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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?

Is your stress changing my brain? Stress isn't just contagious; it alters the brain on a cellular level -- ScienceDaily

The study's lead author, Toni-Lee Sterley, a postdoctoral associate in Bains' lab said, "What was remarkable was that CRH neurons from the partners, who were not themselves exposed to an actual stress, showed changes that were identical to those we measured in the stressed mice."

Another way morning exercise resets your circadian rhythm?

In flies, temperature could be sensed directly by neurons in the brain or via nerve impulses from sensory organs in the body. To distinguish between the two, the investigators genetically manipulated or physically removed the sensory organs and found that the DN1p neurons no longer responded to changes in temperature. This meant that the clock interprets temperature signals from the body rather than sensing temperature changes directly. The circadian clock of larger animals and humans is also sensitive to changes in temperature, and because of their larger size, would require input from external sensory organs. The fact that, despite its small size, the fly clock also relies on temperature sensors outside the brain suggests that the findings of this study could have broad implications in the control of sleep in humans.

Our circadian clock sets the rhythm for our cells’ powerhouses -- ScienceDaily

Countless genetically controlled clocks tick inside different parts of our bodies, such as the liver, kidneys and heart. Among other things, they initiate many metabolic processes, ensuring that these occur at the optimal time of day. Mitochondria -- small organelles that exist in almost all our cells and supply them with energy -- play an important role in these cellular processes. Until now, it was unclear how exactly the 24-hour circadian rhythm regulated energy metabolism. Fission protein sets the rhythm In most cells, mitochondria connect in a constantly changing network that can adapt to various conditions. Mitochondria can thus fuse together and then divide again. Disruption of this fission-fusion dynamic can lead to health problems. Researchers have now investigated exactly how the mitochondrial network interacts with our internal biological clock by using a combination of in vitro models and clock-deficient mice or mice with impaired mitochondrial fission. Their results show that the mitochondrial fission-fusion cycle is controlled by the fission protein Drp1, which is in turn synchronized by an internal biological clock. This rhythm is integral to determining when and how much energy the mitochondria can supply. "The time of day determines the design of the mitochondrial network, and this, in turn, influences the cells' energy capacity," explains study leader Professor Anne Eckert from the University of Basel's Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences MCN.

Understanding the smallest brain circuits: Researchers reveal how anatomically distinct microcircuit brain networks suppress each other, compete and collaborate -- ScienceDaily

"We observe that when some neurons speed up, others slow down-and they do this in a coordinated fashion over several seconds," Galán said. "What we are discovering here, revealing for the first time, is a mode of operation of the brain circuits that shows you cannot have all of your networks operating at once," he said. Galán and his team explain those two anatomically distinct and competing networks in the smallest of the brain's microcircuits, calling them "anti-correlated cortical networks," in a recent issue of Scientific Reports. Co-authors include biology Professor Hillel Chiel and undergraduate students Nathan Kodama (first author), Tianyi Feng, James Ullett and Siddharth Sivakumar. Galán said the discovery was especially gratifying because it culminates the testing of a mathematical model he developed a decade ago. "That was a theoretical prediction-the idea that the wiring of brain circuits could be inferred from their spontaneous activity," he said. "When we were finally able to test this idea experimentally, we discovered the competing neural networks; it all came together in this study."

Neuroscientists discover a brain signal that indicates whether speech has been understood -- ScienceDaily

To test if human brains actually compute the similarity between words as we listen to speech, the researchers recorded electrical brainwave signals recorded from the human scalp -- a technique known as electroencephalography or EEG -- as participants listened to a number of audiobooks. Then, by analysing their brain activity, they identified a specific brain response that reflected how similar or different a given word was from the words that preceded it in the story. Crucially, this signal disappeared completely when the subjects either could not understand the speech (because it was too noisy), or when they were just not paying attention to it. Thus, this signal represents an extremely sensitive measure of whether or not a person is truly understanding the speech they are hearing, and, as such, it has a number of potential important applications.

Cells communicate in a dynamic code: A critically important intercellular communication system is found to encode and transmit more messages than previously thought. -- ScienceDaily

The team studied two chemically similar Notch ligands, dubbed Delta1 and Delta4. They discovered that despite the ligands' similarity the two activated the same receptor with strikingly different temporal patterns. Delta1 ligands activated clusters of receptors simultaneously, sending a sudden burst of transcription factors down to the nucleus all at once, like a smoke signal consisting of a few giant puffs. On the other hand, Delta4 ligands activated individual receptors in a sustained manner, sending a constant trickle of single transcription factors to the nucleus, like a steady stream of smoke.

What magnets have to do with pistachios: Synchrony in ecology puts ising model to the test -- ScienceDaily

In magnetic materials, forces between neighboring atoms tend to keep electrons aligned so their magnetic forces add together. The Ising model makes quantitative predictions of how neighbor-to-neighbor interactions can create alignments over large distances. If neighboring trees are synchronized, it implies they are communicating somehow. While the authors do not identify the means of this communication, they suggest it may be a consequence of root grafting, where roots intertwine. Grafting may help one tree "tell" another that it's time to produce, which may help neighboring trees synchronize their production. The Ising model helps predict how interactions between trees next to each other spread through the whole orchard.

Neurons get the beat and keep it going in drumrolls -- ScienceDaily

The researchers recorded the activities of individual neurons in the hippocampus, which is located in the lower center of the brain, with a robotic device called a patch clamp. It's a hollow glass needle one micron in diameter that latches onto a single neuron via suction and measures its electrical activity. The researchers observed electrical rumblings, symbolized here by a drumroll. And they observed spikes, symbolized here by a cymbal crash. Though the pattern of rumblings wasn't uniform, it rose and fell like a drumroll undulating between softer and louder volumes. Spikes occurred much more rarely than drumbeats, but with notable timing. "The spikes repeated in the same spots with high precision, so they weren't just random," Singer said. "They came around the peaks of rumblings, not always right on top of a peak but within a hair of it." It would be like a cymbal crash hitting not every time, but every few times the undulating drumroll topped a volume peak. And the drumroll-cymbal-crash patterns sustained themselves for surprisingly long periods. "The time periods of activity that was structured like this were much longer than we expected," Singer said. "People have shown sustained periods of signaling like this for 100 to 300 milliseconds before, but this appears to be the first time it's been seen for 900 milliseconds (nearly a full second), and it may go on even longer."

Body movements just need a 'puff' of dopamine to get started: A new study in mice suggests that a burst of dopamine levels at the beginning of a movement only, as opposed to all the time, is what gets us going; this may have important implications for treating Parkinson's disease -- ScienceDaily

Experts have long worked to understand why the absence of these so-called dopaminergic neurons (and therefore, the lack of dopamine) leads to the motor dysfunctions that are the hallmarks Parkinson's, such as stiffness, slow movements and tremors. The more widely accepted explanation has been that, in order to move normally, our brain constantly needs a certain level of dopamine -- something that Parkinson's patients progressively lose. However, as psychiatrist and neuroscientist Joaquim Alves da Silva, first author of the new study, explains, people with Parkinson's disease actually "do not have a global motor problem." As incredible as it may seem, they can even ride a bicycle -- a rather complex motor task -- if pushed at the right time. The motor problems that Parkinson's patients experience are more specific, and this was the observation that motivated the new study. "The patients' problem is in the difficulty to initiate movement and in the slowness of movement," adds Alves da Silva. In fact, as these authors now showed in mice not afflicted by Parkinson's disease, for a movement to unfold correctly it only takes a "puff" of dopamine -- or more precisely, a peak of dopaminergic cell activity -- right before the movements starts. In other words, dopamine (or, in this case, the activity of the cells that produce it) is just a "trigger" for voluntary movements. "Our most important result is that we showed, for the first time, that the change in neural activity is necessary to promote movement," says Alves da Silva. "And also for the first time, we showed that the dopamine peak that precedes movement initiation does not only regulate initiation, but also regulates movement vigor."

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.

irregular sleep screws you

the researchers were able to assess the timing of circadian rhythms. On average, melatonin was released 2.6 hours later in students with the most irregular sleep patterns, compared with students with more regular sleep patterns.

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.

In a Host of Ailments, Seeing a Brain Out of Rhythm - The New York Times

Dr. Llinás, the chairman of neuroscience and physiology at the N.Y.U. School of Medicine, believes that abnormal brain rhythms help account for a variety of serious disorders, including Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, tinnitus and depression. His theory may explain why the technique called deep brain stimulation — implanting electrodes into particular regions of the brain — often alleviates the symptoms of movement disorders like Parkinson’s.

How singing your heart out could make you happier -- ScienceDaily

Prof Shakespeare said: "We found that singing as part of a group contributes to people's recovery from mental health problems. "The main way that Sing Your Heart Out differs from a choir is that anyone can join in regardless of ability. There's also very little pressure because the participants are not rehearsing towards a performance. It's very inclusive and it's just for fun. "The format is also different to a therapy group because there's no pressure for anyone to discuss their condition. "We heard the participants calling the initiative a 'life saver' and that it 'saved their sanity'. Others said they simply wouldn't be here without it, they wouldn't have managed -- so we quickly began to see the massive impact it was having. "All of the participants we spoke to reported positive effects on their mental health as a direct result of taking part in the singing workshops. "For some it represented one component of a wider progamme of support. For others it stood out as key to their recovery or maintenance of health. "But the key thing for everyone was that the Sing Your Heart Out model induced fun and happiness."

Repetition can make sounds into music -- ScienceDaily

"Composers and performers have been playing with repeated sound samples and speech for more than 50 years," Margulis said. "Like so much else in the cognitive science of music, this research is inspired by actual musical practice. It uses new experimental methods to pursue some of the ideas about repetition's special role in musicalization outlined in my 2014 book On Repeat: How Music Plays the Mind." Researchers used digitally excised clips of 20 environmental sounds, ranging from a bee buzzing to machine noise. They played each clip a total of 10 times to measure the reaction of participants, who rated them along a spectrum from "sounded exactly like environmental sound" to "sounded exactly like music." The degree of musicality participants heard in the clips rose with repeated exposure. "In other words, sound that initially seemed unambiguously like environmental noise, through the simple act of repetition, came to sound like music," Margulis said. "The sounds themselves didn't change, but something changed in the minds of the listeners to make them seem like music. This finding can help future studies investigate the characteristics that define musical listening."

A heartbeat-like vibration can reduce the anxiety associated with public speaking

“Rather than worrying about measuring physiological variables, such as heart rate, steps taken and burnt calories through the use of wearables, we can think of new ways to exploit this technology by making it more embodied, more embedded and more affective,” Tsakiris said. “We can use fundamental biological signals to change the way we think and feel.”

Small talk topics at dinner parties should be banned | WIRED UK

According to a 2010 study by social anthropologist Kate Fox, in Britain, more than nine in ten people admit to having talked about the weather in the last six hours. Around 38 per cent say they've talked about it in the past hour. (And when was the last time you heard someone say, "I wish we had another 45 minutes to get into the weather in more depth"?)

Learning with music can change brain structure: Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study -- ScienceDaily

After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found. Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

'Multi-dimensional universe' in brain networks: Using mathematics in a novel way in neuroscience, scientists demonstrate that the brain operates on many dimensions, not just the 3 dimensions that we are accustomed to -- ScienceDaily

Using algebraic topology in a way that it has never been used before in neuroscience, a team from the Blue Brain Project has uncovered a universe of multi-dimensional geometrical structures and spaces within the networks of the brain. The research, published today in Frontiers in Computational Neuroscience, shows that these structures arise when a group of neurons forms a clique: each neuron connects to every other neuron in the group in a very specific way that generates a precise geometric object. The more neurons there are in a clique, the higher the dimension of the geometric object. "We found a world that we had never imagined," says neuroscientist Henry Markram, director of Blue Brain Project and professor at the EPFL in Lausanne, Switzerland, "there are tens of millions of these objects even in a small speck of the brain, up through seven dimensions. In some networks, we even found structures with up to eleven dimensions." Markram suggests this may explain why it has been so hard to understand the brain. "The mathematics usually applied to study networks cannot detect the high-dimensional structures and spaces that we now see clearly."

Musical mystery: Researchers examine science behind performer movements -- ScienceDaily

While some assumed the role as leaders, and others followers, researchers found the leaders were far more influential in the ensemble. They also found the degree of body sway communication among the musicians was connected to their perceptions of how well they performed together. "Although we are often not consciously aware of it, non-verbal communications between people is common in many situations and influences who we like and who we don't like," explains Dan Bosnyak, a researcher and technical director at McMaster's LIVELab, where the work was conducted. "The methodology developed in this study could be useful for understanding many different types of group behaviour, such as understanding communication problems in autistic children or determining the best crowd control procedures for an emergency evacuation," he says.

How circadian clocks communicate with each other -- ScienceDaily

The Würzburg researchers found their master and slave theory confirmed by the work of their Chilean colleagues. The researchers in Chile had conducted a number of experiments in which they had artificially slowed down the circadian clocks of Drosophila in various combinations and observed the impact on the hatching behaviour. The results: When both clocks run more slowly, the "hatching rhythm" increases from normally 24 hours to over 27. A similar effect is observed when the peripheral clock continues to run at regular speed and the central clock is slowed down. Vice versa, however -- i.e. normal working central clock and slowed down peripheral clock -- the hatching behaviour remains unchanged at a 24-hour interval. "This is the first comprehensive experimental description of a pathway that links circadian clocks and it shows that the coupled-oscillator model is actually true in certain cases," says Christian Wegener. But he admits that science is still a long way from understanding the exact interactions of the circadian clocks. After all, the recent findings illustrate that the diverse mechanisms are heavily interwoven and provided with feedback loops. So Wegener is certain that "it is not going to be easy."

Wearing a 'heart' on your sleeve can reduce stress -- ScienceDaily

To test the efficacy of doppel, the researchers exposed volunteers to a socially stressful situation and measured their physiological arousal and their reported anxiety levels. In a controlled, single-blind study, two groups of participants were asked to prepare a public speech -- a widely used psychological task that consistently increases stress. All participants wore the device on their wrist and a cover story was used to suggest to participants that the device was measuring blood pressure during the anticipation of the task. Importantly, for only one of the two groups of participants, the device was turned on and delivered a heartbeat-like vibration at a slower frequency than the participants' resting heart rate, while they were preparing their speech. The researchers measured both physiological arousal and subjective reports of anxiety. The use of doppel had a tangible and measurable calming effect across both physiological and psychological levels. Only the participants who felt the heartbeat-like vibration displayed lower increases in skin conductance responses and lower anxiety levels. "Wearable devices are becoming ubiquitous in everyday life, but across the board their primary aim is to quantify our activity. The results we got suggest that, rather than measuring ourselves, we can instead harvest our natural responses to heartbeat like rhythms in ways that can assist people in their everyday life." said Professor Tsakiris.

Why Everything We Know About Salt May Be Wrong - The New York Times

Their urine volumes went up and down in a seven-day cycle. That contradicted all he’d been taught in medical school: There should be no such temporal cycle. In 1994, the Russian space program decided to do a 135-day simulation of life on the Mir space station. Dr. Titze arranged to go to Russia to study urine patterns among the crew members and how these were affected by salt in the diet. A striking finding emerged: a 28-day rhythm in the amount of sodium the cosmonauts’ bodies retained that was not linked to the amount of urine they produced. And the sodium rhythms were much more pronounced than the urine patterns.

How walking benefits the brain: Researchers show that foot's impact helps control, increase the amount of blood sent to the brain -- ScienceDaily

"New data now strongly suggest that brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends directly on cyclic aortic pressures that interact with retrograde pressure pulses from foot impacts," the researchers wrote. "There is a continuum of hemodynamic effects on human brain blood flow within pedaling, walking and running. Speculatively, these activities may optimize brain perfusion, function, and overall sense of wellbeing during exercise." "What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow," first author Ernest Greene explained. "There is an optimizing rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120/minute) when we are briskly moving along."