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Low levels of pro-inflammatory agent help cognition in rats Although inflammation is frequently a cause of disease in the body, research indicates that low levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine in the brain are important for cognition. Cytokines are proteins produced by the immune system.
Early rehabilitation important for recovery after severe traumatic brain injury Early rehabilitation interventions seem to be essential for how well a patient recovers after a severe brain injury. It might even increase the chances for long-term survival, according to researchers.
Brain regions thought to be uniquely human share many similarities with monkeys New research suggests a surprising degree of similarity in the organization of regions of the brain that control language and complex thought processes in humans and monkeys. The study also revealed some key differences. The findings may provide valuable insights into the evolutionary processes that established our ties to other primates but also made us distinctly human.
Whoa there! Brain area found to help spot bad decisions Ball of tissue named lateral frontal pole found to be crucial in analysing alternative decisions – and may be unique to humansA new brain region that appears to help humans identify whether they have made bad decisions has been discovered by researchers.The size and shape of a large Brussels sprout, the ball of neural tissue seems to be crucial for the kind of flexible thought that allows us to consider switching to a more promising course of action.While other brain parts keep track of how well, or not, our decisions are working for us, the new structure is more outward-looking, and mulls over what we might have done instead.Scientists spotted the region, named the lateral frontal pole, after scanning the brains of healthy humans in two different ways. Further scans failed to find any comparable region in monkeys, suggesting the area is exclusive to humans."We know there are differences between humans and monkeys. But it is surprising how many similarities there can be, and how a couple of differences can mean our behaviour is so far removed from them," said Matthew Rushworth, a professor of cognitive neuroscience, who led the study at Oxford University."There are a few brain areas that monitor how good our choices are, and that is a very sensible thing to have. But this region monitors how good the choices are that we didn't take. It tells us how green the grass is on the other side of the fence."The remarkable finding highlights how much scientists have to learn about the human brain and how cutting-edge lab techniques are redrawing the map of the most complex organ in the known universe.One expert who spoke to the Guardian said the work was "stunning" and could pave the way for fresh advances in understanding psychiatric diseases. Details of the work are published in the Neuron journal.The Oxford team recruited 25 healthy people for the study and scanned each person twice. One scan, called diffusion-weighted MRI, revealed the neural pathways that connect different parts of the brain. The other, called functional MRI (fMRI), showed which areas of the brain were most active when the patients were resting.The combination of scans allowed the scientists to work out in exquisite detail how each part of the ventrolateral frontal cortex (vlFC), a region crucial for language and cognitive flexibility, was connected with any other part of the brain. From this, they identified 12 distinct areas of the vlFC that worked in different ways.For the next stage of the study, the researchers took fMRI scans of the ventrolateral frontal cortex in macaques. These revealed 11 regions that closely matched those seen in humans. But the lateral frontal pole was missing. Humans have two, one above and behind each eyebrow."It might seem a bit pointless, but one of the ways to do something effectively is to monitor the other ways you could be doing something. People who have a bigger signal in this area are better at switching tack," said Rushworth.Overall, the brain scans from humans and monkeys showed remarkable similarities. But another key difference was seen in the auditory areas of the brain. In humans, parts of the brain that help us understand spoken words were strongly connected to the vlFC. In monkeys, the same areas were connected to the part of the brain that deals with social and emotional responses. The difference may go some way to explaining why humans speak and monkeys don't."This is stunning work," said Karl Zilles, a neuroscientist at the Institute for Neuroscience and Medicine in Jí¼lich, Germany. "It is the first time that modern MRI techniques have been combined to study differences in these parts of the brain in monkeys and humans.""I am quite sure that this will turn out to be of great importance in studying psychiatric disease. What we understand now is the connectivity within the brain. We know the cables and the connections. What we have to do now is combine all this with how information is processed in the different brain areas," he added.NeuroscienceMedical researchUniversity of OxfordHuman biologyLanguagePsychologyIan Sampletheguardian.com © 2014 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds
H.M.'s brain yields new evidence: 3-D model of famous amnesiac's brain helps illuminate human memory During his lifetime, Henry G. Molaison (H.M.) was the best known and possibly the most studied patient of modern neuroscience. Now, thanks to the postmortem study of his brain, based on histological sectioning and digital three-dimensional construction, scientists around the globe will finally have insight into the neurological basis of the case that defined modern studies of human memory.
Later School Start Times Improve Sleep and Daytime Functioning in Adolescents How much extra sleep can make a difference to adolescent depression?→ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Overcoming Loneliness Loneliness is one of the most painful feelings a person can have, because people are wired to need a sense of connection. When you feel lonely, it can also lead you to perceive your life as meaningless and to have no hope for that to change. But there is hope. There are ways that you can survive through the pain and re-emerge feeling connected with others, accepting of youread more
Marijuana use during pregnancy affects baby's brain Using marijuana during pregnancy could affect a baby's brain development by interfering with how brain cells are wired.
Music helps young cancer patients connect and cope Working with a therapist to create music videos may help young cancer patients feel better about themselves and their situation.
Belief in immortality hard-wired? Study examines development of children's 'prelife' reasoning By examining children's ideas about "prelife," the time before conception, researchers found results which suggest that our bias toward immortality is a part of human intuition that naturally emerges early in life. And the part of us that is eternal, we believe, is not our skills or ability to reason, but rather our hopes, desires and emotions.
New hope for Gaucher patients with brain pathology Gaucher disease, a genetic disorder prevalent among Ashkenazi Jews, is devastating for sufferers and their families. Now, scientists have discovered a new cellular pathway implicated in the disease. Their findings may offer a new therapeutic target for treatment of Gaucher and related disorders.
Traumatic spinal cord injuries on the rise in U.S. The number of serious traumatic spinal cord injuries is on the rise in the United States, and the leading cause no longer appears to be motor vehicle crashes, but falls, new research suggests.
Quality of white matter in the brain is crucial for adding and multiplying (but not subracting and dividing) A new study has found that healthy 12-year-olds who score well in addition and multiplication have higher-quality white matter tracts. This correlation does not appear to apply to subtraction and division.
New brain-scanning technique shows when and where the brain processes visual information New brain-scanning technique from Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers allows scientists to see when and where the brain processes visual information.
Creativizers: Doing the Creative Work the Company Can't Give some resources, knock down some barriers or provide political air cover for one of their pet experiments. Show a genuine interest in their point of view. Break down the game film with them to learn what works and doesn't and why. Don't bail when things get rough. Be a mensch.read more
Character and Broken Vows Nowadays, broken marriage vows have become epidemic with over half of marriages experiencing adultery or divorce. This accounts for increasing numbers of dyfunctional families and traumatized children in our midst in need of help. Broken vows never lead anything good for society.
Early tumor response from stereotactic radiosurgery predicts outcome The response of a patient with metastatic brain tumors to treatment with stereotactic radiosurgery in the first six-to-twelve weeks can indicate whether follow-up treatments and monitoring are necessary, according to research.
How Thinking Works: 10 Brilliant Cognitive Psychology Studies Everyone Should Know How experts think, the power of framing, the miracle of attention, the weird world of cognitive biases and more...→ Jeremy Dean is a psychologist and author of PsyBlog. His latest book is "Making Habits, Breaking Habits: How to Make Changes That Stick"
Cannabis during pregnancy endangers fetal brain development A current study by an international consortium of researchers shows that the consumption of Cannabis during pregnancy can impair the development of the fetus' brain with long-lasting effects after birth. Cannabis is particularly powerful to derail how nerve cells form connections, potentially limiting the amount of information the affected brain can process.
Animate, inanimate, and social: How the brain categorizes information For our brain, animate and inanimate objects belong to different categories and any information about them is stored and processed by different networks. A study shows that there is also another category that is functionally distinct from the others, namely, the category of "social" groups.