Neuroscience


How many freebies can you carry? Credit: Nottingham Trent University, CC BY-NC-ND

By Kira Shaw, University of Sheffield

Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex can treat symptoms of depression in humans by placing a relatively small device on a person's scalp and stimulating brain circuits, yet little is known about how TMS produces these beneficial effects.

Some studies have suggested that TMS may modulate atypical interactions between two large-scale neuronal networks, the frontoparietal central executive network (CEN) and the medial prefrontal-medial parietal default mode network (DMN). These two functional networks play important roles in emotion regulation and cognition.


Tourette syndrome is a developmental disorder characterized by involuntary, repetitive, and stereotyped movements or utterances.

New evidence explains how those with Tourette syndrome in childhood often manage to gain control over those tics.

In individuals with the condition, a portion of the brain involved in planning and executing movements shows an unusual increase compared to the average brain in the production of a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter known as GABA. 


Neurons programmed to fire at specific faces, such as the famously reported "Jennifer Aniston neuron", may be more in line with the conscious recognition of faces than the actual images seen.

In an experiment, subjects presented with a blended face, such as an amalgamation of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, had significantly more firing of such face-specific neurons when they recognized the blended or morphed face as one person or the other. 


Many of the choices we make are informed by experiences we've had in the past but we know that sometimes it is better to throw all that out and take a risk on something new.

Scientists at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute's Janelia Research Campus have shown that the brain can temporarily disconnect information about past experience from decision-making circuits, thereby triggering random behavior. 


People who practice yoga and meditation long term can learn to control a computer with their minds faster and better than people with little or no yoga or meditation experience, find biomedical engineers at the University of Minnesota writing in TECHNOLOGY.


Does simultaneously using a mobile phone, a laptop and other media devices change the structure of our brains? Sure, so did reading that sentence. We all have different experiences and therefore different brains.


The first animal model for ALS dementia, a form of ALS that also damages the brain, has been developed. This advance will allow researchers to directly see the brains of living mice, under anesthesia, at the microscopic level and will allow direct monitoring of test drugs to determine if they work. 



Image credit: r.nial.bradshaw via flickr. http://bit.ly/1wc7bXr. Rights information: http://bit.ly/cGotEb

By: Joel N. Shurkin, Inside Science

(Inside Science) -- Researchers in Pittsburgh, using a brain-computer interface, have shown why learning something similar to what you already know--a repertoire of previous knowledge--makes learning new things easier. Learning unfamiliar ideas or behavior is more difficult.

While that sounds self-evident, the researchers have actually watched it happen in animal brains to learn how it works.

Researchers at Harvard School of Medicine and the University at Buffalo have discovered a sleep-promoting circuit located deep in the primitive brainstem, only the second "sleep node" identified in the mammalian brain whose activity appears to be both necessary and sufficient to produce deep sleep. 

Writing in Nature Neuroscience, the study demonstrates that fully half of all of the brain's sleep-promoting activity originates from the parafacial zone (PZ) in the brainstem. The brainstem is a primordial part of the brain that regulates basic functions necessary for survival, such as breathing, blood pressure, heart rate and body temperature.