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Tunneling nanotubes between neurons enable the spread of Parkinson's disease via lysosomes

Tunneling nanotubes between neurons enable the spread of Parkinson's disease via lysosomes | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists from the Institut Pasteur have demonstrated the role of lysosomal vesicles in transporting α-synuclein aggregates, responsible for Parkinson's and other neurodegenerative diseases, between neurons. These proteins move from one neuron to the next in lysosomal vesicles which travel along the "tunneling nanotubes" between cells. These findings were published in The EMBO Journal on Aug. 22, 2016.

 

Synucleinopathies, a group of neurodegenerative diseases including Parkinson's disease, are characterized by the pathological deposition of aggregates of the misfolded α-synuclein protein into inclusions throughout the central and peripheral nervous system. Intercellular propagation (from one neuron to the next) of α-synuclein aggregates contributes to the progression of the neuropathology, but little was known about the mechanism by which spread occurs.

 

In this study, scientists from the Membrane Traffic and Pathogenesis Unit, directed by Chiara Zurzolo at the Institut Pasteur, used fluorescence microscopy to demonstrate that pathogenic α-synuclein fibrils travel between neurons in culture, inside lysosomal vesicles through tunneling nanotubes (TNTs), a new mechanism of intercellular communication.

 

After being transferred via TNTs, α-synuclein fibrils are able to recruit and induce aggregation of the soluble α-synuclein protein in the cytosol of cells receiving the fibrils, thus explaining the propagation of the disease. The scientists propose that cells overloaded with α-synuclein aggregates in lysosomes dispose of this material by hijacking TNT-mediated intercellular trafficking. However, this results in the disease being spread to naive neurons.

 

This study demonstrates that TNTs play a significant part in the intercellular transfer of α-synuclein fibrils and reveals the specific role of lysosomes in this process. This represents a major breakthrough in understanding the mechanisms underlying the progression of synucleinopathies.

 

These compelling findings, together with previous reports from the same team, point to the general role of TNTs in the propagation of prion-like proteins in neurodegenerative diseases and identify TNTs as a new therapeutic target to combat the progression of these incurable diseases.

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Neuromorphic computing mimics important brain features

Neuromorphic computing mimics important brain features | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

In the future, level-tuned neurons may help enable neuromorphic computing systems to perform tasks that traditional computers cannot, such as learning from their environment, pattern recognition, and knowledge extraction from big data sources.

The researchers, Angeliki Pantazi et al., at IBM Research-Zurich and École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne, both in Switzerland, have published a paper on the new neuromorphic architecture in a recent issue of Nanotechnology.

 

Like all neuromorphic computing architectures, the proposed system is based on neurons and their synapses, which are the junctions where neurons send signals to each other. In this study, the researchers physically implemented artificial neurons using phase-change materials. These materials have two stable states: a crystalline, low-resistivity state and an amorphous, high-resistivity state. Just as in traditional computing, the states can be switched by the application of a voltage. When the neuron's conductance reaches a certain threshold, the neuron fires.

 

"We have demonstrated that phase-change-based memristive devices can be used to create artificial neurons and synapses to store and process data," coauthor Evangelos Eleftheriou at IBM Research-Zurich explains. "A phase-change neuron uses the phase configuration of the phase-change material to represent its internal state, the membrane potential. For the phase-change synapse, the synaptic weight—which is responsible for the plasticity—is encoded by the conductance of the nanodevice."

In this architecture, each neuron is tuned to a specific range, or level. Neurons receive signals from many other neurons, and a level is defined as the cumulative contribution of the sum of these incoming signals.

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Insects Are Conscious and Egocentric, study finds

Insects Are Conscious and Egocentric, study finds | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Insects are conscious, egocentric beings, according to a new paper that also helps to explain why and likely when consciousness first evolved. The discovery could not only change our view of these tiny beings, but it could also have major implications for the origins of consciousness in all animals.

 

Recent neuroimaging suggests insects are fully hardwired for both consciousness and egocentric behavior, providing strong evidence that organisms from flies to fleas exhibit both.

 

Consciousness, however, comes in many levels, and researchers say that insects have the capacity for at least one basic form: subjective experience.

 

“When you and I are hungry, we don't just move towards food; our hunger also has a particular feeling associated with it," Colin Klein, who co-authored the new paper, explains. "An organism has subjective experience if its mental states feel like something when they happen."

 

Klein, a researcher at Macquarie University, and colleague Andrew Barron studied detailed neuroimaging reports concerning insect brains. They then compared the structure of such brains with those of humans and other animals. The resulting information is published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Their work focused on the midbrain, a set of evolutionarily ancient structures that are surrounded by the gray folds of the cortex. The arrangement, they say, looks a bit like the flesh of a peach surrounding the pit.

 

“In humans and other vertebrates there is good evidence that the midbrain is responsible for the basic capacity for subjective experience," Klein said. “The cortex determines much about what we are aware of, but the midbrain is what makes us capable of being aware in the first place. It does so, very crudely, by forming a single integrated picture of the world from a single point of view." Portions of insect brains work in a similar way to the midbrain in humans, performing the same sort of modeling of the world, the authors believe.

 

As for being egocentric, Barron explained that there is now compelling evidence that insects display selective attention to their processing of the world. “They don't pay attention to all sensory input equally," Barron explained. "The insect selectively pays attention to what is most relevant to it at the moment, hence (it is) egocentric."

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Software supplies snapshot of gene expression across whole brain

Software supplies snapshot of gene expression across whole brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new tool provides speedy analysis of gene expression patterns in individual neurons from postmortem brain tissue. Researchers have used the method to compare the genetic signatures of more than 3,000 neurons from distant brain regions.

 

Scientists typically use a technique called RNA-Seq to measure gene expression in neurons isolated from postmortem brains. However, analyzing the data from this approach is daunting because the analysis must be done one cell at a time.

 

The new method combines RNA-Seq with software that allows researchers to analyze the expression patterns of thousands of neurons at once1. The investigators described the automated technique, called single-nucleus RNA sequencing (SNS), in June in Science.

 

The researchers tested the method on postmortem brain tissue from a 51-year-old woman with no known neurological illnesses. They used a laser to dissect 3,227 neurons from six brain areas, including those involved in language, cognition, vision and social behavior. They then performed RNA-Seq on the cells, getting a readout for RNAs produced in each cell.

 

The software identifies genes by matching a short segment of each RNA to a gene on a reference map of the human genome. The researchers then quantified each gene’s expression level.

The process correctly identified the subtypes of 2,253 neurons that ramp up brain activity and 972 neurons that dampen it.

 

Within these two broad classes, the neurons fell into 16 groups based on their location and their origin in the developing brain. For example, neurons from the visual cortex show different patterns of gene expression than do neurons from the temporal cortex, which processes hearing and language.

 

The findings expand the list of features that distinguish neurons from other cells in the brain. Researchers could use the method to identify patterns of gene expression in the brains of people with autism.

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Neuroimaging data reveal four distinct stages when solving math problems

Neuroimaging data reveal four distinct stages when solving math problems | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Using neuroimaging data, Carnegie Mellon University researchers have identified four distinct stages of math problem solving, according to a new study published in the journal Psychological Science.

 

“How students were solving these kinds of problems was a total mystery to us until we applied these techniques,” says psychological scientist John Anderson, lead researcher on the study. “Now, when students are sitting there thinking hard, we can tell what they are thinking each second.”

 

Insights from this work may eventually be applied to the design of more effective classroom instruction, says Anderson.

 

Anderson combined two analytical approaches — multivoxel pattern analysis (MVPA) and hidden semi-Markov models (HSMM) — to shed light on the different stages of thinking. MVPA has typically been used to identify momentary patterns of activation; adding HSMM, Anderson hypothesized, would yield information about how these patterns play out over time.

 

The researchers applied this combined approach to neuroimaging data collected from participants as they solved specific types of math problems. To gauge whether the stages that were identified mapped on to actual stages of thinking, the researchers manipulated different features of the math problems; some problems required more effort in coming up with an appropriate solution plan and others required more effort in executing the solution.

 

The aim was to test whether these manipulations had the specific effects one would expect on the durations of the different stages.

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Demystifying the Brain's GPS System

Demystifying the Brain's GPS System | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Studies in rodents are beginning to reveal how mammalian navigational sense works.

 

For that past few decades, scientists have been chipping away at an explanation of the brain’s “inner GPS.” The 2014 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine honored the discovery of so-called place cells and grid cells in the hippocampus, which keep track of an individual’s location and coordinates in space, respectively. Since then, studies have revealed that neurons in different hippocampal regions have distinct genetic, anatomical, and physiological properties, said Attila Losonczy of Columbia, Danielson’s graduate advisor and a coauthor on the study.

 

“What was unknown was how these subpopulations of pyramidal cells relate to the functions the hippocampus supports,” namely, spatial navigation and memory formation, Losonczy told The Scientist.

 

Losonczy, Danielson, and colleagues used two-photon calcium imaging to measure neural activity in the superficial and deep sublayers of hippocampal area CA1 in mice while the animals performed either “random foraging” or “goal-oriented learning” tasks. Two-photon imaging “is an extremely powerful method, because it allows us and others to look at the activity of not just a single cell, but of a relatively large population of neurons in hippocampal CA1,” Danielson explained. 

 

The random foraging task involved running on a treadmill and receiving random water rewards. The goal-oriented learning task had the animals running on a treadmill and receiving rewards at predictable intervals. By measuring when the mice made licking motions while running, the researchers could see whether the animals had learned the location of the rewards.

 

Deep CA1 neurons were more active than superficial ones in both tasks. Superficial brain cells formed a more stable representation than deep cells of the animals’ environment. But the latter were more highly tuned than the former during the goal-oriented learning task; activity in deep brain cells was also more predictive of the animals’ performance, the researchers found.

 

“What’s particularly impressive to me in the study is that the anatomy in the hippocampus segregates two aspects of memory”—a stable map of the environment, and a representation of new goals or targets, neuroscientist Howard Eichenbaum of Boston University, who was not involved in the work, explains.

 

It’s a bit like Google Maps on your phone, Eichenbaum explained: the plot of your environment with a dot for your location is the stable map, whereas the target address and directions for getting there comprise the goal-oriented system.

 

The findings support those of previous studies. In a 2011 experiment, neuroscientist Gyorgy Buzsaki of New York University School of Medicine and colleagues found clear functional differences between deep and superficial neurons in the CA1 of rats. “The most astonishing [finding] was that neurons in both layers lock to the theta cycle, the most prominent navigation rhythm in the hippocampus,” Buzsaki explains. But during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, the deep neurons shifted the phase of their firing by 180 degrees. The findings suggest that, compared with superficial brain cells, deep neurons receive more input from the animal’s external environment, such as when the rodent is seeking a specific goal, Buzsaki noted.

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Researcher proposes method for growing brain cells in 3D tissue culture

Researcher proposes method for growing brain cells in 3D tissue culture | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new method has been proposed that could allow scientists to develop a "3D brain-on-a-chip." Something which could offer researchers a new platform to develop a far better understanding of how brain cells react to medication in a real setting.

 

While 3D cell culturing isn't new, it's not currently used in neuroscience, which still takes place in two-dimensions, in a petri dish. Bart Schurink -- a researcher at the University of Twente in the Netherlands -- has recently pioneered a way in which three-dimensional cells could be grown on a chip.

 

By measuring electrical signals and placing a microreactor on top, Schurink found that cells could also be grown vertically as well as horizontally. The process also involves a special "sieve" that contains 900 inverted pyramid openings the enables the 3D "network" of neurons. The 3D cell environment offers more accurate data for studying the effects that medicine has on them. Naturally, the researchers needed a little help from the university's NanoLab to make a "microsieve electrode array," as every hole needs to be exactly the same size.

 

Tests have so far been conducted using living brain cells from lab rats but the hope is that the data the process yields will provide a new way of analyzing the effects of diseases and their treatments, and ultimately be applied to humans.

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Birds have much higher neuronal density than mammals

Birds have much higher neuronal density than mammals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Birds are remarkably intelligent, although their brains are small. Corvids and some parrots are capable of cognitive feats comparable to those of great apes. How do birds achieve impressive cognitive prowess with walnut-sized brains? Scientists now investigated the cellular composition of the brains of 28 avian species, uncovering a straightforward solution to the puzzle: brains of songbirds and parrots contain very large numbers of neurons, at neuronal densities considerably exceeding those found in mammals. Because these “extra” neurons are predominantly located in the forebrain, large parrots and corvids have the same or greater forebrain neuron counts as monkeys with much larger brains. Avian brains thus have the potential to provide much higher “cognitive power” per unit mass than do mammalian brains.

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$1.2 Billion Human Brain Project Is Underway

$1.2 Billion Human Brain Project Is Underway | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The HBP is a €1.2 billion worth and 10 years long global project that will give us a deeper and more meaningful understanding of how the human brain operates. It is comprised of 130 research institutions throughout Europe and coordinated through the Ecole polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EFPL) in Switzerland (1).

 

Experimental mapping of the brain turned out to be a dead end, given that it takes 20,000 experiments to map just one neural circuit and that our brain consists of 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses. The HBP came up with a better solution by building the first human brain model. These are neuromorphic computing systems which use the same basic principles of computation and cognitive architectures as the brain (1, 2, 3, 4).

 

The plan is to determine fundamental principles of how neurons are connected and use those principles to construct statistical simulations. A simulation model will then predict how the certain parts of the brain, for which we have none or little experimental information, are wired and then compare the results with real biological data. In other words, the idea is to find some underlying principle that governs brain’s morphology and reverse-engineer the human brain with the help of supercomputers (1, 2, 3).

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New ‘camera’ produces panoramic images of brain activity

New ‘camera’ produces panoramic images of brain activity | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A new multi-step brain imaging method called ClearMap creates a snapshot of neuronal activity across the entire brain of an adult mouse1.

The tool, described 25 May in Cell, could help researchers understand how symphonies of neurons firing during social interactions differ between mouse models of autism and typical mice.

Scientists have used various methods, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, to record synchronized activity in brain regions. But these techniques cannot identify which patterns of activity correspond with particular behaviors.

In the new method, a specialized microscope shines light on various depths of the mouse brain to produce a three-dimensional (3D) rendering of active neurons. New software then superimposes this image onto a publicly available atlas of brain structures. Scientists can analyze this combination to pinpoint the brain regions that fire in synchrony and match that activity to what the animal was doing just before they examined its brain.
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Birds have significantly more neurons in their brains than mammals or primates

Birds have significantly more neurons in their brains than mammals or primates | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The first study to systematically measure the number of neurons in the brains of birds has found that they have significantly more neurons packed into their small brains than are stuffed into mammalian and even primate brains of the same mass.

 

Birds are remarkably intelligent, although their brains are small. Corvids and some parrots are capable of cognitive feats comparable to those of great apes. How do birds achieve impressive cognitive prowess with walnut-sized brains? We investigated the cellular composition of the brains of 28 avian species, uncovering a straightforward solution to the puzzle: brains of songbirds and parrots contain very large numbers of neurons, at neuronal densities considerably exceeding those found in mammals. Because these “extra” neurons are predominantly located in the forebrain, large parrots and corvids have the same or greater forebrain neuron counts as monkeys with much larger brains. Avian brains thus have the potential to provide much higher “cognitive power” per unit mass than do mammalian brains.

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Researchers identify a lncRNA critical for human brain development and show its mechanism

Researchers identify a lncRNA critical for human brain development and show its mechanism | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

New research from the Kosik Molecular and Cellular Neurobiology Lab at UC Santa Barbara has pinpointed a specific long nocoding ribonucleic acid (lncRNA) that regulates neural development (ND). The findings appear in the journal Neuron. "This lncND, as we've called it, can be found only in the branch of primates that leads to humans. It is a stretch of nucleotides that does not code a protein," said senior author Kenneth S. Kosik, the Harriman Professor of Neuroscience Research in UCSB's Department of Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology. "We demonstrate that lncND is turned on during development and turned off when the cell matures."

 

Lead author Neha Rani, a postdoctoral scholar in the Kosik Lab, idenfitied several binding sites on lncND for another type of RNA called a microRNA. One of them, called microRNA-143, binds to lncND. "We found that lncND could sequester this microRNA and in doing so regulate the expression of Notch proteins," Rani said. "Notch proteins are very important regulators during neuronal development. They are involved in cell differentiation and cell fate and are critical in the neural development pathway."

 

Kosik describes lncND as a platform that binds these microRNAs like a sponge. "This allows Notch to do what it's supposed to do during development," he explained. "Then as the brain matures, levels of lncND go down and when they do, those microRNAs come flying off the platform and glom onto Notch to bring its levels down. You want Notch levels to be high while the brain is developing but not once maturation occurs. This lncND is an elegant way to change Notch levels quickly."

 

To replicate these cell culture results, Rani used human stem cells to grow neurons into what is called a mini brain. In this pea-sized gob of brain tissue, she identified a subpopulation -- radial glial cells (neuronal stem cells) and other neural progenitors -- responsible for making lncND.

 

"It was right where we thought it would be in brain tissue," said Kosik, who is also the co-director of UCSB's Neuroscience Research Institute. "But we still had one more thing we had to do because people would still not be satisfied that we had done everything possible to show that lncND was really doing something functionally."

 

So the UCSF team introduced lncND into the fetal brain of a gestating mouse. Green fluorescent protein labeling allowed them to see the early development pattern and show that lncND, which ordinarily is not present in mice -- lncND is present only in some primates including humans -- had a functional effect on development.

 

"When we overexpressed lncND in the mouse fetus, we actually affected development in the predicted manner," Kosik said. "The early developmental pattern was shifted toward more precursor cells, even though the mouse does not make lncND at all."


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With a few skin cells, scientists can make mini, thinking version of your brain

With a few skin cells, scientists can make mini, thinking version of your brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Tiny, rolling balls of brain cells knocking around in a lab may one day help keep you from losing your marbles—among other things.

The small cellular balls act like mini-brains, mimicking aspects of the real thing, including forming noggin-like structures and pulsing with electrical signals like a thinking mind, researchers reported Friday at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington. The mini-brains, which can be personalized based on whose cells they’re made from, may soon help scientists study a wide variety of diseases and health problems—from autism and Parkinson’s to multiple sclerosis and Alzheimer’s, as well as stroke, brain trauma, and infections, such as Zika virus.

 

“There are a variety of places where a mini brain could be useful,” said Wayne Drevets of Janssen Pharmaceuticals Inc., who was not involved with the research. In some cases, they may offer a cheaper, more ethical, and more realistic model for human health than mice and other animals, he and other researchers said at the conference.

 

Researchers who developed the wee noodles, led by Thomas Hartung, of Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, hope to have the mini-brains commercially available this year.


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The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby

The mystery of why you can't remember being a baby | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

From the most dramatic moment in life – the day of your birth – to first steps, first words, first food, right up to nursery school, most of us can’t remember anything of our first few years. Even after our precious first memory, the recollections tend to be few and far between until well into our childhood. How come?

This gaping hole in the record of our lives has been frustrating parents and baffling psychologists, neuroscientists and linguists for decades. It was a minor obsession of the father of psychotherapy, Sigmund Freud, who coined the phrase ‘infant amnesia’ over 100 years ago.

 

Probing that mental blank throws up some intriguing questions. Did your earliest memories actually happen, or are they simply made up? Can we remember events without the words to describe them? And might it one day be possible to claim your missing memories back?


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Dogs process faces in a specialized brain area, study reveals

Dogs process faces in a specialized brain area, study reveals | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Dogs have a specialized region in their brains for processing faces, a new study finds. PeerJ published the research, which provides the first evidence for a face-selective region in the temporal cortex of dogs.

“Our findings show that dogs have an innate way to process faces in their brains, a quality that has previously only been well-documented in humans and other primates,” says Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist at Emory University and the senior author of the study.

Having neural machinery dedicated to face processing suggests that this ability is hard-wired through cognitive evolution, Berns says, and may help explain dogs’ extreme sensitivity to human social cues.

Berns heads up the Dog Project in Emory’s Department of Psychology, which is researching evolutionary questions surrounding man’s best, and oldest, friend. The project was the first to train dogs to voluntarily enter a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner and remain motionless during scanning, without restraint or sedation. In previous research, the Dog Project identified the caudate region of the canine brain as a reward center. It also showed how that region of a dog’s brain responds more strongly to the scents of familiar humans than to the scents of other humans, or even to those of familiar dogs.

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Connectome Map More Than Doubles Human Cortex’s Known Regions

Connectome Map More Than Doubles Human Cortex’s Known Regions | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
Neuroscience News has recent neuroscience research articles, brain research news, neurology studies and neuroscience resources for neuroscientists, students, and science fans and is always free to join. Our neuroscience social network has science groups, discussion forums, free books, resources, science videos and more.

 

Researchers have mapped 180 distinct areas in our brain’s outer mantle, or cortex — more than twice the number previously known. They have also developed software that automatically detects the “fingerprint” of each of these areas in an individual’s brain scans. Funded by the National Institutes of Health through its Human Connectome Project (HCP), this software correctly mapped the areas by incorporating data from multiple non-invasive brain imaging measures that corroborated each other.

 

“These new insights and tools should help to explain how our cortex evolved and the roles of its specialized areas in health and disease, and could eventually hold promise for unprecedented precision in brain surgery and clinical work-ups,” said Bruce Cuthbert, Ph.D., acting director of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which co-funded the research as part of the HCP.

 

The new study identified — with a nearly 97 percent detection rate — 97 new cortex areas per hemisphere, in addition to confirming 83 that were previously known.

 

NIMH grantees David Van Essen, Ph.D., and Matthew Glasser, Ph.D., of Washington University in St. Louis, and colleagues at six other researcher centers, report on their discoveries July 20, 2016 in the journal Nature.

 

Earlier studies of cortex organization often used just one measure, such as examining postmortem tissue with a microscope. Uncertain delineation of cortex areas has sometimes led to shaky comparability of brain imaging findings.

 

“The situation is analogous to astronomy where ground-based telescopes produced relatively blurry images of the sky before the advent of adaptive optics and space telescopes,” noted Glasser, lead author of the study.

 

The HCP team set out to banish this blurriness by using multiple, precisely aligned, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) modalities to measure cortical architecture, activity, connectivity, and topography in a group of 210 healthy participants. These measures — including cortex thickness, cortex myelin content, task and resting-state functional MRI (fMRI) – cross-validated each other. The findings were, in turn, confirmed in an additional independent sample of 210 healthy participants.

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Study reveals new measure of intelligence involving temporal variability of brain areas

Study reveals new measure of intelligence involving temporal variability of brain areas | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new study of human intelligence by University of Warwick researchers and associates at nine universities in China and NEC Laboratories America has quantified the brain’s dynamic functions, identifying how different parts of the brain interact with each other at different times, they reported in the journal Brain.

 

The more variable a brain is, and the more its different parts frequently connect with each other, the higher a person’s intelligence and creativity are, the researchers found .

Specifically, using resting-state MRI analysis of 1180 people’s brains in eight datasets around the world, the researchers discovered that the areas of the brain associated with learning and development, such as the hippocampus, show high levels of temporal variability — meaning that they change their neural connections with other parts of the brain more frequently, over a matter of minutes or seconds. But regions of the brain that aren’t associated with intelligence — visual, auditory, and sensory-motor areas — show small variability and adaptability.

 

This more accurate understanding of human intelligence could be applied to the construction of advanced artificial neural networks for computers, with the ability to learn, grow and adapt, the researchers suggest. Currently, AI systems do not process the functional variability and adaptability that is vital to the human brain for growth and learning, they note.

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New brain map identifies 97 new areas previously unknown

New brain map identifies 97 new areas previously unknown | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

A new 21st century map of the human brain contains 180 distinct areas in each hemisphere, including 97 previously undiscovered territories, research published Wednesday in the journal Nature revealed. It's not quite Google Maps, but the new optic still provides the most detailed understanding of the cerebral cortex to date, based on the freshest data from the latest technologies.

 

The new map "is a major revision and updating" of previous maps," said David Van Essen, senior author of the study. "Most of the new areas are in regions we associate with higher cognitive function," he said.

 

This is version 1.0, and as new data comes in, there will be revisions, said Dr. Greg Farber, director of technology development at the National Institute of Mental Health, echoing the authors of the research.

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Auditory cortex nearly identical in hearing and deaf people

Auditory cortex nearly identical in hearing and deaf people | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

The neural architecture in the auditory cortex — the part of the brain that processes sound — is virtually identical in profoundly deaf and hearing people, a new study has found.

 

The study raises a host of new questions about the role of experience in processing sensory information, and could point the way toward potential new avenues for intervention in deafness. The study is described in a June 18 paper published in Scientific Reports.

 

The paper was written by Ella Striem-Amit, a postdoctoral researcher in Alfonso Caramazza’s Cognitive Neuropsychology Laboratory at Harvard, Mario Belledonne from Harvard, Jorge Almeida from the University of Coimbra, and Quanjing Chen, Yuxing Fang, Zaizhu Han, and Yanchao Bi from Beijing Normal University.

 

“One reason this is interesting is because we don’t know what causes the brain to organize the way it does,” said Striem-Amit, the lead author. “How important is each person’s experience for their brain development? In audition, a lot is known about [how it works] in hearing people, and in animals … but we don’t know whether the same organization is retained in congenitally deaf people.”

 

Those similarities between deaf and hearing brain architecture, Striem-Amit said, suggest that the organization of the auditory cortex doesn’t critically depend on experience, but is likely based on innate factors. So in a person who is born deaf, the brain is still organized in the same manner.

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Smarter than you thought: Scientists show newborn ducklings can acquire notions of 'same' and 'different'

Smarter than you thought: Scientists show newborn ducklings can acquire notions of 'same' and 'different' | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

Scientists from the University of Oxford have shown that newly hatched ducklings can readily acquire the concepts of 'same' and 'different' - an ability previously known only in highly intelligent animals such as apes, crows and parrots.

Ducklings and other young animals normally learn to identify and follow their mother through a type of learning called imprinting, which can occur in as little as 15 minutes after hatching. Imprinting is a powerful form of learning that can allow ducklings to follow any moving object, provided they see it within the species' typical 'sensitive period' for imprinting.

In this new study, published in the journal Science, ducklings were initially presented with a pair of objects either the same as or different from each other - in shape or in color - which moved in a circular path.

The ducklings therefore 'imprinted' on these pairs of moving objects before being tested for their preferences between different sets of objects. In these subsequent choice tests, each duckling was allowed to follow either of two pairs of objects composed of shapes or colors to which the duckling had not previously been exposed.

For example, if an individual duckling had originally been exposed to a pair of spherical objects, in the choice test it may have had to choose between following a pair of pyramids (same) or a pair made up of one cube and one cuboid (different).

If the birds had learned the relationship between members of the original moving pair, then they should have followed the pairs of novel objects showing that same relationship (either 'same' or 'different'), even if they had never seen the test objects.

In the example above, ducklings that had been imprinted on two spheres should have followed the set of two pyramids, because they were the same as each other. This is exactly what the ducklings did.

 

More information: "Ducklings understand and imprint on the relational concept of 'same or different'," Science, science.sciencemag.org/cgi/doi/10.1126/science.aaf4247


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People with anger disorder have decreased connectivity between regions of the brain

People with anger disorder have decreased connectivity between regions of the brain | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

People with intermittent explosive disorder (IED), or impulsive aggression, have a weakened connection between regions of the brain associated with sensory input, language processing and social interaction.

 

In a new study published in the journal Neuropsychopharmacology, neuroscientists from the University of Chicago show that white matter in a region of the brain called the superior longitudinal fasciculus (SLF) has less integrity and density in people with IED than in healthy individuals and those with other psychiatric disorders. The SLF connects the brain’s frontal lobe–responsible for decision-making, emotion and understanding consequences of actions–with the parietal lobe, which processes language and sensory input.

 

“It’s like an information superhighway connecting the frontal cortex to the parietal lobes,” said Royce Lee, MD, associate professor of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience at the University of Chicago and lead author of the study. “We think that points to social cognition as an important area to think about for people with anger problems.”

 

Lee and his colleagues, including senior author Emil Coccaro, MD, Ellen C. Manning Professor and Chair of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience at University of Chicago, used diffusion tensor imaging, a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) that measures the volume and density of white matter connective tissue in the brain. Connectivity is a critical issue because the brains of people with psychiatric disorders usually show very few physical differences from healthy individuals.

 

“It’s not so much how the brain is structured, but the way these regions are connected to each other,” Lee said. “That might be where we’re going to see a lot of the problems in psychiatric disorders, so white matter is a natural place to start since that’s the brain’s natural wiring from one region to another.”

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Elephantnose fish has no cortex but intelligently switches between senses

Elephantnose fish has no cortex but intelligently switches between senses | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
The elephantnose fish was in an aquarium connected to two different chambers; the animal could choose. Behind openings to the chambers there were differently shaped objects: a sphere or a cuboid. The fish learned to steer toward one of these objects by being rewarded with insect larvae. Subsequently, it searched for this object again, to obtain the reward again. When does the fish use a particular sense? To answer this question, the researchers repeated the experiments in absolute darkness. Now the fish could rely only on its electrical sense. As shown by images taken with an infrared camera, it was able to recognize the object only at short distances. With the light on the fish was most successful, because it was able to use its eyes and the electrical sense for the different distances. To find out when the fish used its eyes alone, the researchers made the objects invisible to the electrical sense. Now, the sphere and cuboid to be discriminated had the same electrical characteristics as the water.
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Mobilizing mitochondria to regenerate damaged neurons

Mobilizing mitochondria to regenerate damaged neurons | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
After axonal injury, nearby mitochondria become incapable of producing ATP, as indicated by their change in color from yellow (healthy) to green (damaged)

 

Although neuronal regeneration is a highly energy-demanding process, axonal mitochondrial transport progressively declines with maturation. Mature neurons typically fail to regenerate after injury, thus raising a fundamental question as to whether mitochondrial transport is necessary to meet enhanced metabolic requirements during regeneration.

 

Now, scientists reveal that reduced mitochondrial motility and energy deficits in injured axons are intrinsic mechanisms controlling regrowth in mature neurons. Axotomy induces acute mitochondrial depolarization and ATP depletion in injured axons. Thus, mature neuron-associated increases in mitochondria-anchoring protein syntaphilin (SNPH) and decreases in mitochondrial transport cause local energy deficits. Strikingly, enhancing mitochondrial transport via genetic manipulation facilitates regenerative capacity by replenishing healthy mitochondria in injured axons, thereby rescuing energy deficits. An in vivo sciatic nerve crush study further shows that enhanced mitochondrial transport in snphknockout mice accelerates axon regeneration. Understanding deficits in mitochondrial trafficking and energy supply in injured axons of mature neurons benefits development of new strategies to stimulate axon regeneration.

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Fish can recognize human faces, new study shows

Fish can recognize human faces, new study shows | Amazing Science | Scoop.it
A species of tropical fish has been shown to be able to distinguish between human faces. It is the first time fish have demonstrated this ability.

 

The research, carried out by a team of scientists from the University of Oxford (UK) and the University of Queensland (Australia), found that archerfish were able to learn and recognize faces with a high degree of accuracy—an impressive feat, given this task requires sophisticated visual recognition capabilities.

 

The study is published in the journal Scientific Reports.

First author Dr Cait Newport, Marie Curie Research Fellow in the Department of Zoology at Oxford University, said: 'Being able to distinguish between a large number of human faces is a surprisingly difficult task, mainly due to the fact that all human faces share the same basic features. All faces have two eyes above a nose and mouth, therefore to tell people apart we must be able to identify subtle differences in their features. If you consider the similarities in appearance between some family members, this task can be very difficult indeed.

 

'It has been hypothesized that this task is so difficult that it can only be accomplished by primates, which have a large and complex brain. The fact that the human brain has a specialized region used for recognizing human faces suggests that there may be something special about faces themselves. To test this idea, we wanted to determine if another animal with a smaller and simpler brain, and with no evolutionary need to recognize human faces, was still able to do so.'

 

The researchers found that fish, which lack the sophisticated visual cortex of primates, are nevertheless capable of discriminating one face from up to 44 new faces. The research provides evidence that fish (vertebrates lacking a major part of the brain called the neocortex) have impressive visual discrimination abilities.

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10 Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Enhancement and Brain Health

10 Neurotechnologies About to Transform Brain Enhancement and Brain Health | Amazing Science | Scoop.it

30,000+ scientists and professionals gathered for the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in Chicago last month, proving the growing interest and activities to better understand the inner workings of the human brain, and to discover ways and technologies to enhance its health and performance.

 

Now, which of all those ongoing efforts are closer to touching our lives, to empower consumers, patients and health professionals?

To answer that question, we recently examined the worldwide landscape of Pervasive Neurotechnology patents, given that investment in intellectual property is a crucial signal in the life-cycle of technology commercialization. We paid extra attention to neurotech­nolo­gies which, being dig­i­tal, are scal­able and rel­a­tively inex­pen­sive, and that, being non-invasive, pose few if any neg­a­tive side-effects.

 

Through our year-long analysis of thousands of patents, we uncovered ten innovative brain health and brain enhancement systems on the cutting edge, that, in our estimation, are likely to go mainstream over the next few years.


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Daniel Perez-Marcos's curator insight, June 4, 2016 6:39 AM
Where is the neurotechnology field going? This overview by SharpBrains gives you some hints.