brain science

Tevaprapas, https://tinyurl.com/ya55qwxd

Meditation is an ancient practice dating back thousands of years. In its original form, it requires nothing more than a place to sit.

But meditation and mindfulness have gained newfound popularity in recent years. And, as with everything else in our lives, technology seems to be creeping in -- from meditation apps to experiments with brain-stimulating electronic signals.  

Elsa Partan

There’s a lot of advice out there about how to be happy – websites, videos, newsletters – and many pedal a recipe for happiness backed by science.

But neuroscientist Dean Burnett started to notice that a lot of it wasn’t very scientific at all. It bugged him so much that he decided to write a book about it, Happy Brain: Where Happiness Comes From and Why.

Bruno Martins / Unsplash

We’ve all heard that the best time to learn a new language is when you’re a young child; think pre-school or elementary school. But a recent study by researchers from Boston College, MIT and Harvard finds that the window of opportunity is quite a bit larger than previously thought, extending all the way through high school.

It’s May, nice weather is finally here, and some of you are thinking about what your teenager will do when school gets out. We’ve got somebody who can help.

Most brain scientists will never know what it feels like to live with the mental illnesses they study. Barbara Lipska is the exception; brain tumors caused her to lose track of her left hand, forget where she lived, go running with hair dye dripping from her head, and accuse a familiar pest exterminator of trying to kill her family. 

There are scientists studying how spending time in nature restores us physically and mentally.

A cognitive neuroscientist at the University of Utah noticed that after he spent a few days backpacking in nature, he got great ideas. He wanted to quantify it, so he gave people pencil-and-paper tests before and after they took hikes. The scientist, Dr. David Strayer, found that the people experienced a 50 percent increase in their creativity after the hike.

Alzheimer’s disease affects an estimated 50 million people worldwide, yet there are only a handful of drugs to treat the symptoms. None of them address the underlying disease processes, and it’s been years since a major new drug got approved. But there are 126 drugs in clinical trials. A leading researcher breaks down the prospects and obstacles to treating Alzheimer’s disease. We talk with Rudy Tanzi of Harvard & Massachusetts General Hospital. 

David/Flickr / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

More than 60,000 patients in the U.S. receive general anesthesia every day. But despite the fact that anaesthesia drugs, like ether, have been around for more than 150 years, it's really only been in the past decade or so that we've gained a better understanding of how they work.

Functional MRI can reveal patterns of brain activity in patients who cannot otherwise communicate.
DrOONeil / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Patients in a persistent vegetative state may not be as unaware as their diagnosis suggests. Neuroscientists have found that 15-20 percent may be fully conscious but unable to make that known.

A new device may be able to help those individuals communicate with family, friends, and caregivers.

www.publicdomainpictures.net

There are tens of thousands of people in the United States who have been diagnosed as being in a vegetative state – unresponsive and unaware of their surroundings. But as many as 15 to 20 percent of those people may actually be fully conscious and simply unable to make that known. Unless, of course, you put them in a high-end brain scanner and ask them to imagine playing tennis.

No joke.

Does your dog know what you're feeling? Or do you just think he does?
https://goo.gl/Wxb8aD / CC0 Public Domain

How many times have you been in a conversation and found yourself trying to figure out what the other person is thinking? It’s quintessentially human, but is thinking about others’ minds uniquely human? And, if not, what can other animals teach us about this phenomenon?

Our ability to think about what’s going on inside other people’s heads is called theory of mind.

Neurobiologist Hired at Art Museum

May 15, 2017
The Peabody Essex Museum has hired neurobiologist Tedi Asher to help enhance exhibits
Peabody Essex Museum, http://bit.ly/2pTl0tl

Scientists are constantly learning more about how our brains process information, including how we perceive art.

Now, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is breaking new ground by hiring a neurobiologist to help them enhance their exhibits.

The Harvard-trained neurobiologist, Tedi Asher, says the museum has already tried out many experimental changes that make sense to her, such as incorporating dance, music, special lighting and even smells to the exhibits.

The hippocampus is part of the brain responsible for forming and storing memories. In fourteen cases, opioid use has been linked to complete shutdown of blood flow to the region.
Gray's Anatomy / Wikimedia Commons, public domain

As if the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses isn’t bad enough, a new study finds that – in a very small number of cases – opioid use has been linked to profound memory loss. It’s kind of a medical mystery story that started in November of 2015. That’s when Dr. Jed Barash, a neurologist at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA, brought four patients to the attention of officials at the Department of Public Health. 

Hana Kučová / http://hanakucova.cz/

As the new year begins, you may be planning to make some changes. And, as a nation, we seem to be in a state of flux – socially and politically. Following through on resolutions and staying sane in a rapidly changing world takes more than will-power and positive thinking.

Here are three tips based on the latest science of psychology and neurobiology:

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If consciousness is what makes us human, memory – it could be argued – is what defines us as individuals. Each of us carries within our brains a unique set of memories that, together, make up our life stories. But how do we remember? That is the question that drives Erin Schuman.

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