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September 12, 2013 | By Robert Lloyd, Times Television Critic
"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.
November 28, 2012 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times, For the Booster Shots blog
At the time of his death of an aortic aneurysm at age 76, Albert Einstein's brain was no bigger, and weighed no more, than the brain of an average older male. But beneath that unique organ's external folds and fissures, our universe was re-conceived. So not surprisingly, when photographs of Einstein's postmortem brain unexpectedly came to light recently, scientists were keen to find evidence of the genius that lay within. The result is a remarkably detailed look at the surface of Einstein's brain, published recently in the journal Brain.
October 16, 2013 | By Deborah Netburn
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.
July 22, 2010 | By Shari Roan, Los Angeles Times
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.
January 24, 2011 | By Melissa Healy, Los Angeles Times
Jackie Nink Pflug was shot in the head at point-blank range, rolled down a set of metal stairs and left for dead on an airport tarmac in Malta in November 1985. The man wielding the gun was one of five Palestinian militants who had hijacked EgyptAir Flight 648 bound from Athens to Cairo, where Pflug was a psychologist and special education teacher at a school for international students. By training and by nature, Pflug had always been a problem solver, quick to come up with a solution to a child's reading problem or a classroom dilemma.
May 10, 2013 | By Larry Gordon and Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times
In a major case of academic poaching involving crosstown rivals, USC has lured away two prominent neuroscientists from UCLA with a promise to expand their internationally renowned lab that uses brain imaging techniques to study Alzheimer's disease, schizophrenia, autism and other disorders. Arthur Toga and Paul Thompson will move to the USC Keck School of Medicine campus next fall, along with scores of graduate students, postdoctoral fellows and staffers who now work at UCLA's Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, known as LONI.
November 12, 2013 | By Melissa Healy
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.
February 5, 2014 | By Melissa Healy
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 26, 2011 | By Amina Khan, Los Angeles Times
Does being bilingual give young children a mental edge, or does it delay their learning? It depends on who you ask. Bilingual education is regarded by some in education policy circles as little more than a half-baked technique of teaching students whose native language is not English. Though it takes many forms, bilingual education programs usually involve teaching students in both their native languages and in English. How much each language is used, and in which academic contexts, varies by program.
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