Chapter 15. Language and Our Divided Brain
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National Institutes of Health researchers have identified gene variants that cause a rare syndrome of sporadic fevers, skin rashes and recurring strokes, beginning early in childhood. The team’s discovery coincides with findings by an Israeli research group that identified an overlapping set of variants of the same gene in patients with a similar type of blood vessel inflammation. The NIH group first encountered a patient with the syndrome approximately 10 years ago. The patient, then 3 years old, experienced fevers, skin rash and strokes that left her severely disabled. Because there was no history of a similar illness in the family, the NIH group did not at first suspect a genetic cause, and treated the patient with immunosuppressive medication. However, when the NIH team evaluated a second patient with similar symptoms two years ago — a child who had experienced recurrent fevers and six strokes by her sixth birthday — they began to suspect a common genetic cause and embarked on a medical odyssey that has led not only to a diagnosis, but to fundamental new insights into blood vessel disease. In their study, which appears in the Feb. 19, 2014, advance online edition of the New England Journal of Medicine, the researchers describe how next-generation genome sequencing, only recently available, facilitated a molecular diagnosis for patients in their study. The researchers found that harmful variants in the CECR1 gene impede production of a protein vital to the integrity of healthy blood vessel walls. The researchers showed that faulty variants in their patients’ DNA that encode the CECR1 gene cause a loss of function of the gene’s ability to produce of an enzyme called adenosine deaminase 2 (ADA2). Without it, abnormalities and inflammation in blood vessel walls result. The researchers call the new syndrome, deficiency of ADA2, or DADA2.
Adrienne LaFrance For the better part of the past decade, Mark Kirby has been pouring drinks and booking gigs at the 55 Bar in New York City's Greenwich Village. The cozy dive bar is a neighborhood staple for live jazz that opened on the eve of Prohibition in 1919. It was the year Congress agreed to give American women the right to vote, and jazz was still in its infancy. Nearly a century later, the den-like bar is an anchor to the past in a city that's always changing. For Kirby, every night of work offers the chance to hear some of the liveliest jazz improvisation in Manhattan, an experience that's a bit like overhearing a great conversation. "There is overlapping, letting the other person say their piece, then you respond," Kirby told me. "Threads are picked up then dropped. There can be an overall mood and going off on tangents." Brain areas linked to meaning shut down during improvisational jazz interactions. In other words, this music is syntactic, not semantic. The idea that jazz can be a kind of conversation has long been an area of interest for Charles Limb, an otolaryngological surgeon at Johns Hopkins. So Limb, a musician himself, decided to map what was happening in the brains of musicians as they played. He and a team of researchers conducted a study that involved putting a musician in a functional MRI machine with a keyboard, and having him play a memorized piece of music and then a made-up piece of music as part of an improvisation with another musician in a control room. What researchers found: The brains of jazz musicians who are engaged with other musicians in spontaneous improvisation show robust activation in the same brain areas traditionally associated with spoken language and syntax. In other words, improvisational jazz conversations "take root in the brain as a language," Limb said. © 2014 by The Atlantic Monthly Group
CHICAGO, ILLINOIS—Chances are, your baby won’t respond to questions like, “How was your day, honey?” Or, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” But just because infants can’t form sentences until toddlerhood doesn’t mean that they don’t benefit from early conversations with their parents. It’s long been observed that the better children perform in school and the more successful their careers, the higher the socioeconomic status (SES) of their family—and, according to Stanford University’s Anne Fernald, this has a lot to do with how parents of different SES speak to their babies. Those babies that are spoken to frequently in an engaging and nurturing way—generally from a higher SES—tend to develop faster word-processing skills, or the ability to follow a sentence from one object or setting to another. This word processing speed, in turn, directly relates to the development not just of vocabulary and language skills, but also memory and nonverbal cognitive abilities. In a new study, Fernald and colleagues measured parent-baby banter from round-the-clock recordings in babies’ homes, then tested those babies’ word-processing speed using retinal-following experiments that tracked how long it took them to follow a prompt to an image like a dog or juice. The researchers found that the differences in word-processing speed between high and low SES were stark: By 2 years of age, high SES children were 6 months ahead of their low SES counterparts; and by age 3, the differences in processing abilities were highly predictive of later performance in and out of school, the team reported here today at the annual meeting of AAAS, which publishes Science. Fernald hopes that this research will lead to interventions that help to shrink the language gap between kids on either side of the income gap. © 2014 American Association for the Advancement of Science
|By Dina Fine Maron Concussions are a major problem in football. But brain injury is a growing concern in soccer, too, usually resulting from heading the ball or collisions. A meta-analysis of existing studies finds that concussions accounted for between 6 and 9 percent of all injuries sustained on soccer fields. Most of those concussions come from when two players make for the ball, often when a player’s elbow, arm or hand inadvertently makes contact with another player’s head. But we’re not just talking about injuries to professionals. One work shows some 63 percent of all varsity soccer players have sustained concussions—yet only 19 percent realized it. And another says girls’ soccer can be particularly brutal, accounting for 8 percent of all sports-related concussions among high school girls. The findings are in the journal Brain Injury. [Monica E. Maher et al., Concussions and heading in soccer: A review of the evidence of incidence, mechanisms, biomarkers and neurocognitive outcomes] Professional players who reported a great deal of extensive heading the ball during their careers did the poorest in tests of verbal and visual memory compared with other players. Goalies and defenders were most likely to get concussions. So if you want to bend it like Beckham, maybe focus on playing midfield or offense. Padding the goal posts would also be a heads-up policy. © 2014 Scientific American
Women have a poorer quality of life after a stroke than men, a study has found. The US research, published in Neurology, assessed the mental and physical health of 1,370 patients three months and a year after a stroke. Women had more depression and anxiety, pain and discomfort, and more restricted mobility. UK experts said women tended to have strokes later, and might therefore need more support. But the study did say more people survive a stroke now than 10 years ago because of improved treatment and prevention. The researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center, North Carolina, looked at patients who had had a stroke or transient ischaemic attack (TIA), also known as a mini-stroke. Quality of life is calculated using a formula that assesses mobility, self-care, everyday activities, depression/anxiety and pain. At three months, women were more likely than men to report problems with mobility, pain and discomfort, anxiety and depression, but the difference was greatest in those aged over 75. After a year, women still had lower quality-of-life scores overall than men but the difference between them was smaller. Support needs Prof Cheryl Bushnell, who led the study, said: "We found that women had a worse quality of life than men up to 12 months following a stroke." BBC © 2014
By JEFF Z. KLEIN Hockey players who sustained concussions during a recent season experienced acute microstructural changes in their brains, according to a series of studies published in the Journal of Neurosurgery on Tuesday. “We’ve seen evidence of chronic injuries later in life from head trauma, and now we’ve seen this in current players,” said Dr. Paul Echlin, an Ontario sports concussion specialist who conducted the study in collaboration with Dr. Martha Shenton of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and researchers from Harvard Medical School, Massachusetts General Hospital and Western University of Canada. The researchers said these were the first studies in which an independent medical team used magnetic resonance imaging analysis before, during and after a season to measure the effects of concussions on athletes. Forty-five male and female Canadian university hockey players were observed by independent physicians during the 2011-12 season. All 45 players were given M.R.I. scans before and after the season. The 11 who received a concussion diagnosis during the season were given additional scans within 72 hours, two weeks and two months of the incident. The scans found microscopic white matter and inflammatory changes in the brains of individuals who had sustained a clinically diagnosed concussion during the period of the study. Additional analysis found that players who sustained a concussion during the study period or reported a history of concussions showed significant differences in their brains’ white matter microstructure compared with players who did not sustain a concussion, or who reported no history of concussions. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19200 - Posted: 02.04.2014
by Aviva Rutkin "He moistened his lips uneasily." It sounds like a cheap romance novel, but this line is actually lifted from quite a different type of prose: a neuroscience study. Along with other sentences, including "Have you got enough blankets?" and "And what eyes they were", it was used to build the first map of how the brain processes the building blocks of speech – distinct units of sound known as phonemes. The map reveals that the brain devotes distinct areas to processing different types of phonemes. It might one day help efforts to read off what someone is hearing from a brain scan. "If you could see the brain of someone who is listening to speech, there is a rapid activation of different areas, each responding specifically to a particular feature the speaker is producing," says Nima Mesgarani, an electrical engineer at Columbia University in New York City. Snakes on a brain To build the map, Mesgarani's team turned to a group of volunteers who already had electrodes implanted in their brains as part of an unrelated treatment for epilepsy. The invasive electrodes sit directly on the surface of the brain, providing a unique and detailed view of neural activity. The researchers got the volunteers to listen to hundreds of snippets of speech taken from a database designed to provide an efficient way to cycle through a wide variety of phonemes, while monitoring the signals from the electrodes. As well as those already mentioned, sentences ran the gamut from "It had gone like clockwork" to "Junior, what on Earth's the matter with you?" to "Nobody likes snakes". © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By JULIET MACUR WILLOW PARK, Tex. — The Hall of Famer Rayfield Wright’s increasingly imperfect memory retains an indelible image of his first N.F.L. start. It was November 1969. The Dallas Cowboys against the Los Angeles Rams. Wright, a Cowboys offensive tackle, lined up opposite Deacon Jones, the Rams’ feared defensive end. “Hey, boy,” Jones growled. “Do your mama know you’re out here?” “What does my mama have anything to do with this?” Wright recalled thinking, losing his concentration just long enough for the ball to be snapped and for Jones to slap his dinner-plate-size right hand violently against Wright’s helmet. He hit him so hard that it sent Wright tumbling backward. Wright remembers being knocked out, then waking to see a galaxy of stars as he lay on the turf, unable to move. “It was as if I’d just been hit in the head by a baseball bat,” he said. He turned toward his sideline, looking to Coach Tom Landry for help. Landry just glanced at him, and then turned away. “Lord,” Wright thought. “I’m in this by myself.” For the longest time, he was sure that was true. It took Wright nearly 40 years to recognize that he probably sustained a concussion in his first N.F.L. start, one of many head injuries he says he had in 13 seasons with the Cowboys. Only recently — albeit through the fog of his worsening dementia, which he acknowledged publicly for the first time last week in an interview at his Texas home — has he realized that he is not in this by himself after all. © 2014 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19171 - Posted: 01.27.2014
by Laura Sanders Growing up, I loved it when my parents read aloud the stories of the Berenstain Bears living in their treehouse. So while I was pregnant with my daughter, I imagined lots of cuddly quiet time with her in a comfy chair, reading about the latest adventures of Brother and Sister. Of course, reality soon let me know just how ridiculous that idea was. My newborn couldn’t see more than a foot away, cried robustly and frequently for mysterious reasons, and didn’t really understand words yet. Baby V was simply not interested in the latest dispatch from Bear County. When I started reading child development expert Elaine Reese’s new book Tell Me a Story, I realized that I was not the only one with idyllic story time dreams. Babies and toddlers are squirmy, active people with short attention spans. “Why, then, do we cling to this soft-focus view of storytelling when we know it is unrealistic?” she writes. These days, as Baby V closes in on the 1-year mark, she has turned into a most definite book lover. But it’s not the stories that enchant her. It’s holding the book, turning its pages back to front to back again, flipping it over and generally showing it who’s in charge. Every so often I can entice Baby V to sit on my lap with a book, but we never read through a full story. Instead, we linger on the page with all the junk food that the Hungry Caterpillar chomps through, sticking our fingers in the little holes in the pages. And we make Froggy pop in and out of the bucket. And we study the little goats as they climb up and up and up on the hay bales. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2014
Injuries to the head can leave victims susceptible to early death even years later through impaired judgement, a major analysis of survivors shows. Those with a history of psychiatric disorders before the injury are most at risk of dying prematurely. The study, in JAMA Psychiatry, of 40 years of data on more than two million people, showed that overall a brain injury trebled the risk. Suicide and fatal injuries were among the commonest causes of early death. More than one million people in Europe are taken to hospital with a traumatic brain injury each year. The study, by researchers at the University of Oxford and the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, looked at Swedish medical records between 1969 and 2009. They followed patients who survived the initial six-month danger period after injury. The data showed that without injury 0.2% of people were dying prematurely - before the age of 56. However, the premature-death rate was three-fold higher in patients who had previously suffered traumatic brain injury. In those who also had a psychiatric disorder the rate soared to 4%. Dr Seena Fazel, one of the researchers in Oxford, said: "There are these subgroups with really high rates, and these are potentially treatable illnesses, so this is something we can do something about." BBC © 2014
By Sam Kean In 1559, the two surgeons Ambroise Paré and Andreas Vesalius discussed trepanning the skull of King Henri II of France to remove any excess fluids and “corrupted” blood inside, but the risks outweighed the benefits and they gave the idea up. In the meantime, they examined the heads of the decapitated criminals. History doesn’t record the exact methodology here—whether someone fixed each head inside a vice to provide a stable target, or perhaps strung the noggins up like piñatas to swing at—but the Count de Montgomery’s stump got quite a workout battering their mugs. It was a macabre mix of medieval brutality and modern experimental savvy, and Paré and Vesalius eagerly examined them for clues. Alas, they offered little inspiration for treatment. Instead, the two men could have learned a lot more by simply observing the king, whose suffering foreshadowed many great discoveries over the next four centuries of neuroscience. Henri continued to drift in and out of coherence, limning the borders of the unconscious. He suffered from seizures and temporary paralysis, two then-mysterious afflictions. Strangely, the paralysis or seizures would derange only half of his body at any one time, a clear hint (in retrospect) that the brain controls the body’s halves independently. Henri’s vision also went in and out, a clue that the back of the brain (where Paré expected to find the contrecoup damage) controls our sense of sight. Worst of all, Henri’s headache kept widening, which told Paré that his brain was swelling and that blood vessels had ruptured inside the skull. As we know today, inflammation and fluid pressure can crush brain cells, destroying the switches and circuits that run the body and mind. This explains why brain injuries can be lethal even if the skull suffers no fracture. Skull fractures can in fact save people’s lives, by giving the swollen brain or pools of blood room to expand into. The history of neuroscience has proved the brain amazingly resilient, but one thing it cannot stand is pressure, and the secondary effects of trauma, like swelling, often prove more deadly than the initial blow. © 2014 Time Inc.
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19132 - Posted: 01.15.2014
by Laura Sanders Baby V sailed through her first Christmas with the heart of a little explorer. She travelled to frigid upstate New York where she mashed snow in her cold little hands, tasted her great grandma’s twice baked potato and was licked clean by at least four dogs. And she opened lots of presents. It’s totally true what people say about little kids and gifts: The wrapping paper proved to be the biggest hit. But in the Christmas aftermath, one of Baby V’s new toys really caught her attention. She cannot resist her singing, talking book. The book has only three pages, but Baby V is smitten. Any time the book pipes up, which it seems to do randomly, she snaps to attention, staring at it, grabbing it and trying to figure it out. With a cutesy high-pitched voice, the book tells Baby V to “Turn the pa-AYE-ge!” and “This is fun!” Sometimes, the book bursts into little songs, all the while maintaining the cheeriest, squeakiest, sugarplum-drenched tone, even when it’s saying something kind of sad: “Three little kittens have lost their mittens and they began to cry!” The book maker (uh, author?) clearly knows how to tap into infants’ deep love for happy, squeaky noises, as does the creator of Elmo. Scientists are also noticing this trend, and are starting to figure out exactly why these sounds are so alluring to little ones. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2014.
By Susan Berger, The chiropractor had just worked on Lynne Beliveau’s neck when she became dizzy, unable to see or move. Rushed to the hospital, Beliveau had a shunt inserted to relieve pressure caused by swelling in her brain. The Ashburn woman suffered a series of strokes and today, eight years later, the 41-year-old mother of three suffers from constant vertigo. Elizabeth Haran Caplan knew she was in trouble seconds after a chiropractor in Oklahoma City manipulated her neck. The room got dark and she felt dizzy. Because of her years of service as a combat medic in Kosovo and Somalia, she knew what was happening and yelled, “Stop. I’m having a stroke.” More than a decade later, she is blind in her left eye and has problems swallowing without choking due to paralysis of one side of her throat. Approximately 20 million Americans visit chiropractors each year, according to the American Chiropractic Association, seeking relief from back pain, neck pain, headaches, sinus problems, ringing in the ears and more. For many, the manipulations provide relief. But one of the techniques chiropractors use, called cervical neck manipulation or “cracking the neck,” has raised concerns that it can cause serious harm. “I have jumped out of airplanes, escaped bullets in Somalia,” said Haran Caplan, 47, who retired from the Army nine years ago as a lieutenant colonel. “Who knew the most dangerous place I would put myself would be on a chiropractor’s table?” © 1996-2014 The Washington Post
Link ID: 19109 - Posted: 01.08.2014
After a concussion, adolescents with the highest level of mental activities — such as reading, doing homework and playing video games — take the longest to recover, a new study suggests. Adolescents engaged in the highest level of mental activities take about 100 days on average to recover from symptoms of concussion, compared to about 20 to 50 days for those with lower mental activities, according to researchers from Children’s Hospital Boston. A concussion is an injury to the brain resulting from a blow to the head. Classic symptoms of concussion are confusion and amnesia. Others include headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and fatigue. The study was published on Monday in Pediatrics, a peer-reviewed, scientific journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. One of the authors is a co-developer of the post-concussion assessment software used in the study and is a co-owner of the company that distributes the software. Researchers tracked 335 people aged eight to 23 who visited a sports concussion clinic in Boston over 21 months. The results support the benefits of mental rest to recover from a concussion, researchers say. The researchers also back up academic accommodation for student athletes recovering from sports-related concussions, which allows them relative mental rest during the school year. © CBC 2014
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19101 - Posted: 01.06.2014
Brittany Fallon In today’s focal party, the main characters are Nambi, the Alpha female who engages in regular sexual relations with young males; Nick, the former Alpha male, replaced by Nambi’s son Musa; and Zefa, Nick’s former Beta male, who is forming new alliances to overthrow Musa. It’s hard not to pretend I’m witnessing the real world version of Game of Thrones – except it’s not humans I’m observing, but chimpanzees. There’s no Iron Throne involved in this power struggle – just the race for reproductive success. Dominant individuals enjoy a number of benefits that improve their chance of passing on genes, including richer access to sexual partners. But how does this influence their tactics for attracting mates? Perhaps no effort is needed, the chimpanzee equivalent to the philandering Robert, with potential sex partners who line up in hopes of birthing the next possible heir. Or is it that, like promiscuous Cersei, they’ve learned a number of coy and successful pick up lines (“Tears aren’t a woman’s only weapon.”)? Elaborate metaphors aside, this is exactly the sort of question that I attempt to answer for my PhD on sexual displays in the Sonso chimpanzee community of the Budongo Forest Reserve in Uganda. Chimpanzees, like a variety of animals, produce ‘courtship displays’ to attract mates. Displays are largely comprised of gestures, which can be broadly defined as distinct bodily movements that do not physically manipulate the receiver toward the goal of the signaller. Both males and females, ranging in age from 2 to 52 years old in my community, can produce these solicitations. Displays can be elaborate, many signals strung together, or they can be simple, a single shaking of a branch followed immediately by copulation. What’s particularly amazing about chimpanzee solicitations is that they seem to be intentionally communicative: following a display, signallers will visibly wait for a response from their target by gaze-checking, and, if met with failure, will persist in gesturing. © 2014 Scientific American
By KELLEY McMILLAN BEAVER CREEK, Colo. — The fact that Michael Schumacher was wearing a helmet when he sustained a life-threatening head injury while skiing in France on Sunday probably did not come as a surprise to experts who have charted the increasing presence of helmets on slopes and halfpipes in recent years. The fact that the helmet did not prevent Schumacher’s injury probably did not surprise them, either. Schumacher, the most successful Formula One driver in history, sustained a traumatic brain injury when he fell and hit his head on a rock while navigating an off-piste, or ungroomed, area at a resort in Méribel, France. Although he was wearing a helmet, he sustained injuries that have left him fighting for his life in a hospital in Grenoble, France. Schumacher’s injury also focused attention on an unsettling trend. Although skiers and snowboarders in the United States are wearing helmets more than ever — 70 percent of all participants, nearly triple the number from 2003 — there has been no reduction in the number of snow-sports-related fatalities or brain injuries in the country, according to the National Ski Areas Association. Experts ascribe that seemingly implausible correlation to the inability of helmets to prevent serious head injuries like Schumacher’s and to the fact that more skiers and snowboarders are engaging in risky behaviors: skiing faster, jumping higher and going out of bounds. © 2013 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19084 - Posted: 01.02.2014
By KEN BELSON Revelations in recent years that thousands of former football players might have severe brain trauma from injuries sustained on the field have set off a rush in the medical community to seize the potentially lucrative market for assessing brain damage. But experts say claims regarding the validity of these assessments are premature and perhaps unfounded. Most researchers believe that C.T.E., or chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease found in dozens of former N.F.L. players, can be diagnosed only posthumously by analyzing brain tissue. Researchers at U.C.L.A. have developed a test they assert might identify the condition in a living person by injecting a compound that clings to proteins in the brain and later appears in a PET scan. But some are skeptical. “There has really been so much hype surrounding C.T.E., so there is a real need for making sure the public knows that this type of science moves slowly and must move very carefully,” said Robert Stern, a professor of neurology and neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine and a founder of the Center for the Study of Traumatic Encephalopathy. He is part of a group that is developing a different biomarker to identify tau, the protein that is a hallmark of C.T.E. “My fear is the people out there who are so much in need, scared for their lives and desperate for information, it might give them false hope,” he said. The debate over the scientific validity of such brain exams was highlighted recently when Tony Dorsett, a Hall of Fame running back for the Dallas Cowboys, and several other prominent former players said they were found to have C.T.E. after taking the experimental test developed by U.C.L.A. Dorsett, 59, told CNN that “they came to find out I have C.T.E.” and that his memory lapses, short temper and moodiness were “all because of C.T.E.” Despite what was widely reported as a diagnosis, the experimental test is perhaps years from gaining federal approval. An antidote is even more remote because C.T.E. is a degenerative condition with no known cure. That is why neurologists, researchers and bioethicists question whether the doctors at U.C.L.A. and at TauMark, the company with the exclusive license to commercialize the test, may leave some former players and their families with false hopes or undue worry. © 2013 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19070 - Posted: 12.27.2013
By Sandra G. Boodman, Bebe Bahnsen remembers the night, alone in her small cottage on the Alabama coast, that she felt a strong urge to drink a can of drain cleaner. For years, antidepressants combined with talk therapy had enabled Bahnsen, whose first name is Beatrice, to function well, establishing a thriving public relations business in Washington followed by a career as a newspaper reporter. But those days had been supplanted by a prolonged suicidal depression that had proved impervious to electroshock treatments, periodic hospitalizations and a raft of psychiatric drugs. The phone call in which Bahnsen confided her desire to drink poison seemed to confirm the worst fears of one of her closest friends. “I figured, well, she was one of those people who just was not ever going to get better,” said Paddy Bowman, a folklore specialist who lives in Alexandria. Bahnsen, now 73, traces the beginning of her psychological slide to the mid-1990s, when she decided that, after two decades, she’d had enough of Washington. She moved back to her home state of Georgia and her life slowly began to unravel. She felt estranged from her large and devoted circle of friends, began having problems at work, and grew restless and increasingly depressed. “I felt as though I was on a large island and everyone was slowly moving away and I was there by myself,” Bahnsen recalled. For the first time in her life, she said, she was intermittently psychotic. Periodic suicide attempts, some involving overdoses of prescribed sleeping pills, landed her in a series of mental hospitals. In November 2006 she was hospitalized in Las Vegas, where she was then living with one of her sons. Doctors, baffled by her longstanding failure to improve, decided to take a closer look at her case. What they found resulted in an entirely different treatment, one that had a rapid and dramatic effect on her mental state. © 1996-2013 The Washington Post
By Melissa Hogenboom Science reporter, BBC News An analysis of a Neanderthal's fossilised hyoid bone - a horseshoe-shaped structure in the neck - suggests the species had the ability to speak. This has been suspected since the 1989 discovery of a Neanderthal hyoid that looks just like a modern human's. But now computer modelling of how it works has shown this bone was also used in a very similar way. Writing in journal Plos One, scientists say its study is "highly suggestive" of complex speech in Neanderthals. The hyoid bone is crucial for speaking as it supports the root of the tongue. In non-human primates, it is not placed in the right position to vocalise like humans. An international team of researchers analysed a fossil Neanderthal throat bone using 3D x-ray imaging and mechanical modelling. This model allowed the group to see how the hyoid behaved in relation to the other surrounding bones. Stephen Wroe, from the University of New England, Armidale, NSW, Australia, said: "We would argue that this is a very significant step forward. It shows that the Kebara 2 hyoid doesn't just look like those of modern humans - it was used in a very similar way." He told BBC News that it not only changed our understanding of Neanderthals, but also of ourselves. "Many would argue that our capacity for speech and language is among the most fundamental of characteristics that make us human. If Neanderthals also had language then they were truly human, too." BBC © 2013
By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS A remarkable recent experiment allowed scientists to see inside the skull and brain of animals that had just experienced a concussion, providing sobering new evidence of how damaging even minor brain impacts can be. While the results, which were published in Nature, are worrisome, they also hint at the possibility of treating concussions and lessening their harm. Concussions occur when the brain bounces against the skull after someone’s head is bumped or jolted. Such injuries are fairly common in contact sports, like football and hockey, and there is growing concern that repeated concussions might contribute to lingering problems with thinking or memory. This concern was heightened this week by reports that the brain of the late major league baseball player Ryan Freel showed symptoms of chronic traumatic encephalopathy, a degenerative condition. He reportedly had been hit in the head multiple times during his career. But scientists did not know exactly what happens at a molecular level inside the brain during and after a concussion. The living brain is notoriously difficult to study, since it shelters behind the thick, bony skull and other protective barriers. In some earlier studies, scientists had removed portions of lab animals’ skulls to view what happened to their brains during subsequent impacts. But removing part of the skull causes its own tissue damage and physiological response, muddying any findings about how the brain is affected by concussions. So scientists at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a division of the National Institutes of Health, decided to develop a less destructive means of seeing inside skulls and came up with the deceptively simple method of shaving away microscopic layers of a lab mouse’s skull, thinning it to the point that powerful microscopic lenses could see through it, even as the skull remained essentially intact. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 19052 - Posted: 12.18.2013