The evolution of spoken language

In this lecture, best-selling author Steven Pinker introduces you to linguistics, the evolution of spoken language, and the debate over the existence of an innate universal grammar. He also explores why language is such a fundamental part of social relationships, human biology, and human evolution. Finally, Pinker touches on the wide variety of applications for linguistics, from improving how we teach reading and writing to how we interpret law, politics, and literature.

From neurons to networks

Both a young child’s brain and our young, global Internet brain are in highly creative, experimental, innovative states of rapid development — just waiting to make connections. So, here’s a question for the 21st century: How do we help shape both of these young, rapidly growing networks to set a course for a better future? These were the questions that led filmmaker, Tiffany Shlainme, to make this short film.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

Scientists have located a specific set of neurons that indicate how time passes, confirming that the brain plays an essential role in how we experience the passage of time.

Neuroscientists have found that by training on attention tests, people young and old can improve brain performance and multitasking skills.

A gene that is associated with regeneration of injured nerve cells has been identified by scientists at Penn State University and Duke University.

When given early treatment, children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD) made significant improvements in behavior, communication, and most strikingly, brain function, Yale School of Medicine researchers report in a new study.

Researchers have found some of the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, more than two decades before the first symptoms usually appear.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Image: Pixmac.com

Gym-style exercise may improve not only general health in middle age, but also brain function, according to new research.

Researchers at Oregon Health & Science University have discovered that blocking a certain enzyme in the brain can help repair the brain damage associated with multiple sclerosis and a range of other neurological disorders.

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Magnetic Resonance Research (CMRR) have found a small population of neurons that is involved in measuring time.

Two proteins have a unique bond that enables brain receptors essential to learning and memory to not only get and stay where they’re needed, but to be hauled off when they aren’t, researchers say.

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.

Lund University researchers plan to use optogenetics to stimulate neurons to release more dopamine to combat Parkinson’s disease.

A new finding could lead to strategies for treating speech loss after a stroke and helping children with dyslexia. New research links motor skills and perception, specifically as it relates to a second finding – a new understanding of what the left and right brain hemispheres “hear.”

UCLA researchers have for the first time measured the activity of a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer’s disease during sleep. They discovered that this region, called the entorhinal cortex, behaves as if it’s remembering something, even during anesthesia–induced sleep — a finding that counters conventional theories about sleep-time memory consolidation.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain. This is shown by researchers from Uppsala University in a new study now being published by the academic journal Science. The findings may represent a breakthrough in research on memory and fear.

A growing body of research shows that children who suffer severe neglect and social isolation have cognitive and social impairments as adults. A study from Boston Children’s Hospital shows, for the first time, how these functional impairments arise: Social isolation during early life prevents the cells that make up the brain’s white matter from maturing and producing the right amount of myelin, the fatty “insulation” on nerve fibers that helps them transmit long-distance messages within the brain.

People with psychopathic tendencies have an impaired sense of smell, which points to inefficient processing in the front part of the brain [orbitofrontal cortex]. These findings by Mehmet Mahmut and Richard Stevenson, from Macquarie University in Australia, are published online in Springer’s journal Chemosensory Perception.

According to new research of MRI scans of children’s appetite and pleasure centers in their brains, the logos of such fast-food giants as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Burger King causes those areas to “light up”.

New signs of future Alzheimer’s disease have been identified by researchers at Lund University and Skane University in Sweden. Dr. Peder Buchhave and his team explain that disease-modifying treatments are more beneficial if started early, so it is essential identify Alzheimer’s disease patients as quickly as possible.

A new study from MIT neuroscientists sheds light on a neural circuit that makes us likelier to remember what we’re seeing when our brains are in a more attentive state.

What stress does to your brain

A brain drawing with the prefrontal cortex highlighted.

By watching individual neurons at work, a group of psychologists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison has revealed just how stress can addle the mind, as well as how neurons in the brain’s prefrontal cortex help “remember” information in the first place.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

When sound waves hit a sensory cell of the ear, they are converted into electrical nerve signals through specialized ion channels that open and close. Scientists at the University of Göttingen have now discovered a protein that is essential for the opening and closing of these ion channels. The protein could thus be responsible for the ability to hear.

High baseline levels of neuronal activity in the best connected parts of the brain may play an important role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

A team of researchers have developed a multidimensional set of brain measurements that, when taken together, can accurately assess a child’s age with 92 percent accuracy.

A mysterious region deep in the human brain could be where we sort through the onslaught of stimuli from the outside world and focus on the information most important to our behavior and survival, Princeton University researchers have found.