Weekly Neuroscience Update

forest-868715_960_720.jpgA neuroimaging study reveals city dwellers who live closer to forests were more likely to have healthier amygdala structure and were better able to deal with stressful situations.

New research has found that a specific combination of techniques will increase people’s chances of having lucid dreams, in which the dreamer is aware they’re dreaming while it’s still happening and can control the experience.

A new study reports women who are exposed to trauma and suffer post-traumatic stress are at an increased risk of developing Lupus.

When mental and physical tasks are put in direct competition, cognition tends to win out. Researchers suggest more energy is directed to the brain than the body, supporting the ‘selfish brain’ theory of evolution.

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

A delayed neurological response to processing the written word could be an indicator that a patient with mild memory problems is at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, research led by the University of Birmingham has discovered.

A new study reveals MRI brain scans can help identify neurological changes associated with multiple sclerosis before symptoms appear in children.

Researchers have shown for the first time a comprehensive picture of cell diversity in the amygdala, a vital brain region involved in the regulation of emotions and social behavior, as well as in autism spectrum disorders, depression and other mental disorders. As part of the study, the team also reported on a new method for systematically linking the distinct types of brain cells to specific behavioral functions.

Using three different training models, researchers report mental training, mindfulness and meditation can induce structural brain plasticity and reduce social stress.

Most cases of autism appear to be associated with the appearance of new mutations that are not inherited from the child’s parents, researchers from the University of Washington School of Medicine report.

A new brain-imaging study published in The American Journal of Psychiatry suggests scientists may be able to predict how likely children are to develop depression. 

Researchers have developed a new assessment model that breaks emotional regulation into three different elements. The MAS assessment will provide clinicians a new way in which to diagnose mood and mental health disorders.

A new study reports transcranial magnetic stimulation of the prefrontal cortex improves a person’s ability to evaluate their performance during a working memory task.

Researchers at Salk Institute report astrocytes initiate communication between pairs of neurons during early development, inducing specific neural changes. Findings may have implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as ASD and ADHD.

Researchers have discovered a cellular mechanism that may contribute to the breakdown of communication between neurons in Alzheimer’s disease.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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A bidirectional brain-computer interface (BBCI) can both record signals from the brain and send information back to the brain through stimulation. Credit: Center for Sensorimotor Neural Engineering (CSNE).

 

Researchers are investigating advances in brain-computer interface technologies and considering the implications of linking our brains up to technology.

A new study published in the online journal Radiology suggested that disconnections in the areas of the brain, which are involved in attention and visual processing might lead to visual hallucinations in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers present a new theory about dreaming, suggesting dreams may be an accidental byproduct of our waking cognitive abilities.

Scientists have long deemed the ability to recognize faces innate for people and other primates — something our brains just know how to do immediately from birth. However, the findings of a new Harvard Medical School study published Sept. 4 in the journal Nature Neuroscience cast doubt on this longstanding view.

Genetic processes that allow cells to transform so they can mend damaged nerves have been identified by scientists.

For the first time, researchers have been able to see changes in the neural structures in specific areas of the brains of people who suffered severe abuse as children.

A new study reveals molecular details of what happens when axons are damaged or completely severed.

A researcher has discovered the molecule that stores long-term memories — it’s called calcium/calmodulin dependent protein kinase (CaMKII).

Finally, this week, how well we are able to complete simple and complex tasks depends upon the organization of subnetworks in the brain, a new study reports.

 

 

Your brain and the art of confusion

It’s good that the brain gets some airtime every now and then and so it was last Thursday when I was a guest on the Limerick Today morning radio with Joe Nash. The topic was confusion and what we can do about it. The discussion during the show, ranged from confusion to the role of the brain in sleep, dreams, memories, the subconscious and the practice of mindfulness. I particularly enjoyed being able to respond to callers and their questions.

How to focus on being focussed

One thing became clear to me over the course of the show – the lack of awareness of mindfulness mediation as a drug free way to increase concentration.  As a neuroscientist and teacher I have a keen interest in this area. During the show I mentioned to listeners that meditation exercises can be accessed for free on the internet. Click below for one of the best sources of free online meditations that I have found.

http://www.themeditationpodcast.com/index.html

These exercises are a great way of sharpening your focus. They require little time and have no nasty side-effects. Try it! Your brain will thank you later.

Click here to hear a podcast of the show.