Neuroscience

Alcohol is used and sometimes abused by millions of people worldwide, though how it acutely changes brain function, to cause inebriation, and then chronically changes brain function, to cause dependency, remain largely unknown. 

Since dependence can destroy lives and families, the goal has been to understanding the mechanisms of it in order to to countering it. A “sobriety pill”, for example, would have immense medical, sociological and commercial potential.

The brain function of people addicted to cocaine is different from that of people who are not addicted, and often linked to highly impulsive behavior. The variation in the way that different regions of the brain connect, communicate and function in people addicted to cocaine is an observation published in NeuroImage: Clinical. 

Cocaine addiction exists among an estimated 800,000 people in the U.S. alone, but despite decades of attempts, FDA-approved medications for cocaine use disorder remain to be discovered. 


There is bad news for those planning to go to Mars in the near future: a study in mice has suggested that radiation in space could cause cognitive decline in astronauts. However, we know from past research that mental, social and physical exercise can boost cognitive functions. With planned Mars missions moving ever closer, it might be be worth exploring activity as a way to counter radiation damage.

There is discussion of a U.S. manned mission to Mars but if recent history is any indication, the next president will undo the space program of the current one, just as the current one undid the manned space program of the last.

It may be for the best, at least as far astronaut safety is concerned. The destructive particles in galactic cosmic ray exposure can forever impair cognition, according to an oncology paper in Science Advances.


Neuroscientists have discovered brain circuitry for encoding positive and negative learned associations in mice. After finding that two circuits showed opposite activity following fear and reward learning, the researchers proved that this divergent activity causes either avoidance or reward-driven behaviors. 


Most of the time, we learn only gradually, incrementally building connections between actions or events and outcomes. But there are exceptions--every once in a while, something happens and we immediately learn to associate that stimulus with a result. For example, maybe you have had bad service at a store once and sworn that you will never shop there again.


The brains of babies 'light up' like adults when exposed to the same painful stimulus, according to a small brain imaging study, and that suggests babies experience pain much like adults.

The study looked at 10 healthy infants aged between one and six days old and 10 healthy adults aged 23-36 years. Infants were recruited from the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford and adult volunteers were Oxford University staff or students.


Scientists have discovered that neurons use minor "DNA surgeries" to toggle their activity levels all day, every day, and since these activity levels are important in learning, memory and brain disorders, it could shed light on a range of important questions. 

"We used to think that once a cell reaches full maturation, its DNA is totally stable, including the molecular tags attached to it to control its genes and maintain the cell's identity," says Hongjun Song, Ph.D., a professor of neurology and neuroscience in the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine's Institute for Cell Engineering. "This research shows that some cells actually alter their DNA all the time, just to perform everyday functions."


When people hear the sound of footsteps or the drilling of a woodpecker, the rhythmic structure of the sounds is striking, says Michael Wehr, a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon, and even when the temporal structure of a sound is less obvious, as with human speech, the timing still conveys a variety of important information. 

Neurons in the brain use two different languages to encode information: temporal coding and rate coding.


Neurons are more independent than previously believed - a finding which has implications for a range of neurological disorders and how nerve cells in the brain generate the energy needed to function. 

The brain requires a tremendous amount of energy to do its job. While it only represents 2 percent of the body mass of the average adult human, the brain consumes an estimated 20 percent of body's energy supply. Unraveling precisely how the brain's cells - specifically, neurons - generate energy has significant implications for not only the understanding of basic biology, but also for neurological diseases which may be linked to too little, or too much, metabolism in the brain.