Neuroscience

Although it is well established that all behaviors and experiences, spiritual or otherwise, must originate in the brain, information on the causative link between brain activity and spirituality is lacking. Neuroimaging studies have associated activity within a large network in the brain that connects the frontal, parietal, and temporal cortexes with spiritual experiences, but researchers have been unable to establish a causative relationship between such a network and spirituality.

In order to establish that relationship, researchers studied the personality trait self-transcendence (ST), which is thought to be a measure of spiritual feeling, thinking, and behaviors, in patients before and after surgery to remove a brain tumor.
Researchers have isolated an independent processing channel of synapses inside the brain's auditory cortex that deals specifically with shutting off sound processing at appropriate times. The discovery, detailed this week in Neuron, challenges a long-held assumption that the signaling of a sound's appearance and its subsequent disappearance are both handled by the same pathway.

The new finding could lead to new, distinctly targeted therapies such as improved hearing devices, said Michael Wehr, a professor of psychology and member of the University of Oregon Institute of Neuroscience.
A study of the phenomenon known as loss aversion in two patients with lesions to the amygdala, a region deep within the brain involved in emotions and decision-making, may help explain how we make decisions and what makes us dislike the thought of losing money.

 Loss aversion describes the avoidance of choices which can lead to losses, even when accompanied by equal or much larger gains . Examples in the everyday life include how we make a decision on whether to proceed with an operation: the more serious the potential complications from the operation – even if the risk is low compared to the chances of success – the less likely we would be to proceed.
Research conducted by scientists at the Weizmann Institute and the University of Maryland reveals that bats, which 'see' with beams of sound waves, skew their beams off-center when they want to locate an object. The research, which recently appeared in Science, shows that this strategy is the most efficient for locating objects.

"We think that this tradeoff between detecting a object and determining its location is fundamental to any process that involves tracking an object whether done by a bat, a dog or a human, and whether accomplished through hearing, smell or sight," said co-author Cynthia Moss, a University of Maryland professor of psychology, who directs interdisciplinary bat echolocation research in the university's Auditory Neuroethology Lab.
Scientists at the University of California San Francisco say a majority of published studies analyzing the relationship between Alzheimer's disease and smoking indicates that the habit is a significant risk factor for the disease. Researchers also found that studies funded by the tobacco industry tended to conclude that smoking protects against the development of AD, while independent studies showed that smoking increased the risk of developing the disease. The findings were published online today in the January issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.
Through the use of sophisticated brain-imaging techniques, researchers at UCLA say they have been able to predict a brain's progression to Alzheimer's by measuring subtle changes in brain structure over time, changes that occur long before symptoms can be seen. The research appears in two separate papers published in Human Brain Mapping and Neurobiology of Aging.
 Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry have obtained 3-D images of the vesicles and filaments involved in communication between neurons. The effort was made possible a novel technique in electron microscopy, which cools cells so quickly that their biological structures can be frozen while fully active.

"We used electron cryotomography, a new technique in microscopy based on ultra-fast freezing of cells, in order to study and obtain three-dimensional images of synapsis, the cellular structure in which the communication between neurons takes place in the brains of mammals" Rubén Fernández-Busnadiego, lead author of the study, which appears in the Journal of Cell Biology
In a new article published in WIREs Congnitive Science, researchers from Duke University and the NIH suggest that the latest cognitive science research has the potential to fundamentally change how the legal system operates.

The team explains that Neurolaw, also known as legal neuroscience, builds upon the research of cognitive, psychological, and social neuroscience by considering the implications for these disciplines within a legal framework. Each of these disciplinary collaborations has been ground-breaking in increasing our knowledge of the way the human brain operates, and now neurolaw continues this trend.
Children learn basic mathematical rules such as 'less than' and 'greater than' because they are the foundation of mathematical operations.  As adults, intelligent behavior requires strategic processing of numbers and abstract quantity information, such as when we adopt a 'less than' strategy when shopping for a product to pay the smallest amount of money.   When searching for a job our plan of action is 'greater than' and we strive to earn the largest sum of money.

Neurobiologists in the laboratory of Andreas Nieder at the University of Tübingen writing in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) (January 18.-24. 2010) say they have shown for the first time how brain cells process simple mathematical rules.
Stem cell-derived neurons can fully integrate into the brains of young animals, according to new research published in the the Journal of Neuroscience. Healthy brains have stable and precise connections between cells that are necessary for normal behavior, and the new study suggests that stem cells can be directed not only to become specific brain cells, but to link correctly. The finding may have long term implications for the treatment of spinal cord injuries and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).