Depressed Children Respond Differently to Rewards than other Kids

According to a new study, clinically depressed children show a blunted response to reward compared to those who were not depressed. Brains react less robustly to success, rewards. For many children, December often is linked to presents and excitement, but when a young child doesn’t seem all that enthused about getting gifts, it could be a sign that something is wrong. Measuring brain waves, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found that clinically depressed children don’t respond to rewards the same way as other children do. Previous research from the same group of scientists found that a reduced ability to experience joy is a key sign of clinical depression in young children. The findings in the new study could help explain the biological underpinnings of the earlier discovery. “These findings may show us how the brain processes emotions in young children with depression,” said senior investigator Joan L. Luby, MD, director of Washington University’s

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The Psychology Behind Social Media Interactions

Why is digital communication so often easier than communicating face-to-face? In fact, the creators of virtual war games argue that the virtual experience is better than the real one, because the dangers connected to the real experience are removed. In the same way, interactions via social media make visitors feel connected without the difficulties and complexities involved in face-to-face interactions. Compared to interactions with computers, interactions with human counterparts require more emotional involvement, cognitive effort and brain activation. When we are not in the mood to exercise these resources, we too often choose the easier, virtual option.

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Increasing Confidence and Reducing Fear By Analyzing Brain Waves

Researchers have developed a new technique they believe could help people build confidence and overcome fears. UCLA-led research offers promise for treating anxiety, eating disorders. A new technique of analyzing brain patterns appears to help people overcome fear and build self-confidence. The approach, developed by a UCLA-led team of neuroscientists, is described in two new papers, published in the journals Nature Communications and Nature Human Behaviour. Their method could have implications for treating people with depression, dementia, and anxiety disorders, including post-traumatic stress disorder, said Hakwan Lau, a UCLA associate professor of psychology and the senior author of both studies. It could also play a role in improving leadership training for executives and managers. In the Nature Human Behaviour study, the researchers showed that they could reduce the brain’s manifestation of fear using a procedure called decoded neurofeedback, which involves identifying complex patterns of brain activity linked to a specific memory, and then give feedback to the subject — for example, in the form of a reward — based on their brain activity.

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Posted in Brains, Confidence, Fear, Waves | Tagged , , ,

Researchers Reverse Signs of Aging

Researchers have developed a new technique that is able to rejuvenate organs in animals and extend their lifespan. New technique rejuvenated organs and helped animals live longer. Graying hair, crow’s feet, an injury that’s taking longer to heal than when we were 20—faced with the unmistakable signs of aging, most of us have had a least one fantasy of turning back time. Now, scientists at the Salk Institute have found that intermittent expression of genes normally associated with an embryonic state can reverse the hallmarks of old age. This approach, which not only prompted human skin cells in a dish to look and behave young again, also resulted in the rejuvenation of mice with a premature aging disease, countering signs of aging and increasing the animals’ lifespan by 30 percent. The early-stage work provides insight both into the cellular drivers of aging and possible therapeutic approaches for improving human health and longevity.

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Read also: Scientists Say the Clock of Aging May Be Reversible

Aging Is Reversible—at Least in Human Cells and Live Mice

Posted in Aging, Brains | Tagged ,

Mapping the Brain’s Aging Connections

Researchers report the brain connections that are key to cognition and complex thinking skills are most effected as we age. Impact of ageing on brain connections mapped in major scan study. Brain connections that play a key role in complex thinking skills show the poorest health with advancing age, new research suggests. Connections supporting functions such as movement and hearing are relatively well preserved in later life, the findings show. Scientists carrying out the most comprehensive study to date on ageing and the brain’s connections charted subtle ways in which the brain’s connections weaken with age. Knowing how and where connections between brain cells – so-called white matter – decline as we age is important in understanding why some people’s brains and thinking skills age better than others.

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Neuroscience vs Art: Let’s talk across the divide

Can the messy richness of art be reduced to neuroscience? It’s not clear, but the various parties can at least agree on common ground. How art operates on brains is interesting but does not get us far in terms of the specificity of the art.

There are clearly exciting developments in the neuroscience of art.  We are learning more and more about where and how different aspects of visual art are processed in the brain. It might be demonstrating the obvious to show that a Rothko operates differently on the brain from a Rembrandt self-portrait, though it is of undoubted interest to track the processes involved. But while revealing the basic mechanisms is interesting and potentially important, it does not get us far in terms of the specificity of the art, given our individual perspectives as viewers and the particular contexts in play when we were studying.

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Read also: Reductionism in Art and Brain Science: Bridging the two cultures

Posted in Arts, Neuroscience | Tagged ,

How the Power of Interest Drives Learning

In recent years researchers have begun to build a science of interest, investigating what interest is, how interest develops, what makes things interesting, and how we can cultivate interest in ourselves and others. They are finding that interest can help us think more clearly, understand more deeply, and remember more accurately. Interest has the power to transform struggling performers and to lift high achievers to a new plane. So what is interest? Interest is a psychological state of engagement, experienced in the moment, and also a predisposition to engage repeatedly with particular ideas, events, or objects over time. Why do we have it? Paul Silvia of the University of North Carolina speculates that interest acts as an “approach urge” that pushes back against the “avoid urges” that would keep us in the realm of the safe and familiar. Interest pulls us toward the new, the edgy, the exotic. As Silvia puts it, interest “diversifies experience.” But interest also focuses experience. In a world too full of information, interests usefully narrow our choices: they lead us to pay attention to this and not to that.

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Read also: Students’ Own Interests Will Drive the School Day of the Future

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Brain blocks formation of new Memories to safeguard consolidating existing Memories

According to a new study, the brain blocks the ability for creating new memories shortly after waking in order to prevent the disruption of the stabilization of memory consolidation that occurs during sleep. Bar-Ilan University scientists show that a protein synthesis dependent process blocks new learning just after waking, thereby preventing the disruption of memory stabilization which occurs during sleep. Throughout our waking lives we are exposed to a continuous stream of stimuli and experiences. Some of these experiences trigger the strengthening of connections between neurons in the brain, and begin the process of forming memories. However, these initial memory traces are fragile and only a small number will become long-term memories with the potential to last a lifetime. For this transition to occur, the brain must stabilize the memory traces through a process called consolidation.

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Rhythm of Breathing Affects Memory and Fear

A new study reports the rhythm of your breathing can influence neural activity that enhances memory recall and emotional judgment. Breathing is not just for oxygen; it’s now linked to brain function and behavior. Northwestern Medicine scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgments and memory recall. These effects on behavior depend critically on whether you inhale or exhale and whether you breathe through the nose or mouth. In the study, individuals were able to identify a fearful face more quickly if they encountered the face when breathing in compared to breathing out. Individuals also were more likely to remember an object if they encountered it on the inhaled breath than the exhaled one. The effect disappeared if breathing was through the mouth.

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Musical training creates new Brain connections in Children

Taking music lessons increases brain fiber connections in children and may be useful in treating autism and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), according to a study. “It’s been known that musical instruction benefits children with these disorders,” said Pilar Dies-Suarez, MD, chief radiologist at the Hospital Infantil de México Federico Gómez in Mexico City, “but this study has given us a better understanding of exactly how the brain changes and where these new fiber connections are occurring.” The researchers studied 23 healthy children between the ages of five and six years old. All of the children were right-handed and had no history of sensory, perception or neurological disorders. None of the children had been trained in any artistic discipline in the past.

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