Mar 272006

Both and New Scientist are reporting today that a team of Italian and German neuroscientists working in conjunction with mobile chip maker Infineon have created a “neuro-chip,” a hybrid microchip that interfaces living neurons with traditional silicon circuitry. In addition to providing new insights into the brain’s inner workings, the groundbreaking work could one day lead to organic computers that use living brain cells for memory or to the creation of prosthetic devices for treating neurological disorders.

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Jan 062006

Astrocytes, also known as astroglia, are star-shaped cells in the brain whose function and importance has never been fully understood by neuroscientists. Once thought to be housekeeping cells under the control of neurons, is reporting today that researchers have found that astrocytes can directly and independently perform the critical function of controlling blood flow in the brain. This discovery could influence how brain scans are interpreted and may lead to breakthroughs in understanding and treating brain injuries and neurological diseases.

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Dec 282005

credit: Lee, Nedivi Lab

Researchers from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have recently found that contrary to popular belief, neurons do grow in mature brains. It had been widely accepted that structural remodeling of neurons does not occur in adult brains, but the discovery that it does could lead to advances in treatments of spinal cord injuries and other neural damage caused by accidents or disease. The study, co-authored by Elly Nedivi, appears in the December 27th issue of Public Library of Science (PLoS) Biology.

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Dec 132005

A mouse

It was announced yesterday that in an effort to create better models for studying neurological disorders, a team of scientists from the Salk Institute led by Dr. Fred Gage have successfully bio-engineered mice to be born with a small percentage of human brain cells. The process involves injecting 2-week-old mouse embryos with roughly 100,000 human embryonic stem cells. The mice created could be a valuable asset to scientists as they struggle to understand and combat neurological disorders like epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease.

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Dec 042005 is reporting that researchers from the University of Washington have discovered neurons in the brainstems of rats whose sole function is to identify new sounds while ignoring ongoing and predictable background noises. The scientists believe these specialized neurons are present in all vertebrates, including humans in whom they probably play a significant role in speech processing.

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Nov 282005
Brain image scan

source: MIT is reporting that a new brain-imaging study performed by researchers at MIT has concluded that if you predict a memory will need to be recalled as you store that memory, you will in fact be able to remember it better later. In other words, people who make more accurate memory predictions are better learners. The opportunity for prediction does not only occur during the initial learning stage, but rather is a continuous process by which the subconscious monitors the brain to determine if something is known as well as it should be. Better learners will intuitively react to the feedback from this monitoring process and review information that is flagged as not properly understood or memorized.

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Nov 242005

Scientists from the University of Oregon have discovered that a person’s memory capacity is not just dependent on how much information their brain can store, but also on how well they are able to filter their thoughts to focus on what they are trying to remember. In other words, people with an effective “thought bouncer” managing memory crowd control are better at remembering and keeping track of their thoughts. has an article today about the research results that will be published in the Nov. 24 issue of the journal Nature.

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Nov 132005

Scientists have long known that meditation has the ability to permanently alter neural patterns, but researchers have recently discovered that the practice also causes parts of the brain to physically thicken. has a summary of the study that was led by Sara Lazar, an assistant in psychology at Massachusetts General Hospital.

The 20 participants in the study were trained in Vipassana, also known as Buddhist Insight meditation. Brain imaging of the subjects revealed a thickening of cortical regions related to sensory, auditory and visual perception. It was also determined that daily meditation may actually slow the normal, aging-related thinning of the frontal cortex. Although relatively few people were studied, the researchers believe their results to be significant. Additionally, they concluded that yoga and other forms of meditation likely produce similar effects.

The study appears in the November issue of the journal NeuroReport.

Nov 082005

It has long been perceived by scientists and non-scientists alike that women and men process and react to humor in different ways. Now researchers from the Center for Interdisciplinary Brain Sciences Research at Stanford University School of Medicine have neurological evidence to back that theory up. has a summary of their study that is published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. While humor was the focus, their findings may lead to breakthroughs regarding other emotional differences between the sexes and even mental illnesses that target one gender over another.

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Nov 052005
Visual Neural Patterns

source: Poggio/DiCarlo Labs

MIT has published a news release about how neuroscientists in the McGovern Institute for Brain Research have recently made significant advances in their attempts to learn how the inferotemporal (IT) cortex identifies and categorizes visual data. The ability to visually recognize objects, while usually taken for granted because it happens quickly, automatically, and subconsciously, is actually a complex problem for the brain to solve. This research provides some insight into how the brain encodes, formats and saves visual information.

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