Technology Melds Minds With Machines, And Raises Concerns

On the 10th floor of a nondescript building at Columbia University, test subjects with electrodes attached to their heads watch a driver’s view of a car going down a street through a virtual reality headset. All the while, images of pianos and sailboats pop up to the left and right of each test subject’s field of vision, drawing their attention. The experiment, headed by Paul Sajda, a biomedical engineer and the director of Columbia’s Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing, monitors the subjects’ brain activity through electroencephalography technology (EEG), while the VR headset tracks their eye movement to see where they’re looking — a setup in which a computer interacts directly with brain waves, called a brain computer interface (BCI).

Non-coding RNAs May Explain Higher Depression Susceptibility In Females

A novel class of genes known as long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) expressed in the brain may play a pivotal role in regulating mood and driving sex-specific susceptibility versus resilience to depression, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital have found. The team highlighted a specific gene, LINC00473, that is downregulated in the cerebral cortex of women only, shedding light on why depression affects females at twice the rate of men. “Our study provides evidence of an important new family of molecular targets that could help scientists better understand the complex mechanisms leading to depression, particularly in women.

Imaging: The Many Facets Of Brain Aging

We are not all equal when it comes to brain aging: while some people manage to maintain well-preserved cognitive function into old age, others do not (Nyberg et al., 2012). Brain-imaging studies have attempted to capture brain aging by exploring age-related changes to specific structures and different kinds of brain tissue (Good et al., 2001; Walhovd et al., 2005). But a more recent approach has been to use one or more brain-imaging techniques to define a global, single brain-age for each individual (Franke et al.

Infant Temperament Predicts Personality More Than 20 Years Later

Researchers investigating how temperament shapes adult life-course outcomes have found that behavioral inhibition in infancy predicts a reserved, introverted personality at age 26. For those individuals who show sensitivity to making errors in adolescence, the findings indicated a higher risk for internalizing disorders (such as anxiety and depression) in adulthood. The study[1] provides robust evidence of the impact of infant temperament on adult outcomes. “While many studies link early childhood behavior to risk for psychopathology, the findings in our study are unique.

Nociceptin Neurons Increase The Appetite For High-fat Foods

A group of nerve cells in the brains of mice promotes the consumption of high-fat food, researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne have discovered. If these so-called nociceptin neurons in the hypothalamus are activated, the animals start to eat more. “Just three days of a high-fat diet feeding were sufficient to detect increased activity of nociceptin neurons in a specific region of the brain, the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus," says Alexander Jais, first author of the study.

More Evidence For Autoimmunity's Role In Parkinson's Disease

Signs of autoimmunity can appear in Parkinson’s disease patients years before their official diagnosis, a new study co-led by scientists at the La Jolla Institute for Immunology (LJI) reports. The work adds to increasing evidence that Parkinson’s disease is partly an autoimmune disease. The research[1] could make it possible to someday detect Parkinson’s disease before the onset of debilitating motor symptoms - and potentially intervene with therapies to slow the disease progression.

Concussions Linked To Loss Of Inhibition

Lowered inhibition found in one study of concussion sufferers were mirrored in separate tests on Canadian university football players. The findings open new doors to predicting the impact of the often debilitating injury, as well as raise questions about the long-term impact of contact sports, according to researchers. Led by graduate student Clara Stafford, the Owen Lab at University of Western Ontario analyzed results of 12 cognitive tests from an online survey of nearly 20,000 people in the general population.

Brain Function Changes Linked To Genetic Risk In ADHD Diagnosis

New research combines genetics and functional brain imaging to find that both genetic and neural factors influence attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) diagnosis. Genetic studies of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) show that it takes many common genetic variations combining together in one individual to increase risk substantially. At the same time, neuroimaging experts have found differences in how the brains of people diagnosed with ADHD are functionally connected. However it’s unclear how genetic risk might be directly related to altered brain circuitry in individuals diagnosed with ADHD.