Does practice really make perfect? It’s an age-old question, and a new study from Rice University, Princeton University and Michigan State University finds that while practice won’t make you perfect, it will usually make you better at what you’re practicing. “This question is the subject of a long-running debate in psychology,” said Fred Oswald, professorRead More
The FOXP2 transcription factor is one of the most well-known genes to have been implicated in developmental speech and language disorders. Rare mutations disrupting the function of this gene have been described in different families and cases. In a large three-generation family carrying a missense mutation, neuroimaging studies revealed significant effects on brain structure and function, most notably in the inferior frontal gyrus, caudate nucleus and cerebellum. After the identification of rare disruptive FOXP2 variants impacting on brain structure, several reports proposed that common variants at this locus may also have detectable effects on the brain, extending beyond disorder into normal phenotypic variation. These neuroimaging genetics studies used groups of between 14 and 96 participants. The current study assessed effects of common FOXP2 variants on neuroanatomy using voxel-based morphometry and volumetric techniques in a sample of >1300 people from the general population. In a first targeted stage we analyzed single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) claimed to have effects in prior smaller studies (rs2253478, rs12533005, rs2396753, rs6980093, rs7784315, rs17137124, rs10230558, rs7782412, rs1456031), beginning with regions proposed in the relevant papers, then assessing impact across the entire brain. In the second gene-wide stage, we tested all common FOXP2 variation, focusing on volumetry of those regions most strongly implicated from analyses of rare disruptive mutations. Despite using a sample that is more than ten times that used for prior studies of common FOXP2 variation, we found no evidence for effects of SNPs on variability in neuroanatomy in the general population. Thus, the impact of this gene on brain structure may be largely limited to extreme cases of rare disruptive alleles. Alternatively, effects of common variants at this gene exist but are too subtle to be detected with standard volumetric techniques.
The team of researchers, led by Professor Simon Baron-Cohen and Dr Michael Lombardo in Cambridge and Professor Bent Nørgaard-Pedersen in Denmark, utilized approximately 19,500 amniotic fluid samples stored in a Danish biobank from individuals born between 1993-1999. Amniotic fluid surrounds the baby in the womb during pregnancy and is collected when some women choose to have an amniocentesis around 15-16 weeks of pregnancy.
Zoe Williams: The idea that a child's brain is irrevocably shaped in the first three years increasingly drives government policy on adoption and early childhood intervention. But does the science stand up to scrutiny?
An education professor has sided with the environment in the “nurture vs. nature” debate after his research found that a child’s ability to read depends mostly on where that child is born, rather than on individual qualities.
There are different ways to be a good reader. There has been much discussion over the years about some readers having more of a sound-based style and others having more of a meaning-based style. But until now, there has been very little evidence of this, particularly evidence connecting brain behavior and reading behavior.
Experts believe language uses both a mental dictionary and a mental grammar. The mental ‘dictionary’ stores sounds, words and common phrases, while mental ‘grammar’ involves the real-time composition of longer words and sentences. For example, making a longer word ‘walked’ from a smaller one ‘walk’.
Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) is the workhorse of imaging-based human cognitive neuroscience. The use of fMRI is ever-increasing; within the last 4 years more fMRI studies have been published than in the previous 17 years. This large body of research has mainly focused on the functional localization of condition- or stimulus-dependent changes in the blood-oxygenation-level dependent (BOLD) signal. In recent years, however, many aspects of the commonly practiced analysis frameworks and methodologies have been critically reassessed. Here we summarize these critiques, providing an overview of the major conceptual and practical deficiencies in widely used brain-mapping approaches, and exemplify some of these issues by the use of imaging data and simulations. In particular, we discuss the inherent pitfalls and shortcomings of methodologies for statistical parametric mapping. Our critique emphasizes recent reports of excessively high numbers of both false positive and false negative findings in fMRI brain mapping. We outline our view regarding the broader scientific implications of these methodological considerations and briefly discuss possible solutions.
Want to improve your mental finesse? Playing a puzzle game like Cut the Rope could just be the thing you need. A recent study showed that adults who played the physics-based puzzle video game Cut the Rope regularly, for as little as an hour a day, had improved executive functions. The executive functions in your brain are important for making decisions in everyday life when you have to deal with sudden changes in your environment -- better known as thinking on your feet.
Sleep helps the consolidation of declarative memories in the laboratory, but the pro-mnemonic effect of daytime naps in schools is yet to be fully characterized. While a few studies indicate that sleep can indeed benefit school learning, it remains unclear how best to use it. Here we set out to evaluate the influence of daytime naps on the duration of declarative memories learned in school by students of 10-15 years old. A total of 584 students from 6th grade were investigated. Students within a regular classroom were exposed to a 15-minute lecture on new declarative contents, absent from the standard curriculum for this age group. The students were then randomly sorted into nap and non-nap groups. Students in the nap group were conducted to a quiet room with mats, received sleep masks and were invited to sleep. At the same time, students in the non-nap group attended regular school classes given by their usual teacher (Experiment I), or English classes given by another experimenter (Experiment II). In Experiment I (n=371), students were pre-tested on lecture-related contents before the lecture, were invited to nap for up to 2 hours, and after 1, 2 or 5 days received surprise tests with similar content but different wording and question order. In Experiment II (n=213), students were invited to nap for up to 50 minutes (duration of a regular class); surprise tests were applied immediately after the lecture, and repeated after 5, 30 or 110 days. Experiment I showed a significant ~10% gain in test scores for both nap and non-nap groups 1 day after learning, in comparison with pre-test scores. This gain was sustained in the nap group after 2 and 5 days, but in the non-nap group it decayed completely after 5 days. In Experiment II, the nap group showed significantly higher scores than the non-nap group at all times tested, thus precluding specific conclusions. The results suggest that sleep can be used to enhance the duration of memory contents learned in school.