Understanding the Brain

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Exercise After Stroke Could Help Improve Memory: Study. Here's even more evidence that physical fitness can help your brain: Canadian researchers have found that stroke survivors experience better memory , thinking and language skills with six months of exercise.

Exercise After Stroke Could Help Improve Memory: Study

The study, presented at a meeting of the Canadian Stroke Congress, showed that mild cognitive impairment among people who had suffered a stroke decreased to 37 percent from 66 percent after they participated in a six-month exercise program that included both aerobic exercise and strength training. "If we can improve cognition through exercise , which also has many physical benefits, then this should become a standard of care for people following stroke," study researcher Susan Marzolini, of the Toronto Rehabilitation Institute, said in a statement. The study included 41 people who had suffered a stroke. Seventy percent of the participants needed to use a cane or walker because of walking problems. For more ways exercise can help your noggin, click through the slideshow:

Who’s conscious? A recent meeting of neuroscientists tried to define a set of criteria for that murky phenomenon called “consciousness”.

Who’s conscious?

I don’t know how successful they were; they’ve come out with a declaration on consciousness that isn’t exactly crystal clear. It seems to involve the existence of neural circuitry that exhibits specific states that modulate behavior. The neural substrates of emotions do not appear to be confined to cortical structures. In fact, subcortical neural networks aroused during affective states in humans are also critically important for generating emotional behaviors in animals.

Artificial arousal of the same brain regions generates corresponding behavior and feeling states in both humans and non-human animals. This is where they’re losing me. They seem to have reached an agreement that a mammalian neocortex is not necessary for consciousness, which seems entirely reasonable to me. Anyway, here’s their conclusion. Wait, I missed something again. Rat Study Shows Early Mental Training May Aid Later Brain Function. By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M.

Rat Study Shows Early Mental Training May Aid Later Brain Function

Grohol, Psy.D. on August 23, 2012 A new study suggests that preemptive cognitive training — an early intervention to address neuropsychiatric deficiencies — can help the brain function normally later in life. The findings appear in the journal Neuron, and may result in a new method to address a range of brain impairments in humans, including schizophrenia. Historically, researchers have aimed to address human neuropsychiatric impairments, such as schizophrenia, through mental training. Training sessions often include executive function exercises that teach patients to focus their attention and selectively recall important information. However, these methods, collectively titled cognitive remediation, have been of limited value because they have been applied to patients whose conditions are too advanced to address.

Nevertheless, conceptually, early intervention is a viable approach to treatment. Source: New York University.

Neurons Produced Via Adult Cells - Health News. October 5, 2012 [ Watch the Video: New Human Neurons from Adult Cells Right There in the Brain ] Connie K.

Neurons Produced Via Adult Cells - Health News

Ho for redOrbit.com — Your Universe Online Difficulties in balance and movement, hesitation in breathing and talking are just a few of the detrimental effects of neurodegenerative disease, and the illness can sometimes be serious or even life threatening. In the research community, more studies are being done to understand how these disorders can be treated. The team of scientists completed neuronal reprogramming of adult human brain pericytes by utilizing transcription factors Sox2 and Mash1.

“We believe that Mash1 and Sox2 superimpose a neuronal program onto a cell that has another program running,” Benedikt Berninger, lead author of the study, told The Scientist. Based on the results, the researchers found that the reprogramming of somatic cells into neurons could help develop cell-based therapy for neurodegenerative diseases. Source: Connie K. Brain Damaged ‘Patient R’ Challenges Theories of Self Awareness. According to some theories on how self-awareness arises in the brain, Patient R, a man who suffered a severe brain injury about 30 years ago, should not possess this aspect of consciousness.

Brain Damaged ‘Patient R’ Challenges Theories of Self Awareness

In 1980, a bout of encephalitis caused by the common herpes simplex virus damaged his brain, leaving Patient R, now 57, with amnesia and unable to live on his own. Even so, Patient R functions quite normally, said Justin Feinstein, a clinical neuropsychologist at the University of Iowa who has worked with him. "To a layperson, to meet him for the first time, you would have no idea anything is wrong with him," Feinstein said.

Feinstein and colleagues set out to test Patient R's level of self-awareness using a battery of tools that included a mirror, photos, tickling, a lemon, an onion, a personality assessment and an interview that asked profound questions like "What do you think happens after you die? " [The Science of Death: 10 Morbid Tales] Brain anatomy The tests An exception. Simple mathematical computations underlie brain circuits. (Medical Xpress) -- The brain has billions of neurons, arranged in complex circuits that allow us to perceive the world, control our movements and make decisions.

Simple mathematical computations underlie brain circuits

Deciphering those circuits is critical to understanding how the brain works and what goes wrong in neurological disorders. MIT neuroscientists have now taken a major step toward that goal. In a new paper appearing in the Aug. 9 issue of Nature, they report that two major classes of brain cells repress neural activity in specific mathematical ways: One type subtracts from overall activation, while the other divides it.

"These are very simple but profound computations," says Mriganka Sur, the Paul E. Newton Professor of Neuroscience and senior author of the Nature paper. The findings could help scientists learn more about diseases thought to be caused by imbalances in brain inhibition and excitation, including autism, schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. A fine balance Taking a circuit apart. Mice Study Suggests Brain Switch Implicated in PTSD. By Rick Nauert PhD Senior News Editor Reviewed by John M.

Mice Study Suggests Brain Switch Implicated in PTSD

Grohol, Psy.D. on October 8, 2012 UK researchers report the discovery of a neural mechanism that protects individuals from stress and trauma turning into post-traumatic stress disorder. Investigators from the University of Exeter Medical School began with the knowledge of the brain’s “plasticity,” its unique capability to adapt to changing environments. Studying mice, they found that stressful events reprogram certain receptors in the amygdala, the brain’s emotional nexus. These receptors then determine how the brain reacts to the next traumatic event. The receptors (called protease-activated receptor 1 or PAR1) act in the same way as a command center, telling neurons whether they should stop or accelerate their activity. Normally, PAR1s tell amygdala neurons to remain active and produce vivid emotions. In the study, researchers used a mouse model in which the PAR1 receptors were genetically de-activated.

Brain imaging can predict how intelligent you are, study finds. (Medical Xpress) -- When it comes to intelligence, what factors distinguish the brains of exceptionally smart humans from those of average humans?

Brain imaging can predict how intelligent you are, study finds

As science has long suspected, overall brain size matters somewhat, accounting for about 6.7 percent of individual variation in intelligence. More recent research has pinpointed the brain’s prefrontal cortex, a region just behind the forehead, as a critical hub for high-level mental processing, with activity levels there predicting another 5 percent of variation in individual intelligence. Now, new research from Washington University in St. Louis suggests that another 10 percent of individual differences in intelligence can be explained by the strength of neural pathways connecting the left prefrontal cortex to the rest of the brain. Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the findings establish “global brain connectivity” as a new approach for understanding human intelligence. How will we build an artificial human brain? Scientists use light to control brain with flick of a switch.

How Do You Assemble a Brain? Randomly. It is a puzzlement: How do you assemble and wire an information processing device as complex as the mammalian brain?

How Do You Assemble a Brain? Randomly

There are roughly 86 billion neurons in a human brain, forming about a quadrillion synapses. A rat’s brain is just one thousandth that size, but still pretty complex, with 56 million neurons and 500 billion synapses. How does the brain know to put a nest basket cell here, a small basket cell over there, a large basket cell in the middle, a Martinotti cell on the left and a bi-tufted cell on the right, all wired up to pyramidal cells? There has to be a plan, doesn’t there? I mean, the body doesn’t just throw its inventory of brain cells out there like a bunch of pick-up sticks, to fall where they may. As it turns out, that may be almost exactly what the brain does. It’s a case of, “Ready. Other studies have already established that random distribution could produce the proper number of potential neuron-neuron connections. Images: EPFL / Blue Brain Project.

Paralyzed Rats Learn to Walk Again. Paralyzed rats learned to walk again after a combination of electro-chemical stimulation to their injured spines and intensive rehabilitation therapy.

Paralyzed Rats Learn to Walk Again

Researchers say the treatment “woke up” dormant or sleeping neurons in their spinal cords, and formed new connections to the brain. Scientists hope the treatment might someday help paralyzed humans. Researchers at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, injected a mixture of chemicals to stimulate the rats' spinal nerve cells, which communicate with the brain. Ten minutes later, they used electrodes just below the cord injury to "wake up" the otherwise healthy nerve cells involved in walking, but which had became inactive following the injury to the spine. The rats were also placed in a robotic device that looks like a little vest, to support their weight. During the first few weeks after the treatment, lead researcher Grégoire Courtine at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology of Lausanne says the rats did not move their legs.


Learning. Mice have different neural subsystem associated with instinctually important smells. A new study finds that mice have a distinct neural subsystem that links the nose to the brain and is associated with instinctually important smells such as those emitted by predators. That insight, published online this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, prompts the question whether mice and other mammals have specially hardwired neural circuitry to trigger instinctive behavior in response to certain smells. In the series of experiments and observations described in the paper, the authors found that nerve cells in the nose that express members of the gene family of trace amine-associated receptors (TAAR) have several key biological differences from the much more common and diverse neurons that express members of the olfactory receptor gene family.

Those other nerve cells detect a much broader range of smells, said corresponding author Gilad Barnea, the Robert and Nancy Carney Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Brown University. Different circuits and genes. The language of neural cells. Imagine if we could under­stand the lan­guage two neu­rons use to com­mu­ni­cate. We might learn some­thing about how thoughts and con­scious­ness are formed. At the very least, our improved under­standing of neuron com­mu­ni­ca­tion would help biol­o­gists study the brain with more pre­ci­sion than ever before. Heather Clark, an asso­ciate pro­fessor of phar­ma­ceu­tical sci­ences at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity, has received a $300,000 Young Fac­ulty Award from the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to explore neural cell com­mu­ni­ca­tion using her exper­tise in nanosensors.

"We were inter­ested in looking into neural cells because of the need to mea­sure chem­i­cals in the brain," she explained. In sep­a­rate work, Clark had already been devel­oping nanosen­sors to mea­sure the bio­chem­ical envi­ron­ment inside a single neuron. The other DARPA project, she noted, enabled the team to incor­po­rate enzymes into their sensor format.


To Your Brain, the World Is 2D. What's the Latest Development? By studying the neurons inside rat brains, British neuroscientist Kathryn Jeffery has concluded that mammals most likely collapse the world into a two-dimensional map when navigating and calculating distances. Jeffrey's team enticed rats to climb up a spiral staircase while collecting electrical recordings from single cells. "The firing pattern encoded very little in­formation about height. The finding adds evidence for the hypothesis that the brain keeps track of our location on a flat plane, which is defined by the way the body is oriented. " What's the Big Idea? As humans and animals move over distances, two distinct types of neurons, divided into grid cells and space cells, switch on and off inside our brain, telling us how far we have come and how far we have left to go. Photo credit: shutterstock.com. Scientists Successfully ‘Hack’ Brain To Obtain Private Data.

By Peter V. Milo August 25, 2012 1:56 AM News Get Breaking News First Receive News, Politics, and Entertainment Headlines Each Morning. Sign Up BERKELEY, Calif. Researchers from the University of California and University of Oxford in Geneva figured out a way to pluck sensitive information from a person’s head, such as PIN numbers and bank information. The scientists took an off-the-shelf Emotiv brain-computer interface, a device that costs around $299, which allows users to interact with their computers by thought. The scientists then sat their subjects in front of a computer screen and showed them images of banks, people, and PIN numbers. The P300 signal is typically given off when a person recognizes something meaningful, such as someone or something they interact with on a regular basis.

Scientists that conducted the experiment found they could reduce the randomness of the images by 15 to 40 percent, giving them a better chance of guessing the correct answer. Biggest Scientific Breakthroughs of 2011.