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Brain Coprocessors

September 23, 2010

“We are entering a neurotechnology renaissance, in which the toolbox for understanding the brain and engineering its functions is expanding in both scope and power at an unprecedented rate,” says Ed Boyden, an Assistant Professor, Biological Engineering, and Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the MIT Media Lab..

“Consider a system that reads out activity from a brain circuit, computes a strategy for controlling the circuit so it enters a… read more

Brain connectivity predicts reading skills

Children could benefit from personalized lessons based on brain scans
October 10, 2012

white_matter_connections_reading

The growth pattern of long-range connections in the brain predicts how a child’s reading skills will develop, according to research published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nature News reports.

Literacy requires the integration of activity in brain areas involved in vision, hearing and language. These areas are distributed throughout the brain, so efficient communication between them is essential for proficient reading.

Jason Yeatman,… read more

Brain circuit that controls anxiety levels discovered

Research could help find better drugs to treat anxiety.
August 23, 2013

The tips of long neuronal extensions from the amygdala (green) contact neurons of the hippocampus (blue). This communication pathway helps to modulate anxiety. (Credit: Ada Felix-Ortiz)

Researchers at MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory  have discovered a communication pathway between two brain structures — the amygdala and the ventral hippocampus — that appears to control anxiety levels.

By turning the volume of this communication up and down in mice, the researchers were able to boost and reduce anxiety levels. The research could help find better drugs to treat… read more

Brain chemical helps us tolerate foul play

June 6, 2008

University of Cambridge researchers have found that decreased levels of the neurotransmitter serotonin increases emotional response to a perceived unjust or unfair situation.

Volunteers who had their serotonin levels temporarily lowered were much more likely to reject unfair offers in the Ultimatum Game (one player divides the money, the other decides to reject or accept the money for both players). A less emotional response would accept something rather than… read more

Brain center searches for patterns

April 9, 2002

Duke University Medical Center researchers have discovered the brain region that automatically watches for patterns in sequences of events.
In an article posted online April 8, 2002 in Nature Neuroscience, researchers Scott Huettel, Beau Mack and Gregory McCarthy reported experiments in which they asked subjects to watch simple random sequences of a circle or a square flash onto a screen. During the experiments, the scientists imaged the subjects’ brains using… read more

Brain Cells: Alzheimer’s Clues

July 7, 2004

The genetic mutations that lie behind most cases of Alzheimer’s disease may be found in mitochondrial DNA.

Several mutations have been linked to early-onset Alzheimer’s, but it has been difficult to pin down a cause of the most common form, known as late-onset, sporadic Alzheimer’s.

The mutations are associated with reductions in the total amount of mitochondrial DNA. It could be that they impair energy production in the… read more

Brain cells made from urine

December 11, 2012

neurons_from_urine

Some of the waste that humans flush away every day could become a powerful source of brain cells to study disease, and may even one day be used in therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Scientists have found a relatively straightforward way to persuade the cells discarded in human urine to turn into valuable neurons, Nature News reports.

The method uses ordinary cells present in urine, and transforms… read more

Brain cells made from skin could treat Parkinson’s

July 7, 2011

Researchers at San Raffaele Scientific Institute in Milan and Lund University have independently worked out how to turn skin cells into specialized neurons that make dopamine, which is depleted in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease.

The studies raise the possibility of improving mobility in people with Parkinson’s by restoring dopamine production to normal. At present, most patients take a drug called L-dopa to readjust levels, but with varying… read more

Brain cells grown after death

May 3, 2001

Salk Institute scientists have isolated cells from the brains of human cadavers that can grow, divide and form specialized classes of brain cells.

The recovered cells had the ability to differentiate into neurons, astrocytes (nourish and protect neurons), and oligodendrocytes, which insulate neurons with a myelin sheath.

“I find it remarkable that we all have pockets of cells in our brains that can grow and differentiate… read more

Brain cancer successfully treated with electrical field

May 30, 2007

A device that targets rapidly growing cancer cells with low frequency (100-300 kHz) alternating electric fields, called Tumor-Treating Fields (TTFields), doubled the survival rates of patients with brain cancer, according to a Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) journal article.

Brain can be made to self-repair

June 28, 2006

Triggering stem-cell growth could help the brain recover after a stroke.

Brain calisthenics for abstract ideas

June 6, 2011

Recent research has found that true experts have something at least as valuable as a mastery of the rules: gut instinct, an instantaneous grasp of the type of problem they’re up against. Like the ballplayer who can “read” pitches early, or the chess master who “sees” the best move, they’ve developed a great eye.

Now, a small group of cognitive scientists is arguing that schools and students could take… read more

Brain Boosters

June 28, 2007

A Technology Review reporter enters the new world of neuroenhancers by having his brain zapped with electricity and dosed with chemicals.

Brain boost drugs ‘growing trend’

October 15, 2008

Up to a fifth of adults, including college students and shift workers, may be using cognitive enhancers, a poll of 1,400 by Nature journal suggests.

Brain blanket boosts mind control

February 18, 2008

Researchers at Albany Medical College, Washington University, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin have developed a more effective brain-control interface device, using a sheet of closely spaced electrodes placed over the brain.

In recent experiments, five patients learned to control a computer cursor in two dimensions on a computer screen using their brain signals in less than 30 minutes, a performance similar to those achieved using electrodes… read more

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