Category Archives: Neuroscience

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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Your Brain On Coffee

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Changes in eye can predict changes in brain

Researchers at the Gladstone Institutes and University of California, San Francisco have shown that a loss of cells in the retina is one of the earliest signs of frontotemporal dementia (FTD) in people with a genetic risk for the disorder — even before any changes appear in their behavior. Published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, the researchers, led by Gladstone investigator Li Gan, PhD and UCSF associate professor of neurology Ari Green, MD, studied a group of individuals who … Continue reading

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Train your heart to protect your mind

Exercising to improve our cardiovascular strength may protect us from cognitive impairment as we age, according to a new study by researchers at the University of Montreal. “Our body’s arteries stiffen with age, and the vessel hardening is believed to begin in the aorta, the main vessel coming out of the heart, before reaching the brain. Indeed, the hardening may contribute to cognitive changes that occur during a similar time frame,” explained Claudine Gauthier, first author of the study. “We … Continue reading

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Children with autism have extra synapses in brain

In a study of brains from children with autism, researchers found that autistic brains did not undergo normal pruning during childhood and adolescence. The images show representative neurons from autistic (left) and control (right) brains; the spines on the neurons indicate the location of synapses. Children and adolescents with autism have a surplus of synapses in the brain, and this excess is due to a slowdown in a normal brain “pruning” process during development, according to a study by neuroscientists … Continue reading

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Why Can’t You Remember Being a Baby?

It’s easy to recall events of decades past—birthdays, high school graduations, visits to Grandma—yet who can remember being a baby? Researchers have tried for more than a century to identify the cause of “infantile amnesia.” Sigmund Freud blamed it on repression of early sexual experiences, an idea that has been discredited. More recently, researchers have attributed it to a child’s lack of self-perception, language or other mental equipment required to encode memories. Neuroscientists Paul Frankland and Sheena Josselyn, both at … Continue reading

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Watch 80,000 neurons fire in a zebrafish brain

The video is based on a new imaging technique called light-sheet imaging, which has allowed researchers to get an unprecedented glimpse into the neural mechanisms of a living zebrafish. You’d be hard-pressed to find anything on Earth as complex as the brain – even if that brain happens to belong to a simple zebrafish – and these almost inscrutable organs pose a real challenge to those trying to study them. For decades researchers have had to resort to external devices … Continue reading

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How To Get Better Sleep

Some tips to combat sleep deprivation!

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Older adults nearly twice as likely to have memories affected by distractions

old people

Older people are nearly twice as likely as their younger counterparts to have their memory and cognitive processes impaired by environmental distractions (such as irrelevant speech or written words presented along with target stimuli), according to a new study from psychologists at Rice University and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. Whereas other studies had found that older adults are distracted by memories of prior similar events, this was the first study to convincingly demonstrate across several tasks an impairment … Continue reading

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Santiago Ramón y Cajal

Cajal-mi

Santiaago Ramon y Cajal 1 May 1852 – 18 October 1934) was a Spanish Pathologist, Histologist, Neuroscientist and Nobel Laureate. His original pioneering investigations of the microscopic structure of the brain have led him to be designated by many as the father of modern neuroscience. His medical artistry was legendary, and hundreds of his drawings illustrating the delicate arborizations of brain cells are still in use for educational and training purposes. The son of physician and anatomy lecturer Justo Ramón and Antonia … Continue reading

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Myths About The Brain You Thought Were True

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Scientists Accidentally Discover The Brain’s Consciousness “Off Switch”

While performing deep brain surgery on a woman with epilepsy, neuroscientists from George Washington University stimulated an area of her brain that unexpectedly — and temporarily — caused her to lose awareness. It’s a discovery that could shed light on the very nature of consciousness itself. “We describe a region in the human brain where electrical stimulation reproducibly disrupted consciousness,” write the scientists in their study. It’s an important finding as the “neural mechanisms that underlie consciousness are not fully … Continue reading

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The brain’s balancing act: Researchers discover how neurons equalize between excitation and inhibition

Researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have discovered a fundamental mechanism by which the brain maintains its internal balance. The mechanism, described in the June 22 advanced online publication of the journal Nature, involves the brain’s most basic inner wiring and the processes that control whether a neuron relays information to other neurons or suppresses the transmission of information. Specifically, the scientists have shown that there is a constant ratio between the total amount of … Continue reading

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