Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are developing SimSensei, a Kinect-driven avatar system capable of tracking and analyzing telltale signs of psychological distress. The avatar psychologist uses facial recognition technology and a depth-sensing camera to read a person’s facial movements, body movements, posture, linguistic patterns and acoustics to screen for depression.

A new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique may provide neurosurgeons with a non-invasive tool to help in mapping critical areas of the brain before surgery, reports a study in the April issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

For the first time, scientists have been able to predict how much pain people are feeling by looking at images of their brains, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.The findings, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, may lead to the development of reliable methods doctors can use to objectively quantify a patient’s pain

New research has shown that the way our minds react to and process emotions such as fear can vary according to what is happening in other parts of our bodies.

UCLA researchers have used a brain-imaging tool and stroke risk assessment to identify signs of cognitive decline early on in individuals who don’t yet show symptoms of dementia.

People with mental illnesses are more than seven times more likely to use cannabis weekly compared to people without a mental illness, according to researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) who studied U.S. data.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

medium_46044113Advice to “sleep on it” before making a big decision may be wise, according to new brain-imaging research.

Scientists from the University of Southampton have identified the molecular system that contributes to the harmful inflammatory reaction in the brain during neurodegenerative diseases.An important aspect of chronic neurodegenerative diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Huntington’s or prion disease, is the generation of an innate within the brain. Results from the study open new avenues for the regulation of the inflammatory reaction and provide new insights into the understanding of the biology of , which play a leading role in the development and maintenance of this reaction.

A study conducted at the University of Granada and the University of York in Toronto, Canada, has revealed that bilingual children develop a better working memory –which holds, processes and updates information over short periods of time– than monolingual children.

Good mental health and clear thinking depend upon our ability to store and manipulate thoughts on a sort of “mental sketch pad.” In a new study, Yale School of Medicine researchers describe the molecular basis of this ability — the hallmark of human cognition — and describe how a breakdown of the system contributes to diseases such as schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Your eyes aren’t just advanced visual systems capturing images of what’s around you. New research published in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that when our eyes perceive visual stimuli, it gets encoded in our brains in ways that change our emotional reactions.

In a pair of new papers, researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences upend a long-held view about the basic functioning of a key receptor molecule involved in signaling between neurons, and describe how a compound linked to Alzheimer’s disease impacts that receptor and weakens synaptic connections between brain cells.

Fear responses can only be erased when people learn something new while retrieving the fear memory. This is the conclusion of a study conducted by scientists from the University of Amsterdam (UvA) and published in the leading journal Science.

Injuries that result in chronic pain, such as limb injuries, and those unrelated to the brain are associated with epigenetic changes in the brain which persist months after the injury, according to researchers at McGill University.

Montreal researchers find that music lessons before age seven create stronger connections in the brain.

A team of political scientists and neuroscientists has shown that liberals and conservatives use different parts of the brain when they make risky decisions, and these regions can be used to predict which political party a person prefers.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

Scientists at University College Cork (UCC) have come up with an innovative strategy to deliver a therapy into the brain to treat the neurogenerative disease, Huntington’s disease (HD). The strategy, which involves using modified sugars to carry gene therapies into the brain, is being hailed as an exciting development which could be applied to many brain disorders, especially those with a genetic basis.

Researchers have used brain imaging technology to show that young people with a known genetic risk of bipolar but no clinical signs of the condition have clear and quantifiable differences in brain activity when compared to controls.

Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rhythm and blood pressure. It is hoped that the discovery, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, will be significant in the long term in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in humans.

Scientists say they have found a way to distinguish between different types of dementia without the need for invasive tests, like a lumbar puncture.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have discovered that perhaps IQ is not the best measure of cognitive performance. Instead, they found that verbal language, short-term memory, and logical reasoning were the most important predictors of cognitive performance.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

medium_6835040374Two recent pieces of work raise the prospect of being able to predict and even regulate a person’s risk-taking behavior, by first observing activity of the anterior cingulate cortex and then dialing it up or down.

A new study shows that for millions of individuals around the world who suffer from Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD), anger is more than an emotion; it’s an agent that exacerbates their illness.

Brain changes persist for months in children who have sustained a mild traumatic brain injury, or concussion, U.S. researchers say.

Chinese researchers have devised a new technique for reprogramming cells from human urine into immature brain cells that can form multiple types of functioning neurons and glial cells. The technique, published in the journal Nature Methods, could prove useful for studying the cellular mechanisms of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and for testing the effects of new drugs that are being developed to treat them.

Researchers have discovered how the brain assesses confidence in its decisions. The findings explain why some people have better insight into their choices than others.

Scientists have combined and translated two kinds of brain wave recordings into music, transforming one recording (EEG) to create the pitch and duration of a note, and the other (fMRI) to control the intensity of the music.

A compassion-based meditation program can significantly improve a person’s ability to read the facial expressions of others, finds a study published by Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience. This boost in empathic accuracy was detected through both behavioral testing of the study participants and through functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of their brain activity.

Your brain has at least four different senses of location — and perhaps as many as 10. And each is different, according to new research from the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience, at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

Mind wandering may increase creative thinking, according to a new international study.

Simple mental activity such as reading, writing, playing games and doing puzzles may protect brain health in old age, according to a new study.

Reduced production of myelin, a type of protective nerve fiber that is lost in diseases like multiple sclerosis, may also play a role in the development of mental illness, according to researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

A small molecule known to regulate white blood cells has a surprising second role in protecting brain cells from the deleterious effects of stroke, Johns Hopkins researchers report.

Scientists have revealed the minutely detailed pain map of the hand that is contained within our brains, shedding light on how the brain makes us feel discomfort and potentially increasing our understanding of the processes involved in chronic pain.

People with Parkinson’s disease benefit from exercise programs on stationary bicycles, with the greatest effect for those who pedal faster, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

A new method to study widespread networks of neurons responsible for our memory has been discovered by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics.

The first study to estimate rates of traumatic brain injury (TBI), without relying on official figures, suggests the worldwide incidence of TBI could be six times higher than previously estimated.

MRI shows changes in the brains of people with post-concussion syndrome (PCS), according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology. Researchers hope the results point the way to improved detection and treatment for the disorder.

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How the brain works

This video attempts to explain the working of the brain through mapping out the electrical activity of the brain – Electro-encephalogram (EEG)

Inside the unconscious brain

Inside the unconscious brain
The colored dots in this image represent locations of the electrodes used to measure brain activity. As the brain wave oscillations become more asynchronous relative to the position of the star, the colors fade from red to blue.
Image: Laura Lewis

A new study from MIT and Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) reveals, for the first time, what happens inside the brain as patients lose consciousness during anesthesia.

By monitoring brain activity as patients were given a common anesthetic, the researchers were able to identify a distinctive brain activity pattern that marked the loss of consciousness. This pattern, characterized by very slow oscillation, corresponds to a breakdown of communication between different brain regions, each of which experiences short bursts of activity interrupted by longer silences.

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This is your brain on Jane Austen

Researchers observe the brain patterns of literary PhD candidates while they’re reading a Jane Austen novel. The fMRI images suggest that literary reading provides “a truly valuable exercise of people’s brains.”

Pictured above – test subject Matt Langione, a doctoral candidate at UC-Berkeley, reading Jane Austen’s ‘Mansfield Park’ in the mock scanning room. The researchers found that blood flow in the brain increases during such leisurely reading, but in different areas of the brain than when the subjects read the novel more closely.

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