Mar 272006
 

Both LiveScience.com and New Scientist are reporting today that a team of Italian and German neuroscientists working in conjunction with mobile chip maker Infineon have created a “neuro-chip,” a hybrid microchip that interfaces living neurons with traditional silicon circuitry. In addition to providing new insights into the brain’s inner workings, the groundbreaking work could one day lead to organic computers that use living brain cells for memory or to the creation of prosthetic devices for treating neurological disorders.

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Mar 142006
 

A team of neuroscientists and bioengineers from MIT’s Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and Center for Biomedical Engineering have been able to partially restore the vision of rodents whose visual neural pathways had been severed by injecting them with a tiny, biodegradable substrate on which brain cells were able to regrow and reconnect. The research marks the first time that nanotechnology has been used to heal a damaged brain region and restore lost functionality. The results could lead to major advancements in the treatment of traumatic brain and spinal cord injuries and strokes.

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Mar 082006
 

Scientists from the Fraunhofer Institute for Computer Architecture and Software Technology working in conjunction with the Department of Neurology at Berlin’s Charite hospital have developed a neural interface capable of intercepting neural impulses in the brain and using them to control a cursor and write sentences on a computer. The system, aptly dubbed the Brain Computer Interface, will be on display at CeBIT which opens tomorrow in Hanover, Germany.

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Feb 272006
 

A recent study carried out by researchers from the University College London in the United Kingdom has concluded that the brain is more successful at storing memories when it has been “primed” in advance to consider the meaning of what is to be stored. Neuroscientists already knew that neural activity during and immediately after an event occurred was an important factor in the success of memory storage, but this new research illustrates that one’s frame of mind prior to the event may be just as crucial. Nature.com has published a brief article today summarizing the study which itself was published in full in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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Feb 242006
 

According to a study published recently in Nature, neurons firing synchronously help to focus the brain’s attention on certain tasks and lead to quicker response times. When neurons fire independently their electrical output is nothing but noise, and no coherent signal is discernible in the static. When even a few neurons fire synchronously, their individual signals reinforce one another, and a tone arises from the background noise. The study, a collaboration between Robert Desimone, from the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT, and researchers at Radboud University in the Netherlands, expands on previous work by Desimone which concluded that neurons fired synchronously during periods of concentration. The new experiments indicate that neural synchronization also helps the brain detect and react quickly to events.

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Feb 172006
 

Girl sleeping.

According to NewScientist.com, a recent study has concluded that the conscious mind is fine for making simple decisions, but for complex, important choices you are best off to “sleep on it” and let your unconscious mind mull it over and make the decision for you. Over thinking a critical decision with many factors often yields an unsatisfactory choice since the conscious mind does not appear to be able to consider all of the factors or weigh those it does consider properly. On the other hand, the unconscious mind seems to be able to sort, weigh, and evaluate all of the factors, yielding a more satisfactory decision.

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Feb 132006
 

Rat

Neuroscientists from the Picower Institute for Learning and Memory at MIT have discovered that after completing a task, a rat’s brain will mentally replay recent events, but in reverse order. They believe this process plays a key role in learning and memory and may explain why taking frequent breaks when studying is more effective for learning new material than cramming for extended periods of time. Their work could yield a better understanding of amnesia, Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders and lead to more efficient methods for learning and memorization.

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Feb 082006
 

Lifting an arm, picking up your foot, wiggling your fingers – most of us can do these things without giving them a second thought. Once your brain has set the movement in motion how do you know (without looking) that the appendage responded appropriately? It turns out that you can’t really tell. NewScientist.com is reporting today that researchers from the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Sydney, Australia used a simple test to determine that the same signal your brain sends to initiate a movement is also responsible for the sensation of movement you feel, and this feeling occurs regardless of whether or not the actual movement takes place. Their results offer insight into the phantom limb phenomena, a sensation that a missing limb is still attached and is moving appropriately with other body parts, experienced by a majority of amputees.

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Feb 022006
 

LiveScience.com is reporting today that a new study by neuroscientists at the University of California, Irvine has confirmed the long held belief that different pieces of a single memory are stored in separate locations in the brain. This is the first time solid evidence has been collected verifying that what we recognize as a single experience is actually saved in our brains as multiple memory fragments. The researchers believe their work will lead to insights into understanding and ultimately treating neurological disorders that affect memory storage, retention, and recall.

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Jan 202006
 

It happens automatically and so quickly that most people probably never question the process of vision. Although it starts with the eyes, the majority of the work is performed in stages by cooperating layers of neural regions in the brain. As such, the underlying mechanism behind seeing and recognizing objects has long been of interest to neuroscientists. A team of researchers from The Johns Hopkins University’s Zanvyl Krieger Mind/Brain Institute have published a report in a recent issue of the journal Neuron describing the advances they have made towards understanding the process.

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