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  • May 26, 2017
  • 11:42 AM
  • 64 views

Adolescent Brain Development

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Functional magnetic resonance imaging yields improvement in our understanding of brain development.A recent study out of the University of Pennsylvania is a good example. This study examined the relationship between brain connectivity and the development of cognitive executive function.The researchers imaged a group of 882 subjects between the ages of 8 and 22.Brain connectivity patterns were compared with a neurocognitive assessment of executive function. Executive function increases with age throughout adolescence and early adulthood.The key findings from the study included the following items:Brain network modules become increasingly segregated with adolescent brain developmentThis segregation increases brain network efficiencyThis process of development mediates the improvement in brain executive functionThe authors note in their discussion that"These findings may be relevant for understanding how individual differences in brain development associate with risk-taking behaviors, which are linked to failures of executive function, and are a major source of morbidity and mortality in adolescence."This is an important study the advances our understanding of brain changes during adolescence. Interested readers can access the free full manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Follow me by clicking:TwitterInstagramFacebookImage of brain corpus callosum is a screen shot from my iPad of the app 3D Brain.Graham L. Baum, Rastko Ciric, David R. Roalf, Richard F. Betzel, Tyler M. Moore, Russel T. Shinohara, Ari E. Kahn, Megan Quarmley, Philip A. Cook, Mark A. Elliot, Kosha Ruparel, Raquel E. Gur, Ruben C. Gur, Danielle S. Bassett, & Theodore D. Satterthwaite (2016). Modular Segregation of Structural Brain Networks Supports the Development of Executive Function in Youth Current Biology arXiv: 1608.03619v1... Read more »

Graham L. Baum, Rastko Ciric, David R. Roalf, Richard F. Betzel, Tyler M. Moore, Russel T. Shinohara, Ari E. Kahn, Megan Quarmley, Philip A. Cook, Mark A. Elliot.... (2016) Modular Segregation of Structural Brain Networks Supports the Development of Executive Function in Youth. Current Biology. arXiv: 1608.03619v1

  • May 24, 2017
  • 10:21 AM
  • 95 views

Unreliability of fMRI Emotional Biomarkers

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Brain responses to emotion stimuli are highly variable even within the same individual, and this could be a problem for researchers who seek to use these responses as biomarkers to help diagnose and treat disorders such as depression.

That's according to a new paper in Neuroimage, from University College London neuroscientists Camilla Nord and colleagues.



Nord et al. had 29 volunteers perform three tasks during fMRI scanning. All of the tasks involved pictures of emotional faces, which... Read more »

  • May 21, 2017
  • 10:50 AM
  • 99 views

Predictive Processing: the role of confidence and precision

by Sergio Graziosi in Writing my own user manual - Sergio Graziosi's Blog

This is the second post in a series inspired by Andy Clark’s book “Surfing Uncertainty“. In the previous post I’ve mentioned that an important concept in the Predictive Processing (PP) framework is the role of confidence. Confidence (in a prediction)…Read more ›... Read more »

Kanai R, Komura Y, Shipp S, & Friston K. (2015) Cerebral hierarchies: predictive processing, precision and the pulvinar. Philosophical transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological sciences, 370(1668). PMID: 25823866  

  • May 17, 2017
  • 11:24 AM
  • 115 views

Dad's Impact in Infant Development

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Mother's interaction with their infants play a key role in infant development.The independent role of fathers in infant development is less well known and studied.A recent study from the United Kingdom supports a important role for father-child interactions in infant development.Here are the main elements of the design of this study:Subjects: Families of infants with typical deliveries were recruited from maternity wards in two hospitals in the United Kingdom.Design: Home assessments were completed at 3 months and 24 months following birth making this a longitudinal study design. Assesment at 3 months included observation of father-child interaction.Key outcome measures: 24 month score on the Mental Development Index (MDI) of the Bayley Scales of Infant DevelopmentStatistical analysis: Correlational analysis of paternal interaction measures at 3 and 24 months was completed. Additionally, independent simple linear analyses and PROCESS macro tool modeling were done to examine effects of covariates.The important finding from the study was that paternal-infant interaction at 3 months of age predicted important dimensions of infant mental development.Fathers who demonstrated more engagement, sensitivity and less control at 3 months had infants with greater scores on the Mental Development Index at 24 months.That authors note in the discussion section "The results of this study indicate that specific dimensions of father-child interactions at both time points are associated with MDI scores even when adjusting for paternal depression, age and education, and maternal sensitivity and infant age."The take home message in this study is that Dad's make a difference in infant development. As the authors note, supporting paternal interaction may be a key prevention measure in infant development.Readers with more interest in this study can access the free full-text manuscript by clicking on the PMID link in the citation below.Follow me on Twitter @WRY999Photo of paternal spider monkey and infant is from my photography files. Follow me on Instagram at WRY999You can find all my Brain Post blog posts and highlight Twitter posts on my Facebook Page Neuroscience Medicine.Sethna V, Perry E, Domoney J, Iles J, Psychogiou L, Rowbotham NEL, Stein A, Murray L, & Ramchandani PG (2017). FATHER-CHILD INTERACTIONS AT 3 MONTHS AND 24 MONTHS: CONTRIBUTIONS TO CHILDREN'S COGNITIVE DEVELOPMENT AT 24 MONTHS. Infant mental health journal PMID: 28449355... Read more »

  • May 10, 2017
  • 06:16 AM
  • 199 views

Know your brain: Preoptic area

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged

Where is the preoptic area?















the preoptic area is highlighted in blue.











Functionally, the preoptic area is considered to be a region of the hypothalamus even though its embryological origins are as part of the telencephalon (rather than the diencephalon like the rest of the hypothalamus). It consists of the area of the hypothalamus that is situated at the very anterior (i.e. front) of the structure, and it extends back from the anterior of the hypothalamus to the posterior edge of the optic chiasm, the point where the optic nerves from the two eyes meet.The preoptic area, like the rest of the hypothalamus, is a very functionally diverse region. This diversity is represented by the division of the preoptic area into a collection of distinct nuclei. The majority of the research into the preoptic area, however, has been done in rodents; it is not as well understood in humans. This has caused the anatomical differentiation of the preoptic area to not be completely consistent when applied to the human brain and has generated some disagreement, for example, as to which areas of the human preoptic area are homologous to those of the rat brain.What is the preoptic area and what does it do?As mentioned above, the preoptic area consists of several nuclei (each of which are often divided into subnuclei), and thus is a very functionally heterogeneous region. To attempt to simplify it, I will discuss the functions most commonly attributed to what are generally considered the major nuclei of the preoptic area (e.g. the median, periventricular, medial, and ventrolateral nuclei). The preoptic area is still not very well understood in humans, however, so the functions listed here will not be a comprehensive list of all that the preoptic area is involved in. Additionally, because most of the attempts to elucidate the function of the preoptic area has been done in rodents, it is still unclear if some of the functionality I will discuss can be said to describe the preoptic area in humans. The median preoptic nucleus is found near the midline of the brain and at the very anterior end of the hypothalamus, where it borders the third ventricle. It merges and is neurally connected with a structure called the organum vasculosum, and it also receives input from another structure called the subfornical organ. The organum vasculosum and the subfornical organ are both part of a group of structures known as circumventricular organs. These structures lack a blood-brain barrier and thus can detect the levels of substances (e.g. sodium, hormones) in the blood, then pass this information on to the brain. The median preoptic nucleus is thought to receive such information from the organum vasculosum and subfornical organ and then seems to be involved in using that information to help regulate blood composition and volume, both through mechanisms of hormone release and through behavior like drinking.The median preoptic nucleus also appears to play a role in the regulation of body temperature. Rodent studies suggest neurons in the median preoptic nucleus receive information regarding skin temperature and then send projections to neurons in the medulla that are involved in mechanisms that influence body temperature.Just below the median preoptic nucleus is the preoptic periventricular nucleus. The preoptic periventricular nucleus is poorly defined anatomically (its boundaries vary depending on species) and poorly understood functionally. Some consider it to be equivalent to an area called the anteroventral periventricular nucleus, which is thought to be involved with sex-specific physiology and behavior, but according to other sources it is a separate location. There is limited information available on the preoptic periventricular nucleus as a stand-alone structure when it is not considered as part of the anteroventral periventricular nucleus or other nuclei nearby.Lateral to the median preoptic nucleus is the medial preoptic nucleus. The medial preoptic nucleus is the largest collection of preoptic area neurons. It has been linked to a list of actions ranging from regulation of cardiovascular function to regulation of body temperature and fluid balance and water intake. This region, however, is best known for its association with reproductive and parental behavior.The medial preoptic nucleus is often divided into subnuclei, and the central medial preoptic nucleus in the rat is sometimes called the sexually dimorphic nucleus, as it has been found to be larger in males than females. This observation has also been replicated in a number of other species. Although this has not been seen as consistently in humans, researchers have identified potential homologous regions in the human medial preoptic area that also have been observed to exhibit sexual dimorphism.The sexually dimorphic nucleus in rodents has been linked to male sexual behavior and male partner preference. Lesions to different parts of this region have been found to eliminate male copulatory behavior and inhibit sexual desire. Additionally, damage to the sexually dimorphic nucleus in male ferrets was associated with their sexually-motivated seeking of same-sex males rather than females. In a study of sheep (which are unique in that ~8% of rams display a consistent preference for male sexual partners), it was found that the sexually dimorphic nucleus was twice as large in female-oriented rams than in male-oriented (i.e. homosexual) rams.These findings, of course, have led to speculation that the sexually dimorphic nucleus in humans may also be linked to sexual preference. Although there has been some debate as to what the human homolog of the rat sexually dimorphic nucleus actually is, there have been studies that have found sexual dimorphism among preoptic regions in humans. Some studies have also observed differences in size in these regions between heterosexual and homosexual men. These findings, however, have not been seen consistently from study to study, and need to be confirmed before we can be confident in them.Additionally, the central medial preoptic nucleus has been linked to parental behavior in rodents, sheep, and other mammals. For example, damage to the connections of the medial preoptic nucleus can disrupt parental behaviors like nest building and pup retrieval (i.e. collecting stray pups when they wander from the nest) in rodents. And activation of medial preoptic neurons mitigates male aggression toward pups... Read more »

  • May 8, 2017
  • 01:08 PM
  • 177 views

Neuropeptides and Peer Review Failure

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A new paper in the prestigious journal PNAS contains a rather glaring blooper.

The paper, from Oxford University researchers Eiluned Pearce et al., is about the relationship between genes and social behaviour. The blooper is right there in the abstract, which states that "three neuropeptides (β-endorphin, oxytocin, and dopamine) play particularly important roles" in human sociality. But dopamine is not a neuropeptide.



Neither are serotonin or testosterone, but throughout the paper, Pea... Read more »

  • May 8, 2017
  • 12:56 AM
  • 137 views

Finding real rewards in a virtual world

by adam phillips in It Ain't Magic

A new study shows that mice who learn to find goals in virtual reality use their hippocampus the same was as in the real world.... Read more »

  • May 6, 2017
  • 01:04 PM
  • 186 views

Partisan Review: “Surfing Uncertainty”, by Andy Clark.

by Sergio Graziosi in Writing my own user manual - Sergio Graziosi's Blog

Sometimes it happens that reading a book ignites a seemingly unstoppable whirlpool of ideas. The book in question is “Surfing Uncertainty: Prediction, Action, and the Embodied Mind” by Andy Clark. Why is this a partisan review? Because Clark himself had…Read more ›... Read more »

  • May 5, 2017
  • 02:53 PM
  • 117 views

Is "Allostasis" The Brain's Essential Function?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A paper just published in Nature Human Behaviour makes some big claims about the brain. It's called Evidence for a large-scale brain system supporting allostasis and interoception in humans, but how much is evidence and how much is speculation?



The authors, Ian R. Kleckner and colleagues of Northeastern University, argue that a core function of the brain is allostasis, which they define as the process by which the brain "efficiently maintains energy regulation in the body". Allostasis ent... Read more »

Kleckner, I., Zhang, J., Touroutoglou, A., Chanes, L., Xia, C., Simmons, W., Quigley, K., Dickerson, B., & Feldman Barrett, L. (2017) Evidence for a large-scale brain system supporting allostasis and interoception in humans. Nature Human Behaviour, 69. DOI: 10.1038/s41562-017-0069  

  • May 3, 2017
  • 02:42 PM
  • 151 views

How Can We Measure Human Oxytocin Levels?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Is oxytocin really the love and trust chemical? Or is it just the hype hormone? A new paper suggests that many studies of the relationship between oxytocin and behaviors such as trust have been flawed.





The paper is a meta-analysis just published by Norwegian researchers Mathias Valstad and colleagues. Valstad et al. found that the level of oxytocin in human blood, often used as a proxy measure of brain oxytocin, has no relation to central nervous system oxytocin levels under normal co... Read more »

Valstad M, Alvares GA, Egknud M, Matziorinis AM, Andreassen OA, Westlye LT, & Quintana DS. (2017) The correlation between central and peripheral oxytocin concentrations: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews. PMID: 28442403  

  • April 29, 2017
  • 07:55 AM
  • 154 views

New Human Rights for the Age of Neuroscience?

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Do we have a human right to the privacy of our brain activity? Is "cognitive liberty" the foundation of all freedom?



An interesting new paper by Swiss researchers Marcello Ienca and Roberto Andorno explores such questions: Towards new human rights in the age of neuroscience and neurotechnology

Ienca and Andorno begin by noting that it has long been held that the mind is "a kind of last refuge of personal freedom and self-determination". In other words, no matter what restrictions might... Read more »

  • April 21, 2017
  • 06:26 AM
  • 237 views

History of neuroscience: John Hughlings Jackson

by neurosci in Neuroscientifically Challenged















In 1860, when John Hughlings Jackson was just beginning his career as a physician, neurology did not yet exist as a medical specialty. In fact, at that time there had been little attention paid to developing a standard approach to treating patients with neurological disease. Such an approach was one of Jackson's greatest contributions to neuroscience. He advocated for examining each patient individually in an attempt to identify the biological underpinnings of neurological disorders. This examination, Jackson asserted, should be guided by the tenets of localization of function, which had been popularized by Franz Joseph Gall in the decades before Jackson was born. Concordant with these tenets, Jackson believed that neurological dysfunction could be traced back to dysfunction in specific foci of the nervous system, and the ability to identify the part of the nervous system that was affected to produce a disease was critical for making an accurate diagnosis.Jackson's perspective on understanding neurological diseases is exemplified by his efforts to elucidate the neurobiological origins of epilepsy---the work he is probably best known for. Jackson's observations on epilepsy date back to the very beginning of his medical career. At that time, the most popular explanation for epileptic seizures was that they were associated with abnormal function in a region of the brain known as the corpus striatum, a term that refers to a composite structure consisting of the striatum and the globus pallidus. The corpus striatum was known to be involved with motor functions, which caused it to be implicated in epileptic seizures as well.Jackson, however, began to suspect that the cerebral cortex participated in creating the convulsions that epileptics suffered from during seizures. To support this hypothesis, he cited cases where patients experienced convulsions that primarily struck one side of the body. Very often, Jackson argued, these patients upon autopsy would display damage to the cerebral hemisphere on the opposite side of the body that was affected by seizures.
Watch this 2-Minute Neuroscience video to learn more about epilepsy.Jackson approached the idea that there were certain areas of the cortex devoted to movement with hesitancy for multiple reasons. First, at the time the prevailing view was still that the cortex was unexcitable, and thus would be unlikely to be affected by what Jackson considered to be a disease of increased excitability. Additionally, it was still common in Jackson's time to consider the cortex to be homogenous. Although the concept of localization of function was challenging this idea, many still held the belief that all gray matter in the cortex was equivalent and there were no areas of functional specialization. According to this view, the entire mass of the cortex had to act together to produce some sort of response. Jackson's idea that seizures could be linked to increased excitability in one half of the cortex did not conform to this perspective.In addition to his observations about the link between hemispheric damage and seizures on the other side of the body, Jackson also noted a unique feature of some of the seizures he observed. He pointed out that in certain patients convulsions started in one specific area of the body and then proceeded to travel outward from that area in a predictable fashion. For example, convulsions might begin in the hand and then move up the arm to the face, and then down the same leg on the same side of the body. Or they might start in the foot and travel up the leg, then down the arm and into the hand on the same side of the body.This process, later called the Jacksonian march, would help Jackson to formulate some of his most important ideas about the brain. He hypothesized that there were areas of the cortex that were devoted to controlling the movement of different parts of the body. When excitation spreads throughout the cortex, Jackson posited, it stimulates these different areas one by one, creating the Jacksonian march of convulsions through the patient's body. Furthermore, Jackson suggested that the parts of the body that were capable of the most diverse movements (e.g. hand, face, foot) likely had the most space in the cortex devoted to them.With his observations on epilepsy Jackson was essentially predicting the existence of the motor cortex as well as anticipating the functional arrangement of the gray matter that the motor cortex is made up of. His hypothesis that there was a distinct region of the cerebral cortex devoted to motor function was confirmed in 1870 when Gustav Fritsch and Eduard Hitzig provided experimental evidence of a motor cortex in dogs. The arrangement Jackson envisioned, where one part of the cortex is devoted to one part of the body, we now call somatotopic arrangement. It has been verified by a series of experiments, capped by Wilder Penfield's electrical stimulation studies of the 1930s. It is now common neuroscience knowledge that there are regions of the motor cortex that seem to be devoted specifically to movement of the hands, other regions devoted to the movement of the face, and so on. As Jackson predicted, areas of the body that are involved in more diverse movements generally have more cortical area devoted to them.Jackson's clinical observations of epilepsy and his hypotheses about the motor regions in the cortex accurately predicted what would soon be discovered through experimentation, and acted as a guide for researchers like Fritsch and Hitzig. Thus, Jackson's work contributed significantly to a better understanding of the organization of the cortex, a region that we now consider to be functionally diverse and intricately arranged---a far cry from the idea of cortical homogeneity common in Jackson's time. Additionally, Jackson's development of a more formalized methodology of observation in neurology has caused him to be considered one of the founding fathers of the field.Jackson's contributions to neuroscience, however, were much more extensive than there is room to cover here. He wrote copiously on diverse topics ranging from the evolution of the nervous system to aphasia. At a time when our understanding of the brain was still so lacking in comparison to today, Jackson had a brilliant mind that seemed capable of comprehending brain function in a way that has rarely been replicated in the history of neuroscience.Finger, S. Origins of Neuroscience. New York, NY: Oxford University Press; 1994.York GK, Steinberg DA. An Introduction to the Life and Work of John Hughlings Jackson: Introduction. Med Hist Suppl. 2007; (26): 3–34.... Read more »

York GK, Steinberg DA. (2007) An Introduction to the Life and Work of John Hughlings Jackson. Med Hist Suppl., 3-34. info:/

  • April 11, 2017
  • 10:22 AM
  • 361 views

Risking Limb for Life? (A Guest Post)

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

By Matthew Whitley Imagine you are walking alone in parking lot, when suddenly somebody grabs you by the arm and flashes a knife, demanding your money. Do you A) scream for help, B) try to wrestle the knife away, or C) remove your arm from your shoulder and make a break for it? Disarming your assailant may seem preferable to dis-arming yourself, but for a lizard option C is a likely response. A lizard tail left behind. Image by Metatron at Wikimedia Commons.You likely have heard before that many lizards can break off their tail when trying to make an escape. This ability is called caudal autotomy; autotomy meaning the ability to shed a limb, and caudal simply being a fancy word for tail. Of course, losing a limb is no simple procedure, and lizards possess many specialized features to make caudal autotomy possible. There are two main kinds of caudal autotomy in lizards: intervertebral and intravertebral. Intervertebral refers to when the tail breaks between vertebrae, and is considered the simpler and more primitive form. Intravertebral, on the other hand, involves some more complex features. The word intravertebral refers to fracture planes found in the middle of each vertebra in the middle of the lizard’s tail. At these fracture planes, the bone can easily snap in half. This snapping of bone is performed by the lizard itself—when its tail is caught, muscles surrounding the bone just above where its tail is held squeeze tight until the bone breaks. After the bone breaks, the rest of the tail follows: the skin stretches and breaks, muscles detach, any remaining tissue divides, and—POP—the tail falls off! After snapping your arm off to run from an attacker, you would probably just bleed out in your retreat, but lizards have that covered. In their tails, lizards have sphincters (rings of muscle) along their arteries—vessels that normally carry blood to the tail. When the tail is detached, these sphincters tighten to prevent blood from gushing out. Additionally, their veins, which normally bring blood back from the tail, have valves that prevent blood from flowing backwards, similar to the valves in your heart. And while the lizard makes its escape, the dislocated tail jerks and twitches, which distracts the lizard’s assailant. The tail owes its spastic actions to fast, glycolytic muscles, a variety of muscle that can act quickly and with a lot of force, but wears out quickly. After our reptilian friend has made its daring escape, it has a new problem—it has no tail. A lizard without its tail is at a disadvantage, just as you would be without your arm. Lizards rely on their tails for several functions, including movement, nutrient storage, and social and sexual behaviors. Fortunately, lizards that exercise caudal autotomy can actually re-grow their tails, a process which itself is highly complex. In lieu of a lengthy explanation of another amazing phenomenon, I’ll share this tidbit: to regain lost nutrients and help recover, some lizards have been known to go back and eat their lost tail! So when you tear off your arm to escape a mugger, don’t forget to return to the scene of the crime to self-cannibalize…or maybe just buy some pepper spray beforehand. Here you can see that the lizard is caught by the tail, pops it off and runs away, and the tail is left twitching.Works CitedBateman, P., & Fleming, P. (2009). To cut a long tail short: a review of lizard caudal autotomy studies carried out over the last 20 years Journal of Zoology, 277 (1), 1-14 DOI: 10.1111/j.1469-7998.2008.00484.xClause, A., & Capaldi, E. (2006). Caudal autotomy and regeneration in lizards Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology, 305A (12), 965-973 DOI: 10.1002/jez.a.346Gilbert, E., Payne, S., & Vickaryous, M. (2013). The Anatomy and Histology of Caudal Autotomy and Regeneration in Lizards Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 86 (6), 631-644 DOI: 10.1086/673889 ... Read more »

Clause, A., & Capaldi, E. (2006) Caudal autotomy and regeneration in lizards. Journal of Experimental Zoology Part A: Comparative Experimental Biology, 305A(12), 965-973. DOI: 10.1002/jez.a.346  

Gilbert, E., Payne, S., & Vickaryous, M. (2013) The Anatomy and Histology of Caudal Autotomy and Regeneration in Lizards. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, 86(6), 631-644. DOI: 10.1086/673889  

  • April 11, 2017
  • 08:08 AM
  • 73 views

The Landscape of Neuroscience 2006 - 2015

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

How has neuroscience changed over the past decade? In a new paper, Hong Kong researchers Andy Wai Kan Yeung and colleagues take a look at brain science using the tools of citation analysis.



Yeung et al. extracted data from 2006-2015 from Web of Science and Journal Citation Reports (JCR), which track publications and citations. All journals that the JCR classifies in the "Neurosciences" category were included.

The first change Yeung et al. noticed was that the number of published neuros... Read more »

  • April 3, 2017
  • 10:23 AM
  • 293 views

Financial Scam Vulnerability: Brain Risk Factors

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

It is always frustrating when you hear about a financial scam that has target a vulnerable population like the elderly population.Elderly individuals may be targeted for a variety of reasons. First, they often have financial resources. Second, they may be a generally more trustworthy group increasing risk for falling for a scam. Third, elderly may suffer from some age-related brain changes that impair cognition and judgment.A recent research study suggests specific brain deficits may increase vulnerability to financial scams in elderly populations.The designed a study with the following key design elements:Subjects: 13 older adults with a mean age of 70 years who had been financially exploited after age 60. A matched control group of 13 subjects who had been exposed to a financial scam but not been compliantMeasures: Neuropsychological testing of cognition, personality and behavior. Additionally, subjects completed structural and functional brain MRI imagingStatistics: Cases were compared to controls on key study measuresVictims of financial scams showed key differences from controls including:Brain cortex thinning in the anterior insula and posterior temporal regionsFunctional brain connectivity was reduced in default and salience regionsFunctional between network connectivity was increasedHigher scores on measures of anger and hostilityThe authors their findings support a potential role for brain impairment in salience and social cognition regions as markers for risk of financial exploitation.They note significant weaknesses in their study design including a small sample size. Nevertheless, they note clinicians should be aware of potential for increased risk of financial exploitation in elderly with evidence of damage to these key brain regions.This is an important study and goes beyond risk associated with general cognitive decline and early dementia. This study suggests that specific brain regions associated with social cognition may be linked to risk of financial scams in elderly populations.The free full-text manuscript can be accessed by clicking on the link in the citation below.Follow me on Twitter @WRY999Image of brain insula is from my iPad screen shot using the 3D Brain app.Spreng, R., Cassidy, B., Darboh, B., DuPre, E., Lockrow, A., Setton, R., & Turner, G. (2017). Financial Exploitation Is Associated With Structural and Functional Brain Differences in Healthy Older Adults The Journals of Gerontology: Series A DOI: 10.1093/gerona/glx051... Read more »

  • March 29, 2017
  • 10:56 AM
  • 289 views

The retina receives signals from all over the brain, and that is kind of weird

by neuroecology in Neuroecology

As a neuroscientist, when I think of the retina I am trained to think of a precise set of neurons that functions like a machine, grinding out the visual basis of the world and sending it on to the brain. It … Continue reading →... Read more »

  • March 27, 2017
  • 01:05 PM
  • 74 views

Cosmic Dopamine: On "Neuroquantum Theories of Psychiatric Genetics"

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

Back in 2015, I ran a three part post (1,2,3) on Dr Kenneth Blum and his claim to be able to treat what he calls "Reward Deficiency Syndrome" (RDS) with nutritional supplements.

Today my interest was drawn to a 2015 paper from Blum and colleagues, called Neuroquantum Theories of Psychiatric Genetics: Can Physical Forces Induce Epigenetic Influence on Future Genomes?.



In this paper, Blum et al. put forward some novel proposals about possible links between physics, epigenetics, and neuro... Read more »

  • March 27, 2017
  • 12:07 PM
  • 303 views

Theory of Mind in Brain Development

by William Yates, M.D. in Brain Posts

Theory of Mind (ToM) is a concept describing the ability to understand what another person is thinking or feeling.Today in my neuroscience medicine news review I ran across a novel, interesting and important research study targeting brain development in ToM.Normally developing children develop ToM around 4 years of age. In the study published in Nature Communications, a research team at the Max Planck Institute in Germany studied white matter development in 3 to 4 year old children.Using a series of neuropsychological tasks, they studied white matter development using diffusion tensor brain imaging as it related to ToM skill.The research team was able to identify the following brain development features in ToM:White matter changes in the temperoparietal regions, the precuneus and the medial prefrontal cortexIncreased white matter connectivity between temperoparietal and inferior frontal brain regionsThese changes were independent of development of non-ToM cognitive abilityThe authors note in the discussion section that non-human primates fail to develop explicit ToM cognitive ability. Non-human primate brain show poor arcuate fascicle connectivity. They note that arcuate fascicle white matter connectivity appears to be key for ToM cognitive skills.This manuscript is available in free full-text format and readers with more interest in this study can access the manuscript by clicking on the citation link below.Follow me on Twitter @WRY999Image of white matter tract in human brain is from the iPad app Brain Tutor.Grosse Wiesmann C, Schreiber J, Singer T, Steinbeis N, & Friederici AD (2017). White matter maturation is associated with the emergence of Theory of Mind in early childhood. Nature communications, 8 PMID: 28322222... Read more »

  • March 23, 2017
  • 10:59 AM
  • 144 views

Every spike matters, down to the (sub)millisecond

by neuroecology in Neuroecology

There was a time when the neuroscience world was consumed by the question of how individual neurons were coding information about the world. Was it in the average firing rate? Or did every precise spike matter, down to the millisecond? Was … Continue reading →... Read more »

Srivastava KH, Holmes CM, Vellema M, Pack AR, Elemans CP, Nemenman I, & Sober SJ. (2017) Motor control by precisely timed spike patterns. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 114(5), 1171-1176. PMID: 28100491  

Nemenman I, Lewen GD, Bialek W, & de Ruyter van Steveninck RR. (2008) Neural coding of natural stimuli: information at sub-millisecond resolution. PLoS computational biology, 4(3). PMID: 18369423  

  • March 21, 2017
  • 10:04 AM
  • 363 views

The Weirdest Animals on Earth: 12 Amazing Facts About Platypuses

by Miss Behavior in The Scorpion and the Frog

What IS that? A photo by Stefan Kraft at Wikimedia Commons.1. Platypuses are so strange, that when British scientists first encountered one, they thought it was a joke: A Governor of New South Wales, Australia, sent a platypus pelt and sketch to British scientists in 1798. Even in their first published scientific description of the species, biologists thought that this duck-beaked, beaver-bodied, web-footed specimen may be some Frankenstein-like creation stitched together as a hoax. But this is only the beginning of their oddities…2. Platypuses are egg-laying mammals. Mammals are animals that have a backbone, are warm-blooded, and females produce milk for their young. Most females that nurse their young also carry their developing babies in their bodies and give birth to live young… But platypuses don’t play by those rules. Platypuses are monotremes, egg-laying mammals that include the platypus and four species of echidna. Most female mammals have two functional ovaries, but female platypuses, like most female birds, only have a functional left ovary. Once a year, a female platypus may produce a clutch of two or three small, leathery eggs (similar to reptile eggs), that develop in her uterus for 28 days. Because female platypuses don’t even have a vagina, when the eggs are ready, she lays them through her cloaca, an opening that serves for reproduction, peeing and pooping. (In fact, monotreme comes from the Greek for “one hole”). She then curls around them and incubates them for another 10 days until they hatch. 3. Platypuses sweat milk! Not only do female platypuses not have vaginas, they don’t have nipples either! Instead, lactating mothers ooze milk from pores in their skin, which pools in grooves on their bellies so the babies can lap it up. …And they’re not even embarrassed about it! 4. Adult platypuses are toothless. Baby platypuses (that is the actual technical term for them, by the way… not “puggles”, which would be way more fun) are born with teeth but they lose them around the time that they leave the breeding burrow. In their place are rigid-edged keratinized pads that they use as grinding plates. When they catch their prey (worms, bugs, shrimp, and even crayfish), they store it in their cheek pouches and carry it to the surface, where they use gravel to crush it in their toothless maw.5. The platypus “duck bill” is a sensory organ used to detect electric fields. Muscles and neurons use electrical impulses to function, and these impulses can be detected by electroreceptors. Although common in shark and ray species, electroreception is rare in mammals, only having been discovered in monotremes and the Guiana dolphin. Platypuses have rows of around 40,000 electroreceptors on their highly sensitive bill, which they wave back and forth in the water, much like a hammerhead shark, to determine the location of their prey. It’s a good thing this sense is so sensitive, since they close their eyes, nose and ears every time they dive. 6. Platypuses don’t use their tails like beavers do. Whereas beavers use their large, flat, leathery tails for swimming and slapping the water to send signals, platypuses don’t use their tails for any of that. Platypuses have large, flat tails for storing fat in case of a food shortage. Unlike beaver tails, platypus tails are covered in fur, which the mothers use to snuggle with their incubating eggs.A platypus ankle spur. Photo by E.Lonnon at Wikimedia Commons.7. Male platypuses have venomous ankle spurs. Their venom is strong enough to kill small animals and to create excruciating pain in humans. Since only males have it and they produce more venom during the breeding season, we think its main function may be to compete for mates and breeding territories.8. Platypuses are knuckle-walkers with a reptilian gait. Although they are well-built for swimming with their webbed feet and legs on the sides of their bodies, these traits make it quite awkward to get around on dry land. To walk, they pull in their webbing and walk on their knuckles, exposing their claws. Like reptiles and salamanders, platypuses flex their spines from side-to-side, supported by their sprawling legs. 9. Platypuses have unusually low body temperatures. As unusual as they are, platypuses are still mammals, which are defined, in part, by their ability to generate most of their own body heat with their metabolism. Platypuses do this as well, but whereas most mammals maintain body temperatures between 37-40 degrees C (99-104 degrees F), platypuses are happy with a body temperature of 32 degrees C (90 degrees F). This lower metabolism reduces the amount of calories they need to eat.10. They have no stomach. Stomachs are specialized protein-digesting chambers of digestive tracts that contain protein-digesting enzymes and acids to activate them. Not all animals have them, but most carnivores do. The most common exceptions to this rule are fish… and platypuses. Why? We don’t know for sure, but many of these animals consume diets high in calcium carbonate, which is a natural antacid. If their own diet would constantly neutralize their stomach acid, then the stomach really isn’t going to do them any good anyway.11. They have 10 sex chromosomes! Most mammals have two sex chromosomes, one from each parent. An individual that has two X chromosomes is usually female and an individual that has one X and one Y chromosome is usually male. Thus, female mammals pass along an X chromosome to each offspring and males can pass along an X or a Y. But platypuses are not content to be normal in any way…They have 10 sex chromosomes: 5 from mom and 5 from dad. All 5 chromosomes from mom are Xs, whereas a male sperm either contains 5 Xs or 5 Ys. Birds also have two sex chromosomes, but in birds, individuals with two of the same type are usually male and individuals with different chromosomes are usually female. Their system is called ZW, where the mammalian system is XY. The platypus X chromosome is more similar than the X chromosome of other mammals to the bird Z chromosome.12. The platypus genome is as much of a hodgepodge as its body. Only 80% of the platypus’ genes are like other mammals. Some of their genes have only previously been found in birds, reptiles, fish, or amphibians.To learn about more weird animals, go here.References: ... Read more »

Scheich, H., Langner, G., Tidemann, C., Coles, R., & Guppy, A. (1986) Electroreception and electrolocation in platypus. Nature, 319(6052), 401-402. DOI: 10.1038/319401a0  

Warren, W., Hillier, L., Marshall Graves, J., Birney, E., Ponting, C., Grützner, F., Belov, K., Miller, W., Clarke, L., Chinwalla, A.... (2008) Genome analysis of the platypus reveals unique signatures of evolution. Nature, 453(7192), 175-183. DOI: 10.1038/nature06936  

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