Neuroscience

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.


As teenagers' drive for peer approval begins to eclipse their family affiliations, things change in their brains - literally.    Brain scans of teens sizing each other up reveal an emotion circuit activating more in girls as they grow older - but not in boys.

So that urban legend about girls maturing faster than boys is true, if by faster maturity we mean becoming overly emotional drama queens.  

A new study says emotion circuitry diverges in the male and female brain during a developmental stage in which girls are at increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders.
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