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Redlight Special: Optogenetic Toolkit Goes Multicolor

Redlight Special: Optogenetic Toolkit Goes Multicolor | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
New light-sensitive proteins allow scientists to study how multiple sets of neurons interact with each other.


Optogenetics is a technique that allows scientists to control neurons’ electrical activity with light by engineering them to express light-sensitive proteins. Within the past decade, it has become a very powerful tool for discovering the functions of different types of cells in the brain.

Most of these light-sensitive proteins, known as opsins, respond to light in the blue-green range. Now, a team led by MIT has discovered an opsin that is sensitive to red light, which allows researchers to independently control the activity of two populations of neurons at once, enabling much more complex studies of brain function.


Opsins occur naturally in many algae and bacteria, which use the light-sensitive proteins to help them respond to their environment and generate energy.


To achieve optical control of neurons, scientists genetically modify brain cells of mice to express the gene for an opsin, which transports ions across the cell’s membrane to alter its voltage. Depending on the opsin used, shining light on the cell either lowers the voltage and silences neuron firing, or boosts voltage and provokes the cell to generate an electrical impulse. This effect is nearly instantaneous and easily reversible.


Using this approach, researchers can selectively turn a population of cells on or off and observe what happens in the brain. However, until now, they could activate only one population at a time, because the only opsins that responded to red light also responded to blue light, so they couldn’t be paired with other opsins to control two different cell populations.


To seek additional useful opsins, the MIT researchers worked with Gane Ka-Shu Wong, a professor of medicine and biological sciences at the University of Alberta, the paper’s other senior author. Wong’s team  is sequencing the transcriptomes of 1,000 plants, including some algae. (The transcriptome is similar to the genome but includes only the genes that are expressed by a cell, not the entirety of its genetic material.)


Once the team obtained genetic sequences that appeared to code for opsins, Klapoetke tested their light-responsiveness in mammalian brain tissue, working with Martha Constantine-Paton, an MIT professor of brain and cognitive sciences and of biology, a member of the McGovern Institute, and an author of the paper. The red-light-sensitive opsin, which the researchers named Chrimson, can mediate neural activity in response to light with a 735-nanometer wavelength.


The researchers also discovered a blue-light-driven opsin that has two highly desirable traits: It operates at high speed, and it is sensitive to very dim light. This opsin, called Chronos, can be stimulated with levels of blue light that are too weak to activate Chrimson.


Most optogenetic studies thus far have been done in mice, but Chrimson could be used for optogenetic studies of fruit flies, a commonly used experimental organism. Researchers have had trouble using blue-light-sensitive opsins in fruit flies because the light can get into the flies’ eyes and startle them, interfering with the behavior being studied.

Vivek Jayaraman, a research group leader at Janelia Farms and an author of the paper, was able to show that this startle response does not occur when red light is used to stimulate Chrimson in fruit flies.

Because red light is less damaging to tissue than blue light, Chrimson also holds potential for eventual therapeutic use in humans, Boyden says. Animal studies with other opsins have shown promise in helping to restore vision after the loss of photoreceptor cells in the retina.

The researchers are now trying to modify Chrimson to respond to light in the infrared range. They are also working on making both Chrimson and Chronos faster and more light sensitive.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Tackling blindness, deafness through neuroengineering

Tackling blindness, deafness through neuroengineering | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
The Bertarelli Program in Translational Neuroscience and Neuroengineering, a collaborative program between Harvard Medical School (HMS) and the École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland, has announced a new set of grants worth...
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Neurophysiological assessment aids in identifying back injury

Neurophysiological assessment aids in identifying back injury | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
(HealthDay)—For patients with lumbosacral disc herniation, neurophysiological tests together with neuroimaging and clinical examination allow for accurate preoperative assessment of injury, according to a study published in the Oct.
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Frontiers | Metacognition and action: a new pathway to understanding social and cognitive aspects of expertise in sport

For over a century, psychologists have investigated the mental processes of expert performers - people who display exceptional knowledge and/or skills in specific fields of human achievement. Since the 1960s, expertise researchers have made considerable progress in understanding the cognitive and neural mechanisms that underlie such exceptional performance. Whereas the first modern studies of expertise were conducted in relatively formal knowledge domains such as chess, more recent investigations have explored elite performance in dynamic perceptual-motor activities such as sport. Unfortunately, although these studies have led to the identification of certain domain-free generalizations about expert-novice differences, they shed little light on an important issue: namely, experts’ metacognitive activities or their insights into, and regulation of, their own mental processes. In an effort to rectify this oversight, the present paper argues that metacognitive processes and inferences play an important if neglected role in expertise. In particular, we suggest that metacognition (including such processes as ‘meta-attention’, ‘meta-imagery’ and ‘meta-memory’, as well as social aspects of this construct) provides a window on the genesis of expert performance. Following a critique of the standard empirical approach to expertise, we explore some research on ‘metacognition’ and ‘metacognitive inference’ among experts in sport. After that, we provide a brief evaluation of the relationship between psychological skills training and metacognition and comment on the measurement of metacognitive processes. Finally, we summarize our conclusions and outline some potentially new directions for research on metacognition in action.

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Why People with Down Syndrome Invariably Develop Alzheimer's Disease

Why People with Down Syndrome Invariably Develop Alzheimer's Disease | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Amyloid plaques are found in the brains of people with Down syndrome and Alzheimer’s disease. Credit Juan Gartner.

 

Study reveals how the SNX27 protein regulates the generation of beta amyloid.

 

A new study by researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute reveals the process that leads to changes in the brains of individuals with Down syndrome—the same changes that cause dementia in Alzheimer’s patients. The findings, published in Cell Reports, have important implications for the development of treatments that can prevent damage in neuronal connectivity and brain function in Down syndrome and other neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative conditions, including Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Down syndrome is characterized by an extra copy of chromosome 21 and is the most common chromosome abnormality in humans. It occurs in about one per 700 babies in the United States, and is associated with a mild to moderate intellectual disability. Down syndrome is also associated with an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. By the age of 40, nearly 100 percent of all individuals with Down syndrome develop the changes in the brain associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and approximately 25 percent of people with Down syndrome show signs of Alzheimer’s-type dementia by the age of 35, and 75 percent by age 65. As the life expectancy for people with Down syndrome has increased dramatically in recent years—from 25 in 1983 to 60 today—research aimed to understand the cause of conditions that affect their quality of life are essential.


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The Secrets of Sleep

We delve into the secrets of sleep and find out why some people are night owls and others early risers.

 

Sleep is essential for resting our minds and bodies, and it's controlled by a mysterious phenomenon known as our internal body clock. This 'master clock' is located in the hypothalamus of our brains, and is established during the first months of our lives. It controls the timing of our nightly sleeps through the release of the chemical melatonin.


While most people's body clock runs roughly to a 24-hour cycle, melatonin release can peak anywhere from 9pm to 3am, depending on the individual. It's this difference in chemical release timing that sees some people become night owls, and other early risers.


Once we're asleep, our brains will cycle through different levels of consciousness, from deep sleep to rapid eye movement sleep (REM). REM sleep is the period throughout which we dream, and it's thought to be a crucial part of memory storage, and works like a recharger for the brain. Most people have four or five dreams every night, but we usually don't remember them.


Find out why people who don't get enough sleep are more likely to overeat, and what the longest recorded period without sleep is by watching the latest episode of RiAus's A Week in Science above.

 

Read more here: http://sciencealert.com.au/features/20141710-26353.html


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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, October 22, 8:57 PM

Intelligent and creative people are more likely to have problems sleeping because  when they lie quietly with their eyes closed, to relax, the enter a state of mind called "random episodic silent thought" http://sco.lt/5kno1J

 

Research has shown that our brains can make decisions while we're sleeping http://sco.lt/5pcSOn

 

Some tips on how to fall asleep quicker at night have been scooped here: http://sco.lt/5yWKDx

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The Mind of the Meditator

The Mind of the Meditator | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Scientific American Just put out a decent summary of the current neuroscience research on meditation written by friends, Matthieu Ricard, Antoine Lutz, and Richie Davidson. I enjoyed reading the ar...

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See-Through Sensors Open New Window Into the Brain

See-Through Sensors Open New Window Into the Brain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Developing invisible implantable medical sensor arrays, a team of University of Wisconsin-Madison engineers has overcome a major technological hurdle in researchers' efforts to understand the brain.
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See-through, one-atom-thick, carbon electrodes powerful tool to study brain disorders

See-through, one-atom-thick, carbon electrodes powerful tool to study brain disorders | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine and School of Engineering at the University of Pennsylvania and The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia have used graphene—a two-dimensional form of carbon only one atom thick—to fabricate a new type...
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Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain

Head injury causes the immune system to attack the brain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Scientists have uncovered a surprising way to reduce the brain damage caused by head injuries - stopping the body's immune system from killing brain cells. The study, published in the open access journal Acta Neuropathologica Communications, showed that in experiments on mice, an immune-based treatment ...
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What is a Good Life?

What is a Good Life? | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new book explores what we know and don’t yet know about human nature and the role of the environment in shaping our moral character.

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Other People Do Matter: ECPP2014

Other People Do Matter: ECPP2014 | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
The 7th ECPP in Amsterdam from 1st-4th July was a fabulous opportunity to get up-to-date with the latest positive psychology research and practice. I was struck by how often the conference returned to the theme of connection and, in the widest-possible sense, well-being from a community perspective.

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Psychology professor's new study shows the social impact of saying 'thanks'

Psychology professor's new study shows the social impact of saying 'thanks' | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Dr. Monica Bartlett has a lot to be thankful for.  Bartlett, an assistant professor of psychology at Gonzaga, recently conducted a study to be published in the journal “Emotion” that contains the first known evidence of the positive effects that expressions of gratitude have on the building and strengthening of social relationships. 

Bartlett and Dr. Lisa Williams from the University of South Wales, Australia, brought 70 GU student participants into a lab under the premise that they would be participating in a “peer editing program,” during which they would serve as mentors for high school students writing college essays. At the end of the study, all of the GU participants received a handwritten note from their mentee. Thirty of these handwritten notes contained the words “Thank you SO much,” while the other 40 did not. 

Results showed that the participants who received the thank you notes not only viewed their mentees as warmer people; they were also more willing to continue their relationship with their mentee.  When given the opportunity, most of the 30 participants were willing to share their phone number or email with their mentee for future social interaction.


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Effect of Anti-inflammatory Treatment on Depression

Effect of Anti-inflammatory Treatment on Depression | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Research from JAMA Psychiatry — Effect of Anti-inflammatory Treatment on Depression, Depressive Symptoms, and Adverse Effects — A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis of Randomized Clinical Trials
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On Empathy: Q&A with Peggy Mason, PhD

On Empathy: Q&A with Peggy Mason, PhD | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Empathy—the ability to perceive and share another person's emotional state—is the subject of this month’s Cerebrum article, “With A Little Help from My Friends: How the Brain Procand the latest on this aspect of social neuroscience is Peggy Mason, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at the University of Chicago and the author of Medical Neurobiology.



Mason, whose lab is currently interested in empathetic healing and helping behavior in rats, offers an open online course, “Understanding the Brain: The Neurobiology of Everyday Life,” through Coursera and held a lively discussion of empathy on Reddit recently.


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What Happens in the Hippocampus?

What Happens in the Hippocampus? | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
The hippocampus has been object of scrutiny since the days of Gray’s Anatomy.
This year’s Nobel Prize in medicine recognises work on “cells that constitute a positioning system in the brain.” Those cells are found in the hippocampus.
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Off-track Process Like Reminiscing Can Help Boost Mental Performance on Goal-oriented Tasks - Cornell U

Off-track Process Like Reminiscing Can Help Boost Mental Performance on Goal-oriented Tasks - Cornell U | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

The researchers developed a new approach in which off-task processes such as reminiscing can support rather than conflict with the aims of the experimental task. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit jarmoluk.

 

Researchers report performance of complex mental tasks can be boosted by 'off task' mental activities, such as reminiscing.

 

To solve a mental puzzle, the brain’s executive control network for externally focused, goal-oriented thinking must activate, while the network for internally directed thinking like daydreaming must be turned down to avoid interference – or so we thought.

 

New research led by Cornell University neuroscientist Nathan Spreng shows for the first time that engaging brain areas linked to so-called “off-task” mental activities (such as mind-wandering and reminiscing) can actually boost performance on some challenging mental tasks. The results advance our understanding of how externally and internally focused neural networks interact to facilitate complex thought, the authors say.

...

Spreng and his team developed a new approach in which off-task processes such as reminiscing can support rather than conflict with the aims of the experimental task. Their novel task, “famous faces n-back,” tests whether accessing long-term memory about famous people, which typically engages default network brain regions, can support short-term memory performance, which typically engages executive control regions.


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iPamba's curator insight, October 23, 7:37 PM

Interesting topic, although the report is scant on details.

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A social neuroscience perspective could increase empathy in physicians, enhance patient care

A social neuroscience perspective could increase empathy in physicians, enhance patient care | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
In the October issue of World Psychiatry, neuroscientists and UC Berkeley psychiatrist Jodi Halpern contribute a perspective on the need for increased research on the components of empathy, in order to develop interventions and programs designed to increase the levels of empathy in clinical practice.

According to the article, clinical empathy is increasingly being seen as an important element of quality health care, and has been associated with improved patient satisfaction, increased adherence to treatment, and fewer malpractice complaints.


As well, for doctors, higher levels of empathy have led to decreased burnout, personal distress, depression, and anxiety, along with increased life satisfaction and psychological well-being.


By Amabelle Ocampo


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Brainhack movement comes to FIU, promotes global collaboration in neuroscience research

Brainhack movement comes to FIU, promotes global collaboration in neuroscience research | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
FIU’s Cognitive Neuroscience and Imaging Center (CNIC) hosted the Miami Brainhack Eastern Daylight Time (EDT) conference Oct. 18. Brainhack is a unique
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Our brains have an internal calorie counter, research suggests

Our brains have an internal calorie counter, research suggests | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A new neuroimaging study suggests that our brain evaluates food based on caloric density, even when we're not conscious of how many calories something contains, which is perhaps why many of us prefer junk food.

 

Researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital of McGill University in the US, have discovered that our brain subconsciously makes decisions on what food to eat based on the food’s calorie content. The findings which are published in the journal Psychological Science, could explain why many people choose high calorie foods.

 

"Earlier studies found that children and adults tend to choose high-calorie food" said Alain Dagher, neurologist and lead author of the study, in a press release. "The easy availability and low cost of high-calorie food has been blamed for the rise in obesity. Their consumption is largely governed by the anticipated effects of these foods, which are likely learned through experience.”

 

The study involved a group of participants who were asked to rate pictures of familiar foods based on which they would like to consume. They were then asked to estimate the calorie content of each food item. Observations showed that the participants preferred high caloric food, even though they were not able to accurately indicate the calorie content.

 

The team also performed brain scans on the participants while they were evaluating the food images which supported the observations. The scan results showed that activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex - an area of the brain that is involved in decision making - was correlated with the foods’ caloric content. While the participants were rating the foods, there was increased activity in the insular cortex - a part of the brain that is involved in processing the sensory properties of food.


“Our study sought to determine how people's awareness of caloric content influenced the brain areas known to be implicated in evaluating food options. We found that brain activity tracked the true caloric content of foods,” said Dagher. 


Read more here: http://www.sciencealert.com.au/news/20142110-26369.html


The associated research article can be read here:

pss.sagepub.com/content/early/2014/10/08/0956797614552081


Via Eric Chan Wei Chiang
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Eric Chan Wei Chiang's curator insight, October 22, 12:35 PM

The ability of our brains to evaluate the calorific content of food is tied very closely to hunger. Cutting calories would make us hungry and eat more in the long run http://sco.lt/7lEwkb Therefore, it is important that we choose foods with a decent calorific content but a low glyceamic index so that our bodies do not metabolize all the carbohydrates at one go http://sco.lt/59Yakz ;

 

Similarly, artificial sweeteners throws off our brain's ability to monitor calories and has been linked to glucose intolerance http://sco.lt/7leSVF ;

 

On the plus side, research has shown that it is possible to train our brains to prefer healthy foods http://sco.lt/5IXUzR Read more scoops on the human brain here:

http://www.scoop.it/t/biotech-and-beyond/?tag=Brain

http://www.scoop.it/t/food-health-and-nutrition/?tag=Brain

Elena Ceciu's curator insight, October 23, 5:10 AM

”Un nou studiu neuroimagistic sugereaza ca creierul nostru evalueaza alimentele in functie de densitatea lor calorica, chiar si atunci cand nu suntem constienti de cate calorii contine ceva, si poate de aceea multi dintre noi preferam junk food.”

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Scientific evidence does not support the brain game claims, Stanford scholars say - Stanford Report

Scientific evidence does not support the brain game claims, Stanford scholars say - Stanford Report | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Sixty-nine scientists at Stanford University and other institutions issued a statement that the scientific track record does not support the claims that so-called "brain games" actually help older adults boost their mental powers.
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Astrocytic mechanism that repairs brain after stroke discovered.

Astrocytic mechanism that repairs brain after stroke discovered. | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A previously unknown mechanism through which the brain produces new nerve cells after a stroke has been discovered at Lund University and Karolinska Institutet in Sweden. The findings have been pub...

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Like Valium and Oxycontin, without the Side Effects [Video]

Like Valium and Oxycontin, without the Side Effects [Video] | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Whether it be mental calm or analgesia, neuroscientists have discovered a range of possible health benefits from meditation
-- Read more on ScientificAmerican.com
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The Neuroscience of Love & Loneliness - YouTube

Neuropschology power couple John and Stephanie Cacioppo explore the spectrum of emotion from companionship to social isolation by peering into the human brai...

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Our brains are maladapted to the modern world we live in - Johns Hopkins News-Letter

Our brains are maladapted to the modern world we live in Johns Hopkins News-Letter Civilization allows many of us to flood our brains' pleasure centers with dopamine and other chemicals many times a day through supernormal stimuli like junk food,...
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