Neuroscience

Who doesn't every elderly person have a cognitive function decline as they age?   Elderly people who exercise at least once a week, have at least a high school education and a ninth grade literacy level, are not smokers and are more socially active are correlated to maintained cognitive skills through their 70s and 80s, according to research published in the June 9, 2009, print issue of Neurology.
Children with Angelman Syndrome develop normally until about 1 year of age and then their intellectual development stops.  They fail to develop language and other cognitive skills, are severely mentally handicapped,  but have a happy disposition, laughing, smiling and enjoying social interaction.  What could be behind this syndrome?

A new study of Angelman Syndrome shows that an interaction between the genetic defect and sensory activity robs cortical synapses of their normal plasticity. Simply using the synapses depletes them of plasticity.  This leaves neural connections in the cortex rigid, unable to be fine tuned and to develop normal function.
Harmless gossip with a girlfriend can do wonders for a woman's mood and a University of Michigan study says they have an answer why: feeling emotionally close to a friend increases levels of the hormone progesterone, helping to boost well-being and reduce anxiety and stress.

A sex hormone that fluctuates with the menstrual cycle, progesterone is also present in low levels in post-menopausal women and in men. Earlier research has shown that higher levels of progesterone increase the desire to bond with others, but the current study is the first to show that bonding with others increases levels of progesterone. The study also links these increases to a greater willingness to help other people, even at our own expense.
Stick It In Your Ear!

People's reports of inner mental processes are not considered to be reliable enough to validate theories.  (Some would say formulate, even.)  Such reports are only accepted in general, as when a medicine is reported by a patient to alleviate the pain of migraine.  Theories in psychology based on the detailed 'inner awareness' of phenomena are often dismissed as 'mentalese'.

It would be very useful to be able to look directly at the human brain's many operations and so discover if our 'mentalese' theories have any scientifically demonstrable validity.  Over the course of time, methods and instruments have evolved to test these theories by proxy.
Even if we don't always notice, our brain is constantly distracted with 'noise' - unimportant messages that are filtered out.   

When we pay attention, our neurons begin firing in harmony and a study in the May 29 issue of Science lays out what researchers say is the likely brain center that serves as the conductor of our neural chorus.  MIT neuroscientists say that neurons in the prefrontal cortex, the brain's planning center, fire in unison and send signals to the visual cortex to do the same, generating high-frequency waves that oscillate between these distant brain regions like a vibrating spring. These waves, also known as gamma oscillations, have long been associated with cognitive states like attention, learning, and consciousness.
A new study demonstrates that when faced with a difficult decision, the human brain calls upon multiple neural systems that code for different sorts of behaviors and strategies. The research in the May 28th issue of Neuron provides intriguing insight into the mechanisms that help the human brain rise to the formidable challenge of adaptive decision making in the real world.

Researchers trying to uncover the mechanisms that cause attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and conduct disorder have found an abnormality in the brains of adolescent boys suffering from the conditions, but not where they expected to find it.

Boys with either or both of these disorders exhibited a different pattern of brain activity than normally developing boys when they played a simple game that sometimes gave them a monetary reward for correct answers, according to a new study by a University of Washington research team.


Cambridge University researchers have discovered that whether someone is a 'people-person' may depend on the structure of their brain: the greater the concentration of brain tissue in certain parts of the brain, the more likely they are to be a warm, sentimental person.   Interestingly, the orbitofrontal cortex and ventral striatum have previously been shown to be important for the brain's processing of much simpler rewards like sweet tastes or sexual stimuli. 
The research group of Dr. Frédéric Charron, a researcher at the Institut de recherches cliniques de Montréal (IRCM), has made a discovery which could help treat spinal cord injuries and neurodegenerative diseases. This new finding has been published in the current issue of Neuron.
Have you ever thought about what's going on in your brain when you look at a painting that you like a lot?  While Neuroscientist Dr. Edward Vessel has and he's done brain imaging experiments to figure it out.

What happens in your brain when you have a pleasurable experience -- for example, when you see at a painting that you like very much.  Scientists describe this as an aesthetically pleasing experience.  They want to know if simply seeing a painting that you enjoy engages an emotional response and triggers the emotion circuits in your brain.