Neuroscience

This weekend is the first episode in a three-part "Brain Games" series on the National Geographic channel.  Since National Geographic does not have a show on the 'science' of ghost hunting, and since statistics show 97% of Internet readers never finish an article, if you are not a regular Science 2.0 reader I am okay endorsing this and telling you in the first paragraph you will enjoy it, so you can set your DVR and move on to reading about the trial of Michael Jackson's doctor.   

It's "Second Life"...for monkeys.  And a lot more real.   Scientists have demonstrated a two-way interaction between a primate brain and a virtual body - they learned to employ brain activity alone to move an avatar hand and even identify the texture of virtual objects. 

Musical cartoons can boost verbal intelligence?  We'll hiatus Science 2.0 and start watching "Phineas&Ferb" right now.

Researchers writing in Psychological Science say pre-schoolers improved their skill after only 20 days of classroom instruction using their interactive, music-based cognitive training cartoons.

Researchers recently monitored the behavior of thousands of people as they sang along to more than a thousand tunes and say they have uncovered the common traits in songs that are most 'catchy'.

That's right. If you like to song along to some songs more than others, there is a sort-of science reason why; it helps to be a man, though ironically with a higher-pitched voice.

The four core elements that trigger people's inclination to sing, according to musicologist Dr. Alisun Pawley and psychologist Dr. Daniel Mullensiefen are:

After a thorough two-year investigation, researchers at UC San Diego and the University of Oregon have identified over 70 genes that play a role in the repair of neurons after injury, specifically when it comes to the growth of axons. A massive genetic screening of 654 genes suspected to be involved, resulted in the identification of 70 genes that promote axon growth and 6 that inhibit it.

Think someone is bored if they yawn? Perhaps their brain is just overheating.

A study led by Andrew Gallup, a postdoc in Princeton University's Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, says yawning frequency varies with the seasons and that people are less likely to yawn when the heat outdoors exceeds body temperature.  Conclusion: yawning could serve as a method for regulating brain temperature.

The number of individuals who are obese and suffer with its associated health problems has continued to rise, even being called an epidemic.

Is it genetics?  The dream of cheap food finally being realized? Or are we slaves to marketing?

Researchers from Yale University School of Medicine and the University of Southern California say they have visualized differences in the way that the brains of obese and non-obese individuals respond to visual cues of high-calorie foods.  They see those foods differently.

A study on activity in a the parahippocampal cortex (PHC) found people will remember a visual scene when the brain is more active.

The PHC, which has previously been linked to recollection of visual scenes, wraps around the hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for memory formation. However, this NeuroImage study is the first to investigate how PHC activity before a scene was presented would affect how well the scene was remembered. 

In patients with seriously altered states of consciousness, there is also the puzzle about dreaming.   Do ‘vegetative’ patients (also known in clunkier, politically correct fashion as patients in a state of unresponsive wakefulness) or minimally conscious state patients experience normal sleep?  Electrophysiological studies have been no help so the hypothesis is if the vegetative state opens no conscious door onto the external world, the state of minimal consciousness for its part assumes a residual consciousness of the environment, certainly fluctuating but real.