Summary of “To Remember, the Brain Must Actively Forget”

Past theories about forgetting mostly emphasized relatively passive processes in which the loss of memories was a consequence of the physical traces of those memories naturally breaking down or becoming harder to access; those engrams may typically be interconnections between brain cells that prompt them to fire in a certain way.
Now researchers are paying much more attention to mechanisms that actively erase or hide those memory engrams.
It involves a certain subset of cells in the brain – which Ronald Davis and Yi Zhong, who wrote the paper that introduced the idea, casually call “Forgetting cells” – that degrade the engrams in memory cells.
Previous studies have shown that neurogenesis can be important to the formation of new memories: In tests on lab animals, drugs that inhibit neurogenesis in the hippocampus can interfere with new memory formation, and drugs that enhance neurogenesis seem to help with learning new tasks if they are given before the learning process.
If the added neural wiring overlaps with the circuitry holding older memories, it may damage the older engrams or make it harder to isolate the old memories from newer ones.
Frankland’s explanation is that older memories are less sensitive to this effect because the brain gradually transfers important memories from the hippocampus to the cortex for long-term storage.
The pair, who have been studying how sea slugs form memories for a decade, recently switched their attention to the neurobiology of how the animals forget.
Even after a week – a significant part of a sea slug’s one-year lifespan – the brain is still not back to the way it was before it acquired the memory.

The orginal article.

Summary of “The brain may clean out Alzheimer’s plaques during sleep”

In one landmark experiment, Holtzman toyed with mice’s sleep right when the animals’ brain would normally begin to clear A-beta.
Researchers from Germany and Israel reported in 2015 in Nature Neuroscience that slow-wave sleep – the deep sleep that occupies the brain most during a long snooze and is thought to be involved in memory storage – was disrupted in mice that had A-beta deposits in their brains.
At the study’s start, participants answered questions about their sleep quality and received brain scans looking for plaque deposits.
People who reported excessive daytime sleepiness – a telltale sign of fitful sleep – had more plaques in their brains to start with.
“Five percent from one night of sleep deprivation is far from trivial.” And while the brain can likely recover with a good night’s sleep, the question is: What happens when sleep deprivation is a pattern night after night, year after year?
Flow of cerebrospinal fluid in a mouse’s brain is much higher during sleep than when the animal is awake.
Using data from almost 2,500 people in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative, researchers at the New York University School of Medicine found that people with sleep disorders like obstructive sleep apnea showed signs of mild cognitive problems and Alzheimer’s disease at younger ages than those who did not.
“If we find out that sleep problems contribute to brain amyloid – what that really says is there may be a window to intervene,” Bendlin says.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Yet More Evidence that Viruses May Cause Alzheimer’s Disease”

For decades, the idea that a bacteria or virus could help cause Alzheimer’s disease was dismissed as a fringe theory.
In a separate experiment involving a 3D model of the human brain grown in a dish, they also studied human herpesvirus 6, the germ responsible for causing the childhood skin disease roseola.
These viruses are usually caught early on in life and stay dormant somewhere in the body, but as we age, they almost always migrate up to the brain.
The mice’s brains grew new deposits of amyloid-β plaques practically “Overnight,” according to senior author Rudy Tanzi, a geneticist specializing in the brain at Massachusetts General Hospital as well as Harvard Medical School.
The study is the second in recent weeks to support the role of viruses in Alzheimer’s disease.
That first study, also published in Neuron and led by researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, found evidence that certain herpesviruses are more abundantly present in the brains of people who died with Alzheimer’s; it also suggested that genes belonging to these viruses directly interact with human genes that raise the risk of the disease.
From there, Tanzi’s work has shown, the plaques trigger the production of tangles-clumps of another brain protein called tau seen in the later stages of Alzheimer’s-which together then trigger chronic inflammation.
Genetics might help explain why only some people’s infections cause the brain to start producing amyloid-β en masse.

The orginal article.

Summary of “FIFA’s CTE Problem: Are Soccer Regulators Doing Enough to Prevent Brain Injuries? – Rolling Stone”

“In a statement to Rolling Stone, a FIFA spokesperson said that for the ongoing 2018 World Cup,”all team doctors took part in a workshop where they were provided with detailed information and guidelines concerning the proper handling of potential concussion incidents during the competition.
“I gave up trying to talk to FIFA years ago. They aren’t interested in dialogue. If FIFA won’t listen on concussions, they certainly won’t listen on long-term issues like CTE.”.
Indeed on the issue of CTE, or Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy, an impact trauma-linked brain disease, FIFA has been largely silent.
In the coming months and years, FIFA brass can expect more people trying to show them photos of ruined brains from the growing scientific literature linking impact sports – including American football, boxing, hockey and rugby – to heightened risk of degenerative brain disease later in life, in particular CTE. According to research conducted at the Mayo Clinic, nearly a third of impact-sport athletes have traces of CTE when they die, compared to 12 percent of the general population over the age of 60.
The day after the publication of her study, a FIFA spokesman called the study “Inconclusive” and flatly told Agence France-Presse, “Football does not belong to the high-risk sports for brain and head injuries. To our very best knowledge, there is currently no true evidence of the negative effect of heading or other sub-concussive blows.”
“FIFA takes its responsibility with regards to the issue of head and brain injuries very seriously,” the FIFA spokesperson said.
Only in March of 2016 did an NFL medical official publically concede a link between playing football and heightened risk of developing CTE. FIFA has been more focused on the money to be made in the globalization and promotion of football.
“A huge number of former players struggle with mental and physical health issues. In the past, FIFA has been reluctant to collaborate with us, but if the research [on CTE] becomes conclusive, our duty is to the players, not the owners.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Slime Molds Remember”

Research into the behavior of protozoa such as the slime mold Physarum polycephalum suggests that these seemingly simple organisms are capable of complex decision-making and problem-solving within their environments.
Nakagaki and his colleagues have shown, for example, that slime molds are capable of solving maze problems and laying out distribution networks as efficient as ones designed by humans.
Chris Reid and his colleague Simon Garnier, who heads the Swarm Lab at the New Jersey Institute of Technology, are working on the mechanism behind how a slime mold transfers information between all of its parts to act as a kind of collective that mimics the capabilities of a brain full of neurons.
Each tiny part of the slime mold contracts and expands over the course of about one minute, but the contraction rate is linked to the quality of the local environment.
Using computer vision techniques and experiments that might be likened to a slime mold version of an MRI brain scan, the researchers are examining how the slime mold uses this mechanism to transfer information around its giant unicellular body and make complex decisions between conflicting stimuli.
He is not persuaded that Dussutour’s experiment with slime molds staying habituated to salt after extended dormancy shows much.
To Fred Kaijzer, a cognitive scientist at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, the question of whether these interesting behaviors show that slime molds can learn is similar to the debate over whether Pluto is a planet: The answer depends as much on how the concept of learning is cast as on the empirical evidence.
“Slime mold researchers insist that functionally equivalent behavior observed in the slime mold should use the same descriptive terms as for brained animals, while classical neuroscientists insist that the very definition of learning and intelligence requires a neuron-based architecture,” he said.

The orginal article.

Summary of “To Make Sense of the Present, Brains May Predict the Future”

Enter predictive coding theory, which offers specific formulations of how brains can be Bayesian.
These prediction errors, researchers say, help animals update their future expectations and drive decision-making.
If the brain were simply representing its perceptual experience, the strongest signal should have corresponded to “Ick” instead. But efforts are also ongoing to widen predictive coding’s relevance beyond perception and motion – to establish it as the common currency of everything going on in the brain.
Some researchers theorize that emotions and moods can be formulated in predictive coding terms: Emotions could be states the brain represents to minimize prediction error about internal signals such as body temperature, heart rate or blood pressure.
Not everyone agrees that the case for predictive coding in the brain is strengthening.
To David Heeger, a professor of psychology at New York University, it’s important to make a distinction between “Predictive coding,” which he says is about transmitting information efficiently, and “Predictive processing,” which he defines as prediction-making over time.
Last year, researchers at the University of Sussex even used virtual reality and artificial intelligence technologies that included predictive coding features to create what they called the “Hallucination Machine,” a tool that was able to mimic the altered hallucinatory states typically caused by psychedelic drugs.
Machine learning advances could be used to provide new insights into what’s happening in the brain by comparing how well predictive coding models perform against other techniques.

The orginal article.

Summary of “Legendary Rock Climber Alex Honnold Gets Put Into an MRI, and the Results Are Surprising”

Honnold side-shuffled across this narrow sill of stone, heels to the wall, toes touching the void, when, in 2008, he became the first rock climber ever to scale the sheer granite face of Half Dome alone and without a rope.
Honnold is history’s greatest ever climber in the free solo style, meaning he ascends without a rope or protective equipment of any kind.
All of this has made Honnold the most famous climber in the world.
A month later, having studied Honnold’s scans, Joseph is on a patchy conference call to Shanghai, China, where Honnold is en route to climb, with ropes, the underbelly of the stalactite-spangled Great Arch of Getu.
On the same day he climbed into the MRI tube, Honnold also answered several surveys used by psychologists to measure the degree of a person’s sensation seeking.
He once filled out a similar questionnaire at an outdoors industry show, in which the question about whether he would ever consider rock climbing was illustrated by a photo of: Alex Honnold.
Honnold keeps a detailed climbing journal, in which he revisits his climbs and makes note of what he can do better.
Addressing a possibility raised by Honnold that a person could burn out his amygdala from overstimulation, LeDoux says, “I don’t think that could happen.” Still, when I describe Honnold’s total absence of amygdala activation during the scan tasks, LeDoux’s response is, “That sounds pretty impressive.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “Are Male and Female Brains Biologically Different?”

There’s no doubt that whatever their brains look like, behavior and school performance differences between men and women are strongly shaped by socialization.
Eliot said that Damore has a deep misunderstanding of neuroscience and that his letter grossly overstated the role of testosterone in male and female bodies.
While testosterone is linked to aggression, it doesn’t offer a universal explanation for male behavior.
Eliot also said that everyone, regardless of sex, can be competitive or aggressive, but males and females might have different ways of expressing those traits based on social norms.
She said that even scientifically indisputable differences, such as the oft-cited statistic that male brains are 10 percent bigger than female brains, don’t mean anything.
If scientists and academics were to begin with the premise that men and women are equally capable, Eliot said, their studies would result in radically different conclusions.
“People said brilliance in math is a male phenomenon,” Eliot said.
“The default assumption is that these differences are hard-wired … But male and female brains are not much [more] different from each other than male or female hearts or kidneys.”

The orginal article.

Summary of “The Neuroscience of Pain”

Virginia Woolf bemoaned the fact that “The merest schoolgirl, when she falls in love, has Shakespeare or Keats to speak her mind for her; but let a sufferer try to describe a pain in his head to a doctor and language at once runs dry.” Elaine Scarry, in the 1985 book “The Body in Pain,” wrote, “Physical pain does not simply resist language but actively destroys it.”
The history of pain research is full of ingenious, largely failed attempts to measure pain.
The 2014 edition of the textbook “Nursing: A Concept-Based Approach to Learning” warned practitioners that Native Americans “May pick a sacred number when asked to rate pain,” and that the validity of self-reports will likely be affected by the fact that Jewish people “Believe that pain must be shared” and black people “Believe suffering and pain are inevitable.” Last year, the book’s publisher, Pearson, announced that it would remove the offending passage from future editions, but biases remain common, and study after study has shown shocking disparities in pain treatment.
At the same time, research identifying the regions most crucial to the experience of pain has inadvertently pointed the way to the creation of artificial pain purely through targeted neurostimulation.
Chronic pain is often defined, somewhat misleadingly, as “Pain that extends beyond the expected period of healing.” In reality, once you’ve “Gone chronic,” as Tracey puts it, pain is the disease, rather than a symptom.
Until recently, chronic pain was thought of merely as prolonged “Normal” pain.
Tracey told me that it seems we may all be predisposed by our brain stems to feel pain more acutely or less, but that in chronic-pain patients it’s as if the volume knob of pain were turned all the way up and jammed there permanently.
Studies of twins suggest that our pain response is, in part, heritable, but there are close correlations between chronic pain and many other factors-gender, age, stress, poverty, and depression.

The orginal article.

Summary of “What does running do to your brain?”

Their findings confirm what many runners know from their own experience: we can use running as a tool to improve the way we think and feel.
For obvious reasons, you cannot run while you are inside a brain scanner, so the neuroscientists studied the brain at rest.
Brain scans show that meditation and running can have a somewhat similar effect on the brain; simultaneously engaging executive functions and turning down the chatter of the default mode network.
Too, are cottoning on to the therapeutic effects of running: I recently worked with running-shoe company Saucony to create a podcast about the effects of running on the mind.
Running has never quite done that for me, but we do now know more about the potent chemical rewards that running triggers in the brain.
They used functional brain imaging to show that, in trained runners, beta-endorphin levels do indeed spike in the brain after a two-hour run.
It is definitely the case that your gender, genetic profile, fitness, expectations and many other factors besides will influence the way your brain responds to running.
While the physical benefits of running and aerobic exercise are well established, we are starting to see why running can have profound benefits for mental health, too.

The orginal article.