Mini-Update of Neuroscience News

Our regular postings have been interrupted by the holiday period and several conferences, so until we have things back to normal we have a small update of neuroscience news!

Firstly, The Brain Domain will be presenting at the Neuropalooza conference later this month. Good luck to all the other presenters! Remember to check out our Join Us page if you’re interested in writing for The Brain Domain!

In other news, a new board game has appeared on kickstarter. It’s called ‘DNA Ahead Game & More‘, and is designed to help educate players about the history and current thinking of DNA in science. The overall aim of the project is to increase awareness of genetics, by making it accessible and interactive at home! It looks to be an interesting project, definitely worth checking out, maybe even worth backing?

Can we cure drug addiction with more drugs? – Oly Bartley

Work published by researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina has demonstrated that by activating the neurons of the ventromedial prefrontal cortex (vmPFC) relapse of cocaine use in rats can be reduced. It works because cocaine hijacks a normally very useful and normal brain behaviour: when the brain is exposed to high levels of neurotransmitters (e.g. dopamine), it forms powerful cue memories associating that neurotransmitter influx with environmental cues. In this instance, upon encountering that familiar environment this associated memory creates an intense desire for that influx, and pushes cocaine users to relapse. The vmPFC plays a pivotal role in extinction of associated memories, so by activating it that intense desire, and thus the relapse behaviour, could be repressed.

The researchers used a viral injection to add designer receptors to the vmPFCs neurons, then they delivered a drug that activates those designer receptors specifically to increase vmPFC activity. This suppressed the pathological component of the cued memory response and relapse due to cued memory reduced significantly. So yes, the lab group are hoping that they will be able to help drug addicts with a different drug!

Source: J.Neuroscience

Social Neuroscience: MEG talks to MEG – Rachael Stickland

Magnetoencephalography (MEG) is a functional neuroimaging technique that records magnetic fields produced by electrical brain activity. MEG is used by many researchers to investigate social cognition. However, studies into how the brain processes information during social interactions typically have one common limitation…. there is only one person’s brain being monitored at one time! Researchers in Finland have introduced a novel MEG dual scanning approach, where they connect two MEG scanners at different centres (5km apart) via the internet, and the two respective subjects talk over landlines. MEG has very good temporal resolution, so it is a good candidate for studying something as dynamic and unpredictable as social interactions.  They managed to create a stable and short-latency audio connection (the subjects could not perceive the lag) which had accurate synchronisation of the two MEG scanners. They recorded auditory evoked cortical responses, and showed them to be similar in the two subjects.

Their study is a proof of concept, that can hopefully be extended to connecting MEG labs all over the world. Once some improvements and technical barriers have been overcome (e.g. including a stable visual link) many interesting questions within social neuroscience can start to be unravelled.

Source: Frontiers in Human Neuroscience

Dogs and Coffee Shops on the Brain

Dogs understand human, but do you understand Dog?

If you’ve ever heard the claim that dogs don’t understand what you’re saying to them, only how you say it, then it’s time to check your facts! An MRI study in Hungary has established dogs not only process intonation, but also words. Dogs need both words and intonation to be positive to activate their reward centre. So saying “Aren’t you a stupid dog?” in a praising manner won’t fly any more…

Watch this video for a quick overview
Read a bit more about it here


Got writing work to do? Going to Coffee shops is no longer just for the pretentious! It’s just common sense.

All hipster-jokes aside, have you ever noticed that sometimes you get more done working in a Coffee Shop? Is it the background noise? The caffeinated air? A change of scenery? Perhaps, but it may actually be because concentration is contagious. A new study has found when you sit near people working hard, then your efforts also improve, regardless of whether you can see what they’re working on or not. It’s far from conclusive (we have a couple of questions ourselves), but this could go some way to establishing why some of us prefer to work in “free wifi establishments” instead of in the office.

Read some more about it here
Read the original paper here

Image sourced from imgur