Weekly Neuroscience Update

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As we age, slow brain waves during non-REM sleep fail to time contact with sleep spindles efficiently, leading to a lessened ability to form new memories correctly, a new study reports.

Researchers report children are more attentive and have improved memory when they exercise at their own pace, rather than embark on exhaustive exercise.

Inflammation in the blood plays a key role in “chemo-brain,” according to a published pilot study that provides evidence for what scientists have long believed.

A new study sheds light on the neurons tasks glial cells perform to insure brain activity is optimized.

According to researchers, children who eat fish at least once a week score four points higher on IQ tests and sleep better than those who consume fish less frequently, or not at all.

A new study looks how it may be possible to help reduce trauma associated with bad memories while we sleep.

Researchers reveal even after one short, ten minute, burst of exercise, cognitive processing and attention improve temporarily.

Finally this week, a new study supports the hypothesis that people with focal epilepsy are more susceptible to mood disorders, such as depression and anxiety.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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A new guideline for medical practitioners says they should recommend twice-weekly exercise to people with mild cognitive impairment to improve memory and thinking.

Researchers reveal Parkinson’s patients have more copies of mitochondrial DNA in the brain stem, leading to increased cell death within that area.

Musical training may enhance the ability to process speech in noisy settings, a new study shows.

A new study reveals the piriform cortex is able to archive long term memory, but requires instruction from the orbiotfrontal cortex to indicate the event is to be stored as a long-term memory.

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

Researchers have discovered a new biomarker that can help diagnose Huntington’s disease. They note the findings could result in the development of treatments to postpone neuron death in those who carry the Huntington’s gene mutation, but who do not currently show symptoms of the disease.

A new study reveals the superior temporal gyrus appears to be critical for voice recognition.

Researchers have identified several new genes responsible for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) including those leading to functional and structural changes in the brain and elevated levels of AD proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Finally this week, a new study adds to evidence that current clinical tools can fail to capture autism presentations in females.

 

 

 

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

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Contrary to a popular theory, researchers have discovered the brain remains connected during non-REM sleep. The study reports not all forms of communication within the cerebral cortex are disrupted during this sleep phase.

Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function.

UCLA neuroscientists are the first to show that rhythmic waves in the brain called theta oscillations happen more often when someone is navigating an unfamiliar environment, and that the more quickly a person moves, the more theta oscillations take place — presumably to process incoming information faster.

Researchers have identified a brain network that allows the brain to record memories of new places.

A new study reveals deep brain stimulation not only improves motor function, but can also increase survival rates for those with Parkinson’s disease.

A build up of urea in the brain to toxic levels may cause brain damage, eventually leading to dementia, a new study reports.

A new method to measure brain connectivity has found that people with depression have changes in the brain systems involved in memory and reward.

Researchers have developed a single cell sequencing method that can map the cellular origin of a wide variety of neurological and psychiatric disorders.

Finally this week, a new study reveals why some people find it more difficult than others to meet switching demands and change focus as efficiently.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Simultaneous activity of three cognitive systems found in the study NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Vadim Axelrod, Bar-Ilan University.

Internal experiences, such as recalling personal memories, are associated with the simultaneous activity of at least three different cognitive systems, a new study reports.

Neuroscientists have shown how the human brain can predict what our eyes will see next, using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI).

A new study sheds light on ADHD, reporting teens with the disorder fit into one of three specific subgroups with distinct brain impairments and no common abnormalities between them.

Musical training may enhance the ability to process speech in noisy settings, a new study reveals.

Scientists are examining the feasibility of treating autistic children with neuromodulation after a new study showed social impairments can be corrected by brain stimulation.

The fear of losing control over thoughts and actions can impact OCD behaviors and other anxiety disorders, researchers report.

Recent functional studies suggest that noise sensitivity, a trait describing attitudes towards noise and predicting noise annoyance, is associated with altered processing in the central auditory system.

Finally this week, a new study reveals the frontal regions of the brain play a vital role in assessing and interpreting emotions communicated orally.

What is bipolar disorder? [Video]

The word bipolar means ‘two extremes.’ For the many millions experiencing bipolar disorder around the world, life is split between two different realities: elation and depression. So what causes this disorder? And can it be treated? Helen M. Farrell describes the root causes and treatments for bipolar disorder.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

An experimental therapy which involves a face-to-face discussion between a person with schizophrenia and an avatar representing their auditory hallucination may help reduce symptoms, when provided alongside usual treatment, according to a study led by King’s College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Researchers have identified a number of variable locations in the genome that influence hippocampal gene activity and may contribute to brain disorders.

For the first time, scientists have found a connection between abnormalities in how the brain breaks down glucose and the severity of the signature amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain, as well as the onset of eventual outward symptoms, of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgment.

The amount of close and comforting contact between infants and their caregivers can affect children at the molecular level, an effect detectable four years later, according to new research.

The brain’s auditory system can be shaped by exposure to different auditory environments, such as native language and musical training.

Contrary to a popular theory, a new study has discovered the brain remains connected during non-REM sleep. The study reports not all forms of communication within the cerebral cortex are disrupted during this sleep phase.

Cannabis use in youth is linked to bipolar symptoms in young adults, finds new research.

According to researchers, when shifting attention from one spot to another, the brain blinks. They report these blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception.

How well we are able to complete simple and complex tasks depends upon the organization of subnetworks in the brain, a new study reports.

Researchers are working to create a neurochip capable of transmitting a signal to healthy brain cells. The neurochip can be used in devices intended to replace damaged parts of the brain.

A new brain mapping study reveals smokers could be predisposed to their addiction due to the molecular make up of their brains.

In a new study, researchers describe a unique model for the biology of Alzheimer’s disease which may lead to an entirely novel approach for treating the disease. The findings appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Scientists hope to have found a new neurobiological marker to help recognise patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers have identified a mechanism that drives hunger. A new study reports the sight or smell of food can temporarily turn of AgRP neurons, which drive the urge to eat. These neurons remain inactive until the brain receives a signal from the gut that calories have been consumed.

Finally this week, a new study reports that certain brain regions interact more closely, while others are less engaged, in people with higher intelligence.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Sleep-deprived brain cells react more slowly and fire more weakly, and their signals are more drawn out. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to UCLA.

A Japanese research group has revealed that elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have a particularly weakened ability to memorize human faces in the short term when compared to healthy elderly people. MCI patients also had a different gaze behavior when trying to memorize a face. This research may lead to the early detection of dementia.

Researchers provide new insight into human consciousness, reporting we don’t consciously choose our feelings or thoughts; we simply become aware of them.

If a mother’s immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a new study has revealed.

People on the autism spectrum appear to have different reactions to subliminal social odors, researchers report.

Information from brain MRIs can help identify people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and distinguish among subtypes of the condition, according to a study appearing online in the journal Radiology.

Migraine triggers can increase oxidative stress, a new study reports. Targeting oxidative stress may help to prevent migraines.

A new study reveals how the mechanism for storing olfactory memories differs slightly from erasing unnecessary memories. Understanding how the brain gets rid of unimportant memories could help unlock new avenues of research to better understand memory loss in aging, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers report a developmental abnormality more prevalent in premature and male babies, may contribute to SIDS risk, in conjunction to the sleep position.

 

 

How Do Drugs Affect The Brain?

Most people will take a pill, receive an injection, or otherwise take some kind of medicine during their lives. But most of us don’t know anything about how these substances actually work. How can various compounds impact the way we physically feel, think, and even behave? Sara Garofalo explains how some drugs can alter the communication between cells in the brai