Tag Archives | Neurology

‘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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Electrode-Wearing Writer May Reveal Neurological Roots of Creativity

Picture: Michael Neagle (C)

Picture: Michael Neagle (C)

Dutch novelist Arnon Grunberg is participating in a neuroscience experiment that will shed some light on how art is created and experienced:

New York Times:

Over the past two weeks, Mr. Grunberg has spent several hours a day writing his novella, while a battery of sensors and cameras tracked his brain waves, heart rate, galvanic skin response (an electrical measure of emotional arousal) and facial expressions. Next fall, when the book is published, some 50 ordinary people in the Netherlands will read it under similarly controlled circumstances, sensors and all.

Researchers will then crunch the data in the hope of finding patterns that may help illuminate links between the way art is created and enjoyed, and possibly the nature of creativity itself.

“Will readers of Arnon’s text feel they understand or embody the same emotions he had while he was writing it, or is reading a completely different process?” said Ysbrand van der Werf, a researcher at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience and the VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, who designed the experiment with Jan van Erp of the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research.

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Oral Sex, Molecular Engineering and the Fall from the Brain of Eden.

wrightbookHumankind was expelled from the Garden of Eden for eating the forbidden fruit. But, according to a radical theory, it was actually for not eating enough of the stuff.

Consciousness theorist Tony Wright argues that human evolution stalled around 200,000 years ago, an event that may have been recorded in the world’s myths as “the fall from grace”, humanity’s rude ejection from a “golden age”. According to the theory, climate change forced humans from tropical forests where a high fruit diet had fuelled the rapid development of the brain. Beyond the forests, with fewer nutritional components present, the brain degenerated, a trend which included the growing domination of the left-hemisphere over an actually better preserved right.

According to Wright, unless we change our diet – or, advanced molecular engineering, as he prefers to call it – we will continue our slide and, via our increasingly destructive actions, continue to literally destroy our once perceived Eden.… Read the rest

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FDA Approves Brainwave Helmet To Test Kids For ADHD

ADHDIs this the type of iceberg for diagnosing people using brainwave-analyzing hats? Via Science World Report:

For those who may have been wrongfully diagnosed with the disorder, a new device called the Neuropsychiatric EEG-Based Assessment Aid (NEBA) System that measures electrical impulses given off by neurons in the brain, could more accurately diagnose attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, according to its creators.

More specifically, this medical tool tests for the ratio between theta and beta waves, as studies have found that children with ADHD tend to have more betas than those without the disorder. With approval of the device, children suspected of having ADHD would wear a cap for 15 to 20 minutes that could help determine a proper diagnosis.

Device manufacturer NEBA Health submitted a clinical study that evaluated 275 children, ages 6 to 17. The cost of the NEBA system and proposed charge for the test have also not be confirmed at this time.

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Leading Neuroscientist: Religious Fundamentalism May Be a ‘Mental Illness’ That Can Be ‘Cured’

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via David Edwards The Raw Story

A leading neurologist at the University of Oxford said this week that recent developments meant that science may one day be able to identify religious fundamentalism as a “mental illness” and a cure it.

During a talk at the Hay Literary Festival in Wales on Wednesday, Kathleen Taylor was asked what positive developments she anticipated in neuroscience in the next 60 years.

“One of the surprises may be to see people with certain beliefs as people who can be treated,” she explained, according to The Times of London. “Somebody who has for example become radicalised to a cult ideology – we might stop seeing that as a personal choice that they have chosen as a result of pure free will and may start treating it as some kind of mental disturbance.”

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What It’s Like To Live As A Dead Person

cotard's syndrome

From New Scientist, what it’s like to live with the constant, crushing realization that you are dead:

Nine years ago, Graham woke up and discovered he was dead. He was in the grip of Cotard’s syndrome. People with this rare condition believe that they, or parts of their body, no longer exist.

For Graham, it was his brain that was dead, and he believed that he had killed it. Suffering from severe depression, he had tried to commit suicide by taking an electrical appliance with him into the bath.

“When I was in hospital I kept on telling them that the tablets weren’t going to do me any good ’cause my brain was dead. I lost my sense of smell and taste. I didn’t need to eat, or speak, or do anything…everything was meaningless.”

Neurologist Adam Zeman said, “He felt he was in a limbo state caught between life and death.”

Some people with Cotard’s have reportedly died of starvation, believing they no longer needed to eat.

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The End of Sleep

You want the sheeple to wake up?  Jessa Gamble writes at Aeon:

Since stimulants have failed to offer a biological substitute for sleep, the new watchword of sleep innovators is ‘efficiency’, which means in effect reducing the number of hours of sleep needed for full functionality. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the research arm of the US military – leads the way in squeezing a full night’s sleep into fewer hours, by forcing sleep the moment head meets pillow, and by concentrating that sleep into only the most restorative stages. Soldiers on active duty need to function at their cognitive and physiological best, even when they are getting only a few hours sleep in a 24-hour cycle.

Nancy Wesensten, a psychologist for the Center for Military Psychiatry and Neuroscience at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland, has a mission to find ways to sustain soldier operations for longer, fighting the effects of acute or chronic sleep deprivation.

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Julian Jaynes and the Muting of the Gods

Rachel Aviv writes at n+1:

Julian Jaynes, a psychologist at Princeton, had little patience for his colleagues, who spent hours in the lab doing “petty, petty humdrum things.” He dismissed their “objective aridity,” “cunning lingo,” and “valiant nonsense.” The field of psychology, he wrote, was little more than “bad poetry disguised as science.”

Jaynes published only one book, in 1976, The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind, which tells the story of how mankind learned to think. Critics described it as a bizarre and reckless masterpiece—the American Journal of Psychiatry called Jaynes “as startling as Freud in the Interpretation of Dreams.” Drawing on evidence from neurology, archaeology, art history, theology, and Greek poetry, Jaynes captured the experience of modern consciousness—“a whole kingdom where each of us reigns reclusively alone, questioning what we will, commanding what we can”—as sensitively and tragically as any great novelist.

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Scientists Locate Region Of Brain That Causes Selfishness

The question is, could we create a utopia by all having our basolateral amygdalas surgically removed? Via Science News:

People with damage to a specific part of the brain entrusted unexpectedly large amounts of money to complete strangers. In an investment game played in the lab, three women with damage to a small part of the brain called the basolateral amygdala handed over nearly twice as much money as healthy people.

These women didn’t expect to make a bunch of money back, an international team of researchers reports online the week of January 21 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Nor did they think the person they invested with was particularly trustworthy. When asked why they would invest so generously, the volunteers couldn’t provide an answer.

The results suggest that normally, the basolateral amygdala enables selfishness — putting the squeeze on generosity.

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Alcohol Damages Teens’ Brains, But Marijuana Does Not, Study Reveals

Be sure to talk to your kids about staying safe by hanging with the stoners, not the frat bros. Medical Daily reports:

Perhaps in response to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado and Washington last month, more teens are lighting up than ever before. However, one study suggests that parents have less to fear from marijuana than from alcohol. The study found that while marijuana had no effect on the health of teenagers’ brain tissue, alcohol did.

The researchers, from the University of California, San Diego and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, performed the study on 92 16- to 20-year-olds. The researchers found that, after a year and a half, kids who had drank five or more alcoholic beverages twice a week had lost white brain matter. That means that they could have impaired memory, attention, and decision-making into adulthood. The teens that smoked marijuana on a regular basis had no such reduction.

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