Weekly Neuroscience Update

This image shows an overview of the Rehabilitation Gaming System. Image credit: Rehabilitation Gaming System.

This image shows an overview of the Rehabilitation Gaming System. Image credit: Rehabilitation Gaming System.

Using virtual reality to increase a patient’s confidence in using their paralyzed arm may be critical for recovery, according to research published in the open-access Journal of  NeuroEngineering and Rehabilitation.

A pioneering study conducted by leading researchers at the University of Sheffield has revealed blood types play a role in the development of the nervous system and may cause a higher risk of developing cognitive decline. The findings  seem to indicate that people who have an ‘O’ blood type are more protected against the diseases in which volumetric reduction is seen in temporal and mediotemporal regions of the brain like with Alzheimer’s disease for instance.

A star-shaped brain cell called an astrocyte appears to help keep blood pressure and blood flow inside the brain on a healthy, even keel, scientists report.

Thanks to advances in brain imaging technology, we now know how specific concrete objects are coded in the brain, to the point where we can identify which object, such as a house or a banana, someone is thinking about from its brain activation signature.

A new study finds some people can be trained to learn absolute pitch.

Scientists have discovered a previously unknown link between the brain and the immune system that could help explain links between poor physical health and brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and depression.

A team of neuroscientists has determined how a pair of growth factor molecules contributes to long-term memory formation, a finding that appears in the journal Neuron.

Our understanding of how a key part of the human brain works may be wrong. That’s the conclusion of a team at Oxford University’s Centre for Human Brain Activity (OHBA), published in journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences. Until now, it was thought that working memory – the way in which we deal with and respond to immediate demands – was underpinned by stable brain patterns. The OHBA team discovered that instead, the areas of the brain responsible for working memory are changing all the time.

A new study finds people with higher levels of moral reasoning have greater gray matter volume in brain regions linked to social behaviour, decision-making and conflict processing, compared with those who have lower levels of moral reasoning.

Genes linked to creativity could increase the risk of developing schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, according to new research.

One of the major challenges of cocaine addiction is the high rate of relapse after periods of withdrawal and abstinence. But new research reveals that changes in our DNA during drug withdrawal may offer promising ways of developing more effective treatments for addiction.

According to a piece of research by the UPV/EHU-University of the Basque Country, the capacity to recall specific facts deteriorates with age, but other types of memory do not.

Finally, this week, a new study has found that the brain shrinks over the course of the day, ending up smaller in the evening – before returning to its full size the next morning.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study has found that while stereotypic shapes exist for this structure, individuals with a broader hippocampus tend to perform better on various tests that assess memory. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Camillo Golgi.

A new study has found that while stereotypic shapes exist for this structure, individuals with a broader hippocampus tend to perform better on various tests that assess memory. The image is for illustrative purposes only. Image credit: Camillo Golgi.

New research challenges the long-held belief that a larger hippocampus is directly linked to improved memory function.

Premature birth can alter the connectivity between key areas of the brain, according to a new study led by King’s College London. The findings should help researchers to better understand why premature birth is linked to a greater risk of neurodevelopmental problems, including autistic spectrum disorders and attention deficit disorders.

Scientists have uncovered mathematical equations behind the way the brain forms – and even loses – memories.

New scanning methods which map the wiring of the brain could provide a valuable new tool to predict people at risk of schizophrenia, according to a new study.

People with depression may be more likely to develop Parkinson’s disease, according to a large study published in Neurology.

Medical researchers have known for several years that there is some sort of link between long-term depression and an increased risk of stroke. But now scientists are finding that even after such depression eases, the risk of stroke can remain high.

A new study from the University of Cambridge has identified one of the oldest fossil brains ever discovered – more than 500 million years old – and used it to help determine how heads first evolved in early animals.

Researchers have succeeded in reconstructing the neuronal networks that interconnect the elementary units of sensory cortex — cortical columns. The scientists say that this study marks a major step forward to advance the understanding of the organizational principles of the neocortex and sets the stage for future studies that will provide extraordinary insight into how sensory information is represented, processed and encoded within the cortical circuitry.

Smokers who are able to quit might actually be hard-wired for success, according to a study from Duke Medicine.

Scientists are attempting to mimic the memory and learning functions of neurons found in the human brain. To do so, they investigated the electronic equivalent of the synapse, the bridge, making it possible for neurons to communicate with each other.

Finally this week, in a study using functional magnetic resonance imaging, scientists found that our inherent risk-taking preferences affect how we view and act on information from other people.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A neural network is like a social network: The strongest bonds exist between like-minded partners.  Credit: Biozentrum, University of Basel

A neural network is like a social network: The strongest bonds exist between like-minded partners.
Credit: Biozentrum, University of Basel

Neurons in the brain are wired like a social network, report researchers from Biozentrum, University of Basel. Each nerve cell has links with many others, but the strongest bonds form between the few cells most similar to each other. The results are published in the journal Nature.

Stroke survivors can have “significant” improvement in arm movements after using the Nintendo Wii as physiotherapy according to researchers.

Grasping an object involves a complex network of brain functions. First, visual cues are processed in specialized areas of the brain. Then, other areas of the brain use these signals to control the hands to reach for and manipulate the desired object. New findings suggest that the cerebellum, a region of the brain that has changed very little over time, may play a critical role. Findings could lead to advancements in assistive technologies benefiting the disabled.

A process previously thought to be mere background noise in the brain has been found to shape the growth of neurons as the brain develops, according to research published in Cell Reports.

Applying lessons learned from autism to brain cancer, researchers at The Johns Hopkins University have discovered why elevated levels of the protein NHE9 add to the lethality of the most common and aggressive form of brain cancer, glioblastoma. Their discovery suggests that drugs designed to target NHE9 could help to successfully fight the deadly disease.

Scientists at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel claim to have overturned standard thinking on how the brain is able to perform different tasks by studying brain activity in blind people.

Previously, it was thought ability to repair DNA was the same throughout the body, but new research overturns this idea and shows organs vary in the extent to which they carry out a type of DNA repair called nucleotide excision repair.

Finally this week, a major study by an international team shows new evidence that long-term smoking could cause thinning of the brain’s cortex. The cortex is the outer layer of the brain in which critical cognitive functions such as memory, language and perception take place. Interestingly, the findings also suggest that stopping smoking helps to restore at least part of the cortex’s thickness.

 

 

 

Remembering Who I Am: A stroke rehabilitation project using dance and movement

In 2013, The Place dance studio in collaboration with Rosetta Life (which aims to change the way we perceive the frail and disabled who live with life limiting illnesses) set up a series of movement workshops for stroke patients in rehabilitation at the UK National Hospital for Neurological Surgery. This video documents the experiences of the patients and the staff involved in the project.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Reviewing MRI data, researchers found the brain anatomy of people with autism above the age of six was mostly indistinguishable from that of typically developing individuals. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit McZusatz.

Reviewing MRI data, researchers found the brain anatomy of people with autism above the age of six was mostly indistinguishable from that of typically developing individuals. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit McZusatz.

Brain anatomy in MRI scans of people with autism above age six is mostly indistinguishable from that of typically developing individuals and, therefore, of little clinical or scientific value.

Some types of dementia are actually a result of many tiny, unnoticed strokes damaging the brain over time, researchers at the Krembil Neuroscience Centre in Toronto, Canada, have found. This suggests that this type of dementia could be treatable — probably through lifestyle changes.

Therapists could pick up signs of depression just be listening to how their patients talk, after a study found that unhappy people speak in a different tone.

Why do we remember some things and not others? In a unique imaging study researchers have discovered how neurons in the brain might allow some experiences to be remembered while others are forgotten. It turns out, if you want to remember something about your environment, you better involve your dendrites.

Looking at the brain as a highly interactive network of nodes, rather than a collection of individual areas of activity, could offer a new way to diagnose the memory disorders that tend to affect older people.

An international study has identified genetic markers that may help in identifying individuals who could benefit from the alcoholism treatment drug acamprosate. The findings, published in the journal Translational Psychiatry, show that patients carrying these genetic variants have longer periods of abstinence during the first three months of acamprosate treatment.

New research on how the brain leads us to believe we have sharp vision.

Disturbances in the early stages of brain growth, such as preterm birth – when many of the brain’s structures have not yet fully developed – appears to affect the brain’s neuro-circuitry, which may explain premature babies’ higher risk of neurodevelopmental disorders including ADHD and autism spectrum disorder.

Data from 50 laboratories around the world has found that rare mutations in dozens of genes may be responsible for 30% or more cases of autism.

Researchers have been tracking the traces of implicit and explicit memories of fear in human. The study was published in the journal Neurobiology of Learning and Memory; it describes how, in a context of fear, our brain differently encodes contextual memory of a negative event and the emotional response associated.

A major breakthrough in the development of stem cell-derived brain cells has put researchers on a firm path towards the first ever stem cell transplantations in people with Parkinson’s disease. A new study presents the next generation of transplantable dopamine neurons produced from stem cells. These cells carry the same properties as the dopamine neurons found in the human brain.

The brain’s plasticity and its adaptability to new situations do not function the way researchers previously thought, according to a new study published in the journal Cell.

Finally this week, researchers have shown how a single neuron can perform multiple functions in a model organism, illuminating for the first time this fundamental biological mechanism and shedding light on the human brain.

 

Vital research into the illness of mind and brain

In this short seven-minute video Stephen Gentleman, Professor of Neuropathology at the Hammersmith Hospital in London dissects a recently preserved human brain according to international protocol.The brain sections are then stored in a ‘brain tissue bank’ for further research.

The brains are donated by people who suffered from Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (both degenerative and incurable diseases of the central nervous system), but sometimes ‘control’ samples of healthy brains (also donated) are required too for accurate comparisons.

While some viewers may find this video unsettling it is important to stress that this type of research is vital in discovering safer and more effective treatments for illnesses of mind and brain. Brain dissections may also be performed in autopsy when the cause of death is unclear.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Neuroscience research demonstrates that the brain regions underpinning moral judgment share resources with circuits controlling other capacities such as emotional saliency, mental state understanding and decision-making. Credit: Jean Decety

Neuroscience research demonstrates that the brain regions underpinning moral judgment share resources with circuits controlling other capacities such as emotional saliency, mental state understanding and decision-making. Credit: Jean Decety

People who care about justice are swayed more by reason than emotion, according to new brain scan research from the Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. Researchers have discovered a gene that is likely to play a role in the risk of psychosis in bipolar disorders.

A new way to artificially control muscles using light, with the potential to restore function to muscles paralysed by conditions such as motor neuron disease and spinal cord injury, has been developed by scientists at UCL and King’s College London.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Allen Institute for Brain Science have published a study that gives clear and direct new evidence that autism begins during pregnancy.

A new study is the first documented study that shows cognitive behavioral therapy in a group setting is capable of changing the brain structure in patients with chronic pain.

By examining the sense of touch in stroke patients, a University of Delaware cognitive psychologist has found evidence that the brains of these individuals may be highly plastic even years after being damaged.

A new chemical messenger that is critical in protecting the brain against Parkinson’s disease has been identified by scientists.

Scents and smells can form the basis of some of the most significant memories humans form in their lives, a new study suggests

In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Temporo-parietal jonction (TPJ) © Perrine Ruby / Inserm

Temporo-parietal jonction (TPJ) © Perrine Ruby / Inserm

Some people recall a dream every morning, whereas others rarely recall one. A research team has studied the brain activity of these two types of dreamers in order to understand the differences between them. In a study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, the researchers show that the temporo-parietal junction, an information-processing hub in the brain, is more active in high dream recallers. Increased activity in this brain region might facilitate attention orienting toward external stimuli and promote intrasleep wakefulness, thereby facilitating the encoding of dreams in memory.

Many psychiatric disorders are accompanied by memory deficits. Basel scientists have now identified a network of genes that controls fundamental properties of neurons and is important for human brain activity, memory and the development of schizophrenia. 

Researchers have taken a major step toward identifying the specific genes that contribute to bipolar disorder.

A recent study conducted by Johns Hopkins University and the National Institute of Aging found that aging adults with hearing loss are at higher risk for accelerated brain-tissue loss.

Brain cell regeneration has been discovered in a new location in human brains. The finding raises hopes that these cells could be used to help people recover after a stroke, or to treat other brain diseases.

Finally this week, researchers are hoping that the world’s largest simulated brain — known as Spaun — will be used to test new drugs that lead to breakthrough treatments for neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s, Huntington’s, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Speech processing requires both sides of our brain

A new study by Cogan et al proposes that speech processes occur on both sides of the brain and are distinct from language, which occurs on one side, typically on the left. This suggests a revision to the standard model of how speech is linked to language with some processes going through a "bilateral sensory-motor interface". Credit: Greg Cogan and Bijan Pesaran

A new study by Cogan et al proposes that speech processes occur on both sides of the brain and are distinct from language, which occurs on one side, typically on the left. This suggests a revision to the standard model of how speech is linked to language with some processes going through a “bilateral sensory-motor interface”. Credit: Greg Cogan and Bijan Pesaran

A new study has found that we use both sides of our brain for speech, a finding that alters previous conceptions about neurological activity. The results, which appear in the journal Nature, also offer insights into addressing speech-related inhibitions caused by stroke or injury and lay the groundwork for better rehabilitation methods.

The study’s senior author, Bijan Pesaran, an associate professor in New York University’s Center for Neural Science, said:

Our findings upend what has been universally accepted in the scientific community—that we use only one side of our brains for speech. With this greater understanding of the speech process, we can retool rehabilitation methods in ways that isolate speech recovery and that don’t involve language.

Read more: Sensory–motor transformations for speech occur bilaterally

 

Study highlights an increase in young and middle age stroke

Actor Frankie Muniz reveals he suffered a mini-stroke

Actor Frankie Muniz reveals he suffered a mini-stroke

Stroke rates among young and middle-aged people worldwide are increasing and these groups now account for nearly one-third of all strokes, according to a new study. The analysis of data gathered between 1990 and 2010 found that the number of strokes among people aged 20 to 64 rose 25 percent during that time, and that this age group now accounts for 31 percent of the total number of strokes, compared with 25 percent before 1990.

The news that former Malcolm In The Middle actor,  Frankie Muniz,  has recently suffered his second mini-stroke at the age of 27, seems to bear out the study findings. He revealed the news on Twitter.

Almost a year to the day, I experienced another mini stroke. Hopefully that will be the last. Miserable.

 

What Is A Mini Stroke?

A mini stroke is medically known as a transient ischemic attack (TIA). A TIA is a sign that part of the brain isn’t getting enough blood.One in ten people who suffer a TIA go on to have a stroke within a week if they remain untreated.