This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 22 June – 26 June
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Sex differences in the CNS; new clues about trauma memory; measuring bird brains, and more.
The brain is an intricate, plastic organ and scientists are only beginning to understand that differences between male and female brains are extremely complex and influenced by genetics, physiology, experience, and learning.
A group of passengers who thought they were going to die when their plane ran out of fuel over the Atlantic Ocean in August, 2001 have had their brains scanned while recalling the terrifying moments to help science better understand trauma memories and how they are processed in the brain.
Behavioral flexibility -- the ability to change strategy when the rules change -- is controlled by specific neurons in the brain, researchers at the Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology Graduate University (OIST) have confirmed. Cholinergic interneurons are rare -- they make up just one to two percent of the neurons in the striatum, a key part of the brain involved with higher-level decision-making. Scientists have suspected they play a role in changing strategies, and researchers at OIST recently confirmed this with experiments.
In research, sometimes setting out to demonstrate one concept actually results in proving something entirely different. It's important to be flexible. Take, for example, Corina Logan, whose work focuses on the cognitive abilities of the great-tailed grackle, a member of the blackbird family. A junior research fellow at University of California Santa Barbara (UCSB)'s SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind when she conducted her research, Logan sought to find a way to accurately approximate the brain size of live grackles by measuring their heads rather than the inside of their skulls.
Stanford University researchers studying how the brain controls movement in people with paralysis, related to their diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), have found that groups of neurons work together, firing in complex rhythms to signal muscles about when and where to move.