Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

Scientists at University College Cork (UCC) have come up with an innovative strategy to deliver a therapy into the brain to treat the neurogenerative disease, Huntington’s disease (HD). The strategy, which involves using modified sugars to carry gene therapies into the brain, is being hailed as an exciting development which could be applied to many brain disorders, especially those with a genetic basis.

Researchers have used brain imaging technology to show that young people with a known genetic risk of bipolar but no clinical signs of the condition have clear and quantifiable differences in brain activity when compared to controls.

Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rhythm and blood pressure. It is hoped that the discovery, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, will be significant in the long term in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in humans.

Scientists say they have found a way to distinguish between different types of dementia without the need for invasive tests, like a lumbar puncture.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have discovered that perhaps IQ is not the best measure of cognitive performance. Instead, they found that verbal language, short-term memory, and logical reasoning were the most important predictors of cognitive performance.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

We already known that bright light therapy can be an effective cure for seasonal depression, but a new study from Finnish University students has revealed that it also benefits those not struggling from seasonal depression at all. When the therapy is administered through the ear canal directly to the photosensitive brain tissue, it not only improves the cognitive performance and mood of those with the depression, but those without it as well.

Recent studies using brain scans have found that the areas of the brain associated with mood, conscious thought and concentration are hyperconnected in people with depression.

Researchers have pinpointed the area of the brain responsible for gullibility and have theorized why it makes children, teens and seniors less likely to doubt.

The human brain is wired to remember emotionally charged events while discarding mundane information like where you left your car keys, Canadian scientists say. Emotional or traumatic events, like special occasions or accidents, are interpreted more keenly by our brains and stored with greater coherence.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have devised a method for detecting certain neurological disorders through the study of eye movements.

A new study by researchers has found that the strength of communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain predicts performance on basic arithmetic problems. The findings shed light on the neural basis of human math abilities and suggest a possible route to aiding those who suffer from dyscalculia an inability to understand and manipulate numbers.

Bringing the real world into the brain scanner, researchers can now determine the action a person was planning, mere moments before that action is actually executed. The findings were published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, in the paper, “Decoding Action Intentions from Preparatory Brain Activity in Human Parieto-Frontal Networks.”

 

Neuroscience News Update

University of Georgia researchers have developed a map of the human brain that shows great promise as a new guide to the inner workings of the body’s most complex and critical organ.

Brains that maintain healthy nerve connections as we age help keep us sharp in later life, new research funded by the charity Age UK has found.

The brain reward systems of women with anorexia may work differently from those of women who are obese, a new study suggests.

Emotional stress caused by last year’s tsunami caused a part of some survivors’ brains to shrink, according to scientists in Japan who grasped a unique chance to study the neurological effects of trauma. On a quest to better understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the researchers compared brain scans they had taken of 42 healthy adolescents in other studies in the two years before the killer wave, with new images taken three to four months thereafter. Among those with PTSD symptoms, they found a shrinking in the orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in decision-making and the regulation of emotion, said a study published in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Neuroscience News Update

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Harvard neuroscience researchers have just confirmed what many of us have suspected all along: social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest are “brain candy” for Internet users. Every status update, every tweet, every pin is a micro-jolt delivered squarely to the pleasure centers of our brains.

Brain networks — areas of the brain that regularly work together — might avoid traffic jams at their busiest intersections by communicating on different frequencies, according to new research.

Researchers at Stanford University have determined from brain-imaging data whether experimental subjects are recalling events of the day, singing silently to themselves, performing mental arithmetic, or merely relaxing.

Recent research has revealed some of the changes that take place in women’s brains during motherhood, and experts say that it could help them figure out what motivates mothers to care for their babies.

A study recently published by a University of Colorado School of Medicine researcher shows that reward circuits in the brain are sensitized in anorexic women and desensitized in obese women. The findings also suggest that eating behavior is related to brain dopamine pathways involved in addictions.

Researchers at the University of Leeds have found a previously unknown mechanism through which pain is signalled by nerve cells – a discovery that could explain the current failings in the drug development process for painkillers and which may offer opportunities for a new approach.

Post-traumatic stress is estimated to afflict more than 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, but until now, it’s been labeled a “soft disorder” — one without an objective biological path to diagnosis. That may have changed this week, after researchers at the University of Minnesota and the Minneapolis VA Medical Center announced they’d found a distinct pattern of brain activity among PTSD sufferers.

A live tweeted brain surgery this week reached an online audience of more than 14 million people, according to the hospital that used social media to broadcast the operation.

High-impact activities like football are known to cause creeping brain damage that can’t easily be detected until after death. But promising research may give rise to new methods of diagnosing chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

Scientists have proven that light intensity influences our cognitive performance and how alert we feel.

Scientists at Weill Cornell Medical College have discovered that the single protein—alpha 2 delta—exerts a spigot-like function, controlling the volume of neurotransmitters and other chemicals that flow between the synapses of brain neurons. The study, published online in Nature, shows how brain cells talk to each other through these signals, relaying thoughts, feelings and action, and this powerful molecule plays a crucial role in regulating effective communication.