Why crying babies are so hard to ignore: Study suggests the sound of a baby crying activates primitive parts of the brain involved in fight-or-flight responses

Ever wondered why it is so difficult to ignore the sound of a crying baby when you are trapped aboard a train or aeroplane? Scientists have found that our brains are hard-wired to respond strongly to the sound, making us more attentive and priming our bodies to help whenever we hear it – even if we’re not the baby’s parents.

"The sound of a baby cry captures your attention in a way that few other sounds in the environment generally do," said Katie Young of the University of Oxford, who led the study looking at how the brain processes a baby’s cries.

She scanned the brains of 28 people while they listened to the sound of babies and adults crying and sounds of animal distress including cats meowing and dogs whining.

Using a very fast scanning technique, called magnetoencephalography, Young found an early burst of activity in the brain in response to the sound of a baby cry, followed by an intense reaction after about 100 milliseconds. The reaction to other sounds was not as intense. “This was primarily in two regions of the brain,” said Young. “One is the middle temporal gyrus, an area previously implicated in emotional processing and speech; the other area is the orbitofrontal cortex, an area well-known for its role in reward and emotion processing.”

Young and her colleague, Christine Parsons, presented their findings this week at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans.

Spheres of influence

Specific language impairment (SLI) is something of a misnomer. It’s a condition in which a person, typically first identified as a child, has difficulty speaking or communicating normally, but without obvious cause. Their hearing and general health are fine. There are no environmental or rearing experiences to explain it. There are no other signs of developmental delay or neurological disorder.

SLI seems hardly specific at all. And it’s the most common of childhood language disorders, affecting 7 percent of children.

“The primary requirements for the diagnosis are the failure to master spoken and written language expression and comprehension despite normal nonverbal intelligence and no sensory or other physical or medical condition that could cause it,” said Tim Brown, PhD, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist in the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s Department of Neurosciences and the UC San Diego Center for Human Development.

“Because it’s largely a diagnosis of exclusions, SLI likely has more than one cause and might be made up of different subtypes. Different kids with SLI can have very different profiles of language strengths and weaknesses.”

Although there are standard clinical treatments for speech production disorders, said Brown, there is no universally accepted treatment for SLI, in part because the problem is believed to involve non-motor “high-level” aspects of language.

In a recent paper published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, Brown, Julia L. Evans, PhD, of the Center for Research in Language at UC San Diego and the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas, Dallas, and colleagues, describe using a technology called anatomically constrained magnetoencephalography imaging to look for “higher-level” aspects of language in a young SLI patient without requiring him to make speech movements or process auditory input.

They discovered that the adolescent boy’s brain represented objects in the opposite side of the brain than most people. “When he thinks about common objects, like a mouse, house, door, leaf or whale, and processes them vividly (like imagining their size), he uses his right brain hemisphere whereas most people rely most strongly on their left, which is thought to be the language processing hemisphere,” said Brown.

“This was true whether he was reading printed words of the objects or viewing pictures of them. With aMEG, we were able to show the specific regions of his brain that were used, with timing accurate down to the millisecond, which has not been seen before in SLI.”

Brown said the combination of spatial and temporal resolution gained using aMEG make it a promising method for better understanding what’s happening inside the brains of individual SLI patients. He said such precision may improve diagnoses and treatment.

“For example, although all children with SLI have language impairment, it may turn out that only a subset with SLI relies heavily on their right hemisphere for the cognitive processing of objects. Because of this difference in their brain’s functional organization, we might expect different cognitive or behavioral therapies to be effective for right hemisphere object processors versus left hemisphere processors. So the information about the individual child may be useful for both a better understanding of their problem and for leading them to a more appropriate treatment.”

Stars by ChiStars

"We’re now recognizing that the mind, which is an energetic field of thought which you can read with EEG wires on your brain or with a new process called magnetoencephalography (MEG), which reads the field without even touching the body. So it basically says that when you’re processing with your brain, you’re broadcasting fields. " - Bruce Lipton

Meditation helps prevent the recurrence of depression
Noise Canceling, Without Headphones By RONI CARYN RABIN from the New York Times

Studies have found that meditation helps prevent the recurrence of depression, perhaps by producing changes in parts of the brain associated with learning and anxiety. A new study suggests that meditation may modulate brain waves called alpha rhythms, which help regulate the transmission of sensory input from the surrounding environment.

Harvard researchers randomly assigned 12 healthy adults to an eight-week course of training in meditation-based stress reduction or to a control group whose participants did not meditate.

At regular intervals, researchers used an imaging technique called magnetoencephalography to measure electrical currents in an area of the brain that processes signals from the left hand. During the tests, each participant was asked to direct his attention to his or her left hand or left foot.

After eight weeks, the brain scans showed that alpha rhythms changed more quickly and in a more pronounced way in participants who had been meditating.

“If you’re reading something in a noisy environment and you want to be in a bubble, you might use your alpha rhythms like a volume knob, to turn down the volume on neurons that represent sound from the outside world,” said Catherine E. Kerr, a neuroscientist at Harvard Medical School and a co-author of the report, published April 21 in the journal Brain Research Bulletin. “We all do this to some extent, but it turns out that meditators become much more skilled at it.”

Detecting Autism From Brain Activity

Neuroscientists from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and the University of Toronto have developed an efficient and reliable method of analyzing brain activity to detect autism in children. Their findings appear today in the online journal PLOS ONE.

The researchers recorded and analyzed dynamic patterns of brain activity with magnetoencephalography (MEG) to determine the brain’s functional connectivity – that is, its communication from one region to another. MEG measures magnetic fields generated by electrical currents in neurons of the brain.

Roberto Fernández Galán, PhD, an assistant professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve and an electrophysiologist seasoned in theoretical physics led the research team that detected autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with 94 percent accuracy. The new analytic method offers an efficient, quantitative way of confirming a clinical diagnosis of autism.

“We asked the question, ‘Can you distinguish an autistic brain from a non-autistic brain simply by looking at the patterns of neural activity?’ and indeed, you can,” Galán said. “This discovery opens the door to quantitative tools that complement the existing diagnostic tools for autism based on behavioral tests.”

In a study of 19 children—nine with ASD—141 sensors tracked the activity of each child’s cortex. The sensors recorded how different regions interacted with each other while at rest, and compared the brain’s interactions of the control group to those with ASD. Researchers found significantly stronger connections between rear and frontal areas of the brain in the ASD group; there was an asymmetrical flow of information to the frontal region, but not vice versa.

The new insight into the directionality of the connections may help identify anatomical abnormalities in ASD brains. Most current measures of functional connectivity do not indicate the interactions’ directionality.

“It is not just who is connected to whom, but rather who is driving whom,” Galán said.

Their approach also allows them to measure background noise, or the spontaneous input driving the brain’s activity while at rest. A spatial map of these inputs demonstrated there was more complexity and structure in the control group than the ASD group, which had less variety and intricacy. This feature offered better discrimination between the two groups, providing an even stronger measure of criteria than functional connectivity alone, with 94 percent accuracy.

Case Western Reserve’s Office of Technology Transfer has filed a provisional patent application for the analysis’ algorithm, which investigates the brain’s activity at rest. Galán and colleagues hope to collaborate with others in the autism field with emphasis on translational and clinical research.

(Image: SPL)

Functional Mapping. Part 1

Professor Tatyana Stroganova about the MEG technologies (Russian language). 

Interview part 1

Interview part 2 

image

Press-portrait: prof. Tatiana Stroganova

NOTES: Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a technique for mapping brain activity by recording magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain, using very sensitive magnetometers. The MEG equipment which we will discuss later can be a good marketing research tool. 

There is another method as Electroencephalography. Despite the fact that this technology is much cheaper, it does not offer the full range of opportunities offered by the previous one.

Your brain and how to use it.

One of my old roommates/really good friends had gone above and beyond the call of duty to use something as his Facebook cover that wasn’t a sunset, themselves, a video game, or their favorite athlete (mine is my favorite athlete, don’t hate). It was a rather simple message, but still too complicated for many people to comprehend:

(Pictured: Something that you need to use every day.)

People used to ask me how I knew certain things, and I would point to my head (or more specifically, my brain) because I believe that I didn’t have to answer to the peanut gallery that I had to face every single day in high school. They were far from being Albert Einstein or Louis Brandeis (who had the best academic record in Harvard Law School history, which is probably too great of an expectation, but when you act like you’re the shit, I will compare you to someone who actually is the shit).

There is a semi-widely accepted theory that we only use ten percent of our brains. MythBusters promptly annihilated that myth using (brace yourselves) magnetoencephalography, or for people who can’t comprehend big words, a technique for mapping brain activity by recording magnetic fields produced by electrical currents occurring naturally in the brain, using arrays of SQUIDs (superconducting quantum interference devices). For those of you who criticize Wikipedia for being inaccurate, I suggest you look at the superscripts peppered throughout the pages, which link to actual studies on the topic pages instead of being, “BUT JOSE ANYONE CAN EDIT WIKIPEDIA EVEN TOTAL RETARDS LOL.”

Now that I’ve gotten the colossal words and “incomprehensible to the average human brain” subjects out of the way, in conclusion, we use more than 10% of our brains. One of the many reasons we’re not in flying cars and traveling to other planets include things such as this:

(Pictured: What people are wasting their brainpower on.)

I use Jersey Shore as a prime example because this show has done more than any other show on the planet to make us not use our brains. The fact that these people make more per episode than more important people in society (doctors, teachers, scientists, etc.) make in a year is alarming enough for all of us to wonder if human evolution took a gigantic U-turn, and I fear that I might be correct.

I’ve always wanted to be a teacher, but I fear that parents and administrators may find me way too dangerous to educate their children because I want to present the world and life as is rather than paint an ideal picture of how it should be. Remember how I keep saying that parenting has gone to shit? It’s because parents (in another act of not using their brains) believe that teachers should handle the discipline. In my case, it was someone claiming to have my best interests in mind while planning to stab me in the back as my parents passed the title of disciplinarian to him, so there were three things wrong with that picture instead of the one I just mentioned.

Remember how I said that I saved all my emails so I could pull quotes out of nowhere and surprise people with them years later? Let’s take a few examples of people not using their brains out of the archives:

"The world is a fucked up place with fucked up people. I am one of the few normal ones around."

The first sentence is absolutely correct. It is a fucked up place with fucked up people. If it wasn’t a fucked up place with fucked up people, this blog would cease to exist entirely. But I have a problem with the second sentence because being normal is something we will never be because normal is a relative term. But this person goes batshit insane over a website where people think it’s cool to act like Internet tough guys. I had mentioned on Facebook that if you act like an Internet tough guy, you are overcompensating for one of your shortcomings, one of them being that you’re probably a big wimp IRL and can only keyboard warrior it, because you would not want your face being introduced to someone else’s fist.

I was going to pull another quote out of my archives, but one of my friends posted this on Facebook. Six months for murder, then trying to cover it up by saying he died of an illness, and you get to serve the sentence on house arrest? This screams of stupidity. The people at fault here for not using their brains? Her boyfriend for not leaving her, and the police for letting a murderer serve house arrest. Or we can make it three people, including myself, since I’m about to eat lunch and I had the misfortune to set my eyes on this:


(Pictured: OMFG LOOK AWAY.)


I thought things like this only occurred in Florida and Texas, but it happened to occur in my own backyard (Concord, CA). If I ever saw her in public, I’d probably need a tranquilizer dart, or, since I’m not exactly sympathetic to murderers, a harpoon.

The most logical argument for using your brain? Well, if you know the saying “think before you speak”, there’s actually a very logical reason to do that. The brain is at the top of your head and the mouth is at the bottom of it, therefore the brain is the biggest priority and the mouth is the lowest.

So, don’t date ugly psychotic girls, don’t watch Jersey Shore, and don’t say anything mean to me because I can (and will) spread it around like wildfire, and overall, use your head. If you find any of these things difficult, then I can recommend a therapist.

ARTICLE: Visualizing the blind brain: brain imaging of visual field defects from early recovery to rehabilitation techniques - Full Text PDF

ARTICLE: Visualizing the blind brain: brain imaging of visual field defects from early recovery to rehabilitation techniques – Full Text PDF

…In this review, we will focus on studies of  human adults with acquired VFDs, which have used different imaging techniques (Positron  Emission Tomography: PET, Diffusion Tensor Imaging: DTI, functional Magnetic Resonance  Imaging: fMRI, MagnetoEncephalography: MEG) or neurostimulation techniques  (Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation: TMS; transcranial Direct Current Stimulation, tDCS) to  show…

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