Weekly Neuroscience Update

4121A56E00000578-4574260-image-a-57_1496767085907.jpgElectrically stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex can enhance our ability to ‘think outside the box’, a new study reports.

An international team of researchers has found, for the first time, seven risk genes for insomnia. With this finding the researchers have taken an important step towards the unravelling of the biological mechanisms that cause insomnia. In addition, the finding proves that insomnia is not, as is often claimed, a purely psychological condition.

Researchers have developed a neural network based AI system that can decode and predict what a person is seeing or imagining.

A new study reports artificial intelligence used by the military to help shoot down fighter planes can accurately predict treatment outcomes for people with bipolar disorder.

New research sheds light on how the brain codes navigation behaviour at larger scales.

The visual cortex, the human brain’s vision-processing center that was previously thought to mature and stabilize in the first few years of life, actually continues to develop until sometime in the late 30s or early 40s, a neuroscientist and her colleagues have found.

Clusters of a sticky protein — amyloid plaque — found in the brain signal mental decline years before symptoms appear, a new study finds.

According to researchers, brain signals in specific brain areas change during a lifespan in ways that could be vital for maintaining flexibility.

Two new studies shed light on how the brain encodes and recalls memories.

People with voice disorders may have a problem with correctly utilizing auditory feedback to control their voices.

A new study reveals the role the motor system plays in the perception of language. 

According to researchers, bilingual children perform better at voice recognition and processing than monolingual children.

Fascination with faces is nature, not nurture, suggests a new study of third-trimester fetuses.

Finally this week, the mystery of how human eyes compute the direction of moving light has been made clearer by scientists at The University of Queensland.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

runner-888016_960_720.jpgAccording to researchers, endurance runners appear to have greater functional connectivity in their brains that those who don’t exercise as much.

New research reveals that children begin using olfactory information to help guide their responses to emotionally-expressive faces at about five years of age. The findings advance understanding of how children integrate different types of sensory information to direct their social behaviour.

A new study explores how neurons adapt their function to respond to stimuli quickly.

A distinctive neural signature found in the brains of people with dyslexia may explain why these individuals have difficulty learning to read, according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists.

Brain connections that play a key role in complex thinking skills show the poorest health with advancing age, new research suggests.

Researchers have identified immune cells in the membranes around the brain that could be a ‘missing link’ in the gut-brain axis. The immune cells also appear to have a positive impact on recovery following spinal cord injury.

Therapeutic hypothermia following a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) significantly improves survival rate, a new study reports.

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline.

Finally this week,a new study looks at the way in which noise sensitivity is manifested due to changes in the way in which the brain processes auditory information.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Being told an image is a work of art changes people’s responses on both a neural and behavioural level, a new study reports.

Loneliness is linked to poor physical and mental health, and is an even more accurate predictor of early death than obesity. To better understand who is at risk, researchers conducted the first genome-wide association study for loneliness — as a life-long trait, not a temporary state. They discovered that risk for feeling lonely is partially due to genetics, but environment plays a bigger role. The study of more than 10,000 people, published September 15 by Neuropsychopharmacology, also found that genetic risk for loneliness is associated with neuroticism and depressive symptoms.

Researchers report that better education and standards of living may lower the risk of developing dementia than previously thought.

By applying an algorithm to functional magnetic resonance imaging, scientists have been able to see emotions at work in the human brain. The findings – recently published in the journal PLOS Biology – could enable better assessment of emotional states, which may help individuals who struggle to convey their feelings.

Bilingual people may have a cognitive advantage when it comes to maintaining attention and focus, a new study reports.

Both heredity and environmental factors influence our risk of cardiovascular disease. A new study shows now that the memory of a heart attack can be stored in our genes through epigenetic changes.

Researchers have developed a new theory that outlines how the brain separates relevant from irrelevant information.

Scientists are developing an early diagnosis system, based on virtual reality,  for neurodegenerative disorders. The system is intended to such diseases as multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and others.

A new study supports the role of intrinsic reward in maintaining exercise as a long-term habit.

Recent advances in imaging have revealed that false memories can be held by the very same cells that hold accurate ones, but we don’t have much information about how false memories get there in the first place. A recent study published in PNAS provides some insight into this issue, finding that false memories may arise from similarities among the items being remembered.

Researchers have discovered a unique epigenetic footprint in specific immune cells that can identify people with HIV who have impaired cognitive function.

Engaging in fantasy play could benefit creative thinking in children suggests a study presented at the British Psychological Society’s Developmental Psychology Section annual conference.

A new study looks at the role glutamate plays in neuromuscular development.

People who suffer from synethesia are also more sensitive to the association between the sound of words and visual shapes, researchers report.

A pioneering new study shows that life story work has the potential to help people with dementia.

A study published in Biological Psychiatry found that training the brain using auditory or visual signals could guide people to regulate their brain activity after traumatic stress.

Researchers have identified the specific synaptic and post-synaptic characteristics that allow auditory neurons to compute with temporal precision.

Finally this week, a news study shows the anxiety response is not only seen in areas associated with emotion, but also in brain areas associated with movement.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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When selecting a video game to play, opting to turn on your Wii may provide a different experience than playing your Xbox, according to a study from Mississippi State University.

Excessive alcohol use accounts for 4% of the global burden of disease, and binge drinking particularly is becoming an increasing health issue. A new review article published Cortex highlights the significant changes in brain function and structure that can be caused by alcohol misuse in young people.

Working with patients with electrodes implanted in their brains, researchers have shown for the first time that areas of the brain work together at the same time to recall memories. The unique approach promises new insights into how we remember details of time and place.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow are hoping to help victims of stroke to overcome physical disabilities by helping their brains to ‘rewire’ themselves.

Keeping active can slow down the progression of memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease, a study has shown.

Neuroscientists have released the results of a new study that examines how fear responses are learned, controlled, and memorized. They show that a particular class of neurons in a subdivision of the amygdala plays an active role in these processes.

Neuroscience researchers from Tufts University have found that our star-shaped brain cells, called astrocytes, may be responsible for the rapid improvement in mood in depressed patients after acute sleep deprivation. This in vivo study, published in the current issue ofTranslational Psychiatry, identified how astrocytes regulate a neurotransmitter involved in sleep. The researchers report that the findings may help lead to the development of effective and fast-acting drugs to treat depression, particularly in psychiatric emergencies.

UC Berkeley neuroscientists have found that the slow brain waves generated during the deep, restorative sleep we typically experience in youth play a key role in transporting memories from the hippocampus – which provides short-term storage for memories – to the prefrontal cortex’s longer term “hard drive.”

Researchers have found altered connectivity in the brain network for body perception in people with anorexia: The weaker the connection, the greater the misjudgement of body shape.

A group of scientists planning to map all the major connections in the human brain began studying their first test subjects in August. The $30 million Human Connectome Project will trace the main neural pathways that link the roughly 500 major regions in the brain, illuminating how biological circuitry underlies our mental functions. MRI scans of 1,200 people, including 300 pairs of twins, will be used to compile an atlas of communication routes throughout the brain. The resulting blueprint will also reveal how brain connectivity varies from person to person.

Exercise doesn’t just make you fitter – it makes you smarter too!

Exercise is important in keeping your heart and lungs healthy. We know for decades that the effort required in exercise allows life-giving oxygen to travel quicker and in greater amounts to all the tissues of the body – allowing the cells in them to grow and divide. A noticeable exception to this rule is the brain.

Neurons are different

Nerve cells or neurons are notoriously bad at dividing. Rather than divide, a neuron survives by making up to 10,000 connections to neighbouring neurons – and this is the key to how we learn and recall as memories are created and strengthened.  This compromise works well for the first four decades of life however by your 50’s a gradual loss of neurons and their connections starts to take it toll resulting in a noticeable reduction in cognition as we find it harder to remember, especially recent events. 

An unexpected finding

Recent scientific findings from Columbia University show that exercise is important in helping to reverse this age-related loss of neurons. In this study in a small group of middle-aged people, exercising just an hour a day, four times a week, for three months triggers the growth of new neurons – a feat which has previously proved almost impossible for neuroscientists to achieve using drugs. Neuroscientists are still working out the possible reasons why simple exercise is so powerful at triggering the birth of neurons but a clue may be that the brain is very well supplied by blood vessels needed to deliver the food and oxygen to help make and maintain the trillions of synapses in the brain. In fact the brain is one of the most oxygen-sensitive organs of the body. It receives 20% of the cardiac output and accounts for about 25% of overall resting oxygen consumption. In addition, the brain as a highly vascular organ is very sensitive to changes in blood perfusion. It seems the extra increase in blood perfusion and life-giving oxygen associated with exercise may invigorate the brain to such a degree that it starts to actually grow new neurons again.

Exercise is as important as drugs

The finding that exercise triggers the brain to grow new nerve cells is a truly stunning discovery that will have implications for public healthcare policies for an increasingly ageing population. In addition, new treatments for brain illness such as Alzheimer’s disease and head injury may involve a combination of different therapies such as medication, psychological therapies, social support, self-help techniques and now, most importantly exercise. This combined approach will treat the person as a whole, and marks the beginning of the journey back to wellness and a normal life.

So the message is simple –if you want to stay smart just get out there and exercise.