Summary of “Quanta Magazine”

Take a counterintuitive finding that Tadin and his colleagues made in 2003: We’re good at perceiving the movements of small objects, but if those objects are simply made bigger, we find it much more difficult to detect their motion.
Recently in Nature Communications, Tadin’s team offered a tantalizing explanation for why this happens: The brain prioritizes the detection of objects that are more important for us to see, and those tend to be smaller.
To a hawk hunting for its next meal, a mouse suddenly darting through a field matters more than the swaying motion of the grass and trees around it.
As a result, Tadin and his team discovered, the brain suppresses information about the movement of the background – and as a side effect, it has more difficulty perceiving the movements of larger objects, because it treats them as a kind of background, too.
As the researchers discovered, the training didn’t actually improve the subjects’ ability to detect small moving objects; when measured alone, that skill hadn’t changed.
What these results highlighted, he added, is that our sensitivity to larger moving objects is lower “Because that’s the strategy our brain uses to make smaller moving objects against those backgrounds stand out more.”
It’s the same strategy that the brain uses in goal-directed attentional processes: It gets rid of information that’s distracting or less useful in order to make the more relevant inputs stand out.
Together, these processes – both the automatic bottom-up ones and the more conscious top-down ones – generate the brain’s internal representation of its environment.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Where Pain Lives”

For certain conditions, such as a recently herniated disc that is pressing on a spinal nerve root, resulting in leg pain or numbness coupled with progressive weakness, or foot drop, a nerve decompression can relieve the pain.
For two decades, in his provocatively named Pain and Passions Lab, where his group works with both rodents and humans, Apkarian’s focus has been on pain’s cognitive consequences.
Brain activity in subjects with chronic pain was different from the nociception evident in patients with experimentally induced pain a hot poker placed on a sensitive part of the arm.
While nociceptive-provoked pain activated primarily sensory regions – the ones that would cause you to yank your arm out of harm’s way – Apkarian’s group observed that chronic pain activated the prefrontal cortex and the limbic regions of the brain.
His lab at Boston Children’s Hospital is focused on identifying human genes with a link to ‘dramatic familial pain phenotypes’ – extreme pain disorders that run in families – and could offer insight into more typical chronic-pain conditions.
‘It is becoming clearer,’ observed Woolf and his co-authors in a paper in the Journal of Pain in 2016, ‘that the development of chronic low back pain may occur because of a combination of genetically based susceptibility factors as well as local pathological risk factors.
The most significant change in evaluating chronic pain, observes Tracey, is the understanding that chronic pain is a different animal from nociceptive pain.
‘We always thought of it as acute pain that just goes on and on – and if chronic pain is just a continuation of acute pain, let’s fix the thing that caused the acute, and the chronic should go away,’ she said.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What if your consciousness is an illusion created by your brain?”

One is to say that phenomenal consciousness is an extra feature of the brain, in addition to the physical properties described by science.
Illusionists argue, your introspective system misrepresents complex patterns of brain activity as simple phenomenal properties.
Introspection doesn’t represent phenomenal properties as properties of us but as powers in objects to create that impact.
Of course, if we could observe our own brain processes externally, as a neuroscientist does, we wouldn’t observe any phenomenal properties.
How does a brain state represent a phenomenal property? This is a tough question.
A brain state represents a certain property if it causes thoughts and reactions that would be appropriate if the property were present.
Even realists about phenomenal consciousness must explain how we mentally represent phenomenal properties, if they are to account for the fact that we think and talk about them.
If enough mental systems receive and use representations of a certain property, then the organism itself can be said to be aware of the property.

The orginal article.

Summary of “New Evidence for the Strange Geometry of Thought”

In his talk, “The Geometry of Thinking,” he suggested that humans are able to do things that today’s powerful computers can’t do-like learn language quickly and generalize from particulars with ease-because we, unlike our computers, represent information in geometrical space.
The hippocampus’ place and grid cells, in other words, map not only physical space but conceptual space.
These cells activate only when you are in one particular location in space, or the grid, represented by your grid cells.
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.
The area in space represented by a single place cell gets larger.
“Although the coarse nature of the fMRI signal urges caution in making conclusions at the level of neuronal codes,” the researchers concluded, “We have reported an unusually precise hexagonal modulation of the fMRI signal during nonspatial cognition.” It is also unknown whether place cells can actually represent objects at particular locations in a cognitive space.
Different cells in the hippocampus respond to different frequencies of sound-forming a cognitive space of sound.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What Happens to Your Body on No Sleep”

The effects of acute sleep deprivation-which is more akin to pulling an all-nighter than to getting just a few hours of sleep every night for weeks at a time-generally kick in after 16 to 18 hours of being awake and get progressively worse with each proceeding hour.
Mind When it comes to the effects of acute sleep deprivation, “It’s really all about the brain,” says Steven Feinsilver, director of sleep medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital and a leading sleep researcher.
Stay up longer than 24 hours and your brain, now in panic mode, will soon take over and force sleep upon you.
Though you will appear to be awake-walking, talking, eyes open-your brain will quite literally put itself to sleep for ten to 20 seconds at a time.
“We say during sleep you are cortically blind-your brain does not process visual information,” Feinsilver says.
“It’s like when you work out: Your muscles build up lactate, and eventually you can’t do anything more because it hurts, and it’s time to let them relax. Your brain is kind of on all the time while you’re awake, and sleep is designed to be a time to get rid of the toxic products that build up.” Substance S-which scientists think might be adenosine, a byproduct of metabolism that builds up in the blood-might be the toxic metabolite that accumulates in the brain throughout the day, and the need to flush it could be the reason your brain demands sleep every night.
Fight sleep even longer and your body will have a harder time producing natural killer cells, which fight cancer and virus-infected cells in your body.
The best thing you can do: Remind yourself that you’ve put in the work and that the cloudiness you’re feeling is more likely than not just your brain asking for sleep.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Quanta Magazine”

For decades, their studies have revolved around the cortex, the folded structure on the outside of the brain commonly associated with intelligence and higher-order cognition.
Some researchers are trying a different approach, studying how the brain suppresses information rather than how it augments it.
A major departure from that line of thinking came in 1984, when Francis Crick, known for his work on the structure of DNA, proposed that the attentional searchlight was controlled by a region deep in the brain called the thalamus, parts of which receive input from sensory domains and feed information to the cortex.
As expected, the prefrontal cortex, which issues high-level commands to other parts of the brain, was crucial.
In effect, the network was turning the knobs on inhibitory processes, not excitatory ones, with the TRN inhibiting information that the prefrontal cortex deemed distracting.
If the mouse needed to prioritize auditory information, the prefrontal cortex told the visual TRN to increase its activity to suppress the visual thalamus – stripping away irrelevant visual data.
The prefrontal cortex doesn’t have any direct connections to the sensory portions of the TRN. Some part of the circuit was missing.
“What’s interesting,” said Ian Fiebelkorn, a cognitive neuroscientist at Princeton University, is that “Filtering is starting at that very first step, before the information even reaches the visual cortex.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Are There Bacteria in Your Brain?”

Finding bacteria in the brain is usually very bad news.
If there really is bacteria getting into the brain from the gut while an individual is alive, it’s a real paradigm shift because the brain has been, among other organs, considered sterile.
The bacteria might enter the brain through the blood-brain barrier.
If the bacteria goes up the vagus nerve into the brain, it would have to just burrow into the myelin and go up through interior transport, I suppose, to get up to the dorsal nucleus, and then leave and go elsewhere in the brain.
The bacteria might also enter the brain through the blood-brain barrier.
I’m at a loss to explain how bacteria would be able to enter the brain after processing.
I’d like to see if I can culture the bacteria I see, to see if they’re really alive, then do some experiments to try to gain some insight into why they like different areas of the brain.
One of the approaches that was suggested to me was to transplant labeled bacteria into germ-free mice, and see how long it took for them to get to the brain.

The orginal article.

Summary of “‘My Stroke of Insight’ Author Jill Bolte Taylor on Ambition”

Jill Bolte Taylor was a rising-star neuroscientist at Harvard when, at 37, she experienced a massive stroke that left her unable to walk, talk, read, or recall any of her life.
She chronicled the experience in her New York Times bestselling memoir, My Stroke of Insight, as well as a blockbuster TED Talk.
Today, Taylor divides her time between the speaking circuit, teaching about the brain’s capacity for recovery, and working on her second book.
We spoke to her about how the stroke changed her perspective on work, and what it means to be ambitious in the wake of a life-changing health crisis.
A few years after your stroke, you started teaching college courses again.
How did your ambitions change after your stroke?It was clear after the stroke that it was going to be years before I was capable of doing the work I did before.
That’s a brain-related network, so after my stroke, word spread that I was recovering and I started getting invitations to keynote about the brain and the ability of the brain to recover.
My brain was still recovering six, seven, eight years after the stroke.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Dyslexia Doesn’t Work the Way We Thought It Did”

It’s about something more fundamental: How much can the brain adapt to what it has just observed? People with dyslexia typically have less brain plasticity than those without dyslexia, two recent studies have found.
Though the studies measured people’s brain activity in two different ways and while performing different tasks, researchers at the Hebrew University of Israel, reporting in eLife, and researchers from MIT, reporting in Neuron, both found that dyslexics’ brains did not adapt as much to repeated stimuli, including spoken words, musical notes, and faces.
Because of how quickly their implicit memory fades, dyslexics’ brains don’t adapt as much after reading or hearing something repeatedly-which is perhaps why it is harder for their brains to process the words they read. Your brain generally benefits from repetition because it relates a stimulus to what you’ve already experienced-like a note you have heard before or a face you’ve seen.
Researchers can see this by measuring brain response with electroencephalography, a noninvasive way of measuring electrical activity in the brain by attaching electrodes to your scalp.
The brain gets more efficient with repetition: It knows something about the note already, so it doesn’t have to work as hard to capture all of its details.
Gabrieli used functional magnetic resonance imaging to measure people’s brain activity by measuring changes in blood flow in their brains.
“There’s hardly a bigger challenge for brain plasticity than learning to read.” More evolutionary time has allowed the brain to evolve redundant ways of accomplishing the same thing.
Perhaps people with dyslexia are better at compensating for the memory gap for recognizing faces and spoken words because the brain has more alternate pathways for these processes than it does for reading.

The orginal article.

Summary of “6 Ways to Train Your Brain to Literally Get Smarter”

In today’s world, brain is worth more than brawn, and even ancient tricks can help.
The brain requires plenty of energy to function, so if you’re exhausted all the time, your mind simply won’t have the ability to learn and improve.
High nutrition foods work well to power up your brain.
Walnuts are a great source of brain food, so is fish; tuna, mackerel, salmon contain rich, fatty acids that have been proven to help neurons function.
Play Brain Games Your brain needs to face challenges to make progress.
Try brain games like memory games, Sudoku, word puzzles, and problem-solving games.
What might seem like playing and wasting time may be a thought workout for your brain.
It’s possible to train your brain and help it functioning at a more efficient level.

The orginal article.