Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Simultaneous activity of three cognitive systems found in the study NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Vadim Axelrod, Bar-Ilan University.

Internal experiences, such as recalling personal memories, are associated with the simultaneous activity of at least three different cognitive systems, a new study reports.

Neuroscientists have shown how the human brain can predict what our eyes will see next, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

A new study sheds light on ADHD, reporting teens with the disorder fit into one of three specific subgroups with distinct brain impairments and no common abnormalities between them.

Musical training may enhance the ability to process speech in noisy settings, a new study reveals.

Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

The fear of losing control over thoughts and actions can impact OCD behaviors and other anxiety disorders, researchers report.

Recent functional studies suggest that noise sensitivity, a trait describing attitudes towards noise and predicting noise annoyance, is associated with altered processing in the central auditory system.

Finally this week, a new study reveals the frontal regions of the brain play a vital role in assessing and interpreting emotions communicated orally.

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.

 

 

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

Using a technique dubbed “brainbow,” the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists tagged synaptic terminals with proteins that fluoresce different colors. The researchers thought one color, representing the single source of the many terminals, would dominate in the clusters. Instead, several different colors appeared together, intertwined but distinct. Credit: Virginia Tech.

Using a technique dubbed “brainbow,” the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists tagged synaptic terminals with proteins that fluoresce different colors. The researchers thought one color, representing the single source of the many terminals, would dominate in the clusters. Instead, several different colors appeared together, intertwined but distinct. Image Credit: Virginia Tech.

Neuroscientists know that some connections in the brain are pruned through neural development. Function gives rise to structure, according to the textbooks. But scientists have discovered that the textbooks might be wrong. Their results were published this week in Cell Reports.

In 2011, MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe and colleagues reported that in blind adults, brain regions normally dedicated to vision processing instead participate in language tasks such as speech and comprehension. Now, in a study of blind children, Saxe’s lab has found that this transformation occurs very early in life, before the age of 4. The study, appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the brains of young children are highly plastic, meaning that regions usually specialized for one task can adapt to new and very different roles. The findings also help to define the extent to which this type of remodeling is possible.

New research suggests individuals with autistic traits may have more advanced creativity skills than those without such traits.

Physically fit people tend to have larger brain volumes and more intact white matter than their less-fit peers. Now a new study reveals that older adults who regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity have more variable brain activity at rest than those who don’t. This variability is associated with better cognitive performance, researchers say.

Young adults diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescence show differences in brain structure and perform poorly in memory tests compared to their peers, according to new research from the University of Cambridge, UK, and the University of Oulu, Finland.

People who will develop dementia may begin to lose awareness of their memory problems two to three years before the actual onset of the disease, according to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology. The study also found that several dementia-related brain changes, or pathologies, are associated with the decline in memory awareness.

People with Alzheimer’s disease have fat deposits in the brain. For the first time researchers have discovered accumulations of fat droplets in the brain of patients who died from the disease and have identified the nature of the fat.

Finally this week, a computer analyzing speech has correctly identified five individuals who would later experience a psychotic episode against 29 who would not among a group of high-risk patients in a proof-of-principle study. The findings raise the prospect of a clinical tool to aid the diagnosis and prognosis of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Current treatment methods used are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) – which is application of a low intensity direct (constant) current between two electrodes on the head, and transcranial alternating current simulation (tACS) – which sees a constant electrical current flow back and forth. Image credit: Monash University.

Current treatment methods used are transcranial direct current simulation (tDCS) – which is application of a low intensity direct (constant) current between two electrodes on the head, and transcranial alternating current simulation (tACS) – which sees a constant electrical current flow back and forth. Image credit: Monash University.

Researchers have discovered a new technique to enhance brain excitability that could improve physical performance in healthy individuals such as athletes and musicians.

The constant movement of children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) may be distracting — but the fidgeting also may improve their cognitive performance, a study has found.

It is known that sleep facilitates the formation of long-term memory in humans. In a new study, researchers show that sleep does not only help form long-term memory but also ensures access to it during times of cognitive stress.

An international team of neuroscientists has proved the uniqueness of screams for the first time. In a study, they discovered that screams possess very special acoustic properties: This makes them a specific type of vocal expression which is only used in stressful and dangerous situations.

A new study published in the journal Cerebral Cortex suggests people who speak two languages have more gray matter in the executive control region of the brain.

Structural brain abnormalities in patients with schizophrenia, providing insight into how the condition may develop and respond to treatment, have been identified in an internationally collaborative study

Memories that have been “lost” as a result of amnesia can be recalled by activating brain cells with light.

High blood levels of a growth factor known to enable new blood vessel development and brain cell protection correlate with a smaller size of brain areas key to complex thought, emotion and behavior in patients with schizophrenia, researchers report in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Scientists have discovered a link between autism and genetic changes in some segments of DNA that are responsible for switching on genes in the brain.

Finally this week, new research has found that types of empathy can be predicted by looking at physical differences in the brain. This raises the fascinating possibility that some kinds of empathy might be able to be increased by training or that it might be possible for people to lose their empathy over time.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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A new study published in the American journal with the highest impact factor in worldwide,Molecular Psychiatry, reveals that consumers of cannabis are more prone to experiencing false memories.

Excessive movement common among children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is actually vital to how they remember information and work out complex cognitive tasks, a new study shows. The findings show the longtime prevailing methods for helping children with ADHD may be misguided.

Brain scans of students from contrasting backgrounds have made visible the legacy of a challenging childhood. Important brain regions are more developed among children raised in a comfortable home environment.

New research published in the journal Nature Communications represents a potentially fundamental shift in our understanding of how nerve cells in the brain generate the energy needed to function. The study shows neurons are more independent than previously believed and this research has implications for a range of neurological disorders.

Every time you make a memory, somewhere in your brain a tiny filament reaches out from one neuron and forms an electrochemical connection to a neighbouring neuron. A team of biologists at Vanderbilt University is studying how these connections are formed at the molecular and cellular level.

Finally this week, among the advice new parents receive is to read to their babies early and often. The hope is that sharing books together will help children’s language development and eventually, turn them into successful readers. Now there is evidence that reading to young children is in fact associated with differences in brain activity supporting early reading skills.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

By using a novel technique to test brain waves, researchers are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. Credit Beckman Institute.

By using a novel technique to test brain waves, researchers are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. Credit Beckman Institute.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute are using a novel technique to test brain waves to see how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. A group of international scientists has for the first time identified genetic mutations that suggest that schizophrenia and autism share underlying mechanisms. The research could help with future understanding of both conditions and may contribute to the development of treatments. Two psychologists have made a discovery that could revolutionize doctors’ perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders. A newly identified disorder affecting the human nervous system is caused by a mutation in a gene never before implicated in human disease, according to two studies published in the journal Cell. By performing DNA sequencing of children affected by neurological problems, two research teams independently discovered that a disease marked by reduced brain size, as well as sensory and motor defects, is caused by a mutation in a gene called CLP1. Insights into this rare disorder may have important implications for the treatment of common disorders.

Scientists at the Salk Institute have created a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event. This new framework provides a more complete picture of how memory works, which can inform research into disorders liked Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic stress and learning disabilities.

Stanford scientists have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain – 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

Finally this week, laughter triggers brain waves similar to those associated with meditation, according to a small new studyThe study included 31 people whose brain waves were monitored while they watched humorous, spiritual or distressing video clips. While watching the humorous videos, the volunteers’ brains had high levels of gamma waves, which are the same ones produced during meditation, researchers found.

 

Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part VII

In this final part of my series on understanding Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),  we delve more into the underlying mechanisms of the disorder.

Hyperactive flies can help us understand ADHD and learning disability.

Many researchers are seeking a better understanding of ADHD and the medications used to treat it by studying ADHD’s underlying mechanisms and working towards a better knowledge of this disorder.  In this video Professor David Anderson explains how our current understanding of ADHD (and the learning disability which can accompany it) as merely chemical imbalances in dopamine and noradrenaline is not working and shows that by studying a strain of hyperactive fruit fly (Drosophila) we can study the different nerve pathways involved in ADHD and learning disability which will help in providing safer and more effective treatments.

Small cold-water fish

There is no cure for ADHD at this time. However a recent (2012) study in the Journal of the American Medical Association  reports that fish consumption during pregnancy protects against ADHD in the child. In addition, many ADHD sufferers also report a beneficial effect of daily fish oil. If you are considering including fish in your diet then the study recommends small cold-water fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon rather than larger fish such as tuna which live much longer and thereby may accumulate the toxic metal mercury.

Further reading for those interested in the scientific experiments:

  1. Lebestky et al. (2009). Neuron, 64 (4), 522-36 PMID: 19945394
  2. Wang L, & Anderson DJ (2010). Nature, 463 (7278), 227-31 PMID: 19966787

Other Sources:

http://www.brainfacts.org/Diseases-Disorders/Childhood-Disorders/Articles/2012/Confronting-Attention-Deficit-Hyperactivity-Disorder

Related Reading

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 4: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 5: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 6: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

 

 

Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part VI: How is ADHD treated?

This is the sixth in a series on understanding Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Treatment

ADHD is commonly treated with parent education, school-based interventions, and medications such as stimulants (e.g., methylphenidate) and newer, nonstimulant drugs such as atomoxetine. Adults benefit from the same medications as children and may find some behavioural therapies helpful. On the behavioral side, children can be taught strategies for staying focused on a task such as following a detailed schedule, or for organizing materials. Adult ADHD can be a family problem as well as an individual problem. Because the symptoms of the disorder often wreak havoc on every member of the family, not just the individual with adult ADHD, it’s important for the entire group to undergo family therapy, even if the ADHD parent is already getting individual counselling. It is best to begin family therapy as soon as it becomes clear that the symptoms of adult ADHD are interfering with normal family functioning and thus avoid crises and emergencies that may take months or years to resolve. Family therapy may include teaching family members new skills and coping strategies, and therapy in which family members support and encourage each other and learn to communicate more effectively.

Drug treatment of ADHD

Many children with ADHD may also need medication. The use of stimulants to treat ADHD was first described in 1937.Since the late 1960s, stimulants such as Ritalin® or Adderall® have been prescribed to treat children with ADHD.

2011-12 shortage in U.S. market

In 2011 and 2012, there was a shortage of Ritalin® and Adderall® in U.S. pharmacies. Some say the shortage was caused by the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) annual limits on the manufacture of controlled substances. The DEA argues that drug manufacturers had caused the shortage by applying their quotas toward more lucrative kinds of amphetamine-based medications. The shortage was resolved by November 2012. Currently, between 4 and 6 million children in the United States take one of these medications, which reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, help improve the ability to focus, and even improve physical coordination. In fact, medications are so effective in helping people with ADHD that a recent shortage wreaked havoc for many families

Drug action

Nonetheless, there is concern about giving children a drug that is potentially addictive. Methylphenidate, the active ingredients in Ritalin®, acts like a weak form of cocaine to increase dopamine and noradrenaline levels but tend to do it all over the brain sometimes resulting in unwanted side-effects such as nervousness, drowsiness, insomnia, suspicion and paranoia. Concerta®is a slow release of methylphenidate while Daytranta® delivers the drug via a skin patch, similar to those used for nicotine replacement therapy.Adderall® is a mixture of amphetamine salts which also increase dopamine and noradrenaline levels but has a higher potential for abuse than Ritalin®.

Controversy

In addition, there is a worry that ADHD may be over-diagnosed, leading to the diagnosis and treatment of high-energy children who have difficulty in the classroom, but are medically normal. For this reason the effectiveness of treatments should be re-evaluated in each person on a regular basis to determine if the current treatment continues to be optimal. There are some reports that daily intake of fish oil can be helpful.

Related Reading

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 4: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 5: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

 

 

Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part V: Diagnosing ADHD

This is the fifth installment in a series on understanding Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).  

Diagnosing ADHD – it’s harder than you think.

Currently there is no diagnostic test for ADHD. Diagnosis requires a clinical interview, parent and teacher ratings for children, and self and other ratings for adults. In addition, it is estimated that two-thirds of children diagnosed with ADHD have additional learning disorders or other mental health or neurodevelopmental conditions.   This makes it all the more important that the diagnosis is made in a multi-disciplinary environment, where the child or adult is assessed by a medical doctor, counsellor, clinical psychologist and if necessary by a psychiatrist. This is important because problems with attention can be triggered by many other conditions; in particular, adults may have attention issues along with other disorders such as depression.

….and there’s more…

Other factors have been found to affect diagnosis of ADHD. For example, the youngest children in a class are much more likely to be diagnosed as having ADHD compared to their older counterparts in the same year. This is because these children may behave more hyperactively, not because they have ADHD, but because they are younger and developmentally behind their classmates. In fact, it is estimated that about 20% of children given a diagnosis of ADHD are misdiagnosed because of the month they were born with children born in December (the youngest in class) 39% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD than those born in January (the oldest in class).

Journal reference: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22392937

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 4: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability