Weekly Neuroscience Update

sleep-55792_960_720.jpg

Researchers report people with poor sleep quality were less likely to experience symptoms of depression if they had higher activity in the ventral striatum.

A new study, published in the open-access journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, has uncovered a simple, measurable explanation that can determine your preference for one song over another.

Almost a quarter of girls and one-tenth of boys show signs of depression at age 14, say researchers from the University College London.

Excessive neurogenesis following brain injury may lead to neurological problems and cognitive decline researchers report. The findings challenge common assumptions that excessive brain cell growth following injury is advantageous.

Whether we are consciously aware of seeing a familiar face and object or not, our brains actively notice

A new study has investigated which neurons react to different vocal pitches, discerning between different voices and reacting to emphasis. The findings help us to understand how the brain gains meaning from the sound of speech.

A new report examines the effect stress can have on our bodies and general health.

Finnish researchers have revealed that exercise-induced endorphin release in the brain depends on the intensity of the exercise. Endorphin release induced by exercise may be an important mechanism which affects exercise motivation and maintenance of regular physical activity.

Researchers reveal people who report higher levels of moral reasoning show increased activity in brain areas associated with reward. 

Finally this week, for most people, laughter is highly contagious. But researchers reporting in Current Biology on September 28 have new evidence to show that boys at risk of developing psychopathy when they become adults don’t have that same urge.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

adobe-spark-81

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

iphone-1283665_960_720

Sending text messages on a smartphone can change the rhythm of brain waves, according to a new study published in Epilepsy & Behavior.

An international research team has found that our perception is highly sensitised for absorbing social information. The brain is thus trained to pay a great degree of attention to everyday actions. The results are reported in the journal Consciousness and Cognition.

A new study unravels the mechanisms driving excess brain growth that affects as many as 30 percent of people with autism.

Researchers have developed a new technology that could lead to new therapeutics for traumatic brain injuries. The discovery, published in Nature Communications, provides a means of homing drugs or nanoparticles to injured areas of the brain.

Researchers have coupled machine learning with neuroimaging to detect early forms of dementia.

Neuroscientists have come up with a way to observe brain activity during natural reading. It’s the first time researchers have been able to study the brain while reading actual texts, instead of individual words. The research has potential implications for understanding dyslexia and other reading deficits.

A new study links hippocampal inflammation in multiple sclerosis with an increased risk of developing depression.

In a partnership melding neuroscience and electrical engineering, researchers have developed a new technology that will allow neuroscientists to capture images of the brain almost 10 times larger than previously possible – helping them better understand the behavior of neurons in the brain.

Researchers report acquiring new memories can interfere with old ones, making them more likely to be forgotten.

A European study has shown that the dopamine D2 receptor is linked to the long-term episodic memory, which function often reduces with age and due to dementia. This new insight can contribute to the understanding of why some but not others are affected by memory impairment. The results have been published in the journal PNAS.

Finally this week, a new study shows how new linguistic information is integrated into the same brain areas used for your native language.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

Electrical and computer engineering professor Barry Van Veen wears an electrode net used to monitor brain activity via EEG signals. His research with psychiatry professor and neuroscientist Giulio Tononi could help untangle what happens in the brain during sleep and dreaming. Credit Nick Berard.

As real as that daydream may seem, its path through your brain runs opposite reality. Aiming to discern discrete neural circuits, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have tracked electrical activity in the brains of people who alternately imagined scenes or watched videos.

People with mentally taxing jobs, including lawyers and graphic designers, may end up having better memory in old age, research suggests.

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have identified a key neuronal pathway that makes learning to avoid unpleasant situations possible. Published online in the November 20 issue of Neuron, the work shows that avoidance learning requires neural activity in the habenula representing changes in future expectations.

Combining behavioral and physiologic measures depicts gradual process, may help diagnose sleep disorders. 

Neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

New brain imaging technology is helping researchers to bridge the gap between art and science by mapping the different ways in which the brain responds to poetry and prose.

As methods of imaging the brain improve, neuroscientists and educators can now identify changes in children’s brains as they learn, and start to develop ways of personalizing instruction for kids who are falling behind.

Scientists have identified a weak spot in the human brain for Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia, revealing a connection between the two diseases.

A team of scientists has found a simple method to convert human skin cells into the specialized neurons that detect pain, itch, touch and other bodily sensations. These neurons are also affected by spinal cord injury and involved in Friedreich’s ataxia, a devastating and currently incurable neurodegenerative disease that largely strikes children.

Berkeley lab reports proper copper levels are essential to spontaneous neural activity.

Researchers are using an enhanced MRI approach to visualize brain injury in the blood brain barrier in order to identify significant changes to the blood-brain barrier in professional football players following a concussion.

A new study reports that older learners retained the mental flexibility needed to learn a visual perception task but were not as good as younger people at filtering out irrelevant information.

Finally this week, in the largest study of the genetics of memory ever undertaken, an international researcher team have discovered two common genetic variants that are believed to be associated with memory performance. The findings, which appear in the journal Biological Psychiatry, are a significant step towards better understanding how memory loss is inherited.

 

Death Of Cricketer Phillip Hughes: Why Are Some Brain Injuries Worse Than Others?

Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.

Australian cricketer, Phillip Hughes.

Australian cricketer Phillip Hughes has died two days after being struck in the head by a bouncer while batting for South Australia at the The Sydney Cricket Ground. Hughes, 25, had been in an induced coma since the accident on Tuesday afternoon.

Two of the most tragic events within Australian cricket in just over the past decade have involved catastrophic head injuries: firstly to David Hookes in a hotel altercation, secondly to Phillip Hughes while batting. According to research published in The Lancet, approximately a fifth of adults with a severe traumatic brain injury make a good recovery. But many more die or are left with enduring disability.  

So why are some brain injuries worse than others?

The effects of brain injury fall into three main categories:

  • Cognitive – problems with memory, concentration, information processing
  • Emotional and behavioural problems – anxiety, explosive anger and irritability, lack of awareness or empathy
  • Physical – problems with movement, balance and co-ordination, fatigue, epilepsy

Sometimes a head injury which seems severe is followed by a good recovery while a seemingly small head injury can have very serious, long-lasting consequences.  Why is this?

Location, location, location.

The reason is that brain injury operates a bit like the property market in that the three most important things to consider are location, location and location. When nerve pathways are damaged, those brain areas served by those pathways may wither or have their functions taken over by other brain regions. Nerve pathways are also called ‘white’ pathways or ‘white matter’ because they are covered by an insulating sheath of myelin and appear white to the naked eye.

The challenge is to determine the location of key ‘scaffold’ pathways and to understand what makes them so vulnerable and important. This is not an easy task given the total length of nerve pathways in the average 20-year old human brain is 160,000 km. A recent study provides new findings on the brain’s network scaffold that will help inform clinicians about the neurological impacts of brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

EvC dwarfism results from genetic mutations that disrupt the signaling pathway known as sonic hedgehog (Shh). Statistical analyses confirmed the significant negative association between EvC and bipolar disorder. This further suggested that the Shh pathway plays a role in bipolar disorder. This image is for illustrative purposes only and shows the 3D structure of the Sonic Hedgehog protein. Credit Peter Znamenskiy/ Hall et al.

EvC dwarfism results from genetic mutations that disrupt the signaling pathway known as sonic hedgehog (Shh). Statistical analyses confirmed the significant negative association between EvC and bipolar disorder. This further suggested that the Shh pathway plays a role in bipolar disorder. This image is for illustrative purposes only and shows the 3D structure of the Sonic Hedgehog protein. Credit Peter Znamenskiy/ Hall et al.

Researchers have identified what is likely a key genetic pathway underlying bipolar disorder, a breakthrough that could lead to better drugs for treating bipolar affective disorder, as well as depression and other related mood disorders.

Hubs are locations in the brain where different networks come together to help us think and complete mental tasks. Now, a new study offers a fresh view of how injury affects the brain. It finds damage to brain hubs disrupts our capacity to think and adapt to everyday challenges more severely than damage to locations distant from hubs.

Neuroscientists have found that a gene mutation that arose more than half a million years ago may be key to humans’ unique ability to produce and understand speech.

A paper published this month in Biological Psychiatry shows that children who spent their early years in these institutions have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention.

Researchers have found vital new evidence on how to target and reverse the effects caused by one of the most common genetic causes of Parkinson’s.

Neuroscientists and engineers at North Carolina’s Duke University have pioneered a method with which the effects of transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) on the brain can be measured. The Duke team has made it possible to measure the response of a single neuron to an electromagnetic charge–something that has not before been possible. The work offers the potential to improve and initiate novel TMS therapy approaches.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Neuroscience research demonstrates that the brain regions underpinning moral judgment share resources with circuits controlling other capacities such as emotional saliency, mental state understanding and decision-making. Credit: Jean Decety

Neuroscience research demonstrates that the brain regions underpinning moral judgment share resources with circuits controlling other capacities such as emotional saliency, mental state understanding and decision-making. Credit: Jean Decety

People who care about justice are swayed more by reason than emotion, according to new brain scan research from the Department of Psychology and Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience. Researchers have discovered a gene that is likely to play a role in the risk of psychosis in bipolar disorders.

A new way to artificially control muscles using light, with the potential to restore function to muscles paralysed by conditions such as motor neuron disease and spinal cord injury, has been developed by scientists at UCL and King’s College London.

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the Allen Institute for Brain Science have published a study that gives clear and direct new evidence that autism begins during pregnancy.

A new study is the first documented study that shows cognitive behavioral therapy in a group setting is capable of changing the brain structure in patients with chronic pain.

By examining the sense of touch in stroke patients, a University of Delaware cognitive psychologist has found evidence that the brains of these individuals may be highly plastic even years after being damaged.

A new chemical messenger that is critical in protecting the brain against Parkinson’s disease has been identified by scientists.

Scents and smells can form the basis of some of the most significant memories humans form in their lives, a new study suggests

In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories.

Why Are Some Brain Injuries Worse Than Others?

Image A: 3-D models of how the white matter in the brain connects, paired with a "connectogram" visualizing linkages between different areas of the brain / USC

3-D models of how the white matter in the brain connects, paired with a “connectogram” visualizing linkages between different areas of the brain / USC

According to research published in The Lancet, approximately a fifth of adults with a severe traumatic brain injury make a good recovery. But many more die or are left with enduring disability. Although doctors caring for Michael Schumacher, the Formula One World Champion who sustained a severe head injury while skiing, haven’t commented on how he is responding to their latest tests and treatment, Dr Peter Kirkpatrick, a leading British neurosurgeon based at Addenbrooke’s hospital in Cambridge, says that it is “extremely unlikely” that Schumacher will return to his previous level of health, although he insists it is “medically possible”.

The effects of brain injury fall into three main categories:

  • Cognitive – problems with memory, concentration, information processing
  • Emotional and behavioural problems – anxiety, explosive anger and irritability, lack of awareness or empathy
  • Physical – problems with movement, balance and co-ordination, fatigue, epilepsy

Sometimes a head injury which seems severe is followed by a good recovery while a seemingly small head injury can have very serious, long-lasting consequences.  Why is this?

Location, location, location.

The reason is that brain injury operates a bit like the property market in that the three most important things to consider are location, location and location. When nerve pathways are damaged, those brain areas served by those pathways may wither or have their functions taken over by other brain regions. Nerve pathways are also called ‘white’ pathways or ‘white matter’ because they are covered by an insulating sheath of myelin and appear white to the naked eye.

The challenge is to determine the location of key ‘scaffold’ pathways and to understand what makes them so vulnerable and important. This is not an easy task given the total length of nerve pathways in the average 20-year old human brain is 160,000 km. A recent study provides new findings on the brain’s network scaffold that will help inform clinicians about the neurological impacts of brain diseases such as multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and brain injury.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Drumming

People who are better able to move to a beat show more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm, according to a study published in the September 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that musical training could possibly sharpen the brain’s response to language.

Concussions are connected with substance abuse and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, according to new research presented at a conference on sports-related brain injuries.

The structure of the brain may predict whether a person will suffer chronic low back pain, according to researchers who used brain scans. The results, published in the journal Pain, support the growing idea that the brain plays a critical role in chronic pain, a concept that may lead to changes in the way doctors treat patients.

A drug commonly used for treating diabetes may reverse symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and is now in the process of entering a major clinical trial.

Scientists have found a new link between early-onset Parkinson’s disease and a piece of DNA missing from chromosome 22. The findings help shed new light on the molecular changes that lead to Parkinson’s disease.

The pain and itching associated with shingles and herpes may be due to the virus causing a “short circuit” in the nerve cells that reach the skin, researchers have found.

In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers have found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating. This study adds to growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits. Motor skills and muscle memory are held in the cerebellum.

Scientists have discovered differences in the brain structure of ballet dancers that may help them avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes.

New research could offer solutions into slowing down the progression of motor neurone disease (MND).

Playing first person action games can enhance your perception of movement – but only when you’re walking backwards. This is one of the findings of a new paper by University of Leicester psychologists, published in the journal Perception, which examines the effect of playing video games on motion perception.

Two new studies investigate the relationship between self-control and reward processing for chronic dieters and people who would like to control their food intake.

Scientists say they have discovered the specific brain circuitry that causes overeating, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Bad experiences enhance memory formation about places, scientists at The University of Queensland have found.

Finally this week, a new study from MIT reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations,

Weekly Neuroscience Update

medium_46044113

A research team at Northwestern University are studying the connection between memory and sleep, and the possibilities of boosting memory storage while you snooze.

For the first time, scientists have used a new combination of neural imaging methods to discover how the human brain adapts to injury. The research, published in Cerebral Cortex, shows that when one brain area loses functionality, a “back-up” team of secondary brain areas immediately activates, replacing not only the unavailable area but also its confederates.

New research suggests that testing a portion of a person’s saliva gland may be a way to diagnose Parkinson’s disease. The study was released today and will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego, March 16 to 23, 2013.

In a promising finding for epileptic patients suffering from persistent seizures known as status epilepticus, researchers have reported that new medication could help halt these devastating seizures.

Tübingen neuroscientists have shown how decision-making processes are influenced by neurons.

EPFL scientists find evidence that psychological wounds inflicted when young leave lasting biological traces—and a predisposition toward violence later in life

The production of new neurons, known as neurogenesis, was found to be induced in the adult normal cortex by the antidepressant fluoxetine, as reported in a study published online last week in Neuropsychopharmacology. This finding highlights the potential neuroprotective response induced by this antidepressant drug. It also lends further support to the thesis that induction of adult neurogenesis in cortex is a relevant prevention/treatment option for neurodegenerative diseases and psychiatric disorders.

photo credit: Toni Blay via photopin cc