Saturday, March 17, 2012

Brain Imaging Study Finds Evidence of Basis for Caregiving Impulse

Researchers have found that distinct patterns of activity -- which may indicate a predisposition to care for infants -- appear in the brains of adults who view an image of an infant face -- even when the child is not theirs
Distinct patterns of activity -- which may indicate a predisposition to care for infants-- appear in the brains of adults who view an image of an infant face -- even when the child is not theirs, according to a study by researchers at the National Institutes of Health and in Germany, Italy, and Japan.

Seeing images of infant faces appeared to activate in the adult's brains circuits that reflect preparation for movement and speech as well as feelings of reward.
The findings raise the possibility that studying this activity will yield insights into care giving behavior, but also in cases of child neglect or abuse.
"These adults have no children of their own. Yet images of a baby's face triggered what we think might be a deeply embedded response to reach out and care for that child," said senior author Marc H. Bornstein, Ph.D., head of the Child and Family Research Section of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the NIH institute that collaborated on the study.
While the researchers recorded participants' brain activity, the participants did not speak or move. Yet their brain activity was typical of patterns preceding such actions as picking up or talking to an infant, the researchers explained. The activity pattern could represent a biological impulse that governs adults' interactions with small children.
From their study results, the researchers concluded that this pattern is specific to seeing human infants. The pattern did not appear when the participants looked at photos of adults or of animals -- even baby animals.
Along with Dr. Bornstein, the research was carried out by first author Andrea Caria, Ph.D., of the University of Tuebingen, in Germany; Paola Venuti of the Department of Cognitive Science of University of Trento in Italy; Gianluca Esposito of the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Saitama, Japan; researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics and Eberhard Karls University, in Tuebingen, Germany.
Their findings appear in the journal NeuroImage.
To collect the data, the researchers showed seven men and nine women a series of images while recording their brain activity with a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner. In the scanner, participants viewed images of puppy and kitten faces, full-grown dogs and cats, human infants and adults.
When the researchers compared the areas and strength of brain activity in response to each kind of image, they found that infant images evoked more activity than any of the other images in brain areas associated with three main functions:
  • Premotor and preverbal activity -- The researchers documented increased activity in the premotor cortex and the supplemental motor area, which are regions of the brain directly under the crown of the head. These regions orchestrate brain impulses preceding speech and movement but before movement takes place.
  • Facial recognition -- Activity in the fusiform gyrus -- on each side of the brain, about where the ears are -- is associated with processing of information about faces. Activity the researchers detected in the fusiform gyrus may indicate heightened attention to the movement and expressions on an infant's face, the researchers said.
  • Emotion and reward -- Activity deep in the brain areas known as the insula and the cingulate cortex indicated emotional arousal, empathy, attachment and feelings linked to motivation and reward, the researchers said. Other studies have documented a similar pattern of activity in the brains of parents responding to their own infants.
Participants also rated how they felt when viewing adult and infant faces. They reported feeling more willing to approach, smile at, and communicate with an infant than an adult. They also recorded feeling happier when viewing images of infants.
Taken together, the researchers contend, the findings suggest a readiness to interact with infants that previously has been only inferred, and only from parents. Such brain activity in nonparents could indicate that the biological makeup of humans includes a mechanism to ensure that infants survive and receive the care they need to grow and develop.
However, signs of readiness to care for a child that appear in the brains of some or even most adults do not necessarily mean the same patterns will appear in the brains of all adults, Dr. Bornstein said. "It's equally important to investigate what's happening in the brains of those who have neglected or abused children," he said. "Additional studies could help us confirm and understand what appears to be a parenting instinct in adults, both when the instinct functions and when it fails to function."

Brain scans find why some people 'black out' after drinking - and why others remember it all to gloat the next morning

  • Alcohol 'switches' off brain region that encodes memory - and some are more vulnerable than others
  • Not necessarily because people drink more
People who wake up after an evening's drinking and find the details are a little fuzzy might be reassured by a new study.

People who suffer memory loss don't always do so because they drink more than others - certain brains are just prone to losing memories when under the influence, according to a new study using MRI brain scanners.

Around 40 per cent of students will suffer memory loss while at college.
Alcohol seems to act as a chemical 'switch' in a brain region which 'encodes' memories - and some are more vulnerable that others.
The Hangover: Researchers found that alcoholic blackouts aren't 
necessarily due to drinking more than others - some people have a 
chemical 'switch' that makes them forget
The Hangover: Researchers found that alcoholic blackouts aren't necessarily due to drinking more than others - some people have a chemical 'switch' that makes them forget
‘Our study's findings suggest that some people are more likely to experience alcohol-induced blackouts than others due to the way alcohol affects brain activity in areas involved in self-monitoring, attention, and working memory,’ said Reagan R. Wetherill of the University of California, San Diego. Wetherill says, 'Some people may be more vulnerable to alcohol's effects than others. In other words, just because your friend may be able to drink a certain number of drinks and appear to be functioning fine, it does not mean that you or everyone else can.’
'Blackouts', where very heavy drinkers wake up and are unable to remember anything that happened, are quite rare, says Weatherill - but their cousin, the 'brown out', where details vanish, is much more common.
The study - using 24 students, 12 of whom suffered 'brown outs' while drinking, and 12 who did not, challenged the students to complete memory exercises both while drunk and while sober.
The study found that the students had similar abilities to remember and to multi-task while sober - but alcohol acted as a 'magic switch' for some which stopped them remembering.It suggests there is a biochemical trigger for some people to forget what happens while drinking.
The Hangover: When some people drink, a part of their brain which 
usually 'encodes' memories simply switches off
The Hangover: When some people drink, a part of their brain which usually 'encodes' memories simply switches off

‘Through use of imaging technology, this study has made the really intriguing finding that the unique patterns of blood flow and neural activity seen in persons prone to experience those amnestic phenomena emerged only after they became intoxicated,’she said.‘That finding, taken together with results from prior research on fragmentary blackouts, suggests there are individual differences in how alcohol impacts memory.'‘Alcohol intoxication reduced activity in a brain region involved in 'multitasking,'‘ said Wetherill.‘Thus, alcohol appears to affect a person's ability to multitask, and also affects some people's ability to engage brain areas required for encoding and remembering previous experiences.’‘Irrespective of the specific type of alcohol-related memory loss involved, if one is experiencing blackouts it is an important signal that negative personal and health consequences are more likely to occur,’ said Weatherill.‘Not fully recalling one's life experiences, particularly those that occur while one is intoxicated, creates a state of vulnerability where the chances increase for the individual to incur all kinds of problems.’

Study: Brain decides which hand holds phone handset

Detroit. About 70 per cent of people hold their cellphone to the ear on the same side as their dominant hand, a new study finds.Left-brain thinkers are more likely to use their right hand for writing and other everyday tasks. They’re also more likely to hold their cellphone to their right ear, even though there’s no difference in hearing between their right and left ears.The reverse is true for people who are left-handed and right-brain dominant, according to the study by researchers at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit.

Their online survey of more than 700 people found that 68 per cent of right-handed people said they held their cellphone to their right ear, while 25 per cent used the left ear, and 7 per cent used both ears.
Among left-handed people, 72 per cent said they held their cellphone to their left ear, 23 per cent used their right ear, and 5 per cent used both ears. The study was presented at a meeting of the Association for Research in Otolaryngology in San Diego.

“Our findings have several implications, especially for mapping the language center of the brain,” Dr Michael Seidman, director of the division of otologic and neurotologic surgery in the department of otolaryngology-head and neck surgery, said in a Henry Ford Health System news release.

The findings also suggest that there’s no link between cellphone use and brain, and head and neck tumors, according to Seidman.If there were a connection, far more people would be diagnosed on the right side of their brain, head and neck because most people are right-handed and hold their cellphones to their right ear, he said.

Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal. (Agencies)

Brain tumor preventable says expert

brain-tumorConsultant Neurophysician Medical Director and Head Research and Development, Dr. Syed Irfan Ali underlined the need of adopting effective strategy over increasing cases of Brain Tumor adding that the people could avoid the disease by adopting preventive measures.
Talking to this scribe here on Friday, he said that with tumors elsewhere in the body, the exact cause of most brain tumors is unknown and many of the factors have been proposed as possible risk factors for primary brain tumors, but whether some factors actually increase an individual's risk of a brain tumor is not known for sure.
About the causes of Brain Cancer, he said Radiation to the head an inherited (genetic) risk, HIV infection, Cigarette smoking and environmental toxins (for example, chemicals used in oil refineries, embalming chemicals, rubber industry chemicals), he added.
About the brain cancer symptoms Dr.Syed Irfan Ali informed that not all brain tumors cause symptoms and some are found mainly after death.
He said that the symptoms of brain tumors are numerous and not specific to brain tumors, meaning they can be caused by many other illnesses as well.
The only way to know for sure what is causing the symptoms is to undergo diagnostic testing. He said that the symptoms are caused by the tumor pressing on or encroaching on other parts of the brain and keeping them from functioning normally.
Some symptoms are caused by swelling in the brain caused by the tumor or surrounding inflammation and the symptoms of primary and metastasis brain cancers are similar, he said adding some symptoms are most common included Headache, Weakness, clumsiness, Difficulty walking and, Seizures.
About the brain cancer treatment Dr. Irfan Ali informed that treatment for brain cancer should be individualized for each patient.
He said that treatment regimens are based on the patient's age and general health status as well as the size, location, type, and grade of the tumor.
In most cases of brain cancer, surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy are the main types of treatment. Often, more than one treatment type is used, added.
He said that cancers of the brain are the consequence of abnormal growths of cells in the brain although many growths in the brain are popularly called brain tumors, not all brain tumors are cancerous.
He said that malignant tumors grow and spread aggressively, overpowering healthy cells by taking their space, blood, and nutrients and this is especially a problem in the brain, as the added growth within the closed confines of the skull can lead to an increase in intracranial pressure or the distortion of surrounding vital structures, causing their malfunction, Dr.Irfan said.
He said that the most common cancers that spread to the brain are those arising from the lung, breast, and kidney as well as malignant melanoma.
The cells spread to the brain from another tumor in a process called metastasis and these cancer cells eventually reach the brain tissue through the bloodstream where they develop into tumors.
He said that the most widely used treatments are surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. In some cases, more than one of these treatment types are used and the most people with a brain tumor undergo surgery.
He said that the purposes of surgery are to confirm that the abnormality seen on the brain scan is indeed a tumor, to assign a grade to the tumor, and to remove the tumor and in some cases, mostly in benign tumors, symptoms can be completely cured by surgical removal of the tumor.
A neurosurgeon will attempt to remove the tumor when possible, Neurologist said.

New Research Finds Differences in Menopausal Memory Problems and Age-Related Memory Loss

March 16, 2012 -- Along with hot flashes and night sweats, memory problems are a common complaint of menopausal women. Now a new study finds evidence that menopause “brain fog” may be real.
The research provides clues about changes in women’s brains as they transition through the “change,” finding key differences between the memory issues women in the study had around the time of menopause and those most often associated with aging.
“I think the take-home message is that there is something to the complaints about memory during this phase of life,” says University of Rochester Medical Center neuropsychologist Miriam T. Weber, PhD. “The memory issues we saw were distinctly different from the kind of issues seen in older populations.”

Working Memory and Menopause

The study included 75 women who were tested on different aspects of memory and thinking.
All of the women were experiencing menopause-related changes in their menstrual cycles at the time of testing, but had had at least one period during the previous year.
Women who had memory complaints were more likely to perform poorly on tests designed to measure working memory, which Weber describes as the ability to take in new information and manipulate it.
Tasks that involve working memory might include calculating the amount of a tip to leave at a restaurant or changing one’s itinerary at the last minute.
The researchers found little evidence that the women had problems storing and retrieving information, which is common in patients with age-related memory loss.
Psychiatry and psychology professor Pauline Maki, PhD, who also worked on the study, says menopausal women tend to be much better than older people at recognizing and assessing their memory deficits.
Maki is director of Women’s Mental Health Research at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
“It may be that women are generally more tuned in to bodily changes because so many changes are happening all at once,” she tells WebMD.

Hormones and Menopause ‘Brain Fog’

The study, published this week in the journal Menopause, did not show a link between observed memory problems and estrogen levels.
Weber tells WebMD this may be because estrogen levels fluctuate so dramatically during menopause that a single measure may tell very little.
“My personal bias is that memory issues around this time of life are related to estrogen, but our study wasn’t able to show this,” she says.
North American Menopause Society (NAMS) executive director Margery Gass, MD, who is an ob-gyn, says although many women notice new problems with memory as they approach menopause, many others do not.
“Many women don’t have these issues at all, and the good news is that for those who do have them, the memory deficits appear to be transient.”
Weber says menopausal women with memory complaints should try to avoid multitasking, especially when they are trying to learn or remember new information.
“Eliminating distractions can really help,” she says. “Rather than working on a document and checking email when making an appointment, just focus on the appointment and write it down.”