More detailed brain scans reveal that the brain is more complicated than we thought! And cloned sheep might be healthier than we thought!
The brain’s super-sensitivity to curbs

Humans rely on boundaries like walls and curbs for navigation, and Johns Hopkins University researchers have pinpointed the areas of the brain most sensitive to even the tiniest borders.

Cognitive scientists found one distinct region in the brain that reacts when the visual boundary has a vertical structure like a curb or a wall and another that reacts only when the visual boundary is tall enough to impede someone’s movement. The findings, online now, will appear in print in the August issue of Neuropsychologia.

“There is something giving ecological validity to a boundary – even a very small one,” said author Soojin Park, an assistant professor in the Department of Cognitive Science. “The boundaries in an environment hugely influence how we move within it. We wondered, what’s the neural mechanism behind that?”

Katrina Ferrara, Soojin Park. Neural representation of scene boundaries. Neuropsychologia, 2016; 89: 180 DOI: 10.1016/j.neuropsychologia.2016.05.012

An illustration showing the portions of the brain involved in perception of a visual boundary, like a curb or a wall.  Credit: Soojin Park/JHU

Primeval Eye

Spotting a sunny place to swim is a highlight of the summer – but we may be sharing the water with millions of eyeball-shaped cyanobacteria. Shape isn’t the only thing they have in common with our peepers, though. Cyanobacteria (represented in green here) focus light from the outside world (purple) onto a spot on their insides (shown in blue). Human eyes use focused light to send visual signals to the brain; cyanobacteria react differently – with movement. Close to the blue-coloured focus point, tiny changes in the walls of the bacteria allow them to move towards the light, which they use for photosynthesis. The discovery of eye-like behaviour in bacteria millions of years older than the human race suggests that our eyes possibly evolved from a bacterial design. This eye-popping thought is worth bearing in mind while we avoid swimming with cyanobacteria this summer – they can lead to nasty infections when swallowed.

Written by John Ankers

  • Image courtesy of Ronald Kampmann, Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany
  • University of Freiburg, Germany and Queen Mary University of London, UK
  • Image copyright held by original authors
  • Research published in eLife, February 2016
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A virtual brain helps decrypt epilepsy

Researchers at CNRS, INSERM, Aix-Marseille University and AP-HM have just created a virtual brain that can reconstitute the brain of a person affected by epilepsy for the first time. From this work we understand better how the disease works and can also better prepare for surgery. These results are published in Neuroimage, on July 28, 2016.                                

Worldwide, one percent of the population suffers from epilepsy. The disease affects individuals differently, so personalized diagnosis and treatment are important. Currently we have few ways to understand the pathology’s mechanisms of action, and mainly use visual interpretation of an MRI and electroencephalogram. This is especially difficult because 50% of patients do not present anomalies visible in MRI, so the cause of their epilepsy is unknown.

Researchers have succeeded for the first time in developing a personalized virtual brain, by designing a base “template” and adding individual patient information, such as the specific way the brain’s regions are organized and connected in each individual. Mathematical models that cause cerebral activity can be tested on the virtual brain. In this way, scientists have been able to reproduce the place where epilepsy seizures initiate and how they propagate. This brain therefore has real value in predicting how seizures occur in each patient, which could lead to much more precise diagnosis.

V.K. Jirsa, T. Proix, D. Perdikis, M.M. Woodman, H. Wang, J. Gonzalez-Martinez, C. Bernard, C. Bénar, M. Guye, P. Chauvel, F. Bartolomei, The Virtual Epileptic Patient: Individualized whole-brain models of epilepsy spread, NeuroImage, Available online 28 July 2016, ISSN 1053-8119,

The Virtual Brain: reconstruction of brain regions and where they are connected. The green cubes indicate the center of brain regions that are connected. Credit: INS UMR1106 INSERM/AMU   

The Virtual Epileptic Patient: brain regions and their connections are rebuilt by computer. Digital simulations generate an electric signal similar to that generated by the brain during seizures. These simulations allow digital testing of new therapeutic strategies. Credit: INS UMR1106 INSERM/AMU    

Multilinguals Experience Personality Change When Using Different Languages

People who are bilingual have been a source of fascination for years, with various studies revealing that they are more accepting, tolerant and open-minded than others. The far-reaching impact of multilingualism does not end there, however, with recent research suggesting that the behaviour and outlook of bilinguals also changes according to the language that they use at any given time.

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Study Shows That “Male” And “Female” Brains Are A Myth

Originally posted by camicosmos

A recent study proves that “all male” and “all female” brains are rare and that most people are in the middle.

Awareness about gender fluidity has been increasing in recent years as sexuality and identity are being questioned and the current wave of feminism challenges traditional gender roles and the supposed abilities of each sex.

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences further challenged the assumed differences between the sexes by studying the brains of 1,400 males and females to determine if there really are distinct differences. Find out what we discovered below:

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LSD is one of the most powerful drugs ever created, and for the first time ever, scientists at Imperial College London have successfully image scanned human brains that are under the influence of the psychedelic drug. The study has had profound impacts on our understanding of consciousness. As one researcher explained, “Normally our brain consists of independent networks that perform separate specialised functions, such as vision, movement and hearing - as well as more complex things like attention. However, under LSD the separateness of these networks breaks down and instead you see a more integrated or unified brain. In many ways, the brain in the LSD state resembles the state our brains were in when we were infants: free and unconstrained.”