From New Scientist: Rats dream about the places they wish to go.
Do you dream of where you’d like to go tomorrow? It looks like rats do.
When the animals are shown a food treat at the end of a path they cannot access and then take a nap, the neurons representing that route in their brains fire as they sleep – as if they are dreaming about running down the corridor to grab the grub.
“It’s like looking at a holiday brochure for Greece the day before you go – that night you might dream about the pictures,” says Hugo Spiers of University College London.
Like people, rats store mental maps of the world in their hippocampi, two curved structures on either side of the brain. Putting electrodes into rats’ brains as they explore their environment has shown that different places are recorded and remembered by different combinations of hippocampal neurons firing together. [continue]
From The Washington Post: How a history of eating human brains protected this tribe from brain disease.
The sickness spread at funerals.
The Fore people, a once-isolated tribe in eastern Papua New Guinea, had a long-standing tradition of mortuary feasts — eating the dead from their own community at funerals. Men consumed the flesh of their deceased relatives, while women and children ate the brain. It was an expression of respect for the lost loved ones, but the practice wreaked havoc on the communities they left behind. That’s because a deadly molecule that lives in brains was spreading to the women who ate them, causing a horrible degenerative illness called “kuru” that at one point killed 2 percent of the population each year.
The practice was outlawed in the 1950s, and the kuru epidemic began to recede. But in its wake it left a curious and irreversible mark on the Fore, one that has implications far beyond Papua New Guinea: After years of eating brains, some Fore have developed a genetic resistance to the molecule that causes several fatal brain diseases, including kuru, mad cow disease and some cases of dementia.
From The Atlantic: Compensating for the Missing Chunk of My Brain.
“Do me a favor and don’t wear any eye makeup when you come in,” I recall the receptionist having requested over the phone. “It messes with the goggles.”
Instead of saying, “Goggles?” as I was thinking, I said, “Eye makeup?”
“Mascara, eye shadow, eyeliner,” the receptionist said.
I’d been to this functional neurology center in a suburb of Portland, Oregon, several times since 2007, when I was diagnosed with having a puddle of cerebral-spinal fluid—the water that your brain floats in—about the size of a lemon where my right parietal lobe would be. The parietal lobe is the part of the brain responsible for judging time, space, distance, and the location of the body, among other tasks. I was diagnosed only a couple of months before leaving for grad school in Southern California; I had been hoping to get to the bottom of why learning to drive had proven impossible for me. [continue]
From Science Dailiy: Missing link found between brain, immune system; major disease implications.
In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers at the University of Virginia School of Medicine have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis. [continue]
WOW, just …. wow. Suddenly all my anatomy textbooks are out of date!
This is mind-boggling. From Nautilus: How to Unlearn a Disease.
My father, a neurologist, once had a patient who was tormented, in the most visceral sense, by a poem. Philip was 12 years old and a student at a prestigious boarding school in Princeton, New Jersey. One of his assignments was to recite Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven. By the day of the presentation, he had rehearsed the poem dozens of times and could recall it with ease. But this time, as he stood before his classmates, something strange happened.
Each time he delivered the poem’s famous haunting refrain—“Quoth the Raven ‘Nevermore’ ”—the right side of his mouth quivered. The tremor intensified until, about halfway through the recitation, he fell to the floor in convulsions, having lost all control of his body, including bladder and bowels, in front of an audience of merciless adolescents. His first seizure. [continue]
From the New York Times: Older Brain Really May Be a Wiser Brain.
When older people can no longer remember names at a cocktail party, they tend to think that their brainpower is declining. But a growing number of studies suggest that this assumption is often wrong.
Instead, the research finds, the aging brain is simply taking in more data and trying to sift through a clutter of information, often to its long-term benefit.
The studies are analyzed in a new edition of a neurology book, "Progress in Brain Research."
Some brains do deteriorate with age. Alzheimer’s disease, for example, strikes 13 percent of Americans 65 and older. But for most aging adults, the authors say, much of what occurs is a gradually widening focus of attention that makes it more difficult to latch onto just one fact, like a name or a telephone number. Although that can be frustrating, it is often useful. [continue]