“For the first time, scientists have detected a giant neuron wrapped around the entire circumference of a mouse’s brain, and it’s so densely connected across both hemispheres, it could finally explain the origins of consciousness. [Read more…] about New brain imaging methods help detect giant, superconnected neurons such as this one (in a mouse’s brain)
“The authors of the original proposal for the Brain Activity Map (BAM) Project, which inspired the White House’s BRAIN Initiative, issued today a position statement in Neuron proposing the creation of a national network of neurotechnology centers. These “brain observatories” would [Read more…] about Scientists call for network of “brain observatories” to accelerate neurotechnology research and innovation
(In honor of Brain Awareness Week, which starts today, let’s learn a bit more about neurons. A question we get often as we discuss the benefits of aerobic and mental exercise is, “Can neurons travel -“migrate”- inside the brain?” Below you have the answer, and more, straight from the National Institute of Health website.) [Read more…] about The Life of Your Next Neuron
A few eternal questions:
— Is caffeine good for the brain?
— Does it boost cognitive functions?
— Does it protect against dementia?
There is little doubt that drinking that morning cup of coffee will likely increase alertness, but the main questions that research is trying to answer go beyond that. Basically: is there a sustained, lifetime, benefit or harm from drinking coffee regularly?
The answer, so far, contains good news and bad news. The good news for coffee drinkers is that most of the long-term results are directionally more positive than negative, so no clear harm seems to occur. The bad news is that it is not clear so far whether caffeine has beneficial effects on general brain functions, either short-term or long-term (aged-related decline or risks of dementia).
It is important to note that many of the studies showing an effect of coffee consumption on brain functions or risks of dementia report a correlation or association (they are not randomized clinical trials). As you know, correlation doesn’t prove causation: coffee drinkers may seem to do well in a number in these long-term studies, but there may be other reasons why coffee drinkers do better.
Q: How does caffeine affect my brain?
A: Caffeine is a stimulant.
It belongs to a chemical group called xanthine. Adenosine is a naturally occurring xanthine in the brain that slows down the activity of brain cells (neurons). To a neuron, caffeine looks like adenosine. It is therefore used by some neurons in place of adenosine. The result is that these neurons speed up instead of slowing down.
This increased neuronal activity triggers the release of the adrenaline hormone, which will affect your body [Read more…] about Does Coffee Boost Brain/ Cognitive Functions Over Time?
Welcome to the 70th edition of Encephalon, the blog carnival that offers some of the best neuroscience and psychology blog posts every other week.
Mysteries of Brain and Mind
by Dave Munger
|Guys on dates want to know: Is it really impossible to ignore an attractive face?
Recent research seems to demonstrate that, indeed, attractive faces can distract us from a variety of tasks. Dating Tip of the Week: what about impressing your date with a homecooked dinner next time and avoid potential misunderstandings?
by Greg Downey
|BIG NEWS: First Neuroanthropology Conference!
The first Neuroanthropology Conference will be held 8 October 2009 at the University of Notre Dame. Great theme, great speakers. Will it offer a cross-cultural analysis of the research mentioned above?
On Neurons, Journeys, and Chemical Friends
by Ward Plunet
|The power of one — neuron
We have all been told about the power one person, that one person can make a difference. Well, does the general principle also hold true about a single neuron? Can a single neuron make a difference — change your sleep state, motor movement, or induce a behavior?
|New cells in the adult brain migrate long distances by crawling along blood vessels
The journey undertaken by newly generated neurons in the adult brain is like the cellular equivalent of the arduous upstream migration of salmon returning to the rivers in which they were hatched.
|The elegant logic of dopamine
What do we know about the formation of dopamine neurons and the regulation of gene expression?. A simple and elegant recent study provides some much-needed, critical information that could drastically affect how we pursue new therapies dopaminergic diseases such as Parkinson’s.
|Brain Synapse Computational Capacity
Evolution has exploited multiple avenues to increase the brain’s computational capacity. This is great news for all humans, except perhaps for those trying to model the mind exactly by building computer brain simulations, since they will likely have to model all of these protein interactions to function in a manner similar to a real brain.
On Brain Functions
by Tracy Alloway
|10% Students may have working memory problems: Why does it matter?
In screening of over 3000 school-aged students in mainstream schools, 1 in 10 was identified as having working memory difficulties. Why does this matter? Clue: Working memory seems to be even more important to learning than other cognitive skills such as IQ.
|Cake or Death? It’s all a matter of self-control, and your vmPFC
A recent MRI study helps pinpoint where signals for self-control may originate, and could be a big deal clinically. Not necessarily as a diet aid, but rather for problems where there’s a lack of self-control, as in addiction.
The Mouse Trap,
by Sandy Gautam
|Low Latent Inhibition, high faith in intuition and psychosis/creativity
What is the relationship between low latent inhibition (brain’s capacity to screen from current attentional focus stimuli previously tagged as irrelevant), high faith in intuition and psychosis/creativity?
Frontiers in Perception
by Deb Serani
|Can You Find The Twelve Faces?
How many faces can you see in this image?
by Vaughan Bell
|Deeper into the neuroscience of hypnosis
A new article from Trends in Cognitive Sciences explores how cognitive neuroscientists are becoming increasingly interested in understanding hypnosis and are using it to simulate unusual states of consciousness in the lab. Might hypnosis help you see the Twelve Faces above? or perhaps 25 of them?
Next edition will be hosted by Neuroanthropology on Monday, May 25th. If you can’t wait until to read more, you may be interested in the new in-depth feature, Cognitive Monthly, offered by Cognitive Daily blog for $2/ month. This month’s issue, “The Illusion of Theater,” discusses the “remarkable science behind what theatrical professionals seem, to laypeople, to do intuitively: create an environment that encourages us to believe that what we see on stage is a true representation of reality.”
(Editor’s Note: this is one of the 20 interviews included in the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Optimize Brain Health and Performance at Any Age)
Michael I. Posner is a prominent scientist in the field of cognitive neuroscience. He is currently an emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of Oregon (Department of Psychology, Institute of Cognitive and Decision Sciences). In August 2008, the International Union of Psychological Science made him the first recipient of the Dogan Prize “in recognition of a contribution that represents a major advance in psychology by a scholar or team of scholars of high international reputation.”
Dr. Posner, many thanks for your time today. I really enjoyed the James Arthur Lecture monograph on Evolution and Development of Self-Regulation that you delivered last year. Could you provide a summary of the research you presented?
I would emphasize that we human beings can regulate our thoughts, emotions, and actions to a greater degree than other primates. For example, we can choose to pass up an immediate reward for a larger, delayed reward.
We can plan ahead, resist distractions, be goal-oriented. These human characteristics appear to depend upon what we often call “self-regulation.” What is exciting these days is that progress in neuroimaging and in genetics make it possible to think about self-regulation in terms of specific brain-based networks.
Can you explain what self-regulation is?
All parents have seen this in their kids. Parents can see the remarkable transformation as their children develop the ability to regulate emotions and to persist with goals in the face of distractions. That ability is usually labeled ‚ self-regulation.
The other main area of your research is attention. Can you explain the brain-basis for what we usually call “attention”?
I have been interested in how the attention system develops in infancy and early childhood.
One of our major findings, thanks to neuroimaging, is that there is not one single “attention”, but three separate functions of attention with three separate underlying brain networks: alerting, orienting, and executive attention. [Read more…] about Training Attention and Emotional Self-Regulation — Interview with Michael Posner