This is the personal blog of a science writer and journalist. It's for anyone who loves, wants to love or doesn't know how to love science.

Contact or Follow

Recent tweets

Liked on Tumblr

More liked posts

Afternoon siestas boost learning ability in 3-5 year old kids. 
Getting young children to take an hour-long nap after lunch could help them with their learning by boosting brain power, a small study suggests.
The study authors say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning.
When the children were allowed a siesta after lunch they performed significantly better on a visual-spatial tasks in the afternoon and the next day than when they were denied a midday snooze.
Following a nap, children recalled 10% more of the information they were being tested on than they did when they had been kept awake.
Close monitoring of 14 additional youngsters who came to the researchers’ sleep lab revealed the processes at work in the brain during asleep.
As the children napped, they experienced increased activity in brain regions linked with learning and integrating new information.
Image: Getty 

Afternoon siestas boost learning ability in 3-5 year old kids. 

Getting young children to take an hour-long nap after lunch could help them with their learning by boosting brain power, a small study suggests.

The study authors say their results suggest naps are critical for memory consolidation and early learning.

When the children were allowed a siesta after lunch they performed significantly better on a visual-spatial tasks in the afternoon and the next day than when they were denied a midday snooze.

Following a nap, children recalled 10% more of the information they were being tested on than they did when they had been kept awake.

Close monitoring of 14 additional youngsters who came to the researchers’ sleep lab revealed the processes at work in the brain during asleep.

As the children napped, they experienced increased activity in brain regions linked with learning and integrating new information.

Image: Getty 

Tags science brain neuroscience brain activity

 Source BBC

Fear Memories Can Be Reduced During Sleep
A fear memory was reduced in people by exposing them to the memory over and over again while they slept. It’s the first time that emotional memory has been manipulated in humans during sleep, report Northwestern Medicine scientists.The finding potentially offers a new way to enhance the typical daytime treatment of phobias through exposure therapy by adding a nighttime component. Exposure therapy is a common treatment for phobia and involves a gradual exposure to the feared object or situation until the fear is extinguished.Read more here.

Fear Memories Can Be Reduced During Sleep


A fear memory was reduced in people by exposing them to the memory over and over again while they slept. It’s the first time that emotional memory has been manipulated in humans during sleep, report Northwestern Medicine scientists.

The finding potentially offers a new way to enhance the typical daytime treatment of phobias through exposure therapy by adding a nighttime component. Exposure therapy is a common treatment for phobia and involves a gradual exposure to the feared object or situation until the fear is extinguished.

Read more here.

Tags science Neuroscience brain news futurejam

Reblogged from Laboratory Equipment 

First scientific evidence: We use memory combinations to make decisions

Ever tried beetroot custard? Probably not, but your brain can imagine how it might taste by reactivating old memories in a new pattern.

Helen Barron and her colleagues at University College London and Oxford University wondered if our brains combine existing memories to help us decide whether to try something new.

So the team used an fMRI scanner to look at the brains of 19 volunteers who were asked to remember specific foods they had tried.

Each volunteer was then given a menu of 13 unusual food combinations – including beetroot custard, tea jelly, and coffee yoghurt – and asked to imagine how good or bad they would taste, and whether or not they would eat them.

"Tea jelly was popular," says Barron. "Beetroot custard not so much."

When each volunteer imagined a new combination, they showed brain activity associated with each of the known ingredients at the same time. It is the first evidence to suggest that we use memory combination to make decisions, says Barron.

Tags science new brain neuroscience discovery futurejam

 Source newscientist.com

This is your brain on insomnia.
The A column shows brains from good sleepers, while the B column shows brains from people with primary insomnia. The brain scans demonstrate brain activation in response to task difficulty.
Researchers have new clues as to why it’s so hard to concentrate after a bad night’s sleep.
A new study published in the journal Sleep shows that even though people with insomnia and people without insomnia were able to perform equally on a working memory task, the brains of those with the condition did not work as efficiently.
Specifically, people without insomnia were able to pull more resources to the network of the brain responsible for working memory as the task grew in difficulty. But people with insomnia were unable to pull these resources.
In addition, insomniacs were unable to “turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task.

This is your brain on insomnia.

The A column shows brains from good sleepers, while the B column shows brains from people with primary insomnia. The brain scans demonstrate brain activation in response to task difficulty.

Researchers have new clues as to why it’s so hard to concentrate after a bad night’s sleep.

A new study published in the journal Sleep shows that even though people with insomnia and people without insomnia were able to perform equally on a working memory task, the brains of those with the condition did not work as efficiently.

Specifically, people without insomnia were able to pull more resources to the network of the brain responsible for working memory as the task grew in difficulty. But people with insomnia were unable to pull these resources.

In addition, insomniacs were unable to “turn off ‘mind-wandering’ brain regions irrelevant to the task.

Tags science brain Neuroscience insomnia sleep

 Source The Huffington Post

This is what stress looks like. Scientists discover culprit molecule.
CRF1, a molecule on the outside of cells on the pituitary gland, releases CRF, hormones involved in regulating our stress response that over time contribute to anxiety and depression.
A vital aspect of the discovery is that the receptor has a small binding pocket located in a much different position than other G-protein-coupled receptors, (GPCRs). Knowing the structure of Class B GPCRs like CRF1 could potentially help researchers develop drugs that better target receptors within the same family, Heptares claims. Scientists could just design a drug that pops right into that pocket as shown in the above image.

This is what stress looks like. Scientists discover culprit molecule.

CRF1, a molecule on the outside of cells on the pituitary gland, releases CRF, hormones involved in regulating our stress response that over time contribute to anxiety and depression.

A vital aspect of the discovery is that the receptor has a small binding pocket located in a much different position than other G-protein-coupled receptors, (GPCRs). Knowing the structure of Class B GPCRs like CRF1 could potentially help researchers develop drugs that better target receptors within the same family, Heptares claims. Scientists could just design a drug that pops right into that pocket as shown in the above image.

Tags science stress Neuroscience neurology depression

 Source popsci.com

Better thinking after physical exercise

A recent article in Scientific American makes me, a devote triathlete, very happy. I often attributed my ‘clear mind’ after training to the raised endorphin levels in my body. However, turns out there is another reason for it:
The hippocampus, a part of the brain critical for learning and memory, is highly active during exercise. When the neurons in this structure rev up, research shows that our cognitive function improves. Other recent work indicates that aerobic exercise can actually reverse hippocampal shrinkage, which occurs naturally with age, and consequently boost memory in older adults. Yet another study found that students who exercise perform better on tests than their less athletic peers.

Tags science brain Neuroscience hippocampus exercise

Changing the World: 3-year-old Grayson is the first child to receive an auditory brain stem implant. Here is the moment he hears his father’s voice for the first time - It’s totally worth putting up with the cheesy background music. 

Let’s hope this ends up a successful trial, so that more deaf children can hear the sounds of our world. 

Tags science implant Neuroscience brain stem cell

How the brain controls a ‘mind machine’

Activity observed in the brain when using a “mind machine” is similar to how the brain learns new motor skills, scientists have found.

Participants’ neural activity was recorded by using sensors implanted in their brain, which were linked to a computer that translated electrical impulses into actions.

The researchers believe people will be able to perform increasingly complex tasks just by thinking them.

The study is published in PNAS journal.

Image credit: V.J. Wedeen and L.L. Wald, Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at MGH

Tags science mind brain Neuroscience

 Source BBC

If you had 5% chance of being revived in the future -would you cryopreserve your brain?

A group of Oxford dons are spending roughly the same amount per month as a gym membership to be cryo-preserved after they die - or frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196C.

The hope is that in a few hundred years, technology will be developed enough to revive them.

Anders Sandberg told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme’s Evan Davis that that he is one of the academics planning to have his head frozen.

Listen to the interview here.

Tags science life and death cyrogenetics brain neuroscience

 Source BBC

Skiing in a bikini could be possible: Scientists turn off skin’s cold sensors

Where do I sign up for this? USC neuroscientists have isolated chills at a cellular level, identifying the sensory network of neurons in the skin that relays the sensation of cold. The team managed to selectively shut off the ability to sense cold in mice while still leaving them able to sense heat and touch. If this really could be possible then just think walking about in winter in your summer clothes. Better, no more winter clothes. Skiing in your bikini…now there is a thought!

image

Tags science Neuroscience health snow

 Source sciencedaily.com