Links for Keyword: Development of the Brain

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A mother has laid bare the "brutal reality" of bringing up her adoptive son after he was left damaged by exposure to alcohol in the womb. Judith Knox says her 12-year-old son has a range of behavioural problems as a result of Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD). It is estimated that as many as 172,000 people could be affected by the disorder in Scotland. But Ms Knox said it took six years for her son to be properly diagnosed. FASD is an umbrella term that describes the adverse physical and emotional conditions that affect people whose mother drank during pregnancy. A new support service for parents and carers, called FASD Hub Scotland, has now been launched. Ms Knox, who does not want to name her son or identify him through recent pictures, said the service was long overdue. She told BBC Scotland: "This has put a lot of strain on the family. "Your parenting is always being scrutinised and he just wants 100% of your attention, 100% of the time." The 51-year-old and her ex-husband adopted their son at the age of seven months and he quickly began to exhibit a raft of worrying behaviour. This included biting his fingers until they bled in a bid to stave off sleep, picking plaster from the walls to eat and ignoring the range of toys his family had bought him. Her son was eventually diagnosed with FASD at the age of six, after doctors initially wrongly thought he had Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. But his behaviour continued to push his family to their limits.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26340 - Posted: 06.20.2019

Children can keep full visual perception — the ability to process and understand visual information — after brain surgery for severe epilepsy, according to a study funded by the National Eye Institute (NEI), part of the National Institutes of Health. While brain surgery can halt seizures, it carries significant risks, including an impairment in visual perception. However, a new report by Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh, researchers from a study of children who had undergone epilepsy surgery suggests that the lasting effects on visual perception can be minimal, even among children who lost tissue in the brain’s visual centers. Normal visual function requires not just information sent from the eye (sight), but also processing in the brain that allows us to understand and act on that information (perception). Signals from the eye are first processed in the early visual cortex, a region at the back of the brain that is necessary for sight. They then travel through other parts of the cerebral cortex, enabling recognition of patterns, faces, objects, scenes, and written words. In adults, even if their sight is still present, injury or removal of even a small area of the brain’s vision processing centers can lead to dramatic, permanent loss of perception, making them unable to recognize faces, locations, or to read, for example. But in children, who are still developing, this part of the brain appears able to rewire itself, a process known as plasticity. “Although there are studies of the memory and language function of children who have parts of the brain removed surgically for the treatment of epilepsy, there have been rather few studies that examine the impact of the surgery on the visual system of the brain and the resulting perceptual behavior,” said Marlene Behrmann, Ph.D., senior author of the study. “We aimed to close this gap.”

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 10: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 7: Vision: From Eye to Brain
Link ID: 26303 - Posted: 06.05.2019

Laura Sanders A teenager’s brain does not magically mature into its reasoned, adult form the night before his or her 18th birthday. Instead, aspects of brain development stretch into a person’s 20s — a protracted fine-tuning with serious implications for young people caught in the U.S. justice system, argues cognitive neuroscientist B.J. Casey of Yale University. In the May 22 Neuron, Casey describes the heartbreaking case of Kalief Browder, sent at age 16 to Rikers Island correctional facility in New York City after being accused of stealing a backpack. Unable to come up with the $3,000 bail, Browder spent three years in the violent jail before his case was ultimately dropped. About two-thirds of his time in custody was spent in solitary confinement — “a terrible place for a child to have to grow up,” Casey says. Two years after his 2013 release, Browder died from suicide. Casey uses the case to highlight how the criminal justice system — and the accompanying violence, stress and isolation (SN: 12/8/18, p. 11) that come with being incarcerated — can interfere with brain development in adolescents and children. Other recent stories of immigrant children being separated from their families and held in detention centers have raised similar concerns (SN Online: 6/20/18). Studies with lab animals and brain imaging experiments in people show that chronic stress and other assaults “impact the very brain circuitry that is changing so radically during adolescence,” Casey says. An abundance of science says that “the way we’re treating our young people is not the way to a healthy development.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 26262 - Posted: 05.23.2019

By Nathaniel Scharping | Don’t get a big head, your mother may have told you. That’s good advice, but it comes too late for most of us. Humans have had big heads, relatively speaking, for hundreds of thousands of years, much to our mothers’ dismay. Our oversize noggins are a literal pain during childbirth. Babies have to twist and turn as they exit the birth canal, sometimes leading to complications that necessitate surgery. And while big heads can be painful for the mother, they can downright transformative for babies: A fetus’ pliable skull deforms during birth like putty squeezed through a tube to allow it to pass into the world. This cranial deformation has been known about for a long time, but in a new study, scientists from France and the U.S. actually watched it happen using an MRI machine during labor. The images, published in a study in PLOS One, show how the skulls (and brains) of seven infants squished and warped during birth to pass through the birth canal. They also shine new light on how much our skulls change shape as we’re born. The researchers recruited pregnant women in France to undergo an MRI a few weeks before pregnancy and another in the minutes before they began to actually give birth. In total, seven women were scanned in the second stage of labor, when the baby begins to make its way out of the uterus. They were then rushed to the maternity ward to actually complete giving birth.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System
Link ID: 26252 - Posted: 05.20.2019

Before he was born, his parents knew their boy was in trouble. That was clear from what their doctors' saw in their baby's ultrasound. And tragically, the boy died when he was only ten months old. But in his short life, he left behind a valuable legacy by helping scientists understand a crucial type of brain cell. That's because — as it turned out — the child had none. "One of the things about being a pediatric geneticist is on any given day you can see a patient you could spend the rest of your life or your career thinking about," Dr. James Bennett told Quirks & Quarks host Bob McDonald. Dr. Bennett is a physician and researcher from Seattle Children's Hospital and assistant professor of pediatric genetics at the University of Washington. Devastating problems with brain development On the first day he met the child — the boy's very first day of life — Dr. Bennett said he could tell this baby needed a lot of support. The baby was having difficulty breathing, had an enlarged head as well as some very significant abnormalities of his brain. "Every single part of his brain was affected. There was no connection between the left side and the right side of his brain. And there was too much fluid on the brain — that the spaces that hold fluid around the brain were enlarged. And the white matter, which is the part of the brain that sort of connects the neurons — you can think of it as sort of the wires connecting things in the brain — was decreased and abnormal," said Dr. Bennett. Scientists had never seen a medical mystery like this before, so Dr. Bennett was determined to figure out what was wrong with the infant. He he undertook a "diagnostic odyssey" to identify the cause of this extremely rare condition. ©2019 CBC/Radio-Canada

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 26251 - Posted: 05.20.2019

By Shubham Saharan Thomas Jessell, renowned neurologist and former director of and key contributor to the founding of Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, has died. He was 67. In a statement to MBBI affiliates, Institute co-directors Rui Costa, Eric Kandel, and Richard Axel attributed Jessell’s death to a rapidly-progressing neurodegenerative disorder. Jessell was endowed under the Claire Tow Professorship in Motor Neuron Disorders in the neuroscience and biochemistry and molecular biophysics departments. He was well known for his research on chemical signals and neurological circuits. Originally an assistant professor in the department of neurobiology at Harvard Medical School, Jessell moved to Columbia in 1985 to work as an investigator for the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, a philanthropic organization that provides funding for biological and medical research as well as scientific education. Jessell, along with Axel and Kandel from the department of neuroscience, played a significant role in founding the MBBI, a center dedicated to neuroscience research, which is located at the Jerome L. Greene Science Center on the Manhattanville campus. In March 2018, HHMI stripped Jessell of all titles and grants and announced that it would stop funding his lab starting May 31. Columbia began investigating Jessell’s misconduct in December 2017, after which he was removed from all administrative positions, including his co-directorship of the MBBI, for engaging in a years-long relationship that violated the University policy on consensual romantic and sexual relationships between faculty and students. Copyright Spectator Publishing Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26187 - Posted: 05.01.2019

By Nicholas Wade Sydney Brenner, a South African-born biologist who helped determine the nature of the genetic code and shared a Nobel Prize in 2002 for developing a tiny transparent worm into a test bed for biological discoveries, died on Friday in Singapore. He was 92. He had lived and worked in Singapore in recent years, affiliated with the government-sponsored Agency for Science, Technology and Research, which confirmed his death. A witty, wide-ranging scientist, Dr. Brenner was a central player in the golden age of molecular biology, which extended from the discovery of the structure of DNA in 1953 to the mid-1960s. He then showed, in experiments with a roundworm known as C. elegans, how it might be possible to decode the human genome. That work laid the basis for the genomic phase of biology. Later, in a project still coming to fruition, he focused on understanding the functioning of the brain. “I think my real skills are in getting things started,” he said in his autobiography, “My Life in Science” (2001). “In fact, that’s what I enjoy most, the opening game. And I’m afraid that once it gets past that point, I get rather bored and want to do other things.” As a young South African studying at Oxford University, he was one of the first people to view the model of DNA that had been constructed in Cambridge, England, by Francis H. C. Crick and James D. Watson. He was 22 at the time and would call it the most exciting day of his life. “The double helix was a revelatory experience; for me everything fell into place, and my future scientific life was decided there and then,” Dr. Brenner wrote. Impressed by Dr. Brenner’s insights and ready humor, Dr. Crick recruited him to Cambridge a few years later. Dr. Crick, a theoretical biologist, liked to have with him someone he could bounce ideas off. Dr. Watson had played this role in the discovery of DNA, and Dr. Brenner became his successor, sharing an office with Dr. Crick for 20 years at the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology at Cambridge. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26116 - Posted: 04.06.2019

By Heather Murphy An essential rite of passage for many an otherwise nonviolent child involves cutting an earthworm down the middle and watching as the two halves squirm. One half — the one with the brain — will typically grow into a full worm. Scientists have now identified the master control gene responsible for that regrowth in one particularly hardy type of worm. How hardy? Chop the three-banded panther worm in halves or thirds — either crosswise or diagonally — and each segment will regenerate just fine, said Mansi Srivastava, a professor of organismic and evolutionary biology at Harvard University. Within eight days, you’ll have two or three fully functioning new worms, mouth, brain and all. “It’s hard to kill them,” she said. Dr. Srivastava and her co-authors published a paper Friday outlining their genetic discovery. The process is known as “full-body regeneration,” and the term has captured the imagination of many individuals ready for a fresh start or second self. “I’ll get a new body right now!!” one person wrote in a lively Reddit thread about the finding, adding “I knew it was coming!!” Another posted: “Two of me working together and sharing our stuff? Count me in!” Headlines suggesting that the scientists have found the DNA switch that could lead to human limb regrowth have fueled hopes that the discovery will offer precisely that. Unfortunately, no one is growing a new arm or getting a second body with the help of marine worm DNA anytime soon, said Peter W. Reddien, a biologist with M.I.T.’s Whitehead Institute for Biomedical Research and another author of the paper. But he added that he didn’t totally blame people for getting carried away because his field truly is stranger than fiction. “You can damage large amounts of the heart muscle of a fish and the heart will come back,” he said. “You can remove the jaw or even the entire head and some animals will grow it back. It’s amazing.” What’s accurate in this particular case is that a master control gene known as E.G.R. — or early growth response — is present in many kinds of organisms, including humans. An injury that pierces skin often activates it, he said. But activation is just one small piece of a larger puzzle. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26058 - Posted: 03.21.2019

Hannah Devlin Science correspondent Scientists have grown a miniature brain in a dish with a spinal cord and muscles attached, an advance that promises to accelerate the study of conditions such as motor neurone disease. The lentil-sized grey blob of human brain cells were seen to spontaneously send out tendril-like connections to link up with the spinal cord and muscle tissue, which was taken from a mouse. The muscles were then seen to visibly contract under the control of the so-called brain organoid. The research is is the latest in a series of increasingly sophisticated approximations of the human brain grown in the laboratory – this time with something approaching a central nervous system attached. Madeline Lancaster, who led the work at the Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, said: “We like to think of them as mini-brains on the move.” The scientists used a new method to grow the miniature brain from human stem cells, which allowed the organoid to reach a more sophisticated stage of development than previous experiments. The latest blob shows similarities, in terms of the variety of neurons and their organisation, to the human foetal brain at 12-16 weeks of pregnancy. However, the scientists said the structure was still too small and primitive to have anything approaching thoughts, feelings or consciousness. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 26050 - Posted: 03.19.2019

Ian Sample Science editor Scientists are developing a radical form of gene therapy that could cure a devastating medical disorder by mending mutations in the brains of foetuses in the womb. The treatment, which has never been attempted before, would involve doctors injecting the feotus’s brain with a harmless virus that infects the neurons and delivers a suite of molecules that correct the genetic faults. Tests suggest that the therapy will be most effective around the second trimester, when their brains are in the early stages of development. “We believe that this could provide a treatment, if not a cure, depending on when it’s injected,” said Mark Zylka, a a neurobiologist at the University of North Carolina. The therapy is aimed at a rare brain disorder known as Angelman syndrome, which affects one in 15,000 births. Children with the condition have small brains and often experience seizures and problems with walking and sleeping. They can live their whole lives without speaking a word. Zylka said children with Angelman syndrome can have such severe sleeping difficulties that parents can feel they must lock them in their rooms at night to prevent them from getting up and having accidents around the house. Healthy people tend to have two copies of every gene in the genetic code, one inherited from their mother and the other from their father. But both copies are not always switched on. For normal brain development, the mother’s copy of a gene called UBE3A is switched on, while the father’s copy is silenced. © 2019 Guardian News & Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25975 - Posted: 02.19.2019

By Perri Klass, M.D. A major international study provides new reassurance around the question of whether young children who have anesthesia are more likely to develop learning disabilities The issue has troubled pediatric anesthesiologists and parents for well over a decade, after research on animals suggested that there was a connection. Do the drugs that make it possible to perform vital surgical procedures without pain cause lasting damage to the developing human brain? Several large studies have found ways to tease out the effects of actual surgeries and anesthetic exposures on children. The new study, in the British journal The Lancet, is a randomized controlled trial involving more than 700 infants who needed hernia repairs. The babies, at 28 hospitals in seven countries, were randomly assigned to receive either general anesthesia or regional (spinal) anesthesia for these short operations — the mean duration of general anesthesia was 54 minutes. The study, called the GAS study — for general anesthesia compared to spinal — compared neurodevelopmental outcomes at 5 years of age, and found no significant difference in the children’s performance in the two groups. Dr. Andrew Davidson, a professor in the department of anesthesia at the Royal Children’s Hospital of Melbourne and one of the two lead investigators on the trial, said that this prospective, randomized design allows researchers to avoid many confounding factors that have complicated previous studies, and answer a very specific question. Preliminary data from testing the children at age 2 had shown no significant differences between the groups, and the children were then evaluated at the age of school entry. “If you have an hour of anesthesia as a child, then you are at no greater risk of deficits of cognition at the age of 5,” Dr. Davidson said. “It doesn’t increase the risk of poor neurodevelopmental outcome.” © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25972 - Posted: 02.18.2019

Sujata Gupta The task was designed to scare the kids. One by one, adults guided children, ranging in age from 3 to 7, into a dimly lit room containing a mysterious covered mound. To build anticipation, the adults intoned, “I have something in here to show you,” or “Let’s be quiet so it doesn’t wake up.” The adult then uncovered the mound — revealed to be a terrarium — and pulled out a realistic looking plastic snake. Throughout the 90-second setup, each child wore a small motion sensor affixed to his or her belt. Those sensors measured the child’s movements, such as when they sped up or twisted around, at 100 times per second. Researchers wanted to see if the movements during a scary situation differed between children diagnosed with depression or anxiety and children without such a diagnosis. It turns out they did. Children with a diagnosis turned further away from the perceived threat — the covered terrarium — than those without a diagnosis. In fact, the sensors could identify very young children who have depression or anxiety about 80 percent of the time, researchers report January 16 in PLOS One. Such a tool could be useful because, even as it’s become widely accepted that children as young as age 3 can suffer from mental health disorders, diagnosis remains difficult. Such children often escape notice because they hold their emotions inside. It’s increasingly clear, though, that these children are at risk of mental and physical health problems later in life, says Lisabeth DiLalla, a developmental psychologist at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine in Carbondale. “The question is: ‘Can we turn that around?’” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2019

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 25936 - Posted: 02.06.2019

By Jen Gunter Pregnant women are given a long list of medical recommendations that can come across as patriarchal don’ts: Don’t eat raw fish. Don’t consume deli meats. Don’t do hot yoga! Don’t drink. There’s scientific evidence that these activities can have negative impacts on the health of the fetus, but the one that seems to be the source of most debate is alcohol. After all, the French do it, don’t they? And many people born in the 1960s or earlier had mothers who drank. And we’re fine, right? My mother had a fairly regular glass of rye and ginger ale when she was pregnant with me. And she smoked. And I graduated from medical school at the age of 23. So my opinion, especially as someone who believes strongly in a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body, may come as a surprise: It’s medically best not to drink alcohol in pregnancy. Not even a little. The source of that viewpoint? My training and practice as an OB/GYN. Some attribute this abstinence approach to the patriarchy: Clearly we doctors know that moderate alcohol is safe (we don’t!), and we just don’t trust women with that knowledge. According to this theory, we think a woman who hears that an occasional drink is O.K. will blithely go on a bender. (We don’t think that.) Some also say that, in an effort to avoid frivolous lawsuits, doctors advise against alcohol while using a nudge-nudge-wink-wink to insinuate that a glass or two is fine. But this isn’t about sexism (not this time) or dodging litigation. This is about facts. How women use those facts is, of course, their choice. The truth is that fetal alcohol syndrome is far more common than people think, and we have no ability to say accurately what level of alcohol consumption is risk free. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 25935 - Posted: 02.06.2019

Andrew Scheyer We live in a medicated era. Recent data indicate that more than half of Americans are currently taking prescription drugs. Among pregnant women this number skyrockets to more than 80 percent. One of these women was a 24-year-old from California named Carol, whom I met and befriended through an online drug research forum. After weeks of debilitating morning sickness, persistent pain in her back and hips, and chronic anxiety about becoming a mother, Carol was taking a tranquilizer called alprazolam as needed, plus daily doses of acetaminophen and an anti-nausea drug called metoclopramide. Carol felt uneasy using the medications. Like many Americans and an even greater proportion of Europeans, Carol (who asked that I not use her surname) favors home remedies over pharmaceutical treatments. “I’ll always choose a tea over a pill,” she says. And so, as she sought relief during her pregnancy, she turned to marijuana. In the summer of 2007, Carol was surrounded by people touting the wonders of cannabis as a panacea for diseases from depression to glaucoma and myriad ailments in between—including nausea, pain, and anxiety. Worried that her suboptimal diet and poor sleep could be affecting the development of her child, she considered using small amounts of cannabis instead of the multiple prescription medications suggested by her doctor. Seventy percent of women in the United States believe that there is “slight or no risk of harm” in using can­nabis during pregnancy. © 1986 - 2019 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25898 - Posted: 01.24.2019

By Scott Barry Kaufman Robert Plomin is a legend. For over 40 years he has been on the forefront of our understanding of the genetic and environmental influences on human behavior. Based on his groundbreaking work on twins, he showed that genes really do have a substantial influence on our psychological traits-- we are not born a lump of clay. Plomin coined the phrase "non-shared environment," and he was ranked as the 71st most "eminent psychologists of the 20th century." When I taught a course on human intelligence at NYU, I repeatedly cited his research and quoted his measured language and caution surrounding the interpretation of his findings. All of this makes it rather bewildering that, ever since his book Blueprint: How DNA Makes Us Who We Are came out, he has been spreading a lot of outdated misinformation in the media that is not supported by the latest science of genetics, including his own work. Also, many of his statements have been riddled with contradictions and logical non sequiturs, and some of his more exaggerated rhetoric is even potentially dangerous if actually applied to educational selection. Don't get me wrong: I am excited about the rapid progress scientists are making in using information about DNA to predict individual differences in intellectual functioning and personality. But I firmly believe we need to be more thoughtful in determining what relevance these rapidly emerging findings have for the actual individual human beings who are inhabited by the DNA.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25888 - Posted: 01.21.2019

By C. Claiborne Ray Many immature mammals practice hunting and fighting skills in preparation for the real thing. Anyone who has raised a litter of kittens has observed their almost continuous cycles of pursuit and evasion, capture and attempted evisceration, and sometimes even a mock version of the killing bite. Fortunately, the rules of the game seem to stop a killer kitten short of committing real bodily harm to a littermate. To the human observer, it looks like fun, but there is an underlying evolutionary utility to such romps. At least one researcher has suggested that such games, if games they are, are not just physical practice, but a way of preparing animals for mental and emotional reaction to unexpected perils. The avian world also includes examples of what appears to be play. Absent the more detailed brain research done in mammals, this is a hard hypothesis to test conclusively. But some scientists believe that birds do things for pure pleasure, not just to practice useful skills, and that birds have the necessary brain receptors for reward and pleasure, as do mammals. As for other animals, there is at least anecdotal evidence that some turtles and octopuses engage in play-like activities. © 2019 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25845 - Posted: 01.08.2019

By Benedict Carey A generation ago, parents worried about the effects of TV; before that, it was radio. Now, the concern is “screen time,” a catchall term for the amount of time that children, especially preteens and teenagers, spend interacting with TVs, computers, smartphones, digital pads, and video games. This age group draws particular attention because screen immersion rises sharply during adolescence, and because brain development accelerates then, too, as neural networks are pruned and consolidated in the transition to adulthood. On Sunday evening, CBS’s “60 Minutes” reported on early results from the A.B.C.D. Study (for Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development), a $300 million project financed by the National Institutes of Health. The study aims to reveal how brain development is affected by a range of experiences, including substance use, concussions, and screen time. As part of an exposé on screen time, “60 Minutes” reported that heavy screen use was associated with lower scores on some aptitude tests, and to accelerated “cortical thinning" — a natural process — in some children. But the data is preliminary, and it’s unclear whether the effects are lasting or even meaningful. Does screen addiction change the brain? Yes, but so does every other activity that children engage in: sleep, homework, playing soccer, arguing, growing up in poverty, reading, vaping behind the school. The adolescent brain continually changes, or “rewires” itself, in response to daily experience, and that adaptation continues into the early to mid 20s. What scientists want to learn is whether screen time, at some threshold, causes any measurable differences in adolescent brain structure or function, and whether those differences are meaningful. Do they cause attention deficits, mood problems, or delays in reading or problem-solving ability? © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25772 - Posted: 12.11.2018

Rhitu Chatterjee Researchers have traced a connection between some infections and mental illnesses like schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder. New research from Denmark bolsters that connection. The study, published Thursday in JAMA Psychiatry, shows that a wide variety of infections, even common ones like bronchitis, are linked to a higher risk of many mental illnesses in children and adolescents. The findings support the idea that infections affect mental health, possibly by influencing the immune system. "This idea that activation of the body's immune inflammatory system as a causative factor in ... select mental illnesses is one that has really caught on," says Dr. Roger McIntyre, a professor of psychology and pharmacology at the University of Toronto, who wasn't involved in the study. "This study adds to that generally, but builds the case further in a compelling way." In the new study, the researchers gathered data on hospitalizations and prescription medications for the 1.1 million children born in Denmark between Jan. 1, 1995, and June 30, 2012. "We could follow individuals from birth, so there was no missing information during the study period," says Dr. Ole Köhler-Forsberg of Aarhus University Hospital, a neuroscientist and one of the authors of the study. Köhler-Forsberg and his colleagues used two national registries — one to get data on hospitalizations because of severe infections like pneumonia and another for data on antimicrobial or antiparasitic medications prescribed to children for less severe infections. "Most of them are those infections that you and I and all others have experienced," says Köhler-Forsberg. © 2018 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 25756 - Posted: 12.06.2018

Sara Reardon ‘Mini brains’ grown in a dish have spontaneously produced human-like brain waves for the first time — and the electrical patterns look similar to those seen in premature babies. The advancement could help scientists to study early brain development. Research in this area has been slow, partly because it is difficult to obtain fetal-tissue samples for analysis and nearly impossible to examine a fetus in utero. Many researchers are excited about the promise of these ‘organoids’, which, when grown as 3D cultures, can develop some of the complex structures seen in brains. But the technology also raises questions about the ethics of creating miniature organs that could develop consciousness. A team of researchers led by neuroscientist Alysson Muotri of the University of California, San Diego, coaxed human stem cells to form tissue from the cortex — a brain region that controls cognition and interprets sensory information. They grew hundreds of brain organoids in culture for 10 months, and tested individual cells to confirm that they expressed the same collection of genes seen in typical developing human brains1. The group presented the work at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this month. Muotri and his colleagues continuously recorded electrical patterns, or electroencephalogram (EEG) activity, across the surface of the mini brains. By six months, the organoids were firing at a higher rate than other brain organoids previously created, which surprised the team. © 2018 Springer Nature Limited.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 25694 - Posted: 11.16.2018

by Robin McKie Robert Shafran’s first inkling that his life would soon be turned on its head occurred on his first day at college in upstate New York in 1980. His fellow students greeted him like a long-lost friend. “Guys slapped me on the back, girls hugged and kissed me,” he recalls. Yet Robert had never set foot inside Sullivan County Community College until that day. Another student, Eddy Galland, who had studied at the college the previous year, was the cause of the confusion, it transpired. Eddy was his spitting image, said classmates. Robert was intrigued and went to Eddy’s home to confront him. Sign up for Lab Notes - the Guardian's weekly science update Read more “As I reached out to knock on the door, it opened – and there I am,” says Robert, recalling his first meeting with Eddy in the forthcoming documentary Three Identical Strangers. The two young men had the same facial features, the same heavy build, the same dark complexions, the same mops of black curly hair – and the same birthday: 12 July 1961. They were identical twins, a fact swiftly confirmed from hospital records. Each knew he had been adopted but neither was aware he had a twin. Their story made headlines across the US. One reader – David Kellman, a student at a different college – was particularly interested. Robert and Eddy also looked astonishingly like him. So he contacted Eddy’s adoptive mother, who was stunned to come across, in only a few weeks, two young men who were identical in appearance to her son. “My God, they are coming out of the woodwork,” she complained. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25673 - Posted: 11.12.2018