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Memory in the Brain [Interactive]

Memory in the Brain [Interactive]
Although most people think of memory as a vault for storing information, it is more like a seamstress who stitches together logical threads into scenes that make sense. In this view, a good memory is therefore not one that holds lots of data but that can deftly separate what is useful from what could distract or upset you. Getting rid of what is not necessary—forgetting—is thus an important part of memory and of thought. It is also critical to emotional wellbeing. Revisiting bad memories is hardly a formula for happiness, after all. (For more on memory and forgetting, see Scientific American Mind’s special report on memory in January/February 2012.) To learn more about memory and the power of forgetting, see the January 2012 Scientific American Mind. More to Explore8 Ways To Forget Your TroublesLet It GoA Feeling for the PastTrying to ForgetTotaling Recall10 Novels That Will Sharpen Your Mind [Interactive]

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Brain cost-efficiency linked to family genes Some brains are wired more efficiently than others, and new research has shown that 60% of the differences can be explained by genetic factors. Credit: iStockPhoto SYDNEY: How well our brain functions is largely based on our family’s genetic makeup, according to a new study which provides the first evidence of a genetic effect on how ‘cost-efficient’ our brain network wiring is. The study, led by Australian researchers, was published in The Journal of Neuroscience and could shed light on why some people are better able to perform certain tasks than others and the genetic basis of mental illnesses and neurological diseases.

Anesthesia May Leave Patients Conscious—and Finally Show Consciousness in the Brain Vaughan Bell is a clinical and research psychologist based at the Institute of Psychiatry, King’s College London and currently working in Colombia. He’s also working on a book about hallucinations due to be out in 2013. During surgery, a patient awakes but is unable to move. She sees people dressed in green who talk in strange slowed-down voices. There seem to be tombstones nearby and she assumes she is at her own funeral. Do we live in a computer simulation? In today’s New York Times, John Tierney discusses an argument by Nick Bostrom, director of the Future of Humanity Institute at the University of Oxford, that our existence could be nothing more than a computer simulation being run by posthumanists. Dr. Bostrom assumes that technological advances could produce a computer with more processing power than all the brains in the world, and that advanced humans, or “posthumans,” could run “ancestor simulations” of their evolutionary history by creating virtual worlds inhabited by virtual people with fully developed virtual nervous systems. Some computer experts have projected, based on trends in processing power, that we will have such a computer by the middle of this century, but it doesn’t matter for Dr.

Researchers Map Brain Regions Linked to Intelligence FRIDAY, April 13 (HealthDay News) -- The physical architecture of intelligence in the brain has been mapped by scientists who used brain injury patients to conduct their research. The findings provide new insight about the specific brain structures involved in general intelligence and specific skills such as memory and the ability to understand words. The study included 182 Vietnam War veterans who had highly localized brain damage caused by penetrating head wounds. [Read: Health Buzz: Dental X-Rays Linked to Brain Tumors.] "It's a significant challenge to find patients [for research] who have brain damage, and even further, it's very hard to find patients who have focal brain damage," study leader Aron Barbey, a professor of neuroscience at the University of Illinois, said in a university news release.

Neurons Offer Clues to Suicide A certain type of brain cell may be linked with suicide, according to a recent investigation. People who take their own lives have more densely packed von Economo neurons, large spindle-shaped cells that have dramatically increased in density over the course of human evolution. Researchers in Germany analyzed the roots of suicide in the brain by focusing on a neural network linked with psychological pain, which includes regions such as the anterior cingulate cortex and the anterior insula, where von Economo neurons are concentrated. These cells bear receptors for neuro­transmitters that help to regulate emotion, such as dopamine, serotonin and vasopressin. Because they are found in highly gregarious animals such as whales, elephants and apes—with humans possessing the highest densities—scientists believe they might specifically deal with complex social emotions such as shame.

How Spatial Navigation Correlates with Language Cognitive neuroscientists from the Higher School of Economics and Aarhus University experimentally demonstrate how spatial navigation impacts language comprehension. The results of the study have been published in NeuroImage. Language is a complicated cognitive function, which is performed not only by local brain modules, but by a distributed network of cortical generators. Human brain The human brain has the same general structure as the brains of other mammals, but has a more developed cortex than any other. Large animals such as whales and elephants have larger brains in absolute terms, but when measured using the encephalization quotient which compensates for body size, the human brain is almost twice as large as the brain of the bottlenose dolphin, and three times as large as the brain of a chimpanzee. Much of the expansion comes from the part of the brain called the cerebral cortex, especially the frontal lobes, which are associated with executive functions such as self-control, planning, reasoning, and abstract thought. The portion of the cerebral cortex devoted to vision is also greatly enlarged in humans.

Brain Likely Encodes the World in 2 Dimensions When we drive somewhere new, we navigate by referring to a two-dimensional map that accounts for distances only on a horizontal plane. According to research published online in August in Nature Neuroscience, the mammalian brain seems to do the same, collapsing the world into a flat plane even as the animal skitters up trees and slips deep into burrows. “Our subjective sense that our map is three-dimensional is illusory,” says Kathryn Jeffery, a behavioral neuroscientist at University College London who led the research. Jeffery studies a collection of neurons in and around the rat hippo­campus that build an internal representation of space. As the animal travels, these neurons, called grid cells and place cells, respond uniquely to distance, turning on and off in a way that measures how far the animal has moved in a particular direction.

8 Things Everybody Ought to Know About Concentrating “Music helps me concentrate,” Mike said to me glancing briefly over his shoulder. Mike was in his room writing a paper for his U.S. History class. On his desk next to his computer sat crunched Red Bulls, empty Gatorade bottles, some extra pocket change and scattered pieces of paper. The Involvement of a Na - and Cl–-Dependent Transporter in the Brain Uptake †Drug Delivery, Disposition and Dynamics and ‡Centre for Drug Candidate Optimisation, Monash Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Monash University, Parkville, Victoria, Australia § Department of Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University, New York, New York, United States Department of Life, Health and Chemical Sciences, Open University, Milton Keyes, U.K. INSERM (U1016) Institut Cochin, Paris, France

Cache Cab: Taxi Drivers' Brains Grow to Navigate London's Streets Manhattan's midtown streets are arranged in a user-friendly grid. In Paris 20 administrative districts, or arrondissements, form a clockwise spiral around the Seine. But London? A map of its streets looks more like a tangle of yarn that a preschooler glued to construction paper than a metropolis designed with architectural foresight. Yet London's taxi drivers navigate the smoggy snarl with ease, instantaneously calculating the swiftest route between any two points.