It is known that memory begins during the prenatal period but little has been discovered about the exact timing or for how long memory lasts. A new study done in Holland has found fetal short-term memory in babies at 30 weeks in the womb. The study provides insights into fetal development and may help address and prevent abnormalities, say researchers at Maastricht University Medical Centre and the University Medical Centre St. Radboud who published their results in Child Development.
If you have a 'difficult' baby, don't worry too much about your parenting skills.   A new report in Psychological Science says that a child's temperament may be due in part to a combination of a certain gene and a specific pattern of brain activity.

The pattern of brain activity in the frontal cortex of the brain has been associated with various types of temperament in children. For example, infants who have more activity in the left frontal cortex are characterized as temperamentally "easy" and can be soothed with less effort. Conversely, infants with greater activity in the right half of the frontal cortex are temperamentally "difficult" and are easily distressed and require more effort to soothe.
The American Chemical Society (ACS) has announced plans to launch a new journal devoted to the molecular aspects of neurological science in both health and disease. The bimonthly journal will be peer-reviewed, online-only publication without charges for publication and color figures.
ACS Chemical Neuroscience will launch in January 2010 with Craig W. Lindsley, Ph.D., of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, as Editor-in-Chief. Topics expected include nerve activators and receptors; nerve growth and development; nerve imaging; pain and sensory processing; and the diagnosis and treatment of neurological diseases.
A team of researchers from the University of Alcalá de Henares (UAH) says that human beings can develop echolocation, the system of acoustic signals used by dolphins and bats to explore their surroundings. Producing certain kinds of tongue clicks helps people to identify objects around them without needing to see them, obviously something that would be useful for the blind, if it's true.

The team has started a series of tests, the first of their kind in the world, they say, to make use of human beings' under-exploited echolocation skills.

Daredevil echolocation
Much cooler than Man-Bat.  ©Marvel Comics Group
The front portion of the brain that handles tasks like decision-making, the left inferior frontal sulcus, also helps decipher different phonetic sounds, according to new Brown University research.  This section of the brain treats different pronunciations of the same speech sound (such as a 'd' sound) the same way, they say, and in determining this they believe they have solved a mystery.
In an article published in the June 25th edition of the journal Neuron, researchers at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute, University of Calgary, have found that synaptic plasticity, long implicated as a device for ‘change’ in the brain, may also be essential for stability.

Homeostasis, the body’s own mechanism of regulating and maintaining internal balance in the body, is necessary for survival. Precisely how the brain pulls off this tricky balancing act has not been well appreciated.

Clinical scientists at the Hotchkiss Brain Institute are starting the first pilot study looking at the delivery of insulin via the nasal passageway as a potential new treatment for diabetic neuropathy (DPN).

About 50 per cent of people with diabetes will develop DPN, a debilitating and painful nerve disease.  Current treatment is limited to pain management only.

Cory Toth, MD, fellow, Lawrence Korngut, MD, and colleagues, have demonstrated that intransal insulin helps protect nerves in the brain and central nervous sysem (cns) of mice.  It also slowed the progression of DPN and prolonged lifespan in comparison to subcutaneous insulin.  These findings were published earlier this year in the journals Brain and Diabetes.


Jun 24 2009 | 1 comment(s)

Over at his blog NeuroLogica, the prolific neurologist (get it?  GET IT?) and oligarch of the Skeptic Movement Steven Novella has penned a fascinating history of the pseudoscience of phrenology - you know the one where they tell you that you are going to be an axe murderer from the bumps on your head.  Personally, noe of the many bumps on this rugbyologist's head are the result of internal pressure from my brain.  Instead, they come from large men trying to violently knock me off my feet.
We do lots of things without thinking about it, like driving to work while we talk on the phone.   We have a kind of 'autopilot' that kicks in for things we have practiced and it allows us to do other things simultaneously.

For people with schizophrenia it's a little different. Dutch researcher Tamar van Raalten investigated whether a disruption to the automation process, learning by repetition to do something on automatic pilot, explains why people with schizophrenia can process less information. She established that it is not the automation process but the processing of new information that causes problems. 
Autistics are up to 40 percent faster at problem-solving than non-autistics, according to a new Université de Montréal and Harvard University study published in Human Brain Mapping. As part of the investigation, participants were asked to complete patterns in the Raven's Standard Progressive Matrices (RSPM) test that measures hypothesis-testing, problem-solving and learning skills. 

While autism is a common neurodevelopmental disability characterized by profound differences in information processing and analysis, this study showed that autistics have efficient reasoning abilities that build on their perceptual strengths.