March 1, 2010 |
Leonardo da Vinci took them, as did Napoleon Bonaparte, Johannes Brahms and Winston Churchill. You could probably use one right now. Midday naps have long been touted as a good thing, lowering blood pressure and driving down the risk of heart attack. And if you snooze long enough, researchers have now found, they also permit your memory banks to do their filing, leaving your brain cleared and ready to learn in the latter half of the day. UC Berkeley psychology professor Matthew Walker and colleagues put 39 young adults through a demanding learning task and tested on it at noon.
July 20, 2012
Re "Head case puzzle," Opinion, July 15 Robert M. Sapolsky highlights the paradox between biological causes of abnormal behavior and the issue of assessing moral and legal responsibility. After 40-plus years in psychiatry, I have found that the most useful pathway is to accept the paradox, following John Stuart Mill's advice: While ultimately our will is not free, for the sake of an orderly society, it is necessary to act as if it were. Pragmatically, I interpret this to mean that when the biological causation is extraordinary (major brain damage or an acute cerebral infection)
September 12, 2013 |
"Brains on Trial," Thursday and Sept. 19 on PBS, offers a two-part look at "how brains work when they become entangled with the law. " That is not the John Agar 1950s sci-fi flick it might first sound like, but a look at how recent research into neuroscience and brain mapping changes our understanding of basic questions of human reliability, memory and bias among witnesses, juries and judges. These epistemological problems, pondered by philosophers since time immemorial, are no less difficult today; if anything, they are complicated by new knowledge.
February 5, 2014 |
The human hand is a wonder of strength, sensitivity and discrimination - not only because of those four fingers and the opposable thumb, but also because of the human brain that controls it. No wonder, then, that for those who design hand prostheses, re-creating the natural dexterity of the brain-powered hand is a daunting challenge. But a new study demonstrates that, with the aid of some artificial sensors and electrodes sunk into a user's arm, a prosthetic hand can be made to detect the need for a firm grasp or a light touch, to make fine distinctions between an object's texture, weight and size, and to respond accordingly with no detectable delay.
February 16, 2013 |
Suppose you're under a lot of pressure. Does it feel like a huge flood is swirling around in your brain, tossing your thoughts every which way? Well, Ashley Merryman and Po Bronson say, maybe that's because your brain really is flooded - with dopamine. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that the brain needs to run at full capacity, but as with so many good things, it's possible to have too much of it. So, as your brain keeps producing fresh dopamine, it has to keep getting rid of the old. In the prefrontal cortex, special enzymes called COMT - for catechol-O-methyltransferase - carry out these mop-up operations.
November 8, 2010
If you want to eat to maximize your mood and brain power, here's what the experts recommend: ? Breakfast: Studies have provided good evidence that a healthy breakfast leads to better cognitive performance, especially in children. ? Enough calories: Few things make people grumpier than being calorie deprived. If you're hungry, anything with calories will help. ? Regular meals: Keeping your blood sugar even by eating regularly ? about every four hours ? will help keep your mood level all day. Conversely, skipping meals and eating erratically will lead to highs and lows.
May 16, 2012 |
The tamping rod that blew through Phineas Gage's brain 163 years ago damaged only a small portion of his brain, but it disrupted a much larger proportion of his neural connections, UCLA researchers reported Wednesday. The finding, based on imaging of Gage's skull, may help explain the behavioral changes he endured following the accident. Phineas P. Gage was a construction supervisor for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad. On Sept. 13, 1848, he was working at a site near Cavendish, Vt. He had drilled a hole in a rock that was to be removed then filled the hole with blasting powder.
July 22, 2010 |
Irritable bowel syndrome has been a tough disorder to understand. Studies have failed to show any structural problems in the gut that would account for the symptoms of pain, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. However, the disorder is real, affecting as many as 15% of Americans. A new study has found a possible connection between IBS and the brain. Researchers at McGill University and UCLA used MRI scans to reveal changes in the brains of women with the disorder. The researchers took MRI scans of 55 IBS patients and 48 healthy women for comparison.
October 16, 2013 |
Scientists have discovered the fossilized brain of an animal that lived 520 million years ago. It is the oldest mostly intact nervous system to have ever been found. The incredible ancient brain and nervous system, described in the journal Nature, belongs to an Alacomenaeus , a member of the mega-claw family. These animals earned the name "mega-claw" ( megacheiran ), because they have two large scissor-like appendages that protrude from the top of their heads. Megacheirans lived in the early Cambrian-era ocean, swimming and scuttling around with nearly one dozen little legs, or swimmerettes.
November 12, 2013 |
Let's get a couple of things straight first about estrogen, the so-called "female hormone. " First, it influences a lot more than just what's going on "down there": it's produced by the brain, of course, and brain scientists are increasingly studying estrogen as a "neuromodulator," a chemical with powerful effects on the brain as well as the reproductive system. Second, it's not just females who have estrogen, need it and suffer with its loss. Males do too, as a recent study involving the humble songbird makes clear.