Weekly Round Up

The secret world of dreams could soon be cracked open. Innovative neuroscientists have already begun to figure out the thoughts of awake people– now, a team reckon they can use similar methods to tap into dreams.

We already know that “mirror therapy” – visual feedback from mirrors – has been shown to reduce some kinds of chronic pain, notably the pain felt in  “phantom limbs” of amputees. Preliminary results from a new study, described November 12 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, suggests mirror therapy may offer a  may offer a powerful and inexpensive way to fight persistent arthritis pain.

Brain scans have revealed the workings of the brain’s GPS that underpin our decisions as we navigate towards a destination.

A team of researchers co-led by the University of Pennsylvania has developed and tested a new high-resolution, ultra-thin device capable of recording brain activity from the cortical surface without having to use penetrating electrodes. The device could make possible a whole new generation of brain-computer interfaces for treating neurological and psychiatric illness and research.

How you think about pain can have a major impact on how it feels. That’s the intriguing conclusion neuroscientists are reaching as scanning technologies let them see how the brain processes pain.

Fourteen-year-olds who were frequent video gamers had more gray matter in the rewards center of the brain than peers who didn’t play video games as much – suggesting that gaming may be correlated to changes in the brain, much as addictions are.

Early childhood experiences influence the brain for life

Among the hot topics of debate at last month’s SFN meeting was that of the developing brain and how early childhood experiences, whether good or bad, influence the brain for a lifetime. 

Regina Sullivan of New York University postulates that child abuse-related epigenetic changes, which alter the brain, are passed on to the next generation, perhaps explaining the cycle of abuse observed in many families. (The development and maintenance of an organism is orchestrated by a set of chemical reactions that switch parts of the genome off and on at strategic times and locations. Epigenetics is the study of these reactions and the factors that influence them.)

The primary evidence for stress-related changes comes from human brain imaging, which has uncovered brain differences between children with a typical childhood and those who suffer abuse.

However, work being done by Bruce McEwen, professor of neuroscience at Rockefeller University in New York, shows that the effects of childhood experiences such as neglect or abuse, can be reversed through interventions such as high-quality early care and education programmes.

Source: New Scientist