Saturday, September 22, 2012

Kangaroo Care’ Positively Impacts Preemies’ Brain Development

'Kangaroo Care' Positively Impacts Preemies' Brain Development  Kangaroo Mother Care — in which a premature infant remains in skin-to-skin contact with the parent’s chest rather than being placed in an incubator — may have lasting positive benefits on brain development, according to a new study.

Researchers at Université Laval found that premature infants who benefited from this technique had better brain functioning in adolescence than premature infants placed in incubators.

Earlier research showed that infants born before the 33rd week of pregnancy experienced more cognitive and behavioral problems during childhood and adolescence.

In the new study, researchers compared brain functions of 18 premature infants kept in incubators, 21 held in Kangaroo contact for an average of 29 days, and nine full-term infants.

To assess the brain functions of the children — now aged 15 — the researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation. With this non-invasive and painless technique they could activate brain cells in targeted areas, namely the primary motor cortex that controls muscles. 

By measuring muscle responses to the stimulation, they were able to assess brain functions such as the level of brain excitability and inhibition, cell synchronization, neural conduction speed, and coordination between the two cerebral hemispheres.

The researchers found that all brain functions of the adolescent Kangaroo group were comparable to those of the full-term infant group. 

On the other hand, premature infants placed in incubators significantly deviated from the other two groups 15 years after their birth, the researchers said.

“Thanks to Kangaroo Mother Care, infants benefited from nervous system stimulation — the sound of the parent’s heart and the warmth of their body — during a critical period for the development of neural connections between the cerebral hemispheres,” said neurophysiologist Dr. Cyril Schneider.
“This promoted immediate and future brain development.”

Psychology researcher Dr. Réjean Tessier added that “infants in incubators also receive a lot of stimulation, but often the stimulation is too intense and stressful for the brain capacity of the very premature.”

“The Kangaroo Mother Care reproduces the natural conditions of the intrauterine environment in which the infants would have developed had they not been born premature. These beneficial effects on the brain are in evidence at least until adolescence and perhaps beyond.”

How fear can be erased from the brain

Researchers at Uppsala University in Sweden have determined that emotional memories can be effectively erased from the human brain.

"When a person learns something, a lasting long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. When we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then re-stabilized by another consolidation process," explained Thomas Ågren, a doctoral candidate at the Department of Psychology.

"In other words, it can be said that we are not remembering what originally happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened. By disrupting the re-consolidation process that follows upon remembering, we can affect the content of memory."

Ågren's team reached the above-mentioned conclusion by conducting an experiment in which subjects were shown a neutral picture while simultaneously administering an electric shock.

"In this way the picture came to elicit fear in the subjects which meant a fear memory had been formed. In order to activate this fear memory, the picture was then shown without any accompanying shock," he said.

For one experimental group the re-consolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture. For a control group, the re-consolidation process was allowed to complete before the subjects were shown the same repeated presentations of the picture.

Because the experimental group was not allowed to reconsolidate the fear memory, the panic they previously associated with the picture dissipated.

Essentially, by disrupting the re-consolidation process, the memory was rendered neutral and no longer incited fear. 

Additional research, bolstered with the use of an MR-scanner, showed that traces of a specific "fear" memory also disappeared from the part of the brain that normally stores fearful memories, the nuclear group of amygdala in the temporal lobe.

"These findings may be a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks," added Ågren.

U-M Researchers Identify Brain Mechanism That Causes People To Overeat


A part of the brain usually thought to control movement also may cause people to overeat, say University of Michigan researchers.

A new study appearing in the current issue of the journal Current Biology indicates that a new brain mechanism in the neostriatum produces intense motivation to overeat tasty foods.

The neostriatum, located near the middle and front of the brain, has traditionally been thought to control only motor movements (this is the part of the brain that is damaged in patients with Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease).

Yet for several years, it has been known that the neostriatum is active in brains of obese people when viewing or tasting foods, and in brains of drug addicts when viewing photos of drug-taking.

The research showed that an opium-like chemical — enkaphalin — produced naturally in the brain is a mechanism that generates intense motivation to consume pleasant rewards, said Alexandra DiFeliceantonio, a doctoral student in psychology and the study’s lead author.

When researchers gave extra morphine-like drug stimulation to the top of the neostriatum in rats, it caused the animals to eat twice the normal amount of sweet fatty food. For this study, that food was M&M milk chocolate candies.

“The same brain area we tested here is active when obese people see foods and when drug addicts see drug scenes,” DiFeliceantonio said. “So it seems likely that our enkephalin findings in rats mean that this neurotransmitter may drive some forms of overconsumption and addiction in people.”

Researchers measured levels of enkephalin using a painless microdialysis probe while rats were allowed to eat as much chocolate as they wanted. They found that enkephalin levels surged dramatically as soon as the rats started to eat, and remained high as long as they ate.

In addition, when researchers gave a painless microinjection of an opioid-stimulating drug in the rats’ neostriatum, the rats ate double the amount of chocolate.

DiFeliceantonio and colleagues mapped where extra drug stimulation of opioid receptors affected eating habits. They found that overeating was only caused in one region at the front and center part of the neostriatum (called the anterior-medial region of dorsal neostriatum).

“Finding the brain mechanisms for overconsumption is a step towards designing better biological-based treatments for obesity and binge eating disorders,” DiFeliceantonio said.

The study’s other researchers were Omar Mabrouk, a postdoctoral research fellow in pharmacology and chemistry; Robert Kennedy, the Hobart H. Willard Collegiate Professor of Chemistry and professor of pharmacology; and Kent Berridge, the James Olds Collegiate Professor of Psychology and Neuroscience.

Dark matter DNA active in brain during day/night cycle

Long stretches of DNA once considered inert dark matter appear to be uniquely active in a part of the brain known to control the body’s 24-hour cycle, according to researchers at the National Institutes of Health. 

Working with material from rat brains, the researchers found some expanses of DNA contained the information that generate biologically active molecules. The levels of these molecules rose and fell, in synchrony with 24-hour cycles of light and darkness. Activity of some of the molecules peaked at night and diminished during the day, while the remainder peaked during the day and diminished during the night. 

The material came from the brain structure known as the pineal gland. Located in the center of the human brain, the pineal gland helps regulate the body’s responses to day and night cycles, the researchers explained. In the evenings and at night, the pineal gland increases production of melatonin, a hormone that synchronizes the body’s rhythms with the cycle of light and dark. In many species, the pineal gland also plays a role in seasonally associated behaviors, such as hibernation and mating, as well as in sexual maturation.

The biologically active material arising from the pineal gland DNA is called long noncoding RNA (lncRNA). The lncRNA is distinct from the better-known messenger RNA (mRNA), which serves as a kind of template to translate the information contained in DNA for the manufacturing of proteins. The lncRNAs appear instead to be involved in activating, blocking or altering the activity of genes or influencing the function of the proteins, or acting as scaffolds for the organization of complexes of proteins. The researchers’ use of next-generation sequencing methods detected the lncRNA activity in addition to the mRNA they originally targeted, which helped them in making their discovery. 
"These lncRNAs come from areas of the genome that we thought were quiet," said senior author David Klein, Ph.D., head of the Section on Neuroendocrinology at the NIH's Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD), in much of the research was conducted. "But current research in the field makes it unequivocally clear that the information-carrying capacity of the genome is a lot greater than we realized previously."

The study was a collaboration between Dr. Klein and NIH colleagues at the NICHD; the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI); the NIH Intramural Sequencing Center, administered by NHGRI and the Center for Information Technology. In addition, researchers from King’s College London; the University of Copenhagen, in Denmark; the Genomatix Software company, in Munich contributed to the study.

Their findings appear online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
To conduct their analysis, the researchers examined RNA from the pineal glands of rats exposed to cycles of 14 hours of light and 10 hours of darkness. The researchers identified 112 lncRNAs with 24 hour cycles. For nearly 60 percent of these lncRNAs, the rats' DNA produced twice as many lncRNA molecules at night as during the day. In addition, nearly 90 percent of the lncRNAs were produced in significantly greater quantities in the pineal gland than in other tissues of the body, most of which did not have detectable levels of these lncRNAs. 

The researchers also disrupted the rats' regular day–night light cycle by turning on a light during a typical dark period. Within 30 minutes of the light going on, most of the lncRNAs decreased by half.
The role of the pineal gland lncRNAs is unclear; however, they have circadian patterns of activity. Dr. Klein previously documented hundreds of genes in the pineal gland with consistent day–night cycles of activity.

"The lncRNAs show such strong activity, they obviously have something to tell us about the biology of daily body rhythms," Dr. Klein said. "We are only beginning to understand how the pineal gland helps maintain the body's 24 hour rhythms."

DARPA's Cybernetic Binoculars Tap Soldiers' Brains To Spot Threats

The U.S. Army and DARPA have concluded field tests on next-generation binocular replacements that read human brain signals and have a 91% threat detection success rate. They might just help you control your car with your thoughts too (seriously).

Binoculars on the battlefield are fine, as long as soldiers know what they're looking at. But when a target's not so clear or, say, a shopkeeper with a broom could easily be mistaken for an insurgent with an RPG, the eyes--even the conscious, rational mind--might not be the best tool for threat-spotting and quick reaction.
So a new system from military think tank DARPA is instead going straight to soldiers' brainwaves to spot real threats--from far away, or amid a crowded landscape.

The concept might sound familiar to science fiction readers: Augmenting human soldiers with brainwave-reading computers. The Cognitive Technology Threat Warning System (CT2WS) is a threat detection system for troops in the field that simultaneously scans warfighters' brainwaves while a camera surveys the area. The binocular replacement system detects a specific kind of brainwave (the P300, which is involved in stimulus evaluation and categorization), combines that info with a camera feed, and processes it all through an algorithm in near-real time to feed back an almost-instant threat assessment. (Think: every cyborg POV shot in every Terminator movie ever made.) Sounds pretty out there, but testing indicates 91% of enemy targets were identified in the field, compared with the 47% spotted by U.S. warfighters in action today who aren't using the new system.

The CT2WS project started in 2008, with the goal of developing next-generation portable visual threat detection devices for use in warzones. The University of California San Diego's bioengineering department and several California biotech and hardware firms partnered with DARPA to develop the brain-scanning enemy detection device.

As currently developed, CT2WS consists of three parts. There is an electroencephalogram (EEG) headset (below) worn by the user which records electrical activity in the brain and sends a ping to an outside computer system when the subconscious evaluates a visual threat.

Additionally, there is a separate 120 megapixel electro-optical video camera with a 120-degree field of view (below).

Lastly, both the camera and EEG unit are connected to a computer system that uses proprietary algorithms to identify potential targets and cue images for review. The software behind CT2WS can be run on a laptop as well, according to DARPA.

HRL Laboratories is a Malibu-based R&D house jointly owned by Boeing and General Motors which worked on CT2WS. One of HRL's specialties is developing cognitive-neural algorithms that allow computers to interpret human thoughts. According to HRL, the end result is far superior to conventional enemy-spotting technologies like binoculars. “CT2WS automatically scans a field of view more than ten times as wide as that is available using standard army binoculars. This is coupled with digital techniques that provide far higher resolution and greater effective visual distance than today's binoculars,” HRL's Deepak Khosla tells Fast Company.

In testing for desert, tropical, and open terrain, CT2WS was able to identify 91% of targets successfully. DARPA is also considering combining the system with a commercial radar--during field tests, the combination of CT2WS and a commercial system, the Cerberus Scout surveillance system, was able to identify 100% of the targets encountered.

The EEG sensor component of CT2WS was developed by San Diego's Quasar. Quasar used special wireless EEG sensors for the project that don't require the use of conductive gels and which don't cause skin abrasion. The lightweight EEG sensors and accompanying headset are small enough to wear under a bike helmet, according to Quasar's Walid Soussou. The CT2WS headset is also designed for easy cleaning, and meets the blunt and ballistic impact safety requirements for a military helmet.

DARPA, for their part, is playing up the fact that human and machine can complement each other on the battlefield. Project literature claims that “humans are inherently adept at detecting the unusual,” while algorithms are successful at detecting commonplace phenomena that are potential indicators of threats or targets--such as birds in flight or tree branches swaying. When the camera and sensor were tested, sensor and cognitive algorithms returned 810 false alarms per hour. However, once a testee began wearing an EEG cap and feeding in results, false alarms dropped to only five per hour.

Development of CT2WS is currently being transitioned from DARPA to the U.S. Army Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate. According to HRL, the military is interested in CT2WS for situational awareness in reconnaissance, force protection surveillance, and standard infantry tactical fighting. The transfer of CT2WS technology to the U.S. Army indicates that the brain-wave-reading binoculars have progressed past testing and into the sweet spot of Pentagon bureaucracy.

Of course, CT2WS also has civilian applications: According to Khosla, HRL (which, again, is partly owned by General Motors) believes that the EEG decoding and cognitive algorithms used by CT2WS can also be used for controlling buttons inside cars or breaking in sudden emergencies--all using, well, human thought.

I Kissed A Girl With My Brain… The Results Weren’t So Good

Find out if you really like each other by testing your brain waves. That's what the Brain Kiss app tests to see.

By wearing a brain wave scanner and looking into each other's eyes for 15 seconds, you can get the results of how you really feel about the person you're looking at in 5 levels of attraction: Like very much, Like, So-so, Not very, and No interest.

I got a chance to try it out at the Architect Co., Ltd. booth at Tokyo Game Show 2012. The companion at the desk fitted the brain wave scanner onto my head and started the app. We then looked into each other's eyes for 15 seconds which was pretty embarrassing (she was pretty cute), and got out results.

According the app screens, her feelings for me were "Like very much," but my feelings for her were "No interest..." (Above image) I would swear it wasn't true, but it's kind of hard to argue with science.

It might be fun to try Brain Kiss with my friends, but while the app is free, the brain wave scanner costs ¥9,500 (US$121.5), which is a little steep for what is kind of a novelty game... There is also a brain training app that utilizes the brain wave scanner, Zone Trainer, that is scheduled for release in fall, 2012.

I should go back and ask that companion out for some coffee after the game show...

Vitamin D during pregnancy may boost baby’s brain health, says study

LOS ANGELES, Sept 22 — A new study published this week finds that when moms get enough vitamin D during pregnancy, their babies score higher on developmental tests.
Vitamin D during pregnancy may boost a baby’s brain health, according to a new Spanish study. 
Researchers from the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology in Barcelona studied 1,820 mothers and their babies and found that babies of moms who had optimal levels of vitamin D during pregnancy scored slightly higher than babies of moms who were vitamin D deficient. The study was published September 17 in the journal Pediatrics.

While experts say that this shouldn’t cause alarm for healthy women, this study could “open the door” for “advocating a stronger stance on vitamin D recommendations for pregnancy and pre-pregnancy,” Valencia Walker, MD, a neonatologist at Mattel Children’s Hospital UCLA, told WebMD. She was not involved in the study.

While clinical recommendations for vitamin D are unclear, researcher Eva Morales, MD, PhD, MPH, notes that trials are underway to make determinations.

Meanwhile, Walker told WebMD that women may face a higher risk of vitamin D deficiency if they are overweight or obese, have darker skin, or live in northern locations, especially during wintertime. Prenatal vitamins often provide 400 IU of vitamin D, but WebMD adds that there is not enough research yet to conclude that supplementing with more vitamin D would be beneficial.

According to, the National Academy of Sciences currently recommends 200 IUs of vitamin D every day if you’re not exposed to a lot of sunlight, but many experts believe this isn’t enough. Access BabyCenter for tips on food sources packed with vitamin D, such as fatty fish and fortified milk

Brain Fluid Changes Predict Alzheimer’s 10 Years in Advance

Brain Fluid Changes Predict Alzheimer's 10 Years in AdvanceNew signs of future Alzheimer’s disease have been identified by researchers at Lund University and Skane University in Sweden. Dr. Peder Buchhave and his team explain that disease-modifying treatments are more beneficial if started early, so it is essential identify Alzheimer’s disease patients as quickly as possible.

Alzheimer’s disease accounts for most cases of dementia worldwide. Its development may start up to 20 years before symptoms appear. The so-called amyloid plaques which form in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease contain substances known as beta-amyloid and tangles made of tau proteins.

The team followed 137 patients with mild cognitive impairment for about nine years. At the start of the study, all patients underwent lumbar puncture, in order to collect a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. During the nine years of the study, 54 percent developed Alzheimer’s disease. Sixteen percent developed other forms of dementia.

Patients’ levels of beta-amyloid 1-42, T-tau and P-tau were measured at the study’s start. Those who went on to develop Alzheimer’s disease had reduced levels of beta-amyloid 1-42 five to 10 years in advance of the disease. Raised levels of the other spinal fluids seemed to be associated with the disease, but the link occurred later on.

Findings appear in the January 2012 issue of Archives of General Psychiatry. The authors predict that:
Approximately 90 percent of patients with mild cognitive impairment and pathologic [disease-indicating] cerebrospinal fluid biomarkers will develop Alzheimer’s disease within 9.2 years. Therefore, these markers can identify individuals at high risk for future Alzheimer’s disease least five to ten years before conversion to dementia.
In conclusion, the cerebrospinal fluid levels of tau and beta-amyloid seem to be substantially altered very early in the disease process of Alzheimer’s disease.
Hopefully, new therapies that can retard or even halt progression of the disease will soon be available. Together with an early and accurate diagnosis, such therapies could be initiated before neuronal degeneration is too widespread and patients are already demented.”
They say these results support the theory that beta-amyloid metabolism is altered before the brain begins to degenerate. This may help to shape future research studies. Furthermore, once Alzheimer’s disease symptoms begin, a patient’s beta-amyloid and tau levels in their cerebrospinal fluid stay relatively constant, so might serve as markers for the efficiency of treatment, the researchers add.

But other researchers believe that, by the time the clinical symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear, so much neurodegeneration has occurred that disease-modifying therapy may not be effective.

This is why it is so important the underlying pathology is better understood, possibly by measuring cerebrospinal fluid levels. Experts led by Dr. Niklas Mattsson of the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, looked at this question in a large study of 750 adults with mild cognitive impairment, 529 with Alzheimer’s disease, and 304 healthy adults.
They found that, over two years, levels of beta-amyloid, T-tau, and P-tau predicted patient outcomes, suggesting that these markers “may be useful in identifying patients for clinical trials and possibly screening tests in memory clinics.”

This group of investigators has been studying these issues for several years, and their study has been described as “a tour de force” of clinical and laboratory data collections. The markers are now confirmed as being useful indicators for Alzheimer’s disease.

But Ronald C. Petersen, professor of neurology at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., who is involved with the Study of Aging, says “it is premature to recommend application of these techniques in clinical practice.” He believes that “significant refinement of the testing procedures is necessary before these techniques can be recommended for general clinical use.”

Efforts in this direction are under way in a study based at 57 centers in the U.S. and Canada which was designed to look at biomarkers for predicting Alzheimer’s disease. A major focus of the study is to decide on standard, reliable clinical, neuroimaging and laboratory procedures.

But Prof. Petersen says, “Of critical importance, however, is what the clinician and patient will do with such results. Alzheimer disease has no treatment to prevent or alter the course of the disease, so making the diagnosis with good accuracy may aid in planning but also could be devastating news for some patients and families.

“Furthermore, false positives and false negatives occur as with any screening test. However, as biomarkers become more sophisticated, they are likely to take on an increasingly important role in the diagnosis and management of Alzheimer disease.”

Brain power? It's the lust thing on our minds

Lust 'tends to focus our minds on the present and on detail'.
Lust 'tends to focus our minds on the present and on detail'. 

LUST is good for you, not just because it gets you laid, but because it boosts your brain, according to University of Melbourne experimental psychologist Simon Laham.

''Because lust is there to essentially lead us to pursue people into bed, which is a very current goal, it tends to focus our minds on the present and on detail,'' he says. ''People in a lustful state are more detailed [in their thinking], focused on the trees rather than the forest'', which leads to ''decomposition of a problem into smaller pieces'', he says.

Even a relatively tepid form of lust, induced by nude pictures or certain words, causes people in experiments to perform better on analytic reasoning problems that involve working through details step by step, he says.

His book, The Joy of Sin, musters evidence from psychology experiments by researchers worldwide to argue that the seven deadly sins (lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy and pride) are not necessarily bad.

''Under certain circumstances these things can bring about a range of benefits, including making one happier, smarter, more creative and increasing pro-social behaviour,'' he says.

People feeling proud of themselves will stick at a task longer and achieve greater success. People with time to spare are more sensitive to the needs of others and more likely to help.

Dr Laham said he did not feel the need to amplify the point that the seven deadly sins can be bad for you, too. Most people already have a sense of that, he believes.

Research also shows, for example, that high lust levels can trigger risk-taking sexual behaviour and sexual aggression.

This Brain Chemical Could Be Why We Binge Eat

brain chemical molecule enkephalin
This is enkephalin, which may be responsible for over eating. 

 The slogan for Pringles, "once you pop, you can’t stop," may be true, and not just because they are delicious. Scientists have found that something in our brains makes us indulge in food as well as drugs and alcohol. 

Scientists from the University of Michigan decided to study a part of the brain called the neostriatum that may be involved in providing reward signals when we engage in pleasurable tasks.

The main player in this brain area is enkephalin, a chemical that turns up brain activity. It was discovered in 1975, and is known as a painkiller and a possible neurotransmitter. Enkephalin is produced in the brain and binds to the same receptors as many anesthetic and psychoactive drugs.

To find out how enkephalin acts in the brain, the researchers offered rats an unlimited amount of M&M’s. The average rat ate 10 candies in 20 minutes, which is a lot of candy for their small size.

Researchers found that levels of enkephalin spiked in the neostriatum, and the rats that ate the most M&M’s had the quickest and highest spike of enkephalin.

The spike in enkephalin could have been a result or the cause of the binge eating. To figure this out, the experiment was repeated, but this time the researchers injected the rats' brains with enkephalin. With the extra brain stimulants, the rats ate twice as much candy — so the chemical seems to be the cause of the overeating, not the result of it.

It could be that the rats overeat because enkephalin makes food taste better. Although it may sound ridiculous, the researchers watched the rats’ facial expressions to see how happy the were during the binge. The more they lick their lips and stick out their tongues, the tastier the food.

But, the dosed rats didn't show this.

Lead author, Alexandra DiFeliceantonio of the University o Michigan, tells's Surprising Science blog “that the brain has more extensive systems to make individuals want to over-consume rewards than previously thought.”

She concluded: “It may be one reason why over-consumption is a problem today.”

Just remember: Once you pop, try to stop before you eat the entire can. 

Blowhard silencer, dead-fish brain science win spoof Nobel prizes

Psychologists who discovered that leaning to the left makes the Eiffel Tower seem smaller, neuroscientists who found brain activity in a dead salmon, and designers of a device that can silence blowhards are among the winners of Ig Nobel prizes for the oddest and silliest real discoveries.

The annual prizes are awarded by the Annals of Improbable Research as a whimsical counterpart to the Nobel prizes, which will be announced early next month.

Former winners of the real Nobels hand out the Ig Nobel Awards at a ceremony held at Harvard University in Massachusetts.

Ig Nobels for 2012 also went to US researchers who discovered that chimps can recognise other chimps by looking at snapshots of their backsides, and to a Swedish researcher for solving the puzzle of why people’s hair turned green while living in certain houses in the town of Anderslöv, Sweden. (The culprit was a combination of copper pipes and hot showers.)

Marc Abrahams, editor of the Annals and architect of the Ig Nobels who announced the winners on Thursday, said one of his personal favourites was this year’s Acoustics Prize. reuters

Other Winners :

Physicists at Unilever led by Dr Patrick Warren and at Stanford University led by Professor Joe Keller for their use of mathematics to explain why ponytails take on their distinctive “tail” shape. The Ig Nobel is Keller’s second.

Igor Petrov and colleagues at the SKN Company in Russia for using technology to convert old Russian ammunition into new diamonds.

Rouslan Krechetnikov and Hans Mayer of the University of California, Santa Barbara, for illuminating why carrying a cup of coffee often ends up in a spill.

French researcher Emmanuel Ben-Soussan on how doctors performing colonoscopies can minimise the chance of igniting gasses that make their patients explode.

The US Government General Accountability Office, for issuing a report recommending the preparation of a report to discuss the impact of reports about reports.

Wipe away fearful memories from brain

WASHINGTON: And you thought it just happens in sci-fi movies!

Scientists have found that newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain, a breakthrough that could lead to new treatments for phobias and post-traumatic stress, with researcher Thomas Agren from Uppsala University leading the research.

"The findings may be a breakthrough in research on memory and fear. Ultimately the new findings may lead to improved treatment methods for the millions of people in the world who suffer from anxiety issues like phobias, post-traumatic stress, and panic attacks," said Agren.

When a person learns something, a long-term memory is created with the aid of a process of consolidation, which is based on the formation of proteins. As we remember something, the memory becomes unstable for a while and is then restabilized by another consolidation process.

In other words, we are not remembering what originally happened, but rather what we remembered the last time we thought about what happened.

By disrupting the reconsolidation process that follows upon remembering, we can affect the content of memory.

Researchers showed subjects a neutral picture and simultaneously administered an electric shock. In this way the picture came to elicit fear in the subjects which meant a fear memory had been formed. To activate this fear memory, the picture was then shown without any shock. For one experimental group the reconsolidation process was disrupted with the aid of repeated presentations of the picture.

Brain’s gene map shows striking similarities

EDINBURGH, UK: Human brains follow the same basic molecular pattern despite different individual personalities, a 3D map of where our genes are expressed suggests.
The map draws on more than 100 million gene expression measurements found in three human brains cut into 900 pieces.Researchers from the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle and Edinburgh University said the project might help understand how genetic disorders cause brain disease. The study appears in Nature journal. The human brain is the most complex structure in the world, composed of 100 billion cells, but it is still not fully understood.

Prof Ed Lein, from the Allen Institute for Brain Science, one of the authors of the paper, said this atlas could provide vital information in the general understanding of “brain function, development, evolution and disease”.

The teams says that the majority of genes in the human brain are expressed in patterns very similar from one brain to another - showing that despite different individual personalities, our brains are in fact strikingly similar.