Tag Archives | Brain

Reading Changes Your Brain

Concentrating (3460165669)I highly doubt that reading this post will do too much to you, but new research shows that reading novels definitely does change your brain with lingering effects. Carol Clark-Emory reports for Futurity:

After reading a novel, actual changes linger in the brain, at least for a few days, report researchers.

Their findings, that reading a novel may cause changes in resting-state connectivity of the brain that persist, appear in the journal Brain Connectivity.

“Stories shape our lives and in some cases help define a person,” says neuroscientist Gregory Berns, lead author of the study and the director of Emory University’s Center for Neuropolicy. “We want to understand how stories get into your brain, and what they do to it.”

Neurobiological research using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has begun to identify brain networks associated with reading stories. Most previous studies have focused on the cognitive processes involved in short stories, while subjects are actually reading them as they are in the fMRI scanner.

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Will The Real Dr. Eben Alexander Please Stand Up?

Near-Death-Experience IllustrationLuke Dittrich has written a long essay for Esquire in which he posits that “Before his bestselling book Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon’s Journey into the Afterlife made Dr. Eben Alexander rich and famous as a “man of science” who’d experienced the afterlife, he was something else: a neurosurgeon with a troubled history and a man in need of reinvention”:

On December 18, 2012, the set of Fox & Friends was both festive and somber. Festive because it was the Christmas season. The three hosts, two men in dark suits flanking a woman in a blue dress, sat on a mustard-colored couch in front of a cheery seasonal backdrop: a lit-up tree, silver-painted twigs, mounds of tinsel, blue and red swatches of fabric, and, here and there, multicolored towers of blown glass with tapering points that made them look surprisingly like minarets. Somber because a terrible thing had happened just four days earlier, in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.

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How Consciousness Arises From Networks

manwith2brainsmovieVia Wired, neuroscientist Christof Koch argues that there are consciousnesses that exist outside of biological entities:

Consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be.

My consciousness is an undeniable fact. I might be confused about the state of my consciousness, but I’m not confused about having it. Then, looking at the biology, all animals have complex physiology. There’s nothing exceptional about human brains. That consciousness extends to all these creatures, that it’s an imminent property of highly organized pieces of matter, such as brains.

It’s not that any physical system has consciousness. A black hole, a heap of sand, a bunch of isolated neurons in a dish, they’re not integrated. They have no consciousness. But complex systems do. And how much consciousness they have depends on how many connections they have and how they’re wired up.

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Your Brain Sees Things You Don’t

spoonVia ScienceDaily:

University of Arizona doctoral degree candidate Jay Sanguinetti has authored a new study, published online in the journal Psychological Science, that indicates that the brain processes and understands visual input that we may never consciously perceive.

The finding challenges currently accepted models about how the brain processes visual information.

A doctoral candidate in the UA’s Department of Psychology in the College of Science, Sanguinetti showed study participants a series of black silhouettes, some of which contained meaningful, real-world objects hidden in the white spaces on the outsides.

Saguinetti worked with his adviser Mary Peterson, a professor of psychology and director of the UA’s Cognitive Science Program, and with John Allen, a UA Distinguished Professor of psychology, cognitive science and neuroscience, to monitor subjects’ brainwaves with an electroencephalogram, or EEG, while they viewed the objects.

“We were asking the question of whether the brain was processing the meaning of the objects that are on the outside of these silhouettes,” Sanguinetti said.

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“My Brain Made Me Do It” Neuroscience Defense Increasingly Used In U.S. Criminal Courts

killerCan someone be punished for what their brain made them do? The Guardian on a growing trend in legal defense:

Criminal courts in the United States are facing a surge in the number of defendants arguing that their brains were to blame for their crimes and relying on questionable scans and other controversial, unproven neuroscience, a legal expert who has advised the president has warned.

Nita Farahany, a professor of law who sits on Barack Obama’s bioethics advisory panel, told a Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego that those on trial were mounting ever more sophisticated defences that drew on neurological evidence in an effort to show they were not fully responsible for murderous or other criminal actions.

“What is novel is the use by criminal defendants to say, essentially, that my brain made me do it,” Farahany said following an analysis of more than 1,500 judicial opinions from 2005 to 2012.

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DARPA To Spend $70 Million Investigating Brain Implants

alzheimersThe ostensible purpose is to better treat mental illness, but I think we all know what the experimental research wing of the military’s real motives are. As reported by the Boston Globe:

The federal Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, known as DARPA, announced Thursday that it intended to spend more than $70 million over five years to jump to the next level of brain implants, either by improving deep brain stimulation or by developing new technology.

The new program, called Systems-Based Neurotechnology and Understanding for the Treatment of Neuropsychological Illnesses, is part of an Obama administration brain initiative that is intended to promote innovative basic neuroscience. Participants in the initiative include DARPA, the National Institutes of Health, and the National Science Foundation.

DARPA’s project is partly inspired by the needs of combat veterans who suffer from mental and physical conditions, and is the first to directly invest in researching human illness as part of the brain initiative.

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Did RFK Steal John F. Kennedy’s Brain?

jfkThe New York Post reports on one of the world’s most sought-after missing brains:

John F. Kennedy’s noodle didn’t get buried with him. “Not all the evidence from the assassination is at the National Archives. One unique, macabre item from the collection is missing — President Kennedy’s brain,” writes James Swanson.

During JFK’s autopsy at Bethesda Naval Hospital, the brain was placed in a stainless-steel container with a screw-top lid. “For a time, the steel container was stored in a file cabinet in the office of the Secret Service,” writes Swanson.

The brain was later taken to the National Archives, where it was “placed in a secure room designated for the use of JFK’s devoted former secretary…In October 1966, it was discovered that the brain, the tissue slides and other autopsy materials were missing — and they have never been seen since.”

An investigation ordered by then-Attorney General Ramsey Clark failed to recover the missing brain — which remains unaccounted for today.

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Is Hurricane Katrina Responsible for Brain-Eating Amoeba in Louisana’s Water Supply?

Picture: National Geographic (C)

Picture: National Geographic (C)

Almost a decade later, and we’re still seeing the impact of Hurricane Katrina. File this one under “Nightmare Fuel.” (By the way, the amoeba really does look like a scary clown face. Here’s where I found the image.)

Via National Geographic.

The deadly brain-eating amoeba that recently killed a four-year-old Louisiana boy may be linked to unsafe water conditions created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005, experts say.

The boy, Drake Smith Jr., died from a rare but deadly swelling of the brain caused by Naegleria fowleri, a species of single-celled organism known as an amoeba.

The child was playing on a backyard Slip ‘n Slide in St. Bernard Parish, near New Orleans, and was apparently infected by amoebae present in the water in early August. About two days later, he was dead.

For N. fowleri to gain access to the brain, it must go up a person’s nose and climb the olfactory nerve.

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Scientists Grow Pea-Sized Human Brains In Lab

pea-sized human brain

How long do we have until the creation of the “pea people”? The BBC reports:

Miniature “human brains” have been grown in a lab by scientists at Institute of Molecular Biotechnology of the Austrian Academy of Sciences.

The pea-sized structures reached the same level of development as in a nine-week-old foetus, but are incapable of thought. The study has already been used to gain insight into rare diseases.

The scientists used either embryonic stem cells or adult skin cells to produce the part of an embryo that develops into the brain and spinal cord – the neuroectoderm. The cells were able to grow and organise themselves into separate regions of the brain, such as the cerebral cortex, the retina, and, rarely, an early hippocampus.

The “mini-brains” have survived for nearly a year, but did not grow any larger. There is no blood supply, just brain tissue, so nutrients and oxygen cannot penetrate into the middle of the brain-like structure.

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Norwegian Scientists Say Psychedelic Drugs Linked To Mental Health Benefits

psychedelic drugsHave you had your dose for maintenance today? Via Healthline:

Debunking decades of myths, new research says psychedelics are not linked to mental illness and may in fact have positive residual effects on users.

According to a new study published PLOS One, there is no link between the use of LSD, psilocybin, mescaline, and peyote and a range of mental health problems. In fact, psychedelic use is associated with a lower risk of mental health problems like psychosis, anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and general psychological distress.

Researchers from the Norwegian University of Science and Technology’s Department of Neuroscience examined data on more than 130,000 Americans in the National Survey on Drug Use and Health.

They found that people who used psilocybin or mescaline throughout their lives, as well as people who used LSD in the past year, had lower rates of serious psychological distress, outpatient mental health treatment, and prescriptions for psychiatric medications.

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