Memory Loss Identified Years Before Alzheimer’s Symptoms Appear

UCL researchers have developed a new cognitive test able to detect subtle memory problems years before Alzheimer’s symptoms develop.

A UCL-led team has developed a cognitive test to detect subtle memory deficits years before Alzheimer’s disease symptoms develop, set out in a new paper published in The Lancet Neurology. The study involved 21 people who carry the mutation for early onset Alzheimer’s disease who have not shown any symptoms based on standard cognitive tests, alongside 14 controls. On average the study participants were seven years away from predicted onset of symptomatic disease.


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Bilingualism Could Offset Brain Changes in Alzheimer’s

A new study reports bilingual people have an advantage when it comes to brain plasticity. Researchers report being multilingual could help stave off cognitive decline associated with dementia.

After more than a decade of research, this much we know: it’s good for your brain to know another language. A new Concordia study goes further, however, focusing specifically on the effects of knowing a second language for patients with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) and mild cognitive impairment (MCI; a risk state for AD). “Most of the previous research on brain structure was conducted with healthy younger or older adults,” says Natalie Phillips, a professor in the Department of Psychology.


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Analizan efectos de estrés ambiental y daño en el sistema nervioso

Estudios liderados por el Dr. Claudio Hetz, esperan contribuir al desarrollo de una estrategia terapéutica, que pueda controlar el deterioro de la función cerebral. Baja en la capacidad cognitiva y pérdida de memoria, son algunos efectos nocivos que genera la exposición al estrés crónico.

Analizar los efectos del estrés ambiental sobre las neuronas y su implicancia sobre las funciones cognitivas del cerebro, es la nueva investigación que está desarrollando el laboratorio del Dr. Claudio Hetz, director del Instituto Milenio de Neurociencia Biomédica, BNI. El objetivo de estos estudios, realizados en colaboración con científicos de Suiza de la Escuela Polítecnica Federal de Lausane (EPFL) -también llamado MIT Suizo-, es desarrollar estrategias terapéuticas y farmacológicas que permitan mejorar la calidad de vida en población afectada por estrés prolongado.


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Biology of consciousness

The Dynamic Core and Global Workspace hypotheses were independently put forward to provide mechanistic and biologically plausible accounts of how brains generate conscious mental content. The Dynamic Core proposes that reentrant neural activity in the thalamocortical system gives rise to conscious experience. Global Workspace reconciles the limited capacity of momentary conscious content with the vast repertoire of long-term memory. In this paper we show the close relationship between the two hypotheses. This relationship allows for a strictly biological account of phenomenal experience and subjectivity that is consistent with mounting experimental evidence. We examine the constraints on causal analyses of consciousness and suggest that there is now sufficient evidence to consider the design and construction of a conscious artifact.


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The effects of aerobic activity on brain structure

Aerobic activity is a powerful stimulus for improving mental health and for generating structural changes in the brain. We review the literature documenting these structural changes and explore exactly where in the brain these changes occur as well as the underlying substrates of the changes including neural, glial, and vasculature components. Aerobic activity has been shown to produce different types of changes in the brain. The presence of novel experiences or learning is an especially important component in how these changes are manifest. We also discuss the distinct time courses of structural brain changes with both aerobic activity and learning as well as how these effects might differ in diseased and elderly groups.


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The psychological functions of music listening

Why do people listen to music? Over the past several decades, scholars have proposed numerous functions that listening to music might fulfill. However, different theoretical approaches, different methods, and different samples have left a heterogeneous picture regarding the number and nature of musical functions. Moreover, there remains no agreement about the underlying dimensions of these functions. Part one of the paper reviews the research contributions that have explicitly referred to musical functions. It is concluded that a comprehensive investigation addressing the basic dimensions underlying the plethora of functions of music listening is warranted. Part two of the paper presents an empirical investigation of hundreds of functions that could be extracted from the reviewed contributions. These functions were distilled to 129 non-redundant functions that were then rated by 834 respondents.


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How human language could have evolved from birdsong

Linguistics and biology researchers propose a new theory on the deep roots of human speech.

“The sounds uttered by birds offer in several respects the nearest analogy to language,” Charles Darwin wrote in “The Descent of Man” (1871), while contemplating how humans learned to speak. Language, he speculated, might have had its origins in singing, which “might have given rise to words expressive of various complex emotions.”

Now researchers from MIT, along with a scholar from the University of Tokyo, say that Darwin was on the right path. The balance of evidence, they believe, suggests that human language is a grafting of two communication forms found elsewhere in the animal kingdom: first, the elaborate songs of birds, and second, the more utilitarian, information-bearing types of expression seen in a diversity of other animals.


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Neuroscience of language and communication

The human capacity to communicate has been hypothesized to be causally dependent upon language. Intuitively this seems plausible since most communication relies on language. Moreover, intention recognition abilities (as a necessary prerequisite for communication) and language development seem to co-develop. Here we review evidence from neuroimaging as well as from neuropsychology to evaluate the relationship between communicative and linguistic abilities. Our review indicates that communicative abilities are best considered as neurally distinct from language abilities. This conclusion is based upon evidence showing that humans rely on different cortical systems when designing a communicative message for someone else as compared to when performing core linguistic tasks, as well as upon observations of individuals with severe language loss after extensive lesions to the language system, who are still able to perform tasks involving intention understanding.


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Neuroart: the neuroscience of actions in art and science

Intentional actions cover a broad spectrum of human behaviors involving consciousness, creativity, innovative thinking, problem-solving, critical thinking, and other related cognitive processes self-evident in the arts and sciences. The author discusses the brain activity associated with action intentions, connecting this activity with the creative process. Focusing on one seminal artwork created and exhibited over a period of three decades, Thought Assemblies (1979–82, 2014), he describes how this symbolic art interprets the neuropsychological processes of intuition and analytical reasoning. It explores numerous basic questions concerning observed interactions between artistic and scientific inquiries, conceptions, perceptions, and representations connecting mind and nature. Pointing to some key neural mechanisms responsible for forming and implementing intentions, he considers why and how we create, discover, invent, and innovate. He suggests ways of metaphorical thinking and symbolic modeling that can help integrate the neuroscience of intentional actions with the neuroscience of creativity, art and neuroaesthetics.


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Melatonin during a Nap Fosters Learning

Sleep helps to protect and renew hippocampus-dependent declarative learning. Less is known about forms of learning that mainly engage the dopaminergic reward system. Animal studies showed that exogenous melatonin modulates the responses of the dopaminergic reward system and acts as a neuroprotectant promoting memory. In humans, melatonin is mainly secreted in darkness during evening hours supporting sleep. In this study, we investigate the effects of a short period of daytime sleep (nap) and endogenous melatonin on reward learning. Twenty-seven healthy, adult students took part in an experiment, either taking a 90-min afternoon nap or watching videos (within-subject design). Before and after the sleep vs. wake interval, saliva melatonin levels and reward learning were measured, and in the nap condition, a polysomnogram was obtained. Reward learning was assessed using a two-alternative probabilistic reinforcement-learning task. Sleep itself and subjective arousal or valence had no significant effects on reward learning.


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