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Brain Reports Roundup

How can manipulating hormone levels in the brain allow us to live longer? Why are scientists using lab-grown neurons to run a simulated power grid? You'll find the answers to these questions below, along with summaries and links to more of the latest brain news.

Brainspan

An area in the brain has been found to control physical aging. Experiments are planned that will manipulate the lifespan of mice by targeting this area of their brains. Researchers say they can cause slower or faster aging by activating or inhibiting a brain signaling molecule called NF-kB in the hypothalamus. This, in turn, affects levels of GnRH, a hormone involved in the generation of neurons. No human experiments are being done yet.

A Virus for Brain Cancer

According to Moffitt Cancer Center research, the most common kind of brain cancer, glioblastoma multiforme, may be curable using a virus. When the immune suppressant rapamycin is combined with the myxoma virus the brain cancer stem cells are infected and destroyed. You can read more about this here:

Virus Used Against Brain Cancer

Negative Capability

The website BigThink.com had an interesting article on what is called "negative capability." As Wikipedia explains it, "Negative capability describes the capacity of human beings to transcend and revise their contexts. The term has been used by poets and philosophers to describe the ability of the individual to perceive, think, and operate beyond any presupposition of a predetermined capacity of the human being." The poet John Keats was the first to use the term, in a critique of how many people label and categorize all experience and phenomena. If you want to think more creatively it helps to escape the constraints of context. The article can be read here:

Think Like Shakespeare

Brain Grid

Scientists are growing neurons in the lab and using them to control a simulated power grid. The purpose is to figure out how neural networks integrate complex information and processes, in order to learn how to better manage power supplies. The ultimate goal is to have a smarter electric power grid in the future. You can read more about this here:

Brain Cells Model Power Grid

Memory

It shouldn't be surprising when science discovers how flawed our memories can be. Plain old observations of other people and their recollections have been providing that evidence for thousands of years. But sometimes the research provides some new insight into just how we make mistakes in recalling events. For example, at Iowa State University researchers recently showed that an existing memory can be manipulated if new or different information is suggested. But they also discovered that the best time to do this is shortly after the event being recalled. Apparently memories are "consolidated" shortly after first forming in the brain, and the widow of time during which that happens (and during which inaccuracies can be suggested and incorporated) is about six hours. You can read more about this here:

Altered Memories

The Brain and Accents

Royal Holloway University researcher Carolyn McGettigan led research that recently discovered how the brain controls accents and impersonations. Apparently if you start talking in an accent or impersonating a person from another country, different parts of the brain are used even if you say the same things as you do in your normal voice. The researchers hope their studies will lead to the development of "new treatments for those looking to recover their own vocal identity following brain injury or a stroke." You can learn more about this research here:

How the Brain Controls Accents and Impersonations

Brain and Mind

David Brooks recently published a good article/opinion piece in the New York Times. In it he argues that neuroscience, for all the advances it has made in recent years, is still not able to say much about the mind. We can scan a brain and know that there is activity indicating sexual desire, or analytical thought, but we cannot decipher the particular thoughts, or the meaning they have to the user of the brain, or the feelings these evoke or the value placed on things by an individual. You can read his article here:

Beyond the Brain

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