Showing posts with label brain. Show all posts
Showing posts with label brain. Show all posts

Saturday, 6 January 2018

Inside the Race to Hack the Human Brain

brain control
Dan Winters
Medical Application – Deeper Comprehension Different/Complex Techniques 

A young woman of 25 years old teachers’ assistant, Lauren Dickerson is on the brink of making history in mind control. She awaits her chance in an ordinary hospital room in Los Angeles with computer cables evolving like futurist dreadlocks from her bandaged wrapped head.

A neurosurgeon had drilled 11 holes through her skull and had slid 11 wires which were the size of spaghetti in her brain connecting the wires to a bank of computers. She is now caged in by bed rails having plastic tubes winding up her arms with medical monitors trailing her vigorous signs. She has been making attempts not to make any movement.

The room had been packed with film crew as they prepared to document the events of the day with two separate teams of specialists to begin work - medical experts from a leading neuroscience centre at the University of Southern California and scientists from a technology company known as Kernel.

The company has been concentrating on medical application with the intention of gaining a deeper comprehension of the different and complex techniques the brain tends to fail. Johnson would eventually prefer to move to supplementing the organ in order to make individuals smarter as well as healthier and pave the way for interfacing with computing devices, directly.

Treating Seizures 

The medical team has been looking out for means of treating the seizures of Dickerson which have been a complicated routine of epilepsy drugs controlled well enough till last year till its effect began to be depressing. The wires inserted in her brains would be assisting in comprehending the source of her seizures.

 The scientists from Kernel have been called there for another purpose. They are employed by Bryan Johnson a 40 year old tech entrepreneur who had sold his business for $800 million and has plans of pursuing an insanely ambitious dream which he intends to take control of evolutions creating an improved human.

His intention is to do this by building a neuroprosthesis, which is a device that enables us to learn quicker, recall more `coevolve; with artificial intelligence, unlock the enigmas of telepathy and probably also join into group minds. He would also want to find a method of downloading skills like martial arts, matrix-style.

A Chip in the Brain 

Moreover, he would want to sell this invention at mass-market prices in order that it is not an exclusive product for the rich. Presently he tends to have an algorithm on a hard drive. When he refers to the neuroprosthesis to conference audiences and reporters, he tends to utilise the media-friendly expression - `a chip in the brain’, though he is aware that he will never sell a mass-market product which is inclined to depend on drilling holes in the skull of human beings.

 On the contrary, the procedures would ultimately link to the brain through some variation on non-invasive interfaces that are created by scientists all over the world. These would be tiny sensors which could be injected in the brain to naturally engineered neurons that could exchange data wireless with a hat-like receiver.

These planned interfaces would be either pipe dreams or years in the future, so in the intervening time he is utilising the wires attached to Dickerson’s hippocampus to aim on a much bigger challenge – brain once linked to it. It is what the procedures tend to do. The wires that that are embedded in the head of Dickerson would be able to record the electrical signals which the neurons of Dickerson send to one another at the time of a series of simple memory tests.

Enhancing Memory

Thereafter the signals will be uploaded onto a hard driver where the system will translate them into a digital code which would be analysed and improved or rewritten. This would be for the purpose of enhancing the memory.

The system will then translate the code into the electrical signals which will be sent to the brain. If it is helpful in generating a few images from the memories she may be having at the time of gathering the data, the researchers would understand that the process tends to be working. Thereafter they could attempt to do the same with memories which had taken place over a period of time, something which no one could have done earlier.

 If these two tests are successful, they would be on their way to decoding the patterns and processes which tend to generate memories. Though the other scientists tend to be utilising identical methods on simpler issues Johnson is said to be the only one attempting to make a commercial neurological product which would improve the memory and would be performing his first human test. It would be the first human test for commercial memory prosthesis. He has commented saying that it is a historic day and he is insanely excited about it.

Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Stanford Scientists Seek to Speak the Brain’s Language to Heal Its Disease

A recently conducted research by a flock of scientists, associated with the Stanford University, found that the interface of the Human brain mechanism can treat the neurological troubles as well as bring a change in the ways paralytic patient communicates with the world. The chances to incorporate improvements in the functions of similar devices depend on the efficiency of translating the brain’s language. Thus, the Brain Computer Interface project has triggered interest among the experts from round the globe.

Listening to the brain’s Language

The aspiration of the scientists to establish a correlation between the human brain and the machines started with the onset of 1970’s, with Jacques Vidal embarked on a project that coined the name, Brain Computer Interface project. As his research paper narrates, it includes an EEG mechanism that records electrical signals, originating from the brain and a plethora of computers, processing the information and subsequently, translating the information into a set of action, like playing the video games. Vidal held the notion that in the long run, the interface of brain-machine would control the external mechanism, like the spaceships.

Though, there are lots of actions that can be taken in this regard, experts are of the opinion that there is every reason to reach some significant achievements in the forthcoming time. For instance, this mechanism involved in the Brain Computer Interface project can be employed in treating strokes and epilepsy as well as medical conditions, wherein the human brain starts speaking a language that scientist are yet to get familiar with.

Comprehending the wrong signs

If the interface of brain-machine can comprehend the language that the human brain is trying to speak as well as use such information for moving a cursor on the computer screen, while others can get to hear what the brain is actually trying to speak. This will enable people to comprehend if the human brain is projecting wrong signals.

Neuropace, an identical interface of brain-machine, features similar scope of actions. This mechanism, which is developed by the scientists from the Stanford University, utilizes electrodes that have been implanted under the human brain’s surface. It reads the pattern of the activity of the brain as it happens just before the onset of the epileptic seizures and subsequently, when the mechanism comprehends such patterns, it will stimulate the human brain with pleasant electrical pulses.

Though the Brain Computer Interface project tasted success, a few problems were noted in the method. Just like the 1st generation cardiac pacemakers, these brain stimulators always stay on. Even if the consequences are coming less dire, those pacemakers often trigger more arrhythmias than what it can actually treat.

Experts are reviewing this effort by the Stanford Scientists on very high notes and in their opinion, the efforts of these flocks will pave the ways for more intensive and extensive works in this regard, in the days to come. Should the Brain Computer Interface project taste success, healthcare providers will be able to offer better treatment to the patients, thus, bringing collective advancement in the standard of healthcare services, in the forthcoming days.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Why Our Brains are Split Into Right And Left


The reason behind our brain being split into right and left

For ages we have been taught that the right part of the human brain is associated with creativity while left brain is logical. This particular widely accepted dichotomy very cleverly dissects the brain into two equal proportion which deals with very specific set of intelligence but a recent has revealed that such division is wrong. In other words research has simply pointed that human brain can’t be divided into hemisphere as well as labelled with specific set of intelligence which defines a human being.
The left and right hemisphere of brain

Physically both hemisphere of the brain happens to be nearly identical and it was in 19th century when physicians started noticing there are some definite differences between the two hemispheres. Researchers were trying to answer the universal question of why the human brain is split in two hemispheres.

The reason behind our being divided two different hemispheres is fairly simple as it helps in delegating different tasks to different sides of the brain. This shows the might of the brain in handling the complexities of the world in a smart and influential manner. Further humans can also make use of the both the sides of the brain to focus on a single tasks or at different tasks without any issues.

With the evolution our brains had become adapted in using both hemispheres at the same time even for different work which is also known as parallel processing. But as an individual grows he started depending or showing preference to one side of the brain more than the other which has helped in shaping the common notion that left side is widely associated with creativity while right is associated with logic. 

Lots of experiments & researches yet fewer answers

Over the years a number of research works has been done to find right kind of asymmetries to define how the human brain works. Quite interestingly experiments with the genes has helped in affirming that the lateral asymmetries of the brain known to influence our decisions to a great extent.

 It is fascinating to note that more than 40 genes get implicated in order to determine whether an individual turn to be a right or left handed and certainly the environmental factors also plays a vital role in it. Some genetic studies have even stated gender also plays a crucial role along with the genes in order to determine which hand we are likely to prefer.

Researchers have found a unique bias in human for the right side, which is not just contained to the hands. It will come as a surprise that the babies likely to suck their right thumb and happens to turn their heads in the right direction while lying down.

A vast majority of people had been seen turning their heads towards the right side while going for a kiss. So it can be easily assumed that environmental factors play a major role rather than the genes when it comes to choosing the right or left side preference.

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Brain's 'GPS' Does a Lot More Than Just Navigate

Well, the most important part of our body is nothing than the brain. Often it is termed as the CPU of the body as it helps in taking decisions and thinking. Without the brain, a person is useless. However, the brain does more than just navigating or helping us to learn. The recent study or the report from the scientists have revealed that the region which helps in spatial navigation also help in cognitive navigation. Well, this is indeed a wonderful discovery by the scientists.


The recent study by the scientists revealed that a region in the brain called the hippocampus becomes active when the rats move around the environment. All that research showed that the cells in the entorhinal cortex fire when the creatures reach a certain specific location. This has led to the discovery that the brain creates a mapping of the outside environment on its own.

 This is like a mental positioning system to help the animal identify where its location is in the environment. The famous researchers in the Princeton has found that the same regions of the brain are active when the brain is roaming in the different kind of environment.

It may also take the sounds into consideration. The experiment was done with the help of the rats. They found that the rats responded to the different sounds after listening to the sounds and it matched with the similar traits when the rodents were roaming in their own backyard.


Well, it is a long mystery in the field of neuroscience that how the part of the brain called hippocampus could relate by mapping the external environment and also in creating memories. If the people have a damaged hippocampus, they are unable to form memories which is a major drawback for the people.

The researchers state that the combination of both hippocampus and the nearby entorhinal cortex help in making maps which are cognitive in nature. They involve tasks like memory and learning.

When the rats were given a different task like reconnoitering, the researchers have found some unusual evidence in the circuit of the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex. They have chosen as the parameter to experiment.


The researchers then monitored the activities of the rats specially the electrical activity of the neurons present inside the brain. They found that the rodents were able to relate the sounds along with the frequency. The rats were trained to do some specific tasks like pulling the lever down bases on the sound frequency. After the performance, the rats knew that they would be rewarded.

This helped them to perform the tasks in the most efficient manner. The observing team found that the patterns of the neuronal triggering along with their behaviour. Slowly they advanced with the frequencies which were similar with the revolving around in the space.

Finally, it was concluded that the hippocampal cells become active when they are in a particular place and the entorhinal cells come into picture when the rodents travel through some specific places or locations.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Scientists Identify Brain Circuit That Drives Pleasure-Inducing Behavior

Amygdala is that part of our brain which balances memory, emotional reactions and decision making processes and is responsible for making us stressed when we have that really important, or not so important, exam coming up. At least this is the train of thought scientists followed till the last 22nd March.

Graduate students Joshua Kim and Xiangyu Zhang authored a paper on an experiment supervised by Susumu Tonegawa, the Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and a director at the RIKEN-MIT Center; which sheds new light on the activities of amygdala and show that they are hugely responsible to generate the happy feelings you get while biting on the piece of dark chocolate.

The experiment

The past body of research had been dedicated to unravel the circuitry of the brain from where negative behavior seemed to stem. Tonegawa and his team of neuroscientists from MIT conducted a groundbreaking research which has succeeded in confirming that amygdala consists of both reward and fear circuitry and is intricately involved in generating positive emotions.

Amygdala changed from the fear center of the brain to the reward generator in the experiment carried out by Tonegawa’s team on mice.Infact this research is a continuation of last year’s work where neurons from Basolateral Amygdala were thought to relay positive and negative information to nucleus of central amygdala.

Initially the central amygdala neurons were mapped into seven groups depending on the kind of genetic expression they point to. Then the mapped regions were exposed to optogenetics which basically uses light to control neural activity. What emerged from the experiment was five regions out of seven imitate reward related behavior which drove the mice to expose themselves more to light source. One region was found to be associated with fear related behavior.

Though about 90% of discovered amygdala tissue has been found to contribute to positive behavior, about 10% is still undiscovered and unmapped and according to Tonegawa the neural circuitry in the uncharted regions may be responsible to trigger negative emotions.

Generally, an amygdala can be said to exhibit appetitive behavior catering to satisfy the specific drive at an instant.

Aftermath of the experiment

The basolateral amygdala is being studied for the role it plays in fear extinction, which basically is a process used to overwrite the existing sets of fearful memories and replace it with positive ones and is used to treat cases of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder etc. Since the misconceptions about central amygdala acting as seat of negative stimuli has been invalidated, a new region called periaqueductal gray has emerged as research favorite to locate the pain and fear related stimuli.

The success of the experiment lies in firmly establishing the amygdala as a seat of positive stimuli and refuting its image as the fear center.Scientific community is elated at the new unexpected set of discovery. Scientists not officially related to the experiment have been quoted to find the new information to herald exciting times for brain research.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

This device Can Tell Doctors Just How Conscious You Are


Research on Measuring Conscious State of Person

A new research from the University of Cambridge is said to be capable of measuring precisely how aware one is of their own existence. Chennu can work out what is going on inside your head in a matter of 10 minutes. The technique which had been developed by neuroscientist Srivas Chennu seems to combine classic EEGs with graph theory, which is a form of maths.

With two simple pieces of equipment, a cap that is covered in electrodes together with a box measuring patterns of electrical activity tends to measure the brains’ signature representing the way wherein neurons as well as neural networks are firing. After a few minutes wheeling his trolley held device away, he is capable of attaining adequate information to know how conscious a person is. What Chennu seems to be looking for with the electroencephalogram – EEG is the electrical brain signature.

The body’s most complex organ, networks of neurons are firing up and creating brain waves of electrical activity, at any one moment which can be detected through the scalp net. Chennu comments that `being conscious is about more than simply being awake and is also made of `noticing and experiencing.

Device Portable – Utilised as Bedside Device

When someone is conscious, there seems to be patterns of synchronised neural activity racing across the brain, which can be identified utilising EEG and quantified using the software’. The technology is said to be portable and Chennu expects that it would be utilised as a bedside device for the doctors while treating their patients who seems to be in vegetative conditions or who tend to have brain traumas due to injuries or strokes. It could be useful in providing patients with improved care or offer insights to help in waking a patient from prolonged condition of partial arousal.

For instance, patients who seem to show signs of consciousness could be kept on a life support machine for longer time than a patient who does not seem to do so. During trials of the device, the team noticed two patients, one who portrayed high levels of consciousness, depicted in image as a big colourful Mohican and one who did not. The first patient ultimately woke up while the second did not.

Research Based on – Patient in Vegetative State Responds to Yes/No

Chennu and his team intend to undertake a three year long experiment, in observing and treating around 50 patients with brain damage. Chennu had stated that `medical advances mean that we are identifying subtypes of brain injury and moving away from `one size fits all’, to more-targeted treatment specific for an individuals’ needs. The question that fascinates us is what type of consciousness do patients have?’

The research is based on the conclusion that a patient in a vegetative state tends to respond to yes or no questions measured by the distinct patterns of the brain activity utilising functional magnetic resonance imaging. It had been observed by Chennu’s colleagues in the Department of Clinical Neurosciences as well as the Medical Research Council Cognition and Brain Science – MRC CBSU, which was led by Dr Adrian Owen.

 Chennu expects that the machine would fill up a technology gap and states that misdiagnosis of true levels of consciousness in vegetative patients seems to be around 40% and is based on behavioural examination. To some extent this is because there is no gold standard for the assessment of a patient’s awareness at the bedside’.

Wednesday, 20 January 2016

Pattern of Brain Chatter -Clue to Anaesthesia Response


Anaesthetic Dose – `Marsh Model’

According to new research from the University of Cambridge, the difficult pattern of chat between various areas of an individual’s brain when they are awake could be helpful to doctors in tracking as well as predicting their response to general anaesthesia. This would help in identifying the amount of anaesthetic that would be necessary. Presently patients who have to undergo surgery are administered a dose of anaesthetic depending on the `Marsh model’ that tends to use factors like individual’s body weight in predicting the amount of drug that may be essential.

As the patient `go under’, their levels of awareness tends to be monitored comparatively in a simple way. If they tend to be still awake, they are given more anaesthetic, but general anaesthetics could be risky especially if the individual seems to have some underlying health issues like a heart disorder. Areas of the brain tend to communicate with each other and provide tell-tale signs which can give an indication of how conscious a person is. These networks of the brain activity is measured through electroencephalogram - EEG that measures the electric signs as the brain cells tend to talk to each other.

Propofol – Commonly Utilised Anaesthetic

Researchers from Cambridge had earlier shown that the network signatures could be seen in some individuals who had been in vegetative state and could help doctors identify patients who are aware inspite of being incapable of communicating. These discoveries have been built on advances in science of network in order to tackle the challenge of comprehending as well as measuring human consciousness.

A study published recently in the open access journal PLOS Computational Biology, funded by the Wellcome Trust, the researchers had studied how these signals tend to change in healthy participants when they received an infusion of propofol which is a commonly utilised anaesthetic.

Twenty individuals comprising of 9 males and 11 females had received a steadily increasing amount of propofol all of the same limit at the time of undergoing a task which involved pressing one button if they heard a `ping’ and different button if they heard a `pong’. The researchers, at the same time tracked their brain network activity utilising the EEG.

Brain Network Activity – Delta-Alpha Coupling

When they had reached the maximum limit of the dose, some of them were still awake and were in a position to carry out the task while there were others who were unconscious. The researchers analysed the readings of the EEG and found clear differences between those who had responded to the anaesthetic and those who were capable of carrying on with the task.

This `brain signature’ had been apparent in the network of communication between areas in the brain carried by alpha waves, - brain cell oscillations in the frequency range of 7.5-12.5Hz, which is the normal range of electrical activity ofthe brain in conscious and relaxed state. The researcher had also measured the propofol levels in the blood in order to know if this could be used as a measure of how conscious a person would be.

Having found little correlation with the alpha wave readings, they found a correlation with certain form of brain network activity known as delta-alpha coupling which could be capable of providing a useful, non-invasive measure of the level of drug that could be present in the blood.

Saturday, 16 January 2016

Teen Angst? Or Traumatic Brain Injury? Identifying the Triggers of Teen Behavior


Teens are not easy to read. They can be exuberant one moment, morose the next. Teens can be talkative or non-communicative. Teens see it as a rite of passage to break rules and flaunt authority. But all of these “typical” teen behaviors could also be signs of something more sinister in play: a traumatic brain injury.

Has your son been in a fist fight? Did your daughter take a bad fall in her gymnastics class? Does your son play football? Does your daughter play hockey? Do your kids often ride their bikes? Teens can develop a traumatic brain injury from a great deal of sources and, if improperly diagnosed, the TBI or concussion could turn them into people their parents don’t really recognize.

Are Girls in Greater Danger of Long-Term TBI Effects?

A teen’s response to a concussion is easily mistaken for teenage angst or growing pains, and sometimes their baffling, frustrating, or insolent behavior is misdiagnosed as a mental health condition or assumed to be the result of drug use.
Concussion symptoms can include dizziness, slurred speech, headaches, memory loss, confusion, sleep changes, aggression, depression, nausea, and sensory changes. A Canadian concussion study focusing on the long-term negative effects of concussions found that teens who experience these ongoing symptoms can experience personality changes, prompting them to engage in behavior like drinking, bullying, smoking, and even attempt suicide, girls in particular.

Why are girls at risk more so than boys, especially when boys play the concussion-rampant sport of football? Hormones and age were considered major contributing factors. And, the study also discovered, teenage girls who suffer a TBI in their late teens were 20 percent more likely to develop a drinking habit, compared to those who develop a TBI in their earlier teens. (Adolescent drivers are already at greater risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident. Add alcohol to the mix and the road becomes even more deadly.)

TBIs Can Stunt a Teen’s Maturity Level

In some TBI cases, the injury is slow to heal, and in other cases the effects of the concussion or head injury are permanent. Suffering one concussion makes your teen more susceptible to developing more concussions. And the compounding of these injuries – particularly when misdiagnosis occurs and treatment is minimal or incorrect – prevents a teen’s body from healing itself the way it should.

Yes, teens are more resilient than adults, and they can recover from injuries faster than other people, but we are talking about brain injuries here, and an adolescent is not exempt from long-term deficits, particularly as they are in possession of brains that are still maturing. In order to ensure that the brain functions properly after a fall, a hit, or accident, immediate and extensive monitoring must be conducted to adequately diagnose the condition and treat it.

And if your child has suffered a traumatic brain injury without proper attention and care because of an overzealous coach or poor medical attention, don’t hesitate to consult a traumatic brain injury attorney. TBIs are not always easy to prove, but a qualified attorney can help you and your teen.

About: David Christensen is a brain injury expert with Christensen Law in Southfield, MI and Ann Arbor, MI. He helps the families of TBI victims in securing benefits and compensation for their injuries.

Friday, 18 December 2015

Online Brain Training Helps Older Adults With Everyday Tasks


Older People Benefit from Playing Online Games

According to a wide scale study, playing online games which tends to exercise reasoning and memory skills seems to have great benefits for older people. It has been discovered by researchers at King’s College London that brain training or mental exercises could improve the everyday lives of people helping with tasks such as shopping, cooking, managing personal finances and using public transport.

 Around 7,000 people in the age group of over 50 had been engaged from the public through BBC Alzheimer’s Society and the Medical Research Council in order to participate in the six month experiment. Some of them were encouraged to play a brain training package of 10 minutes as often as they desired. The package consisted of three reasoning task like balancing weights on a see-saw and three problem solving task like putting numbered tiles in numerical order.

Prior to the study and again after six weeks, three months and six months, cognitive tests were completed by volunteers that comprised of assessments of grammatical reasoning and memory. People over 60 too carried out test of daily living skills like utilising the telephone or shopping.

Arouse Brain with Activities – Puzzles/Crosswords/Learn New Skills

Thereafter a period of six months, those over 60 who participated in the brain training were found to have substantial improvement in performing the daily task while those over the age of 50 proved to have better reasoning as well as verbal learning. The improvement seemed to be very effective when they played brain training games for at least five times in a week.

Earlier study by the same researcher indicated that such types of exercises provided no benefits for those below the age of 50. Scientists from California and Berlin had spoken against brain training industry, last month, stating that `there is little evidence that playing brain games tends to improve underlying cognitive abilities or it enables one to navigate a complex realm of daily life better’.

However there is other research which has shown some promise for brain training for the improved memory but these small scale studies have been unconvincing. It is also portrayed by the scientist that people tend to have complex occupations or arouse their brains with activities like puzzles, crosswords and learn new skills all through their life which can have lower rates of dementia.

Reduce Risk of Decline of Cognitive Function in Later Stage

The research team were of the belief that the new study would be important in preserving mental activities in older people, helping them in reducing the risk of decline of cognitive function in their later stage of life. According to Dr Anne Corbett, from the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at Kings’ College London, commented that `the impact of a brain training package like this one can be extremely significant for older adults looking for a way to proactively maintain their cognitive health as they age.

The online package can be accessible to large number of people which also has considerable benefits for public health across the UK’. From Alzheimer’s Society, Dr Doug Brown comments that online brain training has been growing rapidly into a multimillion pound industry and studies such as this are important in helping to understand what these games can/cannot do.

He further adds that while this study was not enough to test if the brain training package could prevent cognitive decline or dementia, they are eager to see that it could have a positive impact on how well the older people tend to perform the essential daily chores.

Monday, 23 November 2015

Frontal Brain Wrinkle Linked To Hallucinations


Frontal Brain Wrinkle – Distinguishing Real Perception

Research of 153 brain scans has led to certain understanding near the front of each hemisphere to hallucinations in schizophrenia. The folds seem to be shorter in patients who tend to hallucinate when compared to those who do not. It is said to be an area of the brain which seems to play a part in distinguishing real perceptions from the imaginary ones.

Findings published by researchers in Nature Communications indicate that it could ultimately assist with early diagnosis. Paracingulate sulcus or PCS, the brain wrinkle tends to differ considerably in shape among individuals and is one of the last folds to develop in the brain only just before birth.

According to a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, UK, Jon Simons states that the brain tends to develop all throughout the life, however characteristics such as the PCS is going to be a mainly noticeable fold or not could be apparent in the brain at an initial stage. It could also be that a reduction in this brain fold tends to give somebody a predisposition in developing something like hallucination at their later stage of life.

Schizophrenia – A Complex Phenomenon

If additional work, for instance, indicates that the difference could be detected prior to the onset of the symptoms, Dr Simons informs that there could be a possibility of providing extra help to people who may face that risk. However, he focused that schizophrenia seems to be a complex phenomenon.

Hallucinations seems to be one of the foremost symptoms though some of the individuals are diagnosed based on other unbalanced thought procedures. Dr Simons together with his colleagues utilised data from the Australian Schizophrenia Research Bank and structural MRI scan illuminating the detailed physical dimensions of 153 individual brains with 113 people having schizophrenia and 40 healthy controls. The team were able to choose its samples prudently since the database comprised of other important information regarding the subjects.

 Dr Simons informed BBC that they selected patients putting them into each groups and those two groups are directly comparable as possible. The schizophrenia patients were split into those with a history of hallucinations around 79 and those without about 34; however these two groups were closed matched in other ways.

PCS Involved in Brain Networks

Aspects like the individual’s age, medication, sex and whether they were left or right handed were taken in consideration. The only difference between the two groups was that one groups experienced hallucination while the other did not, was as close as they could get it. The team looked for differences in the PCS, during the brain scans since they knew from earlier study that the length of this fold indicated a correlation with people’s certainty monitoring ability.

This was reflected in the patients facing hallucination and on an average they had a PCS which was around 2cm shorter than the patient who did not suffer hallucination and 3cm shorter than the healthy controls. Jane Carrison, the study’s first author said that though other factors seemed to be certainly responsible when a brain tends to generate hallucination, this was an important observation She explained that the PCS was involved in brain networks which helps in recognising information which have been generated by the individual. People with shorter PCS are less capable of distinguishing the origin of such information and appear more likely to experience it like having been generated externally.

Tuesday, 11 August 2015

How the Brain Purges Bad Memories


Researchers Identified Neuronal Circuit – To Purge Bad Memories

Researchers have now identified a neuronal circuit – a brain circuit which is responsible in the brain’s ability to purge bad memories. The brain is proficient in knowing when startling or threatening stimulus tends to turn out to be resolved or harmless. However at times, this method fails resulting in unpleasant association arising, a malfunction presumed to be at the root of post-traumatic stress disorder –PTSD and the researchers finding could have effects in treating PTSD as well as other anxiety disorders.

The brain is extremely good in alerting us to dangers such as noxious smells, loud sound, approaching raiders and send electrical impulses down the sensory neurons to our brain’s fear circuitry and to some extent giving rise to either fight or flee from the situation. Similar to most of the emotions, fear is said to be neurologically complicated though earlier work has been constantly connected with two specific areas of the brain in contributing and regulating fear responses.

The two small arcs of brain tissue deep below our temple, the amygdala, is responsible in emotional reaction and tends to flare with activity whenever one experiences fear. If a certain threat tends to become harmless, the region in the brain behind the forehead known as the prefrontal cortex takes over and the fright diminishes. The potential to extinguish painful recollections is said to involve some kind of synchronized effort between the amygdala and the prefrontal cortex.

Working between Two Brain Region – To Eliminate Fear

Andrew Holmes, latest study at the National Institutes of Health, approves that a connection of working between the two brain regions is essential to eliminate fear. For instance, mice usually listening to repeated sound which has been connected with mild foot shock, will learn that on its own the tone is harmless and they tend to stop being afraid.

With the use of optogenetic stimulation technology, or adjusting certain neurons and animal behaviour using light, authors observed that unsettling the amygdala, - prefrontal cortex connection, prevented the mice from disabling the negative connection with the benign tone and in neurobiology speak, memory `extinction’ fails to take place. Besides this, they also observed that stimulating the circuit resulted in the increased extinction of memories of fear.

Till now the investigator was not sure if the amygdala – prefrontal cortex communication pathway could control fear extinction on its own. Both the structures tend to interact with several other brain regions and in isolating their effects on behaviour would be challenging. The discovery was possible due to optogenetics enabling the NIH group to accurately evaluatein real time, only the connection between the two brain regions, providing an accurate connection between neuronal activity and behaviour.

Two Main Hubs – Amygdala & Prefrontal Cortex

Holmes envisages the amygdala and prefrontal cortex as two main hubs in an intricate communication network. In the case of impaired fear extinction such as PSTD, it is just a single connection between the two regions which is damaged and not the hubs.

Holmes explains that `to regulate fear extinction it would be better to isolate and fix that particular line of communication opposed to trying to re-engineer the hubs themselves and it is their job to carry several lines of communication for all types of brain functions most of which are perhaps working fine’. Considering the similarities in case of fear circuitry between humans and rodent, the new study could enlighten the research into new satisfying approaches to anxiety disorders inclusive of mediation which tend to act on the fear circuit.

He believes that healthy fear extinction depends on neural plasticity, which is the brain’s capabilities of making new neuronal connection, which is in part inclined by the brain’s own cannabinoids compounds which tend to regulate neurotransmitters.Drugs which tend to alter the cannabinoid system provide a way in modifying the fear circuit and probably improve anxiety.

Saturday, 8 August 2015

3D Brain Map Reveals Connections between Cells in Nano-Scale


Research – Abnormal Connection in Neurological Disorder

Researchers are expecting that exceptional images would enable the study of abnormal connection in neurological disorder like schizophrenia and depression and have created unprecedented high resolution map of the brain which indicates structures as tiny as those found in single nerve cells. They tend to develop the 3D map from a collection of images which are taken with nanoscale resolution with capability of picking out features measured in millionth of a millimetre.

 They intend using the tool in studying the abnormal connection between brain cells which underlie weakening neurological disorders in the case of depression and schizophrenia. A neurobiologist at Harvard University, Narayanan Kasthuri, who led the team behind the map, has said that `they were talking about imaging close to the level of a molecule’.

He along with his colleague Jeff Lichtman’s team had constructed a system which automatically parts a subject brain into thousands of thin sections and after staining the parts to pick out various tissues, an electron microscope had been trained to take images of each part. A computer then allots various colours to individual structures, knitting the images together in order to produce a 3D map.

One Pixel on MRI Equal to Billion Pixels in Images

The power of the system was portrayed by the researchers by imaging the area of brain of a mouse which was responsible for sensory perception and its result had been published in the journal Cell. Traditional brain imaging techniques like the MRI tend to be straightforwardto be used though it can only resolve features to about a millimetre. `BigBrain’, a German anatomical atlas, tends to resolve features of the human brain down to micrometres, much thinner than a human hair as well as nearly on a scale of individual cells.

Kasthuri’s tool by contrast developed nanoscale pictures of individual brain cells, together with their contents and their connections. He had stated that `one pixel on an MRI is equal to about a billion pixels in images’. In order to map the brain in such details usually involves an adjustment and thin parts of tissue could be imaged in high resolution, though in thicker sections or parts, the resolution tends to fall. Kasthuri resolved the problem by automating the process. The thin sections were imaged by the microscope and then stacked together.

Working on Machine Vision – Tracking Individual Neurons

The machines would be utilised in taking pictures of the brain after death and the team are expecting that by tracking neural trails they would be in a position to answer queries with regard to what a neurological disorder looks in the brain.

Kasthuri has commented that `if they could make a map of a brain with schizophrenia and compare it to one without schizophrenia, they could look for inappropriate connections that could contribute to the disorder. Maria Ron, emeritus professor of neuropsychiatry at University College London, however states that it would be difficult to use the system on large groups of patients and controls, to reveal much about the brain diseases. The efforts involved would also take great computing power.

Image of a mouse brain that is taken with the machine could develop billions of gigabytes of data and according to Kasthuri, is equivalent to billions of high definition movies that would create the largest dataset that has been collected. The team is said to be working on machine vision that utilises computers in tracking individual neurons through the brain to examine their connections. Kasthuri states that once they have the same in place, they can have probable showstopper.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Reye’s Syndrome – Serious Liver and Brain Damage

Reye’s Syndrome
Image credit:Usmlepathslides
Reye’s syndrome is a rare condition which causes serious liver and brain damage and can affect any child, teen or adult without warning. The body organs get affected with serious damage to the brain and the liver. If timely treatment is not rendered it could lead to permanent brain injury or even death.

The exact cause of this disease in unknown though researchers have established a link between Reye’s syndrome and the use of aspirin together with other salicylate containing medicines purchased over the counter. Due to the possibility of the link with aspirin, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency – MHRA have recommended that children below the age of 16 should avoid taking aspirin without the advice of the physician.

Some of the symptoms may include: loss of energy, persistent vomiting, and mood swings, like irritability or severe confusion and anxiety – delirium, drowsiness which could eventually lead to coma. It is a two phase illness since it is usually associated with a previous viral infection like influenza, cold, or chicken pox. At times Reye's syndrome is often misdiagnosed as meningitis, diabetes, encephalitis, poisoning or drug overdose, Sudden infant death syndrome or even psychiatric illness.

Occurs during Recovery from Viral Illness 

Reye Syndrome occurs when a person begins to recover from a viral illness and the primary symptoms include uncontrolled vomiting besides mental status changes, which are generally due to increased intracranial pressure and brain swelling.

If left untreated the progress of the disease could be fatal. At times even if diagnosed and treated early, some tend to still have progressive condition which could lead to death or permanent brain damage. Abnormal collection of fat tends to develop in the liver and other organs in the body together with severe increase of pressure in the brain and if not treated in time, it could result in death within a few days or even a few hours.

According to statistics it shows that when Reye’s syndrome is diagnosed and treated in its initial stages, there are good chances of recovery and if delayed and more severe, the chances for successful recovery and survival are very less.

Treated as Medical Emergency

When a person is diagnosed with Reye’s syndrome it should be treated as a medical emergency since it can damage the liver and brain quickly. If a child is suffering from this disease, they should be taken immediately to an intensive care unit in order that their body’s functions can be supported while they are being treated.

It is estimated that 8 out of 10 people who suffer from this condition survive due to the advance in diagnosing and the treatments though some children tend to develop some degree of brain damage after recovery. Diagnose of Reye’s syndrome is done clinically and it is considered in any child suffering from unexplained brain dysfunction, vomiting and liver dysfunction together with the support of any recent viral infection and aspirin use.

Laboratory studies revealing an increase in liver enzymes and ammonia levels with marked decreases in serum glucose also support the diagnosis of this disease though one should also make a note that other metabolic disorders could also cause similar symptoms.

Friday, 2 December 2011

The power of the brain

A French epicurean said: "Tell me what you eat, and I'll tell you who you are." But is it possible that certain foods make you smarter, happier, or allow you to react more positively to stress? Could junk food lead to misconduct? We constantly draw links between our food and how we perceive, think and act.

For example, did you know that depression and aggression have been linked to diets high in harmful fats and low in beneficial fruits and vegetables? That fish and seafood can eliminate the risk of Alzheimer's disease or dementia? Or that tea can induce a peaceful state of mind without affecting alertness?

Memory, alertness and mood can be influenced by your nutritional choices. Although intelligence and mental functions are complex and involve multiple systems and devices of the body, some key nutrients can stimulate the brain force.

Foods that increase mental power

Antioxidants: Foods and supplements containing antioxidants (eg. Phytochemicals, catechins) can improve brain health and longevity. Vegetables and fruits contain phytochemicals dark (especially blueberries), and full of green tea catechins.

Omega-3: omega-3, found in many types of fish and seafood, including salmon, halibut and scallops, reduce inflammation of the brain and promotes regeneration of nerve cells.

Vitamin B: Vitamin B is good for the brain, it is no doubt. The family of B vitamins is a rich source of food for the nervous system. The messages transmitted by the brain to the nerves and vice versa depend on the B-complex vitamins, particularly folic acid, vitamin B6 and choline. We are surrounded by foods containing vitamin B complex Folic acid is found in dark green vegetables including spinach, asparagus, romaine lettuce, and turnip greens and mustard. Many varieties of beans also contain folic acid. Try black beans, chickpeas or pinto beans to a feast of folic acid. Crack an egg to absorb choline: This B vitamin found in abundance in the egg yolk. Other sources include soybean, peanut butter, potatoes or whole wheat bread.

Iron: Iron helps the blood to supply oxygen to our body. Iron deficiency has been associated with attention deficit disorder with hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and mental retardation. Needless to say, so that foods containing iron can intensify our ability to reason. Iron is found in spinach, blackstrap molasses, lentils, tofu, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

Vitamin E: Some people slow their mental decline by daily crossword puzzles or playing sudoku. Foods containing vitamin E also help you keep the spirit alive! Vitamin E, especially when taken together with vitamin C, reduces the cognitive decline associated with aging. The following foods: turnip greens and mustard, spinach and broccoli are rich in vitamin E, all you can nourish the spirit. And if the green does not appeal to you, nibble sunflower seeds, almonds or olives to get a good dose of vitamin E.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Can be master of our dreams? How?

It is difficult to give a precise answer to the usefulness of dreams. The dreams remain something vague and mysterious.

Some authors claim that "dreams are a link between the conscious and the unconscious, between soul and body, between our real desires and repressed, they are a mirror that never lies. But mostly, these are warnings.

Here are some statements by Jeremy Taylor on Dreams:

- All dreams are aimed at improving our health and wellbeing.

- Dreams are not there to teach us what we already know

- Only the dreamer knows with certainty the meaning of his dream.

- No dream has only one meaning.

- All dreams have a common language and universal metaphors and symbols.

- Working with dreams steadily improved our relations with our friends, our spouses, our families, our children and others.

Everyone dreams, but some people do not remember.

The mundane character or emotions of a dream can affect the memory and the existence of interference with other information at the time of the dream.

The inability to remember the dream is related to personality.
We also think that with age, the brain becomes more rigid, dream activity decreases.

Friday, 8 October 2010

Expansion of consciousness and brain plasticity

Dr. Rosenfeld believes that "it is no exaggeration to say that meditation heals the body and more of the psyche. Moreover, the Buddha is often called the Great Physician. He taught himself the mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT), a mixture of MBSR and behavioral therapies, aimed at older depressed from which it reduced by 50% the risk of relapse.

Among the first discoveries, we realized that meditation slows the heart rate and breathing, muscle tension and brain waves. Studies indicate a preventive cardiovascular disorders, or a drop in blood pressure, chronic pain in older people, chronic low back pain, etc..

More recently, highlighting the plasticity of the brain shows that, depending on their use, the neural connections disappear, creating or reinforcing. Richard Davidson's research with Buddhist monks have thus shown that meditation changes the brain that generates much of gamma waves. According to Wolf Singer, allow several areas of the brain to synchronize their operation, thus increasing the level of consciousness. Images obtained by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) in seasoned monks have also measured increased activity in left prefrontal cortex, in conjunction with positive emotions, according to Dr. Thierry Janssen, stimulate immunity.