Weekly Neuroscience Update

A growing body of evidence suggests that learning to play an instrument and continuing to practice and play it may offer mental benefits throughout life. Hearing has also been shown to be positively affected by making music. The latest study, published in the July issue of Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, shows that musical instrument training may reduce the effects of mental decline associated with aging. The research found that older adults who learned music in childhood and continued to play an instrument for at least 10 years outperformed others in tests of memory and cognitive ability.

Neuroscientists are finding that, as we get older, our aging brains are proving surprisingly malleable, and in ways not previously anticipated. But there are limitations. There is growing evidence that, beyond what was previously believed, the adult human brain is remarkably malleable and capable of new feats — even in the last decades of life. And UCLA researchers found that older adults who regularly used a brain fitness program played on a computer demonstrated significantly improved memory and language skills.

From older to younger brains now…

Determining when a teenage brain becomes an adult brain is not an exact science but it’s getting closer, according to an expert in adolescent developmental psychology, speaking at the American Psychological Association’s 120th Annual Convention.

Researchers at Aalto University in Finland have developed the world’s first device designed for mapping the human brain that combines whole-head magnetoencephalography (MEG) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology. MEG measures the electrical function and MRI visualizes the structure of the brain. The merging of these two technologies will produce unprecedented accuracy in locating brain electrical activity non-invasively

According to a study conducted by the National Institutes of Health, children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) experience a developmental delay in frontal regions of the brain.

The brain differences found in people with schizophrenia are mainly the result of the disease itself or its treatment, as opposed to being caused by genetic factors, according to a Dutch study

Bilingual children outperform children who speak only one language in problem-solving skills and creative thinking, according to research led at the University of Strathclyde.

When we focus intently on one task, we often fail to see other things in plain sight – a phenomenon known as ‘inattention blindness’. Scientists already know that performing a task involving high information load – a ‘high load’ task – reduces our visual cortex response to incoming stimuli. Now researchers from UCL have examined the brain mechanisms behind this, further explaining why our brain becomes ‘blind’ under high load.

Neuroscience News

Bilingualism is good for the brain

The human brain has room for an uncounted number of languages as well as a sort of executive control system to keep them active but separate. This ability, a form of mental exercise, seems to be beneficial for the brain.

Researchers from the University of Wisconsin, Madison have presented innovative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) techniques that can measure changes in the microstructure of the white matter likely to affect brain function and the ability of different regions of the brain to communicate.

Memory strengthened by stimulating key site in brain.

Researchers have created a living 3-D model of a brain tumor and its surrounding blood vessels. In experiments, the scientists report that iron-oxide nanoparticles carrying the agent tumstatin were taken by blood vessels, meaning they should block blood vessel growth. The living-tissue model could be used to test the effectiveness of nanoparticles in fighting other diseases. Results appear in Theranostics.

New model of neuro-electric activity could help scientists better understand coma states.

Scientists at Emory University School of Medicine have identified a new group of compounds that may protect brain cells from inflammation linked to seizures and neurodegenerative diseases.

Researchers at the University of Warwick and Indiana University have identified parallels between animals looking for food in the wild and humans searching for items within their memory – suggesting that people with the best ‘memory foraging’ strategies are better at recalling items.

Researchers at the Salk Institute have discovered a startling feature of early brain development that helps to explain how complex neuron wiring patterns are programmed using just a handful of critical genes. The findings, published in Cell, may help scientists develop new therapies for neurological disorders, such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and provide insight into certain cancers.