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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
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 »
Orgs, G., Bestmann, S., Schuur, F., & Haggard, P. (2011) From Body Form to Biological Motion: The Apparent Velocity of Human Movement Biases Subjective Time. Psychological Science. DOI: 10.1177/0956797611406446
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 »
Garm, A., O'Connor, M., Parkefelt, L., & Nilsson, D. (2007) Visually guided obstacle avoidance in the box jellyfish Tripedalia cystophora and Chiropsella bronzie. Journal of Experimental Biology, 210(20), 3616-3623. DOI: 10.1242/jeb.004044
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 »
Neufeld, K., Kang, N., Bienenstock, J., & Foster, J. (2011) Reduced anxiety-like behavior and central neurochemical change in germ-free mice. Neurogastroenterology , 23(3), 255. DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2982.2010.01620.x
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
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 »
Evans, H., Elliot, S., & Hughes, D. (2011) Hidden Diversity Behind the Zombie-Ant Fungus Ophiocordyceps unilateralis: Four New Species Described from Carpenter Ants in Minas Gerais, Brazil. PLoS ONE, 6(3). DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0017024
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 »
Slepian, M., et al. (2011) Tough and Tender: Embodied Categorization of Gender. Psychological Science, 22(1), 26-28. DOI: 10.1177/0956797610390388
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 »
Witt, J.K., et al. (2010) A Functional Role for Motor Simulation in Identifying Tools. Psychological Sci. PMID: 20639402
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 »
Bubl, E., Kern, E., Ebert, D., Bach, M., & Tebartz van Elst, L. (2010) Seeing Gray When Feeling Blue? Depression Can Be Measured in the Eye of the Diseased. Biological Psychiatry, 68(2), 205-208. DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.02.009
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 »
Park, D., Choi, D., Lee, J., Lim, D., & Park, C. (2010) Male-like sexual behavior of female mouse lacking fucose mutarotase. BMC Genetics, 11(1), 62. DOI: 10.1186/1471-2156-11-62
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 »
Huang, H., Delikanli, S., Zeng, H., Ferkey, D., & Pralle, A. (2010) Remote control of ion channels and neurons through magnetic-field heating of nanoparticles. Nature Nanotechnology. DOI: 10.1038/NNANO.2010.125
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
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 »
Kupers, R. et al. (2010) Neural correlates of virtual route recognition in congenital blindness. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1006199107
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 »
Ackerman, J., Nocera, C., & Bargh, J. (2010) Incidental Haptic Sensations Influence Social Judgments and Decisions. Science, 328(5986), 1712-1715. DOI: 10.1126/science.1189993
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:/
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
Ho, A., Stein, J., Hua, X., Lee, S., Hibar, D., Leow, A., Dinov, I., Toga, A., Saykin, A., Shen, L.... (2010) From the Cover: A commonly carried allele of the obesity-related FTO gene is associated with reduced brain volume in the healthy elderly. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(18), 8404-8409. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0910878107
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
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:/
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 »
Lee, J., et al. (2010) Global and local fMRI signals driven by neurons defined optogenetically by type and wiring. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature09108
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 »
Chase, H., & Clark, L. (2010) Gambling Severity Predicts Midbrain Response to Near-Miss Outcomes. Journal of Neuroscience, 30(18), 6180-6187. DOI: 10.1523/JNEUROSCI.5758-09.2010
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