Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol are a step closer to understanding how the connections in our brain which control our episodic memory work in sync to make some memories stronger than others. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected division of memory function in the pathways between two areas of the brain, and suggest that certain subnetworks within the brain work separately, to enhance the distinctiveness of memories.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn’t blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the brain works extra hard to stabilize our vision despite our fluttering eyes.

Our personality traits are linked to differences in the thickness and volume of various parts of our brains, an international study has suggested.

Researchers have found significant differences in the brains of teens with bipolar disorder that attempt to take their lives over those with the disorder who have never attempted suicide.

Women with lower estrogen levels may be more susceptible to developing PTSD according to new research.

A new study raises the question of whether a genetic mutation associated with neurodegeneration in one environment could act in a positive way in a different setting.

Researchers report early indicators of depression and anxiety may be evident in the brain from birth.

A cutting edge, non-invasive brain stimulation technique could improve cognitive control for people with conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

A new computerized ‘mirror game’ has been shown to give more accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia than clinical interviews.

A new study reports on how a single instance of extreme stress can lead to long term neurological changes and trauma.

Social difficulties in people with autism are exacerbated by how other people perceive them at first meeting, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers have revealed regions of the brain implicated in delusional misidentification syndromes.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study sheds light on how the brain helps us to learn and make decisions in the real world.

Scientists have shown for the first time that non-invasive brain stimulation can be used like a scalpel, rather than like a hammer, to cause a specific improvement in precise memory.

Neurons in the subiculum appear to encode the current axis of travel, a new study reports.

A new study has shown for the first time that cognitive behaviour therapy (CBT) strengthens specific connections in the brains of people with psychosis, and that these stronger connections are associated with long-term reduction in symptoms and recovery eight years later.

Researchers have discovered a mechanism the brain uses to help compensate when noise obscures speech sounds.

An international team of researchers has found evidence that the specific type of protein clumps in a person’s brain might help identify different ‘types’ of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new technology that allows researchers to examine circulation in the brain could help to identify early signs of neurological problems.

A group of neurons in the forebrain release dopamine when activated by visual or tactile stimuli, a new study reports.

Finally this week, researchers report using neuroimaging to map the brains of preterm babies soon after their born could hold clues as to possible disabilities they may develop.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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This study examined how flowers evolve diluted nectar, even though bats prefer higher concentrations of sugar. It successfully integrated psychophysics and evolutionary biology. NeuroscienceNews.com image adapted from the LSU Health press release.

Perception can cause the evolution of certain traits, a new study reports.

The part of the brain that specializes in recognizing faces becomes denser with tissue over time, new research finds. The study also showed that these changes in brain structure correlated with the ability to recognize faces.

According to researchers, the entorhinal cortex can replay memories of movement without hippocampal input.

A new study led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) sheds light on how the brain stores memories. The research, published recently in the journal eLife, is the first to demonstrate that the same brain region can both motivate a learned behaviour and suppress that same behaviour.

A collection of studies offers new insight into the role dopamine plays in schizophrenia.

Hormonal fluctuations women undergo make them particularly sensitive, compared to men, to the addictive properties of cocaine, according to scientists.

New research shows that bilingual people are great at saving brain power.

Scientists have identified the physical connection through which the prefrontal cortex inhibits instinctive behaviour.

Researchers have developed a new computational model that could help shed light on the role of inhibitory neurons.

Examining postmortem brains, researchers discover the state of glia remains consistent as we age and could be used to predict a person’s age at death.

A new technology that allows researchers to examine circulation in the brain could help to identify early signs of neurological problems.

A new study reports marijuana users have lower blood flow to the hippocampus, an area of the brain associated with memory and learning.

Understanding how memory can shape our perception of the present could help people with learning disorders to stay on task, researchers believe.

Finally this week, the brain automatically places more value on the opinions of people who appear to be confident, a new study reports.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

band-691224_960_720.jpgIt may be possible to categorise the brain strategies used by professional musicians based on how they prioritise sight vs. sound when learning to play new music, according to a new study.

When we are in a deep sleep our brain’s activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It’s hard to miss. Now, Stanford researchers have found, those same cycles exist in wake as in sleep, but with only small sections sitting and standing in unison rather than the entire stadium. It’s as if tiny portions of the brain are independently falling asleep and waking back up all the time.

Researchers report the hippocampus isn’t just important for remembering past events, it also plays a vital role in future planning.

According to a new study, the brain blocks the ability for creating new memories shortly after waking in order to prevent the disruption of the stabilisation of memory consolidation that occurs during sleep.

Patients with depression can be categorised into four unique sub-types defined by distinct patterns of abnormal connectivity in the brain, according to new research.

The inability to hear subtle changes in pitch, a common and debilitating problem for people with schizophrenia, is due to dysfunctional N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) brain receptors, according to a study by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers. The study also shows that this hearing issue can be improved by combining auditory training exercises with a drug that targets NMDA receptors.

Researchers report abnormal activation in areas that respond to normal pain when a person with CRPS witnesses another person experience painful stimuli.

A new study has revealed the way that the brain handles the often noisy environments found on this planet, with the results explaining why animals, including humans, can easily cope with both the still and quiet of early-morning parks to the bustle and hubbub of cafés and streets. The researchers discovered that as auditory neurons become more familiar with a sound environment, they speed up their adaption to the noisiness of that environment.

The human brain is predisposed to learn negative stereotypes, according to research that offers clues as to how prejudice emerges and spreads through society.

Finally this week, researchers have conducted the first study of its kind, using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to look at brain regions in both adults and children who stutter.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn’t hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on November 23 have evidence that dogs have this kind of “episodic memory” too.

PET imaging of new neurons in the brain promises to advance our understanding and treatment of depression.

Research from Mayo Clinic included in the November issue of JAMA Neurology identifies a new biomarker for brain and spinal cord inflammation, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The amount of GABA in person’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked the ability to keep several things in mind simultaneously. to new research.

A new study offers important insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins within the brain. The researchers found a relationship between inflammation, a toxic protein and the onset of the disease. The study also identified a way that doctors can detect early signs of Alzheimer’s by looking at the back of patients’ eyes.

An international research team has found that when the brain “reads” or decodes a sentence in English or Portuguese, its neural activation patterns are the same.

In a cross-domain study, researchers have discovered unexpected cells in the protective membranes that enclose the brain, the so called meninges. These ‘neural progenitors’ – or stem cells that differentiate into different kinds of neurons – are produced during embryonic development. These findings show that the neural progenitors found in the meninges produce new neurons after birth – highlighting the importance of meningeal tissue as well as these cells’ potential in the development of new therapies for brain damage or neurodegeneration. A paper highlighting the results was published in the leading scientific journal Cell Stem Cell.

A new study reports that a single stressful event may cause long term consequences in the brain.

Researchers have identified previously unknown neural circuitry that plays a role in promoting satiety, the feeling of having had enough to eat. The discovery revises the current models for homeostatic control — the mechanisms by which the brain maintains the body’s status quo — of feeding behaviour. Published online today in Nature Neuroscience, the findings offer new insight into the regulation of hunger and satiety and could help researchers find solutions to the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Finally this week, learning by taking practice tests, a strategy known as retrieval practice, can protect memory against the negative effects of stress, according to new research.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Regions with significant phoneme classification at the NoNoise condition for each group. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to the researchers/Nature Communications.

Researchers have pinpointed the specific part of the brain that older adults rely on to differentiate speech sounds in background noise, which could revolutionise the treatment of hearing loss.

New research has identified how cells protect themselves against ‘protein clumps’ known to be the cause of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Transcranial alternating current stimulation may help to improve memory when targeted to a specific kind of brain activity achieved during sleep.

Researchers in the US and Australia have made a breakthrough discovery in the international quest to discover a new and potentially effective vaccine targeting the pathological proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study identifies different brain regions that become active when a strategy of categorisation is applied.

Researchers have developed a new machine learning system that analyses the entire human genome to predict which genes may cause autism spectrum disorder, raising the number of genes that could be linked to the disorder from 65 to 2,500.

Results from a study published in the online publication Nature Genetics finds 15 genomic regions that are significantly associated with a diagnosis of depression.

According to researchers, age related changes in the organization of neural networks when performing short term memory tasks may help to compensate for other aspects of brain aging.

Researchers report smoking related deficits in dopamine return to normal three months after quitting.

Genetic changes associated with Parkinson’s disease have been found in liver, fat, immune and developmental cells, a new study reports.

Brain imaging, twin studies and transcriptome data reveal genetic relationships between lobes.

Finally this week, a new study suggests regular physical activity may lead to greater hippocampal volume and could stave off dementia, especially in older people.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs, scientists have found.

Chronic marijuana use disrupts the brain’s natural reward processes, according to researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Understanding the relation of dopamine to network activity could improve schizophrenia treatment.

Using MRI brain scans, researchers have determined there is an association between the extent of disruption to the blood-brain barrier and the severity of bleeding following a stroke.

Researchers have proposed a computational model that could help explain multisensory integration in humans.

Scientists have developed a blood test that could identify which people with depression will respond to treatment so that patients can avoid spending months taking antidepressants that do not help them.

Researchers have discovered a unique pattern of scarring in the brains of those who were exposed to blast brain injuries that differs from those exposed to other types of head injury.

Intensive physical exercise four hours after learning is the key to remembering information learnt, say Dutch researchers.

Scientists have discovered a new cause of Parkinson’s disease – mutations in a gene called TMEM230. This appears to be only the third gene definitively linked to confirmed cases of Parkinson’s disease.

Finally this week, a protein called Scribble appears to orchestrate the intracellular signaling process for forgetting, a new study reports.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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Test subjects in an Ohio State University study were shown a series of photographs of different facial expressions. Researchers pinpointed an area of the brain that is specifically attuned to picking up key muscle movements (here, labeled AU for ‘action units’) that combine to express emotion. Credit: Ohio State University.

New machine learning algorithm can identify the facial expression a person is looking at based on neural activity.

After a stroke, there is inflammation in the damaged part of the brain. Until now, the inflammation has been seen as a negative consequence that needs to be abolished as soon as possible. But, as it turns out, there are also some positive sides to the inflammation, and it can actually help the brain to self-repair.

A new study reports hungry fish sense objects differently and take more risks when hunting than well fed fish.

In a study exploring the relationship between memory for specific past experiences and recovery from strong negative emotions, research psychologists report that episodic memory may be more important in helping midlife and older adults recover from a negative event than it is for younger adults.

New research reports one brain hemisphere remains more awake than the other when sleeping somewhere new. 

Long before Alzheimer’s disease can be diagnosed clinically, increasing difficulties building cognitive maps of new surroundings may herald the eventual clinical onset of the disorder, according to new research.

New research suggests actin filaments that control the shape of neuron cells may also be the key to the molecular machinery that forms and stores long-term memories.

Scientists have elucidated for the first time how a notoriously elusive serotonin receptor functions with atom-level detail. The receptor transmits electrical signals in neurons and is involved in various disorders, meaning that the discovery opens the way for new treatments.

Researchers have mapped out a circuit of neurons that is responsible for motor impairment–such as difficulty walking–in patients with Parkinson’s disease.

Brain waves that spread through the hippocampus are initiated by a method not seen before–a possible step toward understanding and treating epilepsy, according to researchers at Case Western Reserve University.

Researchers have conducted a study examining the effect ecstasy has on different parts of the brain.

Finally this week researchers have found that drawing pictures of information that needs to be remembered is a strong and reliable strategy to enhance memory.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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John Gaspar, an SFU psychology doctoral student, places 128 electrodes into a cap. The electrodes will pick up tiny changes in the wearer’s brain activity. Image is adapted from the SFU press release.

A new study has found that differences in an individual’s working memory capacity correlate with the brain’s ability to actively ignore distraction.

A research team has connected neurons using ultrashort laser pulses. With their study, which was published in Scientific Reports, the team became the first ever to find a way to bond neurons.

Physicians and biomedical engineers from Johns Hopkins report what they believe is the first successful effort to wiggle fingers individually and independently of each other using a mind-controlled artificial “arm” to control the movement.

Researchers have identified a gene which can be used to predict how susceptible a young person is to the mind-altering effects of smoking cannabis.

Young adults with hostile attitudes or those who don’t cope well with stress may be at increased risk for experiencing memory and thinking problems decades later, according to a study published in the March 2, 2016, online issue of Neurology.

Researchers have found how lactate, a waste product of glucose metabolism can protect neurons from damage following acute trauma such as stroke or spinal cord injury.

Neuroscientists have discovered a specific enzyme that plays a critical role in spinal muscular atrophy, and that suppressing this enzyme’s activity, could markedly reduce the disease’s severity and improve patients’ lifestyles.

Birds that migrate the greatest distances have more new neurons in the regions of the brain responsible for navigation and spatial orientation, suggests a new paper published in Scientific Reports.

Scientists have now described the engineering of a bright red fluorescent protein-based voltage indicator, providing pathways to understanding complex neurological disorders.

Children with autism and other similar conditions often have difficulties in several areas of communication. A new doctoral thesis in linguistics from the University of Gothenburg shows that these children can develop speech, gestures and a sense of rhythm and melody by listening to various speech sounds.

Finally this week,  new research suggests that small numbers are processed in the right side of the brain, while large numbers are processed in the left side of the brain.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Percentage of known neuron-, astrocyte- and oligodendrocyte-enriched genes in 32 modules, ordered by proportion of neuron-enriched gene membership. (credit: Michael Hawrylycz et al./Nature Neuroscience)

Percentage of known neuron-, astrocyte- and oligodendrocyte-enriched genes in 32 modules, ordered by proportion of neuron-enriched gene membership. (credit: Michael Hawrylycz et al./Nature Neuroscience)

Allen Institute researchers have identified a surprisingly small set of just 32 gene-expression patterns for all 20,000 genes across 132 functionally distinct human brain regions, and these patterns appear to be common to all individuals.

Evidence is mounting that gratitude makes a powerful impact on our bodies, including our immune and cardiovascular health. But how does gratitude work in the brain? A team at the University of Southern California has shed light on the neural nuts and bolts of gratitude in a new study, offering insights into the complexity of this social emotion and how it relates to other cognitive processes.

Subjective memory complaints (SMCs) are associated with cognitive impairment nearly two decades later among older women, a prospective study of aging has demonstrated.

Older adults that improved their fitness through a moderate intensity exercise program increased the thickness of their brain’s cortex, the outer layer of the brain that typically atrophies with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study. These effects were found in both healthy older adults and those diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), an early stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

When it comes to the brain, “more is better” seems like an obvious assumption. But in the case of synapses, which are the connections between brain cells, too many or too few can both disrupt brain function. Research, recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, reports  that an immune-system protein called MHCI, or major histocompatibility complex class I, moonlights in the nervous system to help regulate the number of synapses, which transmit chemical and electrical signals between neurons. MHCI could play an unexpected role in conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, type II diabetes and autism.

Researchers have developed a simple technique to measure an individual’s visual processing speed–the speed at which an individual can comprehend visual information–in order to identify whether or not they may have cognitive issues.

Sleep is usually considered an all-or-nothing state: The brain is either entirely awake or entirely asleep. However, MIT neuroscientists have discovered a brain circuit that can trigger small regions of the brain to fall asleep or become less alert, while the rest of the brain remains awake.