Weekly Neuroscience Update


Abnormalities in the prefrontal cortex and related brain areas are observed in adolescents who have attempted suicide, according to a report at the American College of Neuropsychopharmacology annual meeting in Phoenix Arizona. The study suggests that deficits in frontal systems may be associated with risk for suicide attempts in youths with mood disorders.

A new study of twins suggests that insomnia in childhood and adolescence is partially explained by genetic factors.

Smartphones are changing us, at least according to researchers at the Institute of Neuroinformatics of the University of Zurich. It seems that as we moved from phones with buttons – Blackberrys and even feature phones – the parts of our brain associated with the thumbs are changing thanks to increased screen typing activity.

A new study has found that people who have sleep apnea or spend less time in deep sleep may be more likely to have changes in the brain associated with dementia.

The tics seen in Tourette syndrome may be caused by the loss of specific neurons in the brain, a Yale University study has demonstrated.

A study, recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science, confirmed longstanding speculations regarding how painful memories are internally processed in the brain.

Employing a measure rarely used in sleep apnea studies, researchers at the UCLA School of Nursing have uncovered evidence of what may be damaging the brain in people with the sleep disorder — weaker brain blood flow.

Human language draws on a complex set of cognitive skills; some of which are also found in songbirds.

Scientists have identified a time-dependent interplay between two brain regions that contributes to the recovery of motor function after focal brain damage, such as a stroke.

Finally this week, according to a new study some of the ways in which music affects us are the same worldwide, regardless of cultural diversities.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Earlier research showed that progranulin levels were elevated near plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was unknown whether this effect counteracted or exacerbated neurodegeneration. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

Earlier research showed that progranulin levels were elevated near plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was unknown whether this effect counteracted or exacerbated neurodegeneration. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

Low levels of the naturally occurring protein progranulin exacerbate cellular and cognitive dysfunction, while raising levels can prevent abnormalities in an Alzheimer model.

Teenagers who said they had a traumatic brain injury in their lifetime, especially girls, also reported significantly higher rates of harmful behavior, according to new research.

A new University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable message: caregivers have a profound influence – good or bad – on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel. The findings of this study are published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.

A new study reveals individual neurons in the human brain are triggered by the subject’s conscious perception, rather than by the visual stimulus.

A chemical in the brain plays a vital role in controlling the involuntary movements and vocal tics associated with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a new study has shown.

Researchers discover how the brain works during meditation.

Finally, this week, teenagers who regularly do not get enough sleep are more likely to struggle academically, the results of a new study show. Swedish researchers looked at over 20,000 teenagers aged between 12 and 19 and found that those who regularly slept for less than seven hours per night were more likely to fail in school. Details of these findings are published in the journal, Sleep Medicine.



Weekly Neuroscience Update

The study by Kep Kee Loh and Dr Ryota Kanai found that grey-matter density in the highlighted region of the brain (anterior cingulate cortex) was negatively associated with the amount of media multitasking activity. Credit Kep Kee Loh & Ryota Kanai.

The study by Kep Kee Loh and Dr Ryota Kanai found that grey-matter density in the highlighted region of the brain (anterior cingulate cortex) was negatively associated with the amount of media multitasking activity. Credit Kep Kee Loh & Ryota Kanai.

Simultaneously using mobile phones, laptops and other media devices could be changing the structure of our brains, according to new University of Sussex research.

Breathing meditation is a powerful ally for military veterans recovering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to research recently published in the Journal of Traumatic Stress.

Areas of the brain that respond to reward and pleasure are linked to the ability of a drug known as butorphanol to relieve itch, according to new research.

An international research team has identified gene mutations causing severe, difficult-to-treat forms of childhood epilepsy.

A chemical in the brain plays a vital role in controlling the involuntary movements and vocal tics associated with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a new study has shown.

Finally this week, the traditional understanding in neuroscience is that tactile sensations from the skin are only assembled to form a complete experience in the cerebral cortex, the most advanced part of the brain. However, this is challenged by new research findings from Lund University in Sweden that suggest both that other levels in the brain play a greater role than previously thought, and that a larger proportion of the brain’s different structures are involved in the perception of touch.



Weekly Neuroscience Update

painThe problem with diagnosing and treating pain is that it’s so subjective. But a new paper in Pain says that brain structure may hold some answers.

Adding cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) to the treatment of migraines in children and adolescents resulted in greater reductions in headache frequency and migraine-related disability compared with headache education, according to a new study.

Scientists have discovered how salt acts as a key regulator for drugs used to treat a variety of brain diseases including chronic pain, Parkinson’s disease, and depression.

Research focused on the amygdala can help identify children at risk for anxiety disorders and depression.

Whales, bats, and even praying mantises use ultrasound as a sensory guidance system – and now a new study has found that ultrasound can modulate brain activity to heighten sensory perception in humans.

Scientists have shown that there are widespread differences in how genes, the basic building blocks of the human body, are expressed in men and women’s brains.

A new study shows a leftward asymmetry of the choroid plexus in two-thirds of first-trimester human fetuses. This is the earliest brain asymmetry so far identified and may be a precursor to other asymmetries, including that of the temporal planum, which is evident from the 31st week of gestation.

Researchers have discovered the mechanism in the brain responsible for the motor and vocal tics found in Tourette Syndrome.  The study, published in the British Psychological Society’s Journal of Neuropsychology, could at some point lead to new non-drug therapies.

A new study by neuroscientists is the first to directly compare brain responses to faces and objects with responses to colors.

A study begun in Mexico with the collaboration of university students has analysed the effect of weekend alcohol consumption on the lipids comprising cell membrane and its genetic material, i.e. DNA.

Weekly Neuroscience Update


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.

Where Is Your Brain Taking You (Part II) ?

http://whyriskit.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/2012-10-23-karen-bee.jpgWhat is the point about living our lives?

Today  I want to expand on a previous post – Is there an end point to us becoming more human or the fulfilment of its potential? As a neuroscientist who has studied the origins of learning and memory it has become obvious to me that the more we learn and remember the better we can predict the future.

This question can be now be answered in the context that every single human being on
the planet is unique because they posses a uniquely complex brain. In fact, the brain is so
complex that in all of human history no two brains were the same. Furthermore, this unique
combination of about 100 trillion tiny connections grows and changes through life – a work in progress from conception to death. In this way we each evolve as we journey through life.

Neurodiversity is the key to our success

The term ‘neurodiversity’ has been coined to extend the finding that every single human being is neurologically different, to view those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, autism spectrum disorder, Asperger syndrome, dyscalculia, dyslexia, dyspraxia, Tourette syndrome, and others as just another variation of human brain wiring, rather than a disease – and that these differences in brain wiring are authentic forms of communication, self-
expression and being.

Vive la différence!

Rather than focus on the need for a ‘cure’ what we actually need to do is to promote support- systems that allow those who are neurologically different to live their lives as they are, rather than attempting to conform to some clinical ideal – because it is these very individuals that give the rest of us unique insights and solutions by viewing the world in a different way. Take for example Albert Einstein – considered by many to have had Asperger syndrome – who single-handedly worked out the relationship between space and time and went on to model the structure of the universe as a whole.

To bee or not to bee

The advantages of neurodiversity can be seen elsewhere in nature for instance in the thermoregulation in honey bee nests. The temperature in the nest ranges between 32 and 36 degrees. If it is getting warmer the bees ventilate with their wings until the set point is reached again. However in genetically uniform colonies the bees tend to start with ventilation about the same time – causing even greater instability by producing more temperature fluctuations, whereas the nest temperature in genetically diverse colonies is more stable.

Who is in the spotlight?

Despite what some like to think – humankind is not the centre of the world but rather a very actively growing branch of the evolutionary tree. We are not destined to ‘lift ourselves above nature’ – but rather to dramatically raise the intelligence and complexity of this thing we call ‘life’ through our intellectual and spiritual evolution.

So what’s the answer?

The evolution of the human race is not going to proceed by trying to transcend it – rather we will move forward as a race by making room for each and every individual to express their personalities to the full. In this way the evolution of the human race has everything to do with our own personal development.

In short, personality equals evolution.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

this way, that wayWellcome Trust researchers have discovered how the brain assesses confidence in its decisions. The findings explain why some people have better insight into their choices than others.

Meanwhile, a study conducted by researchers at the University of Granada Group of Neuropsychology and Clinical Psychoneuroimmunology has demonstrated that cortisol levels in saliva are associated with a person’s ability to make good decisions in stressful situations.

Your brain has at least four different senses of location – and perhaps as many as 10. And each is different, according to new research from the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience.

A month of daily transcranial magnetic stimulation targeting the supplemental motor area (SMA) results in lasting improvements in symptoms of Tourette syndrome, show study findings.

Researchers have used brain imaging technology to show that young people with a known genetic risk of bipolar but no clinical signs of the condition have clear and quantifiable differences in brain activity when compared to controls.

Researchers have found the first proof that a chemical in the brain called glutamate is linked to suicidal behavior, offering new hope for efforts to prevent people from taking their own lives.

Neurobiologists at the Research Institute of Molecular Pathology (IMP) in Vienna investigated how the brain is able to group external stimuli into stable categories. They found the answer in the discrete dynamics of neuronal circuits. The journal Neuron publishes the results in its current issue.

Photo Credit: photo credit: Lori Greig via photopin cc