About Neurofreak

Just a sole man who is completely obsessed with all that which is related to the mind.

Cognitive Science / Neuroscience Blog List (up-to-date)

I’m looking to connect up with some of the other neurobloggers out there. No better way than to give a pingback shoutout, so I’m checking all of the blogs listed on Neurophilosophy’s list from 2007, and removing dead links. If any of you guys are looking for a fresh smattering of neuro blogs to add to your rss reader, dive right in!

Advances in the History of Psychology
All In The Mind
Action For Autism
Addiction & Recovery News
International Cognition and Culture Institute
Asperger’s Conversations
Babel’s Dawn
Björn Brembs
Body in Mind
Brain Hammer
Developing Intelligence
Ginger Campbell, MD
Brain Windows
The Corpus Callosum
Channel N
Dr. Deb Psychological Perspectives
Dr. Helen
Dr. Sanity
Dr. X’s Free Associations
Eide Neurolearning Blog
Figural Effect
Functional Neurogenesis
Improve Your Learning and Memory.
IQ’s Corner
Laura’s Psychology Blog
Meeting of the Mind
Mike Battista
Mind Hacks
my mind on books
Neuroethics at the Core
Neurological Correlates
Neurology Minutiae
Neurologica Blog
neuropathology blog
Omni Brain
On the Brain
Oscillatory Thoughts
Prof Zeki’s Musings
The Psychiatrist Blog
Psychology of Pain
Shrink Rap
Steve’s Blog (OkaySteve)
Talking Brains
The Beautiful Brain
The Mouse Trap
The Nerve Blog
The Neurocritic
The Neuro Times
The Tangled Neuron
Tic Toc Talk: The IQ brain clock
Transmuted Internalizations
Brain Injury Lawyer & Attorney
We’re Only Human
Wiring The Brain

Needless to say, quite a few were removed from Neurophilosophy’s original list. A lot of them were no longer being updated.

Serotonin: Human social intimacy/connection and romance

Healthy adult volunteers, whose levels of serotonin activity had been lowered, rated couples in photos as being less intimate and less romantic than volunteers with normal serotonin activity.

The approach involved giving amino acid drinks to two groups of volunteers in order to manipulate blood concentrations of the amino acid tryptophan, which is a vital ingredient in the synthesis of serotonin. One group received drinks that contained tryptophan. The other group received drinks that did not contain tryptophan. They were then asked to make judgments about sets of photographs of couples. Differences in the judgments made by the two groups reflected changes in their serotonin activity. [...]

The results raise the possibility that lower serotonin activity in people with depression and other psychiatric conditions could contribute to changes in the way they perceive personal relationships, or even in their ability to maintain positive personal relationships.

“Although this is only a small study, the same patterns may well extend to the way we perceive our own relationships,” said Professor Rogers. (via.)

Thirst Reduces Stress Response: “The Watering Hole Effect”

Assuming this is conserved in humans, the following passage might suggest that it’s better that you walk into an interview a little bit thirsty:

“We’re calling this the Watering Hole Effect,” says Eric Krause, PhD, a research assistant professor in the basic science division of UC’s department of psychiatry and behavioral neuroscience and first author of the study. “When you’re thirsty, you have to overcome some amount of fear and anxiety to approach a communal water source. And you want to facilitate those interactions—that way everyone can get to the water source.”

Krause and his team dehydrated laboratory rats by giving them sodium chloride, then exposed them to stress. Compared with a control group, the rats that received the sodium chloride secreted fewer stress hormones and also displayed a reduced cardiovascular response to stress.

“Their blood pressure and heart rate did not go up as much in response to stress as the control group’s, and they returned to resting levels more quickly,” says Krause.

“Also, in a social interaction paradigm with two rats interacting, we found them to be more interactive and less socially anxious.”

Further research, through examination of brain and blood samples from the rats, showed that the same hormones that act on kidneys to compensate for dehydration also act on the brain to regulate responsiveness to stressors and social anxiety.

The elevated sodium level, known as hypernatremia, limited stress responses by suppressing the release of the pro-stress hormone angiotensin II. Conversely, it increased the activity of oxytocin, an anti-stress hormone. (via.)

Thanks to hugthemonkey for pointing this one out on Twitter. Susan also posted a link to this interesting gem recently: A study led by Jillian O’Connor, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology, Neuroscience & Behaviour at McMaster University, found that people think they can predict whether a mate will cheat by listening to tone of voice.

Stroke damage control with caffeinol (caffeine and alcohol/ethanol)

A study found a special cocktail of caffeine and ethanol actually reduced brain damage in a rat model of ischemic stroke up to 80% so long as it was administered within three hours of the stroke. Now the study is being run on humans, check it out:

In experimental drug delivering the potency of two cups of strong coffee and a mixed drink has been shown to limit stroke-induced brain damage in animals. Now, this agent has been demonstrated to be safe in a small pilot study of ischemic stroke patients reported in today’s rapid access issue of Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association. [...]

Those studies “demonstrated that the combination of caffeine and ethanol may reduce the amount of damage after stroke. Neither caffeine or alcohol offered protection alone, but the combination was protective,” says senior author James C. Grotta, M.D., professor of neurology and director of the stroke program, University of Texas-Houston Medical School, Houston, Texas. [...]

Researchers administered the combination to 23 stroke patients (16 women, average age 71). The patients represented a diverse racial mix: nine white, nine black, four Hispanic and one Asian.

“Our goal was to see if we could safely achieve the same blood levels of caffeinol that we achieved in our animal studies,” he says. “We discovered that we could use even lower doses than we used in the animal studies and achieve the blood levels that were neuroprotective in animals.”

Moreover caffeinol, which is given by infusion, can be safely administered to patients who are also receiving clot-busting treatment with tissue plasminogen activator (tPA). Eight patients received both caffeinol and tPA. One patient with a very severe stroke who received caffeinol and tPA suffered an intracerebral hemorrhage (bleeding within the brain), but Grotta says an independent safety officer concluded it was not related to caffeinol.

The first set of four patients were given low-dose caffeinol (caffeine 6 milligrams per kilogram plus ethanol 0.2 grams per kilogram). That dose did not achieve the target blood level, so the dose was increased (8 mg/kg caffeine and 0.4 g/kg ethanol) in the next group of 19 patients. That achieved target blood levels, he says. However, Grotta cautioned that the ethanol level may need further adjustment because a patient with a history of heart disease developed reversible heart failure at that dose level. It is unclear how caffeinol works to protect the brain, but it is being studied. (via.)

So they haven’t worked out all the kinks just yet, but all-in-all it sounds like they’re on the path to some good things there.

Bladder Self-Control and Decision Making Weirdness

In one experiment, participants either drank five cups of water (about 750 milliliters), or took small sips of water from five separate cups. Then, after about 40 minutes — the amount of time it takes for water to reach the bladder — the researchers assessed participants’ self-control. Participants were asked to make eight choices; each was between receiving a small, but immediate, reward and a larger, but delayed, reward. For example, they could choose to receive either $16 tomorrow or $30 in 35 days.
The researchers found that the people with full bladders were better at holding out for the larger reward later. Other experiments reinforced this link; for example, in one, just thinking about words related to urination triggered the same effect.
“You seem to make better decisions when you have a full bladder,” Tuk says (via.)

This is mildly to moderately freakish.

Visual Cortex in Blind Used For Reading Braille (Language)

That division of labor suggests that the brain’s structure follows a predetermined, genetic blueprint. However, evidence is mounting that brain regions can take over functions they were not genetically destined to perform. In a landmark 1996 study of people blinded early in life, neuroscientists showed that the visual cortex could participate in a nonvisual function — reading Braille.
Now, a study from MIT neuroscientists shows that in individuals born blind, parts of the visual cortex are recruited for language processing. The finding suggests that the visual cortex can dramatically change its function — from visual processing to language — and it also appears to overturn the idea that language processing can only occur in highly specialized brain regions that are genetically programmed for language tasks.
“Your brain is not a prepackaged kind of thing. It doesn’t develop along a fixed trajectory, rather, it’s a self-building toolkit. The building process is profoundly influenced by the experiences you have during your development,” says Marina Bedny, an MIT postdoctoral associate in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and lead author of the study, which appears in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences the week of Feb. 28. (via.)

Neural plasticity is a wonderful thing!

Females, Dominance, and Social Exclusion Tactics

Many studies have suggested that males tend to be more physically and verbally aggressive than females. According to a new study, to be published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, it may not be the case that women are less competitive than men—they may just be using a different strategy to come out ahead. Specifically, women may rely more on indirect forms of aggression, such as social exclusion. [...]

“As their primary competitive strategy to combat any social threat, females may attempt to form an exclusionary alliance, whereas males may endeavor to unilaterally and directly dominate an opponent,” the authors write. Women may be more sensitive than men to social exclusion, and when they feel threatened by the prospect of being left out, a woman’s first response may be to socially exclude a third party.

Preemptive social exclusion appears to be a valuable strategy for women because it allows them to protect their relationships by keeping an outsider at bay. Benenson points out that this may require a re-evaluation of presumed sex differences in competitiveness. She comments, “The same-sex social worlds of boys and girls and men and women then differ in that females have to worry about alienating others, whereas males worry about getting beaten up.” (via.)

Basically, their conclusions came from a game that men and women both played. Follow the via link for more information.

Down Syndrome Model Mice and Norepinephrine

When the locus coeruleus broke down in the study’s mice, the animals failed at simple cognitive tests that required them to be aware of changes in the milieu: For instance, the genetically engineered mice, when placed in the strange environment of an unknown cage, did not build nests. That contrasts with normal mice, which typically build nests in such circumstances.

However, by giving norepinephrine precursors to the mice with the Down-syndrome-like condition, the researchers could fix the problem. Only a few hours after they got the drugs, which were converted to norepinephrine in the brain, these mice were just as good at nest-building and related cognitive tests as normal mice. Direct examination of neurons in the hippocampus of the genetically altered mice showed that these cells responded well to norepinephrine.

“We were very surprised to see that, wow, it worked so fast,” Salehi said. The drugs’ effect also wore off relatively quickly, he added. (via.)

Locus Coeruleus, Autism, and Noradrenaline

I’ve plugged the fact before that there’s a common anecdote about autistic children’s behavior being temporarily altered by fevers.

I ran across this interesting article on the brain region known as the “locus coeruleus” which apparently creates noradrenaline.

“The LC-NA system is the only brain system involved both in producing fever and controlling behavior,” says co-author Dominick P. Purpura, M.D., dean emeritus and distinguished professor of neuroscience at Einstein.

The locus coeruleus has widespread connections to brain regions that process sensory information. It secretes most of the brain’s noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter that plays a key role in arousal mechanisms, such as the “fight or flight” response. It is also involved in a variety of complex behaviors, such as attentional focusing (the ability to concentrate attention on environmental cues relevant to the task in hand, or to switch attention from one task to another). Poor attentional focusing is a defining characteristic of autism. (via.)

Politically conservative views correlated with larger amygdala, smaller anterior cingulate cortex

Scientists have found that people with conservative views have brains with larger amygdalas, almond shaped areas in the centre of the brain often associated with anxiety and emotions.
On the otherhand, they have a smaller anterior cingulate, an area at the front of the brain associated with courage and looking on the bright side of life. [...]

The results, which will be published next year, back up a (different) study that showed that some people were born with a “Liberal Gene” that makes people more likely to seek out less conventional political views.
The gene, a neurotransmitter in the brain called DRD4, could even be stimulated by the novelty value of radical opinions, claimed the researchers at the University of California. (via.)