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Resynchronizing Neurons to Erase Schizophrenia - Neuroscience News

he Geneva neuroscientists chose to focus on neural networks of the hippocampus, a brain structure notably involved in memory. They studied a mouse model that reproduces the genetic alteration of DiGeorge syndrome as well as some behavioural changes associated with schizophrenia. In the hippocampus of a control mouse, the thousands of neurons that make up the network coordinate according to a very precise sequence of activity, which is dynamic in time and synchronized. However, in the neural networks of their mouse models, the scientists observed something completely different: the neurons showed the same level of activity as in control animals, but without any coordination, as if these cells were incapable of communicating properly with each other. “The organization and synchronization of neural networks is achieved through the intervention of subpopulations of inhibitory neurons, including parvalbumin neurons,» says Carleton. “However, in this animal model of schizophrenia, these neurons are much less active. Without proper inhibition to control and structure the electrical activity of other neurons in the network, anarchy rules. ”

How attention orchestrates groups of nerve cells to enrich the brain's symphony -- ScienceDaily

Silence in the concert hall. The conductor raises the baton and the strings begin. They play the first four bars of Mozart's "A Little Night Music." All together they play a single melody, which is probably one of the best known in the music world. Then the voices divide. Different string instruments play separate melodies and the "Little Night Music" thus becomes a complex work of art. Scientists from the German Primate Center (DPZ) -- Leibniz Institute for Primate Research in Göttingen and Institute for Research in Fundamental Sciences in Tehran, Iran, recently discovered in a study with rhesus monkeys that nerve cells assume the role of musicians in visual perception in our brain. Usually many cells are active together (synchronously) when they process simple stimuli from our environment. The researchers were able to show that visual attention desynchronizes these nerve cells' activity and thus enables more complex information processing. Such insights into the neural mechanisms of attention in the healthy state may provide evidence of mechanisms underlying neuronal diseases such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or autism (BMC Biology).

Great minds may think alike, but all minds look alike -- ScienceDaily

The (skeleton) structure of the brain is like a road map consisting of many narrow streets (i.e., weak links), and a small fraction of highways each containing thousands of lanes (i.e., very strong links). Such a diverse road map could either be a spontaneous outcome of a random brain activity, or alternatively could be directed by a meaningful learning activity, where the "highways" direct the information flow in the brain. "A byproduct of dendritic learning is the wide spectrum of link strengths. The dendritic learning enables us to offer an explanation for an additional universal phenomenon observed in all brains and indicates its important role," said Prof. Kanter, whose research team includes Herut Uzan, Shira Sardi, Amir Goldental and Roni Vardi. The underlying mechanism is a fast response of a neuron to its strong entry compared to a slow response to a weak one. "The mechanism is similar to a pool filled through a wide pipe or through a narrow one. The wide pipe fills the pool faster," explained the research team.

The spotlight of attention is more like a strobe light -- ScienceDaily

"Our subjective experience of the visual world is an illusion," said Sabine Kastner, a professor of psychology and the Princeton Neuroscience Institute (PNI). "Perception is discontinuous, going rhythmically through short time windows when we can perceive more or less." The researchers use different metaphors to describe this throb of attention, including a spotlight that waxes and wanes in its intensity. Four times per second -- once every 250 milliseconds -- the spotlight dims and the house lights come up. Instead of focusing on the action "onstage," your brain takes in everything else around you, say the scientists. Their work appears as a set of back-to-back papers in in the Aug. 22 issue of Neuron; one paper focuses on human research subjects, the other on macaque monkeys. "The question is: How can something that varies in time support our seemingly continuous perception of the world?" said Berkeley's Randolph Helfrich, first author on the human-focused paper. "There are only two options: Is the data wrong, or is our understanding of our perception biased? Our research shows that it's the latter. Our brains fuse our perceptions into a coherent movie -- we don't experience the gaps."

Why Sitting May Be Bad for Your Brain - The New York Times

It was equally apparent when people broke up their sitting after two hours, although blood flow rose during the actual walking break. It soon sank again, the ultrasound probes showed, and was lower at the end of that session than at its start. But brain blood flow rose slightly when the four hours included frequent, two-minute walking breaks, the scientists found. Interestingly, none of these changes in brain blood flow were dictated by alterations in breathing and carbon dioxide levels, the scientists also determined. Carbon dioxide levels had remained steady before and after each session.

Study of Retired NFL and NHL Players Doesn't Find Evidence of Early Onset Dementia - Neuroscience News

The assessments of cognitive function (e.g., memory, attention, visual spatial orientation), executive function and mental health in the retired athletes didn’t reveal statistically significant impairment compared to controls. The researchers did find evidence of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) in more of the retired athletes than the controls, but said the rate was as expected for the age, education level and body mass index of the athletes, all factors that can raise the risk of MCI; it also was not statistically significant. Advanced brain imaging detected no microscopic or macroscopic brain tissue injury differences in retired athletes versus the controls. The non-contact sport athletes were found to have a higher rate of microbleeds in the brain but these results only approached statistical significance.

We may have less control over our thoughts than previously assumed -- ScienceDaily

Morsella and the other researchers conducted two experiments with SF State students. In the first experiment, 35 students were told beforehand to not count an array of objects presented to them. In 90 percent of the trials, students counted the objects involuntarily. In a second experiment, students were presented with differently colored geometric shapes and given the option of either naming the colors (one set) or counting the shapes (a different set). Even though students chose one over the other, around 40 percent thought about both sets. "The data support the view that, when one is performing a desired action, conscious thoughts about alternative plans still occupy the mind, often insuppressibly," said Morsella. Understanding how sets work could have implications for the way we absorb information -- and whether we choose to act or not. We think of our conscious minds as private and insulated from the outside world, says Morsella. Yet our "insulation" may be more permeable than we think. "Our conscious mind is the totality of our experience, a kind of 'prime real estate' in the cognitive apparatus, influencing both decision-making and action," Morsella said. The new study demonstrates that it's actually quite easy to activate sets in people and influence what occupies the brain's "prime real estate." "The research shows that stimuli in the environment are very important in determining what we end up thinking about and that once an action plan is strongly activated its many effects can be difficult to override," said Morsella.

Evidence Rebuts Chomsky's Theory of Language Learning - Scientific American

The research suggests a radically different view, in which learning of a child’s first language does not rely on an innate grammar module. Instead the new research shows that young children use various types of thinking that may not be specific to language at all—such as the ability to classify the world into categories (people or objects, for instance) and to understand the relations among things. These capabilities, coupled with a unique human ability to grasp what others intend to communicate, allow language to happen. The new findings indicate that if researchers truly want to understand how children, and others, learn languages, they need to look outside of Chomsky’s theory for guidance.

Fundamental Rule of Brain Plasticity Discovered - Neuroscience News

Our brains are famously flexible, or “plastic,” because neurons can do new things by forging new or stronger connections with other neurons. But if some connections strengthen, neuroscientists have reasoned, neurons must compensate lest they become overwhelmed with input. In a new study in Science, researchers at the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT demonstrate for the first time how this balance is struck: when one connection, called a synapse, strengthens, immediately neighboring synapses weaken based on the action of a crucial protein called Arc. Senior author Mriganka Sur said he was excited but not surprised that his team discovered a simple, fundamental rule at the core of such a complex system as the brain, where 100 billion neurons each have thousands of ever-changing synapses. He likens it to how a massive school of fish can suddenly change direction, en masse, so long as the lead fish turns and every other fish obeys the simple rule of following the fish right in front of it.

Absence epilepsy: When the brain is like 'an orchestra without a conductor' -- ScienceDaily

"Normally the human brain, like an orchestra, is playing beautiful music and every player can understand what the others are playing. We thought that when a seizure started, the 'orchestra of neurons' would play extremely loud and intense music. And when the seizure ended, the neurons would go back to playing monotonous music," Maheshwari said. "Instead, we found that during an absence seizure the volume of the music went down and the 'musicians' were playing music without coordinating with others. Most of them were not playing at all, as if the conductor was not there anymore. When the seizure ended, it was like the conductor had returned and organized the musicians to play harmoniously again."

Rare mutation of gene carried by Quebec family gives insight into how the brain is wired: Brain scans could further understanding of psychiatric disorders, brain's reward system -- ScienceDaily

By scanning the brain of 20 family members who share an altered copy of DCC, the researchers found less connectivity between the areas where dopamine neurons originate (the substantia nigra and ventral tegmental area) and their target sites, such as the striatum and frontal cortex. One of these target sites -- the striatum -- was also smaller. "It's very interesting because we were able to show that this DCC gene alteration induces similar changes to the brain in both mice and humans," says Cecilia Flores. Because the brain systems affected by the gene influence responses to rewards, it was not surprising to see that the family members with the DCC mutation also have lower impulsivity traits and are less likely to smoke cigarettes. Indeed, an increasing number of studies, including those by Professor Flores' team, link DCC to psychiatric conditions. "Because the gene affects the brain's dopamine pathways, which are implicated in schizophrenia, addiction and depression, our study potentially helps us understand how these disorders arise.

Why being left-handed matters for mental health treatment -- ScienceDaily

Since the 1970s, hundreds of studies have suggested that each hemisphere of the brain is home to a specific type of emotion. Emotions linked to approaching and engaging with the world -- like happiness, pride and anger -- lives in the left side of the brain, while emotions associated with avoidance -- like disgust and fear -- are housed in the right. But those studies were done almost exclusively on right-handed people. That simple fact has given us a skewed understanding of how emotion works in the brain, according to Daniel Casasanto, associate professor of human development and psychology at Cornell University. That longstanding model is, in fact, reversed in left-handed people, whose emotions like alertness and determination are housed in the right side of their brains, Casasanto suggests in a new study. Even more radical: The location of a person's neural systems for emotion depends on whether they are left-handed, right-handed or somewhere in between, the research shows. The study, "Approach motivation in human cerebral cortex," is published in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. According to the new theory, called the "sword and shield hypothesis," the way we perform actions with our hands determines how emotions are organized in our brains. Sword fighters of old would wield their swords in their dominant hand to attack the enemy -- an approach action -- and raise their shields with their non-dominant hand to fend off attack -- an avoidance action

Waves Move Across the Human Brain to Support Memory - Neuroscience News

“We also found that these traveling waves moved more reliably when subjects performed well while performing a working memory task,” says Joshua Jacobs, assistant professor of biomedical engineering and senior author of the paper. “This indicates that traveling waves are significant for memory and cognition–our findings show that these oscillations are an important mechanism for large-scale coordination in the human brain.”

20 to 30 Percent of Us Hear Something When Viewing Silent Videos, Do You? - Neuroscience News

As the unpaid volunteers were recruited via adverts with text such as “Do you experience ‘hearing motion?’”, it’s certainly possible that there was a self-selection bias. But, on enrolment, the paid participants did not know what the study was about, so, in theory, they should be more representative of the general population. Thirty-one per cent of this paid group (an even higher percentage, in fact, than in the bigger, unpaid group) reported past experience of vEAR. When it came to the survey results, anyone who rated half of the videos at greater than or equal to 3 was identified as experiencing vEAR. Just over 20 per cent of the paid participants fell into this category. Taken with the self reports of past experience of vEAR, the findings suggest that the phenomenon is far from rare. The higher-rated videos often depicted relatively familiar events that are reliably associated with particular sounds (like fists hitting a punchbag), suggesting that an understanding of what’s happening in the scene was involved in causing the illusory sounds.

Brain Waves Synchronize at Live Music Performances - Neuroscience News

“When the brain waves were synchronized in this live condition, they synchronized around the rate at which people tend to feel the beat. We call this ‘the delta band.’ This seemed to be the highest in the live condition.” This indicates greater enjoyment of music in the presence of a live performance, as well as greater enjoyment when experienced as part of a group.

Researchers Find Missing Link Between the Brain and Immune System - Neuroscience News

Instead of asking, ‘How do we study the immune response of the brain?’ ‘Why do multiple sclerosis patients have the immune attacks?’ now we can approach this mechanistically. Because the brain is like every other tissue connected to the peripheral immune system through meningeal lymphatic vessels,” said Jonathan Kipnis, PhD, professor in the UVA Department of Neuroscience and director of UVA’s Center for Brain Immunology and Glia (BIG). “It changes entirely the way we perceive the neuro-immune interaction. We always perceived it before as something esoteric that can’t be studied. But now we can ask mechanistic questions.”

Slow, steady waves keep brain humming: Such rhythmic waves linked to state of consciousness -- ScienceDaily

As the waves passed through each area of the brain, they enhanced the electrical activity there. Neurons fired more enthusiastically when a wave was in the vicinity. Moreover, the ultra-slow waves persisted when the mice were put under general anesthesia, but with the direction of the waves reversed. "There is a very slow process that moves through the brain to create temporary windows of opportunity for long-distance signaling," Mitra said. "The way these ultra-slow waves move through the cortex is correlated with enormous changes in behavior, such as the difference between conscious and unconscious states." The fact that the waves' trajectory changed so dramatically with state of consciousness suggests that ultra-slow waves could be fundamental to how the brain functions. If brain areas are thought of as boats bobbing about on a slow-wave sea, the choppiness and direction of the sea surely influences how easily a message can be passed from one boat to another, and how hard it is for two boats to coordinate their activity.

Honeybees may unlock the secrets of how the human brain works -- ScienceDaily

"The study also supports the view of bee colonies as being similar to complete organisms or better still, superorganisms, composed of a large number of fully developed and autonomous individuals that interact with each other to bring forth a collective response. "With this view in mind, parallels between bees in a colony and neurons in a brain can be traced, helping us to understand and identify the general mechanisms underlying psychophysics laws, which may ultimately lead to a better understanding of the human brain. Finding similarities between the behaviour of honeybee colonies and brain neurons is useful because the behaviour of bees selecting a nest is simpler than studying neurons in a brain that makes decisions."

Memories and recursion to the mean

The behavioral data revealed that as the rat awaited the second stimulus of the trial, the memory of the first stimulus shifted towards the mean of preceding stimuli. The experiment thus confirmed the sliding of memory towards the expected value, a phenomenon that earlier studies have termed 'contraction bias.'

The happiness project | Science

In 2010, cancer biologist Lei Cao—inspired by a family member who had died of cancer—wondered whether she could combat it by looking beyond drugs or genes. Her team at OSU created a 1-square-meter enclosure filled with so many mazes, running wheels, and bright red, blue, and orange igloos that her daughter dubbed it “Disneyland for Mice.” <img class="fragment-image" src="https://d2ufo47lrtsv5s.cloudfront.net/content/sci/359/6376/624/F3.medium.gif"/> A fish at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor gets to choose between an empty tank and one filled with marbles. PHOTO: AUSTIN THOMASON/MICHIGAN PHOTOGRAPHY When injected with cancer cells, animals housed there developed tumors 80% smaller than those in control mice, or no tumors at all. Cao even discovered a possible mechanism: A stimulating environment seemed to activate the brain's hypothalamus, which regulates hormones that affect everything from mood to cancer proliferation. “We showed that there's a hard science behind enrichment,” she says. “You can't just treat the body—you have to treat the mind.”

rat enrichment

Inspired by research that showed enrichment could spark the growth of new neurons, he provided the rodents with cardboard for making nests, brightly colored balls for play, and ladders and ropes to climb. Remarkably, the animals were much slower to develop symptoms of a Huntington-like disease than their counterparts in standard housing—the first demonstration that enrichment could significantly influence neurological disorders.

The happiness project | Science

Today, lab mice live in shoebox-size cages hundreds of thousands of times smaller than their natural ranges, and rats can't forage or even stand upright. Both spend their days blasted by ventilation and bright fluorescent lighting that disrupts their day-night cycles. “We're doing the exact opposite of what we should be doing to make these animals happy,” Garner says. Lab animals tend to be obese, have weak immune systems, and develop cancer—all before scientists do any experiments on them.

Similar neural responses predict friendship | Nature Communications

Two of the “Big Five” personality traits—extraversion11,12 and openness to experience12—appear to be more similar among friends than among individuals who are not friends with one another. However, the remaining Big Five traits do not predict friendship formation well13. Similarities in conscientiousness and neuroticism are not associated with friendship formation12, and evidence for more similar levels of trait agreeableness among friends has been found in some studies12, but not in others11.

Miles Davis is not Mozart: The brains of jazz and classical pianists work differently: Even when playing the same piece of music -- ScienceDaily

One crucial distinction between the two groups of musicians is the way in which they plan movements while playing the piano. Regardless of the style, pianists, in principle, first have to know what they are going to play -- meaning the keys they have to press -- and, subsequently, how to play -- meaning the fingers they should use. It is the weighting of both planning steps, which is influenced by the genre of the music. According to this, classical pianists focus their playing on the second step, the "How." For them it is about playing pieces perfectly regarding their technique and adding personal expression. Therefore, the choice of fingering is crucial. Jazz pianists, on the other hand, concentrate on the "What." They are always prepared to improvise and adapt their playing to create unexpected harmonies. "Indeed, in the jazz pianists we found neural evidence for this flexibility in planning harmonies when playing the piano," states Roberta Bianco, first author of the study. "When we asked them to play a harmonically unexpected chord within a standard chord progression, their brains started to replan the actions faster than classical pianists. Accordingly, they were better able to react and continue their performance." Interestingly, the classical pianists performed better than the others when it came to following unusual fingering. In these cases their brains showed stronger awareness of the fingering, and consequently they made fewer errors while imitating the chord sequence.

Monthly brain cycles predict seizures in patients with epilepsy: Implanted electrodes reveal long-term patterns of seizure risk -- ScienceDaily

The new study, based on recordings from the brains of 37 patients fitted with NeuroPace implants, confirmed previous clinical and research observations of daily cycles in patients' seizure risk, explaining why many patients tend to experience seizures at the same time of day. But the study also revealed that brain irritability rises and falls in much longer cycles lasting weeks or even months, and that seizures are more likely to occur during the rising phase of these longer cycles, just before the peak. The lengths of these long cycles differ from person to person but are highly stable over many years in individual patients, the researchers found.

Brain is strobing, not constant, neuroscience research shows: First sight, now sound: New discoveries show perception is cyclical -- ScienceDaily

The key findings are: 1. auditory perception oscillates over time and peak perception alternates between the ears -- which is important for locating events in the environment; 2. auditory decision-making also oscillates; and 3. oscillations are a general feature of perception, not specific to vision. The work is the result of an Italian-Australian collaboration, involving Professor David Alais, Johahn Leung and Tam Ho of the schools of Psychology and Medical Science, University of Sydney; Professor David Burr from the Department of Neuroscience, University of Florence; and Professor Maria Concetta Morrone of the Department of Translational Medicine, University of Pisa. With a simple experiment, they showed that sensitivity for detecting weak sounds is not constant, but fluctuates rhythmically over time. It has been known for some years that our sight perception is cyclical but this is the first time it has been demonstrated that hearing is as well. "These findings that auditory perception also goes through peaks and troughs supports the theory that perception is not passive but in fact our understanding of the world goes through cycles," said Professor Alais from the University of Sydney. "We have suspected for some time that the senses are not constant but are processed via cyclical, or rhythmic functions; these findings lend new weight to that theory." These auditory cycles happen at the rate of about six per second. This may seem fast, but not in neuroscience, given that brain oscillations can occur at up to 100 times per second.