Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Scientists have developed a virtual reality computer game as part of the world’s biggest dementia research experiment. It is designed to test one of the first things to go with dementia – the ability to navigate.

Researchers have developed a robotic system that allows them to focus in on specific neurons in the brain. The technology could help answer questions such as how neurons interact with each other as we recall a memory.

Benzodiazepines—the family of popular sedatives that includes Valium and Xanaxseem to bring about structural changes in the brain, according to a European study running in the August edition of Psychiatry Neuroimaging.

Researchers report people who report higher levels of moral reasoning show increased activity in brain areas associated with reward. The study may improve understanding as to why some people are more likely to engage in prosocial behaviors.

Tinnitus, a chronic ringing or buzzing in the ears, has eluded medical treatment and scientific understanding. A new study found that chronic tinnitus is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

Researchers have identified a specific area of the brain responsible for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with schizophrenia. The researchers were able to control the hallucinations with the help of transcranial magnetic stimulation.

Finally this week, a new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that older people who routinely partake in physical exercise can reverse the signs of aging in the brain, and dancing has the most profound effect.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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People who played action video games that involve first-person shooters experienced shrinkage in a brain region called the hippocampus, according to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry. That part of the brain is associated with spatial navigation, stress regulation and memory. Playing Super Mario games, in which the plumber strives to rescue a princess, had the opposite effect on the hippocampus, causing growth in it.

Researchers have revealed a helpful strategy to help those with cognitive problems to improve their memory.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

A new study reports cognitive abilities mutually assist each other during development. This results in improved cognitive skills and general intelligence over time.

A sleeping brain can form fresh memories, according to a team of neuroscientists. The researchers played complex sounds to people while they were sleeping, and afterward the sleepers could recognize those sounds when they were awake.

Researchers report social norms together with increasing oxytocin can counter xenophobia by enhancing altruistic behaviors.

A new Johns Hopkins University study adds further evidence to the link between serotonin and dementia. According to researchers, lower serotonin levels may play a key role in memory decline and drive the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers have devised a new odor identification test that could help doctors predict those at risk of Alzheimer’s and track the progression of the disease.

Finally this week, a new study reveals a neurobiological reason behind why we feel happy when we are being generous. Researchers discovered the connectivity between the temporal parietal junction and ventral striatum, an area of the brain associated with happiness, was enhanced in people who committed to generosity.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Brain scans from a 38-year-old, left, and a 73-year-old. 

Researchers are embarking on a new study to answer how some people are able to stay sharper than others as they age.

Neurons in the brain that produce the pleasure-signaling neurotransmitter dopamine also directly control the brain’s circadian center, or “body clock” – the area that regulates eating cycles, metabolism and waking/resting cycles – a key link that possibly affects the body’s ability to adapt to jet lag and rotating shift work, a new study has demonstrated.

A molecule produced by insulating glial cells facilitates the functional wiring of brain cells involved in motor coordination.

Using the latest MRI scanning procedures, a team of researchers has shown how certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy. The team has discovered biomarkers that – if used for screening – could massively improve treatment options for epilepsy. The researchers have published their results in the online journal eLife.

A new study reveals the role circular RNA plays in brain function, including synaptic transmission and sensorimotor gating.

Depression has been shown to alter the structure of the brain’s white matter, which contains the circuitry that allows brain cells to communicate with each other, and which underpins brain function.

According to a new Nature study, in order for our taste system to work, the connection between neurons and taste bud cells have to rewire correctly each time.

A new optogenetic method called Optobow is helping researchers to discover specific and individual components of functional neural networks in the living brain. A Nature Communications report states this new method can help provide more detailed insights into both brain function and structure.

A neuroimaging study reveals people who report widespread pain have increased gray matter and functional connectivity in sensory and motor areas of the brain.

Finally this week, a large scale SPECT imaging study reveals women’s brains are significantly more active in more regions than males, including the prefronal cortex and limbic areas. Visual and areas associated with coordination were more active in males, researchers noted.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

optogenetics-living-brain-neurosciencenews.jpgA new optogenetic method called Optobow is helping researchers to discover specific and individual components of functional neural networks in the living brain. A Nature Communications report states this new method can help provide more detailed insights into both brain function and structure.

A new Translational Psychiatry report suggests physical exercise may help protect neurons and reduce symptoms of dementia in older people.

Researchers have developed a software tool that analyzes functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of patient brains and with 74% accuracy diagnoses schizophrenia. Moreover, the software’s algorithms were also able to reasonably estimate how bad the symptoms of the disease were in individual patients.

A new study reveals a drug currently used to treat dementia may be helpful in the treatment of traumatic brain injury.

Individual differences in the pattern of release of the hormone cortisol in response to a stressful experience reveal how stressed a person actually feels, suggests a study of healthy women published in The Journal of Neuroscience. This approach could help to better identify and treat individuals more susceptible to the negative feelings associated with the physiological stress response.

A new study has found that a gene variant, thought to be carried by nearly 25 percent of the population, increases the odds of developing depression.

Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new research.

A small patch of neurons fires in complex ways to encode movement of much of the body according to new research.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, researchers have been able to capture how glutamate opens glutamate receptor ion channels. The Nature study provides significant insight into how receptors can mediate brain function.

Finally this week, a team at the University of Wollongong, Australia, has used a 3D printer to create nerve cells found in the brain.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Thousands of branches and branchlets emanate from an astrocyte’s cell body, which is the dense portion in the middle of the image.

A new study published in Neuron challenges the idea that astrocytes across the brain are largely identical.

Researchers have identified a new protein, CIB2, that is key to helping the auditory system to turn soundwaves into meaningful brain signals. Mutations of this gene leave people unable to convert the soundwaves into signals that the brain can interpret, and are deaf.

The more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life, a large-scale online trial has found.

How short-term memories become long-term ones has frequently been explored by researchers. While a definitive answer remains elusive, scientists conclude that this transformation is best explained by a “temporal hierarchy” of “time windows” that collectively alter the state of the brain.

Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers at King’s College London have identified a molecular mechanism that allows neural connections to adapt as a result of experience. This adaptation fuels our ability for memory and learning.

Researchers have developed a concept called Empowerment to help robots and humans to work and live side-by-side safely and effectively.

A study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has identified a new potential mechanism contributing to the biology of the disorder that may be targeted by future treatments.

A new study reveals those who die at 100 tend to suffer from fewer diseases than those who die at younger ages.

A new paper identifies 100 of the most cited neuroscience research papers. Of these papers, 78 focus on five topics. According to the authors of the paper, the most cited neuroscience research topics include the prefrontal cortex, neural connectivity, methodology, brain mapping and neurological disorders. The findings could have significant impact for future neuroscience studies.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

The same mechanisms that quickly separate mixtures of oil and water are at play when controlling the organization in an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study.

New research has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.

Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala may help explain a person’s preference for uncertain outcomes, as well as a preference for order and certainty, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Our brain is especially good at perceiving lines and contours even if they do not actually exist, such as the blue triangle in the foreground of this optical illusion. The pattern of neuronal connections in the brain supports this ability.

Researchers have identified how our brains are so good at perceiving contours and edges. The study, published in Nature, reports neurons are most likely to connect if they react to edges that lie on a common axis and the structure of the world around us is mirrored in the pattern of synapses.

A new study reports bilingual people think about time differently depending on the language context they are estimating event duration.

The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and appear to have no more effect on healthy brains than video games.

Scientists report that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

Researchers are investigating why certain language abilities are lost as a result of a traumatic brain injury, and how others can be regained.

A recently published study investigates time perception and temporal information processing in people with schizophrenia. It reveals the internal clock in schizophrenics does not necessarily run slower or faster than in healthy individuals, but rather it does not run at a consistent speed.

Finally, this week, using music to learn a physical task develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Practicing paying attention can boost performance on a new task, and change the way the brain processes information, a new study says. This might explain why learning a new skill can start out feeling grueling, but eventually feels more natural — although right now, the study’s findings are limited to a simple pattern-recognition game.

A new study reports traumatic brain injury is associated with a higher risk of developing dementia in people of working age.

According to researchers, the ability to assess memory quality appears in children, and metamemory continues to improve beyond childhood into adolescence. The findings could provide new insights into effective learning methods and assist teachers to devise new educational strategies.

Researchers report harmful plaques associated with Alzheimer’s disease may build up in the brain as a result of high blood pressure and decreased cerebral blood flow.

A new paper may help answer some questions as to why some infants die suddenly. Looking at blood samples from infants who had died of SIDS, researchers discover 31% of the children had elevated levels of serotonin. The researchers concluded that abnormal serotonin metabolism could indicate an underlying vulnerability that increases SIDS risk.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

Poor sleep may be a sign that people who are otherwise healthy may be more at risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease later in life than people who do not have sleep problems, according to a study published in Neurology. Researchers have found a link between sleep disturbances and biological markers for Alzheimer’s disease found in the spinal fluid.

A new study reports that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

Finally, this week, higher intelligence (IQ) in childhood is associated with a lower lifetime risk of major causes of death, including heart disease, stroke, smoking-related cancers, respiratory disease and dementia, finds a study published by The BMJ.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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This latest research builds on the pioneering use of machine learning algorithms with brain imaging technology to “mind read.” The findings indicate that the mind’s building blocks for constructing complex thoughts are formed by the brain’s various sub-systems and are not word-based.  Image is credited to Carnegie Mellon University.

Researchers report they can use brain activation patterns to identify complex thoughts. Their findings suggest the building blocks for complex human thoughts are not word based, but formed by the brain’s sub systems. The study provides evidence that the neural dimensions of concept representation are universal across people and languages.

A new study considers how echolocation can benefit visually impaired people to navigate safely through the environment.

Neuroscientists have used a classic branch of maths in a totally new way to peer into the structure of our brains. What they’ve discovered is that the brain is full of multi-dimensional geometrical structures operating in as many as 11 dimensions.

People tend to change the pitch of their voice depending on who they are talking to, and how dominant they feel, a new study has found.

Researchers have identified a network of neurons that plays a vital role in learning vocalizations by aiding communication between motor and auditory regions of the brain.

A new study reinforces the idea that serotonin, a molecule associated with mood, directly contributes to the actions of cocaine.

A new report published by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine shows evidence supporting three interventions for cognitive decline and dementia—cognitive training, blood pressure management for people with hypertension, and increased physical activity, which might slow down cognitive decline and the onset of dementia.

Therapies to change the bacteria in the gut, through diet, pro-and prebiotic supplements, faecal matter transplants or antibiotics, could treat autism.

Finally this week, researchers say a protein usually associated with the immune system could play a role in the development of neurological conditions such as epilepsy and schizophrenia.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

girl-1990347_960_720.jpgA new report reveals how the development of music is so closely tied to our own evolution.

Even a single bout of physical activity can have significant positive effects on people’s mood and cognitive functions, according to a new study in Brain Plasticity.

A new study reports on the complex brain connections employed during word retrieval.

New research provides an unprecedented level of resolution and insight into disturbances in cortical GABAergic microcircuits, which are thought to underlie cognitive impairments in schizophrenia.

A sign language study helps researchers better understand how the brain processes language.

Researchers say the goal of memory is not to transmit the most accurate information over time, but to optimize intelligent decision making by holding on to valuable information.

A new study reports microglia may play a role in a diverse array of neurodegenerative and psychiatric illnesses.

A new brain imaging study shows for the first time that brain inflammation is significantly elevated – more than 30 per cent higher – in people with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) than in people without the condition.

A research team has studied two structurally-similar proteins in the adult brain and have found that they play distinct roles in the development of dementia. 

Neurons found to be abnormal in psychosis play an important role in our ability to distinguish between what is real and what is perceived, researchers say.

A new study sheds light on the neural mechanism behind why some people with autism are unable to make eye contact with others.

While researchers report the risk of developing psychosis from cannabis use is relatively small, those who use the drug and already suffer from schizophrenia may notice their condition worsen.

Finally this week, researchers have discovered a mechanism of glucose sensing by muscles that contribute to the regulation of blood sugar levels in the body.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

4121A56E00000578-4574260-image-a-57_1496767085907.jpgElectrically stimulating the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex can enhance our ability to ‘think outside the box’, a new study reports.

An international team of researchers has found, for the first time, seven risk genes for insomnia. With this finding the researchers have taken an important step towards the unravelling of the biological mechanisms that cause insomnia. In addition, the finding proves that insomnia is not, as is often claimed, a purely psychological condition.

Researchers have developed a neural network based AI system that can decode and predict what a person is seeing or imagining.

A new study reports artificial intelligence used by the military to help shoot down fighter planes can accurately predict treatment outcomes for people with bipolar disorder.

New research sheds light on how the brain codes navigation behaviour at larger scales.

The visual cortex, the human brain’s vision-processing center that was previously thought to mature and stabilize in the first few years of life, actually continues to develop until sometime in the late 30s or early 40s, a neuroscientist and her colleagues have found.

Clusters of a sticky protein — amyloid plaque — found in the brain signal mental decline years before symptoms appear, a new study finds.

According to researchers, brain signals in specific brain areas change during a lifespan in ways that could be vital for maintaining flexibility.

Two new studies shed light on how the brain encodes and recalls memories.

People with voice disorders may have a problem with correctly utilizing auditory feedback to control their voices.

A new study reveals the role the motor system plays in the perception of language. 

According to researchers, bilingual children perform better at voice recognition and processing than monolingual children.

Fascination with faces is nature, not nurture, suggests a new study of third-trimester fetuses.

Finally this week, the mystery of how human eyes compute the direction of moving light has been made clearer by scientists at The University of Queensland.