Weekly Neuroscience Update

To study how nerve cells respond to injuries in their branches, Washington University researcher Valeria Cavalli grows them in “spots” like the one shown above. Cavalli recently identified a chain reaction that enables repair of these branches when they are cut. Credit Yongcheol Cho/Washington University at St. Louis.

To study how nerve cells respond to injuries in their branches, Washington University researcher Valeria Cavalli grows them in “spots” like the one shown above. Cavalli recently identified a chain reaction that enables repair of these branches when they are cut. Credit Yongcheol Cho/Washington University at St. Louis.

Researchers have identified a chain reaction that triggers the regrowth of some damaged nerve cell branches, a discovery that one day may help improve treatments for nerve injuries that can cause loss of sensation or paralysis.

Groundbreaking research nearly two decades ago linking a mother’s educational background to her children’s literacy and cognitive abilities stands out among decades of social science studies demonstrating the adverse effects of poverty. Now new research has taken that finding in a neuroscientific direction: linking poor processing of auditory information in the adolescent brain to a lower maternal educational background.

A review of new research says there is growing evidence to support the idea that the brain plays a key role in normal glucose regulation and the development of type 2 diabetes.

University of Queensland (UQ) scientists have made a fundamental breakthrough into how the brain decodes the visual world.

Cocaine addicts may become trapped in drug binges not because they are always seeking euphoric highs but rather to avoid emotional lows, says a study in Psychopharmacology.

Researchers have developed a therapeutic at-home gaming program for stroke patients who experience motor weakness affecting 80 percent of survivors.

Learning a musical instrument as a child gives the brain a boost that lasts long into adult life, say scientists.

The birth of new neurons depend upon activation of an important molecular pathway in stem cells, a new Yale School of Medicine study shows.

Researchers have taken a major step towards understanding the causes of Alzheimer’s disease with the largest study yet into the genetics of the disorder.

Light enhances brain activity during a cognitive task even in some people who are totally blind, according to a new study.

Scientists have discovered biological mechanisms that may link Parkinson’s disease to Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the journal Acta Neuropathologica.

 

Weekly Round Up

The neuroscience of dreaming

In this week’s round-up of the latest discoveries in the field of neuroscience – the neuroscience of dreaming and eureka moments, the teenage brain and new research into Parkinson’s and Alzheimers.

Scientists have long puzzled over the many hours we spend in light, dreamless slumber. But a new study from the University of California, Berkeley, suggests we’re busy recharging our brain’s learning capacity during this traditionally undervalued phase of sleep, which can take up half the night.

Perhaps while sleeping we are gaining new insight into our problems. A new brain-imaging study looks at the neural activity associated with insight. The research, published by Cell Press in the March 10 issue of the journal Neuron, reveals specific brain activity that occurs during an “A-ha!” moment that may help encode the new information in long-term memory.

I’ve written previously about the brain of a teenager being hot-wired to take risk, but now new research shows that just when teens are faced with intensifying peer pressure to misbehave, regions of the brain are actually blossoming in a way that heighten the ability to resist risky behavior.

Brain scans are being used to spot the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease in a UK-based pilot that could revolutionise its diagnosis. Doctors are using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to look at whether particular parts of the brain have started to shrink, which is a key physiological sign of Alzheimer’s. The MRI project is an example of “translational research” – that which will have a direct benefit for patients. And in more translational research news, it emerges that in studies of more than 135,000 men and women regular users of ibuprofen were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s disease.