Weekly Neuroscience Update

Awakening from anesthesia is often associated with an initial phase of delirious struggle before the full restoration of awareness and orientation to one’s surroundings. Scientists now know why this may occur: primitive consciousness emerges first.

The first atlas of the surface of the human brain based upon genetic information has been produced by a national team of scientists, led by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and the VA San Diego Healthcare System. The work is published in the journal Science.

Researchers help reveal complex role of genes in autism.

New research from scientists at the University of Milan considers the complications and new treatment challenges for elderly patients who suffer traumatic brain injury as a result of a fall.

Investigators from the University of Amsterdam, Netherlands, have shown that in most elderly patients invasive and expensive techniques, i.e. lumbar puncture and PET scan, are not useful to establish the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease.

Sleep plays a powerful role in preserving our memories. But while recent research shows that wakefulness may cloud memories of negative or traumatic events, a new study has found that wakefulness also degrades positive memories. Sleep, it seems, protects positive memories just as it does negative ones, and that has important implications for the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study reveals for the first time that activating the brain’s visual cortex with a small amount of electrical stimulation actually improves our sense of smell. The finding revises our understanding of the complex biology of the senses in the brain.

By training birds to ‘get rhythm’, scientists uncover evidence that our capacity to move in time with music may be connected with our ability to learn speech.

Daily doses of a drug used to treat Parkinson’s disease significantly improved function in severely brain-injured people thought to be beyond the reach of treatment. Scientists have reported on the first rigorous evidence to date that any therapy reliably helps such patients.

Remembering where we left our keys requires at least three different regions of the brain to work together, a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience says.

If you’re a left brain thinker, chances are you use your right hand to hold your cell phone up to your right ear, according to a new study from Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

People who experience a traumatic brain injury show a marked decline in the ability to make appropriate financial decisions in the immediate aftermath and a continued impairment on complex financial skills six months later, according to new research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

For the first time, a team led by Carnegie Mellon University neuroscientists has identified how different neural regions communicate to determine what to visually pay attention to and what to ignore. This finding is a major discovery for visual cognition and will guide future research into visual and attention deficit disorders.

Finally this week, Ireland’s neurological charities have come together to launch a new patient information and services website in time for National Brain Awareness Week which takes place next week (05 – 11 March).

Weekly Round Up

Researchers Aim for Direct Brain Control of Prosthetic Arms Credit J. Contreras-Vidal/University of Maryland.

Engineering researchers at four U.S. universities are embarking on a four-year project to design a prosthetic arm that amputees can control directly with their brains and that will allow them to feel what they touch. The researchers have developed a prototype of a device that provides feedback to the wearer’s arm while objects are moved with a prosthetic ‘hand,’ a gripper. The prototype, which incorporates noninvasive monitoring of electrical activity and blood-oxygen levels in the brain, may be incorporated into next-generation prosthetic arms.

Millions of people with severe, treatment-resistant depression could improve their condition by adding an anti-inflammatory drug to their antidepressant medication, a leading consortium of UK researchers in biological psychiatry has reported.

A new study of the brain’s master circadian clock — known as the suprachiasmatic nucleus, or SCN — reveals that a key pattern of rhythmic neural activity begins to decline by middle age.

Vanderbilt University psychologists have found that our visual perception can be contaminated by memories of what we have recently seen, impairing our ability to properly understand and act on what we are currently seeing.

And finally, a new study provides clues about the cellular mechanisms of traumatic brain injury, a signature injury of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Weekly Round-Up

Transcranial magnetic stimulation can minimize forgetfulness

Memory failure is a common occurrence yet scientists have not reached a consensus as to how it happens. However, according to a new study at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is able to minimize forgetfulness by disrupting targeted brain regions as they compete between memories.

A new study which will be published in an upcoming issue of Psychological Science, finds changes in brain activity after only five weeks of meditation training.

In an ongoing quest to map the brain, scientists have determined how the brain works to understand others. According to a new study, the brain generates empathy in one manner for those who differ physically and in another method for those who are similar. In a paper published online by Cerebral Cortex, researcher Dr Lisa Aziz-Zadeh, suggests empathy for someone to whom you can directly relate — (for example, because they are experiencing pain in a limb that you possess) — is mostly generated by the intuitive, sensory-motor parts of the brain. However, empathy for someone to whom you cannot directly relate relies more on the rationalizing part of the brain.

The brain holds on to false facts, even after they have been retracted according to a report in Scientific American.

Psychologists have found that thought patterns used to recall the past and imagine the future are strikingly similar. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging to show the brain at work, they have observed the same regions activated in a similar pattern whenever a person remembers an event from the past or imagines himself in a future situation. This challenges long-standing beliefs that thoughts about the future develop exclusively in the frontal lobe.

Many dementia patients being prescribed antipsychotic drugs could be better treated with simple painkillers, say researchers from Kings College, London, and Norway.

Brain damage can cause significant changes in behaviour, such as loss of cognitive skills, but also reveals much about how the nervous system deals with consciousness. New findings reported in the July 2011 issue of Cortex demonstrate how the unconscious brain continues to process information even when the conscious brain is incapacitated.

Years after a single traumatic brain injury (TBI), survivors still show changes in their brains. In a new study, researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania suggest that Alzheimer’s disease-like neurodegeneration may be initiated or accelerated following a single traumatic brain injury, even in young adults.