Chapter 17. Learning and Memory
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Alla Katsnelson People who use a ‘brain-workout’ program for just 10 hours have a mental edge over their peers even a year later, researchers report today in PLoS ONE1. The search for a regimen of mental callisthenics to stave off age-related cognitive decline is a booming area of research — and a multimillion-dollar business. But critics argue that even though such computer programs can improve performance on specific mental tasks, there is scant proof that they have broader cognitive benefits. For the study, adults aged 50 and older played a computer game designed to boost the speed at which players process visual stimuli. Processing speed is thought to be “the first domino that falls in cognitive decline”, says Fredric Wolinsky, a public-health researcher at the University of Iowa in Iowa City, who led the research. The game was developed by academic researchers but is now sold under the name Double Decision by Posit Science, based in San Francisco, California. (Posit did not fund the study.) Players are timed on how fast they click on an image in the centre of the screen and on others that appear around the periphery. The program ratchets up the difficulty as a player’s performance improves. Participants played the training game for 10 hours on site, some with an extra 4-hour ‘booster’ session later, or for 10 hours at home. A control group worked on computerized crossword puzzles for 10 hours on site. Researchers measured the mental agility of all 621 subjects before the brain training began, and again one year later, using eight well-established tests of cognitive performance. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
By Meghan Rosen A child who is good at learning math may literally have a head for numbers. Kids’ brain structures and wiring are associated with how much their math skills improve after tutoring, researchers report April 29 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. Certain measures of brain anatomy were even better at judging learning potential than traditional measures of ability such as IQ and standardized test results, says study author Kaustubh Supekar of Stanford University. These signatures include the size of the hippocampus — a string bean–shaped structure involved in making memories — and how connected the area was with other parts of the brain. The findings suggest that kids struggling with their math homework aren’t necessarily slacking off, says cognitive scientist David Geary of the University of Missouri in Columbia. “They just may not have as much brain region devoted to memory formation as other kids.” The study could give scientists clues about where to look for sources of learning disabilities, he says. Scientists have spent years studying brain regions related to math performance in adults, but how kids learn is still “a huge question,” says Supekar. He and colleagues tested IQ and math and reading performance in 24 8- and 9-year-olds, then scanned their brains in an MRI machine. The scans measured the sizes of different brain structures and the connections among them. “It’s like creating a circuit diagram,” says study leader Vinod Menon, also of Stanford. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 18094 - Posted: 04.30.2013
By VATSAL G. THAKKAR IN the spring of 2010, a new patient came to see me to find out if he had attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. He had all the classic symptoms: procrastination, forgetfulness, a propensity to lose things and, of course, the inability to pay attention consistently. But one thing was unusual. His symptoms had started only two years earlier, when he was 31. Though I treat a lot of adults for attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, the presentation of this case was a violation of an important diagnostic criterion: symptoms must date back to childhood. It turned out he first started having these problems the month he began his most recent job, one that required him to rise at 5 a.m., despite the fact that he was a night owl. The patient didn’t have A.D.H.D., I realized, but a chronic sleep deficit. I suggested some techniques to help him fall asleep at night, like relaxing for 90 minutes before getting in bed at 10 p.m. If necessary, he could take a small amount of melatonin. When he returned to see me two weeks later, his symptoms were almost gone. I suggested he call if they recurred. I never heard from him again. Many theories are thrown around to explain the rise in the diagnosis and treatment of A.D.H.D. in children and adults. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 11 percent of school-age children have now received a diagnosis of the condition. I don’t doubt that many people do, in fact, have A.D.H.D.; I regularly diagnose and treat it in adults. But what if a substantial proportion of cases are really sleep disorders in disguise? © 2013 The New York Times Company
Karen Ravn Birds of a feather may flock together, but do birds that flock together develop distinct cultures? Two studies published today in Science1, 2 find strong evidence that, at the very least, monkeys that troop together and whales that pod together do just that. And they manage it in the same way that humans do: by copying and learning from each other. A team led by Erica van de Waal, a primate psychologist at the University of St Andrews, UK, created two distinct cultures — 'blue' and 'pink' — among groups of wild vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) in South Africa1. The researchers trained two sets of monkeys to eat maize (corn) dyed one of those two colours but eschew maize dyed the other colour. The scientists then waited to see how the groups behaved when newcomers — babies and migrating males — arrived. Both sets of newcomers seemed to follow social cues when selecting their snacks. Baby monkeys ate the same colour maize as their mothers. Seven of the ten males that migrated from one colour culture to another adopted the local colour preference the first time that they ate any maize. The trend was even stronger when they first fed with no higher-ranking monkey around, with nine of the ten males choosing the locally preferred variety. The only immigrant to buck this trend was a monkey who assumed the top rank in his new group as soon as he got there — and he may not have given a fig what anyone else ate. “The take-home message is that social learning — learning from others rather than through individual trial and error — is a more potent force in shaping wild animals’ behaviour than has been recognized so far,” says Andrew Whiten, an evolutionary and developmental psychologist at St Andrews and co-author of the paper. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
By Meghan Holohan Need to remember some important facts for that big presentation at work? Clench your right hand while preparing to remember. When giving that talk, ball up your left hand and you’ll call to mind those details, no problem. That’s the finding from a new study authored by Ruth Propper, an associate professor and director of the cerebral lateralization laboratory at Montclair State University. Propper has long been intrigued by how body movements impact how the brain works. While most people realize that the brain influences the body (the brain tells your arm there is an itch, and you feel it), less is understood about how the body sways the brain. Past research suggests that clenching our hands can evoke emotions. When people ball up their right hands, for example, the left sides of their brains become more active, causing what’s known as “approach emotions,” feelings such as happiness or excitement. By squeezing the left hand, people engage the right side of the brain, which controls “withdrawal emotions” such as introversion, fear, or anxiety. (It probably seems like these might be less useful, but they come in handy in dangerous situations.) Propper theorized that if clenching hands impacted feelings, these gestures might influence the brain in other ways. © 2013 NBCNews.com
by Simon Makin The first drug specifically designed to improve cognitive impairment in Down's syndrome is being tested in humans. David Nutt, former drug policy adviser to the UK government, told delegates at the Festival of Neuroscience in London yesterday that he is collaborating with pharmaceutical company Roche in trials of a substance it developed, called RG1662. RG1662 reverses the effects of a chemical messenger in the brain called GABA – a neurotransmitter that inhibits brain activity. The drug acts on a specific type of brain receptor found mostly in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory. It is thought that it will reduce excessive inhibition in the hippocampus, thought to underlie memory and learning problems commonly seen in people with Down's. The study is currently assessing safety and tolerability of the drug in 33 adults with Down's, but researchers will also measure motor skills, reaction time and memory, and compare the results with those of people taking a placebo. The aim is to find appropriate doses to use in a full clinical trial, which Nutt says should happen this year. Roche said in a statement that RG1662 may help people with Down's as it has "a unique pharmacology that enables the targeting of GABA over-activity mainly in brain systems important for cognition, learning and memory". © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 18026 - Posted: 04.13.2013
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS Two new experiments, one involving people and the other animals, suggest that regular exercise can substantially improve memory, although different types of exercise seem to affect the brain quite differently. The news may offer consolation for the growing numbers of us who are entering age groups most at risk for cognitive decline. It was back in the 1990s that scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, Calif., first discovered that exercise bulks up the brain. In groundbreaking experiments, they showed that mice given access to running wheels produced far more cells in an area of the brain controlling memory creation than animals that didn’t run. The exercised animals then performed better on memory tests than their sedentary labmates. Since then, scientists have been working to understand precisely how, at a molecular level, exercise improves memory, as well as whether all types of exercise, including weight training, are beneficial. The new studies provide some additional and inspiring clarity on those issues, as well as, incidentally, on how you can get lab rats to weight train. For the human study, published in The Journal of Aging Research, scientists at the University of British Columbia recruited dozens of women ages 70 to 80 who had been found to have mild cognitive impairment, a condition that makes a person’s memory and thinking more muddled than would be expected at a given age. Mild cognitive impairment is also a recognized risk factor for increasing dementia. Seniors with the condition develop Alzheimer’s disease at much higher rates than those of the same age with sharper memories. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 18015 - Posted: 04.10.2013
A lack of a protein in Down's syndrome brains could be the cause of learning and memory problems, says a US study. Writing in Nature Medicine, Californian researchers found that the extra copy of chromosome 21 in people with the condition triggered the protein loss. Their study found restoring the protein in Down's syndrome mice improved cognitive function and behaviour. The Down's Syndrome Association said the study was interesting but the causes of Down's were very complex. Prof Huaxi Xu, senior author of the study from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, said that in experiments on mice they discovered that the SNX27 protein was important for brain function and memory formation. Mice with less SNX27 had fewer active glutamate receptors and therefore had impaired learning and memory. The SNX27-deficient mice shared some characteristics with Down's syndrome, so the researchers looked at human brains with the condition. This confirmed their findings in the lab - that people with Down's syndrome also have significantly lower levels of SNX27. BBC © 2013
Michael Corballis, professor of cognitive neuroscience and psychology at the University of Auckland in New Zealand, responds: Although teaching people to become ambidextrous has been popular for centuries, this practice does not appear to improve brain function, and it may even harm our neural development. Calls for ambidexterity were especially prominent in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. For instance, in the early 20th century English propagandist John Jackson established the Ambidextral Culture Society in pursuit of universal ambidexterity and “two-brainedness” for the betterment of society. This hype died down in the mid-20th century as benefits of being ambidextrous failed to materialize. Given that handedness is apparent early in life and the vast majority of people are right-handed, we are almost certainly dextral by nature. Recent evidence even associated being ambidextrous from birth with developmental problems, including reading disability and stuttering. A study of 11-year-olds in England showed that those who are naturally ambidextrous are slightly more prone to academic difficulties than either left- or right-handers. Research in Sweden found ambidextrous children to be at a greater risk for developmental conditions such as attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. Another study, which my colleagues and I conducted, revealed that ambidextrous children and adults both performed worse than left- or right-handers on a range of skills, especially in math, memory retrieval and logical reasoning. © 2013 Scientific American
By Felicity Muth This move from my old site to the Scientific American network has also coincided with my own physical move from the UK to the USA to start some new research. Given this is the closing of a chapter of my life (or rather, my PhD thesis, which will now no doubt sit on a dusty shelf somewhere until a grad student picks it up in 10 years time to use as a door stop), I felt now might be an appropriate time to write a little bit about what I have been doing for the past three years. In the past I have only written about other people’s research, but given that I am now a few months beyond the shock (I will resist using the word ‘trauma’ here) of it ‘all being over’, I feel like it might be time now to share a bit of what I did over my PhD. In one of my first meetings with my PhD supervisor, she said to me, ‘The way that I see it, you can either spend three months reading the limited amount of literature in your subject area, or you can go to Africa and get some data for yourself.’ This may have been the point where I realised I had chosen a good topic to study. Not only did not having much ‘literature’ to read due to the dearth of previous work done on this topic mean that I could kid myself that I was an ‘expert’ in the field after a few weeks, it was also liberating to know that most experiments that I carried out would be finding out new things. So, even before moving my books into my new PhD office, I was on a plane to Botswana to collect data on the nest building behaviour of the Southern masked weaverbird. When I tell people that the aim of my research is to work out how birds learn how to build nests, I usually get one of two responses. The first is, ‘they don’t learn anything of course, nest building in birds is innate.’ The other response is ‘surely that’s been done already?’ But actually, both of these (perfectly reasonable) assumptions are incorrect. © 2013 Scientific American,
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17939 - Posted: 03.23.2013
When the mind is at rest, the electrical signals by which brain cells communicate appear to travel in reverse, wiping out unimportant information in the process, but sensitizing the cells for future sensory learning, according to a study of rats conducted by researchers at the National Institutes of Health. The finding has implications not only for studies seeking to help people learn more efficiently, but also for attempts to understand and treat post-traumatic stress disorder — in which the mind has difficulty moving beyond a disturbing experience. During waking hours, electrical signals travel from dendrites — antenna-like projections at one end of the cell — through the cell body. From the cell body, they then travel the length of the axon, a single long projection at the other end of the cell. This electrical signal stimulates the release of chemicals at the end of the axon, which bind to dendrites on adjacent cells, stimulating these recipient cells to fire electrical signals, and so on. When groups of cells repeatedly fire in this way, the electrical signals increase in intensity. Dr. Bukalo and her team examined electrical signals that traveled in reverse?from the cell’s axon, to the cell body, and out its many dendrites. The reverse firing, depicted in this diagram, happens during sleep and at rest, appearing to reset the cell and priming it to learn new information. It was previously known that, during sleep, these impulses were reversed, arising from waves of electrical activity originating deep within the brain. In the current study, the researchers found that these reverse signals weakened circuits formed during waking hours, apparently so that unimportant information could be erased from the brain. But the reverse signals also appeared to prime the brain to relearn at least some of the forgotten information. If the animals encountered the same information upon awakening, the circuits re-formed much more rapidly than when they originally encountered the information.
Peter Fimrite Scientists at Stanford University have tapped into the mind of the mouse and are now circulating information about how the pesky rodents think. A team of Stanford researchers planted tiny probes inside the brains of mice to detect what were essentially mouse memories, according to a study published last month in the online edition of Nature Neuroscience. The experiment involved the insertion of a needlelike microscope into the hippocampus - a part of the brain associated with spatial and episodic memory. The microscope detected cellular activity and broadcast digital images through a cell phone camera sensor that fit like a hat over the heads of the critters as they scampered around an enclosure. "We're not really reading their minds," said the lead researcher, Mark Schnitzer, who is an associate professor of biology and applied physics at Stanford. "What is the mind of a mouse, anyway? I don't know. What we're doing is reading a spatial map in the brain. It is one little component of many, many processes that are going on inside." Over the course of a month, the scientists were able to document patterns of activity in some 700 neurons and pinpoint areas of the brain where mice store long-term information. It is important, Schnitzer said, because long-term memory is an area of the brain that researchers are struggling to understand as they attempt to develop new therapies for neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer's disease. "Those are clearly diseases in which information storage has been impaired," Schnitzer said. "Now that we can look at the neural code for how the spatial information is stored, it opens the door directly to subsequent experiments. That's the logical next step." © 2013 Hearst Communications Inc.
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17908 - Posted: 03.18.2013
By Christie Aschwanden, A lawyer contacted Beatrice Golomb, a physician at the VA San Diego Healthcare Center, because he could no longer follow a normal conversation with his clients. A radiologist told Golomb that he found himself suddenly unable to distinguish left from right. A third person told her he had grown so forgetful that his doctor assumed he had Alzheimer’s. All three had developed their memory problems after taking a cholesterol-lowering statin drug, and the symptoms improved after they stopped the medication. The statin revolution began in 1987, when lovastatin was approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Since then, this class of drugs has transformed cardiac medicine, says Allen Taylor, chief of cardiology at MedStar Georgetown University Hospital. “Cardiovascular disease affects one in two people. This is the one drug that works.” But these drugs are not without risks. Golomb has amassed thousands of reports at her Web site Statineffects.com, detailing adverse reactions from statins. She says that cognitive problems are the second-most-common side effect reported in her database, after muscle pain. In a 2009 report in the journal Pharmacotherapy, Golomb described 171 patients who’d reported cognitive problems after taking statins. The idea that a cholesterol-lowering drug could make your brain fuzzy might sound crazy, and Golomb says the notion was greeted with suspicion at first. But eventually the FDA received enough such reports that last February it ordered drug companies to add a new warning label about possible memory problems. © 1996-2013 The Washington Post
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17905 - Posted: 03.15.2013
by Moheb Costandi Mice transplanted with a once-discounted class of human brain cells have better memories and learning abilities than normal counterparts, according to a new study. Far from a way to engineer smarter rodents, the work suggests that human brain evolution involved a major upgrade to cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes are one of several types of glia, the other cells found alongside neurons in the nervous system. Although long thought to merely provide support and nourishment for neurons, it's now clear that astrocytes are vital for proper brain function. They are produced during development from stem cells called glial progenitors. In 2009, Steven Goldman of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and his colleagues reported that human astrocytes are bigger, and have about 10 times as many fingerlike projections that contact other brain cells and blood vessels, than those of mice. To further investigate these differences, they have more recently grafted fluorescently labeled human glial progenitors into the brains of newborn mice and examined the animals when they reached adulthood. Most of the grafted cells remained as progenitors, but some matured into typical human-looking astrocytes. They connected to their mouse counterparts to form astrocyte networks that transmitted electrical signals. Furthermore, they propagated internal signals about three times faster than the mouse astrocytes and improved the strengthening of connections between neurons in the hippocampus, a process thought to be critical for learning and memory. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
By Deborah Kotz, Globe Staff No doubt, the biggest appeal of exercise is to build biceps, heart muscle, and perhaps some definition in those abdominal muscles, but how about using exercise to build your brain? It’s been known for some time that exercise can lift your mood, ward off depression, and help the brain age more gracefully -- free of memory loss and dementia. But now researchers have found that even just one bout of exercise can -- even better than a cup of coffee -- improve your mental focus and cognitive performance for any challenging task you face that day. A new analysis of 19 studies involving 586 kids, teens, and young adults that was published Wednesday in the British Medical Journal found that short 10 to 40 minutes bursts of exercise led to an immediate boost in concentration and mental focus, likely by improving blood flow to the brain. “These results provide further evidence that doing about 20 minutes of exercise just before taking a test or giving a speech can improve performance,” said Harvard psychiatrist Dr. John Ratey, who wrote the best-selling book Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain. Another piece of proof can be seen in the brain scan above -- from a 2009 University of Illinois study also included in the new analysis -- which compares the brain activity of 9-year-olds who took a brisk walk and those who didn’t take a walk. The walkers had far more activity in brain regions involved with focused attention and filtering out noisy distractions while they were taking a challenging test compared to the non-walkers. © 2013 NY Times Co.
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17881 - Posted: 03.09.2013
by Andy Coghlan Stimulating the brain with electrical signals can sharpen some of your faculties, but now it seems it can dim others at the same time. Transcranial electrical stimulation (TES), delivered by electrodes on the surface of the head, has been shown to double people's speed of learning. Now the first evidence has emerged that improvements in one aspect of learning might come at the expense of other abilities. Roi Cohen Kadosh of the University of Oxford, showed volunteers pairs of unfamiliar symbols. Each symbol had a secret numerical value, and the volunteers' task was to state – as quickly as possible while avoiding mistakes – which symbol in a pair had the bigger value. The correct answer was then displayed. Over six sessions in one week, it was possible to measure how quickly and efficiently the volunteers learned the value of each symbol. Second task In a second task, participants had to register which of each pair of symbols was physically larger, a measure of automatic thinking. "Automaticity is the skill of doing things without thinking about them, such as reading, driving or mounting stairs," says Cohen Kadosh, who conducted the experiment with Teresa Iucalano of the Stanford Cognitive and Systems Neuroscience Laboratory in Palo Alto, California. During the experiments, volunteers received TES to their posterior parietal cortex – vital for numerical learning – or their dorsolateral prefrontal cortex – vital for automaticity. Some unknowingly received a sham treatment. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17877 - Posted: 03.09.2013
Daphne Bavelier & Richard J. Davidson Video games are associated with a variety of negative outcomes, such as obesity, aggressiveness, antisocial behaviour and, in extreme cases, addiction2. At the same time, evidence is mounting that playing games can have beneficial effects on the brain. After spending an hour a day, 5 days a week for 8–10 weeks spotting snipers and evading opponents in shooter games such as Call of Duty or Unreal Tournament, young adults saw more small visual details in the middle of clutter and more accurately distinguished between various shades of grey3. After 10 hours stretched over 2 weeks spent chasing bad guys in mazes and labyrinths, players were better able to rotate an image mentally4, an improvement that was still present six months later and could be useful for activities as varied as navigation, research chemistry and architectural design. After guiding small rodents to a safe exit amid obstacles during a version of the game Lemmings that was designed to encourage positive behaviour, players were more likely in simulated scenarios to help another person after a mishap or to intervene when someone was being harassed5. Because gaming is clearly here to stay, some scientists are asking how to channel people's love of screen time towards positive effects on the brain and behaviour by designing video games specifically intended to train particular aspects of behaviour and brain function. One game, for example, aims to treat depression by introducing cognitive behavioural therapy while users fight off negative thoughts in a fantasy world6. In Re-mission, young cancer patients blast cancer cells and fight infections and the side effects of therapy — all to encourage them to stick with treatment (see www.re-mission.net). © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17859 - Posted: 03.02.2013
By Bruce Bower Children with dyslexia may read better after playing action video games that stress mayhem, not literacy, a contested study suggests. Playing fast-paced Wii video games for 12 hours over two weeks markedly increased the reading speed of 7- to 13-year-old kids with dyslexia, with no loss of reading accuracy, says a team led by psychologist Andrea Facoetti of the University of Padua, Italy. Reading gains lasted at least two months after the video game sessions. The gains matched or exceeded previously reported effects of reading-focused programs for dyslexia, the researchers report online February 28 in Current Biology. “These results are clear enough to say that action video games are able to improve reading abilities in children with dyslexia,” Facoetti says. Although the new study includes only 20 children with dyslexia, its results build on earlier evidence that many poor readers have difficulty focusing on items within arrays, Facoetti holds. By strengthening the ability to monitor central and peripheral objects in chaotic scenes, he says, action video games give kids with dyslexia a badly needed tool for tracking successive letters in written words. But evidence for Facoetti’s conclusions is shaky, asserts psychologist Nicola Brunswick of Middlesex University in London. The researchers tested word reading ability two months later but failed to test reading comprehension, she says. What’s more, they did so with a mere six of 10 kids who played the action video games. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
By Steven Ross Pomeroy Everyone enjoys the occasional practical joke – assuming the gag isn’t mean-spirited or overly perilous, even the prank’s poor victim can appreciate the punch line! I’m sure you have your favorites: gluing dollars to sidewalks, filling your co-worker’s office with balloons, moving your roommate’s bed to the basement… while he’s sleeping in it. More typical stunts may employ whoopee cushions, fake vomit, and hand buzzers, but honestly, those are a tad sophomoric and overdone. Thus, in an effort to elevate the standard of stunts, I’d like to present a gag that makes use not of stink bombs, but of science. How to implant false memories in your friends, in four steps: In The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan argued that implanting false memories in people is not only possible, but is actually pretty easy when attempted in the proper settings with a gullible subject, He cited as examples people who, at the urging of therapists or hypnotists, genuinely start to believe that they’d been abducted by UFOs or falsely remember being abused as a child. For these people, the distinction between memory and imagination becomes blurred, and events that never actually took place become sewn into their memories as real events. They can even describe these false remembrances incredibly vividly – as if they actually happened! “Memory can be contaminated,” Sagan wrote. “False memories can be implanted even in minds that do not consider themselves vulnerable and uncritical.” © 2013 Scientific American
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 17827 - Posted: 02.20.2013
By Hristio Boytchev, Believing that brains can be trained through the use of specialized computer programs, researchers are focusing on helping people with schizophrenia, which can cause them to hear imagined voices or believe that others are controlling or plotting against them. There are medications for the often-disabling disorder, but they have severe side effects and don’t get rid of all symptoms; many people will not stick with the drugs. A California company, Posit Science, is developing a computer game that it hopes will become the first to earn approval from the Food and Drug Administration for treating schizophrenia. The idea comes from Michael Merzenich, an emeritus professor of neuroscience at the University of California at San Francisco and a co-founder of Posit Science. Merzenich is something of a living legend in neuroscience, a co-inventor of cochlear implants and one of the pioneers of the theory of neuroplasticity, which asserts that the brain continues to develop throughout a lifetime. Treating schizophrenia with brain training is based on the theory that the confusion and fear the disease creates may occur because the brain’s expectations about what will happen do not match up with what actually happens. That disconnect might be traced to a problem with verbal and auditory processing of information, something that brain training targets. © 1996-2013 The Washington Post