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A neuroscience blog.

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  • May 10, 2011
  • 04:10 PM

Sleepy brain waves predict dream recall

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

THE patterns of brain waves that occur during sleep can predict the likelihood that dreams will be successfully recalled upon waking up, according to a new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience. The research provides the first evidence of a 'signature' pattern of brain activity  associated with dream recall. It also provides further insight into the brain mechanisms underlying dreaming, and into the relationship between our dreams and our memories.

Cristina Marzano of the Sleep Ps........ Read more »

Marzano, C., Ferrara, M., Mauro, F., Moroni, F., Gorgoni, M., Tempesta, D., Cipolli, C., & De Gennaro, L. (2011) Recalling and Forgetting Dreams: Theta and Alpha Oscillations during Sleep Predict Subsequent Dream Recall. Journal of Neuroscience, 31(18), 6674-6683. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.0412-11.2011  

  • May 4, 2011
  • 10:50 AM

Speed of illusory body movements alters the passage of time

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

YOUR brain has a remarkable ability to extract and process biological cues from the deluge of visual information. It is highly sensitive to the movements of living things, especially those of other people - so much so that it conjures the illusion of movement from a picture of a moving body. Although static, such pictures trigger dynamic representations of the body, 'motor images' containing information about movement kinematics and timing. Researchers at the Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience ........ Read more »

  • April 28, 2011
  • 02:00 PM

Box jellyfish stable-eyes vision to hunt prey

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

Ernst Haeckel's Kunstformen der Natur (Artforms of Nature) was a landmark in biological illustration. Published in 1904, it was lavishly illustrated with 100 exquisitely detailed lithographic plates, including this one, showing nine different species of cubomedusae, or box jellyfish.It has been known, since around the time that Haeckel's masterpiece was published, that box jellyfish have a unique visual system which is more sophisticated than that of other jellyfish species. They boast an impres........ Read more »

  • March 25, 2011
  • 09:55 AM

Gut bacteria may influence thoughts and behaviour

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

THE human gut contains a diverse community of bacteria which colonize the small intestine in the days following birth and vastly outnumber our own cells. These intestinal microflora constitute a virtual organ within an organ and influence many bodily functions. Among other things, they aid in the uptake and metabolism of nutrients, modulate the inflammatory response to infection, and protect the gut from other, harmful micro-organisms. A new study by researchers at McMaster University in Hamilto........ Read more »

  • March 7, 2011
  • 10:05 AM

Artificial nerve grafts made from spider silk

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

EVERY year, hundreds of thousands of people suffer from paralyzed limbs as a result of peripheral nerve injury. Recently, implantation of artificial nerve grafts has become the method of choice for repairing damaged peripheral nerves. Grafts can lead to some degree of functional recovery when a short segment of nerve is damaged. But they are of little use when it comes to regenerating nerves over distances greater than a few millimeters, and such injuries therefore often lead to permanent paraly........ Read more »

Radtke, C., Allmeling, C., Waldmann, K., Reimers, K., Thies, K., Schenk, H., Hillmer, A., Guggenheim, M., Brandes, G., & Vogt, P. (2011) Spider Silk Constructs Enhance Axonal Regeneration and Remyelination in Long Nerve Defects in Sheep. PLoS ONE, 6(2). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0016990  

  • March 3, 2011
  • 10:25 AM

Return of the brain-controlling zombie-ant parasitic fungi

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

A dead ant infected with a parasitic Cordyceps fungus (David P. Hughes).A team of entomologists working in the Brazilian rain forest has discovered four new species of parasitic Cordyceps fungi, which infect insects and manipulate the behaviour of their hosts in order to disperse their spores as widely as possible.The modus operandi of the Cordyceps fungi is reminiscent of the famous chest-bursting scene in Ridley Scott's movie Alien. Microscopic spores infiltrate the host via the spiracles - t........ Read more »

  • March 2, 2011
  • 08:35 AM

Tough and tender: How touch affects sex categorization

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

LOOK at the photograph on the right. Does it show the face of a man or a woman? There's no right answer - the photo has been manipulated to look sexually ambiguous and can be perceived as either. But according to a recent study published in the journal Psychological Science, the sense of touch can influence how you perceive and categorize the face.Last year a team of European psychologists found that bodily movements alter the recollection of emotional memories, and an American group showed that........ Read more »

  • July 31, 2010
  • 01:35 PM

Motor imagery enhances object recognition

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

THOUGHTS and actions are intimately linked, and the mere thought of an action is much like actually performing it. The brain prepares for an action by generating a motor simulation of it, praticising its execution of the movements by going through the motions invisibly. Seeing a manipulable object such as a tool, for example, automatically triggers a simulation of using it - a mental image of reaching out and grasping it with the hand that is nearest to the handle.  

Motor simulations and ........ Read more »

  • July 22, 2010
  • 10:15 AM

Feeling blue, seeing gray: Reduced contrast sensitivity as a marker for depression

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

DEPRESSION has long been associated with vision - and to colour perception in particular - and the link between them is evident in everyday language. Depression is, of course, often referred to as "feeling blue", and those who suffer from it are sometimes told to "lighten up". The link can be found in art, too - Picasso's so-called "Blue Period", for example, which was brought on by the suicide of his close friend Carlos Casagemas, is characterised by a series of striking paintings in shades of ........ Read more »

  • July 15, 2010
  • 10:41 AM

Researchers create 'lesbian' mice by deleting a single gene

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

DELETION of a single gene switches the sexual orientation of female mice, causing them to engage in sexual behaviour that is typical of males. Korean researchers found that deleting the FucM gene, which encodes an enzyme called fucose mutarotase, causes masculinization of the mouse brain, so that female mice lacking the gene avoid the advances of males and try to mate with other females instead. The findings probably have little relavence to human sexual orientation, however.

FucM is one of a f........ Read more »

  • July 9, 2010
  • 02:00 PM

Nanomagnetic remote control of animal behaviour

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

MAGNETIC nanoparticles targeted to nerve cell membranes can be used to remotely control cellular activity and even the simple reflex behaviours of nematode worms, according to research by a team of biophysicists at the University of Buffalo. The new method, which is described in the journal Nature Nanotechnology, could be very useful for investigating how cells interact in neuronal networks, and may eventually lead to new therapies for cancer and diabetes.
Heng Huang and her colleagues synthesi........ Read more »

  • July 2, 2010
  • 05:43 PM

Scared by the light

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

WHO could have guessed that a protein isolated from pond scum would transform the way researchers investigate the brain? The protein, called channelrhodopsin (ChR), is found in algae and other microbes, and is related to the molecules in the human eye that capture light particles. Both versions control the electrical currents that constantly flow in and out of cells, and which are critical for generating the nervous impulses generated by neurons. Unlike its human equivalent, algal ChR controls t........ Read more »

Johansen, J., Hamanaka, H., Monfils, M., Behnia, R., Deisseroth, K., Blair, H., & LeDoux, J. (2010) Optical activation of lateral amygdala pyramidal cells instructs associative fear learning. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1002418107  

  • June 30, 2010
  • 05:36 PM

Neural basis of spatial navigation in the congenitally blind

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

FOR most of us, the ability to navigate our environment is largely dependent on the sense of vision. We use visual information to note the location of landmarks, and to identify and negotiate obstacles. These visual cues also enable us to to keep track of our movements, by monitoring how our position changes relative to landmarks and, when possible, our starting point and final destination. All of this information is combined to generate a cognitive map of the surroundings, on which successful n........ Read more »

  • June 25, 2010
  • 12:05 PM

Touch influences social judgements and decisions

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

APPLYING for a job? The weight of the clipboard to which your CV is attached may influence your chances of getting it. Negotiating a deal? Sitting in a hard chair may lead you to drive a harder bargain. Those are two of the surprising conclusions of a study published in today's issue of Science, which shows that the physical properties of objects we touch can unconsciously influence our first impressions of other people and the decisions we make about them.

Josh Ackerman of the Sloan School of ........ Read more »

  • June 24, 2010
  • 08:00 PM

Movable micromotor brain implants

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

BRAIN implants containing microelectrodes are used widely in the laboratory and clinic, both to stimulate nerve cells and to record their activity. Researchers routinely implant electrode arrays into the brains of rodents to investigate the neuronal activity associated with spatial navigation, or into monkeys' brains to gain a better understanding of the mechanisms of motor control. As a result, we now have brain-computer interfaces that can help paralysed patients to communicate or control a pr........ Read more »

Jackson, N. et al. (2010) Long-term neural recordings using MEMS based movable microelectrodes in the brain. Frontiers Neuroeng. info:/

  • June 16, 2010
  • 05:33 PM

Obesity linked to brain shrinkage and dementia

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

THE dangers of obesity are very well known. Being overweight is associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, the two leading causes of death in the Western world. Gout is more common in overweight people, with the risk of developing the condition increasing in parallel with body weight. Obese people are twice as likely to develop type 2 diabetes as those who are not overweight, and being overweight is also associated with several types of cancer. The list goes on...

L........ Read more »

Debette, S., Beiser, A., Hoffmann, U., DeCarli, C., O'Donnell, C., Massaro, J., Au, R., Himali, J., Wolf, P., Fox, C.... (2010) Visceral fat is associated with lower brain volume in healthy middle-aged adults. Annals of Neurology. DOI: 10.1002/ana.22062  

  • June 7, 2010
  • 07:55 PM

Hair pulling is a neuroimmunological condition

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

TRICHOTILLOMANIA (or hair pulling) is a condition characterised by excessive grooming and strong, repeated urges pull out one's own hair. It is classified as an obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), and is relatively common, affecting about 2 in 100 people. Sufferers normally feel an increasing sense of tension before pulling out their scalp hair, facial hair, and even pubic hair, eyelashes or eyebrows. This provides gratification, but only briefly.

Hair pulling is usually thought of as being ps........ Read more »

Chen, S., Tvrdik, P., Peden, E., Cho, S., Wu, S., Spangrude, G., & Capecchi, M. (2010) Hematopoietic Origin of Pathological Grooming in Hoxb8 Mutant Mice. Cell, 141(5), 775-785. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2010.03.055  

  • May 27, 2010
  • 02:18 PM

Apparent motion steers the wandering mind

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

DAYDREAMING is a critical component of conscious experience. The mind can perform mental time travel - it occasionally strays from the present moment, to recollect an experience from the near or distant past, or to imagine an event that has not yet taken place. We know that imagining a future event is dependant on memory, because patients with amnesia cannot imagine new experiences. It involves piecing together fragments of past experiences to generate a plausible simulation of what might happen........ Read more »

Miles, L. K., et al. (2010) The Meandering Mind: Vection and Mental Time Travel. PLoS One. info:/

  • May 21, 2010
  • 05:48 AM

Optogenetic fMRI

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

OF all the techniques used by neuroscientists, none has captured the imagination of the general public more than functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). The technique, which is also referred to as functional neuroimaging and, more commonly, "brain scanning", enables us to peer into the human brain non-invasively, observe its workings in near-real time, and correlate specific thought processes or stimuli to activity in particular regions. fMRI data affect the way in which people perceive sc........ Read more »

  • May 14, 2010
  • 10:40 AM

Near misses fuel gambling addiction

by Mo in Neurophilosophy

GAMBLING is extremely popular, with lottery tickets, casinos, slot machines, bingo halls and other forms of the activity generating revenues of more than £80 billion each year in the UK alone. For most people, gambling is nothing more than an entertaining way to pass the time. But for some, it becomes a compulsive and pathological habit - they spend increasing amounts of time gambling, because tolerance builds up quickly, and experience withdrawal symptoms when they aren't gambling.

The terms ........ Read more »

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