194 posts tagged neuroscience
Antonio Damasio, M.D., is a professor of neuroscience and the director of the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California. He is a pioneer in the field of cognitive neuroscience and a highly cited researcher. He has received numerous awards for his contributions to the understanding of emotions, feelings and decision-making, and he has described his discoveries in several books.
Walking the halls here at the Brain and Creativity Institute, I see art works from your personal collection, and downstairs there is a theater that is also used as a recording studio. How are you furthering the understanding of the connection between the brain and the arts?
As you come through the lobby, if you turn right, you go toward a laboratory of electrophysiology and a state-of-the-art 3-D MR brain scanner. If you turn left, you go into a small, state-of-the-art auditorium. Its acoustics were designed by Yasuhisa Toyota, who is responsible for the sound of some of the greatest music halls around the world from Tokyo to Hamburg, including the Walt Disney Concert Hall here in LA, a landmark collaboration with Frank Gehry. What we wanted when we created this complex is to literally force people to say, “What an odd combination. Why?” So here is the answer. On the one hand, we have the most modern form of inquiring into the brain-making mind, and, on the other, we have the oldest. Because when people were beginning to do theater, music and recitations of poetry, say, in an arena in Greece, they were in fact inquiring about the human mind in very probing ways. Great culture — philosophy, theater, music — gave us some of the most remarkable first entries into the human mind. We wanted to have these two approaches together to force those who work here as well as visitors to see that they’re not that different — that the mission we pursue now is not that different from the mission that Sophocles or Aristotle pursued. We need to bridge the two approaches and keep respecting the achievements of the past. The idea that by just doing neuroscience or advanced cognitive science, one can understand everything about the human mind is ridiculous. We need to bring past efforts in the arts and the humanities into the mix and also use the current contributions of artists and philosophers to understand this most complicated process that is the human mind.
An article published in the journal Nature looked into psychological therapy that causes brain changes within patients of mental disorders. Though neuroscience and clinical science are different and there is a “culture gap” between the two, the essay suggests that the two disciplines must be combined and explored together for the best results. Michelle Craske, Professor of Psychology at the University of California, said that they are unaware of how patients of mental disorder find relief after talking to a psychological therapist. He and his colleagues said that a fact finding was necessary. Worldwide, there are one in four mental health disorder cases, including depression, schizophrenia, post-traumatic stress disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and eating disorders. According to a study by Craske, Cambridge University Professor Emily Holmes and MIT Professor Ann Graybiel, “Psychological treatments hold the strongest evidence base for addressing many such conditions but they need improvement.” Psychological treatments are seen to be effective in most case, but in some conditions such as bipolar disorder, psychological treatments are seen to be ineffective or are in their infancy. The life report also threw light on the “culture gap” between neuroscientists and clinical scientists that has hindered the progress of mental health treatments. The authors of the report state that scientists from both disciplines must work together to advance the understanding and treatment of psychological disorders.
Humans Already Use Way, Way More Than 10 Percent of Their Brains
It’s a complex, constantly multi-tasking network of tissue—but the myth persists.
By now, perhaps you’ve seen the trailer for the new sci-fi thriller Lucy. It starts with a flurry of stylized special effects and Scarlett Johansson serving up a barrage of bad-guy beatings. Then comes Morgan Freeman, playing a professorial neuroscientist with the obligatory brown blazer, to deliver the film’s familiar premise to a full lecture hall: “It is estimated most human beings only use 10 percent of the brain’s capacity. Imagine if we could access 100 percent. Interesting things begin to happen.” Johansson as Lucy, who has been kidnapped and implanted with mysterious drugs, becomes a test case for those interesting things, which seem to include even more impressive beatings and apparently some kind of Matrix-esque time-warping skills. Of course, the idea that “you only use 10 percent of your brain” is, indeed, 100 hundred percent bogus. Why has this myth persisted for so long, and when is it finally going to die? (via Humans Already Use Way, Way More Than 10 Percent of Their Brains - Sam McDougle - The Atlantic)
Watch this: My Mind’s Eye: A Series of Video Interviews on Mind and Brain.
Episode 2 - How Free Is Your Will? An interview with Michael Gazzaniga
Professor of Psychology and the Director for the SAGE Center for the Study of Mind at the University of California Santa Barbara
© 2014 Imaginal Disc
Host: Joseph LeDoux.
Writer-Director: Alexis Gambis.
Neuroscientists have used human molecules to create mutant worms that don’t get drunk on alcohol. “This is the first example of altering a human alcohol target to prevent intoxication in an animal,” says Jon Pierce-Shimomura, assistant professor at University of Texas at Austin. An alcohol target is any neuronal molecule that binds alcohol, of which there are many. One important aspect of this modified alcohol target, a neuronal channel called the BK channel, is that the mutation only affects its response to alcohol. The BK channel typically regulates many important functions, including activity of neurons, blood vessels, the respiratory tract, and bladder. The alcohol-insensitive mutation does not disrupt these functions at all. “We got pretty lucky and found a way to make the channel insensitive to alcohol without affecting its normal function,” says Pierce-Shimomura, who is corresponding author of the study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
ARE we ever going to figure out how the brain works? After decades of research, diseases like schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s still resist treatment. Despite countless investigations into serotonin and other neurotransmitters, there is still no method to cure clinical depression. And for all the excitement about brain-imaging techniques, the limitations of fMRI studies are, as evidenced by popular books like “Brainwashed” and “Neuromania,” by now well known. In spite of the many remarkable advances in neuroscience, you might get the sinking feeling that we are not always going about brain science in the best possible way.
This feeling was given prominent public expression on Monday, when hundreds of neuroscientists from all over the world issued an indignant open letter to the European Commission, which is funding the Human Brain Project, an approximately $1.6 billion effort that aims to build a complete computer simulation of the human brain. The letter charges that the project is “overly narrow” in approach and not “well conceived.” While no neuroscientist doubts that a faithful-to-life brain simulation would ultimately be tremendously useful, some have called the project “radically premature.” The controversy serves as a reminder that we scientists are not only far from a comprehensive explanation of how the brain works; we’re also not even in agreement about the best way to study it, or what questions we should be asking.
Love is the drug, scientists find
Cambridge University scientists find that those with drug addiction and sex addiction have similar neurological responses
When Roxy Music star Bryan Ferry declared that ”love is the drug” he may have been speaking the truth. Cambridge University scientists have found that sex and drug addiction may be two sides of the same neurological coin. When diagnosed sex addicts looked at explicit sexual images, it triggered brain activity very similar to that seen in people dependent on drugs. But the researchers caution that this does not suggest pornography is generally addictive. Lead scientist Dr Valerie Voon, from Cambridge University, said: ”The patients in our trial were all people who had substantial difficulties controlling their sexual behaviour and this was having significant consequences for them, affecting their lives and relationships. ”In many ways, they show similarities in their behaviour to patients with drug addictions. We wanted to see if these similarities were reflected in brain activity, too. ”There are clear differences in brain activity between patients who have compulsive sexual behaviour and healthy volunteers. These differences mirror those of drug addicts.” Previous studies have suggested that up to one in 25 adults may be affected by an obsession with sexual thoughts, feelings or behaviour they are unable to control. Public awareness of sex addiction has been raised by celebrities seeking help for the problem, including actors Michael Douglas and David Duchovny. The Cambridge scientists recruited 19 male sex addicts and played them short videos featuring either explicit pornographic scenes or people engaged in exciting sports such as skiing or skydiving. At the same time, the men’s brain activity was monitored using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scanner. The experiment was repeated with a matched group of volunteers not affected by sex addiction. Three regions of the brain were found to be especially more active in the brains of the sex addicts than in the healthy volunteers, the ventral striatum, dorsal anterior cingulate and amygdala. All three are also known to be activated in drug addicts stimulated by the sight of drug-taking paraphernalia. (via Love is the drug, scientists find - Telegraph)
ONE moment you’re conscious, the next you’re not. For the first time, researchers have switched off consciousness by electrically stimulating a single brain area. Scientists have been probing individual regions of the brain for over a century, exploring their function by zapping them with electricity and temporarily putting them out of action. Despite this, they have never been able to turn off consciousness – until now. Although only tested in one person, the discovery suggests that a single area – the claustrum – might be integral to combining disparate brain activity into a seamless package of thoughts, sensations and emotions. It takes us a step closer to answering a problem that has confounded scientists and philosophers for millennia – namely how our conscious awareness arises. Many theories abound but most agree that consciousness has to involve the integration of activity from several brain networks, allowing us to perceive our surroundings as one single unifying experience rather than isolated sensory perceptions. One proponent of this idea was Francis Crick, a pioneering neuroscientist who earlier in his career had identified the structure of DNA. Just days before he died in July 2004, Crick was working on a paper that suggested our consciousness needs something akin to an orchestra conductor to bind all of our different external and internal perceptions together. With his colleague Christof Koch, at the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle, he hypothesised that this conductor would need to rapidly integrate information across distinct regions of the brain and bind together information arriving at different times. For example, information about the smell and colour of a rose, its name, and a memory of its relevance, can be bound into one conscious experience of being handed a rose on Valentine’s day.
The pair suggested that the claustrum – a thin, sheet-like structure that lies hidden deep inside the brain – is perfectly suited to this job (Philosophical Transactions of The Royal Society B, doi.org/djjw5m).
A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.
June 25, 2014
As a psychiatrist and neuroscientist who studies creativity, I’ve had the pleasure of working with many gifted and high-profile subjects over the years, but Kurt Vonnegut—dear, funny, eccentric, lovable, tormented Kurt Vonnegut—will always be one of my favorites. Kurt was a faculty member at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop in the 1960s, and participated in the first big study I did as a member of the university’s psychiatry department. I was examining the anecdotal link between creativity and mental illness, and Kurt was an excellent case study. He was intermittently depressed, but that was only the beginning. His mother had suffered from depression and committed suicide on Mother’s Day, when Kurt was 21 and home on military leave during World War II. His son, Mark, was originally diagnosed with schizophrenia but may actually have bipolar disorder. (Mark, who is a practicing physician, recounts his experiences in two books, The Eden Express and Just Like Someone Without Mental Illness Only More So, in which he reveals that many family members struggled with psychiatric problems. “My mother, my cousins, and my sisters weren’t doing so great,” he writes. “We had eating disorders, co-dependency, outstanding warrants, drug and alcohol problems, dating and employment problems, and other ‘issues.’ ”)
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