Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A study published in Frontiers in Neuroscience takes a look inside the brains of professional comedians and compares them with less humorous humans. They attempt to home in on the seat of creative humour and ask what it can tell us about creativity.

A new study reports brain cells may preferentially activate a copy of one parent’s genes over the other in offspring.

Music, specifically infant directed song, could have evolved as a means to allow parents to let their children know their needs are being met, while freeing them up to perform other essential tasks, a new study theorizes.

Researchers report a new neuroimaging device can successfully measure brain synchronization during a conversation.

Specialized nerve cells, known as somatostatin-expressing (Sst) interneurons, in the outer part of the mammalian brain (or cerebral cortex) — play a key role in controlling how information flows in the brain when it is awake and alert. This is the finding of a study published online in Science March 2 by a team of neuroscientists at NYU Langone Medical Center and its Neuroscience Institute.

Amygdala reactivity may help predict who will have post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms in the year following a trauma, a recent study from Emory University  finds.

Recent research published in Frontiers in Public Health shows that the effects of vibrations produced by horses during horse-riding lead to the activation of the sympathetic nervous system, which improves learning in children.

A compound called P7C3 provides both protection for neurons following a stroke and improves physical and cognitive outcomes, a new study reports.

MIT researchers have devised a way to measure dopamine in the brain much more precisely than previously possible, which should allow scientists to gain insight into dopamine’s roles in learning, memory, and emotion.

A new study reports the ability to modulate brain activity when it comes to shutting off processes irrelevant to a task may be compromised in older people.

Concrete links between the symptoms of autism and synaesthesia have been discovered and clarified for the first time, according to new research by psychologists at the University of Sussex.

Researchers have identified a potential mechanism for the development of alcoholism.

Finally this week, researchers have discovered a genetic pathway that could lead to people developing anxiety and panic disorders.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

band-691224_960_720.jpgIt may be possible to categorise the brain strategies used by professional musicians based on how they prioritise sight vs. sound when learning to play new music, according to a new study.

When we are in a deep sleep our brain’s activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It’s hard to miss. Now, Stanford researchers have found, those same cycles exist in wake as in sleep, but with only small sections sitting and standing in unison rather than the entire stadium. It’s as if tiny portions of the brain are independently falling asleep and waking back up all the time.

Researchers report the hippocampus isn’t just important for remembering past events, it also plays a vital role in future planning.

According to a new study, the brain blocks the ability for creating new memories shortly after waking in order to prevent the disruption of the stabilisation of memory consolidation that occurs during sleep.

Patients with depression can be categorised into four unique sub-types defined by distinct patterns of abnormal connectivity in the brain, according to new research.

The inability to hear subtle changes in pitch, a common and debilitating problem for people with schizophrenia, is due to dysfunctional N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) brain receptors, according to a study by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers. The study also shows that this hearing issue can be improved by combining auditory training exercises with a drug that targets NMDA receptors.

Researchers report abnormal activation in areas that respond to normal pain when a person with CRPS witnesses another person experience painful stimuli.

A new study has revealed the way that the brain handles the often noisy environments found on this planet, with the results explaining why animals, including humans, can easily cope with both the still and quiet of early-morning parks to the bustle and hubbub of cafés and streets. The researchers discovered that as auditory neurons become more familiar with a sound environment, they speed up their adaption to the noisiness of that environment.

The human brain is predisposed to learn negative stereotypes, according to research that offers clues as to how prejudice emerges and spreads through society.

Finally this week, researchers have conducted the first study of its kind, using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to look at brain regions in both adults and children who stutter.

 

Brain Networking Among Musicians

When musicians play, what is happening inside their brains? Scientists at Berlin’s Max Planck Institute for Human Development have discovered that while performing together, their neurological activity goes into a kind of synchronization mode – almost as though they were connected by a wireless network.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A research team has used neuroimaging techniques to investigate how being in a romantic relationship produces alterations in the architecture of the brain. They found that being in love is associated with increased connectivity between regions of the brain associated with reward, motivation, emotion regulation, and social cognition.

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.

The human brain can select relevant objects from a flood of information and edit out what is irrelevant. It also knows which parts belong to a whole. If, for example, we direct our attention to the doors of a house, the brain will preferentially process its windows, but not the neighbouring houses. Psychologists have now discovered that this also happens when parts of the objects are merely maintained in our memory.

Researchers have found that teens who smoked marijuana daily for several years have an abnormally shaped hippocampus and do poorly on tasks involving long-term memory.

A new study has shown how intentional recall is beyond a simple reawakening of a memory; and actually leads us to forget other competing experiences that interfere with retrieval.

Researchers have identified key cells within the brain that are critical for determining circadian rhythms, the 24-hour processes that control sleep and wake cycles, as well as other important body functions such as hormone production, metabolism, and blood pressure

New York University researchers have devised a computer model to explain how a neural circuit learns to classify sensory stimuli into discrete categories, such as “car vs. motorcycle.” Their findings, which appear in the journal Nature Communications, shed new light on the brain processes underpinning judgments we make on a daily basis.

Queensland scientists have found that non-invasive ultrasound technology can be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease and restore memory.

Researchers at MIT have developed a method to stimulate brain tissue using external magnetic fields and injected magnetic nanoparticles — a technique allowing direct stimulation of neurons, which could be an effective treatment for a variety of neurological diseases, without the need for implants or external connections.

Researchers have come up with a new way to evaluate how well computers can divine information from images. The team describes its new system as a “visual Turing test,” after the legendary computer scientist Alan Turing’s test of the extent to which computers display human-like intelligence.

Thousands of genetic “dimmer” switches, regions of DNA known as regulatory elements, were turned up high during human evolution in the developing cerebral cortex, according to new research from the Yale School of Medicine.

Finally this week, a new study finds that giving a drug that changes the neurochemical balance in the brain causes a greater willingness to engage in prosocial behaviors, such as ensuring that resources are divided more equally.

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on?

In this video, Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

How playing an instrument benefits your brain

When you listen to music, multiple areas of your brain become engaged and active. But when you actually play an instrument, that activity becomes more like a full-body brain workout. What’s going on? In this video, Anita Collins explains the fireworks that go off in musicians’ brains when they play, and examines some of the long-term positive effects of this mental workout.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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MRIs work by aligning the magnetic spin of the hydrogen molecules in the body. Credit: Image courtesy of MGH-UCLA Human Connectome Project.

Brain scans are now starting to peer down to the molecular level, revealing what brain cells are telling one another, researchers say.

A new study has provided insight into the behavioral damage caused by repeated blows to the head. The research provides a foundation for scientists to better understand and potentially develop new ways to detect and prevent the repetitive sports injuries that can lead to the condition known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

Sufferers of a common sleep-breathing disorder have diminished activity among neurons responsible for keeping heart rate low, reveals a new study published in The Journal of Physiology. The research discovered that in obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA), neurons in the brainstem that control heart rate experience a blunting of their activity. The reduction of neuronal activity likely contributes to the increased heart rate,blood pressure and risk of adverse cardiovascular events that occur in patients with OSA.

A variant of the gene KLOTHO is known for its anti-aging effects in people fortunate enough to carry a copy. Now researchers have found that it also has benefits when it comes to brain function.

Humans who lack the corpus callosum, a bundle of 200 million fibers that connect the left and right hemispheres of the brain, have long fascinated physicians, neuroscientists and other curious minds. Now, a group of researchers puts an end to the Sperry’s paradox, which describes major differences between individuals born with reduced or absent brain connections and those who acquire this condition later in life.

A study has shown that a long-overlooked form of neuron-to-neuron communication called miniature neurotransmission plays an essential role in the development of synapses, the regions where nerve impulses are transmitted and received.

The way that your heart rate increases in response to alertness in the brain has been recently discovered by researchers. Specifically, this study looked at the interactions between neurons that fire upon increased attention and anxiety and neurons that control heart rate to discover the “why,” “how,” and “where to next” behind this phenomenon. The results may have important implications for how certain conditions are treated in the future, such as post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic anxiety, or even stress.

A growing body of evidence suggests nonhuman animals can group living and inanimate things based on less than obvious shared traits, raising questions about how creatures accomplish this task.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool found musical training can increase blood flow in the left hemisphere of the brain, suggesting the area of the brain responsible for music and language share common pathways.