Tag Archives | Neurology

Oliver Sacks On Hallucinations

NYU Professor of Neurology Oliver Sacks spills the beans on hallucinations in the New York Times:

Hallucinations are very startling and frightening: you suddenly see, or hear or smell something — something that is not there. Your immediate, bewildered feeling is, what is going on? Where is this coming from? The hallucination is convincingly real, produced by the same neural pathways as actual perception, and yet no one else seems to see it. And then you are forced to the conclusion that something — something unprecedented — is happening in your own brain or mind. Are you going insane, getting dementia, having a stroke?

In other cultures, hallucinations have been regarded as gifts from the gods or the Muses, but in modern times they seem to carry an ominous significance in the public (and also the medical) mind, as portents of severe mental or neurological disorders. Having hallucinations is a fearful secret for many people — millions of people — never to be mentioned, hardly to be acknowledged to oneself, and yet far from uncommon.

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The Rhythm’s Gonna Getcha: Music and Mind Control

Picture: Benjamin Portland (CC)

Researchers at the University of Singapore have identified neurological mechanisms that cause the brain to synchronize with external rhythms. What’s more, this syncopation can have a direct effect on cognitive performance:

…the University of Singapore first tested subjects by flashing a series of images on a video monitor and asked them to quickly identify when an image was flipped upside down. While participants focused on this task, a synthetic drumbeat gently tapped out a simple four-beat rhythm in the background, syncopated by skipping the fourth beat of each measure.

The results showed that when the image was flashed on that missed beat, the subjects identified the inverted image much faster than when the image was flashed at times out of synch with the beat or when the images were presented in silence. Somehow, the brain’s decision making was accelerated by the external auditory rhythm and heightened at precise points in synchrony with the beat.

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Male DNA Commonly Found in Women’s Brains

Picture: (PD)

Via ScienceDaily:

Male DNA is commonly found in the brains of women, most likely derived from prior pregnancy with a male fetus, according to first-of-its-kind research conducted at Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center. While the medical implications of male DNA and male cells in the brain are unknown, studies of other kinds of microchimerism — the harboring of genetic material and cells that were exchanged between fetus and mother during pregnancy — have linked the phenomenon to autoimmune diseases and cancer, sometimes for better and other times for worse.

The study findings are published Sept. 26 in PLOS ONE. Lead author William F. N. Chan, Ph.D., in the Department of Biochemistry at the University of Alberta, conducted the research while working in the Hutchinson Center laboratory of J. Lee Nelson, M.D., a member of the Center’s Clinical Research Division and a leading international authority on microchimerism. Nelson is senior author on the paper.

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Fear is the Mind Killer

Picture: Robbie Grubbs (CC)

Interesting work on fear and memory published in Science and dumbed down for mass consumption at Psychcentral:

For one experimental group, the re-consolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the re-consolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.

Because the experimental group was not allowed to re-consolidate the fear memory, the fear they previously associated with the picture dissipated. This rendered the memory neutral — and no longer able to incite fear.

What’s notable about this is that it shows how fear is tied to signifiers and conditioned responses. Although that doesn’t cover the entirety of the range of fear responses to various stimulus, one is forced to wonder about the panic responses involved in various alien abduction/mad gasser/witch hunt phenomena where a specific fear spreads as a meme acros entire communities of people, some of them not even geographically connected to each other.… Read the rest

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Animal Study Proves That Early Isolation and Neglect Permanently Damages Young Brains

Picture: Thomas Black (PD)

Caregivers and clinicians have long known that profoundly neglected infants grow into children with behavioral issues: studies of children rescued from dismal Romanian orphanages often show a wide range of neurological and psychological deficits, known collectively as “Reaction Attachment Disorder.” The exact mechanisms behind these changes were not known.

Now, a groundbreaking new study conducted by researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School has provided the world with a neurobiological model for how isolation can damage the developing brain:

By studying mice that had been isolated early in life, researchers led by Gabriel Corfas of Children’s Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School hoped to uncover how social deprivation can affect the developing brain. After the mice had weaned, the researchers put them into one of three environments: One was a deluxe suite, enriched with fresh toys every other day and populated by friends of similar ages, one was a standard laboratory cage holding four mice, and one was a holding cell for total isolation.

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Did Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Cause The Birth Of Monotheism?

Via New Scientist, a new theory claims that a specific form of genetically-inherited epilepsy among several generations of Egyptian pharaohs is responsible for the sun-inspired visions that led to humanity’s belief in a single supreme god:

Tutankhamun’s mysterious death as a teenager may finally have been explained. And the condition that cut short his life may also have triggered the earliest monotheistic religion, suggests a new review of his family history.

Tuthmosis IV had a religious experience in the middle of a sunny day, recorded in the Dream Stele – an inscription near the Great Sphinx in Giza. But his visions were nothing compared with those experienced by Akhenaten. They encouraged Akhenaten to raise the status of a minor deity called the “sun-disk”, or Aten, into a supreme god – abandoning the ancient Egyptian polytheistic traditions to start what is thought to be the earliest recorded monotheistic religion. If Hutan Ashrafian’s theory is correct, Akhenaten’s religious experiment and Tutankhamun’s premature death may both have been a consequence of a medical condition.

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Scientists Implant Short-Term Memories in Rat Brain tissue

Picture: Janet Stephens (PD)

Via ScienceDaily:

Evoking scenes from science fiction B-movies, (I’m looking at you, Battlefield Earth), scientists at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine succeeded in implanting rudimentary memories in sections of puny rat-brains! rat brain tissue.

In their study, the researchers sought to better understand the mechanisms underlying short-term declarative memories such as remembering a phone number or email address someone has just shared.

Using isolated pieces of rodent brain tissue, the researchers demonstrated that they could form a memory of which one of four input pathways was activated. The neural circuits contained within small isolated sections of the brain region called the hippocampus maintained the memory of stimulated input for more than 10 seconds. The information about which pathway was stimulated was evident by the changes in the ongoing activity of brain cells.

The experiment will pave the way for a greater understanding of how short-term memories are formed, according to the article at ScienceDaily.… Read the rest

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Mental Health is a Privilege

Pic: Christian R. Linder (CC)

First, before anyone gets into a tizzy because of the use of the word “privilege,” let me excerpt from the introduction to the Checklist of Neurotypical Privilege Sarah Langston refers to in her piece:

… For those who find themselves feeling defensive upon reading, you are not alone. For most of us, this is a necessary part of the process of acknowledging and understanding privilege. Here are a few basic things to remember about privilege:

Privilege is not your fault. It is an artifact of systems that favor some people over others, systems that have evolved naturally to meet the needs of the majority, but have failed to provide adequate accommodations for those outside it. For more information on understanding and confronting privilege, please see this link.

Privilege is not, in itself, a terrible thing. Having any form of privilege does not make you a bad person.

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