Neuroscience

Patterns of brain activity allow researchers to know what number a person has just seen or how many dots a person has been presented with, according to a report published in Current Biology.

The findings confirm the notion that numbers are encoded in the brain via detailed and specific activity patterns and open the door to more sophisticated exploration of humans' high-level numerical abilities. Although "number-tuned" neurons have been found in monkeys, scientists hadn't managed to get any farther than particular brain regions before now in humans.
A new gene called AP2gamma has been discovered to be crucial for the neural development of the visual cortex in a discovery that can have implications for the therapeutics of neural regeneration as well as provide new clues about how the brain evolved into higher sophistication in mammals. The article will come out in the journal Nature Neuroscience1 on the 14th of September.
May not sound like news, but for the last 70 years, we've been making assumptions about human neurons based on measurements from squid neurons. That's not quite as ludicrous as it sounds--squid axons are enormous, and so for a long time, they were the only tractable system for learning much of anything about neurobiology.

However, technology has since advanced to the point that someone could finally make the same measurements on our near and dear mammalian cousin, the long-suffering lab rat, and found--surprise!--different results.

Once again neuroscientists and physicists have teamed up to take brain imaging to a new level -- Supraresolution imaging.  This has the making of a great SciFi movie -- A team of researchers at Harvard University, led by Dr Bernardo Sabatini, combine laser imaging techniques, two-photon laser scanning microscopy (2PLSM) and continuous wave stimulated emission depletion (STED), to go where no human has gone before, peering deep into living brain slices to see nanoscale features of functioning neurons.

The magic of brain imaging has allowed researchers to correlate a thicker cortex in Tetris players with increased brain efficiency due to ... playing Tetris.   The researchers from Mind Research Network in Albuquerque writing in BMC Research Notes used brain imaging and Tetris to investigate whether practice makes the brain efficient because it increases gray matter.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is a technique widely used tdoay in studying the human brain but its actual value in correlation is unclear.   No one knows exactly how fMRI signals are generated at brain cell level but it is crucially important to interpreting these imaging signals.

Scientists from the Academy of Finland's Neuroscience Research Programme (NEURO) say they have discovered that astrocytes, support cells in brain tissue, play a key role in the generation of fMRI signals.
You may recall the “China Brain” thought experiment about consciousness, which goes something like this: if each person in China were to mimic the activity of a neuron using cell phones to communicate with one another, would this China-sized brain like Chinese food? I may be missing some of the philosophical nuances in the question, but as a one-time philosopher, I know enough about consciousness to know I have nothing remotely worthwhile to say about it.
One of the cool things about neuroscience is that its validating some theories of psychology and even psychoanalysis.

When I wrote The Chemistry of Connection in 2007 and 2008, I made some leaps, tying together psychology and sociology, which are based on observation, with animal studies showing that mothering helps determine the distribution and sensitivity of oxytocin receptors in the brain. For one thing, I tied the oxytocin response -- the release of oxytocin in the brain in response to positive social interactions -- to attachment styles.

A new study from Baylor College of Medicine validates this link.
Circadian rhythms are 24-hour cycles in various biological processes like core body temperature, melatonin synthesis and sleep–wake behavior.   They are synchronized most strongly by the light–dark cycle in the environment.

Bright light is known to increase alertness at night, but it has never been completely clear whether this light-induced alertness can arise from neural pathways other than those involved in the circadian system.

Research described in the BMC Neuroscience (open access!) says the circadian system is not the only pathway involved in determining alertness at night. showed that red light, which does not stimulate the circadian system, is just as effective at increasing night-time alertness as blue light, which does.
A sense of pleasure generated by the brain’s hedonic neural systems is fundamental to daily life and it's been essential for evolution and the survival of humans and most animals, say Morten Kringelbach and Kent Berridge, editors of a new book to be published by Oxford University Press in October 2009 called Pleasures of the Brain.