Posts Tagged ‘brain’

NY Times Article – Gadget and Information Overload

Monday, June 7th, 2010

My Desk - Complete with 3 Computers

The NY Times began a series of brain-related articles today with an article called “Hooked on Gadgets, and Paying a Mental Price.” For anyone who uses even a modicum of technology for home and work, the story will resonate, I think.

The piece does a great job of outlining the dangers of being overly attached to e-mail, text messages, twitter feeds, and the Internet in general.

Knowing that our habits and repeated actions reinforce our need to stay connected and multi-task points to the solution – we must work mindfully and diligently to break the habit!

For me, it’s great to have a training program like Brain Fitness Pro that demands my attention and helps me train my brain to stay on task.

Seeing The Brain Hear

Wednesday, February 3rd, 2010

“The organization of the cortex does not look as pretty as it does in the textbooks,” says Dr. Kanold, Assistant Professor of Biology at the University of Maryland, and lead scientist on a new study of the auditory cortex. “Things are a lot messier than expected.”

Dr. Kanold and his team published their report on auditory processing in the January 31 online edition of Nature Neuroscience.

“[Discrete sampling] is like showing someone who wants to know how America looks, ‘Here is one person from New York City and one person from California.’ You don’t get a very good picture of what the country looks like from that sampling,” says Kanold, originally from Germany.

Kanold’s team employed a new technique to observe all the neurons across a broad swath of the auditory cortex. Using a dye that glows when calcium levels rise, indicating active neurons, the team shone a laser on areas of the cortex and measured the neuronal activity of hundreds of neurons in activated by simple tones at different frequencies.

Left: Dyed Brain Regions; Right: Frequency Response

Left: Dyed Brain Regions; Right: Frequency Response

According to Dr. Andrew King, Professor of Neurophysiology at the University of Oxford, “The functional organization of the auditory cortex has remained unclear and a matter of some controversy, despite the efforts of many labs over a number of years. The approach used by Dr. Kanold and colleagues is an important advance in this field.”

“We discovered that the organization of the cortex does not look as pretty as it does in the textbooks, which surprised us,” explains Kanold. “Things are a lot messier than expected. And we don’t see evidence of the maps previously proposed using less precise techniques.”

This messiness could hint at a brain that is far more adaptable than previously thought. “These results may rewrite our classical views of how cortical circuits are organized and what functions they serve,” suggests Dr. Shihab Shamma, whose own work had used discrete microelectrodes to mapĀ  the auditory cortex.

Kanold’s team looked at both how neurons receive sound information (the inputs), and how they process it (the outputs). “Neighboring neurons do their own thing by creating different outputs,” Kanold says, a finding which overturns conventional models. “You can imagine that you and your neighbor both receive water to your houses from the same pipe, but you do different things with it — you might cook with it while your neighbor waters the lawn. You can’t assume that they are doing the same thing just because they are neighbors.”

Dr. Kanold, an expert in neuroplasticity, sees a benefit to this randomness. “Each individual neuron is getting inputs from a wide range of frequencies, and by selecting which frequencies they are strongly responding to, they might be very easily able to shift their function,” he says. This might help explain how we are quickly able to tune in to different auditory information (paying attention at one moment to the car radio, and at the next to a question from the back seat).

Brain Training for Rehabilitation

Monday, January 25th, 2010

brain training prison Scottish Scotland nintendo-dsThis report (Nintendo for Scottish prisoners) has already raised eyebrows, but I think the fundamental concept of helping prisoners improve their core skills has merit.

It’s also intriguing to think what a more serious brain training program could do for someone who has impulse control problems. Working memory capacity has been shown to be crucial to impulse control. When we overload our working memory we resort to emotional decisions. Likewise, if we boost our working memory capacity we can maintain more self control.

I’d love to see Mind Sparke training evaluate in Scottish prisons…

The Brain – Top to Bottom

Tuesday, January 12th, 2010

I came across this rather marvelous website hosted by McGill. It has a slew of information about the brain from many different perspectives and at different levels of complexity. Highly recommended as a resource or something to wallow in.

McGill – The Brain from Top to Bottom

McGill - The Brain Top to Bottom

McGill - The Brain Top to Bottom

DNA Differences in The Brain

Thursday, January 7th, 2010

Neuroscience pioneer Fred Gage was the first to demonstrate that the adult human brain produces new brain cells. He’s now discovered that the DNA in brain cells can differ from the DNA in the rest of the body. Not only that, but the DNA in one brain cell may be different from that in another.

Gage postulates that this genetic flexibility could be a mechanism by which we (our brains) adapt to life’s unpredictable challenges:

Memory’s Molecular Processes

Thursday, December 24th, 2009

A new study has explained a previous paradox in the molecular processes of memory formation.

Neuron with Connecting Synapses

Neuron with Connecting Synapses

Scientists had noticed the puzzling phenomenon that the formation of new memories was accompanied by protein degradation as well as protein synthesis at the brain’s synapses. A new study shows that the degradation of one set of protein molecules provides the RNA necessary to create the new proteins and solidify the memory being formed.

Published in Neuron and reported by the BBC –