23pairofchromosomes: Ten core principles necessary for the remodeling of your brain to take place: 1. Change is mostly limited to those situations in which the brain is in the mood for it. If you are alert, on the ball, engaged, motivated, ready for action, the brain releases the neurochemicals necessary to enable brain change. When disengaged, inattentive, distracted, or doing something without thinking that requires no real effort, your neuroplastic switches are “off.” 2. The harder you try, the more you’re motivated, the more alert you are, and the better (or worse) the potential outcome, the bigger the brain change. If you’re intensely focused on the task and really trying to master something for an important reason, the change experienced will be greater. 3. What actually changes in the brain are the strengths of the connections of neurons that are engaged together, moment by moment, in time. The more something is practiced, the more connections are changed and made to include all elements of the experience (sensory info, movement, cognitive patterns). You can think of it like a “master controller” being formed for that particular behavior which allows it to be performed with remarkable facility and reliability over time. 4. Learning-driven changes in connections increase cell-to-cell cooperation which is crucial for increasing reliability. Merzenich explains this by asking you to imagine the sound of a football stadium full of fans all clapping at random versus the same people clapping in unison. He explains, “The more powerfully coordinated your [nerve cell] teams are, the more powerful and more reliable their behavioral productions.” 5. The brain also strengthens its connections between teams of neurons representing separate moments of successive things that reliably occur in serial time. This allows your brain to predict what happens next and have a continuous “associative flow.” Without this ability, your stream of consciousness would be reduced to “a series of separate, stagnating puddles,” explains Merzenich. 6. Initial changes are temporary. Your brain first records the change, then determines whether it should make the change permanent or not. It only becomes permanent if your brain judges the experience to be fascinating or novel enough or if the behavioral outcome is important, good or bad. 7. The brain is changed by internal mental rehearsal in the same ways and involving precisely the same processes that control changes achieved through interactions with the external world. According to Merzenich, “You don’t have to move an inch to drive positive plastic change in your brain. Your internal representations of things recalled from memory work just fine for progressive brain plasticity-based learning.” 8. Memory guides and controls most learning. As you learn a new skill, your brain takes note of and remembers the good attempts, while discarding the not-so-good trys. Then, it recalls the last good pass, makes incremental adjustments, and progressively improves. 9. Every movement of learning provides a moment of opportunity for the brain to stabilize – and reduce the disruptive power of – potentially interfering backgrounds or “noise.” Each time your brain strengthens a connection to advance your mastery of a skill, it also weakens other connections of neurons that weren’t used at that precise moment. This negative plastic brain change erases some of the irrelevant or interfering activity in the brain. 10. Brain plasticity is a two-way street; it is just as easy to generate negative changes as it is positive ones. You have a “use it or lose it” brain. It’s almost as easy to drive changes that impair memory and physical and mental abilities as it is to improve these things. Merzenich says that older people are absolute masters at encouraging plastic brain change in the wrong direction.
To decide whether and where to move in the body, cells must read chemical signals in their environment. Individual cells do not act alone during this process, two new studies on mouse mammary tissue show. Instead, the cells make decisions collectively after exchanging information about the chemical messages they are receiving. “Cells talk to nearby cells and compare notes before they make a move,” says Ilya Nemenman, a theoretical biophysicist at Emory University and a co-author of both studies, published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The co-authors also include scientists from Johns Hopkins, Yale and Purdue. David Ellison, Andrew Mugler, Matthew D. Brennan, Sung Hoon Lee, Robert J. Huebner, Eliah R. Shamir, Laura A. Woo, Joseph Kim, Patrick Amar, Ilya Nemenman, Andrew J. Ewald, and Andre Levchenko. Cell–cell communication enhances the capacity of cell ensembles to sense shallow gradients during morphogenesis. PNAS, January 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1516503113 Andrew Mugler, Andre Levchenko, and Ilya Nemenman. Limits to the precision of gradient sensing with spatial communication and temporal integration. PNAS, January 2016 DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1509597112
A group of scientists from top hospitals and universities have come together to devise a microscope that can see cell detail without having to extract it from a patient’s body. The special microscope, with a tip diameter of just 12 millimeters, can help doctors recognize cancer in patients while they’re sitting in front of them. How this could literally save lives. Follow @the-future-now
The Gorgeous Complexity of The Human Brain The new work at The Franklin Institute may be the most complex and detailed artistic depiction of the brain ever. Your brain has approximately 86 billion neurons joined together through some 100 trillion connections, giving rise to a complex biological machine capable of pulling off amazing feats. Yet it’s difficult to truly grasp the sophistication of this interconnected web of cells. Now, a new work of art based on actual scientific data provides a glimpse into this complexity. The 8-by-12-foot gold panel, depicting a sagittal slice of the human brain, blends hand drawing and multiple human brain datasets from several universities. The work was created by Greg Dunn, a neuroscientist-turned-artist, and Brian Edwards, a physicist at the University of Pennsylvania, and goes on display at The Franklin Institute in Philadelphia. “The human brain is insanely complicated,” Dunn said. “Rather than being told that your brain has 80 billion neurons, you can see with your own eyes what the activity of 500,000 of them looks like, and that has a much greater capacity to make an emotional impact than does a factoid in a book someplace.” To reflect the neural activity within the brain, Dunn and Edwards have developed a technique called micro-etching: They paint the neurons by making microscopic ridges on a reflective sheet in such a way that they catch and reflect light from certain angles. When the light source moves in relation to the gold panel, the image appears to be animated, as if waves of activity are sweeping through it. First, the visual cortex at the back of the brain lights up, then light propagates to the rest of the brain, gleaming and dimming in various regions — just as neurons would signal inside a real brain when you look at a piece of art. That’s the idea behind the name of Dunn and Edwards’ piece: “Self Reflected.” It’s basically an animated painting of your brain perceiving itself in an animated painting. To make the artwork resemble a real brain as closely as possible, the artists used actual MRI scans and human brain maps, but the datasets were not detailed enough. “There were a lot of holes to fill in,” Dunn said. Several students working with the duo explored scientific literature to figure out what types of neurons are in a given brain region, what they look like and what they are connected to. Then the artists drew each neuron. Dunn and Edwards then used data from DTI scans — a special type of imaging that maps bundles of white matter connecting different regions of the brain. This completed the picture, and the results were scanned into a computer. Using photolithography, the artists etched the image onto a panel covered with gold leaf. “A lot of times in science and engineering, we take a complex object and distill it down to its bare essential components, and study that component really well” Edwards said. But when it comes to the brain, understanding one neuron is very different from understanding how billions of neurons work together and give rise to consciousness. “Of course, we can’t explain consciousness through an art piece, but we can give a sense of the fact that it is more complicated than just a few neurons,” he added. The artists hope their work will inspire people, even professional neuroscientists, “to take a moment and remember that our brains are absolutely insanely beautiful and they are buzzing with activity every instant of our lives,” Dunn said. “Everybody takes it for granted, but we have, at the very core of our being, the most complex machine in the entire universe.” Image 1: A computer image of “Self Reflected,” an etching of a human brain created by artists Greg Dunn and Brian Edwards. Image 2: A close-up of the cerebellum in the finished work. Image 3: A close-up of the motor cortex in the finished work. Image 4: This is what “Self Reflected” looks like when it’s illuminated with all white light. Image 5: Pons and brainstem close up. Image 6: Putkinje neurons – color encodes reflective position in microetching. Image 7: Primary visual cortex in the calcarine fissure. Image 8: Basal ganglia and connected circuitry. Image 9: Parietal cortex. Image 10: Cerebellum. Credit for all Images: Greg Dunn – “Self Reflected” Source: The Huffington Post (by Bahar Gholipour)