Weekly Neuroscience Update

forest-868715_960_720.jpgA neuroimaging study reveals city dwellers who live closer to forests were more likely to have healthier amygdala structure and were better able to deal with stressful situations.

New research has found that a specific combination of techniques will increase people’s chances of having lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming while it’s still happening and can control the experience.

A new study reports women who are exposed to trauma and suffer post-traumatic stress are at an increased risk of developing Lupus.

When mental and physical tasks are put in direct competition, cognition tends to win out. Researchers suggest more energy is directed to the brain than the body, supporting the ‘selfish brain’ theory of evolution.

Researchers have revealed the neural signatures for explicit and implicit learning.

A delayed neurological response to processing the written word could be an indicator that a patient with mild memory problems is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

A new study reveals MRI brain scans can help identify neurological changes associated with multiple sclerosis before symptoms appear in children.

Researchers have shown for the first time a comprehensive picture of cell diversity in the amygdala, a vital brain region involved in the regulation of emotions and social behavior, as well as in autism spectrum disorders, depression and other mental disorders. As part of the study, the team also reported on a new method for systematically linking the distinct types of brain cells to specific behavioral functions.

Using three different training models, researchers report mental training, mindfulness and meditation can induce structural brain plasticity and reduce social stress.

Most cases of autism appear to be associated with the appearance of new mutations that are not inherited from the child’s parents, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine report.

A new brain-imaging study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests scientists may be able to predict how likely children are to develop depression. 

Researchers have developed a new assessment model that breaks emotional regulation into three different elements. The MAS assessment will provide clinicians a new way in which to diagnose mood and mental health disorders.

A new study reports transcranial magnetic stimulation of the prefrontal cortex improves a person’s ability to evaluate their performance during a working memory task.

Researchers at Salk Institute report astrocytes initiate communication between pairs of neurons during early development, inducing specific neural changes. Findings may have implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD.

Researchers have discovered a cellular mechanism that may contribute to the breakdown of communication between neurons in Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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A bidirectional brain-computer interface (BBCI) can both record signals from the brain and send information back to the brain through stimulation. Credit: Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE).

 

Researchers are investigating advances in brain-computer interface technologies and considering the implications of linking our brains up to technology.

A new study published in the online journal Radiology suggested that disconnections in the areas of the brain, which are involved in attention and visual processing might lead to visual hallucinations in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers present a new theory about dreaming, suggesting dreams may be an accidental byproduct of our waking cognitive abilities.

Scientists have long deemed the ability to recognize faces innate for people and other primates — something our brains just know how to do immediately from birth. However, the findings of a new Harvard Medical School study published Sept. 4 in the journal Nature Neuroscience cast doubt on this longstanding view.

Genetic processes that allow cells to transform so they can mend damaged nerves have been identified by scientists.

For the first time, researchers have been able to see changes in the neural structures in specific areas of the brains of people who suffered severe abuse as children.

A new study reveals molecular details of what happens when axons are damaged or completely severed.

A researcher has discovered the molecule that stores long-term memories — it’s called calcium/calmodulin dependent protein kinase (CaMKII).

Finally, this week, how well we are able to complete simple and complex tasks depends upon the organization of subnetworks in the brain, a new study reports.

 

 

How To Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

World-Mental-Health-Day-10th-October-2016Depression 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 often accompanied by some or all of the following physical symptoms, fatigue and reduced activity, disturbed sleep or excessive sleep, changes in appetite and weight, loss of sex drive, unexplained aches and pains e.g. headache, backache and changes to the menstrual cycle.

Depression affects different people in different ways – not everyone has the same symptoms. Other symptoms include poor concentration or reduced attention, difficulty in making decisions, tearfulness, restlessness, agitation or anxiety, low self-confidence and self-esteem, feelings of guilt, inability to cope with life as before, avoiding other people, bleak view of the future, morbid thoughts, ideas of self-harm.

Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Starting in the 1960’s neuroscientists regarded depression as a kind of ‘anaemia’ in the brain – a lack of three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline in key emotional regions in the brain. Antidepressant drugs were then developed to bring the levels of these neurotransmitters particularly serotonin back to normal. Prozac is a good example of this type of drug and it has proved to be a safe and effective life saver for many the depressed patient.

However, recently neuroscientists have had a radical change of mind with respect to the nature of depression. This change of view is partially due to evidence from brain imaging studies in depressed patients showing dramatic changes in nerve activity in the frontal lobe of the brain.

The importance of the frontal lobe in depression

Nervous activity in the frontal lobes forms our attitudes, plans and strategies and is at least in part under our own control.    This view advocates that depression is in fact a disorder of thinking – a sort of obsessional pessimism from which the depressed patient can see no way out and this is what causes the low neurotransmitter levels.

Wisconsin Study

The WISCONSIN STUDY adds another twist by showing that the brains of depressed individuals actually exhibit the same initial levels of activity in positive/pleasure-generating brain regions. Instead they found differences in the ability to sustain those positive emotions.

Findings from my own research group and others show that three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline play a key role in sustaining attention and motivation the brain. Thus low neurotransmitter levels may impair the ability to ‘embed’ these new thoughts and emotions leaving the depressed patient feeling like they are back at square one. This study lends support to notion that depression is best treated by psychological/behavioral treatments or in combination of drugs, not drugs alone.

Thus while antidepressants can help treat the chemical anaemia – good mental heath in particular careful monitoring of your everyday thoughts and attitudes will ensure that negative thoughts are nipped in the bud is also vital in the treatment and even the prevention of depression.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

dog-2751115_960_720.jpgThe tendency of dogs to seek contact with their owners is associated with genetic variations in sensitivity for the hormone oxytocin, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden.

A new study reveals schizophrenia is up to 79% hereditary.

Metacognition of a tactile working memory task has been demonstrated by researchers for the first time. Understanding this brain function might help in the development of new treatments for neuropsychiatric illnesses in the future.

Researchers have shed light on how motor signals help sharpen our ability to decipher complex sound flows.

Increased communication between distant brain regions helps older adults compensate for the negative aspects of ageing, reports a new study published this week in Human Brain Mapping.

Scientists report brain network organization changes can influence executive function in young adults.

A news study has found that brain functions in young men and women are changed by long-term alcohol use, but that these changes are significantly different in men and women.

Mindfulness and meditation can affect brain plasticity, resulting in the ability for adults to acquire new social skills, researchers report.

A new study has found that chronic tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

Finnish researchers have revealed how eating stimulates brain’s endogenous opioid system to signal pleasure and satiety.

Finally this week, sleep deprivation — typically administered in controlled, inpatient settings — rapidly reduces symptoms of depression in roughly half of depression patients, according to the first meta-analysis on the subject in nearly 30 years.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers report people with poor sleep quality were less likely to experience symptoms of depression if they had higher activity in the ventral striatum.

A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has uncovered a simple, measurable explanation that can determine your preference for one song over another.

Almost a quarter of girls and one-tenth of boys show signs of depression at age 14, say researchers from the University College London.

Excessive neurogenesis following brain injury may lead to neurological problems and cognitive decline researchers report. The findings challenge common assumptions that excessive brain cell growth following injury is advantageous.

Whether we are consciously aware of seeing a familiar face and object or not, our brains actively notice

A new study has investigated which neurons react to different vocal pitches, discerning between different voices and reacting to emphasis. The findings help us to understand how the brain gains meaning from the sound of speech.

A new report examines the effect stress can have on our bodies and general health.

Finnish researchers have revealed that exercise-induced endorphin release in the brain depends on the intensity of the exercise. Endorphin release induced by exercise may be an important mechanism which affects exercise motivation and maintenance of regular physical activity.

Researchers reveal people who report higher levels of moral reasoning show increased activity in brain areas associated with reward. 

Finally this week, for most people, laughter is highly contagious. But researchers reporting in Current Biology on September 28 have new evidence to show that boys at risk of developing psychopathy when they become adults don’t have that same urge.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Getty Images

People who played action video games that involve first-person shooters experienced shrinkage in a brain region called the hippocampus, according to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry. That part of the brain is associated with spatial navigation, stress regulation and memory. Playing Super Mario games, in which the plumber strives to rescue a princess, had the opposite effect on the hippocampus, causing growth in it.

Researchers have revealed a helpful strategy to help those with cognitive problems to improve their memory.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

A new study reports cognitive abilities mutually assist each other during development. This results in improved cognitive skills and general intelligence over time.

A sleeping brain can form fresh memories, according to a team of neuroscientists. The researchers played complex sounds to people while they were sleeping, and afterward the sleepers could recognize those sounds when they were awake.

Researchers report social norms together with increasing oxytocin can counter xenophobia by enhancing altruistic behaviors.

A new Johns Hopkins University study adds further evidence to the link between serotonin and dementia. According to researchers, lower serotonin levels may play a key role in memory decline and drive the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers have devised a new odor identification test that could help doctors predict those at risk of Alzheimer’s and track the progression of the disease.

Finally this week, a new study reveals a neurobiological reason behind why we feel happy when we are being generous. Researchers discovered the connectivity between the temporal parietal junction and ventral striatum, an area of the brain associated with happiness, was enhanced in people who committed to generosity.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Brain scans from a 38-year-old, left, and a 73-year-old. 

Researchers are embarking on a new study to answer how some people are able to stay sharper than others as they age.

Neurons in the brain that produce the pleasure-signaling neurotransmitter dopamine also directly control the brain’s circadian center, or “body clock” – the area that regulates eating cycles, metabolism and waking/resting cycles – a key link that possibly affects the body’s ability to adapt to jet lag and rotating shift work, a new study has demonstrated.

A molecule produced by insulating glial cells facilitates the functional wiring of brain cells involved in motor coordination.

Using the latest MRI scanning procedures, a team of researchers has shown how certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy. The team has discovered biomarkers that – if used for screening – could massively improve treatment options for epilepsy. The researchers have published their results in the online journal eLife.

A new study reveals the role circular RNA plays in brain function, including synaptic transmission and sensorimotor gating.

Depression has been shown to alter the structure of the brain’s white matter, which contains the circuitry that allows brain cells to communicate with each other, and which underpins brain function.

According to a new Nature study, in order for our taste system to work, the connection between neurons and taste bud cells have to rewire correctly each time.

A new optogenetic method called Optobow is helping researchers to discover specific and individual components of functional neural networks in the living brain. A Nature Communications report states this new method can help provide more detailed insights into both brain function and structure.

A neuroimaging study reveals people who report widespread pain have increased gray matter and functional connectivity in sensory and motor areas of the brain.

Finally this week, a large scale SPECT imaging study reveals women’s brains are significantly more active in more regions than males, including the prefronal cortex and limbic areas. Visual and areas associated with coordination were more active in males, researchers noted.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Thousands of branches and branchlets emanate from an astrocyte’s cell body, which is the dense portion in the middle of the image.

A new study published in Neuron challenges the idea that astrocytes across the brain are largely identical.

Researchers have identified a new protein, CIB2, that is key to helping the auditory system to turn soundwaves into meaningful brain signals. Mutations of this gene leave people unable to convert the soundwaves into signals that the brain can interpret, and are deaf.

The more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life, a large-scale online trial has found.

How short-term memories become long-term ones has frequently been explored by researchers. While a definitive answer remains elusive, scientists conclude that this transformation is best explained by a “temporal hierarchy” of “time windows” that collectively alter the state of the brain.

Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers at King’s College London have identified a molecular mechanism that allows neural connections to adapt as a result of experience. This adaptation fuels our ability for memory and learning.

Researchers have developed a concept called Empowerment to help robots and humans to work and live side-by-side safely and effectively.

A study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has identified a new potential mechanism contributing to the biology of the disorder that may be targeted by future treatments.

A new study reveals those who die at 100 tend to suffer from fewer diseases than those who die at younger ages.

A new paper identifies 100 of the most cited neuroscience research papers. Of these papers, 78 focus on five topics. According to the authors of the paper, the most cited neuroscience research topics include the prefrontal cortex, neural connectivity, methodology, brain mapping and neurological disorders. The findings could have significant impact for future neuroscience studies.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

The same mechanisms that quickly separate mixtures of oil and water are at play when controlling the organization in an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study.

New research has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.

Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala may help explain a person’s preference for uncertain outcomes, as well as a preference for order and certainty, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Under the microscope, staining highlights a network of vasculature amid the ball of neurons that make up a minibrain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Hoffman-Kim lab/Brown University

Scientists have recently made a variety of mini-brains — 3-D cultures of neural cells that model basic properties of living brains — but a new finding could add to the field’s growing excitement in an entirely new “vein”: Brown University’s mini-brains now grow blood vessels, too.

A new study reports astrocytes may be a driving force behind a number of neurodegenerative diseases.

While many of us find the sound of a person chewing or breathing heavily annoying, for those with misophonia, such noises are unbearable. Researchers have identified the neural networks and brain changes associated with the disorder.

New research reveals the shape of our brain can provide surprising clues about how we behave and our risk of developing mental health disorders.

A team of investigators have found that exposure to phobic images without conscious awareness is more effective than longer, conscious exposure for reducing fear. The investigators used fMRI to determine that areas of the brain involved in fear processing were much more strongly activated by unconscious exposure. Results of the study will be published in the journal, Human Brain Mapping, on February 6, 2017.

Depression poses a risk for cardiovascular diseases in men that is just as great as that posed by high cholesterol levels and obesity.

In the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), New York University neuroscientist David Heeger offers a new framework to explain how the brain makes predictions

Researchers have developed new technology that utilises infrared light in order to treat memory loss conditions.

Scientists have discovered a cell in the retina that may cause myopia when it dysfunctions. The dysfunction may be linked to the amount of time a child spends indoors and away from natural light.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

New sensors that can monitor dopamine secretion in a single neuron could help researchers better understand how dopamine influences brain activity.

Scientists have developed sensor technology for a robotic prosthetic arm that detects signals from nerves in the spinal cord.

People who use sign language have better reaction times in their peripheral vision, a new study from the University of Sheffield has found.

Finally this week, researchers report concussion can accelerate Alzheimer’s symptoms in people with a genetic risk for the disease.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol are a step closer to understanding how the connections in our brain which control our episodic memory work in sync to make some memories stronger than others. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected division of memory function in the pathways between two areas of the brain, and suggest that certain subnetworks within the brain work separately, to enhance the distinctiveness of memories.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn’t blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the brain works extra hard to stabilize our vision despite our fluttering eyes.

Our personality traits are linked to differences in the thickness and volume of various parts of our brains, an international study has suggested.

Researchers have found significant differences in the brains of teens with bipolar disorder that attempt to take their lives over those with the disorder who have never attempted suicide.

Women with lower estrogen levels may be more susceptible to developing PTSD according to new research.

A new study raises the question of whether a genetic mutation associated with neurodegeneration in one environment could act in a positive way in a different setting.

Researchers report early indicators of depression and anxiety may be evident in the brain from birth.

A cutting edge, non-invasive brain stimulation technique could improve cognitive control for people with conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

A new computerized ‘mirror game’ has been shown to give more accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia than clinical interviews.

A new study reports on how a single instance of extreme stress can lead to long term neurological changes and trauma.

Social difficulties in people with autism are exacerbated by how other people perceive them at first meeting, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers have revealed regions of the brain implicated in delusional misidentification syndromes.