All posts filed under: Science

Brain Plasticity: How Adult Born Neurons Get Wired

The study opens the door to look at how this redistribution of synapses between the old and new neurons helps the dentate gyrus function. [NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.] Summary: Researchers report adult neurogenesis not only helps increase the number of cells in a neural network, it also promotes plasticity in the existing network. Additionally, they have identified the role the Bax gene plays in synaptic pruning. Source: University of Alabama at Birmingham. One goal in neurobiology is to understand how the flow of electrical signals through brain circuits gives rise to perception, action, thought, learning and memories. Linda Overstreet-Wadiche, Ph.D., and Jacques Wadiche, Ph.D., both associate professors in the University of Alabama at Birmingham Department of Neurobiology, have published their latest contribution in this effort, focused on a part of the brain that helps form memories — the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus. The dentate gyrus is one of just two areas in the brain where new neurons are continuously formed in adults. When a new granule cell neuron is made in the …

A Brain-Wide Chemical Signal that Enhances Memory

Summary: Study sheds light on how nicotine affects the brains of those with schizophrenia, and why those with the disease tend to be heavy smokers. Source: University of Bristol. NEUROSCIENCE NEWS JANUARY 24, 2017 How does heightened attention improve our mental capacity? This is the question tackled by new research published today in the journal Cell Reports, which reveals a chemical signal released across the brain in response to attention demanding or arousing situations. Researchers studied how the release of the chemical acetylcholine fluctuates during the day but found that the release is at its highest when the brain is engaged with more challenging mental tasks. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only and is credited to BruceBlaus. The new discoveries indicate how current drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, designed to boost this chemical signal, counter the symptoms of dementia. The results could also lead to new ways of enhancing cognitive function to counteract the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, as well as enhancing memory in healthy people. The team of …

Categorizing Brain Cells

Researchers at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego discuss new efforts to perform single-cell analyses on the brain’s billions of cells. By Jef Akst | November 16, 2016 WIKIMEDIA COMMONS, GERRYSHAW The deeper scientists probe into the complexity of the human brain, the more questions seem to arise. One of the most fundamental questions is how many different types of brain cells there are, and how to categorize individual cell types. That dilemma was discussed during a session yesterday (November 11) at the ongoing Society for Neuroscience (SfN) conference in San Diego, California. As Evan Macosko of the Broad Institute said, the human brain comprises billions of brain cells—about 170 billion, according to one recent estimate—and there is a “tremendous amount of diversity in their function.” Now, new tools are supporting the study of single-cell transcriptomes, and the number of brain cell subtypes is skyrocketing. “We saw even greater degrees of heterogeneity in these cell populations than had been appreciated before,” Macosko said of his own single-cell interrogations of the mouse brain. He …

Sebastian Seung: Understand your connectome, understand yourself

OCT 17, 2016 An excerpt from Sebastian Seung’s book, Connectome NO ROAD, NO trail can penetrate this forest. The long and delicate branches of its trees lie everywhere, choking space with their exuberant growth. No sunbeam can fly a path tortuous enough to navigate the narrow spaces between these entangled branches. All the trees of this dark forest grew from 100 billion seeds planted together. And, all in one day, every tree is destined to die. This forest is majestic, but also comic and even tragic. It is all of these things. Indeed, sometimes I think it is everything. Every novel and every symphony, every cruel murder and every act of mercy, every love affair and every quarrel, every joke and every sorrow — all these things come from the forest. You may be surprised to hear that it fits in a container less than one foot in diameter. And that there are seven billion on this earth. You happen to be the caretaker of one, the forest that lives inside your skull. The trees …

How the brain makes new memories while preserving the old

Memories are widely believed to be stored in synapses, tiny structures on the surface of neurons. Credit: © vlorzor / Fotolia Date: October 3, 2016Source: Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute Columbia scientists have developed a new mathematical model that helps to explain how the human brain’s biological complexity allows it to lay down new memories without wiping out old ones — illustrating how the brain maintains the fidelity of memories for years, decades or even a lifetime. This model could help neuroscientists design more targeted studies of memory, and also spur advances in neuromorphic hardware — powerful computing systems inspired by the human brain. This work is published online in Nature Neuroscience. “The brain is continually receiving, organizing and storing memories. These processes, which have been studied in countless experiments, are so complex that scientists have been developing mathematical models in order to fully understand them,” said Stefano Fusi, PhD, a principal investigator at Columbia’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, associate professor of neuroscience at Columbia University Medical Center and …

Scientists Unveil a New Map of the Brain With Unrivaled Resolution

IN BRIEF The Allen Institute for Brain Science has published and released a comprehensive, high-resolution map of the brain anyone can access online. They mapped 862 brain structures from a single donor brain. MAPPING THE BRAIN Even with our growing knowledge of the cosmos, we are relatively clueless about how our own brains function. That’s why making neurological maps is such an important exercise — it allows us to see the structural basis of how our brains work. The Allen Institute for Brain Science has just created one of the best maps ever. The Seattle-based organization published a comprehensive, high-resolution atlas of the entire human brain. “This is the most structurally complete atlas to date and we hope it will serve as a new reference standard for the human brain across different disciplines,” said Ed Lein, investigator at the Allen Institute, in a press release. The researchers put a donor brain through MRI and diffusion tensor imaging and then sliced it up by specific regions. The end result is a map of 862 annotated structures that comprise …

Neuromorphic Chips: a Path Towards Human-level AI

by Dan Elton on September 2, 2016, published on the Singularity Weblog Recently we have seen a slew of popular films that deal with artificial intelligence – most notably The Imitation Game, Chappie, Ex Machina, and Her. However, despite over five decades of research into artificial intelligence, there remain many tasks which are simple for humans that computers cannot do. Given the slow progress of AI, for many the prospect of computers with human-level intelligence seems further away today than it did when Isaac Asimov‘s classic I, Robot was published in 1950. The fact is, however, that today the development of neuromorphic chips offers a plausible path to realizing human-level artificial intelligence within the next few decades. Starting in the early 2000’s there was a realization that neural network models – based on how the human brain works – could solve many tasks that could not be solved by other methods. The buzzphrase ‘deep learning‘ has become a catch-all term for neural network models and related techniques…. Most deep learning practitioners acknowledge that the recent …

Ultrasound jump-starts brain of man in coma

New non-invasive technique may lead to low-cost therapy for patients with severe brain injury — possibly for those in a vegetative or minimally conscious state August 26, 2016 NOTE: this article appeared in KurtzweilAI blog. It was NOT written by me, David Wolf, as indicated above. (That label is an artifact of this format and I can’t remove it!) The non-invasive technique uses ultrasound to target the brain’s thalamus (credit: Martin Monti/UCLA) UCLA neurosurgeons used ultrasound to “jump-start” the brain of a 25-year-old man from a coma, and he has made remarkable progress following the treatment. The technique, called “low-intensity focused ultrasound pulsation” (LIFUP), works non-invasively and without affecting intervening tissues. It excites neurons in the thalamus, an egg-shaped structure that serves as the brain’s central hub for processing information. “It’s almost as if we were jump-starting the neurons back into function,” said Martin Monti, the study’s lead author and a UCLA associate professor of psychology and neurosurgery. “Until now, the only way to achieve this was a risky surgical procedure known as deep brain stimulation, …

Comprehensive Map of Primate Brain Development Published

Coronal section through the neocortex and cerebellum of an adult rhesus monkey brain labeled with Nissl stain which labels all neuronal and glial cell bodies. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Allen Institute for Brain Science Summary: Researchers have released a new, in-depth molecular atlas of brain development in non-human primates.  Source: Allen Institute for Brain Science. Transcriptional atlas sheds crucial light on what makes human brain development distinct. Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have published an in-depth analysis of a comprehensive molecular atlas of brain development in the non-human primate. This analysis uncovers features of the genetic code underlying brain development in our close evolutionary relative, while revealing distinct features of human brain development by comparison. The study is based on the NIH Blueprint Non-Human Primate (NHP) Atlas, a publicly available resource created by the Allen Institute and colleagues at the University of California, Davis and the California National Primate Research Center. This resource enables researchers to understand the underpinnings of both healthy brain development and many neuropsychiatric diseases. Analysis of the …

Smart Dust Is Coming: New Camera Is the Size of a Grain of Salt

BY JASON DORRIER ON JUN 28, 2016 The array of doublet lenses pictured here were printed directly onto a CMOS image sensor. Image credit: Timo Gissibl/University of Stuttgart Miniaturization is one of the most world-shaking trends of the last several decades. Computer chips now have features measured in billionths of a meter. Sensors that once weighed kilograms fit inside your smartphone. But it doesn’t end there. Researchers are aiming to take sensors smaller—much smaller. In a new University of Stuttgart paper published in Nature Photonics, scientists describe tiny 3D printed lenses and show how they can take super sharp images. Each lens is 120 millionths of a meter in diameter—roughly the size of a grain of table salt—and because they’re 3D printed in one piece, complexity is no barrier. Any lens configuration that can be designed on a computer can be printed and used. This allows for a variety of designs to be tested to achieve the finest quality images. According to the paper, the new method not only demonstrates high-quality micro-lenses can be 3D printed, but it also solves roadblocks to current …

Brain Scanning Just Got Very Good

Written By Megan Scudellari, Posted 21 Jun 2016 Seven years ago, the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) decided to map all the connections in the brain. In 2010, the Human Connectome Project(HCP) was born. It has provided funding to the tune of $40 million to two collaborating consortia whose aim was to acquire and share high-resolution data of structural and functional connections in the human brain. The researchers have sought to understand, on a scale never before attempted, the neural pathways that make us human, and how changes in those pathways make us sick. At a symposium yesterday at the NIH campus in Bethesda, Maryland, top researchers from the HCP came together to provide an update on the project’s achievements and future directions. To date, the consortia have released brain-scanning data from hundreds of individuals and that data has been used in more than 140 scientific publications. Perhaps even more importantly, the effort has produced impressive new tech, including unprecedented magnetic resonance (MR) hardware. Among the gadgets are high-powered scanners and customized head coils. In addition, there are legions of software for …

Identification of a network of brain regions involved in mathematics

There is a mathematical network in the brain, which is not that of language. Credit: Image courtesy of CEA Two researches from a joint CEA-Inserm-Université Paris Sud-Collège de France unit at the NeuroSpin neuroimaging centre, have just revealed that the brain has a network of brain regions involved in advanced mathematics, as well as simpler arithmetic operations. This network is only activated when numbers are seen, in a population of high-level university students including both experts in mathematics and non-mathematicians. These results, published in PNAS, were obtained using functional MRI on university students specialising in mathematics and other disciplines.   Can there be thought without language? Brain imaging is now being used to investigate this question in the laboratory. In order to ascertain which brain regions are involved in advanced mathematical thinking, neuroscientists (NeuroSpin, CEA/Inserm/Université Paris Sud Saclay, Collège de France) studied the brains of fifteen professional mathematicians using functional MRI (fMRI). The fMRI images were taken while they thought for 4 seconds about advanced mathematical and non-mathematical statements, in order to assess them as …

Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and IBM build brain-inspired supercomputer

Lawrence Livermore’s new supercomputer system uses 16 IBM TrueNorth chips developed by IBM Research (credit: IBM Research) Focusing on cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and sensory processing, chip-architecture breakthrough may accelerate path to exascale computing March 29, 2016 Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) has purchased IBM Research’s supercomputing platform for deep-learning inference, based on 16 IBM TrueNorth neurosynaptic computer chips, to explore deep learning algorithms. IBM says the scalable platform processing power is the equivalent of 16 million artificial “neurons” and 4 billion “synapses.” The brain-like neural-network design of the IBM Neuromorphic System can process complex cognitive tasks such as pattern recognition and integrated sensory processing far more efficiently than conventional chips, says IBM. The technology represents a fundamental departure from computer design that has been prevalent for the past 70 years and could be incorporated in next-generation supercomputers able to perform at exascale speeds — 50 times faster than today’s most advanced petaflop (quadrillion floating point operations per second) systems. Ultra-low-energy TrueNorth processor The TrueNorth processor chip was introduced in 2014 (see IBM launches …

Scientists Begin Work on Reverse-Engineering the Brain

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have a new project: Reverse-engineer the brain. Ultimately, their goal is to “make computers think more like humans.” Now, their five-year research edffort has been funded by the U.S. Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) for $12 million. The research effort, through IARPA’s Machine Intelligence from Cortical Networks (MICrONS) research program, is part of the U.S. BRAIN Initiative to revolutionize the understanding of the human brain. It’s being led by Tai Sing Lee, a professor in the Computer Science Department and the Center for the Neural Basis of Cognition. For compete article, please use this link: http://futurism.com/cmu-brain-research-grant/