Study Suggests Sleep Detoxes the Brain

A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.

Dye flow through the brain of a sleeping mouse

Ambitious Project Seeks to Map Brain Activity

At the convergence of biotechnology and nanotechnology, a new project to map the active human brain may eventually lead to an understanding of human perception and consciousness, as well as therapies for neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia and autism.

Brain Activity Map project

Voices in the Brain: Disruption of the Default Network Linked to Hallucinations

Hearing voices that are not there was once thought to be a core symptom of schizophrenia and signify severe mental illness. It has been increasingly acknowledged that people with no other symptoms of schizophrenia or psychosis do hear voices [1]. There are several theories about what causes these auditory hallucinations. For example, there is good evidence that hearing voices can be linked to trauma [2]. Attempting to understand the phenomenon is not only scientifically interesting but also relates to how society views people with these experiences and if and how they may be treated. A search for how these experiences are associated with brain function is ongoing. New research published in the journal Human Brain Mapping suggests that the predisposition to hearing voices may relate to abnormal functioning of the brain whilst at rest [3].


Building a Brain in a Supercomputer

Mental illness, memory, perception: they’re made of neurons and electric signals. Henry Markram claims these mysteries of the mind can be solved — and soon. He is building a detailed, realistic computer model of the human brain and its one hundred trillion — that’s 100,000,000,000,000 — synapses.

Markram is the director of the Blue Brain Project at Ecole polytechnique federale de Lausanne (EPFL), one of two Swiss Federal Institutes of Technology located in Lausanne, Switzerland. Founded in 2005 by the Brain and Mind Institute at the EPFL, Blue Brain is a supercomputing project that to study the brain’s architectural and functional principles, and reverse engineer it in order to understand brain function and dysfunction. Blue Brain can model components of the mammalian brain in precise cellular detail and simulate neuronal activity in 3D. Soon Blue Brain will be able to simulate a whole rat brain in real time.

Encephalon #58 – Decision Making

Welcome to the 58th edition of Encephalon, where we highlight some of the best neuroscience and psychology blog posts from around the blogosphere. This edition includes 20 articles on a variety of interesting topics, including intelligence, belief, neurodegeneration, multi-tasking, memory, grief and consciousness.

There’s a revolution occurring on the Web: those “authoritative” articles written on traditional, static websites are being replaced with blogs, wikis and online social networks. In the sphere of health, medicine and information technology, this “real-time Web” consists of many who are professionals in the field; their posts are listed below.
In the digital age, these are the characteristics of new media: recent, relevant, reachable and reliable.

This edition of Encephalon coincides with the historic 44th U.S. Presidential election. As with every election, voters had to decide which candidate for whom to cast their ballot. Although a recent brain-imaging study found that voting decisions are more associated with the brain’s response to negative aspects of a politician’s appearance than to positive ones [1], many other sources of information come into play when we make important and complex decisions. Indeed, studies have shown that decision making is largely an unconscious process [2], in which a set of attributes, including needs, preferences, values and emotions, shape our response to sensory input.

Will there be engaging and thought-provoking articles below? Will each of us learn something new as we read through the posts? Will this edition of Encephalon be successful?

Let’s move through each of the attributes and shape our response to these questions.