Summary of “Scientists agree: Coffee naps are better than coffee or naps alone”

To understand a coffee nap, you have to understand how caffeine affects you.
Here’s the trick of the coffee nap: sleeping naturally clears adenosine from the brain.
Experiments show coffee naps are better than coffee or naps.
Scientists haven’t directly observed this going on in the brain after a coffee nap – it’s all based on their knowledge of how caffeine, adenosine, and sleep each affect the brain independently.
They have directly observed the effects of coffee naps, and experiments have shown they’re more effective than coffee or naps alone in maximizing alertness.
In a few different studies, researchers at Loughborough University in the UK found that when tired participants took a 15-minute coffee nap, they went on to commit fewer errors in a driving simulator than when they were given only coffee, or only took a nap.
A Japanese study found that people who took a caffeine nap before taking a series of memory tests performed significantly better on them compared with people who solely took a nap, or took a nap and then washed their faces or had a bright light shone in their eyes.
Interestingly, there’s even some evidence that caffeine naps can help people go for relatively long periods without proper sleep.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Diary of a concussion”

A concussion occurs when the brain hits the skull, even if the person’s head doesn’t collide with an object.
There’s a period of diminished activity from brain cells, as well as reduced blood flow in the brain, according to research on the concussion cascade.
While some scientists are pursuing blood biomarkers or eye scans as a way of diagnosing a concussion, the best way of determining whether a person has a concussion or not is still a checklist of symptoms.
They’re common with brain injuries, including concussion.
“We know that if you take someone like that who doesn’t have a concussion and tell them not to do anything, they get symptoms. They get anxious and some get depressed and they get irritable.” That’s why concussion patients are encouraged to get back into activities when they start to feel able to, and to take it gently, he says.
“Concussions hadn’t really exploded on the American sports scene. It was still getting your bell rung, at that point. There was no real knowledge about what concussion truly is.” Nor was there much knowledge about concussions’ long-term effects.
Doug Baldwin, a wide receiver for the Seattle Seahawks, told Bill Simmons on Any Given Wednesday that some players cheat at the sideline concussion evaluation so they’ll be put back in the game.
Why would a player fake out the concussion protocol? Most players will do whatever it takes to play, Utecht said.

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Summary of “This Is Where Your Childhood Memories Went”

While a handful of psychologists saw merit in this claim, the most commonly accepted explanation for childhood amnesia was that children simply couldn’t form stable memories until age 7-even though there was little evidence to support this idea.
This work laid bare the contradiction at the heart of childhood amnesia: Infants can create and access memories in their first few years of life, yet most of these memories eventually vanish at a rate far beyond the typical forgetting of the past we experience as adults.
While the brain undergoes this prolonged development outside the womb, the large and complex network of disparate brain regions that collectively create and maintain our memories is still under construction, Bauer explains, and not as capable of forming memories as it will be in adulthood.
As a consequence, the long-term memories formed in our first three years of life are the least stable memories we ever make and highly prone to disintegrating as we age.3.
New brain cells might crowd the territory of other neurons or even replace them altogether, which could in turn break or reconfigure the small circuits that likely store individual memories.
This restructuring of memory circuits means that, while some of our childhood memories are truly gone, others persist in a scrambled, refracted way.
Studies have shown that people can retrieve at least some childhood memories by responding to specific prompts-dredging up the earliest recollection associated with the word “Milk,” for example-or by imagining a house, school, or specific location tied to a certain age and allowing the relevant memories to bubble up on their own.
Even if we manage to untangle a few distinct memories that survive the tumultuous cycles of growth and decay in the infant brain, we can never fully trust them; some of them might be partly or entirely fabricated.

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Summary of “The Brain That Remade Itself”

Neuroplasticity allows the brain to strengthen or even recreate connections between brain cells-the pathways that help us learn a foreign language or how to ride a bike.
Her research question is twofold: To what extent can the remaining structures of Collins’ brain take over the functions of the part of his brain that was removed? And can science describe how the brain carries out these changes, all the way down to the cellular level?
Behrmann’s research is the first longitudinal study to look closely at what happens in the brain after the regions involved in visual processing are lost through surgery or damaged due to a traumatic brain injury.
As University of Toronto psychiatrist Norman Doidge notes in his 2007 book, The Brain That Changes Itself, the notion that there is a critical period of brain development is one of the most important discoveries in the area of neuroplasticity - and one for which we have kittens to thank.
Collins’ left brain not only looked and performed the way his left brain should; it also looked similar in scans to other kids’ intact right brains.
Throughout these experiments, Behrmann compared Collins’ brain function to a control group of kids his own age without brain abnormalities.
In scans, Collins’ left brain not only looked and performed the way his left brain should; it also looked similar in scans as other kids’ intact right brains.
Areas of the brain that weren’t connected before create new links, an example of neuroplasticity in action that may preserve brain functionality.

The orginal article.

Summary of “This Is Your Brain on Silence”

So we like silence for what it doesn’t do-it doesn’t wake, annoy, or kill us-but what does it do? When Florence Nightingale attacked noise as a “Cruel absence of care,” she also insisted on the converse: Quiet is a part of care, as essential for patients as medication or sanitation.
Silence first began to appear in scientific research as a control or baseline, against which scientists compare the effects of noise or music.
Before his 2010 study, scientists knew that the brain reacts to the start of silences.
Her experiment exposed four groups of mice to various auditory stimuli: music, baby mouse calls, white noise, and silence.
To her great surprise, Kirste found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus, the brain region related to the formation of memory, involving the senses.
If a link between silence and neurogenesis could be established in humans, she says, perhaps neurologists could find a therapeutic use for silence.
To her great surprise, she found that two hours of silence per day prompted cell development in the hippocampus region of the brain.
While it’s clear that external silence can have tangible benefits, scientists are discovering that under the hoods of our skulls “There isn’t really such a thing as silence,” says Robert Zatorre, an expert on the neurology of sound.

The orginal article.

Summary of “China’s CRISPR twins might have had their brains inadvertently enhanced”

The brains of two genetically edited girls born in China last year may have been changed in ways that enhance cognition and memory, scientists say.
The twins, called Lulu and Nana, reportedly had their genes modified before birth by a Chinese scientific team using the new editing tool CRISPR. The goal was to make the girls immune to infection by HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Now, new research shows that the same alteration introduced into the girls’ DNA, to a gene called CCR5, not only makes mice smarter but also improves human brain recovery after stroke, and could be linked to greater success in school.
“The answer is likely yes, it did affect their brains,” says Alcino J. Silva, a neurobiologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, whose lab uncovered a major new role for the CCR5 gene in memory and the brain’s ability to form new connections.
The Chinese team, led by He Jiankui of the Southern University of Science and Technology in Shenzhen, claimed it used CRISPR to delete CCR5 from human embryos, some of which were later used to create pregnancies.
Whatever He’s true aims, evidence continues to build that CCR5 plays a major role in the brain.
According to their new report, appearing in the journal Cell, people who naturally lack CCR5 recover more quickly from strokes.
“We are the first to report a function of CCR5 in the human brain, and the first to report a higher level of education,” says UCLA biologist S. Thomas Carmichael, who led the new study.
Silva says the genetic manipulations used to make “Smart mice” show not only that it is possible, but that changing CCR5 has particularly big effects.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Neuroscientists Say They’ve Found an Entirely New Form of Neural Communication”

Scientists think they’ve identified a previously unknown form of neural communication that self-propagates across brain tissue, and can leap wirelessly from neurons in one section of brain tissue to another – even if they’ve been surgically severed.
“We don’t know yet the ‘So what?’ part of this discovery entirely,” says neural and biomedical engineer Dominique Durand from Case Western Reserve University.
“But we do know that this seems to be an entirely new form of communication in the brain, so we are very excited about this.”
Scientists already knew there was more to neural communication than the above-mentioned connections that have been studied in detail, such as synaptic transmission.
Researchers have been aware for decades that the brain exhibits slow waves of neural oscillations whose purpose we don’t understand, but which appear in the cortex and hippocampus when we sleep, and so are hypothesised to play a part in memory consolidation.
What they found was that slow periodic activity can generate electric fields which in turn activate neighbouring cells, constituting a form of neural communication without chemical synaptic transmission or gap junctions.
This neural activity can actually be modulated – strengthened or blocked – by applying weak electrical fields and could be an analogue form of another cell communication method, called ephaptic coupling.
It’ll take a lot more research to figure out if this bizarre form of neural communication is taking place in human brains – let alone decoding what exact function it performs – but for now, we’ve got new science that’s shocking in all kinds of ways, as Dickson adroitly observes.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How the Brain Creates a Timeline of the Past”

These cells were each tuned to certain points in a span of time, with some firing, say, one second after a stimulus and others after five seconds, essentially bridging time gaps between experiences.
The rats seemed to be using these “Events” – changes in context – to get a sense of how much time had gone by.
“It shows how our perception of time is so elastic,” Shapiro said.
“A second can last forever. Days can vanish. It’s this coding by parsing episodes that, to me, makes a very neat explanation for the way we see time. We’re processing things that happen in sequences, and what happens in those sequences can determine the subjective estimate for how much time passes.” The researchers now want to learn just how that happens.
“We had these equations up on the board for the Laplace transform and the inverse around the same time people were discovering time cells. So we spent the last 10 years seeing the inverse, but we hadn’t seen the actual transform. Now we’ve got it. I’m pretty stoked.”
The discovery of time cells in those brain regions seems to support the idea.
Howard has also started to show that the same equations that the brain could use to represent time could also be applied to space, numerosity and decision-making based on collected evidence – really, to any variable that can be put into the language of these equations.
Of course, Howard’s model of how the brain represents time isn’t the only idea out there.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Fresh Air: ‘Never Enough’ Explains The Biology Of The Addicted Brain”

The changes in behavior that happen during adolescence are so important and lasting, because the brain is forming permanent structures.
So whatever you experience as an adolescent is going to have a much more impactful influence on the rest of your life trajectory than it would, say, if you did this at another time in development when your brain wasn’t so prone to changing.
We see definitely lasting changes on the brain and behavior.
It’s a tiny, tiny molecule, and it acts all over the brain in so many different pathways.
So it’s like cocaine in that its actions are very specific, and it’s like alcohol in that those actions are all over the brain.
When we smoke marijuana the whole brain is flooded with THC, and that causes the cell-to-cell communication in cells throughout the brain to be enhanced or to be exaggerated.
What’s unfortunate is the brain does adapt to that, and it adapts by decreasing the number of sites that THC can have an effect [on].
The problem is if we reduce suffering and we produce euphoria using opiates, the brain adapts.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How the Brain’s “Inner GPS” Creates Conceptual Spaces in the Mind”

Gärdenfors had been working on his idea of cognitive spaces, which explain how our brains represent concepts and objects, for decades.
In his book Conceptual Spaces, from 2000, he wrote, “It has long been a common prejudice in cognitive science that the brain is either a Turing machine working with symbols or a connectionist system using neural networks.” In Krakow, Gärdenfors pushed against that prejudice.
“Cognitive spaces are a way of thinking about how our brain might organize our knowledge of the world,” Bellmund said.
The hippocampus’ place and grid cells, in other words, map not only physical space but conceptual space.
Recent fMRI studies show that cognitive spaces reside in the hippocampal network-supporting the idea that these spaces lie at the heart of much subconscious processing.
“Based on the features of the new object we can position it in our cognitive space. We can then use our old knowledge to infer how to behave in this novel situation.” Representing knowledge in this structured way allows us to make sense of how we should behave in new circumstances.
Bellmund pointed out that rodent research could also reveal the existence of cognitive spaces.
Cognitive spaces are, as Gärdenfors and Bellmund put it, a “Domain-general format for human thinking,” an “Overarching framework” that can help unravel the causes of neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and “To inform novel architectures in artificial intelligence.”

The orginal article.