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Complex Living Brain Simulation Replicates Sensory Rat Behaviour ( 63

New submitter physick writes: The Blue Brain project at EPFL, Switzerland today published the results of more than 10 years work in reconstructing a cellular model of a piece of the somatosensory cortex of a juvenile rat. The paper in Cell describes the process of painstakingly assembling tens of thousands of digital neurons, establishing the location of their synapses, and simulating the resulting neocortical microcircuit on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. “This is a first draft reconstruction of a piece of neocortex and it’s beautiful,” said Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. “It’s like a fundamental building block of the brain.”

Can Living In Total Darkness For 5 Days "Reset" the Visual System? 155

the_newsbeagle writes: That's what one neuroscientist is aiming to find out. He wants to put patients with a type of amblyopia, the vision problem commonly called lazy eye, into the dark for 5 days. His hypothesis: When they emerge, their brains' visual cortices will be temporarily "plastic" and changeable, and may begin to process the visual signals from their bad eyes correctly. Before he could do this study, though, he had to do a test run to figure out logistics. So he himself lived in a pitch black room for 5 days. One finding: Eating ravioli in the dark is hard.

Why Our Brains Can't Process the Gravest Threats To Humanity 637

merbs writes: Our brains are unfathomably complex, powerful organs that grant us motor skills, logic, and abstract thought. Brains have bequeathed unto we humans just about every cognitive advantage, it seems, except for one little omission: the ability to adequately process the need for the whole species' long-term survival. They're miracle workers for the short-term survival of individuals, but the scientific evidence suggests that the human brain flails when it comes to navigating wide-lens, slowly-unfurling crises like climate change.

Researchers: Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction 45

Rambo Tribble writes Researchers from the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Fribourg have found evidence that smartphone use changes the way your brain interacts with your thumbs. Using electroencephalography to study brain activity in smartphone users vs. feature-phone users, they found apparently persistent, increased activity in areas of the brain associated with the thumbs. Of course, this may well be true of other repetitive activities, like keyboard use. Reuters provide a bit more approachable coverage.

Xeroxed Gene May Have Paved the Way For Large Human Brain 93

sciencehabit writes Last week, researchers expanded the size of the mouse brain by giving rodents a piece of human DNA. Now another team has topped that feat, pinpointing a human gene that not only grows the mouse brain but also gives it the distinctive folds found in primate brains. The work suggests that scientists are finally beginning to unravel some of the evolutionary steps that boosted the cognitive powers of our species. "This study represents a major milestone in our understanding of the developmental emergence of human uniqueness," says Victor Borrell Franco, a neurobiologist at the Institute of Neurosciences in Alicante, Spain, who was not involved with the work.

Mood-Altering Wearable Thync Releases First Brain Test Data 69

blottsie writes Thync, the world's first wearable that alters a user's mood has released the first set of data that shows its device reduces stress without chemicals. The study found that "the levels of salivary -amylase, an enzyme that increases with stress, as well as noradrenergic and sympathetic activity, significantly dropped for the subjects that received electrical neurosignaling compared to the subjects that received the sham."

Brain Implants Get Brainier 49

the_newsbeagle writes "Did my head just beep?" wonders a woman who just received a brain implant to treat her intractable epilepsy. We're entering a cyborg age of medicine, with implanted stimulators that send pulses of electricity into the brain or nervous system to prevent seizures or block pain. The first generation of devices sent out pulses in a constant and invariable rhythm, but device-makers are now inventing smart stimulators that monitor the body for signs of trouble and fire when necessary.

Scientists Discover Compound In Baby Diapers Can Enlarge Brain Cells 75

An anonymous reader writes with news of a breakthrough in brain imaging thanks to a compound found in diapers. "A team of researchers has discovered that a compound used in baby diapers to absorb the liquids can help enlarge the size of the brain cells for a better imaging. The scientists work at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and were experimenting with new ways that could help them enlarge the brain cells for a better resolution photos. They discovered by accident that sodium polyacrylate, a compound in baby diapers can enlarge brain cells and can be used in their research. The scientists termed the new technique of enlarging the brain cells 'expansion microscopy.' This new technique will help the scientists increase the brain cells tissue samples and see it in a better image resolution."

Putting Time Out In Time Out: The Science of Discipline 323

An anonymous reader points out this story at The Atlantic about new research and approaches in the science of discipline. "At the end of a gravel road in the Chippewa National Forest of northern Minnesota, a group of camp counselors have gathered to hear psychotherapist Tina Bryson speak about neuroscience, mentorship, and camping. She is in Minnesota by invitation of the camp. Chippewa is at the front of a movement to bring brain science to bear on the camping industry; she keynoted this past year's American Camping Association annual conference. As Bryson speaks to the counselors gathered for training, she emphasizes one core message: At the heart of effective discipline is curiosity—curiosity on the part of the counselors to genuinely understand and respect what the campers are experiencing while away from home....She is part of a progressive new group of scientists, doctors, and psychologists whose goal is ambitious, if not outright audacious: They want to redefine "discipline" in order to change our culture. They want to rewrite—or perhaps more precisely said, rewire—how we interact with kids, and they want us to understand that our decisions about parenting affect not only our children's minds, but ours as well. So, we're going to need to toss out our old discipline mainstays. Say goodbye to timeouts. So long spanking and other ritualized whacks. And cry-it-out sleep routines? Mercifully, they too can be a thing of the past. And yet, we can still help our children mature and grow. In fact, people like Bryson think we'll do it better. If we are going to take seriously what science tells us about how we form relationships and how our mind develops, we will need to construct new strategies for parenting, and when we do, says this new group of researchers, we just may change the world."

Researchers Discover an "Off Switch" For Pain In the Brain 83

concertina226 writes Scientists working together from several international universities have discovered that it is possible to block a pathway in the brain of animals suffering from neuropathic pain, which could have a huge impact on improving pain relief in humans. So far, the most successful ways to treat chronic pain from a pharmacological point of view are to create drugs that that interact or interfere with various channels in the brain to decrease pain, including adrenergic, opioid and calcium receptors. However, there is another way – a chemical stimulator called adenosine that binds to brain receptors to trigger a biological response. Adenosine has shown potential for killing pain in humans, but so far, no one has managed to harness this pain pathway successfully without causing a myriad of side effects. Led by Dr Daniela Salvemini of SLU, the researchers discovered that by activating the A3 adenosine receptor in the rodents' brains and spinal cords, the receptor was able to prevent or reverse pain from nerve damage (the cause of chronic pain).

Early Childhood Neglect Associated With Altered Brain Structure, ADHD 87

vinces99 writes "Under the rule of dictator Nicolae Ceausescu, thousands of Romanian children were placed in overcrowded orphanages with bleak conditions and minimal human contact, a legacy that continued even after the 1989 revolution. Only recently have research and public concern caused policy changes.

University of Washington research on children who began life in these institutions shows that early childhood neglect is associated with changes in brain structure. A paper published this month in Biological Psychiatry shows that children who spent their early years in these institutions have thinner brain tissue in cortical areas that correspond to impulse control and attention. "These differences suggest a way that the early care environment has dramatic and lasting effects for children's functioning," said lead author Katie McLaughlin, a UW assistant professor of psychology.

Since 2000, the Bucharest Early Intervention Project has worked to document and treat the children's health. McLaughlin joined the team about six years ago to focus on brain development. This study is among the first in any setting to document how social deprivation in early life affects the thickness of the cortex, the thin folded layer of gray matter that forms the outer layer of the brain. The study provides "very strong support" for a link between the early environment and ADHD, McLaughlin said.

Study: Multimedia Multitasking May Be Shrinking Human Brains 87

An anonymous reader writes It seems that switching between laptop, smart phone and tablet may be shrinking our brains and leaving us prone to higher levels of anxiety and stress reports new research from the University of Sussex in the UK. The researchers point out that the link is currently a correlation rather than a proof of causation, but they do suggest that people who used a higher number of media devices concurrently also had smaller grey matter density — in other words they have smaller brains.

Music Training's Cognitive Benefits Could Help "At-Risk" Students 58

AthanasiusKircher writes In recent years, emphasis on standardized testing and basic skills has forced many schools to cut back on things like arts and extracurricular activities. A study out this week from Northwestern University hints that schools may be hurting "at-risk" kids even more by cutting such programs. Just two years of music lessons were shown to have significant effects on brain activity and language processing which the researchers argue could help close achievement gaps between at-risk students and more affluent students. Aside from better brain response to language observed in the lab, practical effects of the interventions were readily apparent: 'Leaders at Harmony Project approached the researchers after the non-profit observed that their students were performing much better than other public school students in the area. Since 2008, over 90 percent of high school seniors who participated in Harmony Project's free music lessons went on to college, even though the high school dropout rates in the surrounding Los Angeles areas can reach up to 50 percent.' Note that this is only one of several ongoing studies showing significant cognitive benefits for music training among at-risk students; an article last year from The Atlantic gives a more detailed summary of related research.

Your Brain Waves Are a Password: How Your Next Car Will Check You're Not a Thief 169

cartechboy writes "And you thought stealing cars was hard today? You're facing locks, kill switches, LoJacks, OnStar, and more. But there's worse on the way: Engineers at Japan's Tottori University have developed a prototype theft-prevention system that uses brain waves to identify drivers. That's right: The system samples your brain waves, stores them--and actually shuts down the car if the driver's EEG signals don't match what's on file. It also busts drunk and sleepy drivers, because their brain waves differ from those when you're fully awake and totally sober. One non-Tron downside: If you want to drive, you have to wear a scary-looking set of sensors on your skull so the car can constantly reads your brainwaves."

Brain Zapping Improves Math Ability 202

sciencehabit writes "If you are one of the 20% of healthy adults who struggle with basic arithmetic, simple tasks like splitting the dinner bill can be excruciating. Now, a new study suggests that a gentle, painless electrical current applied to the brain can boost math performance for up to 6 months. Researchers don't fully understand how it works, however, and there could be side effects." We've covered various other potential benefits to having your brain shocked.

6 Curses = 1 Hexahex