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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