Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers explore how memory consolidation occurs during sleep.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

World Mental Health Day: How to Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression

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

How To Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression

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

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

However, some people are unable to escape this low mood, and find it difficult to carry on with life as usual. They may experience low/sad, irritable or indifferent mood, loss of interest and enjoyment in daily life and a general lack of energy. This may be…

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Why Are Teenagers so Susceptible to Addiction?

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

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

What Causes Mass Panic in Emergency Situations?

Study investigates crowd behaviour under stress in a virtual environment.

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

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

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

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

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

Source: Mehdi Moussaïd – Max Planck Institute

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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