It’s a classic visual illusion: Two gray dots appear on a background that consists of a gradient from light gray to black. Although the two dots are identical, they appear very different based on where they are placed against the background. Scientists who study the brain have been trying to figure out the mechanism behind this illusion, known as simultaneous brightness contrast, for more than 100 years. An MIT-led study now suggests that this phenomenon relies on brightness estimation that takes place before visual information reaches the brain’s visual cortex, possibly within the retina.
The suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population according a new study - a figure the authors call “tragically high.” “What this study teaches is us that although people with SSD are at higher risk for suicide, we can target those at the highest risk with changes in policy and treatment," said lead author Dr. Juveria Zaheer, Clinician Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.
One of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is contamination fears and excessive hand-washing. Years ago, a patient with severe OCD came to my office wearing gloves and a mask and refused to sit on any of the “contaminated” chairs. Now, these same behaviors are accepted and even encouraged to keep everyone healthy. This new normal in the face of a deadly pandemic has permeated our culture and will continue to influence it.
Blood vessels can sense the metabolic state of neighboring neural cells, recent work in the lab of Asifa Akhtar in Freiburg has shown. The researchers found that the epigenetic regulator MOF is required for equipping neurons with the right metabolic enzymes needed for processing fatty acids. “Something has to tell neural cells that there are nutrients around and they should turn on the programs needed to process them. MOF goes to the DNA and switches on the genetic programs that allow cells to process fatty acids in the brain," explains Bilal Sheikh, lead author of the study.
The places where we spend time seem to influence our personalities, new research reports. The findings suggest that the places we choose to frequent can affect not only our thinking, feelings, or behavior in the moment, but may actually change our personalities over time. If complying with shelter-in-place orders has made you feel more disorganized or less kind than usual, it may be because that’s what happens when you spend more time at home instead of public spaces, according to a new study.
Among people who have the most common type of lung cancer, up to 40% develop metastatic brain tumors, with an average survival time of less than six months. But why non-small-cell lung cancer so often spreads to the brain has been poorly understood. Now scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine have found that nicotine, a non-carcinogenic chemical found in tobacco, actually promotes the spread, or metastasis, of lung cancer cells into the brain.
The human brain is bathed in a supportive fluid called the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that provides nutrients and is required for proper brain function. The composition of human CSF and how it is made are poorly understood due to a lack of experimental access. Madeline Lancaster’s group in the Medical Research Council of England’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology Cell Biology Division has now developed a new brain organoid that produces CSF and has the potential to predict whether drugs can access the brain.
Social neuroscience researchers at Aalto University investigated the effects of similarity by showing subjects the film My Sister’s Keeper and asking them to watch the film from either the perspective of the donor sister or the sick sister. The subjects' brain processing was measured by functional MRI, and at the same time eye tracking was carried out, monitoring where the subject’s eyes were looking on the screen. “Understanding another person’s point of view is important to reach consensus.