Neuroscience


Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation can help alleviate symptoms of autism, such as anxiety. AGUILA_JONATHAN/Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

By Peter Enticott, Deakin University


Want more working memory? Then you need to expand your brain. Credit: Flickr/Elena Gatti, CC BY

By Joel Pearson

Before we had mobile phones, people had to use their own memory to store long phone numbers (or write them down). But getting those numbers into long-term memory could be a real pain.

A collaboration between more than 70 researchers across the globe has uncovered nine new genes on the X chromosome that, when knocked-out, lead to learning disabilities. The international team studied almost all X chromosome genes in 208 families with learning disabilities - the largest screen of this type ever reported. 
Population studies indicate that up to 90 percent of cases of autism and what are referred to as autism spectrum disorders have some genetic component, but only 10 percent of cases can be attributed to known genetic and chromosomal syndromes.

Since several of those conditions involve deletions or duplications of chromosomal segments – including an inherited deletion of a region of chromosome 15 – investigators have conducted a complete genome scan of samples from the Autism Genome Research Exchange, which contains DNA from families in which at least one child has autism or a related disorder.


There's no one universal 'intelligence gene' but many thousands each contributing a small increment – and here are three.Credit: Andrew Huff/Flickr (cropped), CC BY

By Beben Benyamin, The University of Queensland and Peter Visscher, The University of Queensland

By: Michael Greshko, Inside Science – Some filmmakers really know how to get into their audience’s heads, new research suggests.

Last month, a team led by Matt Bezdek, a cognitive psychologist at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, found that suspenseful movies -- including several by director Alfred Hitchcock -- actively limit the brain’s awareness of the visual periphery. The findings provide greater insight into how movies let us temporarily escape the real world.

Toronto researchers have discovered that a single molecular event in our cells could hold the key to how we evolved to become the smartest animal on the planet.

Benjamin Blencowe, a professor in the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre and Banbury Chair in Medical Research, and his team have uncovered how a small change in a protein called PTBP1 can spur the creation of neurons - cells that make the brain - that could have fuelled the evolution of mammalian brains to become the largest and most complex among vertebrates.


The notion of a dementia epidemic has been a big concern in ageing societies across the globe for some time. With the extension of life expectancy it seems to be an inevitable disaster – one of the “greatest enemies of humanity”, according to UK prime minister David Cameron.

Male and female brains operate differently at a molecular level, according to a new study of a brain region involved in learning and memory and responses to stress and epilepsy.

Many brain disorders vary between the sexes, but how biology and culture contribute to these differences has been unclear. The neuroscientists found an intrinsic biological difference between males and females in the molecular regulation of synapses in the hippocampus. This provides a scientific reason to believe that female and male brains may respond differently to drugs targeting certain synaptic pathways.

The brains of people with epilepsy appear to react to music differently from the brains of those who do not have the disorder, a finding that could lead to new therapies to prevent seizures, according to research presented at the American Psychological Association's 123rd Annual Convention.

"We believe that music could potentially be used as an intervention to help people with epilepsy," said Christine Charyton, PhD, adjunct assistant professor and visiting assistant professor of neurology at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center, who presented the research.