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

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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This study examined how flowers evolve diluted nectar, even though bats prefer higher concentrations of sugar. It successfully integrated psychophysics and evolutionary biology. NeuroscienceNews.com image adapted from the LSU Health press release.

Perception can cause the evolution of certain traits, a new study reports.

The part of the brain that specializes in recognizing faces becomes denser with tissue over time, new research finds. The study also showed that these changes in brain structure correlated with the ability to recognize faces.

According to researchers, the entorhinal cortex can replay memories of movement without hippocampal input.

A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) sheds light on how the brain stores memories. The research, published recently in the journal eLife, is the first to demonstrate that the same brain region can both motivate a learned behaviour and suppress that same behaviour.

A collection of studies offers new insight into the role dopamine plays in schizophrenia.

Hormonal fluctuations women undergo make them particularly sensitive, compared to men, to the addictive properties of cocaine, according to scientists.

New research shows that bilingual people are great at saving brain power.

Scientists have identified the physical connection through which the prefrontal cortex inhibits instinctive behaviour.

Researchers have developed a new computational model that could help shed light on the role of inhibitory neurons.

Examining postmortem brains, researchers discover the state of glia remains consistent as we age and could be used to predict a person’s age at death.

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

A new study reports marijuana users have lower blood flow to the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory and learning.

Understanding how memory can shape our perception of the present could help people with learning disorders to stay on task, researchers believe.

Finally this week, the brain automatically places more value on the opinions of people who appear to be confident, a new study reports.

 

 

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.

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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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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A virtual reality world called EVA Park can improve the communication of those who have impaired speech and language following a stroke, according to research by academics at City University London. The study, which is published in PLOS ONE, is the first exploration of multi-user virtual reality in aphasia therapy and shows the potential for technology to play an important role in improving the everyday lives of people with the condition.

A new study will look at how brain connections mature and develop from childhood to adulthood.

Neurons communicate by sending chemical signals called neurotransmitters across synapses, specialized connections between two individual cells. This communication requires a delicate and intricate molecular architecture. A recent paper published in Nature has now shown that the structure of this intercellular space is more complicated than previously thought, and it probably helps boost the efficiency of the signaling.

A new long term study of young marijuana users tracks the brain’s response to reward over time. The findings indicate a lower response to reward in marijuana users.

Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh have identified the neural networks that connect the cerebral cortex to the adrenal medulla, which is responsible for the body’s rapid response in stressful situations. These findings, reported in the online Early Edition of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), provide evidence for the neural basis of a mind-body connection.

A new study provides insight into how overconfidence can lead to poor decision making.

Scientists have identified part of our brain that helps us learn to be good to other people. The discovery could help understanding of conditions like psychopathy where people’s behaviour is extremely antisocial.

Finally this week, researchers have developed a neurodevelopmental model of a rare genetic disorder that could help shed light on the workings of the human social brain.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Consciousness seems to work as continuous stream: one image or sound or smell or touch smoothly follows the other, providing us with a continuous image of the world around us. Image adapted from the EPFL press release.

 

Scientists propose a new way of understanding of how the brain processes unconscious information into our consciousness. According to the model, consciousness arises only in time intervals of up to 400 milliseconds, with gaps of unconsciousness in between.

A new study finds bursts of neural activity as the brain holds information in mind, overturns a long-held model.

Why do we sometimes decide to take risks and other times choose to play it safe? In a new study, researchers explored the neural mechanisms of one possible explanation: a contagion effect.

Using imagery is an effective way to improve memory and decrease certain types of false memories.

Scientists have developed an imaging process that for the first time, they say, can identify and track the progression of Alzheimer’s disease in people’s brains, even when there are no symptoms — a development that could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment.

People prone to seeking stimulation and acting impulsively may have differences in the structure of their brains according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. What’s more, those differences may predispose them to substance abuse.

In a recent study, researchers found evidence of a compromised dopamine system in heavy users of marijuana. Lower dopamine release was found in the striatum – a region of the brain that is involved in working memory, impulsive behavior, and attention. Previous studies have shown that addiction to other drugs of abuse, such as cocaine and heroin, have similar effects on dopamine release, but such evidence for cannabis was missing until now.

Finally this week an innovative collaboration between neuroscientists and developmental psychologists that investigated how infants’ brains process other people’s action provides the first evidence that directly links neural responses from the motor system to overt social behaviour in infants.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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John Gaspar, an SFU psychology doctoral student, places 128 electrodes into a cap. The electrodes will pick up tiny changes in the wearer’s brain activity. Image is adapted from the SFU press release.

A new study has found that differences in an individual’s working memory capacity correlate with the brain’s ability to actively ignore distraction.

A research team has connected neurons using ultrashort laser pulses. With their study, which was published in Scientific Reports, the team became the first ever to find a way to bond neurons.

Physicians and biomedical engineers from Johns Hopkins report what they believe is the first successful effort to wiggle fingers individually and independently of each other using a mind-controlled artificial “arm” to control the movement.

Researchers have identified a gene which can be used to predict how susceptible a young person is to the mind-altering effects of smoking cannabis.

Young adults with hostile attitudes or those who don’t cope well with stress may be at increased risk for experiencing memory and thinking problems decades later, according to a study published in the March 2, 2016, online issue of Neurology.

Researchers have found how lactate, a waste product of glucose metabolism can protect neurons from damage following acute trauma such as stroke or spinal cord injury.

Neuroscientists have discovered a specific enzyme that plays a critical role in spinal muscular atrophy, and that suppressing this enzyme’s activity, could markedly reduce the disease’s severity and improve patients’ lifestyles.

Birds that migrate the greatest distances have more new neurons in the regions of the brain responsible for navigation and spatial orientation, suggests a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

Scientists have now described the engineering of a bright red fluorescent protein-based voltage indicator, providing pathways to understanding complex neurological disorders.

Children with autism and other similar conditions often have difficulties in several areas of communication. A new doctoral thesis in linguistics from the University of Gothenburg shows that these children can develop speech, gestures and a sense of rhythm and melody by listening to various speech sounds.

Finally this week,  new research suggests that small numbers are processed in the right side of the brain, while large numbers are processed in the left side of the brain.

Could this tactic help you give up smoking and other addictions?

Over the past three decades I have visited high schools and colleges to talk on how addictive drugs affect the brain and to explain the many theories about why certain people become addicted. There are as many reasons why someone becomes addicted as there are addicts. This situation is not helped by the fact that we cannot yet predict who will become addicted, or how to cure it.

Psychiatrist Judson Brewer studies the relationship between mindfulness and addiction — from smoking to overeating to all those other things we do even though we know they’re bad for us. In this short video, you will learn more about the mechanism of habit development and discover a simple but profound tactic that might help you beat your next urge to smoke, snack or check a text while driving.