Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows that sleep loss markedly exaggerates the degree to which we anticipate impending emotional events, particularly among highly anxious people, who are especially vulnerable.

Music training has a lifelong good impact on the aging process, says a new study out of Northwestern University.

New research by scientists at the University of University of North Carolina School of Medicine may have pinpointed an underlying cause of the seizures that affect 90 percent of people with Angelman syndrome (AS), a neurodevelopmental disorder.

Scientists have shown that brain levels of serotonin, the ‘happy hormone’ are regulated by the amount of bacteria in the gut during early life.

Two U.S. scientists have updated findings that link a form of Chinese meditation to positive changes in brain structure, suggesting that just 11 hours of practising the technique over a month could help prevent mental illness. In a paper to be released this week in the online version of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers Yi-Yuan Tang and Michael Posner report that the practice known as integrative body-mind training (IBMT) can have a positive physical affect on the brain, boosting connectivity and efficiency.

Researchers at the University of Missouri have demonstrated the effectiveness of a potential new therapy for stroke patients in an article published in the journal Molecular Neurodegeneration. Created to target a specific enzyme known to affect important brain functions, the new compound being studied at MU is designed to stop the spread of brain bleeds and protect brain cells from further damage in the crucial hours after a stroke.

A receptor recently discovered to control the movement of immune cells across the blood-brain barrier may hold the key to treating multiple sclerosis (MS), a neuroinflammatory disease of the central nervous system.

In a pair of related studies, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have identified several proteins that help regulate cells’ response to light—and the development of night blindness, a rare disease that abolishes the ability to see in dim light.

A recent breakthrough in the development of an artificial synapse suggests that assistive devices and other prostheses won’t be limited to just missing joints and failing organs. Researchers in Japan have shown that it’s possible to mimic synaptic function with nanotechnology, a breakthrough that could result in not just artificial neural networks, but fixes for the human brain as well.

Patients vary widely in their response to concussion, but scientists haven’t understood why. Now, using a new technique for analyzing data from brain imaging studies, researchers at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University and Montefiore Medical Center have found that concussion victims have unique spatial patterns of brain abnormalities that change over time.

Using a new and powerful approach to understand the origins of neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, researchers at Mayo Clinic in Florida are building the case that these diseases are primarily caused by genes that are too active or not active enough, rather than by harmful gene mutations.

Weekly Round Up

Welcome to the last weekly round-up of 2011. I have enjoyed putting this together each week and look forward to updating you with lots more new and exciting research in the field of neuroscience in the coming year.

New research has shown, for the first time, that the cortex, which is the largest zone of the brain and which is generally associated with high cognitive functions, is also a key zone for emotional learning.

When you experience a new event, your brain encodes a memory of it by altering the connections between neurons. This requires turning on many genes in those neurons. Now, MIT neuroscientists have identified what may be a master gene that controls this complex process.

A new technique for color-coding nerves involved in touch gives neuroscientists a much-needed tool for studying that mysterious sense.

When accidents that involve traumatic brain injuries occur, a speedy diagnosis followed by the proper treatment can mean the difference between life and death. A research team, led by Jason D. Riley in the Section on Analytical and Functional Biophotonics at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, has created a handheld device capable of quickly detecting brain injuries such as hematomas, which occur when blood vessels become damaged and blood seeps out into surrounding tissues where it can cause significant and dangerous swelling.

Shrinkage in certain parts of the brain may herald Alzheimer’s disease long before symptoms arise, according to new research.

At UCLA’s Laboratory of Integrative Neuroimaging Technology, researchers use functional MRI brain scans to observe brain signal changes that take place during mental activity. They then employ computerized machine learning (ML) methods to study these patterns and identify the cognitive state — or sometimes the thought process — of human subjects. The technique is called “brain reading” or “brain decoding.”

Compared to our other senses, scientists don’t know much about how our skin is wired for the sensation of touch. Now, research reported in the December 23rd issue of the journal Cell, a Cell Press publication, provides the first picture of how specialized neurons feel light touches.

Both children and the elderly have slower response times when they have to make quick decisions in some settings. But recent research suggests that much of that slower response is a conscious choice to emphasize accuracy over speed. In fact, healthy older people can be trained to respond faster in some decision-making tasks without hurting their accuracy – meaning their cognitive skills in this area aren’t so different from younger adults.

Scientists at the University of Cambridge have made a significant step in the development of a novel therapy that could one day help to slow down, or even halt, the damage caused by Parkinson’s disease, one of the most common neurodegenerative disorders.

Weekly Round-Up

Researchers believe they found a link between the volume of one’s cerebellum and general intelligence. The cerebellum is involved in the coordination of voluntary motor movement, balance and equilibrium and muscle tone. It is located just above the brain stem and toward the back of the brain.

A small but promising study suggests that magnetic stimulation of the brain could aid the recovery of some stroke patients.

Treatment that increases brain levels of an important regulatory enzyme may slow the loss of brain cells that characterizes Huntington’s disease (HD) and other neurodegenerative disorders.

How much do babies remember about the world around them? New research reveals that even though infants can’t remember the details of an object that has been hidden from view, their brains have built-in “pointers” that help them retain the idea that the object still exists even though they can’t see it anymore.

Neuroscience research involving epileptic patients with brain electrodes surgically implanted in their medial temporal lobes shows that patients learned to consciously control individual neurons deep in the brain with thoughts.

Loyola University Medical Center researchers are reporting what could become the first reliable method to predict whether an antidepressant will work on a depressed patient.

How we perceive motion is a significantly more complex process than previously thought, researchers at New York University’s Center for Neural Science, Stanford University and the University of Washington have found. Their results, which appear in the journalCurrent Biology, show that the relationship between the brain and visual perception varies, depending on the type of motion we are viewing.

After birth, the developing brain is largely shaped by experiences in the environment. However, neurobiologists at Yale and elsewhere have also shown that for many functions the successful wiring of neural circuits depends upon spontaneous activity in the brain that arises before birth independent of external influences.