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  • News

    Ravens pass tests of planning ahead in unnatural tasks

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    Ravens have passed what may be their toughest tests yet of powers that, at least on a good day, let people and other apes plan ahead.

    Lab-dwelling common ravens (Corvus corax) in Sweden at least matched the performance of nonhuman apes and young children in peculiar tests of advanced planning ability. The birds faced such challenges as selecting a rock useless at the...

    07/13/2017 - 14:20 Animals, Neuroscience, Evolution
  • News

    Brain activity helps build an alpha male

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    Boosting the activity of certain brain cells can help a mouse climb the social ladder.

    Nerve cells in a region called the dorsomedial prefrontal cortex appear to control whether male mice are dominant or submissive to other males, researchers report in the July 14 Science. The finding adds to previous evidence that this brain region is involved in social interactions...

    07/13/2017 - 14:00 Neuroscience
  • News

    Just one night of poor sleep can boost Alzheimer’s proteins

    How well, not how much, people sleep may affect Alzheimer’s disease risk.

    Healthy adults built up Alzheimer’s-associated proteins in their cerebral spinal fluid when prevented from getting slow-wave sleep, the deepest stage of sleep, researchers report July 10 in Brain. Just one night of deep-sleep disruption was enough to increase the amount of amyloid-beta, a protein that clumps into...

    07/10/2017 - 16:15 Neuroscience
  • News

    Brains encode faces piece by piece

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    A monkey’s brain builds a picture of a human face somewhat like a Mr. Potato Head — piecing it together bit by bit.

    The code that a monkey’s brain uses to represent faces relies not on groups of nerve cells tuned to specific faces — as has been previously proposed — but on a population of about 200 cells that code for different sets of facial characteristics. Added...

    06/01/2017 - 13:58 Neuroscience
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    Obscure brain region linked to feeding frenzy in mice

    Nerve cells in a poorly understood part of the brain have the power to prompt voracious eating in already well-fed mice.

    Two to three seconds after blue light activated cells in the zona incerta, a patch of neurons just underneath the thalamus and above the hypothalamus, mice dropped everything and began shoveling food into their mouths. This dramatic response, described May 26 in...

    05/25/2017 - 14:00 Neuroscience
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    Internal compass guides fruit fly navigation

    Scientists have shown why fruit flies don’t get lost. Their brains contain cells that act like a compass, marking the direction of flight.

    It may seem like a small matter, but all animals — even Siri-dependent humans — have some kind of internal navigation system. It’s so vital to survival that it is probably linked to many brain functions, including thought, memory and mood.

    “...

    05/04/2017 - 14:11 Neuroscience, Animals
  • News

    A baby’s pain registers in the brain

    An electrode on top of a newborn’s scalp, near the soft spot, can measure when the baby feels pain. The method, described online May 3 in Science Translational Medicine, isn’t foolproof, but it brings scientists closer to being able to tell when infants are in distress.

    Pain assessment in babies is both difficult and extremely important for the same reason: Babies don’t talk. That makes...

    05/03/2017 - 14:00 Neuroscience
  • News

    Nerve cell miswiring linked to depression

    Researchers have pinpointed a gene that keeps important brain cells in mice from crossing their wires, providing a possible link between brain wiring and mood disorders like depression.  

    Without the gene, called Pcdhαc2, mice acted more depressed, researchers report April 28 in Science.

    Nerve cells, or neurons, that produce the chemical messenger molecule serotonin extend long...

    04/28/2017 - 13:30 Neuroscience, Mental Health
  • News

    Brain gains seen in elderly mice injected with human umbilical cord plasma

    Plasma taken from human umbilical cords can rejuvenate old mice’s brains and improve their memories, a new study suggests. The results, published online April 19 in Nature, may ultimately help scientists develop ways to stave off aging.

    Earlier studies have turned up youthful effects of young mice’s blood on old mice (SN: 12/27/14, p. 21). Human plasma, the new results suggest, confers...

    04/19/2017 - 13:00 Neuroscience
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    Scientists seek early signs of autism

    Soon after systems biologist Juergen Hahn published a paper describing a way to predict whether a child has autism from a blood sample, the notes from parents began arriving. “I have a bunch of parents writing me now who want to test their kids,” says Hahn, of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, N.Y. “I can’t do that.”

    That’s because despite their promise, his group’s results,...

    04/10/2017 - 07:00 Human Development, Neuroscience