Psychology Research News -- ScienceDaily

Octopuses given mood drug 'ecstasy' reveal genetic link to evolution of social behaviors in humans
By studying the genome of a kind of octopus not known for its friendliness toward its peers, then testing its behavioral reaction to a popular mood-altering drug called MDMA or 'ecstasy,' scientists say they have found preliminary evidence of an evolutionary link between the social behaviors of the sea creature and humans, species separated by 500 million years on the evolutionary tree.

Gambling monkeys help scientists find brain area linked to high-risk behavior
Monkeys who learned how to gamble have helped researchers pinpoint an area of the brain key to one's willingness to make risky decisions.

Gut sense: Neural superhighway conveys messages from gut to brain in milliseconds
Searching for a more direct connection between the gut and the brain, researchers were shocked to see that distance spanned by a single synapse, relaying the signal in less than 100 milliseconds, less than the blink of an eye. The finding has profound implications for the understanding of appetite and appetite suppressants, most of which target slow-acting hormones rather than fast-acting synapses.

Full, but still feasting: Mouse study reveals how urge to eat overpowers a signal to stop
A new study explores the mystery of what drives eating past the point of fullness, at the most basic level in the brain. It shows that two tiny clusters of cells battle for control of feeding behavior -- and the one that drives eating overpowers the one that says to stop. It also shows that the brain's own natural opioid system gets involved -- and that blocking it with the drug naloxone can stop over-eating.

Genomic dark matter activity connects Parkinson's and psychiatric diseases
Using a new technique known as laser-capture RNA seq, that involves cutting out dopamine neurons from a human brain section with a laser, investigators have cataloged more than 70,000 novel elements active in these brain cells.

In depression the brain region for stress control is larger
Although depression is one of the leading psychiatric disorders, its cause remains unclear. A recent study found that those affected by depressive disorder have a larger hypothalamus compared to their healthy counterparts. This could explain why many sufferers show increased levels of the stress hormone cortisol and are very often afflicted with periods of tension.

Analysis of sea squirt embryo reveals key molecules in dopaminergic neuron differentiation
Researchers have used a novel approach for analyzing the central nervous system of a proto-vertebrate to identify a regulatory cocktail that induces the creation of dopaminergic neurons/coronet cells, a primitive version of the hypothalamus. The findings shed more light on how neurons differentiate into particular subtypes, with potential implications for the treatment of conditions such as Parkinson's disease.

Understanding epilepsy in pediatric tumors
Researchers have identified a neuronal BRAF somatic mutation that causes intrinsic epileptogenicity in pediatric brain tumors.

Zombie cells found in brains of mice prior to cognitive loss
Zombie cells are the ones that can't die but are equally unable to perform the functions of a normal cell. These zombie, or senescent, cells are implicated in a number of age-related diseases. Researchers have now expanded that list.

New insight into aging
Researchers examined the effects of aging on neuroplasticity in the primary auditory cortex, the part of the brain that processes auditory information. Neuroplasticity refers to the brain's ability to modify its connections and function in response to environmental demands, an important process in learning.

New insights into the way the brain combines memories to solve problems
Current theories do not easily explain how people can use their episodic memories to arrive at novel insights. New research provides a window into the way the human brain connects individual episodic memories to solve problems.

New method enables accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease
A new brain imaging method can show the spread of specific tau protein depositions, which are unique to cases with Alzheimer's.

Heartbeat paces learning, study finds
A new study shows that the processing of external information varies during the phases of the cardiac cycle.

Premature brains develop differently in boys and girls
Brains of baby boys born prematurely are affected differently and more severely than premature infant girls' brains.

Making happiness last longer
The happiness derived from a purchase may last longer for those who set broader goals for the experience.

Use of electrical brain stimulation to foster creativity has sweeping implications
Researchers address neuro-ethical concerns associated with the increasing use of transcranial electrical stimulation (tES).

Neuroscience of envy: Activated brain region when others are rewarded revealed
Researchers showed that part of the macaque brain alters the sense of value felt upon receiving a reward in a manner dependent on the receipt of rewards by one's peers. This finding on the neuroscience of envy provides insight into how all primates, including humans, compare their material wellbeing with that of others and are potentially motivated to compete for limited resources.

Hardwired for laziness? Tests show the human brain must work hard to avoid sloth
Society has encouraged people to be more physically active, yet we are actually becoming less active. This new study offers a possible explanation: Our brains may be innately attracted to sedentary behavior. Electroencephalograms showed that test subjects had to summon extra brain resources when trying to avoid physical inactivity.

Do we trust people who speak with an accent?
A recently published study shows that unless they speak in a confident tone of voice, you're less likely to believe someone who speaks with an accent. And, interestingly, as you make this decision different parts of your brain are activated, depending on whether you perceive the speaker to be from your own 'in-group' or from some type of 'out-group' (e.g., someone with a different linguistic or cultural background).

Circuit found for brain's statistical inference about motion
Neuroscientists have found the neural wiring underlying predictive eye-tracking of movements and watched in monkeys as the circuit is set to predict a given speed. They say the neurons of the brain's sensory and motor systems are guided by a combination of past experience and sensory inputs. When replicated in a neural network computer, these educated guesses made by motor neurons mimic Bayesian statistical inference.

Characterizing pig hippocampus could improve translational neuroscience
A new study establishes the pig as promising preclinical research model for traumatic brain injury and epilepsy.

Brain's lymphatic vessels as new avenue to treat multiple sclerosis
The brain's lymphatic vessels appear to carry previously unknown messages from the brain to the immune system that ultimately cause the disease symptoms. Blocking those messages may offer doctors a new way to treat a potentially devastating condition that affects more than 2 million people.

Brain recovery: Activity, not rest, may speed recovery after brain injury
When recovering from a brain injury, getting back in the swing of things may be more effective than a prolonged period of rest, according to a new study in mice. These findings offer a compelling example of the brain's remarkable capacity to adapt in response to trauma. They also point to new, activity-centered treatment strategies that could one day result in faster and more complete recovery times for patients looking to regain mobility after a brain damage or a stroke.

Researchers find children experience concussion symptoms three times longer than adults
Parents should be aware that significant changes in concussion treatment have emerged in recent years. Primarily, there has been a major shift to promoting active recovery -- including a quick return to social, academic, and athletic activities, as well as specialized rehabilitation. Also important is an understanding that children take three times longer than adults to recover from concussion symptoms -- sometimes even longer due to underlying anxiety or depression issues.

High-resolution genomic map gives scientists unprecedented view of brain development
Researchers have created a massive database of the changes in gene activity of individual cells in the cerebellum during embryonic development and immediately after birth. The analysis of thousands of brain cells isolated from mice offers researchers a high-resolution map that enables scientists to view the detailed genomic changes cells undergo as the cerebellum wires its neural circuitry.

Malicious brain cell identified
Astrocytes' important role in brain function suggests they are also involved in disease. Now, scientists have identified an astrocyte subpopulation as the dominant cell type to spring into action in vivo in a neuroinflammatory disease setting.

Regret is a gambler's curse, neuroscientists say
The brain's orbitofrontal cortex deals with social interactions, including regret, and has been much studied with fMRI and EEG. Using ECoG, which provides more detailed information about brain activity on millisecond timescales and with better resolution, researchers were able to follow the thoughts that swirl through this brain area during a simple betting game. Surprisingly, after placing a bet, gamblers dwell mostly on regret over previous bets, whether won or lost, essentially second-guessing previous decisions.

The art of storytelling: Researchers explore why we relate to characters
For thousands of years, humans have relied on storytelling to engage, to share emotions and to relate personal experiences. Now, psychologists are exploring the mechanisms deep within the brain to better understand just what happens when we communicate.

The irresistible CCL17
Doctors have long known that a high level of the protein CCL17 in the body indicates an allergic reaction. Now scientists have discovered a completely new function: CCL17 also influences signal transmission in the brain. There may even be a molecular link to autism.

Blood and brain fluid change first in Huntington's disease
A simple blood test can detect the earliest changes caused by Huntington's disease, even before scans can pick up any signs in the brain, a new study has found.

Sugar pills relieve pain for chronic pain patients
Someday doctors may prescribe sugar pills for certain chronic pain patients based on their brain anatomy and psychology. And the pills will reduce their pain as effectively as any powerful drug on the market, according to new research. Scientists have shown they can reliably predict which chronic pain patients will respond to a sugar placebo pill based on the patients' brain anatomy and psychological characteristics.

We may hear others' footsteps, but how do we ignore our own?
A team of scientists has uncovered the neural processes mice use to ignore their own footsteps, a discovery that offers new insights into how we learn to speak and play music.

Minding the brain to curb pain hypersensitivity
A new study may open new opportunities for treating neuropathic pain, a difficult-to-treat type of chronic pain caused by nerve damage that can make the lightest touch intensely painful. Scientists demonstrate that neurons that originate in the brain's cortex influence sensitivity to touch. The circuit they describe could explain why mind-body techniques to control pain seem to help many people.

Cocaine addiction traced to increase in number of orexin neurons
A new study identifies a critical role of the orexin system in the expression of an addicted state in rats.

Childhood trauma linked to impaired social cognition later in life for patients with major psychiatric disorders
A new report has identified a significant association between childhood adversity and impaired social cognitive functioning among adults diagnosed with major psychiatric disorders.

New sensors track dopamine in the brain for more than year
Neuroscientists have devised a way to measure dopamine in the brain for up to a year, which they believe will teach them much more about its role in key brain functions and in disorders such as depression and Parkinson's disease.

Unexpected link between immune cells and male-female differences
Researchers have made a surprising discovery: during fetal development, a particular immune cell seems to play a key role in determining the male or female characteristics of the brain.

Inhaled version of blood pressure drug shows promise in treating anxiety, pain
An inhaled form of a high blood pressure medication has potential to treat certain types of anxiety as well as pain, according to a new study.

Pain response in babies' brains controlled in 'similar way to adults'
Researchers have identified the neural network that helps control babies' brain activity in response to pain in a similar way to adults. Their findings build on their previous study from 2015, which revealed that newborns experience pain like adults.

Prenatal exposure to cannabis impacts sociability of male offspring only
Taking cannabinoids during pregnancy can cause behavioral and neuronal deficits in adult male offspring, while females remain unaffected, says new research.

Back pain linked to mental health problems and risky behaviors in teenagers
A new study indicates that adolescents who experience back pain more frequently are also more likely to smoke cigarettes, drink alcohol, and report problems like anxiety and depression.

Bilingualism: How we turn on and off languages
A team of researchers has uncovered the distinct computations that occur when we switch between different languages, a finding that provides new insights into the nature of bilingualism.

Immune cells destroy healthy brain connections, diminish cognitive function in obese mice
Obesity leads to cognitive impairment by activating microglial cells, which consume otherwise functional synapses in the hippocampus, according to a study of male mice. The research suggests that microglia may be a potential therapeutic target for one of the lesser known effects of this global health epidemic on the brain.

Breakthrough brain research could yield new treatments for depression
By developing a novel decoding technology, a team of engineers and physicians have discovered how mood variations can be decoded from neural signals in the human brain -- a process that has not been demonstrated to date.

Eye movements take edge off traumatic memories
Two human experiments demonstrate that a widely used yet controversial psychotherapy technique suppresses fear-related amygdala activity during recall of a traumatic memory.

Artificial synaptic device simulating the function of human brain
Researchers have developed a high-reliability artificial electronic synaptic device that simulates neurons and synapses. The finding is expected to be utilized in the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and brain-like semiconductors.

This is how the brain forgets on purpose
Researchers have analysed what happens in the brain when humans want to voluntarily forget something. They identified two areas of the brain -- the prefrontal cortex and the hippocampus -- whose activity patterns are characteristic for the process of forgetting. They measured the brain activity in epilepsy patients who had electrodes implanted in the brain for the purpose of surgical planning.

Smiling doesn't necessarily mean you're happy
Smiling does not necessarily indicate that we are happy, according to new research.

'Mindful people' feel less pain; MRI imaging pinpoints supporting brain activity
Ever wonder why some people seem to feel less pain than others? A study may have found one of the answers -- mindfulness.

Bravery cells found in the hippocampus
Why do some people comfortably walk between skyscrapers on a high-wire or raft the Niagara Falls in a wooden barrel whereas others freeze on the mere thought of climbing off escalators in a shopping mall? In a new study, scientists have found that a certain type of cells in the hippocampus play a key role.