Scientists identify brain patterns associated with consciousness

Lying down after a long day, your head hits the pillow and your eyes close. The next minute you wake up with no recollection of the past several hours. Consciousness is an elusive concept – it is temporarily lost when we sleep, altered by drugs, and can be permanently lost with brain damage. It is a state of self-awareness that emerges from a network of … Continue reading Scientists identify brain patterns associated with consciousness

Oral bacteria may be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s disease is the leading cause of dementia. It progressively worsens multiple aspects of health over time, from short-term memory loss to behavioral changes to loss of bodily functions. The actual cause of Alzheimer’s is currently unknown. One widely-accepted hypothesis proposes that Alzheimer’s is caused by the accumulation of misfolded proteins in the brain. Unfortunately, many drugs targeting misfolded proteins perform poorly in clinical trials, … Continue reading Oral bacteria may be responsible for Alzheimer’s disease

Efficient drug delivery platform into the brain

Treatment of neurological disorders, such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke, has always been a challenging task, partly due to the existence of the blood-brain barrier (BBB). The BBB is a border that separates the blood circulation from the surrounding brain tissue. In a healthy brain, the BBB only allows the passage of nutrients crucial to brain function, while restricting the transportation of other substances, including … Continue reading Efficient drug delivery platform into the brain

How Marijuana Exposure Affects Developing Babies’ Brains

As states have begun to legalize marijuana, its use has been more openly discussed. While the effects of other commonly used drugs, such as alcohol, have been studied extensively, the effects of marijuana – especially on developing babies during pregnancy – have been much less studied and less widely publicized. This relative silence from the scientific community has affected the public’s opinion on the safety … Continue reading How Marijuana Exposure Affects Developing Babies’ Brains

‘Pacemaker for the brain’ may help prevent seizures and treat movement disorders

Anyone who has ever been scolded for talking over someone knows that speaking and listening simultaneously is a hard thing to do. Conducting an intelligent conversation requires active listening, understanding the received knowledge, and crafting a meaningful response, which often requires blending the new information with one’s own experiences. On a microscopic scale, each neuron in the brain must do exactly this – listen to … Continue reading ‘Pacemaker for the brain’ may help prevent seizures and treat movement disorders

Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain

Over the past decade, the gut microbiome and its effects on human health have become a topic of considerable interest in the scientific community and popular media. The gut microbiome is composed of bacteria that naturally reside in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, which have an effect on various biological processes such as digestion, metabolism, regulation of the immune system and protection against pathogens. Interestingly, researchers … Continue reading Bacteria may live naturally inside the human brain

My Favorite Things

The orbitofrontal cortex (OFC) is an area of the brain located in the prefrontal cortex, which, as its name suggests, is the front part of the brain. The OFC is my favorite area of the brain, partially because it was the first region I studied, but mostly because of its complex role in motivated behaviors. The OFC is comprised of five subregions: medial, ventral, ventrolateral, … Continue reading My Favorite Things

Gad to the Bone

The Ventral Pallidum (VP) is an area of the brain that is part of the Basal Ganglia system. The VP is involved in regulating motivation and reward learning, connected with a variety of other brain regions, including another part of the Basal Ganglia called the Nucleus Accumbens (NAc). The NAc is also heavily implicated in motivation and reward learning, and a large part of the … Continue reading Gad to the Bone

Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

The placebo effect is a puzzling phenomenon. Placebos (sugar pills or saline solutions secretly substituted for actual drugs) are commonly used in clinical trials to set a baseline against which to measure the effects of a drug. However, people in the placebo group will often show improvements alongside the treatment group. The fact that an inactive substance, such as a sugar pill, can lead to … Continue reading Your Personality May Determine How You Respond to Placebo Pills

Amygdala On My Mind

The amygdala is an area of the brain named for its almond shape (amygdala is Latin for almond). The amygdala is necessary for any biologically significant event, or anything related to survival, because of its involvement in decision-making, memory, and emotional responses, including both positive and negative. The amygdala is most commonly known for its role in aversive learning, in which a behavior is taught … Continue reading Amygdala On My Mind