Neuroscience


Type 2 dopamine receptors (D2DR)—brain receptors that play a key role in addiction--also play a key role in rats' heightened response to food, according to Scripps Insititute Neuroscientists.

The findings suggest that the same brain mechanisms that fuel drug addiction in humans may also accompany the emergence of compulsive eating behaviors and the development of obesity.

The study was published today in Nature Neuroscience.

When investigators gave rats access to varying levels of high-fat foods, they found unrestricted availability alone can trigger addiction-like responses in the brain, leading to compulsive eating behaviors and the onset of obesity.
A team of neuroscientists claim it is possible to influence people's moral judgments by disrupting a specific brain region called the the right temporo-parietal junction (TPJ).

The study offers "striking evidence" that the right TPJ, located at the brain's surface above and behind the right ear, is critical for making moral judgments, the authors say.
A new study published in Neuron suggests that our ability to respond with outrage toward people who attempt to harm us is seated in a brain region called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (VMPC).

Patients with damage to this brain area are unable to conjure a normal emotional response to hypothetical situations in which a person tries, but fails, to kill another person. Therefore, they judge the situation based only on the outcome, and do not hold the attempted murderer morally responsible.

The findings support the idea that making moral judgments requires at least two processes — a logical assessment of the intention, and an emotional reaction to it.
Research published in Behavioral and Brain Functions suggests that scientists may one day be able to cure phobias, everything from fear of spiders to heights, with a simple injection.

Researchers studied the cerebellum, an area of the brain thought to be involved with the development of fear. Using classical conditioning, Masayuki Yoshida and Ruriko Hirano from the University of Hiroshima taught goldfish to become afraid of a light flashed in their eyes.

By administering a low voltage electric shock every time a light was shone, the fish were taught to associate the light with being shocked, which slowed their hearts – the typical fish reaction to a fright.

Now, this may sound like a New Age centre for feel-good flaky philosophies, but it isn't: it's a neuroscience research laboratory. Run by Richard Davidson, who became famous for testing the brain waves of Tibetan monks, the Center for Investigating Healthy Minds uses some hard-nosed neuroscience to research how we can change our brains and thereby achieve a healthier perspective on life, the universe and everything.

A Penn State physicist is looking at how songbirds transmit impulses through nerve cells in the brain to produce a complex behavior, such as singing.

The research will help scientists gain insight into how the human brain functions, which may lead to a better understanding of complex vocal behavior, human speech production and ultimately, speech disorders and related diseases.

The findings were presented this week at the American Physical Society's March meeting in Portland.

Songbirds are particularly well suited for studying speech production and syntax -- the rules of syllable or word sequence -- because there are more similarities between birdsong and human speech than one may initially think.

This is an interview of Prof. Richard J. Davidson on Shrink Rap Radio, hosted by David Van Nuys, discussing his research on meditation and the brain. Davidson tells that his research shows that meditation has a beneficial effects on the mind and quantitative effects on brain functions. Even novice meditators show immediate changes, with experienced long term meditators showing more pronounced changes to their brainwave patterns. One thing he has noticed is that, given each individual starts with a slightly different brain structure, different meditation techniques have varying degrees of effects. One thing he would like to see in the future is a way to establish which technique is most suitable for each individual, without

Bees see the world almost five times faster than humans, giving them the fastest color vision of all animals, according to new research appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience.

The ability to see at high speed is common in fast-flying insects; allowing them to escape predators and catch their mates mid-air. However, until now it wasn't known whether the bees' full colour vision was able to keep up with their high speed flight. This research sheds new light on the matter; suggesting that although slower, it is also much faster than human vision.
I had previously speculated on how electric and magnetic fields generated by individual neurons may be able to transmit information to other neurons with which they are not in synaptic contact. From a purely physical point of view it strikes me as at least something to investigate. After all, we know that there are broad sweeps of electric fields that travel across the brain - whether alpha, beta, gamma, delta or theta waves. Such endogenous fields are both generated by the brain and feed back upon the brain. There must therefore be a mechanism by which such emergent fields are generated, sustained and propagated by the basic units of our brain: the neurons.
I've been pondering this for some time and have just now been fired into action by a comment I made in another article “Building  Smarter Artificial Intelligence  By... Shrinking the Body?” One approach to artificial intelligence is to model the activities of neurons as electrical circuits with multiple inputs and multiple outputs. The model assumes that each individual neuron affects only those other neurons with which it has direct contact at the synapses. But, we also know that an electrical signal will also generate an electromagnetic field.