Weekly Neuroscience Update

Advertisers and public health officials may be able to access hidden wisdom in the brain to more effectively sell their products and promote health and safety, UCLA neuroscientists report in the first study to use brain data to predict how large populations will respond to advertisements.

A team led by psychology professor Ian Spence at the University of Toronto reveals that playing an action videogame, even for a relatively short time, causes differences in brain activity and improvements in visual attention.

A miniature atom-based magnetic sensor developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has passed an important research milestone by successfully measuring human brain activity. Experiments reported this week inBiomedical Optics Express verify the sensor’s potential for biomedical applications such as studying mental processes and advancing the understanding of neurological diseases.

A key protein, which may be activated to protect nerve cells from damage during heart failure or epileptic seizure, has been found to regulate the transfer of information between nerve cells in the brain. The discovery, made by neuroscientists at the University of Bristol and published in Nature Neuroscience and PNAS, could lead to novel new therapies for stroke and epilepsy.

Practices like physical exercise, certain forms of psychological counseling and meditation can all change brains for the better, and these changes can be measured with the tools of modern neuroscience, according to a review article now online at Nature Neuroscience.

A computer game designed to lift teenagers out of depression is as effective as one-on-one counselling, New Zealand doctors reported on Thursday in the British Medical Journal (BMJ).

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.