the plastic brain
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Mind-wandering may help enhance creativity, job performance and general well-being, studies show

Mind-wandering may help enhance creativity, job performance and general well-being, studies show | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
When writ­ing a song or a piece of prose, I often choose to let my mind wan­der, hop­ing the muse will strike. If it does, it not only moves my work along but feels great, too!

That’s why I was trou­bled by stud­ies that found an asso­ci­a­tion between mind-wan­der­ing and prob­lems like unhap­pi­ness and depression—and even a short­er life expectan­cy. This research sug­gests that focus­ing one’s thoughts on the present moment is linked to well-being, while spac­ing out—which I per­son­al­ly love to do—is not.

Now, new stud­ies are bring­ing nuance to this sci­ence. Whether or not mind-wan­der­ing is a neg­a­tive depends on a lot of factors—like whether it’s pur­pose­ful or spon­ta­neous, the con­tent of your mus­ings, and what kind of mood you are in. In some cas­es, a wan­der­ing mind can lead to cre­ativ­i­ty, bet­ter moods, greater pro­duc­tiv­i­ty, and more con­crete goals.

Here is what some recent research says about the upsides of a mean­der­ing mind.
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Physical and mental multitasking may boost memory, study suggests | UCLA

Physical and mental multitasking may boost memory, study suggests | UCLA | the plastic brain | Scoop.it

"Performing memory training exercises at the same time as pedaling a stationary bike led to better gains in memory than doing the training exercises after working up a sweat, according to a 55-person study led by UCLA researchers. The findings suggest that exercise may temporarily make it easier for the brain to create new memories."

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Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality

Your brain hallucinates your conscious reality | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Right now, billions of neurons in your brain are working together to generate a conscious experience -- and not just any conscious experience, your experience of the world around you and of yourself within it. How does this happen? According to neuroscientist Anil Seth, we're all hallucinating all the time; when we agree about our hallucinations, we call it "reality." Join Seth for a delightfully disorienting talk that may leave you questioning the very nature of your existence.
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This tiny bit of the brain could offer clues about addiction

This tiny bit of the brain could offer clues about addiction | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
A small part of the brain handles the contextual information when you decide to stop doing something.
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How the Brain Encodes Sounds

How the Brain Encodes Sounds | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: WUSTL.

When you are out in the woods and hear a cracking sound, your brain needs to process quickly whether the sound is coming from, say, a bear or a chipmunk. In new research published in PLoS Biology, a biomedical engineer at Washington University in St. Louis has a new interpretation for an old observation, debunking an established theory in the process.

Dennis Barbour, MD, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering in the School of Engineering & Applied Science who studies neurophysiology, found in an animal model that auditory cortex neurons may be encoding sounds differently than previously thought. Sensory neurons, such as those in auditory cortex, on average respond relatively indiscriminately at the beginning of a new stimulus, but rapidly become much more selective. The few neurons responding for the duration of a stimulus were generally thought to encode the identity of a stimulus, while the many neurons responding at the beginning were thought to encode only its presence. This theory makes a prediction that had never been tested — that the indiscriminate, initial responses would encode stimulus identity less accurately than how the selective responses register over the sound’s duration.

“At the beginning of a sound transition, things are diffusely encoded across the neuron population, but sound identity turns out to be more accurately encoded,” Barbour said. “As a result, you can more rapidly identify sounds and act on that information. If you get about the same amount of information for each action potential spike of neural activity, as we found, then the more spikes you can put toward a problem, the faster you can decide what to do. Neural populations spike most and encode most accurately at the beginning of stimuli.”

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How SORLA Protects Against Alzheimer's

How SORLA Protects Against Alzheimer's | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: SBP.

Researchers at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute (SBP) have identified a new protective function for a brain protein genetically linked to Alzheimer’s. The findings, published in the Journal of Experimental Medicine, could inform novel treatment strategies.

“We found that a protein called SORLA directly limits the ability of amyloid beta, the toxic protein that causes Alzheimer’s, to trigger the destruction of neuronal connections,” says Huaxi Xu, Ph.D., professor and the Jeanne and Gary Herberger Leadership Chair of SBP’s Neuroscience and Aging Research Center. (SORLA stands for sortilin-related receptor with LDLR class A repeats.) “This is actually the third way that SORLA has been shown to defend against neurodegeneration.”

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that the SORLA gene has a major influence on Alzheimer’s development–more and more Alzheimer’s-associated mutations in the SORLA gene are being discovered,” Xu adds. “Our findings help explain why they are so important.”

SORLA is one of many genes in which mutations are associated with increased risk of Alzheimer’s, which affects 5.5 million people in the U.S. The biggest risk factor is age–as the average life expectancy increases, the number of people with Alzheimer’s is expected to almost triple by 2050.

Alzheimer’s begins when amyloid beta aggregates into small clusters outside neurons. Those clusters, called oligomers, induce toxic signaling that damages the connections between synapses so that neurons can no longer talk to one another. Synapse loss is the reason Alzheimer’s patients develop memory problems.
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Gene Breakthrough on Lithium Treatment for Bipolar Disorder

Gene Breakthrough on Lithium Treatment for Bipolar Disorder | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: University of Adelaide.

Genes linked to schizophrenia in psychiatric patients suffering from bipolar disorder are the reason why such patients don’t respond to the “gold standard” treatment for bipolar – the drug lithium – according to international research led by the University of Adelaide.
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Link Between Brain's Memory Center and Heart Function

Link Between Brain's Memory Center and Heart Function | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: Vanderbilt University.

Research by a team of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) scientists suggests that older people whose hearts pump less blood have blood flow reductions in the temporal lobe regions of the brain, where Alzheimer’s pathology first begins.
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In autism, too many brain connections may be at root of condition | Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis

In autism, too many brain connections may be at root of condition | Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Learning, social issues may reflect neuronal miscommunication
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Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Shown to Reduce Fatigue Associated with Multiple Sclerosis

Transcranial Direct Current Stimulation Shown to Reduce Fatigue Associated with Multiple Sclerosis | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
People with multiple sclerosis (MS) who underwent a non-invasive form of electrical brain stimulation called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS, experienced significant reductions in fatigue, a common and often debilitating symptom of the disease, according to new research from the Multiple Sclerosis Comprehensive Care Center at NYU Langone Health.
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Different meditation types train distinct parts of your brain

Different meditation types train distinct parts of your brain | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
By Caroline Williams

We are used to hearing that meditation is good for the brain, but now it seems that not just any kind of meditation will do. Just like physical exercise, the kind of improvements you get depends on exactly how you train – and most of us are doing it all wrong.

That the brain changes physically when we learn a new skill, like juggling or playing a musical instrument, has been known for over a decade. Previous studies had suggested that meditation does something similar for parts of the brain involved in focused attention.

Two new studies published in Science Advances suggest that certain kinds of meditation can change social and emotional circuitry, too. The research comes out of the ReSource Project at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Germany, and looked at the effects of three different meditation techniques on the brains and bodies of more than 300 volunteers over 9 months.
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Study suggests the real deficit underlying Attention Deficit Disorders is not Attention, but Working Memory

Study suggests the real deficit underlying Attention Deficit Disorders is not Attention, but Working Memory | the plastic brain | Scoop.it

"Many parents have observed that their child with ADHD stays attentive and engaged during ‘high interest’ activities, e.g., while playing video games, but has considerable problems staying focused on less inherently engaging tasks, e.g., doing schoolwork. 


This discrepancy in attention during preferred and non-preferred activities has led some to speculate that children with ADHD don’t have underlying neurocognitive deficits that explain their attention difficulties, but that they simply don’t try as hard when they are not interested or motivated. 


Surprisingly, there has been little research to document this observation. 


And, if differences in attention for children with ADHD during preferred and non-preferred activities were found, would this reflect deficits in important neurocognitive processes rather than their just not trying as hard when they are not interested? 


The New Study Those questions were addressed in the study titled Inattentive behavior in boys with ADHD during classroom instruction: the mediating role of working memory processes, published recently in the Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology.

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Consistent use of ADHD medication may stunt growth by 2 inches, large study finds

Consistent use of ADHD medication may stunt growth by 2 inches, large study finds | the plastic brain | Scoop.it

"The Multimodal Treatment Study of ADHD (MTA Study) is the largest ADHD treatment study ever conducted — nearly 600 7–9-year-old children with ADHD were randomly assigned to one of four interventions: 


1) Carefully monitored medication treatment; 


2) Intensive behavior therapy; 


3) Medication Treatment combined with Behavior Therapy; or


4) Community Care (parents obtained whatever treatment they desired). 


After 14 months, results indicated that children receiving carefully monitored medication treatment or medication treatment plus intensive behavior therapy had lower levels of ADHD symptoms and somewhat better overall adjustment compared to those receiving intensive behavioral treatment alone or regular community care. 


Ten months after study treated had ended, children who had received intensive medication treatment — either alone or in combination with behavior therapy — were still doing better than those who received intensive behavior therapy only or community care. 


The magnitude of the relative benefits, however, had been reduced by about 50% compared to the initial outcome assessment. 


And, when participants were assessed again a year later, no group differences based on initial treatment assignments were found; the same was true when participants were evaluated again several years later during adolescence. 


Thus, the initial benefits associated with carefully monitored medication treatment had evaporated; this is not surprising given that many participants had stopped taking medication and the care with which this treatment was provided during the treatment phase of the study was no longer available."

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An Evolutionary Anatomy of Affect: Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio on How and Why We Feel What We Feel –

An Evolutionary Anatomy of Affect: Neuroscientist Antonio Damasio on How and Why We Feel What We Feel – | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
"How and what we create culturally and how we react to cultural phenomena depend on the tricks of our imperfect memories as manipulated by feelings."
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Screen Time Out | TVO.org

Screen Time Out | TVO.org | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Screen Time Out
Recently, the co-creator of the iPhone, Tony Fadell, called out Apple and other Silicon Valley firms for creating devices that are designed to be irresistible. He went further, calling on those companies to do more to protect kids from the potential of addiction to their phones. The Agenda discusses what's appropriate, at what age, and how developing minds might be affected by smart device technology.
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What you can do to prevent Alzheimer's

What you can do to prevent Alzheimer's | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Alzheimer's doesn't have to be your brain's destiny, says neuroscientist and author of "Still Alice," Lisa Genova. She shares the latest science investigating the disease -- and some promising research on what each of us can do to build an Alzheimer's-resistant brain.
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Music only helps you concentrate if you’re doing the right kind of task

Music only helps you concentrate if you’re doing the right kind of task | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
How sound affects performance has been the topic of laboratory research for over 40 years, and is observed through a phenomenon called the irrelevant sound effect.
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Ivon Prefontaine, PhD's curator insight, November 14, 2017 4:07 PM
Music can both distract and become irrelevant background noise.
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Smell Test Challenge Suggests Clinical Benefit for Some Before Development of Alzheimer's

Smell Test Challenge Suggests Clinical Benefit for Some Before Development of Alzheimer's | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: Columbia University Medical Center.

Researchers at Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) and the New York State Psychiatric Institute (NYSPI) may have discovered a way to use a patient’s sense of smell to treat Alzheimer’s disease before it ever develops. Having an impaired sense of smell is recognized as one of the early signs of cognitive decline, before the clinical onset of Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers at CUMC and NYSPI have found a way to use that effect to determine if patients with mild cognitive impairment may respond to cholinesterase inhibitor drugs to treat Alzheimer’s disease.
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Brain Imaging Reveals ADHD as a Collection of Different Disorders

Brain Imaging Reveals ADHD as a Collection of Different Disorders | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: Elsevier.

Researchers have found that patients with different types of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) have impairments in unique brain systems, indicating that there may not be a one-size-fits-all explanation for the cause of the disorder. Based on performance on behavioral tests, adolescents with ADHD fit into one of three subgroups, where each group demonstrated distinct impairments in the brain with no common abnormalities between them.

The study, published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging, has the potential to radically reframe how researchers think about ADHD. “This study found evidence that clearly supports the idea that ADHD-diagnosed adolescents are not all the same neurobiologically,” said first author Dr. Michael Stevens, of the Olin Neuropsychiatry Research Center, Hartford, CT, and Yale University. Rather than a single disorder with small variations, the findings suggest that the diagnosis instead encompasses a “constellation” of different types of ADHD in which the brain functions in completely different ways.
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Lending Late Neurons a Helping Hand

Lending Late Neurons a Helping Hand | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Source: University of Geneva.

During the foetal stage, millions of neurons are born in the walls of the ventricles of the brain before migrating to their final location in the cerebral cortex. If this migration is disrupted, the new-born baby may suffer serious consequences, including intellectual impairment. What happens, however, if the migration takes place but is delayed?
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How Do Adult Brain Circuits Regulate New Neuron Production?

How Do Adult Brain Circuits Regulate New Neuron Production? | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
UNC School of Medicine neuroscientists discover a long-distance brain circuit that controls the production of new neurons in the hippocampus. Research could have implications for understanding and treating many brain disorders, including epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease
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Researchers grapple with the ethics of testing brain implants

Researchers grapple with the ethics of testing brain implants | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
Failed depression study highlights long-term challenges of invasive studies
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MS risk in children spotted with MRI brain scans

MS risk in children spotted with MRI brain scans | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
A study in six countries showed that MRIs can reveal changes in the brain associated with MS before the clinical symptoms of the disease appear in children.
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This training exercise boosts brain power, Johns Hopkins researchers say

This training exercise boosts brain power, Johns Hopkins researchers say | the plastic brain | Scoop.it
One of the two brain-training methods most scientists use in research is significantly better in improving memory and attention, Johns Hopkins University researchers found. It also results in more significant changes in brain activity.

Though this exercise didn't make anyone smarter, it greatly improved skills people need to excel at school and at work. These results, published this week by the Journal of Cognitive Enhancement, suggest it's possible to train the brain like other body parts—with targeted workouts.
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