Weekly Neuroscience Update

The human brain using colors and shapes to show neurological differences between two people. Credit Arthur Toga, University of California, Los Angeles via NIGMS.

The human brain using colors and shapes to show neurological differences between two people. Credit Arthur Toga, University of California, Los Angeles via NIGMS.

While many different combinations of genetic traits can cause autism, brains affected by autism share a pattern of ramped-up immune responses, an analysis of data from autopsied human brains reveals. The study, published online in the journal Nature Communications, included data from 72 autism and control brains.

Teenagers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are twice as likely to drink alcohol or use drugs when compared with whose who have never experienced a similar blow or trauma to the head.

Activating the brain’s amygdala, an almond-shaped mass that processes emotions, can create an addictive, intense desire for sugary foods, a new study found. Rewards such as sweet, tasty food or even addictive drugs like alcohol or cocaine can be extremely attractive when this brain structure is triggered. And another study, led by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, revealed that the brains of obese children literally light up differently when tasting sugar.

Scientists have discovered a link between sleep loss and cell injury. Results of a new study find sleep deprivation causes the damage to cells, especially in the liver, lung, and small intestine. Recovery sleep following deprivation heals the damage.

Neural circuits that activate when we daydream run in the opposite direction to how we process reality, a new study finds.

Yale researchers using a new brain imaging analysis method have confirmed that smoking cigarettes activates a dopamine-driven pleasure and satisfaction response differently in men compared to women.

Whether we’re paying attention to something we see can be discerned by monitoring the firings of specific groups of brain cells. Now, new work from Johns Hopkins shows that the same holds true for the sense of touch.

Serious, long-term stress can have dire consequences for your brain. That’s because the immune system and the brain are intimately related, say researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

In the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics a new study identifies biological characteristics who may predict who is going to respond to psychotherapy.

Some high school football players exhibit measurable brain changes after a single season of play even in the absence of concussion, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Meanwhile, as debate increases about whether female lacrosse players should wear headgear, a new study reports measurements of the accelerations that stick blows deliver to the head. The study also measured the dampening effect of various kinds of headgear.

Quitting smoking sets off a series of changes in the brain that researchers say may better identify smokers who will start smoking again.

Everyday events are easy to forget, but unpleasant ones can remain engraved in the brain. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identifies a neural mechanism through which unpleasant experiences are translated into signals that trigger fear memories by changing neural connections in a part of the brain called the amygdala. The findings show that a long-standing theory on how the brain forms memories, called Hebbian plasticity, is partially correct, but not as simple as was originally proposed.

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