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By SINDYA N. BHANOO Hungry babies instinctively open their mouths as their mother’s breast or a bottle draws near. Now, researchers from England and France report that this instinct — the anticipation of touch — is a skill fetuses teach themselves in the womb. Studying scans at monthly intervals between 24 and 36 weeks of pregnancy, the scientists found that the youngest fetuses were more likely to touch their heads and that as they matured, they began to touch their mouths more. And by 36 weeks, the fetuses began to open their mouths before they touched them. The anticipation of touch is a skill a baby uses during feeding, said Nadja Reissland, a psychologist at Durham University in England, who reports the findings along with colleagues in the journal Developmental Psychobiology. “We can’t say it’s a precursor to feeding, but it’s one element of feeding,” she said. “You actually need to open your mouth in order to feed.” Premature babies may not have fully grasped this skill, Dr. Reissland said. The study could provide more information about what premature babies can do and what special care they need. “The fetus might actually be learning the limits of its body, the texture of the body and what it feels like to be a person in the womb,” she said. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18786 - Posted: 10.15.2013

By JANE E. BRODY Fifty years ago, a revolution began in neonatal care that has preserved the physical and mental health, and often the lives, of thousands of babies: screening of newborns for inherited and congenital disorders. On Oct. 15, 1963, the first law requiring that all newborns be screened for phenylketonuria, or PKU, took effect in Massachusetts. PKU, an inherited metabolic disorder, afflicts one in 20,000 of the four million babies born each year in the United States. Children with PKU are missing an enzyme that converts the amino acid phenylalanine to tyrosine, and unless they remain on a special protein-restricted diet, the resulting buildup of phenylketone damages the brain and causes mental retardation and physical disabilities. Today every state tests babies at birth for PKU — and not just that. There are now more than 50 disorders that can be picked up through screening, 31 of which comprise the “core conditions” of the government’s Recommended Uniform Screening Panel. Other conditions are likely to be added to the panel in the future. All but two of them — hearing loss and critical congenital heart disease — can be detected by automated analysis of a few drops of dried blood from a heel stick done within a few days of birth. Giana Swift, a fifth grader in Sherman Oaks, Calif., was one of more than 12,500 babies who benefit from newborn screening each year. The story of her birth in October 2002 was recounted in The Times. Through a pilot screening program, Giana was found to have an inherited metabolic disorder called 3-MCC (3-methylcrotonyl-CoA carboxylase deficiency). It afflicts about 100 babies a year, rendering them unable to process the amino acid leucine. As with PKU, toxic byproducts of the unprocessed amino acid build up in the blood and damage the brain. Because she was tested at birth, Giana thrived, first on a special leucine-free baby formula, then on a diet nearly free of protein. Her grateful father, David Swift, 44, recently described Giana as “very bright, precocious, happy and a top athlete.” Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18784 - Posted: 10.14.2013

Figuring out the next 99,999,999,900 neurons “We have a hundred billion neurons in each human brain,” said Nicholas Spitzer, a neurobiologist and co-director of the Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind at the University of California-San Diego (which is partnering with The Atlantic on this event). “Right now, the best we can do is to record the electrical activity of maybe a few hundred of those neurons. Gee, that’s not very impressive.” Spitzer and his team are trying to figure out what’s going on in the rest of those neurons, or brain cells – specifically, what "jobs" they have in the body. But first, a bit of Neuroscience 101: “As your readers may know, the nerve cells or neurons in the brain communicate with each other through the release of chemicals, called neurotransmitters,” Spitzer said. “This allows a motor neuron that makes a muscle contract signal to the muscle to say, ‘time to contract.’ It seems like kind of a clumsy way to organize a signaling system.” But sometimes, those neurons change "jobs" – a motor neuron might start signaling another function in the body, for example. "These issues have their origins in the Greek and Roman and Chinese philosophers." “We thought for a long time that the wiring of the brain was a little bit like the wiring of some sort of electronic device in that the connection of the wires in the ‘device,’ the brain, are fairly fixed. What we’re finding is that the wires can remain in place, but the function of the circuit and the connection of the wires can change,” Spitzer said. “This is something of a heresy.” © 2013 by The Atlantic Monthly Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 18740 - Posted: 10.03.2013

By DENISE GELLENE Dr. David Hubel, who was half of an enduring scientific team that won a Nobel Prize for explaining how the brain assembles information from the eye’s retina to produce detailed visual images of the world, died on Sunday in Lincoln, Mass. He was 87. The cause was kidney failure, his son Carl said. Dr. Hubel (pronounced HUGH-bull) and his collaborator, Dr. Torsten Wiesel, shared the 1981 Nobel in Physiology or Medicine with Roger Sperry for discovering ways that the brain processes information. Dr. Hubel and Dr. Wiesel concentrated on visual perception, initially experimenting on cats; Dr. Sperry described the functions of the brain’s left and right hemispheres. Dr. Hubel’s and Dr. Wiesel’s work further showed that sensory deprivation early in life can permanently alter the brain’s ability to process images. Their findings led to a better understanding of how to treat certain visual birth defects. Dr. Hubel and Dr. Wiesel collaborated for more than two decades, becoming, as they made their discoveries, one of the best-known partnerships in science. “Their names became such a brand name that H&W rolled off the tongue as easily in the lab as A&W root beer did at lunch,” Robert H. Wurtz, a neuroscientist, wrote in a review article about their work. Before Dr. Hubel and Dr. Wiesel started their research in the 1950s, scientists had long believed that the brain functioned like a movie screen — projecting images exactly as they were received from the eye. Dr. Hubel and Dr. Wiesel showed that the brain behaves more like a microprocessor, deconstructing and then reassembling details of an image to create a visual scene. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 18703 - Posted: 09.25.2013

by Douglas Heaven Why rely on mouse brains to help us understand our most complex organ when you can grow a model of a human one? Tiny "brains" that include parts of the cortex, hippocampus and even retinas, have been made for the first time using stem cells. The 3D tissue structures will let researchers study the early stages of human brain development in unprecedented detail. Because human brains are so different from those of most animals, looking at how animal brains develop only gives us a crude understanding of the process in humans. "Mouse models don't cut it," says Juergen Knoblich at the Institute of Molecular Biology (IMB) in Vienna, Austria. To grow their miniature brains, Knoblich and colleagues took induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells – adult cells reprogrammed to behave like embryonic stem cells – and gave them a mix of nutrients thought to be essential for brain development. The stem cells first differentiated into neuroectoderm tissue, the layer of cells that would eventually become an embryo's nervous system. The tissue was suspended in a gel scaffold to help it develop a 3D structure. Right food, right structure In less than a month, the stem cells grew into brain-like "organoids" 3 to 4 millimetres across and containing structures that corresponded to most of the regions of the brain. For example, all the organoids they made appeared to contain parts of the cortex, about 70 per cent contained a choroid plexus – which produces spinal fluid – and about 10 per cent contained retinal tissue. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18581 - Posted: 08.29.2013

By Laura Sanders Seeing people of different races early in life may sculpt the developing brain, a new study suggests. Children who spent infancy in Chinese or Russian orphanages with little contact from outsiders had difficulty perceiving emotions on faces of people of unfamiliar races. These children also showed heightened brain responses to faces of unfamiliar races. “This new study is unique in that it for the first time tells us that early exposure to faces of different races is important,” says psychologist Kang Lee of the University of Toronto. “The lack of such exposure can have long-lasting effects.” Although the results, published in the Aug. 14 Journal of Neuroscience, suggest that race shapes the brain during infancy, the study can’t say what such a brain change might mean, says study coauthor Eva Telzer of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. “Our findings do not say anything about children’s behavior in their daily life.” Telzer and her colleagues studied one of the few populations that could help reveal these effects: orphans who the researchers believe lived amid a single race of people early in life. Most of these 36 children spent time in Russian or Chinese orphanages and were later adopted by American families of European descent. On average, the kids were adopted when they were 2 to 3 years old and were between 6 and 16 years old at the time of the study. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 18507 - Posted: 08.14.2013

By Laura Sanders Pregnant mice buzzed on caffeine gave birth to pups with brain changes and lasting memory deficits, a new study shows. The results, published Aug. 7 in Science Translational Medicine, leave unclear whether caffeine causes a similar effect in people. The study convincingly shows that caffeine changes the brains of exposed pups, says child neurologist Barry Kosofsky of Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. But he cautions that mouse and human brains develop very differently, so direct comparisons are impossible. The study has no immediate message for pregnant women, Kosofsky says. “We are totally at a loss about what to say for caffeine.” For a mouse mother, though, the experiment’s story is clearer: Moderate caffeine intake during pregnancy changes baby brains, and not for the better. While pregnant and later lactating, mice drank water laced with caffeine — an amount comparable to that in three to four cups of coffee a day. In offspring, cells in a memory center in the brain called the hippocampus fired off too many messages, an abnormal behavior that could lead to seizures, Carla Silva, of the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research and the University of Coimbra in Portugal, and colleagues found. As adults, the caffeine-exposed mice performed worse than nonexposed mice on memory tests. Usually, mice ignore familiar objects and spend lots of time investigating something new. But mice exposed to caffeine while developing weren’t keen on exploring new objects, suggesting that they couldn’t remember which object was new. What’s more, these mice had fewer neurons in parts of the hippocampus than normal mice. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18478 - Posted: 08.08.2013

Beth Mole The insertion of one gene can muzzle the extra copy of chromosome 21 that causes Down’s syndrome, according to a study published today in Nature1. The method could help researchers to identify the cellular pathways behind the disorder's symptoms, and to design targeted treatments. “It’s a strategy that can be applied in multiple ways, and I think can be useful right now,” says Jeanne Lawrence, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and the lead author of the study. Lawrence and her team devised an approach to mimic the natural process that silences one of the two X chromosomes carried by all female mammals. Both chromosomes contain a gene called XIST (the X-inactivation gene), which, when activated, produces an RNA molecule that coats the surface of a chromosome like a blanket, blocking other genes from being expressed. In female mammals, one copy of the XIST gene is activated — silencing the X chromosome on which it resides. Lawrence’s team spliced the XIST gene into one of the three copies of chromosome 21 in cells from a person with Down’s syndrome. The team also inserted a genetic 'switch' that allowed them to turn on XIST by dosing the cells with the antibiotic doxycycline. Doing so dampened expression of individual genes along chromosome 21 that are thought to contribute to the pervasive developmental problems that comprise Down's syndrome. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18390 - Posted: 07.18.2013

Heidi Ledford The growth of new nerves in and around prostate cancers spurs tumours to grow and invade other tissues, studies in mice have shown. The results, published today in Science1, could steer researchers towards novel approaches to treating cancer. Although it is not yet clear whether the mechanism occurs in humans — or in cancers affecting other organs — an analysis of samples from 43 patients with prostate cancer found that nerve density was high in patients who fared poorly in the clinic. “It’s a catalytic paper,” says John Isaacs, a cancer researcher at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not affiliated with the study. “People may now focus on trying to tackle these unanswered questions.” Previous work had shown that cancer cells sometimes migrate along nerves, and that this process can be associated with poor responses to therapy2. To learn more, Claire Magnon and Paul Frenette of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and their colleagues studied tumour development in mice injected with human prostate cancer cells. The resulting tumours, they saw, were infiltrated with certain types of nerve fibres. Chemically destroying those nerves prevented the development of tumours in the prostate. Furthermore, the team found that another class of nerves was associated with tumour spread, and that blocking certain receptors on those nerves prevented the cancer from invading nearby lymph nodes. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18369 - Posted: 07.13.2013

by Sara Reardon As a baby's brain rewires itself to face the world ahead, its DNA is rewiring itself at the same time. New maps of chemical modifications to brain DNA have revealed massive epigenetic changes during the first few years of life. Environmental stressors that disrupt the process during this crucial period could lead to mental disorders. During development in mammals, chemical tags called methyl groups are added to certain cytosine nucleotides in the DNA, which affects how nearby genes are expressed. Later, environmental stressors such as stress, diet and disease can alter these patterns and change the genes' expression. These epigenetic modifications appear to play a role in some neurological disorders. For instance, one recent study found that in genetically identical twin pairs in which only one twin has autism, genes involved in brain development have different epigenetic patterns. Because epigenetic patterns can differ between tissues in the body, Ryan Lister of the University of Western Australia in Crawley and colleagues decided to zero in on the brain's methylation. They collected nine human brains including examples from fetuses, two-month-old babies, toddlers, teenagers and older adults, and the same from mice at equivalent stages of development. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18352 - Posted: 07.06.2013

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN Philadelphia (CNN) -- Martha Farah is leaning forward, furiously typing on her thin laptop in her spacious office at the University of Pennsylvania. Awards, paintings and posters lean against the walls on the floor as she puts the final touches on a grant proposal. "I hate it, but I love it!" she exclaims, in a voice that often rises melodically to stress words with enthusiasm. "The adrenaline!" Farah, 57, built a career that has taken many exciting turns. The scope of her work in the field is impressive: She has studied vision, brain-enhancing drugs and socioeconomic influences on the brain, among other topics. Currently, she is the founding director for Penn's Center for Neuroscience and Society. "One of the things that really drew me to her was her interest in applying the tools and insights of cognitive neuroscience to socially relevant questions," said Andrea Heberlein, a former postdoctoral fellow in Farah's lab and current lecturer at Boston College. "How can we make the world better, using these tools?" After completing her undergraduate education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Farah studied experimental psychology in the 1970s and '80s at Harvard University, where she earned her Ph.D. The prevailing idea among scientists at the time was that the mind is like computer software and the brain is like the hardware; software would explain "cognitive" phenomena such as memory, problem-solving and information processing. CNN© 2013 Cable News Network

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18271 - Posted: 06.15.2013

Brain cells have been grown from skin cells of adults with Down's syndrome in research that could shed new light on the condition. US scientists found a reduction in connections among the brain cells and possible faults in genes that protect the body from ageing. The research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gives an insight into early brain development. Down's syndrome results from an extra copy of one chromosome. This generally causes some level of learning disability and a range of distinctive physical features. A team led by Anita Bhattacharyya, a neuroscientist at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, grew brain cells from skin cells of two individuals with Down's syndrome. This involved reprogramming skin cells to transform them into a type of stem cell that could be turned into any cell in the body. Brain cells were then grown in the lab, providing a way to look at early brain development in Down's syndrome. One significant finding was a reduction in connections among the neurons, said Dr Bhattacharyya. "They communicate less, are quieter. This is new, but it fits with what little we know about the Down syndrome brain." Brain cells communicate through connections known as synapses. The brain cells in Down's syndrome individuals had only about 60% of the usual number of synapses and synaptic activity. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18199 - Posted: 05.28.2013

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD Modern mothers love to debate how long to breast-feed, a topic that stirs both guilt and pride. Now — in a very preliminary finding — the Neanderthals are weighing in. By looking at barium levels in the fossilized molar of a Neanderthal child, researchers concluded that the child had been breast-fed exclusively for the first seven months, followed by seven months of mother’s milk supplemented by other food. Then the barium pattern in the tooth enamel “returned to baseline prenatal levels, indicating an abrupt cessation of breast-feeding at 1.2 years of age,” the scientists reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature. While that timetable conforms with the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics — which suggests that mothers exclusively breast-feed babies for six months and continue for 12 months if possible — it represents a much shorter span of breast-feeding than practiced by apes or a vast majority of modern humans. The average age of weaning in nonindustrial populations is about 2.5 years; in chimpanzees in the wild, it is about 5.3 years. Of course, living conditions were much different for our evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals, extinct for the last 30,000 years. The findings, which drew strong skepticism from some scientists, were meant to highlight a method of linking barium levels in teeth to dietary changes. In the Nature report, researchers from the United States and Australia described tests among human infants and captive macaques showing that traces of the element barium in tooth enamel appeared to accurately reflect transitions from mother’s milk through weaning. The barium levels rose during breast-feeding and fell off sharply on weaning. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18187 - Posted: 05.23.2013

By Scicurious Aging happens. As you get older, your body slows down, eventually your brain slows down, too. Some things go gradually, and some go suddenly. To many people, this might seem like a pretty random process. We used to think of aging this way, as just…well cells get old, which means we get old, too. DNA replication after a while starts making errors in repair, the errors build up, and on the whole body scale the whole thing just kind of goes downhill. It seems random. But in fact, it’s not. There are specific proteins which can help control this process. And one of these, NF-kB, in one particular brain region, may have a very important role indeed. NF-kB (which stands for nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells, which is why we use NF-kB) is a protein complex that has a lot of roles to play. It’s an important starting player in the immune system, where it helps to stimulate antibodies. It’s important in memory and stress responses. NF-kB is something called a transcription factor, which helps to control what DNA is transcribed to RNA, and therefore what proteins will eventually be produced. Transcription factors, as you can see, can have a very large number of functions. But in the hypothalamus, NF-kB may have the added function of helping to control aging. The hypothalamus is an area of many small nuclei (further sub areas of neurons) located at the base of the brain. It’s been coming more and more into vogue lately among neuroscientists. In the past, we were interested in the hypothalamus mostly for its role in controlling hormone release from the dangling pituitary gland before it, but now we are learning that the hypothalamus can play roles in fear, mood, food intake, reproduction, and now…aging. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 18152 - Posted: 05.14.2013

Chris Palmer NF-kB activation in neurons in the hypothalamus increases with age (left column), while the total number of neurons (middle column) and the total number of all cell types in the hypothalamus (right column) is maintained at a relatively steady rate across age groups. The area of the brain that controls growth, reproduction and metabolism also kick-starts ageing, according to a study published today in Nature1. The finding could lead to new treatments for age-related illnesses, helping people to live longer. Dongsheng Cai, a physiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and his colleagues tracked the activity of NF-κB — a molecule that controls DNA transcription and is involved in inflammation and the body's response to stress — in the brains of mice. They found that the molecule becomes more active in the brain area called the hypothalamus as a mouse grows older. Further tests suggested that NF-κB activity helps to determine when mice display signs of ageing. Animals lived longer than normal when they were injected with a substance that inhibited the activity of NF-κB in immune cells called microglia in the hypothalamus. Mice that received a substance to stimulate the activity of NF-κB died earlier. “We have provided scientific evidence for the concept that systemic ageing is influenced by a particular tissue in the body,” says Cai. Health and well-being © 2013 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18108 - Posted: 05.02.2013

by Emily Underwood In the cartoon series named after them, Pinky and the Brain, two laboratory mice genetically enhanced to increase their intelligence plot to take over the world—and fail each time. Perhaps their creators hadn't tweaked the correct gene. Researchers have now found a genetic mutation that causes mammalian neural tissue to expand and fold. The discovery may help explain why humans evolved more elaborate brains than mice, and it could suggest ways to treat disorders such as autism and epilepsy that arise from abnormal neural development. In mice and humans alike, the cerebral cortex—the outermost layer of brain tissue associated with high-level functions such as memory and decision-making—starts out as a spherical sheet of tissue made up of only neural stem cells. As these stem cells divide, the cortex increases its surface area, expanding like an inflating balloon, says neuroscientist Victor Borrell of the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante in Spain. Unlike the small, smooth mouse brain, however, the uppermost layers of tissue in the human brain cram millions of neurons into specialized folds and furrows responsible for complex tasks such as language and thought. Because the human cerebral cortex is generally considered "special," some scientists have hypothesized that the genes that govern its development of cortical folds and furrows are also unique to humans, Borrell says. In studies of neural development in mice, Stahl found that TRNP1 produces a protein that determines whether neural stem cells self-replicate, leading to a balloonlike expansion of cortical surface area, or whether they differentiate into a plethora of intermediate stem cell types and neurons, thickening the cortex and forming more complex brain structures. Based on that discovery, the team hypothesized that varying levels of the gene's expression in mice and humans might account for the varying levels of cortical thickness and different shapes between the two species. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18082 - Posted: 04.27.2013

By ABBY ELLIN Marvin Tolkin was 83 when he decided that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living. Until then, it had never occurred to him that there might be emotional “issues” he wanted to explore with a counselor. “I don’t think I ever needed therapy,” said Mr. Tolkin, a retired manufacturer of women’s undergarments who lives in Manhattan and Hewlett Harbor, N.Y. Though he wasn’t clinically depressed, Mr. Tolkin did suffer from migraines and “struggled through a lot of things in my life” — the demise of a long-term business partnership, the sudden death of his first wife 18 years ago. He worried about his children and grandchildren, and his relationship with his current wife, Carole. “When I hit my 80s I thought, ‘The hell with this.’ I don’t know how long I’m going to live, I want to make it easier,” said Mr. Tolkin, now 86. “Everybody needs help, and everybody makes mistakes. I needed to reach outside my own capabilities.” So Mr. Tolkin began seeing Dr. Robert C. Abrams, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan. They meet once a month for 45 minutes, exploring the problems that were weighing on Mr. Tolkin. “Dr. Abrams is giving me a perspective that I didn’t think about,” he said. “It’s been making the transition of living at this age in relation to my family very doable and very livable.” Mr. Tolkin is one of many seniors who are seeking psychological help late in life. Most never set foot near an analyst’s couch in their younger years. But now, as people are living longer, and the stigma of psychological counseling has diminished, they are recognizing that their golden years might be easier if they alleviate the problems they have been carrying around for decades. It also helps that Medicare pays for psychiatric assessments and therapy. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 18061 - Posted: 04.23.2013

by Dennis Normile A human mother rocking a baby in her arms and a cat carrying her kitten by the scruff of its neck have the same physiological effect on both young animals and probably stem from the same maternal instinct to protect their young. That's the conclusion of a new study, which for the first time has compared the physiological impact of maternal carrying behaviors across species. The findings may lead to better parenting techniques for people and possibly to new ways to detect developmental disorders early in life. It's "really fascinating" work, says Oliver Bosch, a neurobiologist at the University of Regensburg in Germany, who was not involved in the research. "No one has looked at [this aspect] of maternal behavior in such detail." Japanese neuroscientist Kumi Kuroda began the study in her own home. She noticed that carrying her newborn baby boy while walking had a rapid calming effect on him. Back in her lab at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, near Tokyo, she found that picking up mouse pups by the scruff of the neck makes them passive and easy to handle. Kuroda wondered if the same physiological processes were driving both behaviors. She and colleagues recorded pulse rates and observed the crying and squirming behavior of 12 infants, 1 to 6 months old, as each was left alone in a crib, held by its mother sitting in a chair, and carried as the mother walked around. In various durations and combinations of the three conditions, they found that the carried babies cried and squirmed the least and had the lowest pulse rates. Those left in the crib were the fussiest; holding the baby while sitting produced in-between results. What was particularly surprising, Kuroda says, was that when a mother started walking, the infant's pulse dropped, and the crying and squirming stopped within 2 to 3 seconds, not over several minutes. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 18048 - Posted: 04.20.2013

by Douglas Heaven A glimpse of consciousness emerging in the brains of babies has been recorded for the first time. Insights gleaned from the work may aid the monitoring of babies under anaesthesia, and give a better understanding of awareness in people in vegetative states – and possibly even in animals. The human brain develops dramatically in a baby's first year, transforming the baby from being unaware to being fully engaged with its surroundings. To capture this change, Sid Kouider at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, and colleagues used electroencephalography (EEG) to record electrical activity in the brains of 80 infants while they were briefly shown pictures of faces. In adults, awareness of a stimulus is known to be linked to a two-stage pattern of brain activity. Immediately after a visual stimulus is presented, areas of the visual cortex fire. About 300 milliseconds later other areas light up, including the prefrontal cortex, which deals with higher-level cognition. Conscious awareness kicks in only after the second stage of neural activity reaches a specific threshold. "It's an all-or-nothing response," says Kouider. Adults can verbally describe being aware of a stimulus, but a baby is a closed book. "We have learned a lot about consciousness in people who can talk about it, but very little in those who cannot," says Tristan Bekinschtein at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the work. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 18047 - Posted: 04.20.2013

by Elizabeth Norton A loving gaze helps firm up the bond between parent and child, building social skills that last a lifetime. But what happens when mom is blind? A new study shows that the children of sightless mothers develop healthy communication skills and can even outstrip the children of parents with normal vision. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of communication, according to Atsushi Senju, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at Birkbeck, University of London. Autistic people don't naturally make eye contact, however, and they can become anxious when urged to do so. Children for whom face-to-face contact is drastically reduced—babies severely neglected in orphanages or children who are born blind—are more likely to have traits of autism, such as the inability to form attachments, hyperactivity, and cognitive impairment. To determine whether eye contact is essential for developing normal communication skills, Senju and colleagues chose a less extreme example: babies whose primary caregivers (their mothers) were blind. These children had other forms of loving interaction, such as touching and talking. But the mothers were unable to follow the babies' gaze or teach the babies to follow theirs, which normally helps children learn the importance of the eyes in communication. Apparently, the children don't need the help. Senju and colleagues studied five babies born to blind mothers, checking the children's proficiency at 6 to 10 months, 12 to 15 months, and 24 to 47 months on several measures of age-appropriate communications skills. At the first two visits, babies watched videos in which a woman shifted her gaze or moved different parts of her face while corresponding changes in the baby's face were recorded. Babies also followed the gaze of a woman sitting at a table and looking at various objects. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 18023 - Posted: 04.11.2013