brain science

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More than 60,000 patients in the U.S. receive general anesthesia every day. But despite the fact that anaesthesia drugs, like ether, have been around for more than 150 years, it's really only been in the past decade or so that we've gained a better understanding of how they work.

Functional MRI can reveal patterns of brain activity in patients who cannot otherwise communicate.
DrOONeil / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

Patients in a persistent vegetative state may not be as unaware as their diagnosis suggests. Neuroscientists have found that 15-20 percent may be fully conscious but unable to make that known.

A new device may be able to help those individuals communicate with family, friends, and caregivers.

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There are tens of thousands of people in the United States who have been diagnosed as being in a vegetative state – unresponsive and unaware of their surroundings. But as many as 15 to 20 percent of those people may actually be fully conscious and simply unable to make that known. Unless, of course, you put them in a high-end brain scanner and ask them to imagine playing tennis.

No joke.

Does your dog know what you're feeling? Or do you just think he does?
https://goo.gl/Wxb8aD / CC0 Public Domain

How many times have you been in a conversation and found yourself trying to figure out what the other person is thinking? It’s quintessentially human, but is thinking about others’ minds uniquely human? And, if not, what can other animals teach us about this phenomenon?

Our ability to think about what’s going on inside other people’s heads is called theory of mind.

Neurobiologist Hired at Art Museum

May 15, 2017
The Peabody Essex Museum has hired neurobiologist Tedi Asher to help enhance exhibits
Peabody Essex Museum, http://bit.ly/2pTl0tl

Scientists are constantly learning more about how our brains process information, including how we perceive art.

Now, the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem is breaking new ground by hiring a neurobiologist to help them enhance their exhibits.

The Harvard-trained neurobiologist, Tedi Asher, says the museum has already tried out many experimental changes that make sense to her, such as incorporating dance, music, special lighting and even smells to the exhibits.

The hippocampus is part of the brain responsible for forming and storing memories. In fourteen cases, opioid use has been linked to complete shutdown of blood flow to the region.
Gray's Anatomy / Wikimedia Commons, public domain

As if the epidemic of opioid addiction and overdoses isn’t bad enough, a new study finds that – in a very small number of cases – opioid use has been linked to profound memory loss. It’s kind of a medical mystery story that started in November of 2015. That’s when Dr. Jed Barash, a neurologist at Lahey Hospital and Medical Center in Burlington, MA, brought four patients to the attention of officials at the Department of Public Health. 

Hana Kučová / http://hanakucova.cz/

As the new year begins, you may be planning to make some changes. And, as a nation, we seem to be in a state of flux – socially and politically. Following through on resolutions and staying sane in a rapidly changing world takes more than will-power and positive thinking.

Here are three tips based on the latest science of psychology and neurobiology:

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If consciousness is what makes us human, memory – it could be argued – is what defines us as individuals. Each of us carries within our brains a unique set of memories that, together, make up our life stories. But how do we remember? That is the question that drives Erin Schuman.

World Economic Forum

In 1971, Jon Kabat-Zinn finished his Ph.D. in the laboratory of Nobel Laureate, Salvador Luria, at M.I.T. Then, he took what might be considered a left turn – he went to study with Buddhist masters. Several years later, he drew on both his training in both biology and Buddhism when he founded the Stress Reduction Clinic at U. Mass. Medical School and created the first course in Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction.

Jiuguang Wang / Creative Commons

Intelligence, compassion, consciousness. These are some of the most fundamental aspects of what it means to be human. Yet, biologists struggle to settle on common definitions for these complex traits, let alone explain how they arise from the electrical signals fired by the million of neurons that make up our brain.

Major American and European initiatives are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into mapping and modeling the electrical circuitry of the human brain. But not everyone in the neuroscience community thinks these projects are on the right track.

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