Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Two participants in the BrainGate clinical trial directly control a tablet computer through a brain-computer interface to chat with each other online. The research, published in PLOS ONE, is a step toward restoring the ability of people with paralysis to use everyday technologies.

New research from the BrainGate consortium shows that a brain-computer interface (BCI) can enable people with paralysis to directly operate an off-the-shelf tablet device just by thinking about making cursor movements and clicks.

A new study reports those exposed to the highest levels of noise pollution caused by traffic are at an increased risk of obesity.

Researchers have pinpointed a part of the human brain responsible for “on-the-fly” decision-making. According to the findings published in JNeurosci, the anterior cingulate cortex integrates disparate information about the desirability and amount of an option to inform choice.

MRI brain scans perform better than common clinical tests at predicting which people will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

A team of researchers has found that the brain works for a while after the heart has stopped. The research is reported in a journal paper titled, ‘AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study.’ The scientists looked at patients with cardiac arrests in Europe and the US. They noted that those of the patients who were successfully resuscitated after their heart had stopped beating could recall the conversations around them between the healthcare personnel and were aware of their surroundings.

Researchers have identified a mechanism by which immune system problems can cause commensal dysbiosis, which promotes age-related pathologies.

According to a new study, exploring objects through touch can generate detailed, lasting memories of the object, even when people don’t intend to memorize the details of the object.

A single season of high school football may be enough to cause microscopic changes in the structure of the brain, according to researchers.

Finally this week, researchers using functional MRI (fMRI) have found differences in the brains of men and women who are addicted to online gaming, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Practicing paying attention can boost performance on a new task, and change the way the brain processes information, a new study says. This might explain why learning a new skill can start out feeling grueling, but eventually feels more natural — although right now, the study’s findings are limited to a simple pattern-recognition game.

A new study reports traumatic brain injury is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia in people of working age.

According to researchers, the ability to assess memory quality appears in children, and metamemory continues to improve beyond childhood into adolescence. The findings could provide new insights into effective learning methods and assist teachers to devise new educational strategies.

Researchers report harmful plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease may build up in the brain as a result of high blood pressure and decreased cerebral blood flow.

A new paper may help answer some questions as to why some infants die suddenly. Looking at blood samples from infants who had died of SIDS, researchers discover 31% of the children had elevated levels of serotonin. The researchers concluded that abnormal serotonin metabolism could indicate an underlying vulnerability that increases SIDS risk.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

Poor sleep may be a sign that people who are otherwise healthy may be more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life than people who do not have sleep problems, according to a study published in Neurology. Researchers have found a link between sleep disturbances and biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease found in the spinal fluid.

A new study reports that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

Finally, this week, higher intelligence (IQ) in childhood is associated with a lower lifetime risk of major causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, smoking-related cancers, respiratory disease and dementia, finds a study published by The BMJ.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Heading a football can significantly affect a player’s brain function and memory for 24 hours, a study has found.

Researchers have successfully transplanted embryonic neurons into damaged neural networks, a new study reports.

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief.

Results from a new clinical study conducted suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health.

A new imaging technique that creates 3-D video of serotonin transport could aid antidepressant development.

Researchers have identified the cause of chronic, and currently untreatable, pain in those with amputations and severe nerve damage, as well as a potential treatment which relies on engineering instead of drugs.

A new study could explain why the ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating depression has been ineffective.

Using optogenetics to activate dopamine receptors in the ventral tegmental area could help people regain consciousness following general anesthesia, researchers report.

We all know that as we age, our skin loses its firmness and elasticity. However, researchers have now discovered our brains may also lose its elasticity as we age.

Researchers have identified a common culprit that may cause damage in stoke, brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

Finally this week, A new study provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and reveals how this happens in our brains.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Sending text messages on a smartphone can change the rhythm of brain waves, according to a new study published in Epilepsy & Behavior.

An international research team has found that our perception is highly sensitised for absorbing social information. The brain is thus trained to pay a great degree of attention to everyday actions. The results are reported in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

A new study unravels the mechanisms driving excess brain growth that affects as many as 30 percent of people with autism.

Researchers have developed a new technology that could lead to new therapeutics for traumatic brain injuries. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, provides a means of homing drugs or nanoparticles to injured areas of the brain.

Researchers have coupled machine learning with neuroimaging to detect early forms of dementia.

Neuroscientists have come up with a way to observe brain activity during natural reading. It’s the first time researchers have been able to study the brain while reading actual texts, instead of individual words. The research has potential implications for understanding dyslexia and other reading deficits.

A new study links hippocampal inflammation in multiple sclerosis with an increased risk of developing depression.

In a partnership melding neuroscience and electrical engineering, researchers have developed a new technology that will allow neuroscientists to capture images of the brain almost 10 times larger than previously possible – helping them better understand the behavior of neurons in the brain.

Researchers report acquiring new memories can interfere with old ones, making them more likely to be forgotten.

A European study has shown that the dopamine D2 receptor is linked to the long-term episodic memory, which function often reduces with age and due to dementia. This new insight can contribute to the understanding of why some but not others are affected by memory impairment. The results have been published in the journal PNAS.

Finally this week, a new study shows how new linguistic information is integrated into the same brain areas used for your native language.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality. Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

People with mentally taxing jobs, including lawyers and graphic designers, may end up having better memory in old age, research suggests.

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have identified a key neuronal pathway that makes learning to avoid unpleasant situations possible. Published online in the November 20 issue of Neuron, the work shows that avoidance learning requires neural activity in the habenula representing changes in future expectations.

Combining behavioral and physiologic measures depicts gradual process, may help diagnose sleep disorders. 

Neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

New brain imaging technology is helping researchers to bridge the gap between art and science by mapping the different ways in which the brain responds to poetry and prose.

As methods of imaging the brain improve, neuroscientists and educators can now identify changes in children’s brains as they learn, and start to develop ways of personalizing instruction for kids who are falling behind.

Scientists have identified a weak spot in the human brain for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, revealing a connection between the two diseases.

A team of scientists has found a simple method to convert human skin cells into the specialized neurons that detect pain, itch, touch and other bodily sensations. These neurons are also affected by spinal cord injury and involved in Friedreich’s ataxia, a devastating and currently incurable neurodegenerative disease that largely strikes children.

Berkeley lab reports proper copper levels are essential to spontaneous neural activity.

Researchers are using an enhanced MRI approach to visualize brain injury in the blood brain barrier in order to identify significant changes to the blood-brain barrier in professional football players following a concussion.

A new study reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant information.

Finally this week, in the largest study of the genetics of memory ever undertaken, an international researcher team have discovered two common genetic variants that are believed to be associated with memory performance. The findings, which appear in the journal Biological Psychiatry, are a significant step towards better understanding how memory loss is inherited.

 

Death Of Cricketer Phillip Hughes: Why Are Some Brain Injuries Worse Than Others?

Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.

Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.

Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes has died two days after being struck in the head by a bouncer while batting for South Australia at the The Sydney Cricket Ground. Hughes, 25, had been in an induced coma since the accident on Tuesday afternoon.

Two of the most tragic events within Australian cricket in just over the past decade have involved catastrophic head injuries: firstly to David Hookes in a hotel altercation, secondly to Phillip Hughes while batting. According to research published in The Lancet, approximately a fifth of adults with a severe traumatic brain injury make a good recovery. But many more die or are left with enduring disability.  

So why are some brain injuries worse than others?

The effects of brain injury fall into three main categories:

  • Cognitive – problems with memory, concentration, information processing
  • Emotional and behavioural problems – anxiety, explosive anger and irritability, lack of awareness or empathy
  • Physical – problems with movement, balance and co-ordination, fatigue, epilepsy

Sometimes a head injury which seems severe is followed by a good recovery while a seemingly small head injury can have very serious, long-lasting consequences.  Why is this?

Location, location, location.

The reason is that brain injury operates a bit like the property market in that the three most important things to consider are location, location and location. When nerve pathways are damaged, those brain areas served by those pathways may wither or have their functions taken over by other brain regions. Nerve pathways are also called ‘white’ pathways or ‘white matter’ because they are covered by an insulating sheath of myelin and appear white to the naked eye.

The challenge is to determine the location of key ‘scaffold’ pathways and to understand what makes them so vulnerable and important. This is not an easy task given the total length of nerve pathways in the average 20-year old human brain is 160,000 km. A recent study provides new findings on the brain’s network scaffold that will help inform clinicians about the neurological impacts of brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

For the study, researchers recruited twenty skilled pianists from Lyon, France. The group was asked to learn simple melodies by either hearing them several times or performing them several times on a piano. Pianists then heard all of the melodies they had learned, some of which contained wrong notes, while their brain electric signals were measured using electroencephalography (EEG). Credit: Caroline Palmer/Brian Mathias

For the study, researchers recruited twenty skilled pianists from Lyon, France. The group was asked to learn simple melodies by either hearing them several times or performing them several times on a piano. Pianists then heard all of the melodies they had learned, some of which contained wrong notes, while their brain electric signals were measured using electroencephalography (EEG). Credit: Caroline Palmer/Brian Mathias

Research from McGill University reveals that the brain’s motor network helps people remember and recognize music that they have performed in the past better than music they have only heard. 

Veterans who have been exposed to nearby explosions, but who lack clear symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) may still have damage to the brain’s white matter similar to veterans with TBI, according to new research at Duke Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

University of Adelaide researchers say new insights into how the human brain responds to chronic pain could eventually lead to improved treatments for patients. And also at the University of Adelaide, studies show that a gene linked to intellectual disability is critical to the earliest stages of the development of human brains. Known as USP9X, the gene has been investigated by Adelaide researchers for more than a decade, but in recent years scientists have begun to understand its particular importance to brain development.

In order to function properly, the human brain requires the ability not only to store but also to forget. Through memory loss, unnecessary information is deleted and the nervous system retains its plasticity. A disruption of this process can lead to serious mental disorders. Scientists have now discovered a molecular mechanism that actively regulates the process of forgetting. The journal Cell has published their results.

Brain imaging using radioactive dye can detect early evidence of Alzheimer’s disease that may predict future cognitive decline.

Scientists have identified a new group of compounds that may protect brain cells from inflammation linked to seizures and neurodegenerative diseases.

Your brain’s ability to instantly link what you see with what you do is down to a dedicated information ‘highway’, suggests new research.

There has been a great deal of research on changes among different brain states during sleep, but  new findings, reported in the March 13 issue of Cell, provide a compelling example of a change in state in the awake brain.

Finally, this week, using a new method to determine whether individuals met the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder, researchers from UCLA tried a new approach by combining results from brain imaging, cognitive tests, and an array of temperament and behavioral measures. In an attempt to better understand the genes that cause the disorder, a collaborative research team identified about 50 brain and behavioral measures that are both under strong genetic control and associated with bipolar disorder, creating the potential to pinpoint the specific genes that contribute to the illness.

Can the damaged brain repair itself?

After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). In this video, regenerative neurologist  Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster.

 

Why Are Some Brain Injuries Worse Than Others?

Image A: 3-D models of how the white matter in the brain connects, paired with a "connectogram" visualizing linkages between different areas of the brain / USC

3-D models of how the white matter in the brain connects, paired with a “connectogram” visualizing linkages between different areas of the brain / USC

According to research published in The Lancet, approximately a fifth of adults with a severe traumatic brain injury make a good recovery. But many more die or are left with enduring disability. Although doctors caring for Michael Schumacher, the Formula One World Champion who sustained a severe head injury while skiing, haven’t commented on how he is responding to their latest tests and treatment, Dr Peter Kirkpatrick, a leading British neurosurgeon based at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, says that it is “extremely unlikely” that Schumacher will return to his previous level of health, although he insists it is “medically possible”.

The effects of brain injury fall into three main categories:

  • Cognitive – problems with memory, concentration, information processing
  • Emotional and behavioural problems – anxiety, explosive anger and irritability, lack of awareness or empathy
  • Physical – problems with movement, balance and co-ordination, fatigue, epilepsy

Sometimes a head injury which seems severe is followed by a good recovery while a seemingly small head injury can have very serious, long-lasting consequences.  Why is this?

Location, location, location.

The reason is that brain injury operates a bit like the property market in that the three most important things to consider are location, location and location. When nerve pathways are damaged, those brain areas served by those pathways may wither or have their functions taken over by other brain regions. Nerve pathways are also called ‘white’ pathways or ‘white matter’ because they are covered by an insulating sheath of myelin and appear white to the naked eye.

The challenge is to determine the location of key ‘scaffold’ pathways and to understand what makes them so vulnerable and important. This is not an easy task given the total length of nerve pathways in the average 20-year old human brain is 160,000 km. A recent study provides new findings on the brain’s network scaffold that will help inform clinicians about the neurological impacts of brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Yusnier Viera

A new study of the brain of a maths supremo supports Darwin’s belief that intellectual excellence is largely due to “zeal and hard work” rather than inherent ability. University of Sussex neuroscientists took fMRI scans of champion ‘mental calculator’ Yusnier Viera during arithmetical tasks that were either familiar or unfamiliar to him and found that his brain did not behave in an extraordinary or unusual ways.

A fear memory was reduced in people by exposing them to the memory over and over again while they slept. It’s the first time that emotional memory has been manipulated in humans during sleep, report Northwestern Medicine scientists.

Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers have identified and validated two rare gene mutations that appear to cause the common form of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) that strikes after the age of 60.

Moderate reductions in body temperature can improve outcomes after a person suffers a traumatic brain injury (TBI).

When individuals with psychopathy imagine others in pain, brain areas necessary for feeling empathy and concern for others fail to become active and be connected to other important regions involved in affective processing and decision-making, reports a study published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Research from Virginia Tech suggests that with advances in neurofeedback techniques, the signal-to-noise ratio of the brain activity underlying our thoughts can be “remastered.”

In a landmark discovery, the final piece in the puzzle of understanding how the brain circuitry vital to normal fertility in humans and other mammals operates has been put together by researchers at New Zealand’s University of Otago.

Brain regions associated with memory shrink as adults age, and this size decrease is more pronounced in those who go on to develop neurodegenerative disease, reports a new study published Sept. 18 in the Journal of Neuroscience . The volume reduction is linked with an overall decline in cognitive ability and with increased genetic risk for Alzheimer’s disease, the authors say.

Scientists say that people who have a certain abnormality in their brain structure are more likely to develop chronic pain following a lower back injury, according to a study published in the journal Pain.

The development of fine motor control – the ability to use your fingertips to manipulate objects – takes longer than previously believed, and isn’t entirely the result of brain development, according to a pair of complementary studies.