Recent quotes:

Brain folding provides researchers with an accurate marker to predict psychosis -- ScienceDaily

The researchers looked specifically at the structural relationship in the brain determined by the way that the brain is folded inside the skull, also known as gyrification. "The human brain is not the largest of the mammals -- elephants and dolphins have larger brains than we do, but our brain is much more folded than other species' brains, and that is because it is the most economical way to send signals across a constantly busy system," said Dr. Palaniyappan, noting that this folding pattern is mostly developed by the time a person is two years old.

Towards greater MRI sensitivity by harnessing quantum hyperpolarization -- ScienceDaily

"The superconducting magnets that produce these fields are also the reason MRI scanners cost millions of dollars, as the magnets need to be kept at cryogenic temperatures," Professor Hollenberg said. "Clearly a disruptive approach is needed, so we look to using quantum technology to produce a greater signal intensity of certain molecular targets at the atomic level."

How would the brain process alien music? -- ScienceDaily

In language and music, dependencies are conceptual threads that bind two things together. Non-local dependencies bind non-adjacent items. For example, in pop music, the second instance of a verse, following a chorus, would have a non-local dependency with the first instance of the verse. Experientially, it is clear to us that we are hearing a sequence that we have heard before. According to Cheung, composers use such devices to build up our expectations and elicit strong emotional responses to the music. But how does the brain recognize these patterns and what does this have to do with Paul Broca?

Towards an unconscious neural reinforcement intervention for common fears -- ScienceDaily

That is, these researchers can tell if a participant's brain is 'unconsciously' thinking of a snake (which happens every now and then without our awareness), based on images acquired using conventional fMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging, a measurement available in many hospitals). By giving the participant a small amount of monetary reward whenever this happens, the snake is thus associated with a positive feeling, thereby eventually becomes less frightening and unpleasant.

OCD treatment could someday start with a brain scan -- ScienceDaily

Using a functional MRI machine, or fMRI, the researchers scanned the brains of 42 people with OCD, ages 18 to 60, before and after four weeks of intensive, daily cognitive behavioral therapy. Researchers specifically analyzed how different areas of the brain activate in sync with each other -- a property called functional connectivity -- during a period of rest. Functional MRI does this by measuring blood flow in the brain, which correlates with neurons' activity levels. In addition, the scientists assessed the severity of participants' OCD symptoms before and after the treatment, using a scaled system in which a lower score indicates less severe or less frequent symptoms.

Do You Believe It? Verbal Suggestions Influence the Clinical and Neural Effects of Escitalopram in Social Anxiety Disorder: A Randomized Trial - EBioMedicine

Using truthful or deceiving verbal instructions, we tested how expectancies influence SSRI efficacy in social anxiety disorder. The number of responders was more than three times higher after open administration of escitalopram 20 mg compared to covert administration of the drug presented as “active placebo” in a cover story. Correct vs. incorrect information about the SSRI also yielded different neural changes in brain areas involved in emotion-cognition interactions.

Neurofeedback shows promise in treating tinnitus -- ScienceDaily

The participants then participated in the fMRI-neurofeedback training phase while inside the MRI scanner. They received white noise through their earplugs and were able to view the activity in their primary auditory cortex as a bar on a screen. Each fMRI-neurofeedback training run contained eight blocks separated into a 30-second "relax" period followed by a 30-second "lower" period. Participants were instructed to watch the bar during the relax period and actively attempt to lower it by decreasing primary auditory cortex activity during the lower phase. The researchers gave the participants techniques to help them do this, such as trying to divert attention from sound to other sensations like touch and sight. "Many focused on breathing because it gave them a feeling of control," Dr. Sherwood said. "By diverting their attention away from sound, the participants' auditory cortex activity went down, and the signal we were measuring also went down." A control group of nine individuals were provided sham neurofeedback -- they performed the same tasks as the other group, but the feedback came not from them but from a random participant. By performing the exact same procedures with both groups using either real or sham neurofeedback, the researchers were able to distinguish the effect of real neurofeedback on control of the primary auditory cortex. The study represents the first time fMRI-neurofeedback training has been applied to demonstrate that there is a significant relationship between control of the primary auditory cortex and attentional processes. This is important to therapeutic development, Sherwood said, as the neural mechanisms of tinnitus are unknown but likely related to attention.

Brains of one-handed people suggest new organization theory -- ScienceDaily

"We found that the traditional hand area" -- which, Makin notes, takes up a rather sizable portion of the brain -- "gets used up by a multitude of body parts in congenital one-handers. Interestingly, these body parts that get to benefit from increased representation in the freed-up brain territory are those used by the one-handers in daily life to substitute for their missing-hand function -- say when having to open a bottle of water." Whether Makin's theory on brain organization corresponding to function instead of body parts pans out or not, the findings reveal remarkable brain plasticity. Her hope is to find a way to encourage the brain to represent and control artificial body parts, such as a prosthetic arm, using the brain area that would have controlled the missing hand.

The brain's spontaneous activity and its psychopathological symptoms - "Spatiotemporal binding and integration". - PubMed - NCBI

I here suggest to conceive the brain's spontaneous activity in spatiotemporal terms that is, by various mechanisms that are based on its spatial, i.e., functional connectivity, and temporal, i.e., fluctuations in different frequencies, features. I here point out two such spatiotemporal mechanisms, i.e., "spatiotemporal binding and integration". Alterations in the resting state's spatial and temporal features lead to abnormal "spatiotemporal binding and integration" which results in abnormal contents in cognition as in the various psychopathological symptoms. This, together with concrete empirical evidence, is demonstrated in depression and schizophrenia.

Hippocampal and prefrontal processing of network topology to simulate the future : Nature Communications

Here we tested the hypotheses that the hippocampus retrieves representations of the topological structure of the environment when new paths are entered in order to support goal-directed navigation and the lateral PFC performs path-planning via a BFS mechanism. We combined a graph-theoretic analysis of the city streets of London with functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data collected from participants navigating a film simulation of London’s streets. Our analysis reveals that the right posterior hippocampus specifically tracks the changes in the local connections in the street network, the right anterior hippocampus tracks changes in the global properties of the streets and the bilateral lateral prefrontal activity scales with the demands of a BFS. These responses were only present when long-term memory of the environment was required to guide navigation.

The Human Connectome Project: 180 zones per hemisphere

The researchers report that they’ve found a total of 180 distinct areas per hemisphere, regions which are bounded by sharp changes in cortical architecture, function, connectivity, and/or topography.

Groundbreaking fMRI study finds 4 distinct neurological subtypes of depression - ExtremeTech

We found that, superimposed on this shared pathological core, distinct patterns of abnormal functional connectivity differentiated the four biotypes and were associated with specific clinical-symptom profiles. For example, as compared to controls, reduced connectivity in frontoamygdala networks, which regulate fear-related behavior and reappraisal of negative emotional stimuli, was most severe in biotypes 1 and 4, which were characterized in part by increased anxiety. By contrast, hyperconnectivity in thalamic and frontostriatal networks, which support reward processing, adaptive motor control and action initiation, were especially pronounced in biotypes 3 and 4 and were associated with increased anhedonia and psychomotor retardation. And reduced connectivity in anterior cingulate and orbitofrontal areas supporting motivation and incentive-salience evaluation was most severe in biotypes 1 and 2, which were characterized partly by increased anergia and fatigue.

Perceptually relevant remapping of human somatotopy in 24 hours. - PubMed - NCBI

Experience-dependent reorganisation of functional maps in the cerebral cortex is well described in the primary sensory cortices. However, there is relatively little evidence for such cortical reorganisation over the short-term. Using human somatosensory cortex as a model, we investigated the effects of a 24-hour gluing manipulation in which the right index and right middle fingers (digits 2 & 3) were adjoined with surgical glue. Somatotopic representations, assessed with two 7 tesla fMRI protocols, revealed rapid off-target reorganisation in the non-manipulated fingers following gluing, with the representation of the ring finger (digit 4) shifted towards the little finger (digit 5) and away from the middle finger (digit 3). These shifts were also evident in two behavioural tasks conducted in an independent cohort, showing reduced sensitivity for discriminating the temporal order of stimuli to the ring and little fingers, and increased substitution errors across this pair on a speeded reaction time task.

Computational Neuroscience Approach to Biomarkers and Treatments for Mental Disorders. - PubMed - NCBI

For many disorders, the reported accuracies have reached 90% or more. However, we note that rigorous tests on independent cohorts are critically required to translate this research into clinical applications. Finally, we discuss the utility of the disorder-specific features found by the data-driven approach to psychiatric therapies, including neurofeedback. Such developments will allow simultaneous diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders using neuroimaging, thereby establishing "theranostics" for the first time in clinical psychiatry.

This is your brain on God: Spiritual experiences activate brain reward circuits -- ScienceDaily

"When our study participants were instructed to think about a savior, about being with their families for eternity, about their heavenly rewards, their brains and bodies physically responded," says lead author Michael Ferguson, who carried out the study as a bioengineering graduate student at the University of Utah. Based on fMRI scans, the researchers found that powerful spiritual feelings were reproducibly associated with activation in the nucleus accumbens, a critical brain region for processing reward. Peak activity occurred about 1-3 seconds before participants pushed the button and was replicated in each of the four tasks. As participants were experiencing peak feelings, their hearts beat faster and their breathing deepened. In addition to the brain's reward circuits, the researchers found that spiritual feelings were associated with the medial prefrontal cortex, which is a complex brain region that is activated by tasks involving valuation, judgment and moral reasoning. Spiritual feelings also activated brain regions associated with focused attention.

Study Predicts Political Beliefs With 83 Percent Accuracy | Science | Smithsonian

The idea that the brains of Democrats and Republicans may be hard-wired to their beliefs is not new. Previous research has shown that during MRI scans, areas linked to broad social connectedness, which involves friends and the world at large, light up in Democrats’ brains. Republicans, on the other hand, show more neural activity in parts of the brain associated with tight social connectedness, which focuses on family and country. Other scans have shown that brain regions associated with risk and uncertainty, such as the fear-processing amygdala, differ in structure in liberals and conservatives. And different architecture means different behavior. Liberals tend to seek out novelty and uncertainty, while conservatives exhibit strong changes in attitude to threatening situations. The former are more willing to accept risk, while the latter tends to have more intense physical reactions to threatening stimuli.

Is Hypnosis All in Your Head? Brain Scans Suggest Otherwise - The New York Times

He said one particularly intriguing finding was that hypnotized subjects showed decreased interaction between a region deep in the brain that is active in self-reflection and daydreaming and areas of the prefrontal cortex involved in planning and executing tasks. That decreased interaction, Dr. Spiegel said, suggested an explanation for the lack of self-consciousness shown by hypnotized subjects.

Selfish or altruistic? Brain connectivity reveals hidden motives

During the study, participants were placed in an fMRI scanner and made altruistic decisions driven by an empathy motive (the desire to help a person for whom one feels empathy) or a reciprocity motive (the desire to reciprocate an individual's previous kindness). Simply looking at the functional activity of specific regions of the brain couldn't reveal the motive underlying the decisions. Broadly speaking, the same areas in the brain lit up in both settings. "However, using Dynamic Causal Modeling (DCM) analyses, we could investigate the interplay between these brain regions and found marked differences between empathy- based and reciprocity-based decisions," explains Grit Hein. "The impact of the motives on the interplay between different brain regions was so fundamentally different that it could be used to classify the motive of a person with high accuracy" she continues.

Variable rewards rock again!

In a series of experiments, the researchers found that the majority of children and adults chose a half-sized portion paired with a toy or monetary prize over a full-sized portion without a toy or monetary prize. The price of the two options was kept the same. Great, right? But it gets better. Not only can a small prize motivate the healthier meal choice, but, in fact, the mere prospect of getting it is more motivating than the prize itself. In other words, the researchers found that people were more likely to choose a smaller meal for the chance to win a $10 lottery than to get a guaranteed reward. The premiums in the study were the chance to win $10, $50 or $100.

How brain architecture leads to abstract thought: Scientists link brain architecture to consciousness and abstract thought -- ScienceDaily

all cognitive behaviors exist on a hierarchy, starting with the most tangible behaviors such as finger tapping or pain, then to consciousness and extending to the most abstract thoughts and activities such as naming. This hierarchy of abstraction is related to the connectome structure of the whole human brain, they add.