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.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

How Would It Be to Have the Body of a Child Again? Changes in Perception and Behaviors Demonstrated When Embodying a Child Avatar

A research, recently published on the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, suggests that a correlate of a body-ownership illusion is that the virtual type of body carries with it a set of temporary changes in perception and behaviours that are appropriate to that type of body.

A new study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, examined whether or not higher glucose levels without diabetes was a risk factor for dementia.  Diabetes is already a known risk factor for dementia, but this study aimed to determine if the risk factor for diabetes is a risk factor for dementia.  Studying 2,067 participants without dementia, 232 of which already had diabetes, the researchers collected follow-up data after approximately seven years.  They found a significantly higher risk of dementia in individuals with higher than average blood glucose even if they did not have diabetes. Meanwhile, a study by researchers at Umeå University in Sweden suggests nine different factors that can increase the risk of developing dementia before age 65. The results have been published by the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.

Meditating before lectures can lead to better grades according to a new experimental study by George Mason University professor Robert Youmans and University of Illinois doctoral student Jared Ramsburg.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins have uncovered a protein switch that can either increase or decrease memory-building activity in brain cells, depending on the signals it detects. Its dual role means the protein is key to understanding the complex network of signals that shapes our brain’s circuitry, the researchers say.

Different parts of the brain are affected in women with autism than in men with autism, according to a new study.

Ending a 30-year search by scientists, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital have identified two proteins in the inner ear that are critical for hearing, which, when damaged by genetic mutations, cause a form of delayed, progressive hearing loss.

Researchers have found human brains ‘divide and conquer’ when people learn to navigate around new environments. The research by UQ’s Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) could provide hope for people with spatial memory impairments.

Researchers have discovered how genetic mutations linked to Parkinson’s disease might play a key role in the death of brain cells, potentially paving the way for the development of more effective drug treatments.

The largest genome-wide study of its kind has determined how much five major mental illnesses are traceable to the same common inherited genetic variations. Researchers funded in part by the National Institutes of Health found that the overlap was highest between schizophrenia and bipolar disorder; moderate for bipolar disorder and depression and for ADHD and depression; and low between schizophrenia and autism. Overall, common genetic variation accounted for 17-28 percent of risk for the illnesses.

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.

photo credit: Amanda Nicole Betley via photopin cc

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Could our neurological soundtrack reveal insights into our mental state? To answer that question scientists in China developed a method for converting two kinds of brain wave recordings into music.

Scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have identified a new pathway that appears to play a major role in information processing in the brain. Their research also offers insight into how imbalances in this pathway could contribute to cognitive abnormalities in humans.

Stanford researchers have designed the fastest, most accurate algorithm yet for brain-implantable prosthetic systems that can help disabled people maneuver computer cursors with their thoughts. The algorithm’s speed, accuracy and natural movement approach those of a real arm, and the system avoids the long-term performance degradations of earlier technologies.

Researchers have designed a light-sensitive molecule that can stimulate a neural response in cells of the retina and brain — a possible first step to overcoming degenerative eye diseases like age-related macular degeneration, or to quieting epileptic seizures.

A new study has found that participating in an 8-week meditation training program can have measurable effects on how the brain functions even when someone is not actively meditating.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows that sleep loss markedly exaggerates the degree to which we anticipate impending emotional events, particularly among highly anxious people, who are especially vulnerable.

Music training has a lifelong good impact on the aging process, says a new study out of Northwestern University.

New research by scientists at the University of University of North Carolina School of Medicine may have pinpointed an underlying cause of the seizures that affect 90 percent of people with Angelman syndrome (AS), a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.

Two U.S. scientists have updated findings that link a form of Chinese meditation to positive changes in brain structure, suggesting that just 11 hours of practising the technique over a month could help prevent mental illness. In a paper to be released this week in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael Posner report that the practice known as integrative body-mind training (IBMT) can have a positive physical affect on the brain, boosting connectivity and efficiency.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have demonstrated the effectiveness of a potential new therapy for stroke patients in an article published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration. Created to target a specific enzyme known to affect important brain functions, the new compound being studied at MU is designed to stop the spread of brain bleeds and protect brain cells from further damage in the crucial hours after a stroke.

A receptor recently discovered to control the movement of immune cells across the blood-brain barrier may hold the key to treating multiple sclerosis (MS), a neuroinflammatory disease of the central nervous system.

In a pair of related studies, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified several proteins that help regulate cells’ response to light—and the development of night blindness, a rare disease that abolishes the ability to see in dim light.

A recent breakthrough in the development of an artificial synapse suggests that assistive devices and other prostheses won’t be limited to just missing joints and failing organs. Researchers in Japan have shown that it’s possible to mimic synaptic function with nanotechnology, a breakthrough that could result in not just artificial neural networks, but fixes for the human brain as well.

Patients vary widely in their response to concussion, but scientists haven’t understood why. Now, using a new technique for analyzing data from brain imaging studies, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center have found that concussion victims have unique spatial patterns of brain abnormalities that change over time.

Using a new and powerful approach to understand the origins of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida are building the case that these diseases are primarily caused by genes that are too active or not active enough, rather than by harmful gene mutations.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

People aren’t very good at media multitasking, but do it anyway because it makes them feel good, a new study suggests. The findings provide clues as to why multitasking is so popular, even though many studies show it is not productive.

A team of Montreal scientists has identified a blueprint for how memories are encoded. The findings may lead to a better understanding of memory impairments, as well as therapies for such neurodegenerative disorders as Alzheimer’s.

The way we use our hands may determine how emotions are organized in our brains, according to a recent study published inPLoS ONE. 

Researchers at Harvard, Yale, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have found the first evidence that meditation can alter the physical structure of our brains. Brain scans they conducted reveal that experienced meditators boasted increased thickness in parts of the brain that deal with attention and processing sensory input.

How to give your brain a break

Over a 24-hour period we can process up to 70,000 thoughts, even as we sleep. Each day contains 86,400 seconds, so that equates to a different thought every 1.2 seconds, or two thoughts for every heartbeat. Basically, your brain never shuts up!

Over a 24-hour period we can process up to 70,000 thoughts, even as we sleep. Each day contains 86,400 seconds, so that equates to a different thought every 1.2 seconds – your brain never stops!

Left unchecked, this incessant chatter can turn to the dark side and become an chorus of self-criticism and blame. Negative thinking can become much more dominant than the positive and supportive kind.

Left unchecked, this incessant chatter can turn to the dark side and become an chorus of self-criticism and blame. Negative thinking can become much more dominant than the positive and supportive kind.

These thoughts tend to become stuck and repetitive ¿ leading to anxiety, depression and burn-out. Only by freeing ourselves from them can we grow calmer, more focused, more present and happier.

These thoughts tend to become stuck and repetitive — leading to anxiety, depression and burn-out.  Only by freeing ourselves from them can we grow calmer,  more focused, more present  and happier.

There is a simple solution: meditation. It has been proven to ease stress, improve metabolism, reduce pain, lower blood pressure and enhance brain function.
Meditation has been proven to ease stress, improve metabolism, reduce pain, lower blood pressure and enhance brain function. And all you need to do is . .. nothing.

(Extracted from Quiet The Mind, an illustrated guide on how to meditate by Matthew Johnstone)

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Your Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

Laughter with friends releases the brain's "feel-good" chemicals, and helps reduce pain

Laughing with friends releases feel-good brain chemicals, which also relieve pain, new research indicates.

Millions of tinnitus sufferers could get relief thanks to a new treatment which stops the brain creating “phantom” noises by playing matching tones over headphones

Earlier evidence out of UCLA suggested that meditating for years thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Now a further report by UCLA researchers suggests yet another benefit. have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.

Brain scans of Nasa astronauts who have returned to earth after more than a month in space have revealed potentially serious abnormalities that could jeopardise long-term space missions.