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nature neuroscience

  1. Epilepsy in Mice Cured By An Injection of Fresh Brain Cells

    A team at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) has seemingly cured epileptic seizures in mice suffering from the disease by injecting a dose of specialized cells directly into their brains. The work could pave the way for similar cell therapy procedures to one day treat the same disease in humans.

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  2. Researchers Find Way To Instill Terror In Brain Damaged Patients Who Can’t Normally Feel Fear

    A team of researchers at the University of Iowa studying human fear response has found evidence suggesting that the amygdala -- a part of the brain known to be important in fear responses -- may not be the only key to human fear. Studying subjects with damaged amygdalas who don't feel fear from outside sources, the team was still able to instill a fear response by switching to internal cues -- in this case, making the body feel it was suffocating -- suggesting that there are more moving parts to our fear response than a knee jerk reaction from the amygdala. The lesson here, of course, is watch out, because if there's one thing that comic books have taught us, it is that at least one person working in this lab is a convenient aerosol spray away from a full, rich life of super-villainy.

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  3. Test Tube Brain Can Hold Memory for Ten Seconds, Probably Just Remembers How to Be Terrified

    Today in "They can, but should they?" news, science has learned how to create memories in a piece of brain tissue isolated in a test tube, which sounds exactly like the plot of a science fiction nightmare because it totally is. Neuroscientists at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine isolated fragments of rodent brain tissue in vitro, and, by stimulating neural pathways in the tissue, were able to induce a variety of simple memories in it. Those memories were only persistent for 10 seconds or so, but to a living piece of brain in a jar, that 10 seconds probably felt like a billion lifetimes, so there's that.

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  4. Science Proves Sleep Learning Possible; “Learn French While You Sleep” CDs Still Useless

    Good news for the productivity-minded individual -- the eight hours a day you spend dead to the world in the comforting embrace of sleep is time you could be getting work done. Hooray? Well, maybe. While reading or learning another language while you catch some shut-eye is still the stuff of fantasy, new research from the Weizmann Institute suggests that learning in one's sleep may be a possibility, and that previous attempts just haven't used the right combination of senses to make our subconscious minds start paying attention. Researchers have now used sounds and smell to get sleeping brains to expect a combination of the two sensations without any input from the conscious mind, according to a study published in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

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  5. Cynical Researchers Release Study that Suggests Optimists Just Ignore Bad Things

    A recent study published in Nature Neuroscience suggests that optimists don't "look on the bright side" so much as they "ignore the dark truth about the fragility and meaninglessness of life." Ok, so it's not that extreme, but the study shows that when presented with statistics that don't bode well for them, an optimist will have signifigantly less brain activity in the frontal lobes, suggesting that they don't process the information. Whether that's an effective way (or the only way) to be an optimist is up for grabs. The study, darkly titled How unrealistic optimism is maintained in the face of reality, was done by researchers at University College London. They took 14 people and rated them on their optimism. Subjects were then asked them how likely they thought it was that things on a list of 80 bad things (cancer, divorce) would happen to them, smacked by the researchers with the real statistic, and then asked again. As it turns out, the more optimistic people slid their second guess closer to the actual statistic every time, but a lot closer when the real number was better than they thought, and less close when it was worse. The more optimistic, the stronger the effect.

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  6. Scientists Investigate How the Formerly Blind Learn to See

    People who are born blind can become quite adept at identifying objects by touch alone, but scientists wanted to know if how they would fare if their sight was suddenly restored and their eyes became their primary sensory input. Simply put, could someone who has seen with their hands learn to see with their eyes? Thanks to modern medical science, this question is no longer an issue of navel-gazing and was recently investigated in a study published in Nature Neuroscience. The researchers worked with five children, ages 8 to 17, that had their sight restored as part of Project Prakash, an organization that provides free medical care to curably blind children in rural India. Within 48 hours of undergoing surgery, the children were presented with an object and allowed to feel it with their hands and then asked to identify a similar object amongst a set of objects. As expected, the children handled the task easily. Then the test subjects were given a different object to feel, and were then asked  to identify that object from a group of objects by sight alone.

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