Chapter 15. Brain Asymmetry, Spatial Cognition, and Language

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By Nicholas Bakalar Maintaining a low level of LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, is important for cardiovascular health, but extremely low LDL may also have risks, researchers report. The scientists studied 96,043 people for an average of nine years, recording their LDL level biennially and tracking cases of hemorrhagic stroke, caused by the rupture of a blood vessel in the brain. About 13 percent of strokes are of the hemorrhagic type. They found that compared with people in the normal range for LDL — 70 to 99 milligrams per deciliter of blood — people who had an LDL of 50 to 69 had a 65 percent higher risk of hemorrhagic stroke. For people with an LDL below 50, the risk nearly tripled. LDL concentrations above 100, on the other hand, were not significantly associated with hemorrhagic stroke, even at levels higher than 160. The study, in Neurology, controlled for age, sex, education, income, diabetes, hypertension and other variables. The senior author, Dr. Xiang Gao, an associate professor of nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, said that this does not mean that having a high LDL is harmless. “High LDL is a risk for cardiovascular disease, and a level above 100 should be lowered,” he said. “But there is no single answer for everyone. The ideal level varies depending on an individual’s risk factors. We need a personalized recommendation rather than a general rule.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26402 - Posted: 07.10.2019

By Jane E. Brody Kelly Baxter was 36 years old and had just moved to Illinois with her 41-year-old husband, Ted, when he suffered a disabling stroke that derailed his high-powered career in international finance. It derailed her life as well. “It was a terrible shock, especially in such a young, healthy, athletic man,” she told me. “Initially I was in denial. He’s this amazing guy, so determined. He’s going to get over this,” she thought. But when she took him home six weeks later, the grim reality quickly set in. “Seeing him not able to speak or remember or even understand what I said to him — it was a very scary, lonely, uncertain time. What happened to my life? I had to make big decisions without Ted’s input. We had been in the process of selling our house in New Jersey, and now I also had to put our Illinois house on the market and sell two cars.” But those logistical problems were minor in comparison to the steep learning curve she endured trying to figure out how to cope with an adult she loved whose brain had suddenly become completely scrambled. He could not talk, struggled to understand what was said to him, and for a long time had limited use of the right side of his body. “One of the biggest stumbling blocks for caregivers is knowledge,” said Dr. Richard C. Senelick, author of “Living With Stroke: A Guide for Families.” His advice is to learn everything you can about stroke, your loved one’s condition and prognosis. “The more you learn, the better you’ll be able to care for your loved one,” he said. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26397 - Posted: 07.08.2019

By Sabine Galvis Scientists looking for a link between repeated brain trauma and lasting neurological damage typically study the brains of soldiers or football players. But it’s unclear whether this damage—known as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE)—is prevalent in the general population. Now, a new study reports those rates for the first time. To conduct the research, neuropathologist Kevin Bieniek, then at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and colleagues sorted through nearly 3000 brains donated to the clinic's tissue registry between 2005 and 2016. Then, by scanning obituaries and old yearbooks, the researchers narrowed the group to 300 athletes who played contact sports and 450 nonathletes. The scientists removed all infants under age 1, brain samples with insufficient tissue, and brain donors without biographical data attached to their samples. Finally, they collected medical records and looked under a microscope at tissue from up to three sections of each brain for signs of CTE. Those signs include lesions and buildup of tau, a protein associated with neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease. Six percent of the brains showed some or all signs of CTE, Bieniek and his colleagues report in Brain Pathology. Not all the people experienced symptoms associated with CTE, at least according to their medical records. Those symptoms include anxiety, depression, and drug use. However, people with CTE were about 31% more likely to develop dementia and 27% more likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those without CTE. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26388 - Posted: 07.04.2019

By Ryan Dalton In the dystopian world of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, the government of Oceania aims to achieve thought control through the restriction of language. As explained by the character ‘Syme’, a lexicologist who is working to replace the English language with the greatly-simplified ‘Newspeak’: “Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought?” While Syme’s own reflections were short-lived, the merits of his argument were not: the words and structure of a language can influence the thoughts and decisions of its speakers. This holds for English and Greek, Inuktitut and Newspeak. It also may hold for the ‘neural code’, the basic electrical vocabulary of the neurons in the brain. Neural codes, like spoken languages, are tasked with conveying all manner of information. Some of this information is immediately required for survival; other information has a less acute use. To accommodate these different needs, a balance is struck between the richness of information being transferred and the speed or reliability with which it is transferred. Where the balance is set depends on context. In the example of language, the mention of the movie Jaws at a dinner party might result in a ranging and patient—if disconcerting—discussion around the emotional impact of the film. In contrast, the observation of a dorsal fin breaking through the surf at the beach would probably elicit a single word, screamed by many beachgoers at once: “shark!” In one context, the language used has been optimized for richness; in the other, for speed and reliability. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26383 - Posted: 07.03.2019

By Bret Stetka The pathology of a stroke is deceptively complicated. In the simplest sense, strokes occur when the blood supply to a particular region of the brain is interrupted, cutting off the area to oxygen and nutrients. This deprivation results in injury and death to the local brain cells. But for days after the breach in blood flow, the immune system also does its own fair share of damage to the already injured brain through an inflammatory response. New research by a group at Stanford University has identified a subset of immune cells that drive brain injury following a stroke, raising the possibility that immune-system inhibition might be a promising treatment for a blood-deprived brain. More surprising is that much of the immune reaction to a stroke appears to begin in the gut, shedding new light on our ever evolving understanding of the gut-brain axis. The research was published on July 1 in Nature Immunology. Strokes manifest in two ways: either an artery in the brain bursts—causing a hemorrhagic stroke—or it becomes clogged, typically by a blood clot, causing the far more common ischemic stroke. In the new study, the authors used positron-emission tomography to scan immune system activity in mice that had the blood in a single cerebral artery interrupted for 45 minutes, mimicking an ischemic stroke. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Stroke; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 26381 - Posted: 07.03.2019

By Jane E. Brody Strange as it may seem, the massive stroke Ted Baxter suffered in 2005 at age 41, leaving him speechless and paralyzed on his right side, was a blessing in more ways than one. Had the clot, which started in his leg, lodged in his lungs instead of his brain, the doctors told him he would have died from a pulmonary embolism. And as difficult as it was for him to leave his high-powered professional life behind and replace it with a decade of painstaking recovery, the stroke gave his life a whole new and, in many ways, more rewarding purpose. Before the stroke, Mr. Baxter’s intense work-focused life as a globe-trotting executive in international finance had eroded his marriage and deprived him of fulfilling relationships with family and friends. Unable to relax even on vacation, he rarely took time to smell the roses. Now, he told me, he leads a richer, calmer, happier life as a volunteer educator for stroke victims and their caregivers and for the therapists who treat them. The stroke began with a cramping pain in his leg after a long international flight during which he wore compression hose to support his varicose veins. He didn’t take the pain seriously until suddenly he couldn’t talk or move the right side of his body. The clot that caused his leg pain had broken loose and cut off blood flow to the left side of his brain. From the team at NYT Parenting: Get the latest news and guidance for parents. We'll celebrate the little parenting moments that mean a lot — and share stories that matter to families. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26371 - Posted: 07.01.2019

/ By Dan Falk Suppose I give you the name of a body part, and ask you to list its main uses: I say legs, you say walking and running; I say ears, you say hearing. And if I say the brain? Well, that’s a no-brainer (so to speak); obviously the brain is for thinking. Of course, it does a bunch of other things, too; after all, when the brain ceases to function, we die — but clearly it’s where cognition happens. Tversky argues that gesturing is more than just a by-product of speech: it literally helps us think. Or is it? No one would argue that the brain isn’t vital for thinking — but quite a few 21st-century psychologists and cognitive scientists believe that the body, as well as the brain, is needed for thinking to actually happen. And it’s not just that the brain needs a body to keep it alive (that much is obvious), but rather, that the brain and the body somehow work together: it’s the combination of brain-plus-body that creates the mental world. The latest version of this proposition comes from Barbara Tversky, a professor emerita of psychology at Stanford University who also teaches at Columbia. Her new book, “Mind in Motion: How Action Shapes Thought,” is an extended argument for the interplay of mind and body in enabling cognition. She draws on many different lines of evidence, including the way we talk about movement and space, the way we use maps, the way we talk about and use numbers, and the way we gesture. Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Language; Attention
Link ID: 26364 - Posted: 06.28.2019

Laura Sanders When animals are together, their brain activity aligns. These simpatico signals, described in bats and mice, bring scientists closer to understanding brains as they normally exist — enmeshed in complex social situations. Researchers know that neural synchrony emerges in people who are talking, taking a class together and even watching the same movie. But scientists tend to study human brains in highly constrained scenarios, in part because it’s technologically difficult to capture brain activity as people experience rich social interactions (SN: 5/11/19, p. 4). Now two studies published June 20 in Cell offer more details about how synced brains might influence social behavior. In one study, researchers monitored a pair of Egyptian fruit bats in a dark chamber for more than an hour. Neural implants recorded brain activity as the bats groomed themselves, fought, rested and performed other behaviors. The brain activity of the two bats was highly coordinated. When one bat’s neural activity oscillated in a fast rhythm, for example, the other bat’s brain was likely to do the same thing. This coordination continued even when the bats weren’t directly interacting with each other, the team found. But when the bats were separated into two chambers in the same room, this correlated activity fell away, suggesting that the bats had to be sharing the same social context for their brains to link up. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Animal Communication; Language
Link ID: 26345 - Posted: 06.22.2019

By Darcey Steinke The J in “juice” was the first letter-sound, according to my mother, that I repeated in staccato, going off like a skipping record. This was when I was 3, before my stutter was stigmatized as shameful. In those earliest years my relationship to language was uncomplicated: I assumed my voice was more like a bird’s or a squirrel’s than my playmates’. This seemed exciting. I imagined, unlike fluent children, I might be able to converse with wild creatures, I’d learn their secrets, tell them mine and forge friendships based on interspecies intimacy. School put an end to this fantasy. Throughout elementary school I stuttered every time a teacher called on me and whenever I was asked to read out loud. In the third grade the humiliation of being forced to read a few paragraphs about stewardesses in the Weekly Reader still burns. The ST is hard for stutterers. What would have taken a fluent child five minutes took me an excruciating 25. It was around this time that I started separating the alphabet into good letters, V as well as M, and bad letters, S, F and T, plus the terrible vowel sounds, open and mysterious and nearly impossible to wrangle. Each letter had a degree of difficulty that changed depending upon its position in the sentence. Much later when I read that Nabokov as a child assigned colors to letters, it made sense to me that the hard G looked like “vulcanized rubber” and the R, “a sooty rag being ripped.” My beloved V, in the Nabokovian system, was a jewel-like “rose quartz.” My mother, knowing that kids ridiculed me — she once found a book, “The Mystery of the Stuttering Parrot,” that had been tossed onto our lawn — wanted to eradicate my speech impediment. She encouraged me to practice the strategies taught to me by a string of therapists, bouncing off an easy sound to a harder one and unclenching my throat, trying to slide out of a stammer. When I was 13 she got me a scholarship to a famous speech therapy program at a college near our house in Virginia. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26313 - Posted: 06.10.2019

By Malin Fezehai Muazzez Kocek, 46, is considered one of the best whistlers in Kuşköy, a village tucked away in the picturesque Pontic Mountains in Turkey’s northern Giresun province. Her whistle can be heard over the area’s vast tea fields and hazelnut orchards, several miles farther than a person’s voice. When President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey visited Kuşköy in 2012, she greeted him and proudly whistled, “Welcome to our village!” She uses kuş dili, or “bird language,” which transforms the full Turkish vocabulary into varied-pitch frequencies and melodic lines. For hundreds of years, this whistled form of communication has been a critical for the farming community in the region, allowing complex conversations over long distances and facilitating animal herding. Today, there are about 10,000 people in the larger region that speak it, but because of the increased use of cellphones, which remove the need for a voice to carry over great distances, that number is dwindling. The language is at risk of dying out. Of Ms. Kocek’s three children, only her middle daughter, Kader, 14, knows bird language. Ms. Kocek began learning bird language at six years old, by working in the fields with her father. She has tried to pass the tradition on to her three daughters; even though they understand it, only her middle child, Kader Kocek, 14, knows how to speak, and can whistle Turkey’s national anthem. Turkey is one of a handful of countries in the world where whistling languages exist. Similar ways of communicating are known to have been used in the Canary Islands, Greece, Mexico, and Mozambique. They fascinate researchers and linguistic experts, because they suggest that the brain structures that process language are not as fixed as once thought. There is a long-held belief that language interpretation occurs mostly in the left hemisphere, and melody, rhythm and singing on the right. But a study that biopsychologist Onur Güntürkün conducted in Kuşköy, suggests that whistling language is processed in both hemispheres. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26279 - Posted: 05.30.2019

Laura Sanders Advantages of speaking a second language are obvious: easier logistics when traveling, wider access to great literature and, of course, more people to talk with. Some studies have also pointed to the idea that polyglots have stronger executive functioning skills, brain abilities such as switching between tasks and ignoring distractions. But a large study of bilingual children in the U.S. finds scant evidence of those extra bilingual brain benefits. Bilingual children performed no better in tests measuring such thinking skills than children who knew just one language, researchers report May 20 in Nature Human Behaviour. To look for a relationship between bilingualism and executive function, researchers relied on a survey of U.S. adolescents called the ABCD study. From data collected at 21 research sites across the country, researchers identified 4,524 kids ages 9 and 10. Of these children, 1,740 spoke English and a second language (mostly Spanish, though 40 second languages were represented). On three tests that measured executive function, such as the ability to ignore distractions or quickly switch between tasks with different rules, the bilingual children performed similarly to children who spoke only English, the researchers found. “We really looked,” says study coauthor Anthony Dick, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at Florida International University in Miami said. “We didn’t find anything.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019.

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26265 - Posted: 05.24.2019

By Michelle Roberts Health editor, BBC News online Patients who have had a stroke caused by bleeding in the brain can safely take aspirin to cut their risk of future strokes and heart problems, according to a new study. Aspirin thins the blood and so doctors have been cautious about giving it, fearing it could make bleeds worse. But The Lancet research suggests it does not increase the risk of new brain bleeds, and may even lower it. Experts say the "strong indication" needs confirming with more research. Only take daily aspirin if your doctor recommends it, they advise. Aspirin benefits and risks Aspirin is best known as a painkiller and is sometimes also taken to help bring down a fever. But daily low-dose (75mg) aspirin is used to make the blood less sticky and can help to prevent heart attacks and stroke. Most strokes are caused by clots in the blood vessels of the brain but some are caused by bleeds. Because aspirin thins the blood, it can sometimes make the patient bleed more easily. And aspirin isn't safe for everyone. It can also cause indigestion and, more rarely, lead to stomach ulcers. Never give aspirin to children under the age of 16 (unless their doctor prescribes it). It can make children more likely to develop a very rare but serious illness called Reye's syndrome (which can cause liver and brain damage). The study The research involved 537 people from across the UK who had had a brain bleed while taking anti-platelet medicines, to stop blood clotting, including aspirin, dipyridamole or another drug called clopidogrel. Half of the patients were chosen at random to continue on their medicine (following a short pause immediately after their brain bleed), while the other half were told to stop taking it Over the five years of the study, 12 of those who kept taking the tablets suffered a brain bleed, compared with 23 of those who stopped © 2019 BBC

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 26263 - Posted: 05.23.2019

By David Grimm CORVALLIS, OREGON—Carl the cat was born to beat the odds. Abandoned on the side of the road in a Rubbermaid container, the scrawny black kitten—with white paws, white chest, and a white, skunklike stripe down his nose—was rescued by Kristyn Vitale, a postdoc at Oregon State University here who just happens to study the feline mind. Now, Vitale hopes Carl will pull off another coup, by performing a feat of social smarts researchers once thought was impossible. In a stark white laboratory room, Vitale sits against the back wall, flanked by two overturned cardboard bowls. An undergraduate research assistant kneels a couple of meters away, holding Carl firmly. "Carl!" Vitale calls, and then points to one of the bowls. The assistant lets go. Toddlers pass this test easily. They know that when we point at something, we're telling them to look at it—an insight into the intentions of others that will become essential as children learn to interact with people around them. Most other animals, including our closest living relative, chimpanzees, fail the experiment. But about 20 years ago, researchers discovered something surprising: Dogs pass the test with flying colors. The finding shook the scientific community and led to an explosion of studies into the canine mind. Cats like Carl were supposed to be a contrast. Like dogs, cats have lived with us in close quarters for thousands of years. But unlike our canine pals, cats descend from antisocial ancestors, and humans have spent far less time aggressively molding them into companions. So researchers thought cats couldn't possibly share our brain waves the way dogs do. © 2019 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Evolution
Link ID: 26226 - Posted: 05.10.2019

/ By Elizabeth Svoboda As he neared his 50s, Anthony Andrews realized that living inside his own head felt different than it used to. The signs were subtle at first. “My wife started noticing that I wasn’t getting through things,” Andrews says. Every so often, he’d experience what he calls “cognitive voids,” where he’d get dizzy and blank out for a few seconds. It wasn’t just that he would lose track of things, as if the thought bubble over his head had popped. Over time, Andrews’ issues became more pronounced. It wasn’t just that he would lose track of things, as if the thought bubble over his head had popped. A dense calm had descended on him like a weighted blanket. “I felt like I was walking through the swamp,” says Andrews, now 54. He had to play internet chess each morning to penetrate the mental murk. In 2016, Anthony Andrews and his wife Mona were told he likely had CTE, a neurodegenerative disorder caused by repeated head impacts. With his wife, Mona, by his side, Andrews went to doctor after doctor racking up psychiatric diagnoses. One told him he had ADHD. Another thought he was depressed, and another said he had bipolar disorder. But the drugs and therapies they prescribed didn’t seem to help. “After a month,” Andrews recalls of these treatments, “I knew it’s not for me.” Copyright 2019 Undark

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26215 - Posted: 05.07.2019

By Sayuri Hayakawa, Viorica Marian As Emperor Akihito steps down from the Chrysanthemum Throne in Japan’s first abdication in 200 years, Naruhito officially becomes the new Emperor on May 1, 2019, ushering in a new era called Reiwa (令和; “harmony”). Japan’s tradition of naming eras reflects the ancient belief in the divine spirit of language. Kotodama (言霊; “word spirit”) is the idea that words have an almost magical power to alter physical reality. Through its pervasive impact on society, including its influence on superstitions and social etiquette, traditional poetry and modern pop songs, the word kotodama has, in a way, provided proof of its own concept. For centuries, many cultures have believed in the spiritual force of language. Over time, these ideas have extended from the realm of magic and mythology to become a topic of scientific investigation—ultimately leading to the discovery that language can indeed affect the physical world, for example, by altering our physiology. Our bodies evolve to adapt to our environments, not only over millions of years but also over the days and years of an individual’s life. For instance, off the coast of Thailand, there are children who can “see like dolphins.” Cultural and environmental factors have shaped how these sea nomads of the Moken tribe conduct their daily lives, allowing them to adjust their pupils underwater in a way that most of us cannot. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Language
Link ID: 26190 - Posted: 05.01.2019

By Benedict Carey “In my head, I churn over every sentence ten times, delete a word, add an adjective, and learn my text by heart, paragraph by paragraph,” wrote Jean-Dominique Bauby in his memoir, “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.” In the book, Mr. Bauby, a journalist and editor, recalled his life before and after a paralyzing stroke that left him virtually unable to move a muscle; he tapped out the book letter by letter, by blinking an eyelid. Thousands of people are reduced to similarly painstaking means of communication as a result of injuries suffered in accidents or combat, of strokes, or of neurodegenerative disorders such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., that disable the ability to speak. Now, scientists are reporting that they have developed a virtual prosthetic voice, a system that decodes the brain’s vocal intentions and translates them into mostly understandable speech, with no need to move a muscle, even those in the mouth. (The physicist and author Stephen Hawking used a muscle in his cheek to type keyboard characters, which a computer synthesized into speech.) “It’s formidable work, and it moves us up another level toward restoring speech” by decoding brain signals, said Dr. Anthony Ritaccio, a neurologist and neuroscientist at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Fla., who was not a member of the research group. Researchers have developed other virtual speech aids. Those work by decoding the brain signals responsible for recognizing letters and words, the verbal representations of speech. But those approaches lack the speed and fluidity of natural speaking. The new system, described on Wednesday in the journal Nature, deciphers the brain’s motor commands guiding vocal movement during speech — the tap of the tongue, the narrowing of the lips — and generates intelligible sentences that approximate a speaker’s natural cadence. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Language; Robotics
Link ID: 26174 - Posted: 04.25.2019

By Karen Weintraub Stroke, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and other medical conditions can rob people of their ability to speak. Their communication is limited to the speed at which they can move a cursor with their eyes (just eight to 10 words per minute), in contrast with the natural spoken pace of 120 to 150 words per minute. Now, although still a long way from restoring natural speech, researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, have generated intelligible sentences from the thoughts of people without speech difficulties. The work provides a proof of principle that it should one day be possible to turn imagined words into understandable, real-time speech circumventing the vocal machinery, Edward Chang, a neurosurgeon at U.C.S.F. and co-author of the study published Wednesday in Nature, said Tuesday in a news conference. “Very few of us have any real idea of what’s going on in our mouth when we speak,” he said. “The brain translates those thoughts of what you want to say into movements of the vocal tract, and that’s what we want to decode.” But Chang cautions that the technology, which has only been tested on people with typical speech, might be much harder to make work in those who cannot speak—and particularly in people who have never been able to speak because of a movement disorder such as cerebral palsy. Chang also emphasized that his approach cannot be used to read someone’s mind—only to translate words the person wants to say into audible sounds. “Other researchers have tried to look at whether or not it’s actually possible to decode essentially just thoughts alone,” he says.* “It turns out it’s a very difficult and challenging problem. That’s only one reason of many that we focus on what people are trying to say.” © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain imaging; Language
Link ID: 26170 - Posted: 04.24.2019

By Benedict Carey More than 3 million Americans live with disabling brain injuries. The vast majority of these individuals are lost to the medical system soon after their initial treatment, to be cared for by family or to fend for themselves, managing fatigue, attention and concentration problems with little hope of improvement. On Saturday, a team of scientists reported a glimmer of hope. Using an implant that stimulates activity in key areas of the brain, they restored near-normal levels of brain function to a middle-aged woman who was severely injured in a car accident 18 years ago. Experts said the woman was a test case, and that it was far from clear whether the procedure would prompt improvements for others like her. That group includes an estimated 3 million to 5 million people, many of them veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, with disabilities related to traumatic brain injuries. “This is a pilot study,” said Dr. Steven R. Flanagan, the chairman of the department of rehabilitation medicine at NYU Langone Health, who was not part of the research team. “And we certainly cannot generalize from it. But I think it’s a very promising start, and there is certainly more to come in this work.” The woman, now in her early 40s, was a student when the accident occurred. She soon recovered sufficiently to live independently. But she suffered from persistent fatigue and could not read or concentrate for long, leaving her unable to hold a competitive job, socialize much, or resume her studies. “Her life has changed,” said Dr. Nicholas Schiff, a professor of neurology and neuroscience at Weill Cornell Medicine and a member of the study team. “She is much less fatigued, and she’s now reading novels. The next patient might not do as well. But we want keep going to see what happens.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26142 - Posted: 04.15.2019

By Ken Belson and Benedict Carey Experimental brain scans of more than two dozen former N.F.L. players found that the men had abnormal levels of the protein linked to chronic traumatic encephalopathy, the degenerative brain disease associated with repeated hits to the head. Using positron emission tomography, or PET, scans, the researchers found “elevated amounts of abnormal tau protein” in the parts of the brain associated with the disease, known as C.T.E., compared to men of similar age who had not played football. The authors of the study and outside experts stressed that such tau imaging is far from a diagnostic test for C.T.E., which is likely years away and could include other markers, from blood and spinal fluid. The results of the study, published in The New England Journal of Medicine on Wednesday, are considered preliminary, but constitute a first step toward developing a clinical test to determine the presence of C.T.E. in living players, as well as early signs and potential risk. Thus far, pathologists have been able to confirm the diagnosis only posthumously, by identifying the tau signature in donated brains. Previous studies had reported elevated levels of the tau signature in single cases. The new study is the first to compare the brains of a group of former players to a control group, using an imaging approach that specifically picks up tau and not other proteins in the brain. “What makes this exciting is that it’s a great first step for imaging C.T.E. in the living, not just looking at single instances, but comparing averages and looking for patterns by comparing groups,” said Kevin Bieniek, director of the Biggs Institute Brain Bank Core at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Brain Injury/Concussion
Link ID: 26129 - Posted: 04.11.2019

By Lydia Denworth The vast majority of neuroscientific studies contain three elements: a person, a cognitive task and a high-tech machine capable of seeing inside the brain. That simple recipe can produce powerful science. Such studies now routinely yield images that a neuroscientist used to only dream about. They allow researchers to delineate the complex neural machinery that makes sense of sights and sounds, processes language and derives meaning from experience. But something has been largely missing from these studies: other people. We humans are innately social, yet even social neuroscience, a field explicitly created to explore the neurobiology of human interaction, has not been as social as you would think. Just one example: no one has yet captured the rich complexity of two people’s brain activity as they talk together. “We spend our lives having conversation with each other and forging these bonds,” neuroscientist Thalia Wheatley of Dartmouth College says. “[Yet] we have very little understanding of how it is people actually connect. We know almost nothing about how minds couple.” That is beginning to change. A growing cadre of neuroscientists is using sophisticated technology—and some very complicated math—to capture what happens in one brain, two brains, or even 12 or 15 at a time when their owners are engaged in eye contact, storytelling, joint attention focused on a topic or object, or any other activity that requires social give and take. Although the field of interactive social neuroscience is in its infancy, the hope remains that identifying the neural underpinnings of real social exchange will change our basic understanding of communication and ultimately improve education or inform treatment of the many psychiatric disorders that involve social impairments. © 2019 Scientific American

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 26128 - Posted: 04.11.2019