A Brief Introduction About Brain Research
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The human brain is more complex and has far more capacity than a billion dollar computer. So far the research done on the brain is still in its nascent stages. What mysteries and secrets it holds for humanity in the future remains one of the big questions.
The 21st century has been called the “Century of the Mind”. Research into the functions and capabilities of the wonderful organ that is the human brain will skyrocket with duration as mankind enters a new era in discovery and invention.
The powers of the brain to comprehend the farthest phenomena of the known universe and delve into the inner journey of intelligence and intuition may just about define us as a species with something special about it.
We may be a reed, as an ancient philosopher said, but we are a thinking reed. It is this special quality of self-consciousness that has made all the difference in the end.
Four Important Points about Brain Research
We still may have a lot to find out about the brain. Yet some of the savvy we have gained so far provides a couple of clues about this organ of self-reflection and self-consciousness. Here are four of these that have come to the fore:
1. The Art of Making Mini-Brains:
For a dollar a mini-brain is a possibility. This happens to be a small bunch of tissues and neurons that imitate a minute portion of the brain with remarkable accuracy. While these mini-brains, built by neuroscience, have no consciousness or blood flowing through them, they nevertheless mimic the real brain by a close margin. The electrical impulses going through their circuits are a marvel to behold. Thousands of such brains have been churned out uptil now. Some skin cells samples and other components go into the ingredients of mini-brains.
2. It’s Not Just a Computer:
While the computer metaphor given in the introduction has its own place in the scheme of things, it has become a bit outdated by now. Many neuroscientists get fed up with this sort of thinking since we have come so far since the days of the computer analogy.
The fact of the matter is that the latest leading-edge technology is often taken as a metaphor for the brain. When the telegraph came along, the brain was compared to it.
When the telephone was invented, a similar thing occurred. Finally when computers became commonplace, starting with Charles Babbage and ending with Steve Jobs and Bill Gates, they were the latest thing that was compared to the human brain.
3. Exercise Protects and Heals the Brain:
Exercise has been called the fountain of youth. It virtually rejuvenates the brain via the cocktail of chemicals that it releases (endorphins and catecholamines come to mind).
The reactivation of neurons in the mind is a very real effect of vigorous exercise. Experiments with mice show that exercise can heal their brains. This process works in human beings too.
There is an optimal amount of exercise that hits the sweet spot and has a salubrious effect on the brain, according to ABC.net.au. Too much can be harmful though just like too much of a good thing is bad.
4. DIY Brain Stimulation is Possible yet Hazardous:
While electrical stimulation of the brain may hold the cure for depression, it is a very precarious methodology to adopt. Mild electric currents may not be so invasive yet they carry the same side effects as the administration of drugs.
DIY brain stimulators have their dark side. The potential for abuse exists. Seizures could be triggered as a result of such self-experimentation.
How to Boost Your Brain Power
The brain responds to what you feed it (both literally and metaphorically). Herbs such as Gingko Biloba may be effective as an agent that reverses or at least halts the progress of Alzheimer’s Disease. It does this by increasing blood flow to the brain.
While the research on Gingko Biloba remains sketchy at best, it nevertheless shows promise as a cure for the “forgetting disease” and general symptoms of dementia. It should not be taken with aspirin or other blood thinners though.
Basically, it belongs in the realm of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Omega-3 fatty acids found in certain oily fish such as salmon and sardines also enhance brain power. Then there are other brain-enhancing agents such as the amino acid L-Carnitine and DMAE.
Memory Enhancement at the Drop of a Hat
There are several tricks-of-the-trade that can improve your memory so that you remember everything from where your car is parked to what you ate for breakfast three days ago.
• Age is just a number. At any age, an improvement in memory via many methods is a possibility. So-called alibis such as one being past one’s prime are just that…empty excuses.
• The brain deserves a thorough workout. All brain-boosting activities teach you something new, challenge your pre-existing thinking, build your skills and reward in ample amounts via the dopamine release through novel information and experience.
• Physical exercise is a no-brainer (no pun intended). You reap tons of benefits via regular moderate exercise. Aerobics is said to be especially wonderful for brain health, according to Helpguide.
• Sleeping like a baby is said to prepare you to take on the new day when you wake up like a re-energized man or woman. Every day is a new day thanks to restful sleep. Develop a regular schedule and observe good sleep hygiene by avoiding caffeine too close to bedtime or the disturbing light from the computer screen.
• A varied social life is a great enhancer of brain health. Isolation causes many symptoms which can break out into full-fledged diseases such as depression and cancer later on. So build a supportive network of friends and family.
• Laughter is the best medicine as far as the brain’s health is concerned.
• A brain-friendly diet consisting of oily fish, nuts and seeds, fruits and vegetables and green tea is ideal. Imbibe alcohol in the form of red wine in moderation and stay away from saturated and trans fats.
• Try to ward off lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, hormonal imbalance and also don’t take too many medicines.
• Use mnemonic devices to skyrocket your memory.
Brain Damage: The Basic Facts
Brain damage causes the destruction of brain cells. It is not something to be taken lightly. A brain injury whether it is due to trauma, stroke, tumor or illness may land you in serious trouble for the long haul.
So be prepared.
Traumatic brain injury and acquired brain injury are the two types that are commonly found in this category, according to WebMD. Brain injury often causes such symptoms as: headaches, confusion, memory issues and nausea.
Besides the brain injury caused by trauma, there is the other kind which may be due to: poisoning, infection, asphyxia, stroke or heart attack, tumor, aneurysm, neurological problems and drug abuse.
The synmptoms are many but the treatments consist of: physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech and language therapy and psychological support. People ought to take preventative measures to offset the chances of getting injured in such a delicate region as the brain.
Brain Tumors and Their Treatment
Tumors come in all shapes and sizes. There is always the surgical option. Then there is radiotherapy. Finally, there is chemotherapy. The decision is ultimately yours if you contract a brain tumor.
Yet expert advice is also of the essence here. The type of tumor, its position, its size, its grade and last but not least your chronological age are of paramount importance in this decision. Also the use of steroids and antiseizure and antiepileptic drugs for the myriad symptoms may be a necessity.
Top Ten Neurotechnologies that are Beneficial for the Brain
1. Big Data-Enhanced Methods: This involves computer and the simulations and models they follow. The brains are scanned and the neurometrics speak for themselves.
2. Brain-Computer Interfaces: BCIs link our minds with the world at large. Five years from now, the market for these BCIs will reach 1.5 billion.
3. Neuromonitoring Techniques: The monitoring of brain activity is quite a cutting-edge field. Symptoms can be prevented and even controlled using such technology.
4. Vehicle Operator Systems: Equipment that ensures driver vigilance on the road is of paramount importance as traffic conditions worsen in the future times. Drowsiness and inattention are two areas that need work, according to Sharpbrains.
5. Helpful Video Games: Gaming can enhance cognitive functioning. Both fluid intelligence and working memory are improved via the hand-eye coordination involved in playing video games.
6. Brain-Responsive Computer Systems: The limitlessness of the field of computer science is such that it has been termed “The Wave of the Future”.
7. Virtual Reality: From PTSD to phobias, virtual reality devices can really benefit humanity.
8. Wearables that Enhance Mindfulness: Both physical and mental health can be improved via certain wearables.
9. Cognitive Simulation: The aiding of learning and skill acquisition are an area where the focus is definitely beneficial.
10. Electromagnetic Brain Stimulation: Brain activity can be influenced for the better via electrical and magnetic devices.
New Discovery may Stop Spread of Tumors
A novel technique which has come up may spell the death knell of glioblastoma. This is a tumor in the brain. By the specific targeting of an enzyme, the spread of the tumor can be halted. Such a tumor has thread-like tentacles that infiltrate into other parts of the brain.
Thus it is very difficult to remove. The blockage of enzymes ADAM10 and ADAM17 may stop the tumor dead in its tracks, according to The Sun. This devastating disease can be targeted via a series of palliative therapies which will incorporate this new technique in their contexts.
What Happens in Your Brain When You Finish Someone Else’s Sentences
It seems language and memory are deeply connected. When experiments were conducted it was seen that those subjects who finished constrained and unconstrained sentences showed a higher state of activity in certain areas of their brains, according to QZ.
While the language center of the brain is said to be the cortex, it is in the hippocampus that memory lies. Yet both have a deep link with each other. Most people who have the habit of completing someone else’s sentences refer to their memory banks in order to do the job.
Wine Sniffing may Ward off Alzheimer’s
Take a deep whiff of that snifter of red wine. It is good for your memory. Researchers found that sommeliers are less likely to contract Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s for that matter.
To imbricate one’s existence in the total pleasures of everyday aromatherapy is the solution to many diseases. Smell and memory are very closely connected to each other.
A perfume may evoke memories of your dad when you were young since he wore it often back then. Wine-smelling is in particular linked to the enhancement of memory, according to Vinepair.
Brain Mapping Project Sparks Both Excitement and Anxiety
Many brain-mapping initiatives have been taking place all over the world in recent times. One such recent foray into this controversial area of research has everyone in a tizzy.
The BRAIN Initiative of 2013 sparked debate about the uses and abuses of such a risky strategy. The creation of brain-mapping tools was the main thing on the agenda, according to Nature.
The hopes and fears are due to different priorities that different segments of humanity hold. The EU’s Human Brain Project wants to find out how the brain basically works.
The fact that many underdeveloped countries are excluded from such initiatives is a sad thing. Such exclusivity ought not to exist in the advanced times we are living in.
Despite the dangers, there is the breathtaking and thrilling aspect of this study into the human brain. That cannot be denied no matter what the angle is from which you look at this initiative.
A new study points out the fact that math skills may not necessarily be connected to vision alone. There may be more here than meets the eye (no pun intended).
The problem came up when the math skills of both ordinary and blind people were compared. There was not that great a difference between the two. The brain network responsible for the tasks needed to solve math problems was the same in either category.
The fact that one of them could not see thus disproves the visual bias hypothesis in math functioning. Blind people had been thought to struggle with math since they could not see and thus had to do everything using the power of their memories. Yet such is hardly the case. Math is not as simple as a visual-spatial thing.
A series of brain microchips can now allow a paralyzed person to feel the sense of touch via a robotic extension. This is a modern day miracle in the making.
A patient who is unable to move his hand or legs since breaking his neck in a car accident ten years ago has felt something for the first time. Scientists implanted four chips in his brain.
With these he can now manipulate a robotic arm using just the powers of his mind. He can actually feel the sense of touch when someone strokes his fingers. This is the first time a prosthetic has allowed a person to feel tactile sensation via direct stimulation of the brain.
The man said that it felt absolutely wonderful. He actually felt the fingers of his hand being touched and pushed. It was a miracle. The findings of this research were published in the journal Science Translational Medicine.
In recent times, there have been a flurry of headlines regarding MRI. The question is that many such MRI readings may be false to begin with. A bug may have infected the software and thus bamboozled the scientists into believing that the past 15 years of research was the truth.
In fact, it wasn’t!
Some of the headlines that are making it to the front page news have it that the procedure has no use value at all. Much of what we thought to be true about the brain was just hogwash.
Is this a fact?
A study in July uncovered this much that the basic equipment used for MRI remained unexamined for a long time. Despite 25 years having passed, no one stood up and questioned the validity and accuracy of the procedure.
False positive rates of MRI readings were measured by the scientists. This consists of the supposition that there is a result whereas actually there is no result whatsoever.
A similar process is seen when a pregnancy test comes up positive when in fact the woman is not pregnant at all. Scientific validity is at stake here. The recording of MRI data is pretty complex.
So false positives cannot be entirely ruled out. The researchers try to phase out any false positives but this does not mean that the accuracy rates are 100% foolproof.
The brain is a dynamic organ and in no way can it be called static in its functions. What we call mind is a highly complex and infinitely integrated mechanism that may actually be metaphysical in nature.
Don't Miss: The Best Pokemon Gifts The Fluctuating networks of the human brain, developed by Stanford scientists, tend to go up and down in accordance with the complexity of the task at hand.
Therefore the brain can upgrade its activity levels at the neuronal level to match the greatest of tasks. However, in the resting state, the brain is relatively placid and composed in its behavior.
Scientists have found a new pathway in the brain that can be dealt with in order to alleviate depression. The manufacturing of a special drug that could affect this pathway would be ideal. The search for the perfect antidepressant is on.
The current list of antidepressants have mostly failed to counter depression. Many patients do not respond to them with much alacrity. Between 10% and 20% of the population has depression and the symptoms may be ameliorated but the disease is for life.
Designer drugs that follow certain specific pathways in the human brain may be the ideal treatment for depression in the future. The research in the lab is a project under construction.
For one thing, how antidepressants work in the human brain is being looked into very closely. The discovery of new chemicals and channels for the relief of depression are underway.
Prozac and other tricyclic antidepressants tend to target a route in the hippocampus termed the BMP signaling pathway. This signaling pathway works in such a manner that it controls cellular functions.
A rush of chemicals takes place and the connections from one molecule to another leads to the cells firing one after the other. The signals thus gets relayed across the length and breadth of the neurons of the brain.
Prozac and tricyclics tend to inhibit this pathway. The result is that more neurons are produced. These neurons affect mood swings and memory functions.
Prozac acts on many centers in the brain. After confirming the BMP pathway, scientists tested a brain protein called Noggin. This was done in mice in the lab. It generated neurons.
The scientists postulated that this could have an antidepressive effect.
Brain Stimulates Thirst Before Sleep Discovery could lead to ways to mitigate effects of jet lag and shift work
Novel research shows that the human brain increases the thirst response prior to snoozing. This is most probably due to the biological clock which is located inside the brain.
The brain’s biological clock acts on the thirst drive and stimulates it before one goes to sleep at night. This discovery, alongside the molecular mechanism that lies at its core, provides important clues as to how the clock manages such functions of physiology.
A brain simulator from Stanford University is meant to facilitate surgeons in their job. It especially simulates brain swelling thereby lending surgeons a chance to practice their profession in a safe and secure manner.
The method used to operate on a trauma is termed decompressive craniectomy. This is a brain swelling and the patient’s brain is allowed to take up space thereby saving the person after the head trauma.
Nevertheless, there are complications involved in the process. When the brain oozes out of a hole in the skull, some of the axons stretch and break. This could prove to be quite problematic.
Yet this novel tool-of-the-trade can decrease the chances of damage. It guides the surgeons in their efforts to cut a hole and make it fit the right proportions. It all ultimately depends on the type of trauma.
For the very first time, a novel tool has been developed that will allow the experts to interactively find out the process that occurs in the human brain while it is in hibernating mode or active.
The researchers also have their hopes set on the fact that via this tool, they might gain a better understanding of how neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s affect the human brain.
It is called the Brain Modulyzer and it happens to be a software that integrates various views of a normal MRI reading. These include heat maps, node link diagrams and anatomical sights and they help in providing the milieu for brain connectivity information to be gathered with alacrity.
This tool lends a new framework of visualization and fresh techniques that help find out more about the brain. Observations from various angles are made possible thanks to this tool. Other tools do not connect well with brain anatomy. Yet this one is just perfect for accomplishing this task.
The tool will help in the construction of a model of various brain diseases. Hopefully, thanks to this instrument of intelligence, Alzheimer’s and dementia may one day become things of the past.
A new demo of a brain-inspired device, called a memristor, took place recently. It was meant to power artificial systems. It can mimic the human brain.
A nanoscale gadget termed a memristor could be employed to fuel artificial systems that copy the human brain. These artificial neural networks (ANNs) show the ability to learn new stuff and they can also do things that are a huge burden for ordinary run-of-the-mill computers to accomplish.
These include: pattern discernment, online learning and slotting information. Solid ANN policies are hard to implement due to a total lack of efficient hardware synapses. This is a major feature that all ANNs need to function properly.
Memristors normally control the flow of electric current in circuits. They can record the charge that flows through them and can remember the data even with the power button switched off.
If scientists want to somehow manage the complex and next to impossible task of copying the human brain, they will need not billions but trillions of such artificial synapses. Although current technology can allow us to achieve this, the power source and benchmarks won’t be easy to provide.
Alzheimer’s Disease could be halted thanks to a gene injection to the memory centers of the brain. The gene could thus clean out the glutinous plaques in the brain. Once the damage control has been finalized, Alzheimer’s Disease is something the patients can literally say good riddance to.
This cutting edge research began about half a decade ago. Scientists found a protein called PGC1-alpha. It happens to play a very important role in clearing up the build-up of amyloid beta plaques. However, the patients with Alzheimer’s do not produce enough of this protein.
Yet now we have a targeted gene that can help this protein produce the plaque-clearing agent. Those rodents that were treated in the lab with this sort of gene therapy recovered their brain memory centers.
The plaques were wiped out and they did much better in memory tests than the control mice. This methodology could thus one fine day actually stop the disease or even reverse Alzheimer’s down to a zero level in its occurrence. That will indeed have been a miracle.
Neurosurgeons at Duke may have come up with a way to make brain surgery a bit easier. According to the surgeons at Duke they are experimenting with a new technique which can reduce the number of blind brain surgeries.
The neurosurgeons are using Virtual Reality (VR) to guide them into the unseen places of the brain which cannot be touched excessively.
For instance the researchers used VR to insert a catheter into the brain so they can suck out pooled fluid from deep in the brain. Usually the vacuum needle would be inserted with the help of CT scans and precise measurements to areas of the brain which cannot be peeled off.
Using a Microsoft Hololens headset the surgeons were able to come up with 3D images derived from CT scans, which gave them real-time feedback on the progress of the catheter in the brain.
Scientists have found the part of the brain where depression has a physical impact making way for new therapies Depression is a disease which has been increasing in many populations around the world with an alarming frequency. The disease is becoming a common state in modern society, so much so, that traces of the anti-depressant drug Prozac can be found in traces in the tap water.
Scientists have found the part of the brain where depression leaves an impact physically. Research carried out by the University of Warwick, UK, and Fudan University in China, have unearthed the physical root of depression.
According to the study data, depression is located in the non-reward center of the brain. Basically this is the part which is most affected by depression in a physical sense.