Saturday, November 27, 2010

Brain, Memory, and Rest

A new study published in the Journal of Neuroscience by researchers at the University of York and Harvard Medical School: Rest is vitally important for memory and cognitive functions. Your brain is working for you when you're resting during sleep as well as resting while awake. New memories are only really useful if you can connect them to information you already know. This study identified brain activity called Sleep Spindles: brief but intense bursts of brain activity that reflect information transfer between different memory stores in the brain (the hippocampus deep in the brain and the neocortex on the surface of the brain) that apparently help to organize new memories and makes those vital connections with existing knowledge. In another related study, researchers at New York University confirmed that your memories are strengthened during periods of rest even while you are awake. Is your brain getting enough rest?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Tarantula and Brain-Based Fear

A recent article published in "Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences" reports on a study by Dean Mobbs of the Medical Research Council-Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge, United Kingdom. A study participant in a brain scanner (fMRI) watched a Brazilian salmon pink tarantula that appeared to be getting close to the participant's foot (the participant was only viewing pictures of the spider and there was, in fact, no spider anywhere near). Pre-frontal brain regions were activated when the participant thought the spider was further away; limbic emotional layer brain regions were activated when the participant thought the spider was getting closer. (Incidentally, this goes along with my perception of the process of "downshifting.") Researchers also concluded that when human beings have an expectation that something's going to be scary, they tend to prepare themselves for it. Eventually, these types of studies may provide information about how to deal more effectively with phobias (that appear to be associated with the limbic-emotional brain layer).

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Viruses and Your Immune System Antibodies

Landmark research from Medical Research Council Lab of Molecular Biology (LMB) in Cambridge UK: Viruses are the number one killer of human beings, responsible for twice as many deaths each year as cancer. Viruses are, however, among the hardest of all diseases to treat. Until now it was thought that antibodies could only reduce infection by attacking viruses outside living b ody cells or by blocking the entry of viruses into the cells. Studies by Dr. Leo James has shown that antibodies are able to fight viruses from wtihin infected cells.

(Editor. A Cure for the Common Cold?

Monday, November 1, 2010

The Brain that Changed Everything

When Dr. William Beecher Scoville cut into Henry Molaison's skull to treat him for epilepsy, he inadvertently created the most important brain-research subject of our time — a man who could no longer remember, who taught us everything we know about memory. Six decades later, another daring researcher (Dr. Jacopo Annese - a neuroanatomist)is cutting into Henry's brain. Another revolution in brain science is about to begin. You may find this article by Scoville's grandson (Luke Dittrich) fascinating.