Antidepressant treatments enhance plasticity and increase neurogenesis in the adult brain, but it has been unclear how these effects influence mood. We propose that, like environmental enrichment and exercise, antidepressant treatments enhance adaptability by increasing structural variability within the nervous system at many levels, from proliferating precursors to immature synaptic contacts. Conversely, sensory deprivation and chronic stress reduce this structural variability. Activity-dependent competition within the mood-related circuits, guided by rehabilitation, then selects for the survival and stabilization of those structures that best represent the internal or external milieu. Increased variability together with competition-mediated selection facilitates normal function, such as pattern separation within the dentate gyrus and other mood-related circuits, thereby enhancing adaptability toward novel experiences. - by Castren E. & Hen R., Trends in Neurosciences, 04 February 2013
Our eyes may be our window to the world, but how do we make sense of the thousands of images that flood our retinas each day? Scientists at the University of California, Berkeley, have found that the brain is wired to put in order all the categories of objects and actions that we see. They have created the first interactive map of how the brain organizes these groupings. (...) - By Yasmin Anwar, Media Relations UC Berkeley News Center, December 19, 2012
The brain is divided into two major hemispheres called the right and left hemispheres. The right brain is thought to process information through creative imagery. The left brain is the analytical side that controls verbal and ...
A group of researchers at UC San Francisco and UC Berkeley have mapped the three-dimensional global connections within the brains of seven adults who have genetic malformations that leave them without the corpus callosum, which connects the left and right sides of the brain.
These "structural connectome" maps, which combine hospital MRIs with the mathematical tool known as network analysis. They reveal new details about the condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum, which is one of the top genetic causes of autism. The condition was part of the mysterious brain physiology of Laurence Kim Peek, the remarkable savant portrayed by Dustin Hoffman in the 1987 movie “Rain Man.”
In the 1987 movie “Rain Man,” Dustin Hoffman, right, played the remarkable savant Laurence Kim Peek, who in real life had the condition known as agenesis of the corpus callosum.
While some people born with agenesis of the corpus callosum are of normal intelligence and do not have any obvious signs of neurologic disease, approximately 40 percent of people with the condition are at high risk for autism. Given this, the work is a step toward finding better ways to image the brains of people with the condition, said Pratik Mukherjee, MD, PhD, a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging at UCSF who was the co-senior author of the research.
Understanding how brain connectivity varies from person to person may help researchers identify imaging biomarkers for autism to help diagnose it and manage care for individuals. Currently autism is diagnosed and assessed based on cognitive tests, such as those involving stacking blocks and looking at pictures on flip cards.
While the new work falls short of a quantitative measure doctors could use instead of cognitive testing, it does offer a proof-of-principle that this novel technique may shed light on neurodevelopment disorders.
“Because you are looking at the whole brain at the network level, you can do new types of analysis to find what’s abnormal,” Mukherjee said.
The brain sciences are influencing our understanding of human behavior as never before, from neuropsychiatry and neuroeconomics to neurotheology and neuroaesthetics. Many now believe that the brain is what makes us human, and it seems that neuroscientists are poised to become the new experts in the management of human conduct. Neuro describes the key developments--theoretical, technological, economic, and biopolitical--that have enabled the neurosciences to gain such traction outside the laboratory. It explores the ways neurobiological conceptions of personhood are influencing everything from child rearing to criminal justice, and are transforming the ways we "know ourselves" as human beings. In this emerging neuro-ontology, we are not "determined" by our neurobiology: on the contrary, it appears that we can and should seek to improve ourselves by understanding and acting on our brains.
Neuro examines the implications of this emerging trend, weighing the promises against the perils, and evaluating some widely held concerns about a neurobiological "colonization" of the social and human sciences. Despite identifying many exaggerated claims and premature promises, Neuro argues that the openness provided by the new styles of thought taking shape in neuroscience, with its contemporary conceptions of the neuromolecular, plastic, and social brain, could make possible a new and productive engagement between the social and brain sciences.
Jeff Lichtman is Jeremy R. Knowles Professor of Molecular and Cellular Biology at Harvard. He received an A.B. from Bowdoin (1973), and an M.D. and Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis (1980) where he worked for 30 years before moving to Cambridge (2004). He is a member of Harvard's newly established Center for Brain Science. Jeff's research interests revolve around the question of how mammalian brain circuits are physically altered by experiences, especially in early life. He has focused on the dramatic re-wiring of neural connections in early postnatal development. More recently his research has focused on developing new electron microscopy methods to map the entire wiring diagram of the developing and adult brain. One of the principal aims of this "connectomics" approach is to uncover the ways information is stored in neural networks. (...)
[Abstract] Over the past three decades numerous imaging studies have revealed structural and functional brain abnormalities in patients with neuropsychiatric diseases. These structural and functional brain changes are frequently found in multiple, discrete brain areas and may include frontal, temporal, parietal and occipital cortices as well as subcortical brain areas. However, while the structural and functional brain changes in patients are found in anatomically separated areas, these are connected through (long distance) fibers, together forming networks. Thus, instead of representing separate (patho)-physiological entities, these local changes in the brains of patients with psychiatric disorders may in fact represent different parts of the same ‘elephant’, i.e., the (altered) brain network. Recent developments in quantitative analysis of complex networks, based largely on graph theory, have revealed that the brain's structure and functions have features of complex networks. Here we briefly introduce several recent developments in neural network studies relevant for psychiatry, including from the 2013 special issue on Neural Networks in Psychiatry in European Neuropsychopharmacology. We conclude that new insights will be revealed from the neural network approaches to brain imaging in psychiatry that hold the potential to find causes for psychiatric disorders and (preventive) treatments in the future. - by Pol HH et al., European Neuropsychopharmacology, in Press, Available online 8 February 2013
[Videos] Read Montague is interested in the human dopamine system -- or, as he puts it in this illuminating talk from TEDGlobal 2012, that which makes us "chase sex, food and salt" and therefore survive. (...) - by Kate Torgovnick, TED blog, September 24, 2012
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