Weekly Neuroscience Update

An experimental therapy which involves a face-to-face discussion between a person with schizophrenia and an avatar representing their auditory hallucination may help reduce symptoms, when provided alongside usual treatment, according to a study led by King’s College London and published in The Lancet Psychiatry journal.

Researchers have identified a number of variable locations in the genome that influence hippocampal gene activity and may contribute to brain disorders.

For the first time, scientists have found a connection between abnormalities in how the brain breaks down glucose and the severity of the signature amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain, as well as the onset of eventual outward symptoms, of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgment.

The amount of close and comforting contact between infants and their caregivers can affect children at the molecular level, an effect detectable four years later, according to new research.

The brain’s auditory system can be shaped by exposure to different auditory environments, such as native language and musical training.

Contrary to a popular theory, a new study has discovered the brain remains connected during non-REM sleep. The study reports not all forms of communication within the cerebral cortex are disrupted during this sleep phase.

Cannabis use in youth is linked to bipolar symptoms in young adults, finds new research.

According to researchers, when shifting attention from one spot to another, the brain blinks. They report these blinks are momentary unconscious gaps in visual perception.

How well we are able to complete simple and complex tasks depends upon the organization of subnetworks in the brain, a new study reports.

Researchers are working to create a neurochip capable of transmitting a signal to healthy brain cells. The neurochip can be used in devices intended to replace damaged parts of the brain.

A new brain mapping study reveals smokers could be predisposed to their addiction due to the molecular make up of their brains.

In a new study, researchers describe a unique model for the biology of Alzheimer’s disease which may lead to an entirely novel approach for treating the disease. The findings appear in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

Scientists hope to have found a new neurobiological marker to help recognise patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Researchers have identified a mechanism that drives hunger. A new study reports the sight or smell of food can temporarily turn of AgRP neurons, which drive the urge to eat. These neurons remain inactive until the brain receives a signal from the gut that calories have been consumed.

Finally this week, a new study reports that certain brain regions interact more closely, while others are less engaged, in people with higher intelligence.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

astrocytes-neurosciencenews.jpg

Thousands of branches and branchlets emanate from an astrocyte’s cell body, which is the dense portion in the middle of the image.

A new study published in Neuron challenges the idea that astrocytes across the brain are largely identical.

Researchers have identified a new protein, CIB2, that is key to helping the auditory system to turn soundwaves into meaningful brain signals. Mutations of this gene leave people unable to convert the soundwaves into signals that the brain can interpret, and are deaf.

The more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life, a large-scale online trial has found.

How short-term memories become long-term ones has frequently been explored by researchers. While a definitive answer remains elusive, scientists conclude that this transformation is best explained by a “temporal hierarchy” of “time windows” that collectively alter the state of the brain.

Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers at King’s College London have identified a molecular mechanism that allows neural connections to adapt as a result of experience. This adaptation fuels our ability for memory and learning.

Researchers have developed a concept called Empowerment to help robots and humans to work and live side-by-side safely and effectively.

A study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has identified a new potential mechanism contributing to the biology of the disorder that may be targeted by future treatments.

A new study reveals those who die at 100 tend to suffer from fewer diseases than those who die at younger ages.

A new paper identifies 100 of the most cited neuroscience research papers. Of these papers, 78 focus on five topics. According to the authors of the paper, the most cited neuroscience research topics include the prefrontal cortex, neural connectivity, methodology, brain mapping and neurological disorders. The findings could have significant impact for future neuroscience studies.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

The same mechanisms that quickly separate mixtures of oil and water are at play when controlling the organization in an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study.

New research has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.

Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala may help explain a person’s preference for uncertain outcomes, as well as a preference for order and certainty, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

synapses-visual-world-neurosciencenews.jpg

Our brain is especially good at perceiving lines and contours even if they do not actually exist, such as the blue triangle in the foreground of this optical illusion. The pattern of neuronal connections in the brain supports this ability.

Researchers have identified how our brains are so good at perceiving contours and edges. The study, published in Nature, reports neurons are most likely to connect if they react to edges that lie on a common axis and the structure of the world around us is mirrored in the pattern of synapses.

A new study reports bilingual people think about time differently depending on the language context they are estimating event duration.

The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and appear to have no more effect on healthy brains than video games.

Scientists report that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

Researchers are investigating why certain language abilities are lost as a result of a traumatic brain injury, and how others can be regained.

A recently published study investigates time perception and temporal information processing in people with schizophrenia. It reveals the internal clock in schizophrenics does not necessarily run slower or faster than in healthy individuals, but rather it does not run at a consistent speed.

Finally, this week, using music to learn a physical task develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

visual-perception-real-inferred-neurosciencenews.jpgHumans treat ‘inferred’ visual objects generated by the brain as more reliable than external images from the real world, according to new research published in eLife.

Scientists have identified Lgl1 as the gene that controls the production of neurons and glia cells in the brain. Previously unknown functions of a neurodevelopment gene clarified.

Findings about the brain-body connection may also have implications for treating those with opioid addiction, researchers believe.

Neuroscientists have for the first time have come up with a way to observe brain activity during “natural reading,” the reading of actual text and not just individual words. The findings are already helping settle some ideas about how we read.

Researchers have discovered the molecular mechanism behind lithium’s effectiveness in treating bipolar disorder.

Scientists have developed a robust, efficient method for deriving microglia, the immune cells of the brain, from human stem cells. Microglia are increasingly implicated in neurological disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis, among many others. However, research into the role of human microglia in these disorders has long been hampered by the inability to obtain them from the human nervous system. This new protocol now enables scientists around the world to generate this critical cell type from individual patients and improve our understanding of the role of microglia neurological malfunction.

A new study describes how advances in technology can help us avoid aging and age related diseases.

Researchers have made an important step in understanding the organisation of nerve cells embedded within the gut that control its function — a discovery that could give insight into the origin of common gastrointestinal diseases, including irritable bowel syndrome and chronic constipation.

New research published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, has identified a protein that could help patients with epilepsy respond more positively to drug therapies.

Finally this week, a new study on “fear memory” could lead to the development of therapies that reduce the effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Adobe Spark.jpg

A new research project sheds light on the role played by a specific area of the brain in our moral judgements. The more developed it is, the more understanding we show towards those who have unintentionally caused harm.

A new study could help explain how pain often follows a chemical induced itch.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have identified the basis for how a single gene mutation can cause a rare neurological movement disorder known as dystonia.

A new sensor could help to reveal the role dopamine plays in learning and emotion.

Researchers have developed a method using MRI to identify when HIV is still present in the brain, despite effective drug treatment.

Pupil dilation is at its largest when people are most uncertain about their situation, a new study reports.

Sleep deprivation increases the number of available A1 adenosine receptors, but restorative sleep helps normalize them again, a new study reports.

Scientists report doxycycline, a common antibiotic, could help to disrupt the formation of negative memories associated with PTSD and in another new study the power of oxytocin in combating PTSD will be tested.

Brain researchers report the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain associated with empathy, activates very weakly in people with autism.

Non-invasive ultrasound improves the delivery to the brain of a therapeutic antibody targeting Alzheimer’s disease, scientists have found.

A new blood test has been developed that could help to identify infants who may be experiencing bleeding in the brain as a result of abusive head trauma.

Researchers at the University of Zurich have identified the brain mechanism that governs decisions between honesty and self-interest. Using non-invasive brain stimulation, they could even increase honest behavior.

Finally this week, a new study reveals acute stress can increase prosocial behavior and empathy.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The researchers conducted an experiment using a brain-machine interface, a device that allows the brain to control a computer cursor using thought alone. By studying the brain’s activity, the researchers could see how the brain thinks an action should be performed. Image is adapted from the Carnegie Mellon University press release.

The researchers conducted an experiment using a brain-machine interface, a device that allows the brain to control a computer cursor using thought alone. By studying the brain’s activity, the researchers could see how the brain thinks an action should be performed. Image is adapted from the Carnegie Mellon University press release.

A study conducted at Carnegie Mellon University investigated the brain’s neural activity during learned behavior and found that the brain makes mistakes because it applies incorrect inner beliefs, or internal models, about how the world works.

People with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) appear to have an imbalance between two of the brain’s signaling systems, a new study suggests.

A study, by researchers from the University of Glasgow’s Institute of Neuroscience and Psychology, has found that our inability to hold onto new memories is essential to the brain’s learning process.

Researchers have identified a Christmas spirit network in the brain – an area that they believe may play a role in the feelings of joy and nostalgia many of us feel during the holiday season.

Scientists have identified a key mechanism in the brain which might be associated with the onset and development of psychosis.

The decision to be generous or not arises from a specific process in the amygdala, a tiny structure deep in the brain long associated with emotions such as fear, according to a new study conducted by researchers at Yale and Duke universities.

Scientists have shed new light on the molecular basis of memory. Their study confirms that the formation of memories is accompanied by an altered activity of specific genes.

Finally this week, a pioneering study has found that the human brain has a dedicated set of nerve cells that respond only to the sound of music, which contradicts the widely accepted view that musical appreciation is merely “piggybacking” on the ability to hear other everyday sounds such as speech.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

laugh

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.

Neuroscience News Update

University of Georgia researchers have developed a map of the human brain that shows great promise as a new guide to the inner workings of the body’s most complex and critical organ.

Brains that maintain healthy nerve connections as we age help keep us sharp in later life, new research funded by the charity Age UK has found.

The brain reward systems of women with anorexia may work differently from those of women who are obese, a new study suggests.

Emotional stress caused by last year’s tsunami caused a part of some survivors’ brains to shrink, according to scientists in Japan who grasped a unique chance to study the neurological effects of trauma. On a quest to better understand post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the researchers compared brain scans they had taken of 42 healthy adolescents in other studies in the two years before the killer wave, with new images taken three to four months thereafter. Among those with PTSD symptoms, they found a shrinking in the orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain involved in decision-making and the regulation of emotion, said a study published in the Nature journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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.

Weekly Update: Brain Research

Using a sling or cast after injuring an arm may cause your brain to shift quickly to adjust, according to a study published in the January 17, 2012, print issue of Neurology®. The study found increases in the size of brain areas that were compensating for the injured side, and decreases in areas that were not being used due to the cast or sling.

A  new UC Davis study shows how the brain reconfigures its connections to minimize distractions and take best advantage of our knowledge of situations.

Neuroscientists at Kessler Foundation have documented increased cerebral activation in patients with multiple sclerosis (MS) following memory retraining using the modified Story Memory Technique (mSMT).  This is the first study to demonstrate that behavioral interventions can have a positive effect on brain function in people with cognitive disability caused by MS, an important step in validating the clinical utility of cognitive rehabilitation.

A program designed to boost cognition in older adults also increased their openness to new experiences, researchers report, demonstrating for the first time that a non-drug intervention in older adults can change a personality trait once thought to be fixed throughout the lifespan.

Researchers from the Institute of Psychiatry (IoP) at King’s College London have, for the first time, identified the facial expression of anxiety. The facial expression for the emotion of anxiety comprises an environmental scanning look that appears to aid risk assessment. The research was published this week in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.

New research from Uppsala University, Sweden, shows that a specific brain region that contributes to a person’s appetite sensation is more activated in response to food images after one night of sleep loss than after one night of normal sleep. Poor sleep habits can therefore affect people’s risk of becoming overweight in the long run. The findings are published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Teenagers are more susceptible to developing disorders like addiction and depression, according to a paper published by Pitt researchers Jan. 16 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Harvard scientists have developed the fullest picture yet of how neurons in the brain interact to reinforce behaviors ranging from learning to drug use, a finding that might open the door to possible breakthroughs in the treatment of addiction.

Virtual reality-enhanced exercise, or “exergames,” combining physical exercise with computer-simulated environments and interactive videogame features, can yield a greater cognitive benefit for older adults than traditional exercise alone, according to a new study published in the February issue of the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

Sleeping after a traumatic event might lock in bad memories and emotions, a new study has found.

A team of researchers at the MedUni Vienna’s Department of Neurophysiology (Centre for Brain Research) has discovered a previously unknown effect of opioids – that opioids not only temporarily relieve pain, but at the right dose can also erase memory traces of pain in the spinal cord and therefore eliminate a key cause of chronic pain.