Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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Fathers given boosts of the hormone oxytocin show increased activity in brain regions associated with reward and empathy when viewing photos of their toddlers, a new study finds. The journal Hormones and Behavior published the results of the study, the first to look at the influence of both oxytocin and vasopressin – another hormone linked to social bonding – on brain function in human fathers.

A new study looks at the association between tiredness, genetics, environment and health.

A genetic ‘switch’ has been discovered by researchers at the University of Leicester which could help to prevent or delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In a paper published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation, the team discovered that a gene called ATF4 plays a key role in Parkinson’s disease, acting as a ‘switch’ for genes that control mitochondrial metabolism for neuron health.

A new study supports olfactory testing as an early method to detect those at risk of develop dementia.

Researchers have experimentally confirmed the hypothesis, whereby comprehension of a word’s meaning involves not only the ‘classic’ language brain centres but also the cortical regions responsible for the control of body muscles, such as hand movements. The resulting brain representations are, therefore, distributed across a network of locations involving both areas specialised for language processing and those responsible for the control of the associated action.

Better quality sleep is linked to improved emotions and fewer stressors the next day, researchers report.

New research shows that patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), even without evidence of brain lesions, may exhibit changes in brain connectivity detectable at the time of the injury that can aid in diagnosis and predicting the effects on cognitive and behavioural performance at 6 months.

Finally this week, preschool aged children who took naps after learning new verbs better understood the word when tested 24 hours later, a new study reports.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Salk scientist finds similar rule governing traffic flow in engineered and biological systems.

An algorithm used for the internet may help researchers learn about the human brain, researchers report.

A new blood test may be as accurate as a test requiring a painful spinal tap for differentiating Parkinson’s disease from similar disorders, according to a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers report neurons move the site of microRNA maturation away from the cytoplasm out to the dendrites.

Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, researchers conclude in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A new study reveals some brain systems in a dish, dubbed circuitoids, exhibit coordinated and spontaneous rhythmic activity that can drive repetitive movements.

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age.

An international research team has found that when the brain “reads” or decodes a sentence in English or Portuguese, its neural activation patterns are the same.

New findings suggest that language-specialised brain areas work in constant interaction with other areas known to support other cognitive processes, such as perception and action.

Scientists have identified two distinct mechanisms in the brain that control the balance between accuracy and speed when making decisions.

When it comes to perceiving music, the human brain is much more tuned in to certain types of rhythms than others, according to a new study.

The effects a concussion has on driving a vehicle may continue to linger even after the symptoms disappear, according to University of Georgia researchers.

Scientists say neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be linked to defective brain cells disposing toxic proteins that make neighbouring cells sick.

New research from Lund University in Sweden has shown that intestinal bacteria can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

New research uncovers the brain circuit involved in processing fear, which could eventually lead to new treatment options for people with mental health disorders.

Finally this week, infants as young as 20 months of age expect adults to display surprise when discovering a false belief, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Under the microscope, staining highlights a network of vasculature amid the ball of neurons that make up a minibrain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Hoffman-Kim lab/Brown University

Scientists have recently made a variety of mini-brains — 3-D cultures of neural cells that model basic properties of living brains — but a new finding could add to the field’s growing excitement in an entirely new “vein”: Brown University’s mini-brains now grow blood vessels, too.

A new study reports astrocytes may be a driving force behind a number of neurodegenerative diseases.

While many of us find the sound of a person chewing or breathing heavily annoying, for those with misophonia, such noises are unbearable. Researchers have identified the neural networks and brain changes associated with the disorder.

New research reveals the shape of our brain can provide surprising clues about how we behave and our risk of developing mental health disorders.

A team of investigators have found that exposure to phobic images without conscious awareness is more effective than longer, conscious exposure for reducing fear. The investigators used fMRI to determine that areas of the brain involved in fear processing were much more strongly activated by unconscious exposure. Results of the study will be published in the journal, Human Brain Mapping, on February 6, 2017.

Depression poses a risk for cardiovascular diseases in men that is just as great as that posed by high cholesterol levels and obesity.

In the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), New York University neuroscientist David Heeger offers a new framework to explain how the brain makes predictions

Researchers have developed new technology that utilises infrared light in order to treat memory loss conditions.

Scientists have discovered a cell in the retina that may cause myopia when it dysfunctions. The dysfunction may be linked to the amount of time a child spends indoors and away from natural light.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

New sensors that can monitor dopamine secretion in a single neuron could help researchers better understand how dopamine influences brain activity.

Scientists have developed sensor technology for a robotic prosthetic arm that detects signals from nerves in the spinal cord.

People who use sign language have better reaction times in their peripheral vision, a new study from the University of Sheffield has found.

Finally this week, researchers report concussion can accelerate Alzheimer’s symptoms in people with a genetic risk for the disease.

 

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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A new study sheds light on how the brain helps us to learn and make decisions in the real world.

Scientists have shown for the first time that non-invasive brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel, rather than like a hammer, to cause a specific improvement in precise memory.

Neurons in the subiculum appear to encode the current axis of travel, a new study reports.

A new study has shown for the first time that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) strengthens specific connections in the brains of people with psychosis, and that these stronger connections are associated with long-term reduction in symptoms and recovery eight years later.

Researchers have discovered a mechanism the brain uses to help compensate when noise obscures speech sounds.

An international team of researchers has found evidence that the specific type of protein clumps in a person’s brain might help identify different ‘types’ of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new technology that allows researchers to examine circulation in the brain could help to identify early signs of neurological problems.

A group of neurons in the forebrain release dopamine when activated by visual or tactile stimuli, a new study reports.

Finally this week, researchers report using neuroimaging to map the brains of preterm babies soon after their born could hold clues as to possible disabilities they may develop.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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This study examined how flowers evolve diluted nectar, even though bats prefer higher concentrations of sugar. It successfully integrated psychophysics and evolutionary biology. NeuroscienceNews.com image adapted from the LSU Health press release.

Perception can cause the evolution of certain traits, a new study reports.

The part of the brain that specializes in recognizing faces becomes denser with tissue over time, new research finds. The study also showed that these changes in brain structure correlated with the ability to recognize faces.

According to researchers, the entorhinal cortex can replay memories of movement without hippocampal input.

A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) sheds light on how the brain stores memories. The research, published recently in the journal eLife, is the first to demonstrate that the same brain region can both motivate a learned behaviour and suppress that same behaviour.

A collection of studies offers new insight into the role dopamine plays in schizophrenia.

Hormonal fluctuations women undergo make them particularly sensitive, compared to men, to the addictive properties of cocaine, according to scientists.

New research shows that bilingual people are great at saving brain power.

Scientists have identified the physical connection through which the prefrontal cortex inhibits instinctive behaviour.

Researchers have developed a new computational model that could help shed light on the role of inhibitory neurons.

Examining postmortem brains, researchers discover the state of glia remains consistent as we age and could be used to predict a person’s age at death.

A new technology that allows researchers to examine circulation in the brain could help to identify early signs of neurological problems.

A new study reports marijuana users have lower blood flow to the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory and learning.

Understanding how memory can shape our perception of the present could help people with learning disorders to stay on task, researchers believe.

Finally this week, the brain automatically places more value on the opinions of people who appear to be confident, a new study reports.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Contrary to popular belief, exposing children to stimuli early can help to boost their development, researchers report.

Dementia is more common in people who live within 50 metres of a major road than those who live further away, according to a study looking at 6.6 million people published in The Lancet.

According to a new study, clinically depressed children show a blunted response to reward compared to those who were not depressed.

Cerebral blood flow is reduced in the Broca’s area of people who stutter, researchers report. Additionally, the more severely a person stutters, the less blood flows to this area of the brain.

The same area of the brain can motivate and suppress a learned behaviour at the same time, a new study reports.

Exposure to false information about an event usually makes it more difficult for people to recall the original details, but new research suggests that there may be times when misinformation actually boosts memory.

Using objects when trying to solve problems may help to find new ways of finding a solution, researchers report.

A new study looks at how our brains process information when we pay attention and attempt to ignore stimuli.

Finally this week, researchers report Alzheimer’s can be detected before diagnosis by looking at, and applying mathematical analysis, to their painting styles.

 

 

Why Breaking New Year’s Resolutions Is All In The Mind

Happy New Year!

So have you made any new year’s resolutions this year? Despite the high failure rate of these resolutions – research by British psychologist Richard Wiseman in 2007  has shown that 88% of all resolutions end in failure – many continue to make the same resolutions year in and year out. But just why are our old habits  so hard to break?

The science of willpower

The brain area largely responsible for willpower is the prefrontal cortex (located just behind the forehead). This area of the brain is also in charge of keeping us focused, handling short-term memory and solving abstract problems.

Author Johan Lehrer writing in the Wall Street Journal proposed that adding new year’s resolutions to an overloaded prefrontal cortex is a sure-fire recipe for failure.

He refered to an experiment led by Baba Shiv at Stanford University, where several dozen undergraduates were divided into two groups. One group was given a two-digit number to remember, while the second group was given a seven-digit number. Then they were told to walk down the hall, where they were presented with two different snack options: a slice of chocolate cake or a bowl of fruit salad.

What do you think happened?

The students with seven digits to remember were nearly twice as likely to choose the cake as students given two digits. The reason, according to Prof. Shiv, is that those extra numbers took up valuable space in the brain—they were a “cognitive load”—making it that much harder to resist a decadent dessert. In other words, willpower is so weak, and the prefrontal cortex is so overtaxed, that all it takes is five extra bits of information before the brain starts to give in to temptation. “A tired brain, preoccupied with its problems, is going to struggle to resist what it wants, even when what it wants isn’t what we need.” writes Lehrer.

So instead of blaming our own lack of discipline in not keeping to our resolutions, perhaps this research shows that  the power of will is not enough due to the very nature of the brain.

So now we know what doesn’t work when it comes to keeping those resolutions, let’s take a look at what might help.

How to keep New Year’s resolutions

Lehrer suggests we think of willpower as a muscle that needs to be strengthened. Prof Roy Baumeister, a psychologist at Florida State University who has pioneered the muscle metaphor, suggests that it might be possible to strengthen willpower by exercising it.

He asked a group of students to improve their posture for two weeks, thereby practicing mental discipline in one area. The students showed a marked improvement on subsequent measures of self-control, at least when compared to a group that didn’t work on posture control.

If this sounds like too much hard work, you could always try the tried and tested goal setting approach to making positive change stick.

Goal Setting

Think about some small changes you could make in your lifestyle that would help to bring about your ultimate goal.  The cumulative impact of a modest change to your daily routine will restore in you the feeling that you are in control.

Above all, don’t use your resolutions as a stick to beat yourself with. Ditch the negative connotations and instead focus on what those small changes will bring to your life in a positive way in the coming year.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

runner-888016_960_720.jpgAccording to researchers, endurance runners appear to have greater functional connectivity in their brains that those who don’t exercise as much.

New research reveals that children begin using olfactory information to help guide their responses to emotionally-expressive faces at about five years of age. The findings advance understanding of how children integrate different types of sensory information to direct their social behaviour.

A new study explores how neurons adapt their function to respond to stimuli quickly.

A distinctive neural signature found in the brains of people with dyslexia may explain why these individuals have difficulty learning to read, according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists.

Brain connections that play a key role in complex thinking skills show the poorest health with advancing age, new research suggests.

Researchers have identified immune cells in the membranes around the brain that could be a ‘missing link’ in the gut-brain axis. The immune cells also appear to have a positive impact on recovery following spinal cord injury.

Therapeutic hypothermia following a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) significantly improves survival rate, a new study reports.

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline.

Finally this week,a new study looks at the way in which noise sensitivity is manifested due to changes in the way in which the brain processes auditory information.

 

 

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.