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

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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.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Our brain’s changing structure, not simply getting older and wiser, most affects our attitudes to risk, according to new research.

A new study from Center for Music in the Brain (MIB) Aarhus University/The Royal Academy of Music, Denmark, published in Scientific Reports, shows that participants receiving oxytocin – a hormone known to promote social bonding – are more synchronized when finger-tapping together, than participants receiving placebo. This effect was observed when pairs of participants, placed in separate rooms tapped together in a leader/follower relationship.

Researchers have identified a population of neurons that appear to be responsible for muscle paralysis during REM sleep.

A team of scientists has mapped out how our brains process visuals we don’t even know we’ve seen, indicating that the neuronal encoding and maintenance of subliminal images is more substantial than previously thought.

Mutations of the GBA gene, a known risk factor for Parkinson’s disease, appear to also influence the development of cognitive decline, a new study reports.

Women and men look at faces and absorb visual information in different ways, which suggests there is a gender difference in understanding visual cues, according to a team of scientists.

A new neuroimaging study finds iron is distributed in an unusual way in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgements and memory recall.

A new study reveals sleep could be used as an early prevention strategy against PTSD.

Finally this week, researchers discover metaphors that involve body parts such as arms or legs, such as ‘twist my arm, engage a brain region responsible for the visual perception of those parts.

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study finds those “earworm” songs that get stuck in our heads are usually faster, fairly generic and easier to remember, but with unique intervals that set them apart from ‘average’ pop songs.

Researchers have for the first time recorded how cells of the epidermis behave during the regrowth of adult limbs after amputation.

Proper communication between the left and right sides of the brain is critical for the development of advanced language skills, according to new research.

A team of researchers at TU Dresden has examined the underlying neural processes associated with short term task learning in a current imaging study. The results of the study are published today in Nature Communications.

A new study confirms that scanning a person’s brain with an fMRI is more accurate at picking up lies than a traditional polygraph test.

Contrary to popular belief, language is not limited to speech. A  recent study published in the journal PNAS, reveals that people also apply the rules of their spoken language to sign language.

Scientists at The University of Manchester have shown for the first time that if the brain is ‘tuned-in’ to a particular frequency, pain can be alleviated.

A new study appears to build on the previous research that suggests genetic mutations which affect mitochondria function could be critical to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, researchers have also discovered a possible new treatment for the disease after noticing the way in which insulin signaling works in the brains and pancreas of diabetic patients; and in another study degeneration of the basal forebrain appears before cognitive and behavioural symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur.

Researchers were able to predict the orientation preference of individual neurons by adding up the responses of their dendritic spines, a new study reports.

Scientists have mapped what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning.

The brain regulates social behaviour differently in males and females, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team of  researchers has uncovered new details about the biology of telomeres, “caps” of DNA that protect the tips of chromosomes and play key roles in a number of health conditions, including cancer, inflammation and aging.

A new study uses retinal prosthetics to assess the brain’s ability to process visual information years after blindness occurs.

People suffering medical conditions causing low levels of oxytocin perform worse on empathy tasks, according to new research. And a new measuring method has detected oxytocin at much higher rates in blood serum and plasma than researchers previously thought.

Researchers believe they may have pinpointed an area of the brain that plays a role in maintaining human consciousness.

Scientists have uncovered new details about how a repeating nucleotide sequence in the gene for a mutant protein may trigger Huntington’s disease and other neurological diseases.

Finally this  week, a new study reports context processing problems could help to explain some of the symptoms and neuroimaging findings associated with PTSD.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Total correct score on the Eyes test for each individual is plotted as a dot, coloured according to group, to illustrate the distribution of performance by group. Mean score for each group is shown by a black dot, and the error bars indicate the 95% confidence interval of the mean score. Credit: Baron-Cohen et al./PLOS ONE.

Total correct score on the Eyes test for each individual is plotted as a dot, coloured according to group, to illustrate the distribution of performance by group. Mean score for each group is shown by a black dot, and the error bars indicate the 95% confidence interval of the mean score. Credit: Baron-Cohen et al./PLOS ONE.

New results published by researchers at the Autism Research Centre (ARC) show both men and women with autism show an extreme of the typical male pattern on the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test.

Researchers at Mayo clinic completed analysis of a 4 year prospective study comparing detailed neurologic examination versus magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to localize neurologic dysfunction. The findings, demonstrated MRI’s superior performance to the clinical exam.

Researchers at the University of Oslo have tested a new device for delivering hormone treatments for mental illness through the nose. This method was found to deliver medicine to the brain with few side effects.

Researchers have performed the first focused ultrasound treatments in the United States for dyskinesia associated with Parkinson’s disease.

A computer-based brain-training game could improve the daily lives of people with schizophrenia, say University of Cambridge researchers.

A gene linked in previous research, appears to predict more severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as a thinner cortex in regions of the brain critical for regulating strong emotions and coping with stressful experiences. This study is believed to be the first to show that the spindle and kinetochore-associated complex subunit 2 (SKA2) gene may play a role in the development of PTSD.

Midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure levels and prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications, according to new research.

A ‘gene signature’ that could be used to predict the onset of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, years in advance has been developed in research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

researchers have developed a method to map the circuitry of the brain with a “Neuronal Positioning System” (NPS) similar to how a Global Positioning System (GPS) triangulates our location on the planet. Image credit: Dr. Shlomo Tsuriel and Dr. Alex Binshtok, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

researchers have developed a method to map the circuitry of the brain with a “Neuronal Positioning System” (NPS) similar to how a Global Positioning System (GPS) triangulates our location on the planet. Image credit: Dr. Shlomo Tsuriel and Dr. Alex Binshtok, Hebrew University of Jerusalem.

In new research scientists have announced a “Neuronal Positioning System” (NPS) that maps the circuitry of the brain, similar to how a Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver triangulates one’s location on the planet.

EPFL scientists have developed a new method that can accurately simulate the chemical modification of the protein behind Parkinson’s disease. The technique, has opened a new way of understanding Parkinson’s, and can be expanded to other proteins and diseases as well.

Neuroscientists have found a way to activate opioid receptors with light.

New research shows that chemotherapy can lead to excessive mind wandering and an inability to concentrate. Dubbed ‘chemo-brain,’ the negative cognitive effects of the cancer treatment have long been suspected, but the study is the first to explain why patients have difficulty paying attention.

A study provides new evidence that book sharing in early childhood may promote brain development supporting reading readiness.

An international team of scientists has discovered what amounts to a molecular reset button for our internal body clock. Their findings reveal a potential target to treat a range of disorders, from sleep disturbances to other behavioral, cognitive, and metabolic abnormalities, commonly associated with jet lag, shift work and exposure to light at night, as well as with neuropsychiatric conditions such as depression and autism.

New findings provide potential explanations for the very high percentage of post-traumatic disorders in combat.

Scientists have discovered that neurons are risk takers: They use minor “DNA surgeries” to toggle their activity levels all day, every day. Since these activity levels are important in learning, memory and brain disorders, the researchers think their finding will shed light on a range of important questions.

Women may have a more difficult time than men in recovering from concussion, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Finally this week, researchers report a previously unappreciated phenomenon in which the location of injury to a neuron’s communication wire in the spinal cord — the axon — determines whether the neuron simply stabilizes or attempts to regenerate. The study, published by Neuron, demonstrates how advances in live-imaging techniques are revealing new insights into the body’s ability to respond to spinal cord injuries.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Credit Salk Institute.

The hippocampus is a region of the brain largely responsible for memory formation. Credit Salk Institute.

Scientists have created a new model of memory that explains how neurons retain select memories a few hours after an event. This new framework provides a more complete picture of how memory works, which can inform research into disorders liked Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, post-traumatic stress and learning disabilities.

A switch in the brain of people with epilepsy dictates whether their seizures will be relatively mild or lead to a dangerous and debilitating loss of consciousness, Yale researchers have found.

By predicting our eye movements, our brain creates a stable world for us. Researchers used to think that those predictions had so much influence that they could cause us to make errors in estimating the position of objects. Neuroscientists at Radboud University have shown this to be incorrect. The Journal of Neuroscience published their findings – which challenge fundamental knowledge regarding coordination between brain and eyes.

Extreme and traumatic events can change a person — and often, years later, even affect their children. Researchers have now unmasked a piece in the puzzle of how the inheritance of traumas may be mediated.

Artists have structurally different brains compared with non-artists, a study has found. Participants’ brain scans revealed that artists had increased neural matter in areas relating to fine motor movements and visual imagery. The research, published in NeuroImage, suggests that an artist’s talent could be innate. But training and environmental upbringing also play crucial roles in their ability, the authors report.

Certain errors in visual perception in people with schizophrenia are consistent with interference or ‘noise’ in a brain signal known as a corollary discharge, a new study shows.

Finally this week,  a recent study has shown that use of abstract gestures is a powerful tool for helping children understand and generalize mathematical concepts.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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People who are better able to move to a beat show more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm, according to a study published in the September 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that musical training could possibly sharpen the brain’s response to language.

Concussions are connected with substance abuse and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, according to new research presented at a conference on sports-related brain injuries.

The structure of the brain may predict whether a person will suffer chronic low back pain, according to researchers who used brain scans. The results, published in the journal Pain, support the growing idea that the brain plays a critical role in chronic pain, a concept that may lead to changes in the way doctors treat patients.

A drug commonly used for treating diabetes may reverse symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and is now in the process of entering a major clinical trial.

Scientists have found a new link between early-onset Parkinson’s disease and a piece of DNA missing from chromosome 22. The findings help shed new light on the molecular changes that lead to Parkinson’s disease.

The pain and itching associated with shingles and herpes may be due to the virus causing a “short circuit” in the nerve cells that reach the skin, researchers have found.

In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers have found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating. This study adds to growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits. Motor skills and muscle memory are held in the cerebellum.

Scientists have discovered differences in the brain structure of ballet dancers that may help them avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes.

New research could offer solutions into slowing down the progression of motor neurone disease (MND).

Playing first person action games can enhance your perception of movement – but only when you’re walking backwards. This is one of the findings of a new paper by University of Leicester psychologists, published in the journal Perception, which examines the effect of playing video games on motion perception.

Two new studies investigate the relationship between self-control and reward processing for chronic dieters and people who would like to control their food intake.

Scientists say they have discovered the specific brain circuitry that causes overeating, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Bad experiences enhance memory formation about places, scientists at The University of Queensland have found.

Finally this week, a new study from MIT reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations,

Weekly Neuroscience Update

This image from the study shows changes in degree of connectivity in the feedback group. Increases are shown in red/yellow and decreases in blue/purple. Decreases in connectivity are seen in limbic areas, and increases are seen in prefrontal regions. (Credit: D Scheinost et al./Yale University)

People provided with a real-time readout of activity in specific regions of their brains can learn to control that activity and lessen their anxiety, say Yale researchers.

A new study provides neurobiological evidence for dysfunction in the neural circuitry underlying emotion regulation in people with insomnia, which may have implications for the risk relationship between insomnia and depression.

Different brain areas are activated when we choose for ourselves to suppress an emotion, compared to situations where we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according to a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University.

Migraines and depression can each cause a great deal of suffering, but new research indicates the combination of the two may be linked to something else entirely—a smaller brain.

The epigenetic modifications, which alter the way genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence, can apparently be detected in the blood of pregnant women during any trimester, potentially providing a simple way to foretell depression in the weeks after giving birth, and an opportunity to intervene before symptoms become debilitating.

A three-year multinational study has tracked and detailed the progression of Huntington’s disease (HD), predicting clinical decline in people carrying the HD gene more than 10 years before the expected onset of symptoms.

Researchers have pinpointed a catalytic trigger for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease – when the fundamental structure of a protein molecule changes to cause a chain reaction that leads to the death of neurons in the brain.

Individuals who learn two languages at an early age seem to switch back and forth between separate “sound systems” for each language, according to new research conducted at the University of Arizona.

Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face. Now, researchers at NYU School of Medicine have explored for the first time what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD in the absence of external triggers.

And finally this week…

Listening to new music is rewarding for the brain, a study suggests. Using MRI scans, a Canadian team of scientists found that areas in the reward centre of the brain became active when people heard a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The study is published in the journal Science

Latest research on PTSD shows smaller brain area regulating fear response

CAT scans. Recent combat veterans who are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder have significantly smaller volume in an area of the brain critical for regulating fear and anxiety responses. (Credit: © svedoliver / Fotolia)

Recent combat veterans who are diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder have significantly smaller volume in an area of the brain critical for regulating fear and anxiety responses, according to research led by scientists at Duke University and the Durham VA Medical Center.

The finding, published Nov. 5, 2012, in the journal Archives of General Psychiatry, for the first time provides clear evidence that smaller amygdala volume is associated with PTSD, regardless of the severity of trauma. But it’s not clear whether the physiological difference was caused by a traumatic event, or whether PTSD develops more readily in people who naturally have smaller amygdalas.

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