Weekly Neuroscience Update

The salience network, highlighted here in two epilepsy patients, is thought to mediate our response to important internal or external signals, such as pain or the sound of a siren. Image: Parvizi et al. Neuron 2013

The salience network, highlighted here in two epilepsy patients, is thought to mediate our response to important internal or external signals, such as pain or the sound of a siren. Image: Parvizi et al. Neuron 2013

In a rare study involving direct brain stimulation researchers say they have uncovered direct evidence that a brain region known as the anterior midcingulate cortex and its surrounding network play a central role in motivation and a readiness to act.

Many studies suggest that pushing your brain to multitask—writing emails, for instance, while watching the day’s latest news and eating breakfast—leads to poorer performance and lower productivity. But for at least one everyday task—visual sampling (the act of picking up bits of visual information through short glances)—multitasking is not a problem for the brain. A collaboration between researchers at the UC Santa Barbara and the University of Bristol in the UK has shown that during visual sampling, the brain can handle various visual functions simultaneously.

Researchers report a detailed account of how speech sounds are identified by the human brain, offering an unprecedented insight into the basis of human language. The finding, they said, may add to our understanding of language disorders, including dyslexia.

A new study correlating brain activity with how people make decisions suggests that when individuals engage in risky behavior, it’s probably not because their brains’ desire systems are too active, but because their self-control systems are not active enough. This might have implications for how health experts treat mental illness and addiction or how the legal system assesses a criminal’s likelihood of committing another crime.

Pain sensitivity is controlled by a genetic “dimmer switch”, which can be re-set, UK scientists have discovered.

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