Neuroscience

Harboring astonishing genomic variability, human brain cells prefer to have not one, but many DNA scripts. A team, led by Fred Gage, Ph.D., a professor in the Salk's Laboratory of Genetics, found that human brain cells contain an unexpected number of so-called mobile elements.

These extraordinary pieces of DNA insert extra copies of themselves throughout the genome using a "copy and paste" mechanism. The findings, to be published in Nature, could help explain brain development and individuality.
Professor Declan Murphy and colleagues Dr. Michael Craig and Dr. Marco Catani from the Institute of Psychiatry at King's College London say they have found differences in the brain which may provide a biological explanation for psychopathy.

Psychopathy is strongly associated with serious criminal behavior (rape, murder, etc.) and repeat offending but despite its heinous aspects the biological basis of psychopathy has remained poorly understood.  Some investigators also attribute social causes in explaining antisocial behaviours. To date, nobody has investigated the 'connectivity' between the specific brain regions implicated in psychopathy. 
Every day we make a multitude of decisions based on the consequences of our actions; goal-orientated responses.

In an always changing environment this capacity is crucial but, because it is complex, it also requires a lot from the brain. So repeated actions, like to press the elevator button to our floor, become linked to other type of neural responses, which are automatic and so less demanding. And if necessary it is always possible to switch back to the first kind of response.
Switching off a key DNA repair system, Xrcc1 , in the developing nervous system was linked to smaller brain size as well as problems in brain structures vital to movement, memory and emotion in new research.

The study in Nature Neuroscience also provided the first evidence that cells known as cerebellar interneurons are targeted for DNA damage and are a likely source of neurological problems in humans. The cerebellum coordinates movement and balance. The cerebellar interneurons fine tune motor control.
Pancakes make you happy.  Science knows that now.     For decades, social scientists have  been searching for a way to measure happiness without any success.

Surveys provide some useful information but people misreport and misremember their feelings when confronted by aguy with the clipboard. Ditto for studies where volunteers call in their feelings.  Generally speaking, people get squirrely when they know they're being studied.

But Peter Dodds and Chris Danforth, a mathematician and computer scientist working in the Advanced Computing Center at the University of Vermont, say they have created a remote-sensing mechanism that can record how millions of people around the world are feeling on any particular day — without their knowing it.
Some researchers, and certainly some new businesses, are counting on the fact that the brain imaging technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can reveal thoughts and determine if someone is lying or telling the truth - and maybe even their hidden deep desires. 

Is there something to it?   It depends.

Neuroscientists at UCLA and Rutgers University say they have evidence that fMRI can be used in certain circumstances to determine what a person is thinking but their research suggests that highly accurate "mind reading" using fMRI is still far from reality.
University of Utah School of Medicine researchers and their colleagues at University of Texas (UT) Southwestern Medical Center have found strong evidence that abnormal calcium signaling in neurons may play an important role in the development of spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 (SCA2), a disorder causing progressive loss of coordination, speech difficulty, and abnormal eye movements. Their findings are published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

SCA2 is an inherited neurodegenerative disease that predominantly affects neurons called Purkinje cells in the cerebellum, the region of the brain that controls voluntary muscle movements, balance, and posture. It is one of a group of genetic disorders characterized by ataxia, or loss of muscle coordination. 
A new study conducted by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and Georgia State University looked at psychiatrically healthy Americans ages 9 to 17 to determine what happens in the brains of preteens and teens at a time of significant change in social behavior.

The youths looked at photos of peers and rated their interest in interacting with each one. Then they underwent a brain scan while reviewing the pictures and rated how much each young person in the picture might want to interact with them in return. The youths were told they would be matched with a peer for a chat after the scan.
Some people are smarter than others.   Even in a multicultural world where no one is better and everyone is equally ordinary, we secretly still know that some people are smarter (politically correct disclaimer -  others are just differently intelligent) than other people - but why that is has been a target of neuroscience for as long as it has existed as a discipline.

In a new article in Current Directions in Psychological Science, Eduardo Mercado III from the University at Buffalo, The State University of New York, describes how certain aspects of brain structure and function help determine how easily we learn new things, and how learning capacity contributes to individual differences in intelligence.
Medtronic today announced that its Reclaim(R) Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS) Therapy has received CE (Conformite Europeene) Mark approval for the treatment of chronic, severe treatment-resistant obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

This is the first time that a deep brain stimulation therapy has gained approval in Europe for the treatment of a psychiatric disorder.