Measuring human intelligence may be controversial and oh-so-very-tricky to do. The latest study underscores a growing appreciation among neuroscientists for the importance of the brain’s “white matter” — fat-covered clusters of axons that string neurons and the brain’s two hemispheres together— in brain function.
It’s been said that music soothes the savage beast, but if you’re the one playing the instrument it might benefit your brain.
A growing body of evidence suggests that learning to play an instrument and continuing to practice and play it may offer mental benefits throughout life. Hearing has also been shown to be positively affected by making music.
July 19, 2012 By Emily Martinez
(Medical Xpress) — UT Dallas researchers recently demonstrated how nerve stimulation paired with specific experiences, such as movements or sounds, can reorganize the brain. This technology could lead to new treatments for stroke, tinnitus, autism and other disorders.
Dr. Michael Kilgard helped lead a team that paired vagus nerve stimulation with physical movement to improve brain function.
In a related paper, UT Dallas neuroscientists showed that they could alter the speed at which the brain works in laboratory animals by pairing stimulation of the vagus nerve with fast or slow sounds.
A team led by Dr. Robert Rennaker and Dr. Michael Kilgard looked at whether repeatedly pairing vagus nerve stimulation with a specific movement would change neural activity within the laboratory rats’ primary motor cortex. To test the hypothesis, they paired the vagus nerve stimulation with movements of the forelimb in two groups of rats. The results were published in a recent issue of Cerebral Cortex.
After five days of stimulation and movement pairing, the researchers examined the brain activity in response to the stimulation. The rats who received the training along with the stimulation displayed large changes in the organization of the brain’s movement control system. The animals receiving identical motor training without stimulation pairing did not exhibit any brain changes, or plasticity.
People who suffer strokes or brain trauma often undergo rehabilitation that includes repeated movement of the affected limb in an effort to regain motor skills. It is believed that repeated use of the affected limb causes reorganization of the brain essential to recovery. The recent study suggests that pairing vagus nerve stimulation with standard therapy may result in more rapid and extensive reorganization of the brain, offering the potential for speeding and improving recovery following stroke, said Rennaker, associate professor in The University of Texas at Dallas’ School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences.
“Our goal is to use the brain’s natural neuromodulatory systems to enhance the effectiveness of standard therapies,” Rennaker said. “Our studies in sensory and motor cortex suggest that the technique has the potential to enhance treatments for neurological conditions ranging from chronic pain to motor disorders. Future studies will investigate its effectiveness in treating cognitive impairments.”
ScienceDaily (July 16, 2012) — Far from processing every word we read or hear, our brains often do not even notice key words that can change the whole meaning of a sentence, according to new research from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).
After a plane crash, where should the…
Growing up in the suburbs of New York City, Takao Hensch learned German from his father, Japanese from his mother and English from the community around him. “I was always wondering,” he says, “what is it that makes it so easy to learn languages when you’re young, and so hard once you begin to get older?” Today, as a neuroscientist at Boston Children’s Hospital in Massachusetts, Hensch is at the forefront of efforts to answer that question in full molecular detail. Language acquisition is just one of many processes that go through a ‘sensitive’ or ‘critical’ period — an interval during development when the neural circuits responsible for that process can be sculpted, and radically changed, by experience (see ‘Open and shut’). During critical periods, children can make rapid progress at discerning facial features that look like their own, recognizing spoken language and locating objects in space. But within a few months or years, each window of opportunity slams shut, and learning anything new in that realm becomes difficult, if not impossible. (via Neurodevelopment: Unlocking the brain : Nature News & Comment)
July 16, 2012
Can you teach an old dog (or human) new tricks? Yes, but it might take time, practice, and hard work before he or she gets it right, according to Hans Schroder and colleagues from Michigan State University in the US. Their work shows that when rules change, our attempts to…
Identify your brain’s strengths and weaknesses, and stop giving it things to do that it doesn’t do very well.
Serious link posting this time, because this article really makes sense to me.
“Scientists in China and the UK scanned the brains of people with and without depression, and they found a surprising pattern in nearly all of the depressed people: Their brain activity was out of sync in three regions collectively known as the “hate circuit” — so called because in previous experiments they have been shown to light up when people look at photographs of someone they can’t stand.”
“…it’s as if the brains of depressed people hate incorrectly. The brain disruptions the researchers observed could be a sign that people with depression have an impaired ability to cope with — and learn from — social situations in which they feel hate, Feng says. This may explain why they often turn emotions such as hatred and anger inward, instead of handling them in more constructive ways, he adds.”