Brain Research: Latest Discoveries And News

Posted: Mar 23 2017, 12:49pm CDT | by , in News | Latest Science News

Brain Research: Latest Discoveries And News
A real human brain on a working surface at the 'Museum of Neuropathology' in Lima. Credit: Getty Images

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.

Study Identifies Brain Cells Involved in Pavlovian Response, Parkinson's, Huntington's and Tourette Syndrome

Pavlov’s dogs salivated in the presence of food and later on associated a bell rung along with the food as the arrival of food. This is a conditioned response. The Pavlovian response is a part of several neurological diseases which include Parkinson’s, Huntington’s and Tourette’s Syndrome. Mice were exposed to lemon and banana smells in the lab and then given a drop of condensed milk. Soon they associated the smell with a sweet reward. The brains of these mice had the reward centers working in a Pavlovian fashion at full tilt. Only 2% of the cluster of cells controlled the process though. Yet when the brain cells were extinguished, they licked the air half as often. This research may come in handy in curing certain neurological disorders in the future.

Researchers Identify the “Feel Good” Circut of the Human Brain

The central amygdala was thought of a a fear and shock center of the brain. Yet studies in mice have shown that on the contrary it also contains regions that respond to pleasure. Thus good memories are stored in this region of the brain. The central amygdala has neurons which are divided into two regions that form the basolateral amygdala (BSA). Here the neurons are divided and they deal in good and bad memories. Using optogenetics, the scientists stimulated the seven populations of neurons within this region of the brain. The mice kept on responding since they found the light stimuli to be pleasureable. Thus the myth has been exploded that the central amygdala is only a storehouse for unpleasant memories and fear. Rather it doubles as a pleasure center of the brain.

Brains of Blind People Rewire to Enhance Other Four Senses

The brains of blind people adapt to the world by driving up the other four senses. Also memory and linguistic ability are enhanced as a compensatory mechanism. The study involved a few subjects who were blind and the rest had their vision intact. The occipital cortex of the blind showed differences from those with sight in the MRIs that were done. The senses of touch, smell and hearing went through the roof. This shows us that neuroplasticity is something that the brain possesses in scads. The human brain is very adaptive and that is why human beings have spread all over the planet. They have survived thanks to the neuroplasticity of their brains.

Satnav Turns off Part of Your Brain

Satnav technology allows the finding of routes yet it also allows the brains of its users to remain idle and fallow. Volunteers in the study on this subject were told to find their ways around a simulation of Soho. Their brain scans were taken all the while. Two brain regions showed marked activity. One was the hippocampus and the other was the prefrontal cortex. The former was responsible for memory and navigation and the latter for choice and planning. Yet when the navsat was being used, the signals and responses to stimuli in these brain regions simply vanished without a trace. Thus navsat may be useful in the future to help dementia patients find their way around a city without taxing their brains.

Brain Damage From Stroke Could be Prevented Using Deadly Spider Venom

Funnel web spiders have a venom which can kill a person within 15 minutes. Yet a protein compound found in the venom is harmless and may even reduce chances of brain damage due to stroke. The compound resembled another chemical but was more effective in its action in stroke victims. Strokes occur when blockage occurs in the brain’s blood vessels. The supply of oxygen is minimized which leads to the brain burning glucose and thus the killing off brain cells. Strokes are common in the elderly and is also more often found in a few ethnic minorities. The administration of the protein found in the venom reduced chances of brain damage due to stroke by 80%. Even a dose eight hours after the stroke reduced the brain damage by 65%.

Brain Growth in Kids Affected by Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea in children causes damage to gray matter in the brain. The disease involves a relaxation of the throat muscles while sleeping thereby leading to blockage of the airways. The brain awakens the body which then compensates by taking in gulps of air. 5% of children have this ailment. The study involved 7 to 11 year old kids whose MRI scans and neurological tests were taken.

These were compared to other children who did not have the problem and a whole database of MRI scans too. The damage to gray matter, which processes information, was substantial. While those kids with a high IQ may not suffer much even if they have sleep apnea, those with a low IQ may end up with a whole lot of damage.

Brain Scans Can Detect Criminals

Criminals are dealt with by the justice system in a manner that may either let them go scot-free or put them behind bars for life. Many times culpability is decided on the wrong factors. The reason is the intentions and motivation of the criminal minds. Yet now science has come to the rescue. The brain scans of criminals show whether they committed a crime knowingly or recklessly. It all has to do with their mental state.

The brain scans of 40 subjects were taken while they carried a suitcase some distance. They were told that it contained drugs. What the brain scans of these test subjects showed was that some of them were not so sure whether the suitcase contained illegal drugs or not. Thus the emergent science of “neurolaw” may have applications in the field of criminology in the future.

Read more about this interesting study.

This Ancient Brain Training Technique Can Boost Memory

Having a super memory is a gift indeed. Yet the question remains…do these memory athletes have an inborn tendency to recall everything better or do they hone their brains to perfection via endless practice. Boris Konrad, a memory athlete whose name appears in the Guinness Book of World Records, has said that he uses an ancient technique called the method of loci to remember things.

This involves going on a mental journey through a certain territory and pinning the items to be memorized at various loci along the way. The study involving memory athletes had their brains scanned at the end. It showed that they had brains that were no different from those possessed by ordinary people. They had only changed their brain structure via relentlessly practising mnemonic techniques day in and day out.

Brain Aging Gene Found

Scientists have found a gene known as TMEM106B which causes changes in the frontal cortex of the human brain. These changes lead to several neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The gene is activated from 65 years of age onwards. Since many of the seniors studied showed differences in their aging rates, this gene and a few other genetic components were responsible for the aging process.

Apolipoprotein E (APOE) was also responsible for Alzheimer’s. Then there is another gene known as progranulin which causes aging to take place at a faster rate. This research may come in handy in the conquest of neurological disorders in future times.

Researchers Make Major Brain Repair Discovery in Fight Against Multiple Sclerosis

Multiple Sclerosis is a scourge that ruins the lives of millions each year on a global level. It involves a degeneration of the myelin sheath in the brain. Myelin secures several structures of the CNS. This damage to myelin leads to a number of nasty symptoms such as: blindness, paralysis and fatigue. To reverse the disease is an impossibility right now.

Yet the future holds great promise in this regard. Scientists have found that certain cells of the brain stimulate the immune system to produce oligodendrocytes which heal and repair the brain and spinal column. Thus MS can be a thing of the past in the times to come provided the immunologists, stem cell biologists and neuroscientists put two and two together.

Stimulating the Brain with Electricity can Boost Short-Term Working Memory

By stimulating the brain via electric signals, the short-term working memory can be enhanced to a considerable extent. This was demonstrated by scientists in the lab.

Such a procedure could have applications in the future on patients who are suffering from trauma, stroke and epilepsy. It basically involves the administration of transcranial alterating current stimulation (TACS) to various areas of the brain in order to bring the brain waves into synch with each other.

The scans show that stimulation 'in beat' increases brain activity in the regions involved in task performance. On the other hand, stimulation 'out of beat' showed activity in regions usually associated with resting. Credit: Ines Violante

The theta stimlation was applied in a synchronized, unsynchronized and short-bursts-of-signals manner. The first one was successful in boosting working memory. This technology holds a lot in store for humanity as far as the future amelioration of brain diseases is concerned.

Read more about this amazing discovery.

Human Brain is 10 Times More Active Than Previously Thought

The scientists have found that the mind is a much more active entity that was the erstwhile presupposition. It consists of dendrites which connect up with each other. These go on to form the neurons. The brain has certain electrical patterns that appear in the form of spikes along these dendrites.

While they occur in the neurons, they also simultaneously occur in the dendrites as scientists have just found out in recent experiments with lab rats. The brain is apparently active both in its sleep phase and its exploratory time. This points towards the future application of this research in the construction of supercomputers.

Read more about this discovery here.

Blueberry Juice Improves Brain Function

Drinking 30ml of concentrated blueberry juice a day leads to a betterment in brain function, cognitive improvement and memory enhancement. This was found to be the case among a group of elderly people who were the subjects of the study. They were given the concentrate to drink on a daily basis for four months and MRI scans of their brains were arranged for before and after the study.

Not only had they achieved a sharper brain down to the last senescent individual but they had also widened their memory banks. Thus the flavenoids in a plant-based diet may help fight inflammation in the mind and act as an anti-oxidant to boot. Risk of dementia is minimized among the elderly by consuming five portions of fruits and vegetables per day.

Read more about improvement of your brain function.

New Research Shows Brain Activity Continues After Death

The human brain continues to show activity long after death. This was tested in four terminally ill patients who were taken off life support machines. One of them actually showed delta waves on the EEG that remained extant for a full 10 minutes.

The definition of life and death is not so simple as this study shows. Where life ends and death begins is at best murky territory. As far as death is concerned, it may be a mystery, yet the phenomenon of consciousness has been elucidated thanks to this research work.

Read more about this amazing study of life after death.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/20" rel="author">Sumayah Aamir</a>
Sumayah Aamir (Google+) has deep experience in analyzing the latest trends.




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