Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Chang Lab’s research reveals what area of the human brain controls the pitch of our speech.

Researchers have revealed the area of the brain that controls our voice box, allowing us to alter the pitch of our speech. The insight could pave the way for advancing neuroprosthetics to allow people who can’t speak, to express themselves in a naturalistic way.

A new study reports the brain mechanisms responsible for triggering memory are identical, whether a person is awake or asleep.

While the effects of sleep deprivation are well known, researchers discover sleeping too much could have a detrimental effect on your brain. A new study reports sleeping more than eight hours per night can reduce cognitive ability and reasoning skills.

Researchers have discovered the thalamus plays a crucial role in the development of normal sleep and waking states.

A new study reports T cells are activated in the intestines and migrate to the brain, causing an inflammatory cascade that may lead to multiple sclerosis. Researchers say the gut microbiome may play a more significant role in the development and progression of MS than previously believed.

A new study reports an afternoon nap can help us to process unconscious information and enhance cognition.

Utilizing lesion network mapping, a recently developed technique for analyzing how the brain works, researchers have studied free will perception related to movement decisions.

A new study reports a protein made by astrocytes plays a critical role in brain plasticity by assisting with neural maturation and flexibility.

Only a small proportion of cases of dementia are thought to be inherited – the cause of the vast majority is unknown. Now, in a study published today in the journal Nature Communications, a team of scientists led by researchers at the University of Cambridge believe they may have found an explanation: spontaneous errors in our DNA that arise as cells divide and reproduces.

An international team of researchers has demonstrated, with electrophysiological evidence, the existence of grid-like activity in the human brain.

Finally, this week, a new study reports people may be able to avoid depression, even if they have a genetic predisposition to SAD, by maintaining or boosting serotonin levels throughout the year.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

We already known that bright light therapy can be an effective cure for seasonal depression, but a new study from Finnish University students has revealed that it also benefits those not struggling from seasonal depression at all. When the therapy is administered through the ear canal directly to the photosensitive brain tissue, it not only improves the cognitive performance and mood of those with the depression, but those without it as well.

Recent studies using brain scans have found that the areas of the brain associated with mood, conscious thought and concentration are hyperconnected in people with depression.

Researchers have pinpointed the area of the brain responsible for gullibility and have theorized why it makes children, teens and seniors less likely to doubt.

The human brain is wired to remember emotionally charged events while discarding mundane information like where you left your car keys, Canadian scientists say. Emotional or traumatic events, like special occasions or accidents, are interpreted more keenly by our brains and stored with greater coherence.

Researchers at the University of Southern California have devised a method for detecting certain neurological disorders through the study of eye movements.

A new study by researchers has found that the strength of communication between the left and right hemispheres of the brain predicts performance on basic arithmetic problems. The findings shed light on the neural basis of human math abilities and suggest a possible route to aiding those who suffer from dyscalculia an inability to understand and manipulate numbers.

Bringing the real world into the brain scanner, researchers can now determine the action a person was planning, mere moments before that action is actually executed. The findings were published this week in the Journal of Neuroscience, in the paper, “Decoding Action Intentions from Preparatory Brain Activity in Human Parieto-Frontal Networks.”

 

How to increase serotonin in the brain without drugs

Aerobic exercise has been shown to elevate mood

As a follow-on to my last post on depression, I would like to direct you to an article I have stumbled upon from the Journal of Psychiatry and Neuroscience (1) published in 2007.

Its primary focus is on individuals with a serotonin-related susceptibility to depression, and nonpharmacologic methods of increasing serotonin to prevent depression in those with such a susceptibility.

Nonpharmacologic methods of raising brain serotonin may not only improve mood and social functioning of healthy people — a worthwhile objective even without additional considerations — but would also make it possible to test the idea that increases in brain serotonin may help protect against the onset of various mental and physical disorders.

The article discusses four possible strategies that are worth further investigation:

1. Altering Thought Patterns

The idea that alterations in thought, either self-induced or due to psychotherapy, can alter brain metabolism is not new. Numerous studies have demonstrated changes in blood flow in such circumstances. However, reports related to specific transmitters are much less common. In one recent study, meditation was reported to increase release of dopamine.The study by Perreau-Linck and colleagues (2) is the first to report that self-induced changes in mood can influence serotonin synthesis.

2. Exposure to Bright Light

Bright light is, of course, a standard treatment for seasonal depression, but a few studies also suggest that it is an effective treatment for nonseasonal depression and also reduces depressed mood in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder and in pregnant women suffering from depression.

3. Exercise

A third strategy that may raise brain serotonin is exercise. A comprehensive review of the relation between exercise and mood concluded that antidepressant and anxiolytic effects have been clearly demonstrated.

4. Diet

According to some evidence, tryptophan, which increases brain serotonin  is an effective antidepressant in mild-to-moderate depression. Further, in healthy people with high trait irritability, it increases agreeableness, decreases quarrelsomeness and improves mood. However, the idea, common in popular culture, that a high-protein food such as turkey will raise brain tryptophan and serotonin is, unfortunately, false. Another popular myth that is widespread on the Internet is that bananas improve mood because of their serotonin content. Although it is true that bananas contain serotonin, it does not cross the blood–brain barrier.

To read this article in full please click here.

1. J Psychiatry Neurosci. 2007 November; 32(6): 394–399.

2. Perreau-Linck E, Beauregard M, Gravel P, et al. In vivo measurements of brain trapping of α-[11C]methyl-L-tryptophan during acute changes in mood states. J Psychiatry Neurosci 2007;32:430-4.