Are bilingual stroke patients more susceptible to aphasia?

Aphasia is a condition that commonly affects stroke patients, and leads to problems with the ability to speak, read, and understand language. Patients with aphasia suffer disproportionate levels of anxiety, depression and unemployment, at just the same time as their most basic coping mechanism — talking with family and friends — is being undermined. Stroke patients want to know whether, when, and in what respects they might hope to recover lost language skills - questions that have motivated a great deal of research into the factors that predict better or worse recovery from post-stroke aphasia.

Whether bilingualism (speaking more than one language) affects the severity of aphasia compared to monolingualism (speaking just one) is unclear, but bilingualism is the norm rather than the exception in many parts of the world. Many would assume being able to speak more than one language would lessen the effects of aphasia, as there is a greater understanding of language to draw on. New research suggests however, that bilingual stroke patients are actually more susceptible to aphasia than monolingual stroke patients.

"Comparing language outcomes in monolingual and bilingual stroke patients" via Brain.

Image: Leukoaraiosis by Jmarchn. CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Great mambo mouse brains created from human DNA-It often seems neuroscientists will go to the ends of the Earth to try to show that single genes control everything from the size of a particular brain lobe, to memory, speech or even intelligence itself. One of their favorite pet techniques is to take our genes, or even whole cells, and stick them into mouse brains to see what they do. As it happens, this method was recently used to great effect for an unassuming gene known simply as HARE5. Researchers from Duke found that if they gave some mice our human version of HARE5, and other mice the chimp version, the humanized mice grew great mambo brains. Although it might seem that rabbits would be a good model organism to study a gene like HARE5, souping up mouse brains has a much longer tradition. We previously described attempts to make mice smarter by adding human microglial cells, and also to give them a deeply fissured human-style cortex by adding a gene known as TRNP1. We drew the line at covering efforts to make talking mice, but perhaps it is worthwhile now to mention that other researchers have in fact given mice our FoxP2 gene — a gene said to control our language skills — and made painful efforts to claim it actually enhanced mouse learning and affected synaptic processing.

Stealth Delivery of “Death Genes” Treats Lethal Brain Cancer in Rats

Introducing genes into cancer cells to correct their genetic mistakes or to kill them could be an effective treatment, but has proved difficult in practice. Recently, researchers successfully used nanoparticles to deliver genes to cancer cells in the brains of rats, prolonging their lives.

This study was funded by the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (grant number 1R01EB016721).

Dozens of scientists conserve Britain’s oldest brain from face-down skull in Iron Age pit

Archaeologists mystified by 2,600-year preservation of brain belonging to victim of beheading in ancient York

The preservation of Britain’s oldest brain, found when archaeologists saw its spongy shape in a skull face-down in a pit at an Iron Age site in York in 2009, remains a mystery.

Water, oxygen and bacteria-supporting warmth would all have encouraged the brain to rot. The outside of the skull, which had its jaw and two vertebrae attached, has withered – but the Heslington Brain has remained intact.

Read more at Culture24

Scientists See How Brain Areas Communicate 

Carnegie Mellon Univ. neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain’s striatum.

Published in the Journal of Neuroscience, the findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal (DLPFC), orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) and posterior parietal cortex (PPC). Communication between these regions is important for abilities like how a baseball player is able to estimate where to swing his bat or how a person finds a car in a large parking lot filled with similar cars.

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