How would you like to have the ability to play the piano downloaded into your brain? You might not end up with the same sense of achievement, but it sure would be a lot quicker and easier than years of lessons and practicing. Well, we're not there yet (and perhaps we never should be), but that sort of scenario is now a little closer to reality, thanks to research conducted at Boston University and ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratories in Kyoto, Japan. Read More
Neuroscientists have long pondered the mechanism behind learning and memory formation in the human brain. On the cellular level, it's generally agreed that we learn when stimuli are repeated frequently enough that our synapses - the gap-connections between neurons - respond and become stronger. Now, a team of UCLA neuro-physicists has discovered that this change in synaptic strength actually has an optimal "rhythm," or frequency, a finding that could one day lead to new strategies for treating learning disabilities. Read More
With the possible exception of those affected by hyperthylmesia – a rare condition where a person has an extraordinary capability to recall events from their past - most of us wouldn’t mind having our memory enhanced. That’s just what appears to have happened to a group of mice when targeted areas of their brains were electrically stimulated. The treatment triggered an increase in the creation of new cells in the hippocampus, with experiment results suggesting the mice’s spatial learning improved. The researchers responsible say the results could have implications for the treatment of memory disorders in humans. Read More
"Connectomics" is an area of neuroscience that aims to map the brain's connections, known as synapses, to gain an understanding of how information flows through the circuits of the brain. With an estimated 100 billion nerve cells, or neurons, in the brain, each connected to thousands of other nerve cells, adding up to an estimated 150 trillion synapses, the creation of such a map is no small task – but a new technique is bringing scientists a step closer to developing a computer model of the brain. Read More
Transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) is a technology that temporarily activates – or inactivates – parts of the brain using magnetic stimulation. Its ability to selectively turn areas of the brain on or off allows the functions and interconnections of the brain to by studied in a noninvasive and painless manner. Now researchers have shown that the technology can be used to enable rats to learn more easily. While smarter rats probably aren’t high on anyone’s wish list, the technology shows potential for allowing TMS to better treat a variety of brain disorders and diseases in humans, such as severe depression and schizophrenia. Read More
We all know that certain pieces of music can evoke strong emotional responses in people. Now, a research team from Canada's McGill University has uncovered evidence that reveals exactly what causes such feelings of euphoria and ecstasy and why music is so important in human society. Using a combination of brain scanning technologies, the study has shown that the same neurotransmitter which is associated with feeling pleasure from sex and food is released in the brain when listening to good music. Read More
Over the years science has gleaned an enormous amount of knowledge from the humble fruit fly. Drosophila melanogaster was used to provide the post-Mendelian foundations for our understanding of genetics and has also been used extensively in neuroscience research. The latest fruit fly-inspired innovation could simplify how wireless sensor networks communicate and stands to have wider applications for computing. Read More
Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy is the most common and severe childhood form of muscular dystrophy (MD), affecting one in 3,500 boys. The disease progressively weakens muscles cells and tissues until muscle degradation is so severe that the patient dies, most often in their late teens or twenties. Scientists at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island and the University of Pennsylvania, hope their research into the human protein, biglycan, will ultimately improve the condition of muscular dystrophy sufferers. Their studies have shown that biglycan significantly slows muscle damage and improves function in mice with the Duchenne genetic mutation. Human clinical trials will be the next step. Read More
In bad news for regular jet-setters and shift workers, research by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, has shown that acute disruption of circadian rhythms can cause memory and learning problems long after people have returned to a regular schedule. While similar effects have been shown in jet-lagged subjects, the UC Berkeley study is the first to look at long-term effects and changes in brain anatomy after the subjects have recovered from jet lag. Read More
SensoMotoric Instruments (SMI) of Germany has launched its latest gaze and eye tracking system called the RED500. Eye tracking is a key research technique for many types of scientific, marketing, and design studies. Billed as the world’s first high-performance and high-speed remote eye tracker, the RED500 features a “scientific grade” 500 Hz sampling rate, binocular tracking, and a portable all-in-one design. Read More