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Russell Poldrack Sex, Lies, and Brain Scans: How fMRI Reveals What Really Goes on in our Minds Barbara J. Sahakian & Julia Gottwald Oxford University Press: 2017. Since its 1992 debut, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has revolutionized our ability to view the human brain in action and understand the processes that underlie mental functions such as decision-making. As brain-imaging technologies have grown more powerful, their influence has seeped from the laboratory into the real world. In Sex, Lies, and Brain Scans, clinical neuropsychologist Barbara Sahakian and neuroscientist Julia Gottwald give a whistle-stop tour of some ways in which neuroimaging has begun to affect our views on human behaviour and society. Their discussion balances a rightful enthusiasm for fMRI with a sober appreciation of its limitations and risks. After the obligatory introduction to fMRI, which measures blood oxygenation to image neural activity, Sahakian and Gottwald address a question at the heart of neuroimaging: can it read minds? The answer largely depends on one's definition of mind-reading. As the authors outline, in recent years fMRI data have been used to decode the contents of thoughts (such as words viewed by a study participant) and mental states (such as a person's intention to carry out an action), even in sleep. These methods don't yet enable researchers to decode the 'language of thought', which is what mind-reading connotes for many. But given the growing use of advanced machine-learning methods such as deep neural networks to analyse neuroimaging data, that may just be a matter of time. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 23091 - Posted: 01.13.2017

Rachel Ehrenberg A protein that sounds the alarm when the body encounters something painful also helps put out the fire. Called Nav1.7, the protein sits on pain-sensing nerves and has long been known for sending a red alert to the brain when the body has a brush with pain. Now, experiments in rodent cells reveal another role for Nav1.7: Its activity triggers the production of pain-relieving molecules. The study, published online January 10 in Science Signaling, suggests a new approach to pain management that takes advantage of this protein’s dual role. “This is very interesting research,” says neuroscientist Munmun Chattopadhyay of Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center El Paso. The findings suggest that when opiates are given for certain kinds of pain relief, also targeting Nav1.7 might lessen the need for those pain relievers, Chattopadhyay says. That could reduce opiate use and their associated side effects. The new research also solves a puzzle that has frustrated researchers and pharmaceutical companies alike. People with rare mutations in the gene for making Nav1.7 feel no pain at all. That discovery, made more than a decade ago, suggested that Nav1.7 was an ideal target for controlling pain. If a drug could block Nav1.7 activity, some kinds of pain might be eradicated (SN: 6/30/12, p 22). Yet drugs designed to do just that didn’t wipe out people’s pain. “It seemed so obvious and simple,” says study leader Tim Hucho, a neuroscientist at the University Hospital Cologne in Germany. “But it was not so simple.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 23090 - Posted: 01.12.2017

By Tanya Lewis To the untrained listener, a bunch of babbling baboons may not sound like much. But sharp-eared experts have now found that our primate cousins can actually produce humanlike vowel sounds. The finding suggests the last common ancestor of humans and baboons may have possessed the vocal machinery for speech—hinting at a much earlier origin for language than previously thought. Researchers from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) and Grenoble Alpes University, both in France, and their colleagues recorded baboons in captivity, finding the animals were capable of producing five distinct sounds that have the same characteristic frequencies as human vowels. As reported today in PLoS ONE, the animals could make these sounds despite the fact that, as dissections later revealed, they possess high voice boxes, or larynxes, an anatomical feature long thought to be an impediment to speech. “This breaks a serious logjam” in the study of language, says study co-author Thomas Sawallis, a linguist at the University of Alabama. “Theories of language evolution have developed based on the idea that full speech was only available to anatomically modern Homo sapiens,” approximately 70,000 to 100,000 years ago, he says, but in fact, “we could have had the beginnings of speech 25 million years ago.” The evolution of language is considered one of the hardest problems in science, because the process left no fossil evidence behind. One practical approach, however, is to study the mechanics of speech. Language consists roughly of different combinations of vowels and consonants. Notably, humans possess low larynxes, which makes it easier to produce a wide range of vowel sounds (and as Darwin observed, also makes it easier for us to choke on food). A foundational theory of speech production, developed by Brown University cognitive scientist Philip Lieberman in the 1960s, states the high larynxes and thus shorter vocal tracts of most nonhuman primates prevents them from producing vowel-like sounds. Yet recent research calls Lieberman’s hypothesis into question. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Language; Evolution
Link ID: 23089 - Posted: 01.12.2017

By Ashley P. Taylor Neurodegenerative diseases are often associated with aging. To learn what happens within the aging brain and potentially gain information relevant to human health, researchers examined gene-expression patterns in postmortem brain samples. Overall, the researchers found, gene expression of glial cells changed more with age than did that of neurons. These gene-expression changes were most significant in the hippocampus and substantia nigra, regions damaged in Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, respectively, according to the study published today (January 10) in Cell Reports. “Typically we have concentrated on neurons for studies of dementia, as they are the cells involved in brain processing and memories. [This] study demonstrates that glia are likely to be equally important,” study coauthors Jernej Ule and Rickie Patani of the Francis Crick Institute and University College London wrote in an email to The Scientist. “The authors’ effort in this comprehensive work is a ‘genomic tour de force,’ showing that, overall, non-neuronal cells undergo gene expression changes at a larger scale than previously thought in aging,” Andras Lakatos, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge, U.K., who was not involved in the study, wrote in an email. “This finding puts glial cells again at the center stage of functional importance in neurodegenerative conditions in which aging carries a proven risk.” © 1986-2017 The Scientist

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Glia
Link ID: 23088 - Posted: 01.12.2017

Being stressed out increases our risk of heart disease and stroke, and the key to how to counter it may lie in calming the brain, a new medical study suggests. Psychological stress has long been considered a source of sickness. But personal stress levels are difficult to measure and there isn't direct evidence of the link, even though population studies finger stress as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease just like smoking and hypertension. "I think that this relatively vague or insufficient link reduced our enthusiasm of taking stress seriously as an important risk factor," said Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, a cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. Tawakol led a study published in Wednesday's online issue of The Lancet that sheds light on how the amygdala — a key part of the brain that is more active during emotional, stressful times — is linked to a greater risk of cardiovascular disease such as heart attacks and strokes. The researchers gave 293 patients aged 30 or older without cardiovascular disease PET/CT brain imaging scans, mainly for cancer screening and followed them over time. After an average of nearly four years, activity in the amygdala was significantly associated with cardiovascular events such as heart attacks, heart failure and strokes, after taking other factors into account. People with more amygdala activity also tended to suffer the events sooner, Tawakol said. ©2017 CBC/Radio-Canada.

Keyword: Stress
Link ID: 23087 - Posted: 01.12.2017

Sarah Boseley Health editor No new drugs for depression are likely in the next decade, even though those such as Prozac work for little more than half of those treated and there have been concerns over their side-effects, say scientists. Leading psychiatrists, some of whom have been involved in drug development, say criticism of the antidepressants of the Prozac class, called the SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors), is partly responsible for the pharmaceutical industry’s reluctance to invest in new drugs – even though demand is steadily rising. But the main reason, said Guy Goodwin, professor of psychiatry at Oxford University, is that the the NHS and healthcare providers in other countries do not want to pay the bill for new drugs that will have to go through expensive trials. The antidepressants that GPs currently prescribe work for only about 58% of people, but they are cheap because they are out of patent. Why 'big pharma' stopped searching for the next Prozac Pharma giants have cut research on psychiatric medicine by 70% in 10 years, so where will the next ‘wonder drug’ come from? “We are not going to get any more new drugs for depression in the next decade simply because the pharmaceutical industry is not investing in research,” said Goodwin. “It can’t make money on these drugs. It costs approximately $1bn to do all the trials before you launch a new drug. “There is also a failure of the science. It has to get more understanding of how these things work before they can improve them.” © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 23086 - Posted: 01.12.2017

By SAM BORDEN, MIKA GRÖNDAHL and JOE WARD When player No. 81 took this blow to his head several years ago, it was just one of many concussions that have occurred throughout college football and the N.F.L. But what made this one different was that this player was wearing a mouth guard with motion sensors. The information from those sensors has given researchers a more detailed and precise window into what was happening within the player’s brain in the milliseconds after the hit. Here is what happened to his brain. One common belief has been that just after a person’s head (or helmet) makes contact with something – an airbag, a wall, another person – the brain within bounces around in the skull like an egg yolk in a shell, leaving bruises on the brain’s outer surface, or gray matter. Now, though, many scientists and medical experts believe that this understanding is incomplete. Yes, there is some movement in the skull, but the real damage from concussions, they say, actually occurs deeper in the brain – in the so-called white matter – as a result of fibers pulling and twisting after impact. To stick with the food analogy, think Jell-O, not an egg. You know what happens when you take a plate of Jell-O and give it a hard shake? The stretches and contortions approximate what is happening to all the wiring throughout the brain. To better track the brain’s reaction to these hits, scientists in several labs have been working on a variety of mechanisms, some of which, like the one used during the impact shown above, are moving away from ones connected directly to a football helmet because the helmet can move independently of the skull. “The forces you’re measuring with those are not really exactly what the brain is seeing,” said Robert Cantu, clinical professor of neurosurgery at the Boston University School of Medicine. The mouth guard that was used was developed by the bioengineer David Camarillo and his team at the Cam Lab at Stanford. Camarillo and others have speculated that the most damaging blows are those that cause the head to snap quickly from ear to ear, like the one shown above, or those that cause a violent rotation or twisting of the head through a glancing blow. “The brain’s wiring, essentially, is all running from left to right, not front to back,” Camarillo said, referring to the primary wiring that connects the brain’s hemispheres. “So the direction you are struck can have a very different effect within the brain. In football, the presence of the face mask can make that sort of twisting even more extreme.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion; Brain imaging
Link ID: 23085 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Andy Coghlan Can tiny brains grown in a dish reveal the secrets of sociability? Balls of brain tissue generated from stem cells are enabling us to understand the underlying differences between people who struggle to be sociable and those who have difficulty reining themselves in. Alysson Muotri at the University of California, San Diego, and his team created the mini-brains by exposing stem cells taken from the pulp of children’s milk teeth to cocktails of growth factors that help them mature. Eventually, they can develop as many as six layers of cerebral cortex – the outer surface of the brain. This region is much more sophisticated in humans than in other animals, and houses important circuitry governing our most complex thoughts and behaviours, including socialising with others. Each mini-brain is approximately 5 millimetres across. “Though they’re not as well defined as they are in a real brain, they resemble what you find in an embryonic fetus,” says Muotri. To understand how brain development affects sociability, the team used donated cells from children with autism and Rett syndrome, both of which are associated with impaired communication skills. They also used cells from children with Williams syndrome, a condition characterised by a hyper-sociable nature. People with Williams syndrome can be unable to restrain themselves from talking to complete strangers. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Autism; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23084 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Catherine Caruso If you give a mouse a beer, he’s going to ask for a cookie—and another, and another. If you give a person enough beer, she might find herself wolfing down a plate of greasy nachos. But why does binge drinking make us binge eat as well? The reason may lie not in the stomach but in the brain, recent research suggests. A study published today in Nature Communications found alcohol activated brain cells that control hunger, sending drunk mice scampering for snacks even when they were not really hungry. Researchers from The Francis Crick Institute Mill Hill Laboratory in London got mice drunk, then tagged and recorded the electrical activity in brain cells linked to hunger, uncovering a neural mechanism that could explain why the animals ate significantly more after binge-drinking sessions even though their bodies did not need the calories. Although hunger pangs in our stomach usually alert us that it is time to eat, the impulse to consume food originates in our brains, and brain cells located in the hypothalamus called agouti-related protein (AgRP) neurons play a key role in controlling hunger. A previous study showed that when AgRP neurons are activated, mice almost immediately seek out food and start eating, even if their stomachs are full. By contrast, when AgRP neurons are deactivated, hungry mice will not eat. AgRP neurons play a similar role in human hunger: Under natural conditions they are activated when our bodies need calories, signaling to us that we should find food. Something different happens, however, when alcohol is involved. Although alcohol is second only to fat in caloric density, previous studies have shown drinking causes humans to eat more, a paradox that made lead authors Craig Blomeley and Sarah Cains and colleagues wonder whether the brain could be to blame. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Obesity
Link ID: 23083 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Virginia Morell We often say the same sweet, nonsensical things to our dogs that we say to our babies—and in almost the same slow, high-pitched voice. Now, scientists have shown that puppies find our pooch-directed speech exciting, whereas older dogs are somewhat indifferent. The findings show, for the first time, that young dogs respond to this way of talking, and that it may help them learn words—as such talk does with human babies. To find out how dogs reacted to human speech, Nicolas Mathevon, a bioacoustician at the University of Lyon in Saint Étienne, France, and his colleagues first recorded the voices of 30 women as they looked at a dog’s photograph and read from a script, “Hi! Hello cutie! Who’s a good boy? Come here! Good boy! Yes! Come here sweetie pie! What a good boy!” (The scientists were afraid the women would ad lib if they spoke to a real dog.) The women also repeated the passage to a person. When the scientists compared the human- and dog-directed speech, they found that, as expected, the women spoke in distinctive, high-pitched, sing-song tones to the pooches—but not the humans. “It didn’t matter if it was a puppy or an adult dog,” Mathevon says. But the women did speak at an even higher pitch when looking at puppy photos. Next, the researchers played these recordings in short trials with 10 puppies and 10 adult dogs at a New York City animal shelter and videotaped their responses. Nine of the puppies reacted strongly, barking and running toward the loudspeaker even when the recording had been made for an older dog, the team reports today in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B. Some even bent toward the loudspeaker in a play bow, a pose meant to initiate horseplay, suggesting they may regard dog-directed speech as “an invitation to play,” Mathevon says. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Emotions
Link ID: 23082 - Posted: 01.11.2017

Valerie Piro The alarm goes off at 4:30 a.m. Groggy, I turn on the lamp on my night stand and try to sit up. I put my right hand on the wall next to my bed to steady myself, and push my left into the bed. Right away, my abs and back seize up and my legs spasm and kick out straight, forcing me back down onto the bed. Clearly my body thinks it is too early to get up, but I don’t have time to argue with it. I have to get physical therapy out of the way so I can be on time for my medieval history class. After I sit up, I place my hands under my right knee and clasp them together as I bring my knee up and closer to my chest. I reach out to my right foot and cross its heel over my left thigh so that I can plant my heel on the bed. I hug my right leg against my torso and chest and feel a stretch in my lower back and butt. I repeat this on my other side and then proceed to stretch each ankle. Paralysis requires maintenance. I then hop toward the foot of my bed, where my commode chair sits. I set both feet on the footrests as best I can, grab the armrest on the far side of the chair with my left hand, and, using my right hand to drive down into my bed, lift myself onto the commode wheelchair, and wheel to the bathroom. I emerge at 5:35 a.m. I transfer now into a wheelchair whose dimensions are friendly toward my Functional Electrical Stimulation (F.E.S.) cycle — something like a gym exercise bike, without the seat. I pull some milk out of the mini-fridge and pour it over a bowl of cereal. I eat while checking and answering email. At 6:30 it’s time to start cycling. I put two small rectangular electrodes on my left shin muscles, and then two on my right, connect them to the cycle, then strap in my legs and feet. Then two more electrodes then two more, and so on, until most of my lower body is tapped and wired. After I turn on the tablet that’s attached to the cycle, I choose from one of several preset programs to start my workout. Within a couple of minutes, electrical shocks are pulsing into my legs, causing them to contract into pedaling. Imagine pedaling a bicycle uphill for an hour; this is my workout. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Movement Disorders
Link ID: 23081 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Joshua Rapp Learn The Vietnamese pygmy dormouse is as blind as a bat—and it navigates just like one, too. Scientists have found that the small, nimble brown rodent (Typhlomys cinereus chapensis), native to Vietnam and parts of China, uses sound waves to get a grip on its environment. Measurements of the mice in the Moscow Zoo revealed that the species can't see objects because of a folded retina and a low number of neurons capable of collecting visual information, among other things. When researchers recorded the animals, they discovered they make ultrasonic noises similar to those used by some bat species, and videos showed they made the sounds at a much greater pulse rate when moving than while resting. These sound waves bounce off objects, allowing the rodent to sense its surroundings—an ability known as echolocation, or biological sonar. The find makes the dormouse the only tree-climbing mammal known to use ultrasonic echolocation, the team reports in Integrative Zoology. The authors suggest that an extinct ancestor of these dormice was likely a leaf bed–dwelling animal that lost the ability to see in the darkness in which it is active. As the animals began to move up into the trees over time, they likely developed the ultrasonic echolocation abilities to help them deal with a new acrobatic lifestyle. The discovery lends support to the idea that bats may have evolved echolocation before the ability to fly. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 23080 - Posted: 01.11.2017

By Sally Adee Now we know – zapping the brain with electricity really does seem to improve some medical conditions, meaning it may be a useful tool for treating depression. Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) involves using electrodes to send a weak current across the brain. Stimulating brain tissue like this has been linked to effects ranging from accelerated learning to improving the symptoms of depression and faster recovery from strokes. Thousands of studies have suggested the technique may be useful for everything from schizophrenia and Parkinson’s to tinnitus and autism. However, replicating such studies has generally been difficult, and two recent analyses found no evidence that tDCS is effective, leading some to say that the technique is largely a sham. “There are too many folks out there right now who are using electrical brain stimulation in a cavalier way,” says Michael Weisend, a tDCS researcher at Rio Grande Neuroscience in Santa Fe, New Mexico. “At best it has an effect that’s poorly understood, at worst it could be dangerous.” Now a review has weighed up the best available evidence. It has found that depression, addiction and fibromyalgia are most likely to respond to tDCS treatment. Jean-Pascal Lefaucheur, a neurophysiologist at Henri Mondor Hospital in Paris, France, and his team concluded this by sifting through all tDCS studies so far. Unlike the two previous analyses, this one didn’t lump together studies of variable sizes and designs. Instead, the team chose only studies that were placebo-controlled, used tDCS as a daily medical treatment, and involved at least 10 participants. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 23079 - Posted: 01.10.2017

Anouchka Grose Dannii Minogue has admitted to using Botox at difficult times in her life in a subconscious attempt to mask her feelings. Not only might she literally have been disabling her capacity to frown, she may also have been acting things out on her body in order to fend off her own emotions. Is America developing a ‘crack-like addiction’ to Botox beauty? Read more It’s about time someone said it. As a working therapist I have occasionally noticed my female patients’ faces change quite noticeably from week to week, but no one has ever spoken to me about what was making this happen. Cosmetic treatments, and the difficult thoughts and feelings that might make someone undergo them, are apparently one of the hardest things to talk about. On the one hand perhaps these treatments are so normalised that they do not seem worth discussing in therapy – a new study in the US shows that young women using Botox has risen by 41% since 2011 – but on the other you probably wouldn’t spend hundreds of pounds on something that carried serious health risks if you weren’t feeling pretty worried about your appearance. Doing stuff to your face is like the sunny side of self-harm; you might try it in order to short-circuit anxiety or sadness, but the end result is supposedly regeneration rather than damage. Still, nothing signals underlying unhappiness and self-loathing more than a pumped-up, frozen physiognomy. In that sense, it’s a socially acceptable form of wound. © 2017 Guardian News and Media Limited

Keyword: Emotions
Link ID: 23078 - Posted: 01.10.2017

Dima Amso, The early years of parenthood involve so many rewarding firsts—when your infant cracks a toothless grin, when he crawls and later walks, and, of course, when he utters a real, nonbabble word. A mother once told me she found it sad that if she were to pass away suddenly, her toddler wouldn't remember her or these exciting years. It is true that most of us don't remember much, if anything, from our infancy. So at what point do children start making long-term memories? I must first explain the different types of memory we possess. As I type this, I am using procedural memory—a form of motor memory in which my fingers just know how to type. In contrast, declarative memories represent two types of long-term recall—semantic and episodic. Semantic memory allows us to remember general facts—for example, that Alfred Hitchcock directed the film Vertigo; episodic memory encompasses our ability to recall personal experiences or facts—that Vertigo is my favorite film. Episodic memories are most relevant for understanding our childhood recollections. Making an episodic memory requires binding together different details of an event—when it happened and where, how we felt and who was there—and retrieving that information later. The processes involve the medial temporal lobes, most notably the hippocampus, and portions of the parietal and prefrontal cortices, which are very important in memory retrieval. Imaging studies often show that the same regions that encode an episode—for example, the visual cortex for vivid visual experiences—are active when we recall that memory, allowing for a kind of “mental time travel” or replay of the event. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23077 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Alice Klein Mothers hold their children more on the left and wild mammals seem to keep their young more on that so too, at least when fleeing predators. Now it seems many mammal babies prefer to approach their mother from one side too – and the explanation may lie in the contrasting talents of each half of the brain. In mammals, the brain’s right hemisphere is responsible for processing social cues and building relationships. It is also the half of the brain that receives signals from the left eye. Some researchers think this explains why human and ape mothers tend to cradle their babies on the left: it is so they can better monitor their facial expressions with their left eye. Now, Janeane Ingram at the University of Tasmania, Australia, and her colleagues have looked at whether animal infants also prefer to observe their mum from one side. The team studied 11 wild mammals from around the world: horses, reindeer, antelopes, oxen, sheep, walruses, three species of whale and two species of kangaroo. Whenever an infant approached its mother from behind, the researchers noted whether it positioned itself on its mum’s left or right side. They recorded almost 11,000 position choices for 175 infant-mother pairs. Infants of all species were more likely to position themselves so that their mother was on their left. This happened about three-quarters of the time. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Laterality; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23076 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Victoria Gill Science reporter, BBC News Researchers have used camera traps to film tool-use that is unique to chimpanzees in Ivory Coast. The footage revealed that the clever primates habitually make special water-dipping sticks - chewing the end of the stick to turn it into a soft, water-absorbing brush. Primate researchers examined the "dipping sticks" and concluded they were made specifically for drinking. The findings are reported in the American Journal of Primatology. Lead researcher Juan Lapuente, from the Comoe Chimpanzee Conservation Project, in Ivory Coast, explained that using similar brush-tipped sticks to dip into bees' nests for honey was common in chimpanzee populations across Africa. "But the use of brush-tipped sticks to dip for water is completely new and had never been described before," he told BBC News. "These chimps use especially long brush tips that they make specifically for water - much longer than those used for honey." The researchers tested the chimps' drinking sticks in an "absorption experiment", which showed that the particularly long brush-tips provided an advantage. "The longer the brush, the more water they collect," said Mr Lapuente. "This technology allows Comoe chimpanzees to obtain water from extremely narrow and deep tree holes that only they - and no other animal - can exploit, which [gives] them a superb adaptive advantage to survive in this dry and unpredictable environment." © 2017 BBC.

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 23075 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Virginia Morell Japanese macaques and sika deer live comfortably together on Japan’s Yakushima Island: The deer eat fruit the monkeys drop from the trees, and the monkeys groom and sometimes hitch a ride on the deer. But a couple years ago, one of the macaques took this relationship to a new level. Unable to get a mate of his own kind, this low-ranking snow monkey used the deer’s back for his pleasure (as pictured, and also shown in this not-suitable-for-work video). He did not penetrate her, but did ejaculate, and the deer then licked her back clean, researchers report in the current issue of Primates. The monkey was later seen attempting to mount another deer, but she objected and threatened him. He also guarded his unlikely love interests, chasing away any other male monkeys who came near. Scientists have only reported one other case of sexual relations in the wild between unrelated species. That one involved male Antarctic fur seals coercing king penguins; once, after sating his lust, the seal ate the bird. In both cases, scientists suspect that the males were unable to acquire a mate of their own kind, and seasonal hormonal surges led them to seek love elsewhere. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23074 - Posted: 01.10.2017

By Greg Miller Babies born prematurely are prone to problems later in life—they’re more likely to develop autism or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, and more likely to struggle in school. A new study that’s among the first to investigate brain activity in human fetuses suggests that the underlying neurological issues may begin in the womb. The findings provide the first direct evidence of altered brain function in fetuses that go on to be born prematurely, and they might ultimately point to ways to remediate or even prevent such early injuries. In the new study, published 9 January in Scientific Reports, developmental neuroscientist Moriah Thomason of Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit, Michigan, and colleagues report a difference in how certain brain regions communicate with each other in fetuses that were later born prematurely compared with fetuses that were carried to term. Although the findings are preliminary because the study was small, Thomason and other researchers say the work illustrates the potential (and the challenges) of the emerging field of fetal neuroimaging. “Harnessing the power of these advanced tools is offering us for the very first time the opportunity to explore the onset of neurologic insults that are happening in utero,” says Catherine Limperopoulos, a pediatric neuroscientist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. Thomason and colleagues used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to investigate brain activity in 32 fetuses. The pregnant mothers were participants in a larger, long-term study of brain development led by Thomason. “The majority have just normal pregnancies, but they’re drawn from a low-resource population that’s at greater risk of early delivery and developmental problems,” she says. In the end, 14 of the fetuses were born prematurely. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23072 - Posted: 01.09.2017

Riley Beggin Matt Herich uses a tDCS device that was made by another student he met on Reddit. Four 9-volt batteries and sticky self-adhesive electrodes are connected by a circuit board that sends a constant small current to the user's brain. Courtesy of Matt Herich Last October, Matt Herich was listening to the news while he drove door to door delivering pizzas. A story came on the radio about a technology that sends an electric current through your brain to possibly make you better at some things — moving, remembering, learning. He was fascinated. The neurotechnology is called transcranial direct current stimulation, or tDCS for short. At its simplest, the method involves a device that uses little more than a 9-volt battery and some electrodes to send a low-intensity electrical current to a targeted area of the brain, typically via a headset. More than a 1,000 studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals over the last decade suggesting benefits of the technique — maybe regulating mood, possibly improving language skills — but its effects, good or bad, are far from clear. Although researchers see possibilities for tDCS in treating diseases and boosting performance, it's still an exploratory technology, says Mark George, editor-in-chief of Brain Stimulation, a leading journal on neuromodulation. And leading experts have warned against at-home use of such devices. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 23071 - Posted: 01.09.2017