Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image:  Bansal et al., PLOS Computational Biology, October 2018.

Scientists are using computational models of the brain to simulate how the structure of the brain may impact brain activity and, ultimately, human behavior. The research focuses on interconnectivity, looking at how different regions are linked to and interact with one another.

Using a green filter helps to increase reading speed for children with dyslexia, researchers report.

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

A new study reports sleep helps improve learning performance in predictable processes.

A new brain imaging study reveals how the midbrain and striatum, two key areas of the dopamine system, become more active when a person updates their beliefs about the world around them.

Researchers report deep brain stimulation has little benefit for those suffering from early onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, a decade worth of data reveals people who multitask with different forms of media at once are worse at completing simple memory tasks.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

buddhist-1807526_960_720.jpgResearchers have discovered differences in the brain’s emotional networks between those who do not meditate, novice meditators and those who have practiced meditation for a long time.

According to researchers, people find it easier to lie in a foreign language than their native tongue.

A new study could revolutionize understanding of how signal flow can be measured in the brain and could have an impact into the development of new artificial neural networks.

Scientists in the US have announced they’ve developed an Artificial Intelligence (AI) system that can tell how smart a person is just by looking at a scan of their brain.

Researchers have developed a new, non-surgical method to manipulate brain circuitry. The technique uses sound waves in combination with small bubble injections into the bloodstream that temporarily opens the blood-brain barrier.

A new study reports disrupted transportation routes in nerve cells are a significant cause of Parkinson’s disease.

According to researchers, vision and brain circuits perform regular background scans, making neurons available for focus based tasks. The process makes it possible for us to pay, and maintain attention.

Researchers report high density of neurons in the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex play a significant role in resilient dyslexia.

Finally this week, a new study reports children who exhibit excessive self-control and have tendencies toward perfectionism are twice as likely to develop OCD by their teenage years.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

runner-888016_960_720.jpgAccording to researchers, endurance runners appear to have greater functional connectivity in their brains that those who don’t exercise as much.

New research reveals that children begin using olfactory information to help guide their responses to emotionally-expressive faces at about five years of age. The findings advance understanding of how children integrate different types of sensory information to direct their social behaviour.

A new study explores how neurons adapt their function to respond to stimuli quickly.

A distinctive neural signature found in the brains of people with dyslexia may explain why these individuals have difficulty learning to read, according to a new study from MIT neuroscientists.

Brain connections that play a key role in complex thinking skills show the poorest health with advancing age, new research suggests.

Researchers have identified immune cells in the membranes around the brain that could be a ‘missing link’ in the gut-brain axis. The immune cells also appear to have a positive impact on recovery following spinal cord injury.

Therapeutic hypothermia following a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) significantly improves survival rate, a new study reports.

An enzyme found in the fluid around the brain and spine is giving researchers a snapshot of what happens inside the minds of Alzheimer’s patients and how that relates to cognitive decline.

Finally this week,a new study looks at the way in which noise sensitivity is manifested due to changes in the way in which the brain processes auditory information.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The salience network, highlighted here in two epilepsy patients, is thought to mediate our response to important internal or external signals, such as pain or the sound of a siren. Image: Parvizi et al. Neuron 2013

The salience network, highlighted here in two epilepsy patients, is thought to mediate our response to important internal or external signals, such as pain or the sound of a siren. Image: Parvizi et al. Neuron 2013

In a rare study involving direct brain stimulation researchers say they have uncovered direct evidence that a brain region known as the anterior midcingulate cortex and its surrounding network play a central role in motivation and a readiness to act.

Many studies suggest that pushing your brain to multitask—writing emails, for instance, while watching the day’s latest news and eating breakfast—leads to poorer performance and lower productivity. But for at least one everyday task—visual sampling (the act of picking up bits of visual information through short glances)—multitasking is not a problem for the brain. A collaboration between researchers at the UC Santa Barbara and the University of Bristol in the UK has shown that during visual sampling, the brain can handle various visual functions simultaneously.

Researchers report a detailed account of how speech sounds are identified by the human brain, offering an unprecedented insight into the basis of human language. The finding, they said, may add to our understanding of language disorders, including dyslexia.

A new study correlating brain activity with how people make decisions suggests that when individuals engage in risky behavior, it’s probably not because their brains’ desire systems are too active, but because their self-control systems are not active enough. This might have implications for how health experts treat mental illness and addiction or how the legal system assesses a criminal’s likelihood of committing another crime.

Pain sensitivity is controlled by a genetic “dimmer switch”, which can be re-set, UK scientists have discovered.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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The act of laughing at a joke is the result of a two-stage process in the brain, first detecting an incongruity before then resolving it with an expression of mirth. The brain actions involved in understanding humour differ between young boys and girls. These are the conclusions reached by a US-based scientist supported by the Swiss National Science Foundation.

The structure of the brain shows the way in which we process numbers. People either do this spatially or non-spatially. A study by Florian Krause from the Donders Institute in Nijmegen shows for the first time that these individual differences have a structural basis in the brain.

Pioneering research points to a promising avenue for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) utilising neurofeedback training to alter the plasticity of brain networks linked to the condition.

Perseverance is a quality that plays a large role in the success or failure of many pursuits. It has never been entirely clear why this trait seems more apparent in some people than others, but a new piece of research may at least help explain where it comes from.

A mechanism in the brain which controls tics in children with Tourette Syndrome (TS) has been discovered by scientists at The University of Nottingham.

Dyslexia may be caused by impaired connections between auditory and speech centers of the brain, according to a recent study published  in Science. The research could help to resolve conflicting theories about the root causes of the disorder, and lead to targeted interventions.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Different brain areas are activated when we choose to suppress an emotion, compared to when we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according to a new study.

Researchers say signs of psychopathy could be detected as early as childhood. The conclusion was drawn from a study where psychologists scanned the brains of children with conduct problems. When the children were shown images of someone in pain, regions of the brain associated with empathy remained inactive.

Using MRI, neuroscientists have found significant differences in brain anatomy when comparing men and women with dyslexia to their non-dyslexic control groups, suggesting that the disorder may have a different brain-based manifestation based on sex.

Research into the comparative size of the frontal lobes in humans and other species has determined that they are not – as previously thought – disproportionately enlarged relative to other areas of the brain, according to the most accurate and conclusive study of this area of the brain.  It concludes that the size of our frontal lobes cannot solely account for humans’ superior cognitive abilities.

When the brain’s primary “learning center” is damaged, complex new neural circuits arise to compensate for the lost function, say researchers who have pinpointed the regions of the brain involved in creating those alternate pathways — often far from the damaged site.

Your brain often works on autopilot when it comes to grammar. That theory has been around for years, but University of Oregon neuroscientists have captured elusive hard evidence that people indeed detect and process grammatical errors with no awareness of doing so.

Image Credit: © Tryfonov / Fotolia

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

Conceptual scheme of controlled release of ODN from a hydrogel composed of a CyD-containing molecular network by mechanical compression. (Credit: Image courtesy of National Institute for Materials Science)

A research group has succeeded in developing a gel material which is capable of releasing drugs in response to pressure applied by the patient.

New findings about how the brain functions to suppress pain have been published in the leading journal in the field Pain, by National University of Ireland Galway (NUI Galway) researchers. For the first time, it has been shown that suppression of pain during times of fear involves complex interplay between marijuana-like chemicals and other neurotransmitters in a brain region called the amygdala.

Researchers report that they have found a biological mechanism that appears to play a vital role in learning to read. This finding provides significant clues into the workings behind dyslexia — a collection of impairments unrelated to intelligence, hearing or vision that makes learning to read a struggle.

A new study suggests neural ‘synchrony’ may be key to understanding how the human brain perceives.

Sleep plays an important role in the brain’s ability to consolidate learning when two new potentially competing tasks are learned in the same day, research at the University of Chicago demonstrates.

New research for the first time explains exactly how two brain regions interact to promote emotionally motivated behaviors associated with anxiety and reward. The findings could lead to new mental health therapies for disorders such as addiction, anxiety, and depression.

Researchers have designed a decoded functional MRI neurofeedback method that induces a pre-recorded activation pattern in targeted early visual brain areas that could also produce the pattern through regular learning.

A new study conducted by monitoring the brain waves of sleeping adolescents has found that remarkable changes occur in the brain as it prunes away neuronal connections and makes the major transition from childhood to adulthood.

New research suggests that depression, even in children, can increase the risk of heart problems later in life. Teens who were depressed as children are far more likely than their peers to be obese, smoke cigarettes and lead sedentary lives, even if they no longer suffer from depression.

Alcohol consumption affects the brain in multiple ways, ranging from acute changes in behavior to permanent molecular and functional alterations. The general consensus is that in the brain, alcohol targets mainly neurons. However, recent research suggests that other cells of the brain known as astrocytic glial cells or astrocytes are necessary for the rewarding effects of alcohol and the development of alcohol tolerance.

New research published in The Journal of Neuroscience suggests that modifying signals sent by astrocytes, our star-shaped brain cells, may help to limit the spread of damage after an ischemic brain stroke.

The prefrontal cortex is a region of the brain that acts like a filter, keeping any irrelevant thoughts, memories and perceptions from interfering with the task-at-hand. In a new study, researchers have shown that inhibiting this filter can enhance unfiltered, creative thinking.

A new study suggests that depression results from a disturbance in the ability of brain cells to communicate with each other. The study indicates a major shift in our understanding of how depression is caused and how it should be treated.

 

 

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 Round Up

In an attempt to put matter over mind, researchers are beginning to decipher what exactly is happening in our brains when we are making decisions. 

Historically, the dyslexia label has been assigned to children who whose high IQs mismatch their low reading scores, but a new brain-imaging study challenges this understanding of dyslexia.

Twin studies have shown that people with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder have changes in gene activity caused by their environment. The finding provides the strongest evidence yet that such gene changes might cause the conditions.

The famous dictum of Henry Ford “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you’re right,” has been put to the test in new study, which finds that people who think they can learn from their mistakes have a different brain reaction to mistakes than people who think intelligence is fixed.

Everybody has experienced a sense of “losing oneself” in an activity and now researchers have caught the brain in the act.

The brains of autistic children have a distinctive topography that a team of Stanford University scientists was able to capture using new imaging techniques, with the hope of someday creating a template for the autistic brain that could be used to diagnose children at an early age.

Finally, modern society’s increasing dependency on online tools for both work and recreation opens up unique opportunities for the study of social interactions. With this in mind, scientists at Indiana University  have put Dunbar’s Number (a theoretical cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships) to the test by analyzing the Twitter activity of 1.7 million individuals. Their research offers support to Dunbar’s hypothesis of a biological limit to the number of relationships than can be simultaneously maintained by a single individual.