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Lithium can reverse radiation damage after brain tumor treatment -- ScienceDaily

"We're only just beginning to understand lithium's effects on the brain's ability to repair itself," says Ola Hermanson, researcher at the Department of Neuroscience at Karolinska Institutet. "In this study we observed that only irradiated cells are affected by lithium. Healthy cells were left relatively untouched. This is an interesting and promising result."

What your friends' brains look like when they think of you: Your brain patterns are reflected in them, study finds -- ScienceDaily

The fMRI took images of each person's brain while they completed a task similar to the one they did earlier. They rated each of their friends and themselves on 48 traits, including lonely, sad, cold, lazy, overcritical, trustworthy, enthusiastic, clumsy, fashionable, helpful, smart, punctual and nice. As they expected from previous research, the researchers saw activity in the medial prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain implicated in thinking about the self and close others, as the participants thought about the personality traits of themselves and their friends. The study found that for each participant, the combined brain activity of their friends evaluating them looked a lot like their own brain activity. This suggests that order to accurately perceive another person, your neural representation of that person -- your patterns of brain activity for their identity -- has to essentially match the pattern in that persons' brain when they are thinking about themselves, Wagner said.

In Alzheimer's research, scientists reveal brain rhythm role -- ScienceDaily

In 2016, Tsai and colleagues showed that Alzheimer's disease model mice exposed to a light flickering at 40 Hz for an hour a day for a week had significantly less buildup of amyloid and tau proteins in the visual cortex, the brain region that processes sight, than experimental control mice did. Amyloid plaques and tangles of phosphorylated tau are both considered telltale hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease. But the study raised new questions: Could GENUS prevent memory loss? Could it prevent the loss of neurons? Does it reach other areas of the brain? And could other senses be stimulated for beneficial effect? The new studies addressed those questions. In March, the team reported that sound stimulation reduced amyloid and tau not only in the auditory cortex, but also in the hippocampus, a crucial region for learning and memory. GENUS-exposed mice also performed significantly better on memory tests than unstimulated controls. Simultaneous light and sound, meanwhile, reduced amyloid across the cortex, including the prefrontal cortex, a locus of cognition.

Brain tunes itself to criticality, maximizing information processing - ScienceBlog.com

Taking advantage of their ability to continuously track the activity of neurons for more than a week, the researchers first confirmed that network dynamics in the visual cortex are robustly tuned to criticality, even across light and dark cycles. Next, by blocking vision in one eye, the researchers revealed that criticality was severely disrupted, more than a day before the manipulation affected the firing rates of individual neurons. Twenty-four hours later, criticality re-emerged in the recordings — at which point individual neurons were suppressed by the visual deprivation.

How relapse happens: Opiates reduce the brain's ability to form, maintain synapses: Preclinical research was focused on revealing the molecular mechanisms behind addiction and relapse -- ScienceDaily

In experiments with rodents, the UB team determined that exposure to heroin and morphine reduced drebrin levels in the nucleus accumbens, a key part of the brain's reward pathway. Synaptic rewiring The researchers found that opiate exposure causes synaptic rewiring in this part of the brain, as well as a decrease in drenditic spines, the protrusions on neurons that play key roles in neuronal transmission, learning and memory. "Opiates fundamentally change how the brain communicates with itself," Dietz said.

Brain waves detected in mini-brains grown in a dish -- ScienceDaily

The pea-sized brains, called cerebral organoids, are derived from human pluripotent stem cells. By putting them in culture that mimics the environment of brain development, the stem cells differentiate into different types of brain cells and self-organize into a 3D structure resembling the developing human brain. Scientists have successfully grown organoids with cellular structures similar to those of human brains. However, none of the previous models developed human-like functional neural networks. Networks appear when neurons are mature and become interconnected, and they are essential for most brain activities. "You can use brain organoids for several things, including understand normal human neurodevelopment, disease modeling, brain evolution, drug screening, and even to inform artificial intelligence," Muotri says. Muotri and colleagues designed a better procedure to grow stem cells, including optimizing the culture medium formula. These adjustments allowed their organoids to become more mature than previous models. The team grew hundreds of organoids for 10 months and used multi-electrode arrays to monitor their neural activities. The team began to detect bursts of brain waves from organoids at about two months. The signals were sparse and had the same frequency, a pattern seen in very immature human brains. As the organoids continued to grow, they produced brain waves at different frequencies, and the signals appeared more regularly. This suggests the organoids have further developed their neural networks.

Structure of brain networks is not fixed - Neuroscience News

“You can think of the brain like an organization where employees work together to make the whole system run,” said Iraji. “For a long time, we thought brain networks were like departments or offices, where the same people were doing the same job every day. But it turns out that they may be more like coworking spaces, where people move in and out and there are different jobs being performed at any given time.” Ignoring these spatial and functional variations could result in an incorrect and incomplete understanding of the brain, Iraji added. “Let’s say we measure functional connectivity between two regions at different times, and we see some variability,” he said. “One view is to say that the strength of connectivity associated with specific task changes over time. But what if that region is responsible for different tasks at different times? Maybe there are different people in these two offices on different days, so that’s why we’re seeing the difference in communication.”

Multiple brain regions moderate and link depressive mood and pain -- ScienceDaily

"We were very surprised about the expansive roles of these regions," said Zeidan. "Brain regions involved in facilitating pain were also associated with lower pain and depression. Brain regions involved in regulating pain where also associated with increasing depression. Perhaps it's not surprising after seeing the results. Why shouldn't specific aspects of the brain perform multiple roles?"

Allen Neuringer's Many Decades of Self-Experimentation - Quantified Self

Allen proceeded to test the effects of movement on his cognitive abilities. He tested memory at first. He had flashcards with faces on one side and names on the other. His A condition would be to run two miles or swim 20 laps and then review 20 of the cards recording how many he got right. The B condition would be to spend the same amount of time working at his desk before reviewing the cards. The effect was clear. His ability to memorize was better after activity. But how does one test idea generation? Allen’s method was to spend 15 minutes moving around in a “quasi-dance” manner and noted any ideas he had on a notecard, writing the date and the condition on the back side, in this case, “move”. He then compared those cards to ones generated during a 15 minute period sitting at a desk. He repeated these AB intervals over the course of weeks, accumulating piles of cards. Months later he went through the cards and evaluated the quality of the ideas, looking at whether or not they were good and how creative they were. He didn’t know which conditions they were, since “sit” and “move” were written on the back side. He calculated the number of subjectively judged “good” ideas for each condition. Again, he noticed there were clear differences. Movement helped. Movement also helped with reading. Allen rigged a book holder out of an old backpack and through his testing found out that he surprisingly reads faster while moving and retains more. But was moving always better? Allen looked at his problem solving abilities in the move and sit conditions, using a similar method that he used for testing idea generation. He found that moving tended to make problem solving easier, with one significant exception: problems involving mathematical reasoning were more difficult to do while moving.

Why visual stimulation may work in fight against Alzheimer's: Mouse study - Neuroscience News

Tsai’s original study on the effects of flickering light showed that visual stimulation at a frequency of 40 hertz (cycles per second) induces brain waves known as gamma oscillations in the visual cortex. These brain waves are believed to contribute to normal brain functions such as attention and memory, and previous studies have suggested that they are impaired in Alzheimer’s patients. Tsai and her colleagues later found that combining the flickering light with sound stimuli — 40-hertz tones — reduced plaques even further and also had farther-reaching effects, extending to the hippocampus and parts of the prefrontal cortex. The researchers have also found cognitive benefits from both the light- and sound-induced gamma oscillations. In their new study, the researchers wanted to delve deeper into how these beneficial effects arise. They focused on two different strains of mice that are genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s symptoms. One, known as Tau P301S, has a mutated version of the Tau protein, which forms neurofibrillary tangles like those seen in Alzheimer’s patients. The other, known as CK-p25, can be induced to produce a protein called p25, which causes severe neurodegeneration. Both of these models show much greater neuron loss than the model they used for the original light flickering study, Tsai says. The researchers found that visual stimulation, given one hour a day for three to six weeks, had dramatic effects on neuron degeneration. They started the treatments shortly before degeneration would have been expected to begin, in both types of Alzheimer’s models. After three weeks of treatment, Tau P301S mice showed no neuronal degeneration, while the untreated Tau P301S mice had lost 15 to 20 percent of their neurons. Neurodegeneration was also prevented in the CK-p25 mice, which were treated for six weeks.

Memories are strengthened via brainwaves produced during sleep, new study shows: Researchers use medical imaging to map areas involved in recalling learned information while we slumber -- ScienceDaily

The researchers found that during spindles of the learning night, the regions of the brain that were instrumental in processing faces were reactivated. They also observed that the regions in the brain involved in memory -- especially the hippocampus -- were more active during spindles in the subjects who remembered the task better after sleep. This reactivation during sleep spindles of the regions involved in learning and memory "falls in line with the theory that during sleep, you are strengthening memories by transferring information from the hippocampus to the regions of the cortex that are important for the consolidation of that specific type of information," he says.

Mathematical framework explores how the brain keeps a beat - Neuroscience News

Using neurobiological principles, the researchers built a mathematical model of a group of neurons that can cooperate to learn a musical beat from a rhythmic stimulus and keep the beat after the stimulus stops. The model demonstrates how a network of neurons could act as a “neuronal metronome” by accurately estimating time intervals between beats within tens of millisecond accuracy. This metronome relies on rhythmic brain activity patterns known as gamma oscillations to keep track of time.

Newborn babies have inbuilt ability to pick out words -- ScienceDaily

The researchers discovered two mechanisms in three-day-old infants, which give them the skills to pick out words in a stream of sounds. The first mechanism is known as prosody, the melody of language, allow us to recognise when a word starts and stops. The second is called the statistics of language, which describes how we compute the frequency of when sounds in a word come together. The discovery provides a key insight into a first step to learning language.

Brains of people with schizophrenia-related disorders aren't all the same: New study supports the use of a data-driven approach to identify novel biomarkers -- ScienceDaily

"We know that, on average, people with schizophrenia have more social impairment than people in the general population," says senior author Dr. Aristotle Voineskos in the Campbell Family Mental Health Research Institute at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) in Toronto. "But we needed to take an agnostic approach and let the data tell us what the brain-behavioural profiles of our study participants looked like. It turned out that the relationship between brain function and social behaviour had nothing to do with conventional diagnostic categories in the DSM-5 (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders)." Most brain research in the mental health field compares a disease group to a non-disease or "healthy" group to search for biomarkers, a biological measure of mental health symptoms. This search for biomarkers has been elusive. This multi-site research study -- which included 179 participants recruited at CAMH in Toronto, Zucker Hillside Hospital in New York and the Maryland Psychiatric Research Center in Baltimore -- calls that paradigm into question because people with the same mental illness may not show the same biological patterns. The study, which involved participants completing a facial imitation task while undergoing functional MRI brain scans, found three "activation profiles," says first author Dr. Colin Hawco, also of CAMH. These can be described as typical, over-activated and de-activated profiles.

MRI technique shows unique signatures of concussion in rugby players -- ScienceDaily

The authors point out that there is growing evidence of persistent changes in the brain that last well beyond clinical recovery and clearance to return to play. This study confirmed those findings showing clear brain changes in both structure and function that persisted six-months after injury. They also showed that these persistent brain changes related to concussion history, even in healthy athletes. "We were able to show evidence of prior concussion history through this method," said Menon who is also a scientist at Robarts Research Institute and the director of the Western Centre for Functional and Metabolic Mapping. "This component correlates directly with the number of previous concussions that an athlete has had. This hasn't been shown before."

Ant Colonies Retain Memories That Outlast the Lifespans of Individuals | Science | Smithsonian

Colonies live for 20-30 years, the lifetime of the single queen who produces all the ants, but individual ants live at most a year. In response to perturbations, the behavior of older, larger colonies is more stable than that of younger ones. It is also more homeostatic: the larger the magnitude of the disturbance, the more likely older colonies were to focus on foraging than on responding to the hassles I had created; while, the worse it got, the more the younger colonies reacted. In short, older, larger colonies grow up to act more wisely than younger smaller ones, even though the older colony does not have older, wiser ants. Ants use the rate at which they meet and smell other ants, or the chemicals deposited by other ants, to decide what to do next. A neuron uses the rate at which it is stimulated by other neurons to decide whether to fire. In both cases, memory arises from changes in how ants or neurons connect and stimulate each other. It is likely that colony behavior matures because colony size changes the rates of interaction among ants. In an older, larger colony, each ant has more ants to meet than in a younger, smaller one, and the outcome is a more stable dynamic. Perhaps colonies remember a past disturbance because it shifted the location of ants, leading to new patterns of interaction, which might even reinforce the new behavior overnight while the colony is inactive, just as our own memories are consolidated during sleep. Changes in colony behavior due to past events are not the simple sum of ant memories, just as changes in what we remember, and what we say or do, are not a simple set of transformations, neuron by neuron. Instead, your memories are like an ant colony’s: no particular neuron remembers anything although your brain does.

Babies kicking in the womb are creating a map of their bodies -- ScienceDaily

The findings suggest that fetal kicks in the late stages of pregnancy -- the third trimester -- help to grow areas of the brain that deal with sensory input, and are how the baby develops a sense of their own body. The fast brainwaves evoked by the movement disappear by the time babies are a few weeks old. "Spontaneous movement and consequent feedback from the environment during the early developmental period are known to be necessary for proper brain mapping in animals such as rats. Here we showed that this may be true in humans too," explained study author Dr Lorenzo Fabrizi (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology). Kimberley Whitehead (UCL Neuroscience, Physiology & Pharmacology) said: "We think the findings have implications for providing the optimal hospital environment for infants born early, so that they receive appropriate sensory input. For example, it is already routine for infants to be 'nested' in their cots -- this allows them to 'feel' a surface when their limbs kick, as if they were still inside the womb.

The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler - The New York Times

“What best distinguishes our species,” Seligman wrote in a Times Op-Ed with John Tierney, “is an ability that scientists are just beginning to appreciate: We contemplate the future.” He went on: “A more apt name for our species would be Homo prospectus, because we thrive by considering our prospects. The power of prospection is what makes us wise.”

The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler - The New York Times

In 2001, Randy Buckner’s adviser at Washington University, Marcus Raichle, coined a new term for the phenomenon: the “default-mode network,” or just “the default network.” The phrase stuck. Today, Google Scholar lists thousands of academic studies that have investigated the default network. “It looks to me like this is the most important discovery of cognitive neuroscience,” says the University of Pennsylvania psychologist Martin Seligman. The seemingly trivial activity of mind-wandering is now believed to play a central role in the brain’s “deep learning,” the mind’s sifting through past experiences, imagining future prospects and assessing them with emotional judgments: that flash of shame or pride or anxiety that each scenario elicits.

The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler - The New York Times

In her 1995 paper, Nancy Andreasen included two key observations that would grow in significance over the subsequent decades. When she interviewed the subjects afterward, they described their mental activity during the REST state as a kind of effortless shifting back and forth in time. “They think freely about a variety of things,” Andreasen wrote, “especially events of the past few days or future activities of the current or next several days.” Perhaps most intriguing, Andreasen noted that most of the REST activity took place in what are called the association cortices of the brain, the regions of the brain that are most pronounced in Homo sapiens compared with other primates and that are often the last to become fully operational as the human brain develops through adolescence and early adulthood. “Apparently, when the brain/mind thinks in a free and unencumbered fashion,” she wrote, “it uses its most human and complex parts.”

The Human Brain Is a Time Traveler - The New York Times

Andreasen’s background outside neuroscience might have helped her perceive the value lurking in the rest state, where her peers saw only trouble. As a professor of Renaissance literature, she published a scholarly appraisal of John Donne’s “conservative revolutionary” poetics. After switching fields in her 30s, she eventually began exploring the mystery of creativity through the lens of brain imaging. “Although neither a Freudian nor a psychoanalyst, I knew enough about human mental activity to quickly perceive what a foolish ‘control task’ rest was,” she would later write. “Most investigators made the convenient assumption that the brain would be blank or neutral during ‘rest.’ From introspection I knew that my own brain is often at its most active when I stretch out on a bed or sofa and close my eyes.”

Sometimes noise is the signal

“What happened is that we began putting people in scanners that can measure their brain activity,” Buckner recalls now, “and Mother Nature shouted back at us.” When people were told to sit and do nothing, the PET scans showed a distinct surge of mental energy in some regions. The resting state turned out to be more active than the active state. The odd blast of activity during the resting state would be observed in dozens of other studies using a similar control structure during this period. To this first generation of scientists using PET scans, the active rest state was viewed, in Buckner’s words, as “a confound, as troublesome.” A confound is an errant variable that prevents a scientist from doing a proper control study. It’s noise, mere interference getting in the way of the signal that science is looking for. Buckner and his colleagues noted the strange activity in a paper submitted in 1993, but almost as an afterthought, or an apology.

Could consciousness all come down to the way things vibrate?

Gamma waves are associated with large-scale coordinated activities like perception, meditation or focused consciousness; beta with maximum brain activity or arousal; and theta with relaxation or daydreaming. These three wave types work together to produce, or at least facilitate, various types of human consciousness, according to Fries. But the exact relationship between electrical brain waves and consciousness is still very much up for debate. Fries calls his concept “communication through coherence.” For him, it’s all about neuronal synchronization. Synchronization, in terms of shared electrical oscillation rates, allows for smooth communication between neurons and groups of neurons. Without this kind of synchronized coherence, inputs arrive at random phases of the neuron excitability cycle and are ineffective, or at least much less effective, in communication.

Traumatic brain injuries can lead to long-term neurological and psychiatric disorders -- ScienceDaily

Researchers examined how injuries affected children up to five years later. They found that only 59 percent of children with traumatic brain injury could expect to be symptom-free in 5 years, versus 80 percent of those with orthopedic injuries.

New target of alcohol in the brain -- ScienceDaily

"The KCNK13 channel is absolutely required for alcohol to stimulate the release of dopamine by these neurons," said Mark Brodie, professor of physiology and biophysics in the UIC College of Medicine and lead author of the study. "Without the channel, alcohol can't stimulate the release of dopamine, and so drinking is likely less rewarding. We think that the KCNK13 channel presents an extremely exciting new target for drugs that could potentially help people with alcohol use disorder to stop drinking."

Brain cells called astrocytes have unexpected role in brain 'plasticity': Researchers show protein made by astrocytes enables the brain's maturation and regulates its flexibility -- ScienceDaily

The signal turned out to be a protein astrocytes secrete called Chrdl1, which increases the number and maturity of connections between nerve cells, enabling the stabilization of neural connections and circuits once they finish developing. To further understand the role of Chrdl1, the team developed mouse models with the gene disabled by introduced mutations. These mice had a level of plasticity in their brains that was much higher than normal. Adult mice with the Chrdl1 mutation had brain plasticity that looked very much like that of young mice, whose brains are still in early stages of development.