Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have discovered in mice a molecular trigger that initiates myelination, the process by which brain cell networks are reinforced with an insulating material called myelin that speeds their ability to transmit messages. The myelination process is an essential part of brain development. Myelin formation is necessary for brain cells to communicate and it may contribute to development of skills and learning.
Autism is a mysterious developmental disease because it often leaves complex abilities intact while impairing seemingly elementary ones. For example, it is well documented that autistic children often have difficulty correctly using pronouns, sometimes referring to themselves as “you” instead of “I.”
High blood pressure, diabetes, obesity and smoking in middle age can cause vascular damage, decrease brain volume, and cause cognitive decline later in life, a study led by researchers at UC Davis has found. The study is published in the Aug. 2 issue of Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
We are all familiar with the phrase “monkey see, monkey do” – but have we actually thought about what it means? Over the last two decades, neuroscience research has been investigating whether this popular saying has a real basis in human behavior. Included in this report is a 2-part series on the role of mirror neurons in human behavior.
A new study suggests smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and being overweight in middle age may cause brain shrinkage and lead to cognitive problems up to a decade later. The study is published in the August 2, 2011, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.
Yale University researchers cannot tell you where you left your car keys, but they can tell you why you cannot find them. A new study published July 27 in the journal Nature shows the neural networks in the brains of the middle-aged and elderly have weaker connections and fire less robustly than in youthful ones. Intriguingly, the research suggests that this condition is reversible. Included in this report is a video discussion of this study by the lead researcher.
“Working memory” is what we have to keep track of things moment to moment: driving on a highway and focusing on the vehicles around us, then forgetting them as we move on; remembering all the names at the dinner party while conversing with one person about her job. Most psychologists explain working memory with a “controlled attention” model: one flexible system that directs the brain’s focus to stimuli and tasks that are important and suppressing the rest. The capacity of working memory, they say, is limited by our ability to attend to only one thing at a time.
German researchers have used drivers’ brain signals, for the first time, to assist in braking, providing much quicker reaction times and a potential solution to the thousands of car accidents that are caused by human error. Using electroencephalography (EEG) – a technique that attaches electrodes to the scalp – the researchers demonstrated that the mind-reading system, accompanied with modern traffic sensors, could detect a driver’s intention to break 130 milliseconds faster than a normal brake pedal response. The publishers made the original article available for free for 30 days (registration required; check the end of this report for a download link). Included in this report is a really cool video demonstration of an actual participant hooked up to the brainwave monitoring system and driving simulator.