Chapter 2. Functional Neuroanatomy: The Cells and Structure of the Nervous System

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By McKenzie Prillaman Cracking the code to brain cancer treatment might start with cracking the brain’s protective shield. Nearly impenetrable walls of jam-packed cells line most of the brain’s blood vessels. Although this blood-brain barrier protects the organ from harmful invaders, it also prevents many medications from reaching the brain. Now, scientists can get a powerful chemotherapy drug into the human brain by temporarily opening its protective shield with ultrasound and tiny bubbles. The early-stage clinical trial, described May 2 in the Lancet Oncology, could lead to new treatments for those with brain cancer. Better treatments are especially needed for glioblastoma, a common and aggressive type of brain tumor. Even after surgical removal, another mass tends to grow in its place. “There’s really no established treatment for when the tumors come back,” says neurosurgeon Adam Sonabend of the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago. Patients with recurrent glioblastomas “don’t have any meaningful therapeutic options, so we were exploring new ways of treating them.” After the initial tumor has been removed, patients typically receive a relatively weak chemotherapy drug that can bypass the brain’s barricade. More potent drugs could help destroy any lingering disease — if the medicines could break through the barrier. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 28763 - Posted: 05.03.2023

By Nora Bradford The classical view of how the human brain controls voluntary movement might not tell the whole story. That map of the primary motor cortex — the motor homunculus — shows how this brain region is divided into sections assigned to each body part that can be controlled voluntarily (SN: 6/16/15). It puts your toes next to your ankle, and your neck next to your thumb. The space each part takes up on the cortex is also proportional to how much control one has over that part. Each finger, for example, takes up more space than a whole thigh. A new map reveals that in addition to having regions devoted to specific body parts, three newfound areas control integrative, whole-body actions. And representations of where specific body parts fall on this map are organized differently than previously thought, researchers report April 19 in Nature. Research in monkeys had hinted at this. “There is a whole cohort of people who have known for 50 years that the homunculus isn’t quite right,” says Evan Gordon, a neuroscientist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. But ever since pioneering brain-mapping work by neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield starting in the 1930s, the homunculus has reigned supreme in neuroscience. Gordon and his colleagues study synchronized activity and communication between different brain regions. They noticed some spots in the primary motor cortex were linked to unexpected areas involved in action control and pain perception. Because that didn’t fit with the homunculus map, they wrote it off as a result of imperfect data. “But we kept seeing it, and it kept bugging us,” Gordon says. So the team gathered functional MRI data on volunteers as they performed various tasks. Two participants completed simple movements like moving just their eyebrows or toes, as well as complex tasks like simultaneously rotating their wrist and moving their foot from side to side. The fMRI data revealed which parts of the brain activated at the same time as each task was done, allowing the researchers to trace which regions were functionally connected to one another. Seven more participants were recorded while not doing any particular task in order to look at how brain areas communicate during rest. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 28748 - Posted: 04.22.2023

Max Kozlov The bizarre-looking ‘homunculus’ is one of neuroscience’s most fundamental diagrams. Found in countless textbooks, it depicts a deformed constellation of body parts mapped onto a narrow strip of the brain, showing the corresponding brain regions that control each part. But a study published in Nature1 on 19 April reveals that this brain strip, called the primary motor cortex, is much more complex than the famous diagram suggests. It might coordinate complex movements involving multiple muscles through connections to brain regions responsible for critical thinking, maintaining the body’s physiology and planning actions. The new results could help scientists better understand and treat brain injuries. “This study is very interesting and very important,” says Michael Graziano, a neuroscientist at Princeton University in New Jersey. It’s becoming clear that the primary motor cortex isn’t “just a simple roster of muscles down the brain that control the toes to the tongue”, he says. Little man in the brain The idea of the homunculus dates to the late nineteenth century, when researchers noticed that electrically stimulating the primary motor cortex corresponded to specific body parts twitching. Later work found that some body parts, such as the hands, feet and mouth, took up a disproportionate amount of space in the primary motor cortex compared with the rest of the body. In 1937, these findings culminated with the first publication of the motor homunculus, which translates to ‘little man’ in Latin. Neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield’s 1948 diagram of the motor homunculus (left) shows the areas of the primary motor cortex that control each body part. A new study redraws the diagram (right), adding regions connected to brain areas responsible for coordinating complex movements.Credit: E. Gordon et al./Nature © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 28747 - Posted: 04.22.2023

BySara Reardon Anyone who’s ever owned a telescope has probably tried looking through the wrong end to see whether it works in reverse—that is, like a microscope. Spoiler alert: It doesn’t. Now, a team of researchers inspired by the strange eyes of a sea creature has figured out a way to do it. By flipping the mirrors and lenses used in certain types of telescopes, they have created a new kind of microscope that can be used to image samples floating in any type of liquid—even the insides of transparent organs—while retaining enough light to allow for high magnification. The design could help scientists achieve high enough magnification to study tiny structures such as the long, skinny axons that connect neurons in the brain or individual proteins or RNA molecules inside cells. “It’s nice to see even something as basic as a lens could still bring interest and there's still room there to do some work that would help a lot of people,” says Kimani Touissant, an electrical engineer at Brown University. He says the design could be useful in his work, in which he uses lasers to etch patterns into gels that mimic collagen and act as scaffolds for cells. At very high magnification, light trained on a sample can scatter around it, blurring and dimming the image. To get around that problem, scientists using traditional, lens-based microscopes cover their sample with a thin layer of oil or water, then dip their device’s lens into the liquid, minimizing the degree of light scattering. But this technique requires instruments to have different lenses for different types of liquid, making it an expensive, finicky process and limiting the ways that samples can be prepared. Enter Fabian Voigt, a molecular biologist at Harvard University and inventor of the new design. He was reading a book about animal vision when he encountered the odd case of scallops’ eyes. Unlike most animals, whose eyes feature retinas that send images to the brain, scallops have mantles covered with hundreds of tiny blue dots, each of which contains a curved mirror at its back. As light passes through each eye’s lens, its inner mirror reflects the light back onto the creature’s photoreceptors to create an image that then allows the scallop to respond to its environment.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 28742 - Posted: 04.18.2023

Miryam Naddaf Virtual models representing the brains of people with epilepsy could help to enable more-effective treatments of the disease by showing neurosurgeons precisely which zones are responsible for seizures. The models, created using a computational system known as the Virtual Epileptic Patient (VEP), have been developed as part of the Human Brain Project (HBP), a ten-year European initiative focused on digital brain research. The approach is being tested in a clinical trial called EPINOV, to evaluate whether it improves the success rate of epilepsy surgery. “It’s an example of personalized medicine,” says Aswin Chari, a neurosurgeon at University College London. VEP uses “the patient’s own brain scans [and] the patient’s own brainwave-recording data to build a model and improve our understanding of where their seizures are coming from”. Life-changing surgery Epileptic seizures are brought on by abnormal brain activity, and around one-third of the 50 million people living with epilepsy worldwide do not respond to anti-seizure drugs. “For those people, surgery is a huge game changer,” says Chari. It aims to free patients from seizures by removing parts of the epileptogenic zone — the brain region that is thought to initiate seizures. To identify the epileptogenic zone, clinicians currently use scanning techniques such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and electroencephalogram (EEG) to investigate brain activity. They also perform stereoelectroencephalography (SEEG), which involves placing up to 16 electrodes, each 7 centimetres long, through the skull to monitor the activity of specific areas for 1–2 weeks. © 2023 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Epilepsy; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28732 - Posted: 04.09.2023

By Simon Makin Waves of cerebrospinal fluid which normally wash over brains during sleep can be made to pulse in the brains of people who are wide awake, a new study finds. The clear fluid may flush out harmful waste, such as the sticky proteins that accumulate in Alzheimer’s disease (SN: 7/15/18). So being able to control the fluid’s flow in the brain could possibly one day have implications for treating certain brain disorders. “I think this [finding] will help with many neurological disorders,” says Jonathan Kipnis, a neuroscientist at Washington University in St. Louis who was not involved in the study. “Think of Formula One. You can have the best car and driver, but without a great maintenance crew, that driver will not win the race.” Spinal fluid flow in the brain is a major part of that maintenance crew, he says. But he and other researchers, including the study’s authors, caution that any potential therapeutic applications are still far off. In 2019, neuroscientist Laura Lewis of Boston University and colleagues reported that strong waves of cerebrospinal fluid wash through our brains while we slumber, suggesting that one unappreciated role of sleep may be to give the brain a deep clean (SN: 10/31/19). And the team showed that the slow neural oscillations that characterize deep, non-REM sleep occur in lockstep with the waves of spinal fluid through the brain. “If you drop your clothes in a bath of water, eventually dirt will come out. But if you swish them back and forth, things are moving much more effectively,” Lewis says. “That’s the analogy I think of.” These flows were far larger than the small, rhythmic influences that one’s breathing and heartbeat have on spinal fluid. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Sleep
Link ID: 28727 - Posted: 04.01.2023

Suzana Herculano-Houzel Neuroscientists have long assumed that neurons are greedy, hungry units that demand more energy when they become more active, and the circulatory system complies by providing as much blood as they require to fuel their activity. Indeed, as neuronal activity increases in response to a task, blood flow to that part of the brain increases even more than its rate of energy use, leading to a surplus. This increase is the basis of common functional imaging technology that generates colored maps of brain activity. Scientists used to interpret this apparent mismatch in blood flow and energy demand as evidence that there is no shortage of blood supply to the brain. The idea of a nonlimited supply was based on the observation that only about 40% of the oxygen delivered to each part of the brain is used – and this percentage actually drops as parts of the brain become more active. It seemed to make evolutionary sense: The brain would have evolved this faster-than-needed increase in blood flow as a safety feature that guarantees sufficient oxygen delivery at all times. Functional magnetic resonance imaging is one of several ways to measure the brain. But does blood distribution in the brain actually support a demand-based system? As a neuroscientist myself, I had previously examined a number of other assumptions about the most basic facts about brains and found that they didn’t pan out. To name a few: Human brains don’t have 100 billion neurons, though they do have the most cortical neurons of any species; the degree of folding of the cerebral cortex does not indicate how many neurons are present; and it’s not larger animals that live longer, but those with more neurons in their cortex. I believe that figuring out what determines blood supply to the brain is essential to understanding how brains work in health and disease. It’s like how cities need to figure out whether the current electrical grid will be enough to support a future population increase. Brains, like cities, only work if they have enough energy supplied. © 2010–2023, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Stroke; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28726 - Posted: 04.01.2023

By Z Paige L’Erario New Research Points to Causes for Brain Disorders with No Obvious Injury A picture of a human brain taken by a positron emission tomography scanner, also called PET scan, is seen on a screen on January 9, 2019, at the Regional and University Hospital Center of Brest in France. Credit: Fred Tanneau/Getty Images “Stop faking!” Imagine hearing those words moments after your doctor diagnosed you with, say, a stroke or a brain tumor. That sounds absurd but for many people diagnosed with a condition called functional neurological disorder (FND), this is exactly what happens. Although the disorder is not well known to many people, FND is actually one of the most common conditions that neurologists like myself encounter. In it, abnormal brain functioning causes symptoms to appear. FND comes in many forms, with symptoms that can include seizures, feelings of weakness and movement disorders. People may lose consciousness or their ability to move or walk. Or they may experience abnormal tremors or tics. It can be highly disabling and just as costly as structural neurological conditions such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. Although men can develop FND, young to middle-aged women receive this diagnosis most frequently. And during the first two years of the COVID pandemic, FND briefly made international headlines when functional tic-like behaviors spread with social media usage, particularly among adolescent girls.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Stress
Link ID: 28725 - Posted: 04.01.2023

ByJennifer Couzin-Frankel A class of Alzheimer’s drugs that aims to slow cognitive decline, including the antibody lecanemab that was granted accelerated approval in the United States in January, can cause brain shrinkage, researchers report in a new analysis. Although scientists and drug developers have documented this loss of brain volume in clinical trial participants for years, the scientific review, published yesterday in Neurology, is the first to look at data across numerous studies. It also links the brain shrinkage to a better known side effect of the drugs, brain swelling, which often presents without symptoms. “We don’t fully know what these changes might imply,” says Jonathan Jackson, a cognitive neuroscientist at Massachusetts General Hospital. But, “These data are extremely concerning, and it’s likely these changes are detrimental.” The analysis, which found that trial participants taking these Alzheimer’s drugs often developed more brain shrinkage than when they were on a placebo, alarmed Scott Ayton, a neuroscientist at the Florey Institute of Neuroscience and Mental Health in Melbourne, Australia, who led the work. “We’re talking about the possibility of brain damage” from treatment, says Ayton, who was invited by Eisai to join an advisory board on lecanemab’s rollout in Australia if the drug is approved there. “I find it very peculiar that these data, which are very important, have been completely ignored by the field.” A spokesperson for Eisai suggested there are benign theories for the brain shrinkage, too. The company said that although participants in its pivotal trial did experience “greater cortical volume loss on lecanemab relative to placebo,” those reductions may be due to antibody clearing the protein beta amyloid from the brain, and reducing inflammation. © 2023 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Alzheimers; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28721 - Posted: 03.29.2023

By Allison Parshall Functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, is one of the most advanced tools for understanding how we think. As a person in an fMRI scanner completes various mental tasks, the machine produces mesmerizing and colorful images of their brain in action. Looking at someone’s brain activity this way can tell neuroscientists which brain areas a person is using but not what that individual is thinking, seeing or feeling. Researchers have been trying to crack that code for decades—and now, using artificial intelligence to crunch the numbers, they’ve been making serious progress. Two scientists in Japan recently combined fMRI data with advanced image-generating AI to translate study participants’ brain activity back into pictures that uncannily resembled the ones they viewed during the scans. The original and re-created images can be seen on the researchers’ website. “We can use these kinds of techniques to build potential brain-machine interfaces,” says Yu Takagi, a neuroscientist at Osaka University in Japan and one of the study’s authors. Such future interfaces could one day help people who currently cannot communicate, such as individuals who outwardly appear unresponsive but may still be conscious. The study was recently accepted to be presented at the 2023 Conference on The study has made waves online since it was posted as a preprint (meaning it has not yet been peer-reviewed or published) in December 2022. Online commentators have even compared the technology to “mind reading.” But that description overstates what this technology is capable of, experts say. “I don’t think we’re mind reading,” says Shailee Jain, a computational neuroscientist at the University of Texas at Austin, who was not involved in the new study. “I don’t think the technology is anywhere near to actually being useful for patients—or to being used for bad things—at the moment. But we are getting better, day by day.”

Keyword: Vision; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28708 - Posted: 03.18.2023

By McKenzie Prillaman The wiring of one insect’s brain no longer contains much uncharted territory. All of the nerve cells — and virtually every connection between them — in a larval fruit fly brain have now been mapped, researchers report in the March 10 Science. It’s the most complex whole brain wiring diagram yet created. Previously, just three organisms — a sea squirt and two types of worm — had their brain circuitry fully diagrammed to this resolution. But the brains of those creatures have only a few hundred neurons. The scientists who conducted the new study wanted to understand much more complicated brains. Fruit flies (Drosophila melanogaster) share a wide range of behaviors with humans, including integrating sensory information and learning. Larvae perform nearly all the same actions as adult flies — except for some, like flying and mating — but have smaller brains, making data collection much faster (SN: 7/19/18). The idea for this project came 12 years ago, says neuroscientist Marta Zlatic of the MRC Laboratory of Molecular Biology in Cambridge, England. At that time, she and her colleagues captured electron microscope images of the entire larval fruit fly brain. They then stitched those images together in a computer and manually traced each neuron to create a 3-D rendering of the cells. Finally, the team found the connections where information gets passed between the cells, and even determined the sending and receiving ends. Neurons transmit information to one another in circuits. Exploring the neurons’ connectivity patterns — not just directly linked partners, but also the links of linked cells and so on — revealed 93 different types of neurons. The classes were consistent with preexisting groupings characterized by shape and function. And nearly 75 percent of the most well-connected neurons were tied to the brain’s learning center, indicating the importance of learning in animals. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2023.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 28697 - Posted: 03.11.2023

By Eva Holland Kris Walterson doesn’t remember exactly how he got to the bathroom, very early on a Friday morning — only that once he got himself there, his feet would no longer obey him. He crouched down and tried to lift them up with his hands before sliding to the floor. He didn’t feel panicked about the problem, or even nervous really. But when he tried to get up, he kept falling down again: slamming his back against the bathtub, making a racket of cabinet doors. It didn’t make sense to him then, why his legs wouldn’t lock into place underneath him. He had a pair of fuzzy socks on, and he tried pulling them off, thinking that bare feet might get better traction on the bathroom floor. That didn’t work, either. When his mother came from her bedroom to investigate the noise, he tried to tell her that he couldn’t stand, that he needed her help. But he couldn’t seem to make her understand, and instead of hauling him up she called 911. After he was loaded into an ambulance at his home in Calgary, Alberta, a paramedic warned him that he would soon hear the sirens, and he did. The sound is one of the last things he remembers from that morning. Walterson, who was 60, was experiencing a severe ischemic stroke — the type of stroke caused by a blockage, usually a blood clot, in a blood vessel of the brain. The ischemic variety represents roughly 85 percent of all strokes. The other type, hemorrhagic stroke, is a yin to the ischemic yang: While a blockage prevents blood flow to portions of the brain, starving it of oxygen, a hemorrhage means blood is unleashed, flowing when and where it shouldn’t. In both cases, too much blood or too little, a result is the rapid death of the affected brain cells. When Walterson arrived at Foothills Medical Center, a large hospital in Calgary, he was rushed to the imaging department, where CT scans confirmed the existence and location of the clot. It was an M1 occlusion, meaning a blockage in the first and largest branch of his middle cerebral artery. © 2023 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stroke
Link ID: 28688 - Posted: 03.04.2023

Rachel Treisman A man in southwest Florida died after becoming infected with a rare brain-eating amoeba, which state health officials say was "possibly as a result of sinus rinse practices utilizing tap water." The Florida Department of Health in Charlotte County confirmed Thursday that the unidentified man died of Naegleria fowleri. State and local health and environmental agencies "continue to coordinate on this ongoing investigation, implement protective measures, and take any necessary corrective actions," they added. The single-celled amoeba lives in warm fresh water and, once ingested through the nose, can cause a rare but almost-always fatal brain infection known as primary amebic meningoencephalitis (PAM). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has tallied 157 PAM infections in the U.S. between 1962 and 2022, with only four known survivors (a fifth, a Florida teenager, has been fighting for his life since last summer, according to an online fundraiser by his family). Agency data suggests this is the first such infection ever reported in February or March. Infections are most common in Southern states and during warmer months, when more people are swimming — and submerging their heads — in lakes and rivers. But they can also happen when people use contaminated tap water to rinse their sinuses, either as part of a religious ritual or an at-home cold remedy. The CDC says the disease progresses rapidly and usually causes death within about five days of symptom onset. © 2023 npr

Keyword: Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 28685 - Posted: 03.04.2023

By Rodrigo Pérez Ortega Was Tyrannosaurus rex as smart as a baboon? Scientists don’t like to compare intelligence between species (everyone has their own talents, after all), but a controversial new study suggests some dino brains were as densely packed with neurons as those of modern primates. If so, that would mean they were very smart—more than researchers previously thought—and could have achieved feats only humans and other very intelligent animals have, such as using tools. The findings, reported last week in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, are making waves among paleontologists on social media and beyond. Some are applauding the paper as a good first step toward better understanding dinosaur smarts, whereas others argue the neuron estimates are flawed, undercutting the study’s conclusions. Measuring dinosaur intelligence has never been easy. Historically, researchers have used something called the encephalization quotient (EQ), which measures an animal’s relative brain size, related to its body size. A T. rex, for example, had an EQ of about 2.4, compared with 3.1 for a German shepherd dog and 7.8 for a human—leading some to assume it was at least somewhat smart. EQ is hardly foolproof, however. In many animals, body size evolves independently from brain size, says Ashley Morhardt, a paleoneurologist at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis who wasn’t involved in the study. “EQ is a fraught metric, especially when studying extinct species.” Looking for a more trustworthy alternative, Suzana Herculano-Houzel, a neuroanatomist at Vanderbilt University, turned to a different measure: the density of neurons in the cortex, the wrinkly outer brain area critical to most intelligence-related tasks. She had previously estimated the number of neurons in many animal species, including humans, by making “brain soup”—dissolving brains in a detergent solution—and counting the neurons in different parts of the brain. © 2023 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Keyword: Evolution
Link ID: 28627 - Posted: 01.12.2023

by Giorgia Guglielmi About five years ago, Catarina Seabra made a discovery that led her into uncharted scientific territory. Seabra, then a graduate student in Michael Talkowski’s lab at Harvard University, found that disrupting the autism-linked gene MBD5 affects the expression of other genes in the brains of mice and in human neurons. Among those genes, several are involved in the formation and function of primary cilia — hair-like protrusions on the cell’s surface that sense its external environment. “This got me intrigued, because up to that point, I had never heard of primary cilia in neurons,” Seabra says. She wondered if other researchers had linked cilia defects to autism-related conditions, but the scientific literature offered only sparse evidence, mostly in mice. Seabra, now a postdoctoral researcher in the lab of João Peça at the Center for Neuroscience and Cell Biology at the University of Coimbra in Portugal, is spearheading an effort to look for a connection in people: The Peça lab established a biobank of dental stem cells obtained from baby teeth of 50 children with autism or other neurodevelopmental conditions. And the team plans to look at neurons and brain organoids made from those cells to see if their cilia show any defects in structure or function. Other neuroscientists, too, are working to understand the role of cilia during neurodevelopment. Last September, for example, researchers working with tissue samples from mice discovered that cilia on the surface of neurons can form junctions, or synapses, with other neurons — which means cilia defects could, at least in theory, hinder the development of neural circuitry and activity. Other teams have connected several additional autism-related genes, beyond MBD5, to the tiny cell antennae. © 2023 Simons Foundation

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 28623 - Posted: 01.07.2023

Heidi Ledford Severe COVID-19 is linked to changes in the brain that mirror those seen in old age, according to an analysis of dozens of post-mortem brain samples1. The analysis revealed brain changes in gene activity that were more extensive in people who had severe SARS-CoV-2 infections than in uninfected people who had been in an intensive care unit (ICU) or had been put on ventilators to assist their breathing — treatments used in many people with serious COVID-19. The study, published on 5 December in Nature Aging, joins a bevy of publications cataloguing the effects of COVID-19 on the brain. “It opens a plethora of questions that are important, not only for understanding the disease, but to prepare society for what the consequences of the pandemic might be,” says neuropathologist Marianna Bugiani at Amsterdam University Medical Centers. “And these consequences might not be clear for years.” Maria Mavrikaki, a neurobiologist at the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, embarked on the study about two years ago, after seeing a preprint, later published as a paper2, that described cognitive decline after COVID-19. She decided to follow up to see whether she could find changes in the brain that might trigger the effects. She and her colleagues studied samples taken from the frontal cortex — a region of the brain closely tied to cognition — of 21 people who had severe COVID-19 when they died and one person with an asymptomatic SARS-CoV-2 infection at death. The team compared these with samples from 22 people with no known history of SARS-CoV-2 infection. Another control group comprised nine people who had no known history of infection but had spent time on a ventilator or in an ICU — interventions that can cause serious side effects. The team found that genes associated with inflammation and stress were more active in the brains of people who had had severe COVID-19 than in the brains of people in the control group. Conversely, genes linked to cognition and the formation of connections between brain cells were less active. © 2022 Springer Nature Limited

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28584 - Posted: 12.06.2022

Darby Saxbe The time fathers devote to child care every week has tripled over the past 50 years in the United States. The increase in fathers’ involvement in child rearing is even steeper in countries that have expanded paid paternity leave or created incentives for fathers to take leave, such as Germany, Spain, Sweden and Iceland. And a growing body of research finds that children with engaged fathers do better on a range of outcomes, including physical health and cognitive performance. Despite dads’ rising participation in child care and their importance in the lives of their kids, there is surprisingly little research about how fatherhood affects men. Even fewer studies focus on the brain and biological changes that might support fathering. It is no surprise that the transition to parenthood can be transformative for anyone with a new baby. For women who become biological mothers, pregnancy-related hormonal changes help to explain why a new mother’s brain might change. But does fatherhood reshape the brains and bodies of men – who don’t experience pregnancy directly – in ways that motivate their parenting? We set out to investigate this question in our recent study of first-time fathers in two countries. Recent research has found compelling evidence that pregnancy can enhance neuroplasticity, or remodeling, in the structures of a woman’s brain. Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers have identified large-scale changes in the anatomy of women’s brains from before to after pregnancy. In one study, researchers in Spain scanned first-time mothers before conceiving, and again at two months after they gave birth. Compared with childless women, the new mothers’ brain volume was smaller, suggesting that key brain structures actually shrank in size across pregnancy and the early postpartum period. The brain changes were so pronounced that an algorithm could easily differentiate the brain of a woman who had gone through a pregnancy from that of a woman with no children. Copyright © 2010–2022, The Conversation US, Inc.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28576 - Posted: 12.03.2022

By Laura Sanders SAN DIEGO — Scientists have devised ways to “read” words directly from brains. Brain implants can translate internal speech into external signals, permitting communication from people with paralysis or other diseases that steal their ability to talk or type. New results from two studies, presented November 13 at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience, “provide additional evidence of the extraordinary potential” that brain implants have for restoring lost communication, says neuroscientist and neurocritical care physician Leigh Hochberg. Some people who need help communicating can currently use devices that require small movements, such as eye gaze changes. Those tasks aren’t possible for everyone. So the new studies targeted internal speech, which requires a person to do nothing more than think. “Our device predicts internal speech directly, allowing the patient to just focus on saying a word inside their head and transform it into text,” says Sarah Wandelt, a neuroscientist at Caltech. Internal speech “could be much simpler and more intuitive than requiring the patient to spell out words or mouth them.” Neural signals associated with words are detected by electrodes implanted in the brain. The signals can then be translated into text, which can be made audible by computer programs that generate speech. That approach is “really exciting, and reinforces the power of bringing together fundamental neuroscience, neuroengineering and machine learning approaches for the restoration of communication and mobility,” says Hochberg, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, and Brown University in Providence, R.I. © Society for Science & the Public 2000–2022.

Keyword: Brain imaging; Language
Link ID: 28556 - Posted: 11.16.2022

By Elena Renken The brain’s lifeline, its network of blood vessels, is like a tree, says Mathieu Pernot, deputy director of the Physics for Medicine Paris Lab. The trunk begins in the neck with the carotid arteries, a pair of broad channels that then split into branches that climb into the various lobes of the brain. These channels fork endlessly into a web of tiny vessels that form a kind of canopy. The narrowest of these vessels are only wide enough for a single red blood cell to pass through, and in one important sense these vessels are akin to the tree’s leaves. “When you want to look at pathology, usually you don’t see the sickness in the tree, but in the leaves,” Pernot says. (You can identify Dutch Elm Disease when the tree’s leaves yellow and wilt.) Just like leaves, the tiniest blood vessels in the brain often register changes in neuron and synapse activity first, including illness, such as new growth in a cancerous brain tumor.1, 2 But only in the past decade or so have we developed the technology to detect these microscopic changes in blood flow: It’s called ultrafast ultrasound. Standard ultrasound is already popular in clinical imaging given that it is minimally invasive, low-cost, portable, and can generate images in real time.3 But until now, it has rarely been used to image the brain. That’s partly because the skull gets in the way—bone tends to scatter ultrasound waves—and the technology is too slow to detect blood flow in the smaller arteries that support most brain function. Neurologists have mostly used it in niche applications: to examine newborns, whose skulls have gaps between the bone plates, or to guide surgeons in some brain surgeries, where part of the skull is typically removed. Neuroscience researchers have also used it to study functional differences between the two hemispheres of the brain, based on imaging of the major cerebral arteries, by positioning the device over the temporal bone window, the thinnest area of the skull. © 2022 NautilusThink Inc,

Keyword: Brain imaging; Hearing
Link ID: 28536 - Posted: 11.02.2022

By Jan Claassen, Brian L. Edlow A medical team surrounded Maria Mazurkevich’s hospital bed, all eyes on her as she did … nothing. Mazurkevich was 30 years old and had been admitted to New York–Presbyterian Hospital at Columbia University on a blisteringly hot July day in New York City. A few days earlier, at home, she had suddenly fallen unconscious. She had suffered a ruptured blood vessel in her brain, and the bleeding area was putting tremendous pressure on critical brain regions. The team of nurses and physicians at the hospital’s neurological intensive care unit was looking for any sign that Mazurkevich could hear them. She was on a mechanical ventilator to help her breathe, and her vital signs were stable. But she showed no signs of consciousness. Mazurkevich’s parents, also at her bed, asked, “Can we talk to our daughter? Does she hear us?” She didn’t appear to be aware of anything. One of us (Claassen) was on her medical team, and when he asked Mazurkevich to open her eyes, hold up two fingers or wiggle her toes, she remained motionless. Her eyes did not follow visual cues. Yet her loved ones still thought she was “in there.” She was. The medical team gave her an EEG—placing sensors on her head to monitor her brain’s electrical activity—while they asked her to “keep opening and closing your right hand.” Then they asked her to “stop opening and closing your right hand.” Even though her hands themselves didn’t move, her brain’s activity patterns differed between the two commands. These brain reactions clearly indicated that she was aware of the requests and that those requests were different. And after about a week, her body began to follow her brain. Slowly, with minuscule responses, Mazurkevich started to wake up. Within a year she recovered fully without major limitations to her physical or cognitive abilities. She is now working as a pharmacist. © 2022 Scientific American,

Keyword: Consciousness; Brain imaging
Link ID: 28527 - Posted: 10.26.2022