Brain-Wide Map of “Neural Highways” Is First of Its Kind

For the first time ever, neuroscientists have completed a comprehensive roadmap of the top-trafficked communication highways in the human brain.

This  white-matter map not only charts the geography of these neural highways – it also plots out which of them interact with the most other paths, which are most crucial for supporting key brain functions, and which ones leave the whole brain most vulnerable to long-term damage if they’re disrupted.

via Brain-Wide Map of “Neural Highways” Is First of Its Kind | MIND Guest Blog, Scientific American Blog Network.

Making Temporary Changes to Brain Could Speed up Learning, Study Reports

In a breakthrough that may aid treatment of learning impairments, strokes, tinnitus and chronic pain, UT Dallas researchers have found that brain stimulation accelerates learning in laboratory tests.

Another major finding of the study, published in the April 14 issue of Neuron, involved tracking the changes detected after stimulation and learning were complete. Researchers monitoring brain activity in rats found that brain responses eventually returned to their pre-stimulation state, but the animals could still perform the learned task. These findings have allowed researchers to better understand how the brain learns and encodes new skills. Continue reading “Making Temporary Changes to Brain Could Speed up Learning, Study Reports”

Functional MRI shows how mindfulness meditation changes decision-making process

If a friend or relative won $100 and then offered you a few dollars, would you accept this windfall? The logical answer would seem to be, sure, why not? “But human decision making does not always appear rational,” said Read Montague, professor of physics at Virginia Tech and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

According to research conducted over the last three decades; only about one-fourth of us would say, “Sure. Thanks.” The rest would say, “But that’s not fair. You have lots. Why are you only giving me a few?” In fact, people will even turn down any reward rather than accept an ‘unfair’ share.

Continue reading “Functional MRI shows how mindfulness meditation changes decision-making process”

Researchers map functional connections between retinal neurons at single-cell resolution

By comparing a clearly defined visual input with the electrical output of the retina, researchers at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies were able to trace for the first time the neuronal circuitry that connects individual photoreceptors with retinal ganglion cells, the neurons that carry visual signals from the eye to the brain.

Their measurements, published in the Oct. 7, 2010, issue of the journal Nature, not only reveal computations in a neural circuit at the elementary resolution of individual neurons but also shed light on the neural code used by the retina to relay color information to the brain.

photoreceptors

Silencing growth inhibitors could help recovery from brain injury

Silencing natural growth inhibitors may make it possible to regenerate nerves damaged by brain or spinal cord injury, finds a study from Children’s Hospital Boston. In a mouse study published in the November 7 issue of Science, researchers temporarily silenced genes that prevent mature neurons from regenerating, and caused them to recover and re-grow vigorously after damage. Continue reading “Silencing growth inhibitors could help recovery from brain injury”

Scientists find potential strategy to eliminate poisonous protein from Alzheimer brains

Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease (GIND) have identified a new strategy to destroy amyloid-beta (AB) proteins, which are widely believed to cause Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Li Gan, PhD, and her coworkers discovered that the activity of a potent AB-degrading enzyme can be unleashed in mouse models of the disease by reducing its natural inhibitor cystatin C (CysC). Continue reading “Scientists find potential strategy to eliminate poisonous protein from Alzheimer brains”

Emotion and scent create lasting memories – even in a sleeping brain

When French memoirist Marcel Proust dipped a pastry into his tea, the distinctive scent it produced suddenly opened the flood gates of his memory.

In a series of experiments with sleeping mice, researchers at the Duke University Medical Center have shown that the part of the brain that processes scents is indeed a key part of forming long-term memories, especially involving other individuals. Continue reading “Emotion and scent create lasting memories – even in a sleeping brain”

When a light goes on during thought processes

Thought processes made visible: An international team of scientists headed by Mazahir Hasan of the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg has succeeded in optically detecting individual action potentials in the brains of living animals.

The scientists introduced fluorescent indicator proteins into the brain cells of mice via viral gene vectors: the illumination of the fluorescent proteins indicates both when and which neurons are communicating with each other. This new method enables the observation of brain activity over a period of many months and provides new ways of identifying, for example, the early onset of dysfunction in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. The fluorescent proteins could also provide scientists with information about the ways in which normal aging processes affect nerve cell communication (Nature Methods, September 2008). Continue reading “When a light goes on during thought processes”

Research team discovers brain pathway responsible for obesity

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers, for the first time, have found a messaging system in the brain that directly affects food intake and body weight.

Reported in the Oct. 3, 2008 issue of Cell, the findings–from a study in mice–point to a completely new approach to treating and preventing obesity in humans. The discovery also offers hope for new ways to treat related disorders, such as type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular diseases–the most prevalent health problems in the United States and the rest of the developed world. Continue reading “Research team discovers brain pathway responsible for obesity”

The ‘satellite navigation’ in our brains

Our brains contain their own navigation system much like satellite navigation (“sat-nav”), with in-built maps, grids and compasses, neuroscientist Dr Hugo Spiers told the BA Festival of Science at the University of Liverpool today.

The brain’s navigation mechanism resides in an area know as the hippocampus, which is responsible for learning and memory and famously shown to be different in London taxi drivers in a Wellcome Trust-funded study carried out by Professor Eleanor Maguire at UCL (University College London).
Continue reading “The ‘satellite navigation’ in our brains”

Researchers find memory capacity much bigger than previously thought

Subjects in memory tests given at MIT’s Computational Vision Cognition Laboratory were asked to recall which of a pair of objects they had seen earlier that day. Subjects were shown 3,000 images, one at a time, over a five-hour period.

Image courtesy / Computational Vision Cognition Laboratory, MIT
Image courtesy / Computational Vision Cognition Laboratory, MIT

Continue reading “Researchers find memory capacity much bigger than previously thought”

How memories are made, and recalled

What makes a memory? Single cells in the brain, for one thing. For the first time, scientists at UCLA and the Weizmann Institute of Science in Israel have recorded individual brain cells in the act of calling up a memory, thus revealing where in the brain a specific memory is stored, and how it is able to recreate it.

Reporting in the current edition of the journal Science, Dr. Itzhak Fried, senior author and a UCLA professor of neurosurgery, and colleagues, recorded the activity of hundreds of individual neurons making memories from the brains of 13 epilepsy patients being treated at the UCLA Medical Center. The patients’ surgeons had placed electrodes into their brains to locate the origin of their seizures before surgical treatment (standard procedure in such cases). Continue reading “How memories are made, and recalled”

Learning Suffers If Brain Transcript Isn’t Transported Far Out To End Of Neurons

Neuroscientists at Georgetown University Medical Center have solved a mystery that lies at the heart of human learning, and they say the solution may help explain some forms of mental retardation as well as provide clues to overall brain functioning. Continue reading “Learning Suffers If Brain Transcript Isn’t Transported Far Out To End Of Neurons”

Trigger For Brain Plasticity Identified

Researchers have long sought a factor that can trigger the brain’s ability to learn – and perhaps recapture the “sponge-like” quality of childhood. In the August 8 issue of the journal Cell, neuroscientists at Children’s Hospital Boston report that they’ve identified such a factor, a protein called Otx 2.

Otx2 helps a key type of cell in the cortex to mature, initiating a critical period — a window of heightened brain plasticity, when the brain can readily make new connections.
Continue reading “Trigger For Brain Plasticity Identified”

Researchers link cocoa flavanols to improved brain blood flow

Cocoa flavanols, the unique compounds found naturally in cocoa, may increase blood flow to the brain, according to new research published in the Neuropsychiatric Disease and Treatment journal. The researchers suggest that long-term improvements in brain blood flow could impact cognitive behavior, offering future potential for debilitating brain conditions including dementia and stroke.
Continue reading “Researchers link cocoa flavanols to improved brain blood flow”

Killer carbs: scientist finds the key to overeating as we age

A Monash University scientist has discovered key appetite control cells in the human brain degenerate over time, causing increased hunger and potentially weight-gain as we grow older.
Continue reading “Killer carbs: scientist finds the key to overeating as we age”

Coatings to help medical implants connect with neurons

Plastic coatings could someday help neural implants treat conditions as diverse as Parkinson’s disease and macular degeneration.

The coatings encourage neurons in the body to grow and connect with the electrodes that provide treatment.
Continue reading “Coatings to help medical implants connect with neurons”

Relearning process not always a ‘free lunch’

Researchers at Sheffield University and the University of St. Andrews, United Kingdom, have helped determine why relearning a few pieces of information may or may not easily cause a recollection of other associated, previously learned information. The key, they find, is in the way in which the learned information is forgotten. Details are published August 22nd in the open-access journal PLoS Computational Biology.
Continue reading “Relearning process not always a ‘free lunch’”

New study shows compounds from soy affect brain and reproductive development

Two hormone-like compounds linked to the consumption of soy-based foods can cause irreversible changes in the structure of the brain, resulting in early-onset puberty and symptoms of advanced menopause in research animals, according to a new study by researchers at North Carolina State University. The study is important in determining how these compounds can cause reproductive health problems, as well as in providing a key building block for how to treat these problems. Continue reading “New study shows compounds from soy affect brain and reproductive development”

Brain’s reaction to self-administered cocaine differs

New research has uncovered a fundamental cellular mechanism that may drive pathological drug-seeking behavior. The study, published by Cell Press in the July 31 issue of the journal Neuron, examines the brain’s reward circuitry and details strikingly distinct influences of self-administered cocaine compared to natural rewards or passive cocaine injection.
Continue reading “Brain’s reaction to self-administered cocaine differs”

When neurons fire up: Study sheds light on rhythms of the brain

In our brains, groups of neurons fire up simultaneously for just milliseconds at a time, in random rhythms, similar to twinkling lightning bugs in our backyards. New research from neuroscientists at Indiana University and the University of Montreal provides a model — a rhyme and reason — for this random synchronization.
Continue reading “When neurons fire up: Study sheds light on rhythms of the brain”

Obesity predisposition traced to the brain’s reward system

The tendency toward obesity is directly related to the brain system that is involved in food reward and addictive behaviors, according to a new study. Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine (TUSM) and colleagues have demonstrated a link between a predisposition to obesity and defective dopamine signaling in the mesolimbic system in rats. Their report appears in the August 2008 issue of The FASEB Journal.
Continue reading “Obesity predisposition traced to the brain’s reward system”

Green tea compounds beat obstructive sleep apnea related brain deficits

Chemicals found in green tea may be able to stave off the cognitive deficits that occur with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), according to a new study published in the second issue for May of the American Thoracic Society’s American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine. Continue reading “Green tea compounds beat obstructive sleep apnea related brain deficits”

Major Step Forward In Understanding How Memory Works

Our ability to remember the objects, places and people within our environment is essential for everyday life, although the importance of this is only fully appreciated when recognition memory beings to fail, as in Alzheimer’s disease.

By blocking certain mechanisms that control the way that nerve cells in the brain communicate, scientists from the University of Bristol have been able to prevent visual recognition memory in rats.

A single neuron (centre) in the perirhinal cortex which is involved in memory processes. (Credit: Photo by Andy Doherty) Continue reading “Major Step Forward In Understanding How Memory Works”

Groups of neurons in the brain rewire by changing images

Neuroscientists studying the mind’s ability to process images have completed the first empirical study to demonstrate, using animal models, how populations of nerve cells in visual cortex adapt to changing images. Their findings could lead to sight-improving therapies for people following trauma or stroke. The study at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston appears in the March 13 issue of the journal Nature.

eyeanatomy.jpg

Continue reading “Groups of neurons in the brain rewire by changing images”

Fascinating split brain behavioral experiments

To reduce the severity of his seizures, Joe had the bridge between his left and right cerebral hemisphers (the corpus callosum) severed. As a result, his left and right brains no longer communicate through that pathway. This is an extraordinary insight into the machinary of the mind. Here’s what happens as a result:

Creative and noncreative problem solvers exhibit different patterns of brain activity

Why do some people solve problems more creatively than others? Are people who think creatively somehow different from those who tend to think in a more methodical fashion?

These questions are part of a long-standing debate, with some researchers arguing that what we call “creative thought” and “noncreative thought” are not basically different. If this is the case, then people who are thought of as creative do not really think in a fundamentally different way from those who are thought of as noncreative. On the other side of this debate, some researchers have argued that creative thought is fundamentally different from other forms of thought. If this is true, then those who tend to think creatively really are somehow different.
Continue reading “Creative and noncreative problem solvers exhibit different patterns of brain activity”

New MIT tool probes brain circuits

Researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT report in the Jan. 24 online edition of Science that they have created a way to see, for the first time, the effect of blocking and unblocking a single neural circuit in a living animal.

This revolutionary method allowed Susumu Tonegawa, Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience, and colleagues to see how bypassing a major memory-forming circuit in the brain affected learning and memory in mice.

mouse hippocampus

Continue reading “New MIT tool probes brain circuits”

Scientists find that culture influences brain function

People from different cultures use their brains differently to solve the same visual perceptual tasks, MIT researchers and colleagues report in the first brain imaging study of its kind.

Psychological research has established that American culture, which values the individual, emphasizes the independence of objects from their contexts, while East Asian societies emphasize the collective and the contextual interdependence of objects. Behavioral studies have shown that these cultural differences can influence memory and even perception. But are they reflected in brain activity patterns”

Continue reading “Scientists find that culture influences brain function”

Monkeys can perform mental addition

Researchers at Duke University have demonstrated that monkeys have the ability to perform mental addition. In fact, monkeys performed about as well as college students given the same test.

The findings shed light on the shared evolutionary origins of arithmetic ability in humans and non-human animals, according to Assistant Professor Elizabeth Brannon, Ph.D. and Jessica Cantlon, Ph.D., of the Duke Center for Cognitive Neuroscience.

Continue reading “Monkeys can perform mental addition”

Drug that targets cannabinoid receptors cuts appetite, burns more energy

The first clinical studies of an experimental drug have revealed that obese people who take it for 12 weeks lose weight, even at very low doses. Short-term studies also suggest that the drug, called taranabant—the second drug designed to fight obesity by blocking cannabinoid receptors in the brain—causes people to consume fewer calories and burn more, researchers report in the January issue of Cell Metabolism, a publication of Cell Press. Cannabinoid receptors are responsible for the psychological effects of marijuana (Cannabis sativa), and natural “endocannabinoids” are important regulators of energy balance.

Continue reading “Drug that targets cannabinoid receptors cuts appetite, burns more energy”

Novel mechanism for long-term learning identified

Practice makes perfect — or at least that’s what we’re told as we struggle through endless rounds of multiplication tables, goal kicks and piano scales — and it seems, based on the personal experience of many, to be true. That’s why neuroscientists have been perplexed by data showing that at the level of individual synapses, or connections between neurons, increased, repetitive stimulation might actually reverse early gains in synaptic strength. Now, neuroscientists from Carnegie Mellon University and the Max Planck Institute have discovered the mechanism that resolves this apparent paradox. The findings are published in the Jan. 4 issue of Science.

Continue reading “Novel mechanism for long-term learning identified”

Cognitive ‘fog’ of normal aging linked to brain system disruption

Comparisons of the brains of young and old people have revealed that normal aging may cause cognitive decline due to deterioration of the connections among large-scale brain systems. The researchers linked the deterioration to a decrease in the integrity of the brain’s “white matter,” the tissue containing nerve cells that carry information. The researchers found that the disruption occurred even in the absence of pathology associated with Alzheimer’s disease (AD).

Continue reading “Cognitive ‘fog’ of normal aging linked to brain system disruption”

Scientists uncover how the brain controls what the eyes see

Vase or face” When presented with the well known optical illusion in which we see either a vase or the faces of two people, what we observe depends on the patterns of neural activity going on in our brains.

“In this example, whether you see faces or vases depends entirely on changes that occur in your brain, since the image always stays exactly the same,” said John Serences, a UC Irvine cognitive neuroscientist.
Continue reading “Scientists uncover how the brain controls what the eyes see”

Diet of Walnuts, blueberries found to improve cognition; may help maintain brain function and treat brain disorders

Junk food junkies take notice. What you eat does more than influence your gut. It also may affect your brain. Increasing evidence shows that mom was right: You should eat your vegetables, and your blueberries and walnuts, too.

Scientists are confirming that this age-old adage is worth following. And new studies show that diet may have implications for those who suffer from certain brain ailments.

Diets containing two percent, six percent, or nine percent walnuts, when given to old rats, were found to reverse several parameters of brain aging, as well as age-related motor and cognitive deficits, says James Joseph, PhD, of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center at Tufts University in Boston.
Continue reading “Diet of Walnuts, blueberries found to improve cognition; may help maintain brain function and treat brain disorders”

Scientists have developed a way to operate machines only by thoughts

Neuroscientists have significantly advanced brain-machine interface (BMI) technology to the point where severely handicapped people who cannot contract even one leg or arm muscle now can independently compose and send e-mails and operate a TV in their homes. They are using only their thoughts to execute these actions.

Thanks to the rapid pace of research on the BMI, one day these and other individuals may be able to feed themselves with a robotic arm and hand that moves according to their mental commands.
Continue reading “Scientists have developed a way to operate machines only by thoughts”

Enzymes Key To Brainpower Identified

Bolstering disintegrating neural connections may help boost brainpower in Alzheimer’s disease patients, MIT researchers and colleagues will report in the Nov. 8 issue of Neuron.

The researchers zeroed in on the enzymes that manipulate a key scaffolding protein for synapses, the connections through which brain cells communicate. Synapses are weakened and lost in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.
Continue reading “Enzymes Key To Brainpower Identified”

Research shows the brain’s processing speed is significantly faster than real time

Scientists at The University of Arizona have added another piece of the puzzle of how the brain processes memory.

Bruce McNaughton, a professor of psychology and physiology, and his colleague David Euston have shown that, during sleep, the reactivated memories of real-time experiences are processed within the brain at a higher rate of speed. That rate can be as much as six or seven times faster, and what McNaughton calls “thought speed.”
Continue reading “Research shows the brain’s processing speed is significantly faster than real time”

Sleep-deprivation causes an emotional brain ‘disconnect’

Without sleep, the emotional centers of the brain dramatically overreact to negative experiences, reveals a new brain imaging study in the October 23rd issue of Current Biology, a publication of Cell Press. The reason for that hyperactive emotional response in sleep-deprived people stems from a shutdown of the prefrontal lobe—a region that normally keeps emotions under control.

Continue reading “Sleep-deprivation causes an emotional brain ‘disconnect’”

Out-of-body experience recreated

Experts have found a way to trigger an out-of-body experience in volunteers. The experiments, described in the Science journal, offer a scientific explanation for a phenomenon experienced by one in 10 people.

Two teams used virtual reality goggles to con the brain into thinking the body was located elsewhere.The visual illusion plus the feel of their real bodies being touched made volunteers sense that they had moved outside of their physical bodies. 

Graphic Continue reading “Out-of-body experience recreated”

Brain imaging reveals breakdown of normal emotional processing

 Brain imaging has revealed a breakdown in normal patterns of emotional processing that impairs the ability of people with clinical depression to suppress negative emotional states. Efforts by depressed patients to suppress their feelings when viewing emotionally negative images enhanced activity in several brain areas, including the amygdala, known to play a role in generating emotion, according to a report in the August 15 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Continue reading “Brain imaging reveals breakdown of normal emotional processing”

Brain as memory machine

What happens in our brains when we learn and remember” Are memories recorded in a stable physical change, like writing an inscription permanently on a clay tablet” Prof. Yadin Dudai, Head of the Weizmann Institute’s Neurobiology Department, and his colleagues are challenging that view. They recently discovered that the process of storing long-term memories is much more dynamic, involving a miniature molecular machine that must run constantly to keep memories going. They also found that jamming the machine briefly can erase long-term memories. Their findings, which appeared today in the journal Science, may pave the way to future treatments for memory problems.

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Cancer Fighting Technology for Brain Tumors

Trilogy Stereotactic Radiation Therapy to treat brain tumors. Trilogy precisely pinpoints the exact location of the cancer and treats it with a highly accurate beam of radiation.

New research discovers independent brain networks control human walking

In a study published in the August issue of Nature Neuroscience, researchers at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland found that there are separate adaptable networks controlling each leg and there are also separate networks controlling leg movements, e.g., forward or backward walking.

These findings are contrary to the currently accepted theory that leg movements and adaptations are directed by a single control circuit in the brain. The ability to train the right and left legs independently opens the door to new therapeutic approaches for correcting walking abilities in patients with brain injury (e.g., stroke) and neurological disorders (e.g., cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis).

Continue reading “New research discovers independent brain networks control human walking”

Maturity brings richer memories

MIT neuroscientists exploring how memory formation differs between children and adults have found that although the two groups have much in common, maturity brings richer memories.In the August 5 advance online edition of Nature Neuroscience, the MIT team reports that children rival adults in forming basic memories, but adults do better at remembering the rich, contextual details of that information. The MIT study provides new insights into how children learn that are not only theoretically important, but could also inform practical learning in everyday settings. Continue reading “Maturity brings richer memories”

Toward an alternative to stem cells for treating chronic brain diseases

With ethical issues concerning use of discarded embryos and technical problems hindering development of stem cell therapies, scientists in Korea are reporting the first successful use of a drug-like molecule to transform human muscle cells into nerve cells. Their report, scheduled for the August 8 issue of the Journal of the American Chemical Society, a weekly journal, states that the advance could lead to new treatments for stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders.

 

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Reducing insulin signaling in the brain can prolong lifespan

One route to a long and healthy life may be establishing the right balance in insulin signaling between the brain and the rest of the body, according to new research from Children’s Hospital Boston. The study, published in the July 20 issue of Science, not only reinforces the value of exercising and eating in moderation, but also helps explain a paradox in longevity research.

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Researchers identify mechanism behind fear

Researchers from MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have uncovered a molecular mechanism that governs the formation of fears stemming from traumatic events. The work could lead to the first drug to treat the millions of adults who suffer each year from persistent, debilitating fears – including hundreds of soldiers returning from conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Continue reading “Researchers identify mechanism behind fear”