Neurobiology and Epigenetics
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Brave New Cells? by Donna Dickenson - Project Syndicate

Brave New Cells? by Donna Dickenson - Project Syndicate | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
A public consultation has been launched in the UK to gauge attitudes toward controversial new medical procedures aimed at preventing the transmission of certain genetic diseases.

 

The aim is preventing the transmission of incurable diseases that result from mutations of cell structures called mitochondria. Supporters of such research are framing criticism of it as opposition to saving children’s lives and an impediment to scientific development. But this view neglects a crucial factor in the debate: the techniques being developed involve permanent genetic alterations passed on to future generations.

 

Read more at http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/the-risks-of-mitochondrial-research-in-the-uk-by-donna-dickenson#gUA7V5kctfFIVeKv.99

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Epilepsy Cured in Mice Using A One-Time Transplantation Of MGE Brain Cells

Epilepsy Cured in Mice Using A One-Time Transplantation Of MGE Brain Cells | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

UCSF scientists controlled seizures in epileptic mice with a one-time transplantation of medial ganglionic eminence (MGE) cells, which inhibit signaling in overactive nerve circuits, into the hippocampus, a brain region associated with seizures, as well as with learning and memory. Other researchers had previously used different cell types in rodent cell transplantation experiments and failed to stop seizures.

 

Cell therapy has become an active focus of epilepsy research, in part because current medications, even when effective, only control symptoms and not underlying causes of the disease, according to Scott C. Baraban, PhD, who holds the William K. Bowes Jr. Endowed Chair in Neuroscience Research at UCSF and led the new study. In many types of epilepsy, he said, current drugs have no therapeutic value at all.

 

"Our results are an encouraging step toward using inhibitory neurons for cell transplantation in adults with severe forms of epilepsy," Baraban said. "This procedure offers the possibility of controlling seizures and rescuing cognitive deficits in these patients."

 

In the UCSF study, the transplanted inhibitory cells quenched this synchronous, nerve-signaling firestorm, eliminating seizures in half of the treated mice and dramatically reducing the number of spontaneous seizures in the rest. Robert Hunt, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the Baraban lab, guided many of the key experiments.

 

he mouse model of disease that Baraban's lab team worked with is meant to resemble a severe and typically drug-resistant form of human epilepsy called mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, in which seizures are thought to arise in the hippocampus. In contrast to transplants into the hippocampus, transplants into the amygdala, a brain region involved in memory and emotion, failed to halt seizure activity in this same mouse model, the researcher found.

 

Temporal lobe epilepsy often develops in adolescence, in some cases long after a seizure episode triggered during early childhood by a high fever. A similar condition in mice can be induced with a chemical exposure, and in addition to seizures, this mouse model shares other pathological features with the human condition, such as loss of cells in the hippocampus, behavioral alterations and impaired problem solving.

 


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Biosciencia's curator insight, May 6, 2013 6:38 AM

Cell therapy has become an active focus of epilepsy research, in part because current medications, even when effective, only control symptoms and not underlying causes of the disease.

Brenda Elliott's curator insight, May 8, 2013 7:00 AM

curative_ that's amazing...

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83% decision-makers, early-adopters would take an “annual mental check-up”

83% decision-makers, early-adopters would take an “annual mental check-up” | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
So the question we asked ourselves as we spent close to a year preparing our latest market report is, which technology platform and which company may successfully develop and commercialize a mainstream assessment, and how will it be integrated into...

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Touch Bionics introduces app-controlled prosthetic hand

Touch Bionics introduces app-controlled prosthetic hand | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Whichever marketing genius came up with the Apple catchphrase, "There's an app for that," has a lot to answer for – or brag about. It's heard so often these days that it’s become a cliché. Touch Bionic’s i-limb ultra revolution robotic artificial hand gives yet another reason to repeat the phrase. It’s linked to a smartphone app, which allows for greater control of the hand, including the ability to program it to suit the wearer’s personal needs

 

 


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Scientists Create Biodegradable Computer Chips from Spider Silk!

Scientists Create Biodegradable Computer Chips from Spider Silk! | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Spiders are capable of some amazing things – not the least of which is weaving strong-as-steel webs from silk. Now, scientists at the Institut de Physique de Rennes in France have found a way to incorporate this amazing material into biodegradable computer chips. Some say that this unprecedented combination of natural materials and advanced technology could yield medical devices that can be implanted safely and then remain in the body indefinitely.


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What a Thorny Devil and Camel Nose Can Teach Us About Water

What a Thorny Devil and Camel Nose Can Teach Us About Water | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

"Within our bodies and our societies we use water as a solvent, transporter, heat conductor, coolant, buffer, lubricant and structural component. Adapting to a new conservation-based prosperity will mean figuring out ways to make water work more efficiently. Adapting is something that nature does very well, and because organisms have occurred in water for billions of years, there are many examples of clever tactics."


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Tiny new LEDs can be injected into the brain

Tiny new LEDs can be injected into the brain | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Optogenetics is the process by which genetically-programmed neurons or other cells can be activated by subjecting them to light. Among other things, the technology helps scientists understand how the brain works, which could in turn lead to new treatments for brain disorders. Presently, fiber optic cables must be wired into the brains of test animals in order to deliver light to the desired regions. That may be about to change, however, as scientists have created tiny LEDs that can be injected into the brain.

 

 


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Training your brain: Do mental and physical (MAP) training enhance cognition through the process of neurogenesis in the hippocampus?

Abstract: New neurons are produced each day in the hippocampus through the process of neurogenesis. Both mental and physical training can modify this process by increasing the number of new cells that mature into functional neurons in the adult brain. However, the mechanisms whereby these increases occur are not necessarily the same. Physical activity, especially aerobic exercise greatly increases the number of new neurons that are produced in the hippocampal formation. In contrast, mental training via skill learning increases the numbers that survive, particularly when the training goals are challenging. Both manipulations can increase cognitive performance in the future, some of which are reportedly mediated by the presence of new neurons in the adult hippocampus. Based on these data, we suggest that a combination of mental and physical training, referred to here as MAP training, is more beneficial for neuronal recruitment and overall mental health than either activity alone.
Invited review: This article is part of a Special Issue entitled 'Cognitive Enhancers'.

 

D.M. Curlik, T.J. Shors
Training your brain: Do mental and physical (MAP) training enhance cognition through the process of neurogenesis in the hippocampus?
Neuropharmacology Volume 64, January 2013, Pages 506-514
http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.neuropharm.2012.07.027


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» Brain Learns to Manage Stress Early in Life - Psych Central News

» Brain Learns to Manage Stress Early in Life  - Psych Central News | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
Provocative new animal research suggests that the ability to manage stress is not genetically hardwired into our brain. Rather the brain learns from early

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Barbara Kerr's curator insight, April 8, 2013 4:02 PM

This is hopeful news from the online journal, Nature Neuroscience, about the flexibiity of our ability to cope with stress.  "“Using this information, researchers can now ask questions about the precise cellular and molecular links between early life stress and stress vulnerability or resilience later in life.”

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A Harvard Psychiatrist Explains Zombie Neurobiology

A Harvard Psychiatrist Explains Zombie Neurobiology | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
In Night of the Living Dead, zombies are brought back from the dead by a "mysterious force" that allows their brains to continue functioning. But how exactly does a zombie brain function? Finally, a Harvard psychiatrist has the answers.
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Unborn lizards can erupt from their eggs days early if vibrations hint at a threat from a hungry predator

Unborn lizards can erupt from their eggs days early if vibrations hint at a threat from a hungry predator | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Researchers have long known that an array of factors can affect when eggs laid by all kinds of creatures finally hatch. Some fish eggs, for instance, hatch only at certain light or temperature levels, while fungal infections can prompt lizard eggs to crack open early. Chemical or physical signals sent by predators can prompt some frog embryos to speed up their breakouts, while others delay hatching in a bid to stay safe. In lizards and other reptiles, however, such "environmentally cued hatching" strategies aren't well understood.

 

That curtain began to lift a bit a few years ago, when Doody and student Philip Paull of Monash University in Australia began studying a population of delicate skinks (Lampropholis delicata) in a park near Sydney. There, the common lizards laid white, leathery eggs the size of aspirin capsules in rock crevices. The eggs generally incubate for 4 to 8 weeks before hatching, but Doody got a surprise in 2010, when he and Paull were plucking eggs from the crevices to make measurements. "They started hatching in our hands, at just a touch—it shocked us," Doody recalls. "It turned into a real mess, they were just hatching everywhere."

 

Soon, Doody launched a more systematic study of the phenomenon. In two lab experiments, the researchers compared the hatching dates for skink eggs exposed to vibrations with those of eggs that weren't shaken. And in three field experiments, they poked and prodded eggs with a small stick, or squeezed them gently with their fingers to measure how sensitive the eggs were to the kinds of disturbances a predator, such as a snake, might cause. They also measured how far the premature hatchlings could dash.

 

Together, the experiments offer "compelling evidence" that embryonic skinks can detect and respond to predator-like signals, the authors write in the March 2013 issue of Copeia. The vibrated laboratory eggs, for instance, hatched an average of 3.4 days earlier than the unshaken controls. And in the field, the hatching of disturbed eggs was "explosive," they note; the newborns often broke out of the egg and then sprinted more than one-half meter to nearby cover in just a few seconds. "It's amazing," Doody says. "It can be hard to see because it happens so quick."


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Animal self-medication: Parasite-infected butterflies lay eggs on medicinal plant for better survival of offspring

Animal self-medication: Parasite-infected butterflies lay eggs on medicinal plant for better survival of offspring | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

It's been known for decades that animals such as chimpanzees seek out medicinal herbs to treat their diseases. But in recent years, the list of animal pharmacists has grown much longer, and it now appears that the practice of animal self-medication is a lot more widespread than previously thought, according to a University of Michigan ecologist and his colleagues.

 

Animals use medications to treat various ailments through both learned and innate behaviors. The fact that moths, ants and fruit flies are now known to self-medicate has profound implications for the ecology and evolution of animal hosts and their parasites, according to Mark Hunter, a professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology.

In addition, because plants remain the most promising source of future pharmaceuticals, studies of animal medication may lead the way in discovering new drugs to relieve human suffering, Hunter and two colleagues wrote in a review article titled "Self-Medication in Animals," published online April 11 in the journal Science.

 

"When we watch animals foraging for food in nature, we now have to ask, are they visiting the grocery store or are they visiting the pharmacy?" Hunter said. "We can learn a lot about how to treat parasites and disease by watching other animals."

 

Much of the work in this field has focused on cases in which animals, such as baboons and woolly bear caterpillars, medicate themselves. One recent study has suggested that house sparrows and finches add high-nicotine cigarette butts to their nests to reduce mite infestations.

 

But less attention has been given to the many cases in which animals medicate their offspring or other kin, according to Hunter and his colleagues. Wood ants incorporate an antimicrobial resin from conifer trees into their nests, preventing microbial growth in the colony. Parasite-infected monarch butterflies protect their offspring against high levels of parasite growth by laying their eggs on anti-parasitic milkweed.

Hunter and his colleagues suggest that researchers in the field should "de-emphasize the 'self' in self-medication" and base their studies on a more inclusive framework.

 

"Perhaps the biggest surprise for us was that animals like fruit flies and butterflies can choose food for their offspring that minimizes the impacts of disease in the next generation," Hunter said. "There are strong parallels with the emerging field of epigenetics in humans, where we now understand that dietary choices made by parents influence the long-term health of their children."

 


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Injectable nano-network controls blood sugar in diabetics for days at a time

Injectable nano-network controls blood sugar in diabetics for days at a time | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

In a promising development for diabetes treatment, researchers have developed a network of nanoscale particles that can be injected into the body and release insulin when blood-sugar levels rise, maintaining normal blood sugar levels for more than a week in animal-based laboratory tests. The work was done by researchers at North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Children's Hospital Boston.

 

The new, injectable nano-network is composed of a mixture containing nanoparticles with a solid core of insulin, modified dextran and glucose oxidase enzymes. When the enzymes are exposed to high glucose levels they effectively convert glucose into gluconic acid, which breaks down the modified dextran and releases the insulin. The insulin then brings the glucose levels under control. The gluconic acid and dextran are fully biocompatible and dissolve in the body.

 

Each of these nanoparticle cores is given either a positively charged or negatively charged biocompatible coating. The positively charged coatings are made of chitosan (a material normally found in shrimp shells), while the negatively charged coatings are made of alginate (a material normally found in seaweed).

 

When the solution of coated nanoparticles is mixed together, the positively and negatively charged coatings are attracted to each other to form a "nano-network." Once injected into the subcutaneous layer of the skin, the nano-network holds the nanoparticles together and prevents them from dispersing throughout the body. Both the nano-network and the coatings are porous, allowing blood -- and blood sugar -- to reach the nanoparticle cores.

 

"This technology effectively creates a 'closed-loop' system that mimics the activity of the pancreas in a healthy person, releasing insulin in response to glucose level changes," Gu says. "This has the potential to improve the health and quality of life of diabetes patients."

Gu's research team is currently in discussions to move the technology into clinical trials for use in humans.


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A Boy And His Atom: The World's Smallest Movie

You're about to see the movie that holds the Guinness World Records™ record for the World's Smallest Stop-Motion Film (see how it was made at http://youtu.be/xA4QWwaweWA). The ability to move single atoms — the smallest particles of any element in the universe — is crucial to IBM's research in the field of atomic memory. But even nanophysicists need to have a little fun. In that spirit, IBM researchers used a scanning tunneling microscope to move thousands of carbon monoxide molecules (two atoms stacked on top of each other), all in pursuit of making a movie so small it can be seen only when you magnify it 100 million times. A movie made with atoms.


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Peter A. Lake's comment, May 3, 2013 6:34 AM
As soon as Tarantino finds out about this we'll see blood molecules.
Sakis Koukouvis's comment, May 3, 2013 6:55 AM
His next movie: "Kill Bloody Atom Boy"
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Technique to create transparent brains could transform neuroscience

Technique to create transparent brains could transform neuroscience | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
The mysteries of the human mind might soon be revealed, now that a consortium of experts has figured out how to render entire brains transparent — meaning that researchers will be able to analyze...

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David McGavock's curator insight, April 13, 2013 9:32 AM

But before the approach can become a mainstay of neuroscientific study, researchers will need to clear one major hurdle: how to handle the huge reams of data that'll emerge from collecting information on these billions of cells, and their complex interactions, that have suddenly become readily accessible for study.

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Sanofi launches malaria drug production | Chemistry World

Sanofi launches malaria drug production | Chemistry World | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
French pharma firm set to supply a third of the world's artemisinin next year with photochemical process

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“Neuristor”: Memristors Used to Create a Neuron-like Behavior

“Neuristor”: Memristors Used to Create a Neuron-like Behavior | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Computing hardware is composed of a series of binary switches; they're either on or off. The other piece of computational hardware we're familiar with, the brain, doesn't work anything like that. Rather than being on or off, individual neurons exhibit brief spikes of activity, and encode information in the pattern and timing of these spikes. The differences between the two have made it difficult to model neurons using computer hardware. In fact, the recent, successful generation of a flexible neural system required that each neuron be modeled separately in software in order to get the sort of spiking behavior real neurons display.


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Samuel Free's curator insight, March 27, 2015 4:22 AM

Strange how complex technology resembles complex biology. i wonder if they could be amalgamated in the future. 

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Frog-like Robot Will Help Surgeons With Keyhole Surgery

Frog-like Robot Will Help Surgeons With Keyhole Surgery | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

"Researchers at the University of Leeds are using the feet of tree frogs as a model for a tiny robot designed to crawl inside patients’ bodies during keyhole surgery."


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New Brain Cells - Many Triggers for Neurogenesis | Jon Lieff M.D.

New Brain Cells - Many Triggers for Neurogenesis | Jon Lieff M.D. | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
New brain cells arise in the adult human brain stimulated by new learning, exercise, psychotherapies, medications, and other factors.

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Significantly more neurons are generated in the brains of older animals when Dickkopf-1 is turned off

Significantly more neurons are generated in the brains of older animals when Dickkopf-1 is turned off | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Cognitive decline in old age is linked to decreasing production of new neurons. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center have discovered in mice that significantly more neurons are generated in the brains of older animals if a signaling molecule called Dickkopf-1 is turned off. In tests for spatial orientation and memory, mice in advanced adult age whose Dickkopf gene had been silenced reached an equal mental performance as young animals.

 

The hippocampus – a structure of the brain whose shape resembles that of a seahorse – is also called the "gateway" to memory. This is where information is stored and retrieved. Its performance relies on new neurons being continually formed in the hippocampus over the entire lifetime. "However, in old age, production of new neurons dramatically decreases. This is considered to be among the causes of declining memory and learning ability", Prof. Dr. Ana Martin-Villalba, a neuroscientist, explains.

 

Martin-Villalba, who heads a research department at the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), and her team are trying to find the molecular causes for this decrease in new neuron production (neurogenesis). Neural stem cells in the hippocampus are responsible for continuous supply of new neurons. Specific molecules in the immediate environment of these stem cells determine their fate: They may remain dormant, renew themselves, or differentiate into one of two types of specialized brain cells, astrocytes or neurons. One of these factors is the Wnt signaling molecule, which promotes the formation of young neurons. However, its molecular counterpart, called Dickkopf-1, can prevent this.

 

"We find considerably more Dickkopf-1 protein in the brains of older mice than in those of young animals. We therefore suspected this signaling molecule to be responsible for the fact that hardly any young neurons are generated any more in old age." The scientists tested their assumption in mice whose Dickkopf-1 gene is permanently silenced. Professor Christof Niehrs had developed these animals at DKFZ. The term "Dickkopf" (from German "dick" = thick, "Kopf" = head) also goes back to Niehrs, who had found in 1998 that this signaling molecule regulates head development during embryogenesis.

 

Martin-Villalba's team discovered that stem cells in the hippocampus of Dickkopf knockout mice renew themselves more often and generate significantly more young neurons. The difference was particularly obvious in two-year old mice: In the knockout mice of this age, the researchers counted 80 percent more young neurons than in control animals of the same age. Moreover, the newly formed cells in the adult Dickkopf-1 mutant mice matured into potent neurons with multiple branches. In contrast, neurons in control animals of the same age were found to be more rudimentary already.

Blocking Dickkopf improves spatial orientation and memory.

 

Several years ago, Ana Martin-Villalba had shown that mice lose their spatial orientation when neurogenesis in the hippocampus is blocked. Now, is it possible that the young neurons in Dickkopf-deficient mice improve the animals' cognitive performance? The DKFZ researchers used standardized tests to study how the mice orient themselves in a maze. While in the control animals, the younger ones (3 months) performed much better in orienting themselves than the older ones (18 months), the Dickkopf-1-deficient mice showed no age-related decline in spatial orientation capabilities. Older Dickkopf-1 mutant mice also outperformed normal animals in tests determining spatial memory.

 

"Our result proves that Dickkopf-1 promotes age-related decline of specific cognitive abilities," says Ana Martin-Villalba. "Although we had expected silencing of Dickkopf-1 to improve spatial orientation and memory of adult mice, we were surprised and impressed that animals in advanced adult age actually reach the performance levels of young animals."

 

These results give rise to the question whether the function of Dickkopf-1 may be turned off using drugs. Antibodies blocking the Dickkopf protein are already being tested in clinical trials for treating a completely different condition. "It is fascinating to speculate that such a substance may also slow down age-related cognitive decline. But this is still a dream of the future, since we have only just started first experiments in mice to explore this question."


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Nanoscribe: 3D Scaffolds for Biomimetics for Cell Biology

Nanoscribe: 3D Scaffolds for Biomimetics for Cell Biology | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

3D polymer scaffolds for cells: Biocompatible 3D microstructures act as artificial extracellular matrices for cells to mimic a natural but reproducible environment. Other applications are the fabrication of micro-needles, stents and so on for medical purposes.

 

Shown are a series of structures fabricated by means of the direct laser writing technique with Photonic Professional systems. Typical topics of interest which are under investigation are the study of cell migration or stem cell differentiation. The 3D tailored environment acts as an artificial extracellular matrix, i.e., a scaffold for the cells. Pictures: F. Klein, B. Richter J. Fischer, T. Striebel und M. Bastmeyer; Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT). 


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Japan scientists can 'read' dreams, study claims

Japan scientists can 'read' dreams, study claims | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

Scientists in Japan said Friday they had found a way to "read" people´s dreams, using MRI scanners to unlock some of the secrets of the unconscious mind.

Researchers have managed what they said was "the world´s first decoding" of night-time visions, the subject of centuries of speculation that have captivated humanity since ancient times. 

In the study, published in the journal Science, researchers at the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories, in Kyoto, western Japan, used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to locate exactly which part of the brain was active during the first moments of sleep. The scientists then woke up the dreamers and asked them what images they had seen, a process that was repeated 200 times.

These answers were compared with the brain maps that had been produced by the MRI scanner, the researchers said, adding that they later built a database, based on the results. On subsequent attempts they were able to predict what images the volunteers had seen with a 60 percent accuracy rate, rising to more than 70 percent with around 15 specific items including men, words and books, they said.

"We have concluded that we successfully decoded some kinds of dreams with a distinctively high success rate," said Yukiyasu Kamitani, a senior researcher at the laboratories and head of the study team. "Dreams have fascinated people since ancient times, but their function and meaning has remained closed," Kamitani told AFP. "I believe this result was a key step towards reading dreams more precisely."

His team is now trying to predict other dream experiences such as smells, colours and emotion, as well as entire stories in people´s dreams. "We would like to introduce a more accurate method so that we can work on a way of visualising dreams," he said.

Kamitani, however, admits that there is still a long way to go before they are anywhere near understanding a whole dream. He said the decoding patterns differ for individuals and the database they have developed cannot be applied generally, rather it has to be generated for each person.

The experiment also only used the images the subjects were seeing right before they were woken up. Deep sleep, where subjects have more vivid dreams, remains a mystery. "There are still a lot of things that are unknown," he added.

Kamitani´s experiment is the latest in a government-led brain study programme aimed at applying the science to medical and welfare services, government officials said.


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What we exhale is unique to us – our very own 'breathprint'

What we exhale is unique to us – our very own 'breathprint' | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it
Everyone's breath contains a distinctive set of metabolic compounds, so breath tests could be used to detect and monitor disease

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Noor Fatima's curator insight, April 11, 2013 6:21 AM

INTERESTING.......

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Annual Research Review: The neurobiology and physiology of resilience and adaptation across the life course - Karatoreos - 2013 - Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry - Wiley Online Library

Annual Research Review: The neurobiology and physiology of resilience and adaptation across the life course - Karatoreos - 2013 - Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry - Wiley Online Library | Neurobiology and Epigenetics | Scoop.it

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Barbara Kerr's curator insight, April 13, 2013 2:28 PM

Scholarly scientific article that is both fascinating and readable for those interested in the neurobiology of resilience.