Neuroscience

How are insomniacs able to function well with less sleep than others? It may be a beneficial biological trait.

Adjusting a specific deep-brain circuit's firing frequency immediately and dramatically alters rats' forebrain activity and alertness levels,  which could eventually take deep brain stimulation to a whole new level.

Deep brain stimulation may one day have potential for restoring consciousness in minimally conscious patients and countering other cases of impaired consciousness. The findings also highlight the importance of determining optimal stimulation frequencies for DBS devices used across a wide range of brain disorders and demonstrate a method for making those determinations. 

Playing three-dimensional video games can boost the formation of memories, along with improving hand-eye coordination and reaction time, this finding shows the potential for novel virtual approaches to helping people who lose memory as they age or suffer from dementia. 

For their research, scholars recruited non-gamer college students to play either a video game with a passive, two-dimensional environment ("Angry Birds") or one with an intricate, 3-D setting ("Super Mario 3D World") for 30 minutes per day over two weeks. 

Researchers at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology
 aren't trying to commit a microaggression when they note it's been well established that men perform better than women on specific spatial tasks.

The issue is how much of that is linked to sex hormones versus cultural conditioning and other factors. To test that factor they administered testosterone to women and tested how they performed in wayfinding tasks in a virtual environment.

Using fMRI, the researchers saw that men in the study took several shortcuts, oriented themselves more using cardinal directions and used a different part of the brain than the women in the study.

Neuroscientists have developed a new tool that lights up active conversations between neurons during a behavior or sensory experience, such as smelling a banana.

The scientists accomplished their feat by focusing on three of the sensory systems in Drosophila melanogaster - fruit flies, a model animal for learning about the brain and its communication channels.  Using fluorescent molecules of different colors to tag neurons in the brain to see which connections were active during a sensory experience that happened hours earlier.

Several studies have demonstrated that the primary active constituent of cannabis, delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol induces transient psychosis-like effects in healthy subjects similar to those observed in schizophrenia. However, the mechanisms underlying these effects are not clear.

A new study reports that delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol increases random neural activity, termed neural noise, in the brains of healthy human subjects. The findings suggest that increased neural noise may play a role in the psychosis-like effects of cannabis.

Scientists believe they have resolved a decades-long debate about how the brain is modified when an animal learns.

Using newly developed tools for manipulating specific populations of neurons, the researchers have for the first time observed direct evidence of synaptic plasticity -- changes in the strength of connections between neurons -- in the fruit fly brain while flies are learning.

Due to the relative simplicity of fruit fly neural anatomy -- there are just two synapses separating odor-detecting antenna from an olfactory-memory brain center called the mushroom body -- the diminutive insects have provided a powerful model organism for studying learning.

Machado-Josephdisease (MJD) is a hereditary neurodegenerative disorder that destroys the brainareas involved in muscle control. Although the disease is clearly caused by a mutationin the ATXN3 gene - resulting in an abnormal ataxin-3 protein that forms toxic aggregatesin the brain - the mechanism how MJD develops is unclear. And despite decadesof research no cure or treatment has been found. But now a study in the journal Brain by researchers from Universityof Coimbra in Portugal used a new approach to this old problem, and discovereda way to revert the disease’s neural damage and its symptoms in several animal models of MJD.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate and a new report shows for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. 

The upside to modern cancer treatment, like chemotherapy, is obvious; people are living more, and living longer. The downside is that some food tastes terrible. 

Chemotherapy, by design, kills all fast-growing cells in the body. As cancer cells die, so do all the healthy fast-growing cells, including the cells responsible for hair growth and taste buds. So your hair falls out and everything tastes metallic.

"Here they are, critically ill, needing good nutrition more than ever, and they can't enjoy food? It's beyond unfair," said Dan Han, a psychologist at the University of Kentucky.