Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Mood is represented across multiple sites in the brain rather than localized regions, which makes decoding them a computational challenge, according to a USC expert. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Sani et. al., Nature Biotechnology.

Researchers have built a decoder which is able to translate neural signals into mood variations.

How and why human-unique characteristics such as highly social behavior, languages and complex culture have evolved is a long-standing question. A research team led by Tohoku University in Japan has revealed the evolution of a gene related to such human-unique psychiatric traits.

A new study reports mast cells play a key role in determining sex differences in the developing brain.

An inhaled form of a high blood pressure medication has potential to treat certain types of anxiety as well as pain, according to a new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Functional connectivity within a specific neural network helps dampen a newborn’s brain activity in response to pain, researchers report.

A new blood test can help identify your body’s precise internal time clock in relation to external time. Researchers say the test could help examine the impact of misaligned circadian clocks in a wide range of diseases.

Researchers report a neural network called the isthmic system helps us to select visual objects that catch our attention.

According to researchers, drumming for an hour a week helps improve learning at school for children on the autism spectrum. The study reports drumming not only improves dexterity, rhythm and timing for those with ASD, it also helps improve concentration and enhances communication with peers.

A new study reports those with ADHD are at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

In one of the biggest breakthroughs in schizophrenia research in recent times, Professor Cynthia Shannon Weickert from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW Sydney has identified immune cells in greater amounts in the brains of some people with schizophrenia.

Finally this week, esearchers are looking at what happens in the brain when we make snap decisions under stress.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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This visual abstract depicts findings that people show confirmation bias even about which way dots are moving. Image is credited to Prat-Ortega & de la Rocha, Current Biology.

A new study reports people use confirmation bias, even when a decision they make has little to no consequence.

Analysis of data captured during a long-term study of aging adults shows that those who report being very sleepy during the day were nearly three times more likely than those who didn’t to have brain deposits of beta amyloid, a protein that’s a hallmark for Alzheimer’s disease, years later.

Researchers have created a computational model that helps explain how mental images drawn from memory can be explained by the firing of specific neurons.

According to a new study, probiotics may not be as effective as most believe. Researchers report many people’s digestive tracts prevent standard probiotics from successfully colonizing them.

A team of researchers has analysed what happens in the brain when humans want to voluntarily forget something.

Whether an individual develops a neurodevelopmental disorder like autism or ADHD and the severity of that disorder depends on genetic changes beyond a single supposedly disease-causing mutation. A new study led by researchers at Penn State reveals that the total amount of rare mutations — deletions, duplications, or other changes to the DNA sequence — in a person’s genome can explain why individuals with a disease-associated mutation can have vastly different symptoms. A paper describing the study appeared today in the journal Genetics in Medicine.

New research has shed new light on genetic processes that may one day lead to the development of therapies that can slow, or even reverse, how our cells age.

Researchers have identified a new neural mechanism that contributes to long term stress and PTSD. The study reports the mechanism is mediated by brain fluid in areas associated with stress response.

Finally this week, is the popular claim that the brain feels no pain substantiated? A new paper looks at the accuracy of the belief.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

child-85321_960_720.jpgSleep researchers report for the first time evidence that naps and overnight sleep may work together to benefit memory in early childhood.

A group of researchers has found that our learning capabilities are limited during slow wave sleep. Using magnetoencephalography (MEG), they showed that while our brain is still able to perceive sounds during sleep, it is unable to group these sounds according to their organisation in a sequence.

Neuroscientists have debunked claims that getting better at a brain training game can translate to improved performance in other, untrained cognitive tasks.

Adults who hold back-and-forth conversations with young children rather than just talking to them may be helping to strengthen connections between the language regions of the children’s brains, new research shows.

Researchers say, to better understand working memory, it is important to resolve the debate over how we hold and judge multiple pieces of information in mind.

According to a new study dehydration can lead to more errors on task performance. Additionally, fMRI neuroimaging showed dehydration can alter brain structure temporarily.

It may be possible in the future to screen patients for Alzheimer’s disease using an eye exam.

Researchers used neuroimaging technology to identify brain differences between those who procrastinate and those who are doers. The study reveals people with poor action control have a larger amygdala, and the connection between the dorsal ACC and amygdala is less pronounced.

A new study reports lifestyle choices, such as smoking or drinking alcohol during early adulthood, can increase the risk of developing dementia or having a stroke later in life.

Scientists have discovered a network of brain cells that express our sense of time within experiences and memories.

In the first peer-reviewed published report of its kind, University of Toronto researchers have demonstrated that focused ultrasound can be used to safely open the blood-brain barrier (BBB) in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally, this week neuroscientists have discovered that ketamine works as an antidepressant at least in part by activating the brain’s opioid system.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Where objects appear in a person’s visual field can affect the ability to determine what the object is, researchers say.

Scientists have identified the brain networks that allow you to think of an object name and then verbalize that thought. The study appeared in the July issue of BRAIN. It represents a significant advance in the understanding of how the brain connects meaning to words and will help with the planning of brain surgeries.

New research suggests that shifts in the bacteria within a child’s mouth could provide objective biomarkers for identifying autism spectrum disorder. 

Researchers studying the functional connections among parts of the brain are finding that the “fingerprint” of these patterns can be used to identify individuals over many years and to distinguish their relatives from strangers.

Breaking with the long-held idea that working memory has fixed limits, a new study suggests that these limits adapt themselves to the task that one is performing. 

Young children who are regularly engaged in conversation by adults may have stronger connections between two developing brain regions critical for language, according to a study of healthy young children that confirms a hypothesis registered with the Open Science Framework.

A new study reports estrogen and other sex hormones may be responsible for the higher prevalence of migraines in women.

New therapies could be on the horizon for people living with epilepsy or anxiety, thanks to a breakthrough discovery by an international team of researchers studying how proteins interact to control the firing of brain cells.

Researchers report the interaction between two regions of the prefrontal cortex may underlie our motivation to cling to a desirable notion about the future.

A new study sheds light on the role the caudate nucleus plays in pessimism. The study reports stimulating this area of the brain generates a negative outlook that clouds decision making.

Exercise can help prevent relapses into cocaine addiction, according to new research.

A new study reveals a short time meditating can help to boost cognitive performance. Researchers report students exposed to a ten-minute meditation tape were able to complete simple cognitive tasks more quickly and accurately than their peers.

Researchers report transcranial alternating current stimulation applied during sleep can help accelerate learning, memory and skill acquisition.

Heavy alcohol drinkers attempt to acquire alcohol despite the threat of a negative consequence more so than light drinkers, a study in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging has found, and this behavior is associated with unique activation of brain circuitry in heavy drinkers.

Finally this week,  new neuroimaging study reveals the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex plays a vital role in suppressing the act of revenge.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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Neurons store and transmit information in the brain.Credit: CNRI/SPL

Superconducting computing chips modeled after neurons can process information faster and more efficiently than the human brain.  

New research published in JAMA Neurology suggests that those people whose memory is intact and who do not show any signs of Alzheimer’s can have disrupted circadian rhythms — which may be a very early sign of Alzheimer’s.

Stimulating specific regions of the brain can help to improve memory and word recall in those with severe epilepsy, a new Nature Communications study reports.  

Gene therapies promise to revolutionize the treatment of many diseases, including neurological diseases such as ALS. But the small viruses that deliver therapeutic genes can have adverse side effects at high doses. Researchers have now found a structure on these viruses that makes them better at crossing from the bloodstream into the brain – a key factor for administering gene therapies at lower doses for treating brain and spinal disorders.

Researchers discover the activity of 80 percent of genes follow a day/night rhythm in many tissue types and brain regions. 

Aging or impaired brains can once again form lasting memories if an enzyme that applies the brakes too hard on a key gene is lifted, according to University of California, Irvine neurobiologists.

Researchers have implicated mossy cells in both seizures and memory problems in those with temporal lobe epilepsy. 

Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain’s cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital used stem cell technology to create cerebellar cells known as Purkinje cells from patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a genetic syndrome that often includes ASD-like features. In the lab, the cells showed several characteristics that may help explain how ASD develops at the molecular level.

Finally this week, neuroscientists have discovered how the brain can determine an object’s value almost as soon as we see it.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Regions with significant phoneme classification at the NoNoise condition for each group. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to the researchers/Nature Communications.

Researchers have pinpointed the specific part of the brain that older adults rely on to differentiate speech sounds in background noise, which could revolutionise the treatment of hearing loss.

New research has identified how cells protect themselves against ‘protein clumps’ known to be the cause of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Transcranial alternating current stimulation may help to improve memory when targeted to a specific kind of brain activity achieved during sleep.

Researchers in the US and Australia have made a breakthrough discovery in the international quest to discover a new and potentially effective vaccine targeting the pathological proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study identifies different brain regions that become active when a strategy of categorisation is applied.

Researchers have developed a new machine learning system that analyses the entire human genome to predict which genes may cause autism spectrum disorder, raising the number of genes that could be linked to the disorder from 65 to 2,500.

Results from a study published in the online publication Nature Genetics finds 15 genomic regions that are significantly associated with a diagnosis of depression.

According to researchers, age related changes in the organization of neural networks when performing short term memory tasks may help to compensate for other aspects of brain aging.

Researchers report smoking related deficits in dopamine return to normal three months after quitting.

Genetic changes associated with Parkinson’s disease have been found in liver, fat, immune and developmental cells, a new study reports.

Brain imaging, twin studies and transcriptome data reveal genetic relationships between lobes.

Finally this week, a new study suggests regular physical activity may lead to greater hippocampal volume and could stave off dementia, especially in older people.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Red regions indicate reduced fractional anisotropy values in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Credit: The researchers/King’s College London.

Research at King’s College London has revealed subtle brain differences in adult males with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which may go some way towards explaining why symptoms persist into adulthood in some people with the disorder.

Women who take estrogen supplements from before or at the start of menopause and continue with them for a few years have better preserved brain structure, which may reduce the risk of dementia.

Scientists have taken a significant step toward understanding the cause of schizophrenia, in a landmark study that provides the first rigorously tested insight into the biology behind any common psychiatric disorder.

Stopping disruptions in cellular “trash removal” brought on by errors in molecular marks on DNA may guard against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

Roughly twenty years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear, inflammatory changes in the brain can be seen, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the medical scientific journal Brain.

In a new study, researchers reveal how brain scans could be used to identify children at high risk for later-life depression – information that could pave the way for early intervention and prevention.

Researchers have shown that graphene can be used to make electrodes that can be implanted in the brain, which could potentially be used to restore sensory functions for amputee or paralysed patients, or for individuals with motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

A new study has linked stress and anxiety to the same neurocircuitry in the brain as depression and dementia.

Different regions of our brain need to work simultaneously in order for us to process emotion. But according to new research, such regions are disconnected among individuals who experience multiple episodes of major depression.

A team of international researchers have announced the discovery of a system in the brain that may underlie the development of involuntary vocalizations (commonly called vocal tics) that often occur in people with Tourette syndrome.

A new study sheds light on multiple sclerosis (MS), specifically damage in the brain caused by the disease that may explain the slow and continuous cognitive decline that many patients experience. The findings, which appear in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that the brain’s immune system is responsible for disrupting communication between nerve cells, even in parts of the brain that are not normally considered to be primary targets of the disease.

Cognitive function and health appear to be genetically linked, according to research published in Molecular Psychiatry. The study was carried out by an international team from the US, the UK and Germany.

Researchers have discovered the mechanics of how dopamine transports into and out of brain cells, a finding that could someday lead to more effective treatment of drug addictions and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

The brains of children who are obese function differently from those of children of healthy weight, and exhibit an “imbalance” between food-seeking and food-avoiding behaviors, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have found.

Finally this week, neuroscientists have now shown that rhythmic brain waves, called theta oscillations, engage and synchronize the brain regions that support the integration of memories. The results were published in the journal Current Biology.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Brain scans show a correlation between how well participants could make a connection between a new word and a sound, and the gray matter volume in the hippocampus and cerebellum. (Credit: Photo/Qinghua He)

A combination of brain scans and reading tests has revealed that several regions in the brain are responsible for allowing humans to read. The findings open up the possibility that individuals who have difficulty reading may only need additional training for specific parts of the brain — targeted therapies that could more directly address their individual weaknesses.

Children with Asperger’s syndrome show patterns of brain connectivity distinct from those of children with autism, according to a new study. 

Scientists have discovered that the brain circuits we engage when we think about social matters, such as considering other people’s views, or moral issues, inhibit the circuits that we use when we think about inanimate, analytical things, such as working on a physics problem or making sure the numbers add up when we balance our budget. And they say, the same happens the other way around: the analytic brain network inhibits the social network.

Using direct human brain recordings, a research team has identified a new type of cell in the brain that helps people to keep track of their relative location while navigating an unfamiliar environment.

A collaborative team of researchers has uncovered evidence that a specific genetic alteration appears to contribute to disorders of brain development, including schizophrenia. They also found that schizophrenia shares a common biological pathway with Fragile X mental syndrome, a disorder associated with both intellectual impairment and autism.
A team of researchers has identified 18 new genes responsible for driving glioblastoma multiforme, the most common—and most aggressive—form of brain cancer in adults. The study was published August 5, 2013, in Nature Genetics.

Johns Hopkins biophysicists have discovered that full activation of a protein ensemble essential for communication between nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord requires a lot of organized back-and-forth motion of some of the ensemble’s segments. Their research, they say, may reveal multiple sites within the protein ensemble that could be used as drug targets to normalize its activity in such neurological disorders as epilepsy, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease.

A sleepless night makes us more likely to reach for doughnuts or pizza than for whole grains and leafy green vegetables, suggests a new study from UC Berkeley that examines the brain regions that control food choices. The findings shed new light on the link between poor sleep and obesity

Where Is Your Brain Taking You (Part II) ?

http://whyriskit.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/2012-10-23-karen-bee.jpgWhat is the point about living our lives?

Today  I want to expand on a previous post – Is there an end point to us becoming more human or the fulfilment of its potential? As a neuroscientist who has studied the origins of learning and memory it has become obvious to me that the more we learn and remember the better we can predict the future.

This question can be now be answered in the context that every single human being on
the planet is unique because they posses a uniquely complex brain. In fact, the brain is so
complex that in all of human history no two brains were the same. Furthermore, this unique
combination of about 100 trillion tiny connections grows and changes through life – a work in progress from conception to death. In this way we each evolve as we journey through life.

Neurodiversity is the key to our success

The term ‘neurodiversity’ has been coined to extend the finding that every single human being is neurologically different, to view those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Asperger syndrome, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, and others as just another variation of human brain wiring, rather than a disease – and that these differences in brain wiring are authentic forms of communication, self-
expression and being.

Vive la différence!

Rather than focus on the need for a ‘cure’ what we actually need to do is to promote support- systems that allow those who are neurologically different to live their lives as they are, rather than attempting to conform to some clinical ideal – because it is these very individuals that give the rest of us unique insights and solutions by viewing the world in a different way. Take for example Albert Einstein – considered by many to have had Asperger syndrome – who single-handedly worked out the relationship between space and time and went on to model the structure of the universe as a whole.

To bee or not to bee

The advantages of neurodiversity can be seen elsewhere in nature for instance in the thermoregulation in honey bee nests. The temperature in the nest ranges between 32 and 36 degrees. If it is getting warmer the bees ventilate with their wings until the set point is reached again. However in genetically uniform colonies the bees tend to start with ventilation about the same time – causing even greater instability by producing more temperature fluctuations, whereas the nest temperature in genetically diverse colonies is more stable.

Who is in the spotlight?

Despite what some like to think – humankind is not the centre of the world but rather a very actively growing branch of the evolutionary tree. We are not destined to ‘lift ourselves above nature’ – but rather to dramatically raise the intelligence and complexity of this thing we call ‘life’ through our intellectual and spiritual evolution.

So what’s the answer?

The evolution of the human race is not going to proceed by trying to transcend it – rather we will move forward as a race by making room for each and every individual to express their personalities to the full. In this way the evolution of the human race has everything to do with our own personal development.

In short, personality equals evolution.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Have you ever wondered why some people find it so much easier to stop smoking than others? New research shows that vulnerability to smoking addiction is shaped by our genes. A study from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital — The Neuro, McGill University shows that people with genetically fast nicotine metabolism have a significantly greater brain response to smoking cues than those with slow nicotine metabolism.

When children learn to play a musical instrument, they strengthen a range of auditory skills. Recent studies suggest that these benefits extend all through life, at least for those who continue to be engaged with music. But a study published last month is the first to show that music lessons in childhood may lead to changes in the brain that persist years after the lessons stop.

A team of Australian researchers, led by University of Melbourne has developed a genetic test that is able to predict the risk of developing autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Recent findings by an international collaboration including IRCM researchers hold new implications for the pathogenesis of myotonic dystrophy.

Researchers at Newcastle University have revealed the mechanism by which neurons, the nerve cells in the brain and other parts of the body, age. The research opens up new avenues of understanding for conditions where the ageing of neurons are known to be responsible, such as dementia and Parkinson’s disease.
Finally, this week…a new study has shown that it’s possible to predict how well people will remember information by monitoring their brain activity while they study.