New Research: Brains Do Heal Themselves

After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster.

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Artists Better Protected Against Cognitive Decline

People who engage in music or visual arts are better protected against dementia and other cognitive decline issues. Nows the time to pick up that instrument you keep meaning to learn how to play!

Artists compared with non-artists are better protected, he added. “Due to their art, the brain is better protected [against] diseases like Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, and even strokes. They have more reserve in their brain in order to give functions.

“So [we know], based on other neuroscience studies, that art in any of its forms uses different neuronal avenues inside the brain to do their work. And the activity, the talent and the art per se gives reserve when the brain requires that reserve.”

Read more at CBC.

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Music Therapy Helps Brain Damaged Patients

Music therapy can help people who have severe brain damage regain control of their brain and heal faster. This is really nifty!

But how does music find a pathway inside a damaged brain that regular speech can’t negotiate? According to Morrow, it has to do with the parts of the brain where music comes from. And that there are so many of them.

“Music centres are all over the brain,” says Morrow. “I might be able to retrieve lyrics from the right side, from the middle, from the back of the brain. There are so many components to music that I can tap into … to reach words again and to reformulate them in the brain.”

In terms of human evolution, speech is a relatively recent addition to our compartmentalized brains. Some believe music may precede it. There’s no doubt that toddlers babble and vocalize long before they speak.

“It used to be thought that music was a superfluous thing, and no one understood why it developed from an evolutionary standpoint,” says Michael De Georgia, director of the Centre for Music and Medicine at Case Western Reserve University’s Medical Centre in Cleveland.

“In the last 10 years, we’ve just started to understand how broad and diffuse the effect of music is on all parts of the brain,” he added. “We are just starting to understand how powerful music can be.”

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New Way to Examine Consciousness in Comatose Patients

There are a lot of ethical issues about what to do with a person in a vegetative state in a hospital, and sometimes pulling the plug (so to speak) isn’t the best course of action. Thanks to some smart researchers we can now tell which patients are still thinking and which patients have no activity in their brain.

“You spend a week with one of these patients and at no point does it seem at all they know what you are saying when you are talking to them. Then you do this experiment and find it’s the exact opposite — they do know what’s going on,” said Damian Cruse, a postdoctoral neuroscientist at the University of Western Ontario in Canada who helped conduct the research. “That’s quite a profound feeling.”

The results and similar findings could also provide crucial insights into human consciousness — one of the most perplexing scientific puzzles — and lead to ways to better provide diagnoses and possibly rehabilitate brain-injury patients, the researchers said.

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Learning something? Better Have a Nap

Having a nap in the afternoon can help your brain function – particularly for remembering things. I do enjoy a good nap every so often and now I think’ll make a habit of it.

Researchers in the U.S. studied 39 young adults who were divided into two groups. At noon, study participants took a memory test that required them to remember faces linked to names.

Of those in the study, 20 took a nap for 100 minutes. All of the volunteers were then retested at 6 p.m.

Those who stayed awake did about 10 per cent worse on the tests compared with those who napped, Matthew Walker of University of California at Berkeley said. He presented the preliminary findings Sunday at the American Association of the Advancement of Science meeting in San Diego.

The more hours we spend awake, the more sluggish the brain becomes, the study suggests.

Normally, the ability to learn declines between noon and 6 p.m., but a nap seemed to fight off the decline.

Keep reading at the CBC

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