Weekly Neuroscience Update


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.

Weekly Neuroscience Update


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.



Weekly Neuroscience Update




Credit: Herz et. al./Brown University

new study provides the first direct evidence that within each person, smell sensitivity varies over the course of each day. The pattern, according to the data, tracks with the body’s internal day-night cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Researchers have revealed the neural signatures for explicit and implicit learning.

Neuroscientists have discovered precisely where and how to electrically stimulate the human brain to enhance people’s recollection of distinct memories. People with epilepsy who received low-current electrical pulses showed a significant improvement in their ability to recognize specific faces and ignore similar ones.

Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research.

Researchers propose a new theory of memory formation, reporting memory storage does not rely on the strengthening of connection between memory cells, but on the pattern of connections that form within the first few minutes of an event.

A new Finnish study shows that individual circadian preference is associated with brain activity patterns during the night.

According to researchers, the size, shape and number of dendritic spines in the brain may determine whether a person develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, migraine triggers can increase oxidative stress, a new study reports. Targeting oxidative stress may help to prevent migraines.



Weekly Neuroscience Update

By using a novel technique to test brain waves, researchers are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. Credit Beckman Institute.

By using a novel technique to test brain waves, researchers are discovering how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. Credit Beckman Institute.

Researchers at the Beckman Institute are using a novel technique to test brain waves to see how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don’t reach our awareness. A group of international scientists has for the first time identified genetic mutations that suggest that schizophrenia and autism share underlying mechanisms. The research could help with future understanding of both conditions and may contribute to the development of treatments. Two psychologists have made a discovery that could revolutionize doctors’ perception and treatment of attention-deficit disorders. A newly identified disorder affecting the human nervous system is caused by a mutation in a gene never before implicated in human disease, according to two studies published in the journal Cell. By performing DNA sequencing of children affected by neurological problems, two research teams independently discovered that a disease marked by reduced brain size, as well as sensory and motor defects, is caused by a mutation in a gene called CLP1. Insights into this rare disorder may have important implications for the treatment of common disorders.

Scientists at the Salk Institute 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.

Stanford scientists have developed faster, more energy-efficient microchips based on the human brain – 9,000 times faster and using significantly less power than a typical PC. This offers greater possibilities for advances in robotics and a new way of understanding the brain. For instance, a chip as fast and efficient as the human brain could drive prosthetic limbs with the speed and complexity of our own actions.

Finally this week, laughter triggers brain waves similar to those associated with meditation, according to a small new studyThe study included 31 people whose brain waves were monitored while they watched humorous, spiritual or distressing video clips. While watching the humorous videos, the volunteers’ brains had high levels of gamma waves, which are the same ones produced during meditation, researchers found.


Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part VIII

‘ADHD is an attention difference not an attention disorder.’

This inspiring video reinforces the view that we as a society must embrace cognitive diversity.


Related Reading

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 4: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 5: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 6: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 7: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability


Top ten blog posts of 2013

Top-10-ListThese were the most popular blog posts on Inside the Brain ranked according to most page views in 2013.

Does Addiction Exist?

What is ‘attention’ and where is it in the brain?

Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part V: Diagnosing ADHD

Could there an evolutionary advantage in having ADHD?

What can mirror neurons teach us about consciousness, mental health and well-being?

Inside The Musical Brain

This Is Your Brain On Poetry

Why Parkinson’s Disease Has Robbed Linda Ronstadt Of Her Singing Voice

How Did Tolerance Kill Cory Monteith?

Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part VII

In this final part of my series on understanding Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD),  we delve more into the underlying mechanisms of the disorder.

Hyperactive flies can help us understand ADHD and learning disability.

Many researchers are seeking a better understanding of ADHD and the medications used to treat it by studying ADHD’s underlying mechanisms and working towards a better knowledge of this disorder.  In this video Professor David Anderson explains how our current understanding of ADHD (and the learning disability which can accompany it) as merely chemical imbalances in dopamine and noradrenaline is not working and shows that by studying a strain of hyperactive fruit fly (Drosophila) we can study the different nerve pathways involved in ADHD and learning disability which will help in providing safer and more effective treatments.

Small cold-water fish

There is no cure for ADHD at this time. However a recent (2012) study in the Journal of the American Medical Association  reports that fish consumption during pregnancy protects against ADHD in the child. In addition, many ADHD sufferers also report a beneficial effect of daily fish oil. If you are considering including fish in your diet then the study recommends small cold-water fish such as herring, mackerel, sardines and salmon rather than larger fish such as tuna which live much longer and thereby may accumulate the toxic metal mercury.

Further reading for those interested in the scientific experiments:

  1. Lebestky et al. (2009). Neuron, 64 (4), 522-36 PMID: 19945394
  2. Wang L, & Anderson DJ (2010). Nature, 463 (7278), 227-31 PMID: 19966787

Other Sources:


Related Reading

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 4: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 5: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 6: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability



Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability Part VI: How is ADHD treated?

This is the sixth in a series on understanding Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).


ADHD is commonly treated with parent education, school-based interventions, and medications such as stimulants (e.g., methylphenidate) and newer, nonstimulant drugs such as atomoxetine. Adults benefit from the same medications as children and may find some behavioural therapies helpful. On the behavioral side, children can be taught strategies for staying focused on a task such as following a detailed schedule, or for organizing materials. Adult ADHD can be a family problem as well as an individual problem. Because the symptoms of the disorder often wreak havoc on every member of the family, not just the individual with adult ADHD, it’s important for the entire group to undergo family therapy, even if the ADHD parent is already getting individual counselling. It is best to begin family therapy as soon as it becomes clear that the symptoms of adult ADHD are interfering with normal family functioning and thus avoid crises and emergencies that may take months or years to resolve. Family therapy may include teaching family members new skills and coping strategies, and therapy in which family members support and encourage each other and learn to communicate more effectively.

Drug treatment of ADHD

Many children with ADHD may also need medication. The use of stimulants to treat ADHD was first described in 1937.Since the late 1960s, stimulants such as Ritalin® or Adderall® have been prescribed to treat children with ADHD.

2011-12 shortage in U.S. market

In 2011 and 2012, there was a shortage of Ritalin® and Adderall® in U.S. pharmacies. Some say the shortage was caused by the US Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) annual limits on the manufacture of controlled substances. The DEA argues that drug manufacturers had caused the shortage by applying their quotas toward more lucrative kinds of amphetamine-based medications. The shortage was resolved by November 2012. Currently, between 4 and 6 million children in the United States take one of these medications, which reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity, help improve the ability to focus, and even improve physical coordination. In fact, medications are so effective in helping people with ADHD that a recent shortage wreaked havoc for many families

Drug action

Nonetheless, there is concern about giving children a drug that is potentially addictive. Methylphenidate, the active ingredients in Ritalin®, acts like a weak form of cocaine to increase dopamine and noradrenaline levels but tend to do it all over the brain sometimes resulting in unwanted side-effects such as nervousness, drowsiness, insomnia, suspicion and paranoia. Concerta®is a slow release of methylphenidate while Daytranta® delivers the drug via a skin patch, similar to those used for nicotine replacement therapy.Adderall® is a mixture of amphetamine salts which also increase dopamine and noradrenaline levels but has a higher potential for abuse than Ritalin®.


In addition, there is a worry that ADHD may be over-diagnosed, leading to the diagnosis and treatment of high-energy children who have difficulty in the classroom, but are medically normal. For this reason the effectiveness of treatments should be re-evaluated in each person on a regular basis to determine if the current treatment continues to be optimal. There are some reports that daily intake of fish oil can be helpful.

Related Reading

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 4: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 5: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability



Could there an evolutionary advantage in having ADHD?

Ariaal Elder

Ariaal Elder. The Ariaal are northern Kenyan pastoralists.

This is the fourth in a series on understanding Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). Today I want to examine if there is in fact an evolutionary advantage in having ADHD.

ADHD is strongly genetic and the genes involved regulate the levels of two neurotransmitters called dopamine and noradrenaline (noradrenaline is called norepinephrine in North America) – chemicals which act as messengers between nerve cells.

Hyperactivity has long been part of the human condition and some ADHD – linked genes are more common in nomadic populations and those with more of a history of migration. In fact,the health status of nomadic men such as those from the Ariaal people in northern Kenya was higher if they had an ADHD – linked gene. However, recently settled Ariaal men seemed to have slightly worse health.

ADHD – ‘the don’t fence me in’ gene

In nomadic Ariaal society,  those with ADHD may be better in tasks involving risk, competition, and/or unpredictable behavior (i.e. exploring new areas, finding new food sources, etc.). For instance, an Ariaal person killing a lion is highly respected and in these situations, ADHD would have been beneficial to the society as a whole even while severely detrimental to the individual.In addition, women in general are more attracted to males who are risk takers, thereby promoting ADHD in the gene pool. This might help explain why ADHD-linked genes have survived to the present day but are more suited to a previous nomadic, risk-taking lifestyle.

Like mother – like son

More recent research suggests that because ADHD is more common in mothers who are anxious or stressed that ADHD is a mechanism of priming the child with the necessary traits for a stressful or dangerous environment, such as increased impulsivity and explorative behaviour etc.

Journal reference: BMC Evolutionary Biology (DOI: 10.1186/1471-2148-8-173)

Part 1: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 2: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability

Part 3: Understanding ADHD and Learning Disability




Weekly Neuroscience Update


Composite of the scans of 20 individuals. Regions in yellow and red are linked to the parietal lobe of the brain’s right hemisphere.

Scientists say they have published the most detailed brain scans “the world has ever seen” as part of a project to understand how the organ works.

Psychologists at the University of Amsterdam (UvA) have discovered that changes in patterns of brain activity during fearful experiences predict whether a long-term fear memory is formed.

New findings about how the brain functions to suppress pain have been published in the leading journal in the field Pain, by National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) researchers. For the first time, it has been shown that suppression of pain during times of fear involves complex interplay between marijuana-like chemicals and other neurotransmitters in a brain region called the amygdala.

Some of the dramatic differences seen among patients with schizophrenia may be explained by a single gene that regulates a group of other schizophrenia risk genes. These findings appear in a new imaging-genetics study from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Research published in the March 2013 journal GENETICS explains a novel interaction between aging and how neurons dispose of unwanted proteins and why this impacts the rising prevalence of dementia with advancing age.

The brain adds new cells during puberty to help navigate the complex social world of adulthood, two Michigan State University neuroscientists report in the current issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The first large, population-based study to follow children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder into adulthood shows that ADHD often doesn’t go away and that children with ADHD are more likely to have other psychiatric disorders as adults. They also appear more likely to commit suicide and to be incarcerated as adults.

The infant brain does not control its blood flow in the same way as the adult brain, researchers have discovered.

Hypnosis has begun to attract renewed interest from neuroscientists interested in using hypnotic suggestion to test predictions about normal cognitive functioning. To demonstrate the future potential of this growing field, guest editors Professor Peter Halligan from the School of Psychology at Cardiff University and David A. Oakley of University College London, brought together leading researchers from cognitive neuroscience and hypnosis to contribute to this month’s special issue of the international journal, Cortex.