Highlights from the Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

Stress and motherhood, tandem MRIs, the memory benefits of resveratrol and more from the Washington, D.C., meeting

Cats look to the edge
Cats may not seem like planners, but they do look ahead when walking. Three adult cats with magnetic devices strapped to their heads walked across slats, giving scientists the first data on where cats look when they walk. The cats looked a few rungs ahead at the edges of the slats, found Trevor Rivers, now at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine. “They don’t say ‘I want to step right there.’ They are looking at where not to be,” Rivers said November 14. — Tina Hesman Saey

Moms protected from stress
New mothers might not believe it, but being a mom may help protect against some negative consequences of stress. Tracey Shors of Rutgers University in Piscataway, N.J., and colleagues tested the effect of stress on female rats’ ability to learn to blink when they hear a particular sound. Stress renders virgin female rats incapable of learning the task. But mothers, including virgin female foster mothers, are protected against learning deficits. And the protection lasts a lifetime, Shors said November 13. The researchers don’t yet know what about motherhood is responsible for the protection. — Tina Hesman Saey

Vitamin D is good for aging brain
Vitamin D may keep mental gears greased during middle age. Middle-aged rats fed high, low or standard amounts of vitamin D performed similarly on memory tests in which the animals had to find a submerged platform in a water tank, Nada Porter of the University of Kentucky and colleagues found. But when the rats had to learn a new location, “the high vitamin D guys just made a beeline” for the new spot while rats in the other two groups swam aimlessly, Porter said during a presentation November 12. — Tina Hesman Saey

Two brains slide into a scanner
Scientists have uncovered what happens when two minds meet. Neuro­scientist Ray Lee of Princeton University and colleagues scanned 18 pairs of eye-locked people in a single MRI machine — four romantic partners, 12 female-female pairs and two male-male pairs. Patterns of shared behavior depended on the people’s relationship, the team reported November 14. Between friends, activity in the basal ganglia, a region involved in social interaction, was synchronized. For lovers, the connection happened in the posterior cingulate cortex, a region with a role in awareness. — Laura Sanders

Resveratrol mimics exercise benefits for memory
An anti-aging substance found in red wine is as good as exercise for improving memory in young rats. Rats that ate the substance, called resveratrol, were as good at remembering objects they had seen before as rats that ran on treadmills, a proven memory aid, Rosalind Hussey of Trinity College in Dublin reported November 13. That doesn’t make red wine a memory booster, however: A person would have to drink hundreds of glasses to get the same resveratrol dose the rats received. “The alcohol content probably wouldn’t help your memory,” Hussey said. — Tina Hesman Saey

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