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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Heading a football can significantly affect a player’s brain function and memory for 24 hours, a study has found.

Researchers have successfully transplanted embryonic neurons into damaged neural networks, a new study reports.

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief.

Results from a new clinical study conducted suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health.

A new imaging technique that creates 3-D video of serotonin transport could aid antidepressant development.

Researchers have identified the cause of chronic, and currently untreatable, pain in those with amputations and severe nerve damage, as well as a potential treatment which relies on engineering instead of drugs.

A new study could explain why the ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating depression has been ineffective.

Using optogenetics to activate dopamine receptors in the ventral tegmental area could help people regain consciousness following general anesthesia, researchers report.

We all know that as we age, our skin loses its firmness and elasticity. However, researchers have now discovered our brains may also lose its elasticity as we age.

Researchers have identified a common culprit that may cause damage in stoke, brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

Finally this week, A new study provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and reveals how this happens in our brains.

 

 

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

painThe problem with diagnosing and treating pain is that it’s so subjective. But a new paper in Pain says that brain structure may hold some answers.

Adding cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to the treatment of migraines in children and adolescents resulted in greater reductions in headache frequency and migraine-related disability compared with headache education, according to a new study.

Scientists have discovered how salt acts as a key regulator for drugs used to treat a variety of brain diseases including chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.

Research focused on the amygdala can help identify children at risk for anxiety disorders and depression.

Whales, bats, and even praying mantises use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system – and now a new study has found that ultrasound can modulate brain activity to heighten sensory perception in humans.

Scientists have shown that there are widespread differences in how genes, the basic building blocks of the human body, are expressed in men and women’s brains.

A new study shows a leftward asymmetry of the choroid plexus in two-thirds of first-trimester human fetuses. This is the earliest brain asymmetry so far identified and may be a precursor to other asymmetries, including that of the temporal planum, which is evident from the 31st week of gestation.

Researchers have discovered the mechanism in the brain responsible for the motor and vocal tics found in Tourette Syndrome.  The study, published in the British Psychological Society’s Journal of Neuropsychology, could at some point lead to new non-drug therapies.

A new study by neuroscientists is the first to directly compare brain responses to faces and objects with responses to colors.

A study begun in Mexico with the collaboration of university students has analysed the effect of weekend alcohol consumption on the lipids comprising cell membrane and its genetic material, i.e. DNA.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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People who are better able to move to a beat show more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm, according to a study published in the September 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that musical training could possibly sharpen the brain’s response to language.

Concussions are connected with substance abuse and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, according to new research presented at a conference on sports-related brain injuries.

The structure of the brain may predict whether a person will suffer chronic low back pain, according to researchers who used brain scans. The results, published in the journal Pain, support the growing idea that the brain plays a critical role in chronic pain, a concept that may lead to changes in the way doctors treat patients.

A drug commonly used for treating diabetes may reverse symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and is now in the process of entering a major clinical trial.

Scientists have found a new link between early-onset Parkinson’s disease and a piece of DNA missing from chromosome 22. The findings help shed new light on the molecular changes that lead to Parkinson’s disease.

The pain and itching associated with shingles and herpes may be due to the virus causing a “short circuit” in the nerve cells that reach the skin, researchers have found.

In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers have found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating. This study adds to growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits. Motor skills and muscle memory are held in the cerebellum.

Scientists have discovered differences in the brain structure of ballet dancers that may help them avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes.

New research could offer solutions into slowing down the progression of motor neurone disease (MND).

Playing first person action games can enhance your perception of movement – but only when you’re walking backwards. This is one of the findings of a new paper by University of Leicester psychologists, published in the journal Perception, which examines the effect of playing video games on motion perception.

Two new studies investigate the relationship between self-control and reward processing for chronic dieters and people who would like to control their food intake.

Scientists say they have discovered the specific brain circuitry that causes overeating, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Bad experiences enhance memory formation about places, scientists at The University of Queensland have found.

Finally this week, a new study from MIT reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations,

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers at the University of Southern California (USC) are developing SimSensei, a Kinect-driven avatar system capable of tracking and analyzing telltale signs of psychological distress. The avatar psychologist uses facial recognition technology and a depth-sensing camera to read a person’s facial movements, body movements, posture, linguistic patterns and acoustics to screen for depression.

A new functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technique may provide neurosurgeons with a non-invasive tool to help in mapping critical areas of the brain before surgery, reports a study in the April issue of Neurosurgery, official journal of the Congress of Neurological Surgeons.

For the first time, scientists have been able to predict how much pain people are feeling by looking at images of their brains, according to a new study led by the University of Colorado Boulder.The findings, published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, may lead to the development of reliable methods doctors can use to objectively quantify a patient’s pain

New research has shown that the way our minds react to and process emotions such as fear can vary according to what is happening in other parts of our bodies.

UCLA researchers have used a brain-imaging tool and stroke risk assessment to identify signs of cognitive decline early on in individuals who don’t yet show symptoms of dementia.

People with mental illnesses are more than seven times more likely to use cannabis weekly compared to people without a mental illness, according to researchers from the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) who studied U.S. data.

Neuroscience News Update

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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.

Your Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

Laughter with friends releases the brain's "feel-good" chemicals, and helps reduce pain

Laughing with friends releases feel-good brain chemicals, which also relieve pain, new research indicates.

Millions of tinnitus sufferers could get relief thanks to a new treatment which stops the brain creating “phantom” noises by playing matching tones over headphones

Earlier evidence out of UCLA suggested that meditating for years thickens the brain (in a good way) and strengthens the connections between brain cells. Now a further report by UCLA researchers suggests yet another benefit. have found that long-term meditators have larger amounts of gyrification (“folding” of the cortex, which may allow the brain to process information faster) than people who do not meditate. Further, a direct correlation was found between the amount of gyrification and the number of meditation years, possibly providing further proof of the brain’s neuroplasticity, or ability to adapt to environmental changes.

Brain scans of Nasa astronauts who have returned to earth after more than a month in space have revealed potentially serious abnormalities that could jeopardise long-term space missions.