Weekly Neuroscience Update

With the aid of this detailed brain map, researchers were able to identify previously unknown cell types, including six different types of oligodendrocytes and a nerve cell. This image of an oligodendrocyte is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Jurjen Broeke.

With the aid of this detailed brain map, researchers were able to identify previously unknown cell types, including six different types of oligodendrocytes and a nerve cell. This image of an oligodendrocyte is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Jurjen Broeke.

Using a process known as single cell sequencing, scientists at Karolinska Institutet have produced a detailed map of cortical cell types and the genes active within them. The study, which is published in the journal ‘Science’, marks the first time this method of analysis has been used on such a large scale on such complex tissue.

Researchers have identified five genetic variants that influence the size of structures within the brain, a discovery that could help determine the genetic processes that underlie neuropsychiatric diseases.

A new study sheds light on the brain cells that function in establishing one’s location and direction. The findings contribute to our understanding of the neural mechanisms underlying our abilities to successfully navigate our environment, which may be crucial to dealing with brain damage due to trauma or a stroke and the onset of diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Meditation over many years is tied to smaller age-related decreases in brain volume, according to a new study.

In the social world, people constantly gather information through visual cues that are used to evaluate others and interact. A new study has determined that babies can make sense of complex social situations, and that they expect people to behave appropriately.

According to a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, clinical depression is associated with a 30 percent increase of inflammation in the brain. The study set out to investigate whether inflammation is a driver of clinical depression independent of other physical illness.

Finally this week, the brain’s speech area, named after 19th century French physician Pierre Paul Broca, shuts down when we talk out loud, according to a new study that challenges the long-held assumption that ‘Broca’s area’ governs all aspects of speech production.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

New brain research findings suggest long-term meditation may lead to less age-related gray matter atrophy in the human brain.

A new study has revealed that many mental disorders share a common structure in the brain. Six conditions were examined and found to be connected by the loss of gray matter in three specific areas related to cognitive functions such as self-control.

A new paper argues that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature of traumatic brain injury and how it causes chronic degenerative problems.

New research finds that there is not a single type of schizophrenia, as thought, but 8 different genetic diseases.

Scientists have discovered that babies of the age from 9 to 16 months remember the names of objects better if they had a short nap. And only after sleeping can they transfer learned names to similar new objects.

Cocaine addicted individuals may continue their habit despite unfavourable consequences like imprisonment or loss of relationships because their brain circuits responsible for predicting emotional loss are impaired, according to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists have discovered how a ‘mini-brain’ in the spinal cord aids in balance.

UCLA 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 research has highlighted the structural improvements on the brain observed in bilingual people who immerse themselves in two languages.

Good sleep in young and middle-aged people helps boost memory up to 28 years later, a new review of the evidence finds.

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology.

Finally this week, we know that our existence depends on a bit of evolutionary genius aptly nicknamed “fight or flight.” But where in our brain does the alarm first go off, and what other parts of the brain are mobilized to express fear and remember to avoid danger in the future? New research sheds some light on this question.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death. Credit Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin.

Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death. Credit Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin.

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made an important breakthrough in our understanding of Parkin – a protein that regulates the repair and replacement of nerve cells within the brain. This breakthrough generates a new perspective on how nerve cells die in Parkinson’s disease.

A new study, which may have implications for approaches to education, finds that brain mechanisms engaged when people allow their minds to rest and reflect on things they’ve learned before may boost later learning.

A study in which more than 43,000 children were evaluated for head trauma offers an unprecedented picture of how children most frequently suffer head injuries. For teens, top causes are assaults, sports, car crashes; for younger children, falls lead the list.The findings also indicate how often such incidents result in significant brain injuries, computerized tomography (CT) scans to assess head injuries, and neurosurgery to treat them.

Neighborhoods that motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults.

People who are depressed often complain that they find it difficult to make decisions. A new study provides an explanation. Researchers tested 29 patients diagnosed with major depression and 27 healthy controls and they found that the people with depression had an impaired ability to go with their gut instincts, or what we might call intuition.

Learning a new language changes your brain network both structurally and functionally, according to Penn State researchers.

Finally this week, being shown pictures of others being loved and cared for reduces the brain’s response to threat, new research from the University of Exeter has found.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

Complex biochemical signals that coordinate fast and slow changes in neuronal networks keep the brain in balance during learning, according to an international team of science researchers.

An imaging study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators has found distinct differences between the brains of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and those of healthy people. The findings could lead to more definitive diagnoses of the syndrome and may also point to an underlying mechanism in the disease process.

Breakdown in gut barriers to bacteria may promote inflammation and craving in alcoholics. 

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.

All physical activity benefits the brain. This is the main message of a new study that compared the effects of different kinds of exercise on cognition in older adults.

Finally this week, certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University, published in Mindfulness.

Can meditation make you more creative?

Certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking even if you are not a practitioner. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and her fellow researchers at Leiden University and Leiden Institute for Brain and Cognition, published in Mindfulness.

Long-lasting influence
The study is a clear indication that you don’t need to be an experienced meditator to profit more from meditation. The findings support the belief that meditation can have a long-lasting influence on human cognition, including how we conceive new ideas. Besides experienced meditators, also novices may profit from meditation.

Different techniques, different effects
But the results demonstrate that not all forms of meditation have the same effect on creativity. Test persons performed better in divergent thinking (= thinking up as many possible solutions for a given problem) after Open Monitoring meditation (= being receptive to every thought and sensation). The researchers did not see this effect on divergent thinking after Focused Attention meditation (=focusing on a particular thought or object.)

Setup of the study
40 individuals participated in this study, who had to meditate for 25 minutes before doing their thinking tasks. There were both experienced mediators and people who never meditated before. The study investigated the influences of different types of meditative techniques on the two main ingredients of creativity:

Divergent thinking
Allows for many new ideas to be generated. It is measured using the so-called Alternate Uses Task method where participants are required to think up as many uses as possible for a particular object, such as a pen.

Convergent thinking
Convergent thinking, on the other hand, is a process whereby one possible solution for a particular problem is generated. This method is measured using the Remote Associates Task method, where three unrelated words are presented to the participants, words such as ‘time’, ‘hair’ and ‘stretch’. The participants are then asked to identify the common link: in this case, ‘long’.

Source: Medical News Today

Like Valium and Oxycontin, without the Side Effects


A Buddhist monk—this one with a doctorate in cell biology—has teamed with two prominent neuroscientists to present the latest findings on what meditation does to the brain and how those changes to neural circuits have some of the trappings of what might be labeled a perfect drug—Prozac-like muting of depression symptoms or prophylaxis against PTSD (just two on the list). In this video Richard Davidson, Ph.D., presents their research at Stanford University in a talk entitled,  The Emergence of Contemplative Neuroscience.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Earlier research showed that progranulin levels were elevated near plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was unknown whether this effect counteracted or exacerbated neurodegeneration. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

Earlier research showed that progranulin levels were elevated near plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was unknown whether this effect counteracted or exacerbated neurodegeneration. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

Low levels of the naturally occurring protein progranulin exacerbate cellular and cognitive dysfunction, while raising levels can prevent abnormalities in an Alzheimer model.

Teenagers who said they had a traumatic brain injury in their lifetime, especially girls, also reported significantly higher rates of harmful behavior, according to new research.

A new University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable message: caregivers have a profound influence – good or bad – on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel. The findings of this study are published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.

A new study reveals individual neurons in the human brain are triggered by the subject’s conscious perception, rather than by the visual stimulus.

A chemical in the brain plays a vital role in controlling the involuntary movements and vocal tics associated with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a new study has shown.

Researchers discover how the brain works during meditation.

Finally, this week, teenagers who regularly do not get enough sleep are more likely to struggle academically, the results of a new study show. Swedish researchers looked at over 20,000 teenagers aged between 12 and 19 and found that those who regularly slept for less than seven hours per night were more likely to fail in school. Details of these findings are published in the journal, Sleep Medicine.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

The study revealed that EGFR signaling is suppressed in a subset of glioblastomas. This image is for illustrative purposes only and shows an MRI brain scan of a person with glioblastoma brain cancer. Credit The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

The study revealed that EGFR signaling is suppressed in a subset of glioblastomas. This image is for illustrative purposes only and shows an MRI brain scan of a person with glioblastoma brain cancer. Credit The Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

Researchers have found one of the keys to why certain glioblastomas – the primary form of a deadly brain cancer – are resistant to drug therapy. The answer lies not in the DNA sequence of the tumor, but in its epigenetic signature. These findings have been published online as a priority report in the journal Oncotarget.

It has been proposed that green tea extract may have a beneficial impact on cognitive functioning, suggesting promising clinical implications. However, the neural mechanisms underlying this putative cognitive enhancing effect of green tea extract still remain unknown.

According to researchers at the University of Montreal, the regions of the brain below the cortex play an important role as we train our bodies’ movements and, critically, they interact more effectively after a night of sleep.

Researchers find that the risk of future stroke is 39% higher among patients with cognitive impairment than those with normal cognitive function, according to a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

A study is shining new light on a sleep disorder called “sleep drunkenness.” The disorder may be as prevalent as affecting one in every seven people. The research is published in Neurology.

A mindfulness-based therapy for depression has the added benefit of reducing health-care visits among patients who often see their family doctors, according to a new study.

In what may be the largest study of sleep problems among individuals with multiple sclerosis (MS), researchers at UC Davis have found that widely undiagnosed sleep disorders may be at the root of the most common and disabling symptom of the disease: fatigue.

Scientists have provided the first evidence that the lack of a naturally occurring protein is linked to early signs of dementia.