Category Archives: Neuroscience

Prof Raymond Tallis to challenge Stephen Hawking claim that “philosophy is dead”

Leading polymath Prof Raymond Tallis is set to use a Birmingham pub to challenge Stephen Hawking’s declaration that “philosophy is dead”. In a meeting of the Birmingham Salon at the Victoria in John Bright Street, Prof Tallis will discuss ‘Has physics destroyed philosophy?’ To do so, he will use a prepared set of notes with slides – before taking questions and answers. “I like to set out a case and not miss the steps,” said the Manchester-based retired medic who … Continue reading

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Lucid dreams and metacognition: Awareness of thinking—awareness of dreaming

To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life – a truly tempting idea. Some persons – so-called lucid dreamers -can do this. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin and the Max Planck Institute of Psychiatry in Munich have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when being awake. Lucid dreamers are aware of dreaming … Continue reading

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Economists find rare empirical evidence of love in unique marriage survey

Economists are not famed for their romantic insights. But a new study by two University of Virginia economists, Leora Friedberg and Steven Stern, has found quantitative evidence of love – something very few economic studies ever have claimed – in married couples’ answers to two penetrating questions about the quality of their marriage, combined with their divorce rates six years later. The questions are from the long-term National Survey of Families and Households, administered by the University of Wisconsin: How … Continue reading

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We can trick our brains into burning more fat, new research suggests

Scientists may have found a way to naturally get our bodies to shed excess fat – we just need to trick our brains into telling them to. Scientists from Monash University in Australia have found that encouraging the actions of two naturally occurring hormones could instruct our bodies to burn more fat. Their research has uncovered for the first time the molecular mechanism that encourages our bodies to convert white fat stores into brown fat, which can be more easily … Continue reading

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Neuroscientists have worked out how to “read” and “write” brain signals

A new technique allows researchers to both observe and control brain activity in mice. Just like a very complicated computer, our brains control our thoughts and behaviours via electrical bursts of activity. Essentially, that means we should be able to both understand and control how it works, but our brains are coded in a language we don’t understand just yet. Now, however, researchers from University College London in the UK have developed a new method that has allowed them to … Continue reading

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Alzheimer’s patients could restore lost memories

New research suggests that our memories may not be stored in our synapses, as previously thought. If true, it means patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may be able to one day reactivate their lost memories. Research into the memory of marine snails offers hope that patients in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease may one day be able to restore their lost memories. Currently, most neuroscientists believe that memories are stored at the synapses – or connections … Continue reading

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What’s the difference between us and a psychopath?

In 2005, James Fallon’s life started to resemble the plot of a well-honed joke or big-screen thriller: A neuroscientist is working in his laboratory one day when he thinks he has stumbled upon a big mistake. He is researching Alzheimer’s and using his healthy family members’ brain scans as a control, while simultaneously reviewing the fMRIs of murderous psychopaths for a side project. It appears, though, that one of the killers’ scans has been shuffled into the wrong batch. The … Continue reading

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This single protein influences how your brain copes with stress

Scientists have discovered that a single brain protein can make some people more vulnerable to depression than others. New research has suggested that there’s a single protein that determines whether someone will cope with stress, or whether they’ll be more susceptible to depression. The results challenge the way we currently treat depression, and could lead to the first preventative therapies for the mental illness. While much research has focussed on the effects of various brain chemicals such as serotonin and … Continue reading

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Neuroscientists awaken ‘ghosts’ hidden inside the cortex

Ghosts exist only in the mind, and scientists know just where to find them, an EPFL study suggests. Patients suffering from neurological or psychiatric conditions have often reported feeling a strange “presence”. Now, EPFL researchers in Switzerland have succeeded in recreating this so-called ghost illusion in the laboratory. On June 29, 1970, mountaineer Reinhold Messner had an unusual experience. Recounting his descent down the virgin summit of Nanga Parbat with his brother, freezing, exhausted, and oxygen-starved in the vast barren … Continue reading

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Scientists have invented a brain decoder that could read your inner thoughts

brain

Scientists have figured out how to read the words of our inner monologue, a finding that could help people who cannot physically speak to communicate with the world. Talking to yourself or having mindless internal thoughts is something which most of us can admit to. But imagine if we told you that someone could eavesdrop on your private thoughts? This sounds very creepy, but it’s exactly what scientists are working towards achieving. When you hear someone speak, sound waves activate … Continue reading

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A new type of brain cell has been discovered

pyramidenzelle

A strange new type of nerve cell, or neuron, has been observed in the brain that transmits information without involving the cell body – and, incredibly, it appears to be better at transmitting information than regular brain cells. Neurons rapidly fire messages around our bodies by transmitting electrical signals to one another. Although these cells vary in shape and size, they all have the same general design: signals are received by a nerve cell’s finger-like dendrites, transmitted through its round cell body, … Continue reading

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Atom-scale brain sensors will show exactly how your mind works

Neural activity maps frequently present an incomplete picture of how a brain works; you can measure electrical activity, stimulate it or visualize the anatomy, but you can’t do all three. DARPA and the University of Wisconsin might just pull off that seemingly impossible feat, however. They recently built a hybrid brain sensor that combines both electrical and optical techniques to present a vivid picture of what’s happening inside the mind. The sensor is primarily made of ultra-thin graphene (just four … Continue reading

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How curiosity changes the brain to enhance learning

The more curious we are about a topic, the easier it is to learn information about that topic. New research publishing online October 2 in the Cell Press journal Neuron provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions. “Our findings potentially have far-reaching implications for the public because they reveal insights into how a … Continue reading

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Strategic or random? In the face of uncertainty, the brain chooses randomness as the best strategy

Many of the choices we make are informed by experiences we’ve had in the past. But occasionally we’re better off abandoning those lessons and exploring a new situation unfettered by past experiences. Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Janelia Research Campus have shown that the brain can temporarily disconnect information about past experience from decision-making circuits, thereby triggering random behavior. In the study, rats playing a game for a food reward usually acted strategically, but switched to random behavior … Continue reading

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Sleep Drunkenness Explained

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Forgetting Helps You Remember

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Our brains can make decisions while we’re sleeping

Lightbulb-brain

Your brain doesn’t shut down when you go to sleep, in fact, a recent study has shown that it remains quietly active, and can process information to help you make decisions, just like when you’re awake. A new study led by senior research scientist Sid Kouider and PhD student Thomas Andrillon at the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Paris in France has investigated how active our brains are when we’re asleep, and the results could have implications for the Holy Grail … Continue reading

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Don’t underestimate your mind’s eye

Take a look around, and what do you see? Much more than you think you do, thanks to your finely tuned mind’s eye, which processes images without your even knowing. A University of Arizona study has found that objects in our visual field of which we are not consciously aware still may influence our decisions. The findings refute traditional ideas about visual perception and cognition, and they could shed light on why we sometimes make decisions—stepping into a street, choosing … Continue reading

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Neurons in our skin are performing advanced calculations

touch-neurons

Researchers from Umeå University in Sweden have been studying a particular class of sensory neurons in the human tactile, or touch, system called ‘first-order neurons’ to discover that they possess some pretty incredible properties. These neurons branch through our skin to record the sensation of touch from many highly sensitive zones on our fingertips, and it’s now been revealed that they’re not just sending signals to the brain indicating that the skin has encountered some kind of object. It turns … Continue reading

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Proton Beam Therapy

Standard radiation therapy is an effective way to treat many cancers. But it isn’t perfect. It kills cancer cells, but it also kills some healthy cells in its path through the body. That’s just one of the reasons Mayo Clinic is bringing a new type of radiation therapy to its patients. It’s called proton beam therapy, and it has the potential to cure more cancers with greater safely, and help people live longer.

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