Tag Archives | Brains

TB Bacteria May Have Once Helped Break Down Nutrients Needed For Bigger Brains

Sputum sample containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Sputum sample containing Mycobacterium tuberculosis

Talk about unforeseen consequences: A group of scientists think that tuberculosis started out as a symbiotic bacteria that extracted food nutrients  needed to grow bigger, more powerful brains. Scientific American has an article on the study, but it’s behind a pay wall. I’ve just pulled the abstract from the study they cited, and can remember just enough from my neurological psychology classes to sort of piece it together. Interesting stuff. (Note: The paragraph breaks are my own. I have trouble absorbing information what I read when it’s presented in a giant block of text.)

Meat eating has been an important trigger for human evolution however the responsible component in meat has not been clearly identified. Here we propose that the limiting factors for expanding brains and increasing longevity were the micronutrient nicotinamide (vitamin B3) and the metabolically related essential amino-acid, tryptophan.

Meat offers significant sourcing challenges and lack causes a deficiency of nicotinamide and tryptophan and consequently the energy carrier nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) that gets consumed in regulatory circuits important for survival, resulting in premature ageing, poor cognition and brain atrophy.

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What Happens to the Brain During Spiritual Experiences?

240px-Mindfulness-present-moment-here-now-awareness-symbol-logoNeuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg on brain changes associated with spiritual experiences:

When practitioners surrender their will, activity decreases in their frontal lobes, suggesting that speech is being generated from some place other than the normal speech centers.

Newberg is a pioneer in the field of neurotheology, the neurological study of religious and spiritual experiences. In the 1990s, he began his work in the field by scanning what happens in people’s brains when they meditate, because it is a spiritual practice that is relatively easy to monitor.

Since then, he’s looked at around 150 brain scans, including those of Buddhists, nuns, atheists, Pentecostals speaking in tongues, and Brazilian mediums practicing psychography—the channeling of messages from the dead through handwriting.

As to what’s going on in their brains, Newberg says, “It depends to some degree on what the practice is.” Practices that involve concentrating on something over and over again, either through prayer or a mantra-based meditation, tend to activate the frontal lobes, the areas chiefly responsible for directing attention, modulating behavior, and expressing language.

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Muscle Growth Sacrificed For Increased Brain Power In Human Evolution

Photo: Snowyowls (CC)

Photo: Snowyowls (CC)

A study suggests that human beings evolved toward the development of larger brains instead of muscles.

To gain insights into how the human brain evolved, scientists compared the metabolisms of humans and animals such as chimpanzees, mice and rhesus monkeys. They focused on how much energy each species devoted to the brain and body.

The researchers analyzed more than 10,000 compounds known as metabolites, which are small molecules formed by, or necessary to, metabolism, such as sugars and fats; the building blocks of proteins, DNA and cell membranes; and chemical signals given off by cells. They investigated metabolite levels in the kidney, thigh muscle and three brain regions — the primary visual cortex, which is involved in vision; the cerebellar cortex, which helps coordinate muscular activity; and the prefrontal cortex, which plays a major role in complex mental behavior, decision making and social behavior.

The investigators next compared how much the metabolisms of these animals differed with how far apart these species are evolutionarily.

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Pedophiles’ Brains Show Abnormal Reaction to Children’s Faces

criminalbrainThis kind of organic brain response is both bad news and good news: The bad news – especially for now – is that pedophilia might be hardwired in the brain. The good news – probably for the future – is that if science can decipher the workings of this organic machinery, then it might lead to ways to fix it.*

The brain circuits that respond to faces and sex appear to activate abnormally in pedophiles when they look at children’s faces, scientists say.

These new findings could lead to novel ways to diagnose pedophiles, and could shed light on the evolutionary roots of sex, the researchers added.

In the animal kingdom, there may be a number of mechanisms preventing adults from attempting sex with children. For example, “pheromones emitted by child mice inhibit sexual behavior of adult male mice,” said lead study author Jorge Ponseti, a sex researcher at Christian-Albrechts University of Kiel in Germany.

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Doctors Remove Brain Tumor With Fully Formed Teeth From Baby’s Brain

PIC: Jens Florian (CC)

PIC: Jens Florian (CC)

Doctors operating on a four-month old boy discovered that the tumor they removed had teeth. Fortunately, the boy is recovering. But yeah. Teeth. Glad the kid is going to be alright, but wow – nightmare fuel.

Via Yahoo

Doctors first suspected something might be wrong when the child’s head appeared to be growing faster than is typical for children his age. A brain scan revealed a tumor containing structures that looked very similar to teeth normally found in the lower jaw.

The child underwent brain surgery to have the tumor removed, during which doctors found that the tumor contained several fully formed teeth, according to the report.

After an analysis of tumor tissue, doctors determined the child had a craniopharyngioma, a rare brain tumor that can grow to be larger than a golf ball, but does not spread.

Researchers had always suspected that these tumors form from the same cells involved in making teeth, but until now, doctors had never seen actual teeth in these tumors, said Dr.

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Learning New Ideas Alters Brain Cells

Pic: Jens Langner (PD)

Pic: Jens Langner (PD)

Phineas Gage proved that matter could affect consciousness.  Now, Shernaz Bamji and Stefano Brigidi of the University of British Columbia have proven the reverse is also true.  Looks like the “hardwiring” in our brains isn’t so hard:

A new University of British Columbia study identifies an important molecular change that occurs in the brain when we learn and remember.

Published this month in Nature Neuroscience, the research shows that learning stimulates our brain cells in a manner that causes a small fatty acid to attach to delta-catenin, a protein in the brain. This biochemical modification is essential in producing the changes in brain cell connectivity associated with learning, the study finds.

In animal models, the scientists found almost twice the amount of modified delta-catenin in the brain after learning about new environments. While delta-catenin has previously been linked to learning, this study is the first to describe the protein’s role in the molecular mechanism behind memory formation.

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Indiana Man Arrested For Selling Stolen Brains On eBay

stolen brainsThe thing about the brains of nineteenth-century mental patients is, you can’t help but collect them all. Via CNN:

The arrest last month of a 21-year-old suspect uncovered, police say, a macabre scheme to steal the brains of dead mental patients and sell them online. The suspect was peddling some 60 brains. And yes, amazingly there were customers.

Suspect David Charles allegedly stole more than 60 jars of brain in October from a warehouse space at the Indiana Medical History Museum, the Marion County prosecutor’s office said in court papers Thursday. He is accused of breaking into the museum and taking jars of brains and tissue from autopsies performed on patients in the 1890s.

Charles was arrested December 16 after authorities organized an undercover sting at an Indiana Dairy Queen.

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‘Optogenetics’ Uses Light To Tweak Brain

criminalbrainNPR reports on a new medical tool that could pave the way toward innovative treatments for depression, seizure disorder and other conditions.

Excerpt:

When President Obama announced his BRAIN Initiative in April, he promised to give scientists “the tools they need to get a dynamic picture of the brain in action.”

An early version of one of those tools already exists, scientists say. It’s a relatively new set of techniques called optogenetics that allows researchers to control the activity of brain cells using light.

“This is fantastic,” says Elizabeth Hillman, a biomedical engineer at Columbia University. “We can turn things on, turn things off, read stuff out.” In short, she says, it provides a way to observe and control what brain circuits are doing in real time in a living brain.

Eventually, optogenetics could not only help explain diseases like epilepsy and depression, but offer a way to treat them. But the technique needs some refinement before it can be used in people or in remote parts of the brain, Hillman says.

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False Memories Occur Even Among Those with Superior Memory

400px-Neuron_Hand-tuned.svgRick Nauert writes at Psych Central News:

Some people have the unique talent of being able to remember daily details of their lives from decades past.

But surprising new research finds that even among this select group of memory experts, false memories occur at about the same frequency as among those with average memory.

False memories are the recollection of an event, or the details of an event, that did not occur. UC Irvine psychologists and neurobiologists created a series of tests to determine how false information can manipulate memory formation.

In their study they learned that subjects with highly superior autobiographical memory preformed similar to a control group of subjects with average memory.

“Finding susceptibility to false memories even in people with very strong memory could be important for dissemination to people who are not memory experts.

“For example, it could help communicate how widespread our basic susceptibility to memory distortions is,” said Lawrence Patihis.

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Your Guide to Eating Brains, Balls and Eyeballs

Pic: Gunawan Kartapranata (CC)

Pic: Gunawan Kartapranata (CC)

I am un chien… Andalusia!

HuffPo:

Like “awful” with an “o,” offal refers to the nasty bits we normally consider inedible. Recently, the ever-experimental American foodie culture started digging around for organs with top restaurants featuring hearts, livers and kidneys on their menus. But we’re not here to talk about steamed gallbladders served with roasted beets and beurre blanc. That’s pussy sh*t. We boiled it down to the barf-inducing basics: brains, balls and eyes. Let’s get started.

Keep reading.

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