Summary of “Quanta Magazine”

They’re creating a single mathematical model that unites years of biological experiments and explains how the brain produces elaborate visual reproductions of the world based on scant visual information.
They’ve explained how neurons in the visual cortex interact to detect the edges of objects and changes in contrast, and now they’re working on explaining how the brain perceives the direction in which objects are moving.
Previous efforts to model human vision made wishful assumptions about the architecture of the visual cortex.
The retina is connected to the visual cortex, the part of the brain in the back of the head. However, there’s very little connectivity between the retina and the visual cortex.
For a visual area roughly one-quarter the size of a full moon, there are only about 10 nerve cells connecting the retina to the visual cortex.
LGN cells send a pulse to the visual cortex when they detect a change from dark to light, or vice versa, in their tiny section of the visual field.
For every 10 LGN neurons that snake back from the retina, there are 4,000 neurons in just the initial “Input layer” of the visual cortex – and many more in the rest of it.
All previous efforts assumed that more information travels between the retina and the cortex – an assumption that would make the visual cortex’s response to stimuli easier to explain.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The blissful and bizarre world of ASMR”

People watch ASMR videos in hopes of eliciting the response, usually experienced as a deeply relaxing sensation with pleasurable tingles in the head. It can feel like the best massage in the world – but without anyone touching you.
Even a video of someone’s hands can trigger ASMR – your brain has evolved to read that as a caring person demonstrating a helpful skill or valuable item.
A 2016 study found differences between the brain connections of those who experience ASMR and those who don’t.
In a recently published study, my coauthors and I reported what happened in the brains of 10 volunteers while they experienced ASMR. Participants watched their favorite ASMR videos while lying still inside a functional magnetic resonance imaging scanner.
ASMR videos may be tapping into our natural ability to be soothed by the sights and sounds our brains associate with caring individuals.
Can ASMR be experienced without the stimulus of another person? Some people do report being able to stimulate ASMR in themselves by clearing their minds, focusing on themselves, focusing on loved ones, or thinking about ASMR triggers.
It’s not yet known why just some individuals experience ASMR, what neurotransmitters and hormones are involved in ASMR, or how the effectiveness of ASMR compares to other current clinical treatments for anxiety, insomnia, and depression.
Figuring out more about the biology and benefits of ASMR should make the world a calmer place.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Exercise Your Brain to Improve Memory in Retirement”

You can strengthen certain memory skills, and improve your overall brain health and cognitive function.
Brain training games are widely advertised, but the benefits are limited.
Memory games may improve your memory slightly, and language games may boost your language ability a bit, but there’s no proof yet of any major changes beyond that, says D.P. Devanand, director of geriatric psychiatry at Columbia University Medical Center in New York.
Research does prove that taking care of your overall brain health helps improve your brain function and memory.
A healthy brain actually begins with your heart, Devanand says.
Being social helps, because social interaction stimulates the brain.
A recent Johns Hopkins University study showed that seniors who tutored in Baltimore schools had improved brain performance.
Keep your brain active by taking classes to learn new skills or teach yourself to use new technology.

The orginal article.

Summary of “and how to avoid its effects”

The effects of a healthy, acute stress reaction are mostly temporary, ceasing when a stressful experience is over, and any lasting effects can sometimes leave us better than we were before.
Many of the players in the stress response have so-called “Non-linear dose-dependent actions” meaning their effects change course with prolonged activity.
In the first study of its kind, Ivanka Savic and colleagues at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute and Stockholm University recently compared the brains of people suffering from work-related chronic stress to those of healthy, less stressed counterparts using structural magnetic resonance imaging techniques.
To establish whether chronic stress was simply correlated to the changes or had caused the changes in the stressed individuals, the researchers scanned their brains again after a three month-long stress-rehabilitation program based on cognitive therapy and breathing exercises.
Chronic stress has been linked to hypertension and in a small, randomised trial, US researchers, including Lynn Clemow at Columbia University Medical Center, used stress management training to effectively lower systolic blood pressure in patients with hypertension.
The perceptual element of stress may be the reason some mind-body interventions such as yoga, breathing techniques and focused-attention meditation can benefit stress management through effects on improving emotional regulation, reducing stress reactivity and speeding up recovery after stress.
Our dietary habits modify the micro-organisms living in the digestive tract and these micro-organisms, through cross-talk with immune cells and other routes, can influence how the mind reacts to stress.
Early results suggest taking either a single strain or a combination of probiotics may reduce mental fatigue and improve cognitive performance during stress – but not in the absence of stress.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Ethics of Consciousness Hunting”

The ability to distinguish CMD from vegetative patients could save lives worth living.
A little less than a fifth of patients who are behaviorally non-responsive at the bedside are CMD rather than vegetative.
If we had a reliable method to distinguish CMD from vegetative patients, along the lines of the functional neuroimaging performed by Owen and Naci, this would represent a great advance in the care of this class of patient.
The possibility of distinguishing CMD from vegetative patients is another exciting application of new technology, and it raises a second set of ethical questions, to do with cost.
According to the Centre for Health Economics at the University of York, 95 percent of vegetative patients are cared for in long-term care facilities, at a cost of £90,000 per patient, per year.5 The life expectancy for a young adult vegetative patient one year after injury is roughly 10.5 years, meaning their lifetime cost of care would be roughly $1,250,000.
If functional neuroimaging develops to the point where it can be used to reliably distinguish patients who retain consciousness from those who will remain in a vegetative state permanently, it could spare us the enormous expense of keeping alive patients who have no hope of benefiting from extra years of life.
If early detection of consciousness can be linked to recovery, functional neuroimaging could also help doctors and families in making the difficult decision to treat a severely brain injured patient, or allow them to die.
Electroencephalography offers an even more cost-effective and portable option, and has also been used to detect consciousness in behaviourally non-responsive patients.

The orginal article.

Summary of “How to Teach Your Brain Something It Won’t Forget a Week Later”

Well, because that’s not how your brain likes to absorb information.
As brain scientists have dug into how learning really works, they’ve discovered that massed practice only leads to remembering things over the short term.
Letting Your Brain Do the Work for You The “Spacing effect” is one of the most consistently replicated mental processes in psychological history, dating back to Hermann Ebbinghaus, who observed it in 1885.
With a little more planning and foresight, you can tap into that cognitive phenomenon to take better advantage of how your brain actually works.
“We measure experiment participants’ brain activity while they’re learning, trying to take in the information, and then ask them to rest,” Davachi says of her research.
“We see there is a footprint of what was happening during the learning; the brain continues to rehearse the prior information.” Davachi has found that participants whose brains show more replay during that rest period do better on recall tests later.
“Your brain is doing your work for you while you’re doing other tasks,” she adds.
The good news is that your brain is already built to acquire and store information that way, just as long you space out the learning process from the outset.

The orginal article.

Summary of “This is What Your Overactive Brain Needs to Get a Good Night’s Sleep”

You already know how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep, but sleeping well helps your brain in less apparent ways than just not being groggy the next day.
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night can help secure your cognitive well-being.
No More Nightcaps It’s all too easy to slip into a routine of having a glass or two of wine each evening, and you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this helps you unwind and sleep better.
If you spent the evening drinking and then went to sleep wearing a heart-rate variability monitor, it would show significantly increased levels of stress for your body while you slept.
Throughout the night, as the liver uses a higher proportion of the body’s energy than usual, the brain is starved of its usual resources and struggles to recuperate effectively for the next day.
Don’t Netflix and Chill Many people like watching TV to relax after a long workday, and while that might help distract you from your daily worries, it doesn’t prepare your brain for a good night’s rest.
Certain foods like bacon and preserved meats, soy sauce, some cheeses, nuts, tomatoes, and red wine contain a chemical called tyramine, which causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that boosts brain activity.
Now that you’ve cut these habits from your evening routine, what should you add to it instead? Here are a few good options for improving both the quality of your sleep and reducing the time it takes your brain to power down for the night.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Brain Damage Saved His Music”

Galarza’s astonishment, like that of medical scientists and music fans, arises from the fact that Martino recovered from surgery with a significant portion of his brain and memory gone, but his guitar skills intact.
It looked like “a bundle of worms,” said Frederick Simeone, the surgeon who saved Martino’s life, in a 2009 documentary, Martino Unstrung: A Brain Mystery.
Paul Broks, a British neuropsychologist, co-writer of the documentary Martino Unstrung, and a co-author of the World Neurosurgery report, has said Martino’s surgery may have had “Nonspecific effects” on the areas that store and activate episodic memory, and those effects “Subsided as the brain readjusted physiologically post-surgery.”
In his 2014 report, “Jazz Improvisation, Creativity, and Brain Plasticity,” Duffau suggested that Martino’s language and music functions likely shifted from his left hemisphere to a more distributed orientation, incorporating part of the interior occipital lobe, which is normally dedicated to processing visual information.
Martino looked at a black void on one of his brain images.
Omigie echoes the point that Martino’s brain, long before it hemorrhaged or Martino even knew about his tangled veins, reorganized itself in a way that might shield it from damage.
Whatever brain mechanisms may have led to Martino’s revival, both Omigie and Broks, the neuropsychologist who spent months with Martino for the filming of Martino Unstrung, felt compelled to add that science couldn’t leave out the work and determination of the guitarist himself.
In a scene in Martino Unstrung, Martino looked at his MRI brain images.

The orginal article.

Summary of “This is What Your Overactive Brain Needs to Get a Good Night’s Sleep”

You already know how much better you feel after a good night’s sleep, but sleeping well helps your brain in less apparent ways than just not being groggy the next day.
Getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night can help secure your cognitive well-being.
No More Nightcaps It’s all too easy to slip into a routine of having a glass or two of wine each evening, and you wouldn’t be alone in thinking this helps you unwind and sleep better.
If you spent the evening drinking and then went to sleep wearing a heart-rate variability monitor, it would show significantly increased levels of stress for your body while you slept.
Throughout the night, as the liver uses a higher proportion of the body’s energy than usual, the brain is starved of its usual resources and struggles to recuperate effectively for the next day.
Don’t Netflix and Chill Many people like watching TV to relax after a long workday, and while that might help distract you from your daily worries, it doesn’t prepare your brain for a good night’s rest.
Certain foods like bacon and preserved meats, soy sauce, some cheeses, nuts, tomatoes, and red wine contain a chemical called tyramine, which causes the release of norepinephrine, a brain stimulant that boosts brain activity.
Now that you’ve cut these habits from your evening routine, what should you add to it instead? Here are a few good options for improving both the quality of your sleep and reducing the time it takes your brain to power down for the night.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The forgotten part of memory”

“What is memory without forgetting?” asks Oliver Hardt, a cognitive psychologist studying the neurobiology of memory at McGill University in Montreal, Canada.
“To have proper memory function, you have to have forgetting.”
Researchers are still pinpointing the details, but they know that autobiographical memories – those of events experienced personally – begin to take lasting form in a part of the brain called the hippocampus, in the hours and days that follow the event.
Much is still unknown about how memories are created and accessed, and addressing such mysteries has consumed a lot of memory researchers’ time.
It’s a remarkable oversight, says Michael Anderson, who studies cognitive neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, UK. “Every species that has a memory forgets. Full stop, without exception. It doesn’t matter how simple the organism is: if they can acquire lessons of experience, the lessons can be lost,” he says.
Dopamine, a neurotransmitter, is involved in moderating a host of behaviours in the fly brain, and Davis proposed that this chemical messenger might also play a part in memory.
If forgetting is truly a well-regulated, innate part of the memory process, he says, it makes sense that dysregulation of that process could have negative effects.
More memory researchers are shifting their focus to examine how the brain forgets, as well as how it remembers.

The orginal article.