WBEZ | brain http://www.wbez.org/tags/brain Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en A Peek At Brain Connections May Reveal Attention Deficits http://www.wbez.org/news/peek-brain-connections-may-reveal-attention-deficits-113921 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/adhd_custom-c48f2fc521995d9fce44626b3bf579b5a9fc67cc-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res457142622" previewtitle="Brain imaging experiments found patterns associated with attention span."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Brain imaging experiments found patterns associated with attention span." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/11/23/adhd_custom-c48f2fc521995d9fce44626b3bf579b5a9fc67cc-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="Brain imaging experiments found patterns associated with attention span. (iStockphoto)" /></div><div><div><p>A look at the brain&#39;s wiring can often reveal whether a person has trouble staying focused, and even whether he or she has attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, known as ADHD.</p></div></div></div><p>A team led by researchers at Yale University&nbsp;<a href="http://nature.com/articles/doi:10.1038/nn.4179">reports</a>&nbsp;that they were able to identify many children and adolescents with ADHD by studying data on the strength of certain connections in their brains.</p><p>&quot;There&#39;s an intrinsic signature,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="http://psychology.yale.edu/people/monica-rosenberg">Monica Rosenberg</a>, a graduate student and lead author of the study in&nbsp;Nature Neuroscience.&nbsp;But the approach isn&#39;t ready for use as a diagnostic tool yet, she says.</p><p>The finding adds to the evidence that people with ADHD have a true brain disorder, not just a behavioral problem, says&nbsp;<a href="http://www.kennedykrieger.org/patient-care/faculty-staff/mark-mahone">Mark Mahone</a>, director of neuropsychology at the Kennedy Krieger Institute in Baltimore. &quot;There are measurable ways that their brains are different,&quot; he says.</p><p>The latest finding came from an effort to learn more about brain connections associated with attention.</p><p>Initially, the Yale team used&nbsp;<a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC162295/">functional MRI</a>, a form of magnetic resonance imaging, to monitor the brains of 25 typical people while they did something really boring. Their task was to watch a screen that showed black-and-white images of cities or mountains and press a button only when they saw a city.</p><p>&quot;It gets really dull after a while,&quot; Rosenberg says, &quot;so it&#39;s really hard to pay attention to over a long period of time.&quot;</p><p>During the test, the team measured the strength of thousands of connections throughout the participants&#39; brains. And they were able to identify certain patterns that predicted a person&#39;s ability to stay focused.</p><p>What&#39;s more, these connection patterns were present even when the person wasn&#39;t trying to keep track of cities and mountains, or anything else, Rosenberg says. &quot;We could actually look at that signature while they were resting and we could still predict their attention,&quot; she says.</p><p>The team wanted to know whether this signature could be used to assess younger people, especially those with ADHD. So they reviewed data on 113 children and adolescents whose brains had been scanned by scientists in China as part of an unrelated study. The children had also been assessed for ADHD.</p><p>The team used the information about brain connections to predict how well each child would do on the attention task with cities and mountains.</p><p>&quot;And what we found was really surprising, and I think really cool,&quot; Rosenberg says. &quot;When we predicted that a child would do really well on the task, they had a low ADHD score. And when we predicted they would do really poorly on the task, they had a high ADHD score, indicating that they had a severe attention deficit.&quot;</p><p>For many of the children, the researchers were able to predict not only whether they had ADHD, but how severe the problem was.</p><p>The test isn&#39;t perfect but does provide useful information, Rosenberg says. Eventually, she says, it might help psychologists and psychiatrists assess children with attention problems.</p><p>One potential limitation of the approach is that attention deficits aren&#39;t found only in people with ADHD, says Mahone. Individuals with anxiety, depression, learning disabilities and autism also have trouble staying focused, he says.</p><p>Regardless of the diagnosis, though, Mahone says, &quot;knowing how the brain is different in a disorder, we can look at ways to help &#39;normalize&#39; the brain.&quot;</p><p>&mdash;<a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/11/23/457139705/a-peek-at-brain-connections-may-reveal-attention-deficits?ft=nprml&amp;f=457139705" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 12:43:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/peek-brain-connections-may-reveal-attention-deficits-113921 Weak brain connections may link premature birth and later disorders http://www.wbez.org/news/weak-brain-connections-may-link-premature-birth-and-later-disorders-113437 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/premature-baby_custom-8bb72437be80899e67c2f6430df041b7851334fd-s800-c85.jpg" alt="" /><p><div id="res450032614" previewtitle="Researchers have used MRI scanners to learn that preemies are born with weak connections in some critical brain networks."><div data-crop-type=""><img alt="Researchers have used MRI scanners to learn that preemies are born with weak connections in some critical brain networks." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/10/19/premature-baby_custom-8bb72437be80899e67c2f6430df041b7851334fd-s800-c85.jpg" style="height: 412px; width: 620px;" title="Researchers have used MRI scanners to learn that preemies are born with weak connections in some critical brain networks. (iStockphoto)" /></div><div><div><p>Babies born prematurely are much more likely than other children to develop autism, ADHD and emotional disorders. Now researchers think they may have an idea about how that could happen.</p></div></div></div><p>There&#39;s&nbsp;<a href="http://news.wustl.edu/news/Pages/Premature-birth-appears-to-weaken-brain-connections.aspx">evidence</a>&nbsp;that preemies are born with weak connections in some critical brain networks, including those involved in focus, social interactions, and emotional processing, researchers reported at the Society for Neuroscience meeting in Chicago.</p><p>A study comparing MRI scans of the brains of 58 full-term babies with those of 76 babies born at least 10 weeks early found that &quot;preterm infants indeed have abnormal structural brain connections,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="https://wuphysicians.wustl.edu/for-patients/find-a-physician/cynthia-e-rogers">Cynthia Rogers</a>, an assistant professor of psychiatry at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.</p><p>&quot;We were really interested that the tracts that we know connect areas that are involved in attention and emotional networks were heavily affected,&quot; Rogers says. That would make it harder for these brain areas to work together to focus on a goal or read social cues or regulate emotions, she says.</p><p>The team used two different types of MRI to study the nerve fibers that carry signals from one part of the brain to another and measure how well different areas of the brain are communicating. Full-term infants were scanned shortly after they were born, while premature infants were scanned near their expected due date.</p><p>The researchers are continuing to monitor the brains of the children in their study to see which ones actually develop disorders.</p><p>Another team attending the neuroscience meeting presented evidence that at least some of the brain connection differences found in preemies at birth are also present during pregnancy.</p><p>The team used new MRI technology that allowed them to study the brains of 36 fetuses during the 30th week of pregnancy. Half the fetuses went on to be delivered prematurely and half went to full term.</p><p>When the researchers looked at connections between areas of the brain involved in movement and balance, the full-term fetuses had &quot;higher levels of connectivity than the preterm born,&quot; says&nbsp;<a href="https://mpsi.wayne.edu/profile/moriah.thomason/">Moriah Thomason</a>, an assistant professor in the Department of Pediatrics from Wayne State University School of Medicine in Detroit. This could explain why premature babies often are late to sit up and stand, she says.</p><p>The results suggest that it&#39;s not necessarily premature birth itself causing brain connection problems, Thomason says. Both premature birth and weak brain connections, she says, may be triggered by factors like stress or illness or exposure to toxins.</p><p>The new research does a good job revealing a problem in premature brains, says&nbsp;<a href="https://psychiatry.ucsd.edu/About/faculty/Pages/jay-giedd.aspx">Jay Giedd</a>, a professor of psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego who was not involved in either study. Now, he says, scientists and doctors will have to find a solution.</p><p>&quot;The trouble is we really don&#39;t know how to change the connections very well,&quot; he says. &quot;Can we do it with video games, exercise, meditation, yoga, diet?&quot;</p><p>Ultimately, Giedd says, it&#39;s likely that repair work on the faulty brain circuits associated with prematurity should begin well before a child is born. It may be possible to stimulate developing brain circuits&nbsp;in utero&nbsp;with sound or something more invasive.</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/10/19/450012150/weak-brain-connections-may-link-premature-birth-and-later-disorders?ft=nprml&amp;f=450012150" target="_blank"><em>via NPR</em></a></p></p> Tue, 20 Oct 2015 15:45:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/weak-brain-connections-may-link-premature-birth-and-later-disorders-113437 A last chance for a better life http://www.wbez.org/news/science/last-chance-better-life-110781 <p><p>On a warm summer morning, Julia is seated in her kitchen, watching a small flatscreen on a kitchen counter. Julia, 10, smiled as she watched pictures of her family. Meanwhile, her mother Lisa, rummaged through a black and white square bag loaded with pills and bottles. It&rsquo;s Julia&rsquo;s morning routine. A pill crusher is used to grind up the medication. According to Lisa, 11 pills are needed in the morning, more at night.</p><p>Lisa and Julia are using pseudonyms for privacy reasons.</p><p>According to Lisa, Julia is thin for her age because she never has an appetite, something Lisa claimed is a side effect from all the medication. But Lisa said the pills do very little to get her daughter through the day.</p><p>An hour after she took her medicine, Julia wanted to go to a friend&rsquo;s house to see a dog named Wrigley. But she didn&rsquo;t walk to the door to leave. Julia sat frozen on the couch and just stared straight ahead. All of a sudden, Julia screamed &ldquo;Wrigley! I want to see Wrigley!&rdquo;</p><p>She did this for about 10 minutes straight. As she screamed, she leaned forward as her arms and legs stiffened. It was as if she was restrained by some kind of invisible rope.</p><p>Lisa said her daughter&rsquo;s epilepsy isn&rsquo;t the kind which manifests in convulsions. Julia&rsquo;s epilepsy renders her almost motionless. She cried with no tears. This type of seizure can happen at least once a day, sometimes more often at school.</p><p>&ldquo;When we have bad days, they&rsquo;re very bad. I can be crying, the caregiver is crying,&rdquo; said Lisa with a sigh. &ldquo;Because we can&rsquo;t do anything to help her.&rdquo;</p><p>Julia has cerebral palsy and epilepsy. While there&rsquo;s no cure for either, epilepsy is one of 40 illnesses approved in Illinois to be treated with medical marijuana.</p><p>To get it for her daughter, Lisa will have to fill out a nine-page application, including a form signed by Lisa&rsquo;s doctor saying she&rsquo;d benefit from using the drug. Because Julia is a minor, Lisa will get fingerprinted. Many have said that requirement likens them to criminals. I asked Lisa if she&rsquo;s ever thought about doing what hundreds of families have done: moving to Colorado for a special strain of marijuana many say reduces seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;On bad days, yes, I have,&rdquo; said Lisa. &ldquo;But my help is here. My family is here.&rdquo;</p><p>If Julia can use medical marijuana, Lisa hopes she can get it at one of the state&rsquo;s 60 licensed dispensaries in or near her home in McHenry County. Lisa is prepared to get a second opinion if her daughter&rsquo;s doctor doesn&rsquo;t approve.</p><p>&ldquo;Because I would like to see all these medicines diminish and cut back. I mean they have horrible side effects.&rdquo;</p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Epilepsy2_140909_yp.jpg" style="height: 188px; width: 250px; float: left; margin-left: 5px; margin-right: 5px;" title="“Julia” holds a picture of herself the day she was born. She was diagnosed with cerebral palsy at birth, epilepsy a year later. (WBEZ/Yolanda Perdomo)" />Everything from rashes to liver damage and even blindness. For Lisa, and countless others, what some in the medical profession think about using pot to treat serious illnesses has little influence on their decision. The American Medical Association discourages the use of cannabis. But the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago has come out in support of using medical marijuana. There are approximately 130,000 people in the Chicago metro area who suffer from epilepsy. Around 30,000 of them are children.</p><p>&ldquo;There are members of our professional advisory board that kind of felt along the same way that some parents felt (that) trying CBD oil could, in no event, be any worse than what they&rsquo;re already going through,&rdquo; said Kurt Florian, CEO of the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chicago. &ldquo;Given the successes we&rsquo;ve been hearing about, it would make sense to give it a try.&rdquo;</p><p>The strain of marijuana known to reduce seizures is called Charlotte&rsquo;s Web. It&rsquo;s named after a Colorado girl whose family fought to use it. It has little to no THC levels, the hallucinogenic property in marijuana. But it&rsquo;s high in cannabidiol or CBDs, the component said to reduce the number of seizures.</p><p>&ldquo;We had very motivated parents who had kids having anywhere from 100 to 1,000 seizures a day,&rdquo; Florian said. &ldquo;And witnessing the devastating impact those seizures were having on their children, we&rsquo;d love to see marijuana, CBD oil available in Illinois.&rdquo;</p><p>If the American Medical Association is opposed to it and the Epilepsy Foundation supports for it, an organization representing more than 140 thousand doctors, is somewhere in the middle. The American College of Physicians doesn&rsquo;t advocate using outright. But it wants more research to see whether it helps. Dr. David Fleming is the organization&rsquo;s president.</p><p>&ldquo;What we&rsquo;re attempting to garner is a better handle on that data,&rdquo; said Fleming. &ldquo;A handle on the science. So that we can advise our patients more effectively.&rdquo;</p><p>To do that, the federal government has to declassify the drug, now listed as a Schedule 1. That&rsquo;s in the same category as heroin. That restructuring could be more than a decade away. But some people aren&rsquo;t waiting years to get medical marijuana. Some aren&rsquo;t even waiting until next spring when it would be available in Illinois.</p><p>&ldquo;Mike&rdquo; from Rockford has traveled to Colorado a few times to get the prized CBD oil for his son, who suffers from autism and epilepsy. Mike doesn&rsquo;t want his real name used. He knows he broke a few laws that carry prison time if caught. When I bring up the consequences, he shrugged his shoulders, unfazed.</p><p>&ldquo;We&rsquo;re not breaking any laws so that we can enrich ourselves,&rdquo; said Mike. &ldquo;It&rsquo;s not harmful to nobody if it&rsquo;s going to help him.&rdquo;</p><p><em>Follow WBEZ Reporter/anchor Yolanda Perdomo on Twitter <a href="https://twitter.com/yolandanews">@yolandanews</a>&nbsp;&amp; <a href="https://plus.google.com/u/0/106564114685277342468/posts/p/pub">Google+</a>&nbsp;</em></p></p> Thu, 11 Sep 2014 07:40:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/science/last-chance-better-life-110781 Music and the brain http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/music-and-brain-106900 <p><p>Music surrounds us &mdash; but why does this art form take such a dominant role in our lives? What happens in our mind when we hear music and how does it effect our emotions? Even with passive listening to music, specific parts of the brain can show activation or increased &ldquo;neural&rdquo; activity. What is it about music that can so dramatically affect brain activity? &nbsp;Are there things that we can learn from music, and its effect on the brain that can help treat people with neurological and cognitive disorders? &nbsp;These are questions that our panel addressed on . Panelists include&nbsp;<strong>Neelum Aggarwal MD</strong>, Associate Professor of neurological sciences, Rush University Medical Center and KV 265 Board member; and <strong>Dr. Hans C. Breiter</strong>, Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences and Scientific Director of the Warren Wright Adolescent Center, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/C2ST-webstory_11.jpg" title="" /></div><p>This event was recorded March 13, 2013 at &nbsp;Northwestern University&#39;s Hughes Auditorium.</p></p> Wed, 13 Mar 2013 11:36:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/series/chicago-amplified/music-and-brain-106900 Clever Apes #31: ¿Habla usted simio? http://www.wbez.org/blogs/clever-apes/2012-06/clever-apes-31-%C2%BFhabla-usted-simio-99831 <p><p style="text-align: center; "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/lang%20books.jpg" title="(flickr/Fiona Bradley)" /></p><p style="text-align: left; ">Exact statistics are hard to come by, but it is generally accepted that a majority of the world&rsquo;s population speaks more than one language. In the U.S., census data shows that about 20 percent of people speak a language other than English at home. That number has been steadily growing, but it doesn&#39;t account for all the people who learned a foreign language in school, or for some other purpose.</p><p>With that in mind, if we want to better understand how the brain works, how it processes sound and language, it might be a good idea to study the brains of bilingual people. In <a href="http://www.communication.northwestern.edu/departments/csd/research/bilingualism_psycholinguistics/">Northwestern&rsquo;s Bilingualism and Psycholinguistics Laboratory</a>, Dr. Viorica Marian is concerned with doing just that. The lab does research examining the differences of bilingual people in learning and memory from those with a single language.&nbsp;</p><p>In a paper recently published in <a href="http://www.pnas.org/">Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences</a>, Dr. Marian&rsquo;s lab teamed up with the <a href="http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/">Auditory Neuroscience Lab</a> lead by Dr. Nina Kraus. Graduate student Jen Krizman lead research that uncovered an interesting difference in the way that a <a href="http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/slideshows/bilingualism/index.php">bilingual brain processes sound</a>.&nbsp;Researchers have known that bilinguals excel at tasks that test their attention and this recent <a href="http://www.soc.northwestern.edu/brainvolts/documents/Krizman_et_al_PNAS_2012.pdf">collaboration</a> has helped explain why. &nbsp;</p><p>If you are bilingual, you are always going to have both languages active when you are communicating. So you constantly have to inhibit one language as you engage the other one. Having this bilingual experience leads to advantages in ability to inhibit irrelevent information. Being able to pay better attention changes the way the brain responds to sound and how you are able to focus on the important features of a sound. Basically, the bilingual brain shapes itself into a more efficient sound processor...C&#39;est incroyable!</p><p>In this episode, we also talked with <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/bkeysar.shtml">Dr. Boaz Keysar</a>. He studies language and decision making at the University of Chicago. In a <a href="http://psychology.uchicago.edu/people/faculty/ForeignLanguageEffect.pdf">recent paper</a>, he showed that when people think in their second language, they are less affected by <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cognitive_biases">decision biases</a>. In a nutshell, he showed that people make different decisions based on the language they&#39;re using.</p><p>It is important to note that the subjects in his experiments were different from those in the Northwestern paper. In the Northwestern experiments, the subjects learned their second language early in life. Dr. Keysar&#39;s work dealt with people who learned a second language later.</p><p>This is important because Keysar&#39;s theory for why thinking in a second language lessens the effect of decision bias like &quot;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Framing_effect_(psychology)">the framing effect</a>&quot; and &quot;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Loss_aversion">loss aversion</a>&quot; has to do with the emotional distance a second language provides. A native tongue has a stronger connection to the emotional part of the brain than the second language does. &nbsp;Keysar suggests that thinking in a second language is more analytical because it is not as emotionally anchored. &nbsp;So be careful what language you think in...it could literally change your mind.</p><p>No matter what language you&#39;re thinking in, don&rsquo;t forget to subscribe to our&nbsp;<a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p></p> Wed, 06 Jun 2012 06:15:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/clever-apes/2012-06/clever-apes-31-%C2%BFhabla-usted-simio-99831 Clever Apes #24: Gut feelings http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-01-17/clever-apes-24-gut-feelings-95602 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2012-January/2012-01-17/Gut Feelings image.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Scientists say the intestines are like a second brain. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-17/Gut Feelings image.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 409px;" title="Scientists say the intestines are like a second brain. (WBEZ/Michael De Bonis)"></p><p>In researching the human gut over the last few weeks, I’ve learned at least 10 things that have blown my mind. Here is one: Your intestines are your <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/23/health/23gut.html?pagewanted=all">second brain</a>.</p><p>The gut has its own nervous system – called the enteric nervous system – that is highly sophisticated and can basically think for itself. Columbia University neuroscientist Michael Gershon, who coined the phrase with his 1999 book <em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/Second-Brain-Groundbreaking-Understanding-Disorders/dp/0060930721">The Second Brain,</a></em> says the gut can function just fine in a decapitated person. <img alt="Rush's Ali Keshavarzian with his colon model. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-17/web kesh.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 333px; float: left; margin: 10px;" title="Rush's Ali Keshavarzian with his colon model. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">In fact, you can pull the gut out of someone, drop it in a nutrient bath in a lab, and it goes right on digesting.</p><p>In the last few years scientists have been discovering all kinds of surprising connections between the brain in your belly and the one in your head. Many neurological conditions also have gastro-intestinal components, though it’s never been clear why. The assumption has been that the brain disease causes the G-I problems, but scientists at <a href="http://www.rush.edu/rumc/page-1099611550726.html">Rush University Medical Center</a> are investigating a hypothesis that would turn that theory upside down.</p><p>It goes like this: Parkinson’s disease patients seem to have <a href="http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0028032">unusually leaky intestines</a>, which let toxic materials, like pieces of gut bacteria, slip between the cells lining the intestines. It’s possible that this could inflame the nerves and cause a particular protein, called alpha synuclein, to fold up wrong. That in turn could trigger a chain reaction of misfolded proteins that travel up the nervous system, burning “like a slow fuse” up to the brain over the course of decades, eventually <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19686202">causing Parkinson’s disease</a>.</p><p>It’s still pretty speculative, but gut leakiness has now been linked with a <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2995297/">bunch of other neurological diseases</a>. In general, the gut and the trillions of bacteria that live there are turning up as strong candidates to account for correlations that have eluded explanation. <img alt="Drs. Stuart Johnson and Dale Gerding fight C. diff. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-17/web johnson.jpg" style="width: 250px; height: 333px; float: right; margin: 10px;" title="Drs. Stuart Johnson and Dale Gerding are trying to defeat C. diff. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">For example, scientists have long suspected that <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC468678/">weight gain increases one's risk of breast cancer</a>, but the reason why has been mysterious. Stay tuned for more on why gut bacteria could be the missing link: We’ll post an interview in a couple of days.</p><p>Meanwhile, elsewhere in today’s episode we have a cautionary tale about what happens when we fail to respect the needs of our inner bug civilization. Antibiotics, in addition to killing infectious bacteria, also take a toll on our healthy gut biota, leaving room for an aggressive bug called <a href="http://www.shea-online.org/assets/files/position_papers/Cldiff95.PDF">Clostridium difficile</a>. It causes an absolutely miserable, sometimes lethal, hospital-acquired infection that is reaching epidemic proportions in the U.S. It’s bad enough that some have turned to a particularly stomach-turning therapy: <a href="http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=swapping-germs">fecal transplants</a>. Researchers at Loyola University Medical Center and the Hines VA in Maywood, Ill. are trying to save you from having to even think about that. We visit them and find out how.</p><p>Believe me, I could go on … but I’ll spare you for now. As always, subscribe to our <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast" target="_blank" title="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>, follow us on&nbsp;<a href="http://twitter.com/#%21/cleverapes" target="_blank" title="http://twitter.com/#!/cleverapes">Twitter</a>, and find us on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412" target="_blank" title="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2012-January/2012-01-17/web forsyth.jpg" style="width: 600px; height: 450px;" title="Chris Forsyth studies the gut's role in Parkinson's disease. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)"></p></p> Tue, 17 Jan 2012 21:41:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2012-01-17/clever-apes-24-gut-feelings-95602 Clever Apes #23: First memories http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-13/clever-apes-23-first-memories-94877 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-December/2011-12-13/Gabe trike for web.jpg" alt="" /><p><p><img alt="Each time we recall a childhood memory, we're rewriting it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitze" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-December/2011-12-13/Gabe trike for web SMALL.jpg" style="width: 300px; height: 442px; float: left; margin: 10px;" title="Each time we recall a childhood memory, we're rewriting it. (WBEZ/Gabriel Spitzer)">I’m sitting at a picnic table in our screened-in porch. It’s my third birthday party, and I’m opening presents. I unwrap a Tonka truck, and drop to the floor to start playing with it.</p><p>That’s been my earliest memory ever since I can, well, remember. But as the years wore on, something weird started happening. I started to feel less attached to the person in that memory. Now, I feel like I’m seeing the memory through someone else’s eyes, watching myself push that truck on the green astroturf carpet. I’m not even sure it’s a real memory anymore.</p><p>This has been on my mind because my own son recently had his third birthday. It got me wondering what his first memory will be, and more broadly, what is the nature of early memories? How reliable might they be, and how important to the construction of our identities?</p><p>On the latest installment of Clever Apes, we dig into what science has to say about early memory. Young kids actually have lots of memories that don’t make it into long-term storage. The phenomenon, called <a href="http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-child-in-time/201012/the-shifting-boundary-childhood-amnesia">“childhood amnesia,” </a>is not very well understood. But it seems to have something to do with the lens through which we see the world, and how it changes from early childhood (say, age three) to the more verbal period starting around age five or six. It’s tough to bridge that divide, and that may explain why I’m having a hard time connecting with my three-year old self.</p><p>And there’s another reason: memories are made from networks of neurons in our brains. That wiring gets used for lots of things, and so with each new memory, the networks change a little. When we remember something, we effectively rewrite it. That means that in some sense, each time we reflect on a memory, we’re putting a little more distance between ourselves and the actual event. Recent research suggests we’re even doing this in our sleep.</p><p>It’s enough to give a fellow a dose of existential distress. But there’s an upside too: A Chicago researcher has demonstrated <a href="http://www.luc.edu/childrensmemory/elaborative_conversation.shtml">ways that parents can reinforce and help solidify a child’s memories. </a>If you listen to the show, you can hear me trying this out on my son, Ezra. I bribed him with M&amp;Ms to get him to sit still.</p><p>Watch this space in the next day or so for a collection of first memories from our colleagues here at WBEZ. You can also get it via <a href="http://feeds.feedburner.com/CleverApesPodcast">podcast</a>. We’re on <a href="http://twitter.com/cleverapes">Twitter </a>and <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>, too.</p></p> Tue, 13 Dec 2011 23:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-12-13/clever-apes-23-first-memories-94877 Chicago scientists grow neurons from stem cells http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-scientists-grow-neurons-stem-cells <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//Neuron.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Scientists at Northwestern University say they&rsquo;ve figured out how to grow a kind of brain cell that&rsquo;s lost in Alzheimer&rsquo;s Disease. The cells make circuits critical for forming new memories, and they&rsquo;re among the first to die in Alzheimer&rsquo;s.&nbsp;Researchers at Northwestern Medicine coaxed human embryonic stem cells to grow into those neurons. They also developed an alternate strategy, where they got skin cells to mimic stem cells, which they were then able to grow into the neurons.&nbsp;</p><p>John Kessler, Chairman of Neurology at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said the breakthrough could accelerate research into therapies.</p><p>&ldquo;Because we have the human neurons right in front of us in a tissue culture dish, we can screen literally thousands &ndash; actually, tens of thousands -- of drugs at a time, to find one that may work in the disease,&rdquo; Kessler said.</p><p>Down the line, scientists hope to be able to transplant the new cells into Alzheimer&rsquo;s patients whose own neurons have died.&nbsp;The findings are published in the journal Stem Cells.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 04 Mar 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/chicago-scientists-grow-neurons-stem-cells Cave art and acid trips: The math they didn't teach you in school http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-03-02/cave-art-and-acid-trips-math-they-didnt-teach-you-school-83266 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//CaveLSD.png" alt="" /><p><p><img width="520" height="250" title="Cave art, left, and LSD visions, right, both reflect our brain's architecture. " class="caption" alt="" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-March/2011-03-02/CaveLSD.png" /></p><p><a href="http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/raw-science/geometric-visual-hallucinations">Hallucinations</a> have led everyone from shamans to acid gurus to believe they were getting a glimpse into the <a href="http://chestofbooks.com/new-age/paranormal/Spirit-World/The-Sense-Organs-Perceive-Telepathically.html">spirit world</a>. Jack Cowan says they may actually be getting <a href="http://www.nerdshit.com/2003/12/10/secrets-of-an-acid-head/">a peek into their own brains</a>. Cowan is the mathematician and neuroscientist featured in the latest episode of Clever Apes, talking about how the patterns in those hallucinations actually reflect the structure and behavior of networks in our heads.</p><p>We&rsquo;ll get to <a href="http://psychedelic-information-theory.com/Uncoiling-the-spiral-Maths-and-hallucinations">the science</a> in a moment, but it&rsquo;s worth considering how entwined these hallucinations may be into the human experience. As Cowan mentions, some anthropologists believe that much of cave art is hallucinatory, as demonstrated in <a href="http://www.wbez.org/sites/default/files/story/extras/2011-March/2011-03-02/Hallucinations.pdf">this presentation Cowan put together</a>. I&rsquo;ll leave it to the reader to decide whether these images are conclusive evidence that the cave art is drawn from hallucinatory patterns (seems to me that some are more convincing than others). Anthropologist<a href="http://www.amazon.com/Mind-Cave-Consciousness-Origins-Art/dp/0500284652"> David Lewis Williams thought so</a>, and even argued that hallucinations must then be a major source of humanity&rsquo;s <a href="http://vividlife.me/ultimate/4294/what-causes-eye-floaters/">spiritual and religious development</a>. So in that sense, they do give insight into the spirit world &ndash; if only to suggest that the spirit world originates in the cells of our sensory cortices.</p><p>It&rsquo;s worth noting, also, that hallucinations aren&rsquo;t confined to the visual world. We can experience <a href="http://www.coping-with-epilepsy.com/forums/f23/audio-hallucinations-2679/">audio hallucinations</a> (which may of course be wrapped up in psychedelic music &hellip; see Jim DeRogatis&rsquo;s <a href="http://books.google.com/books?id=U7cQmRsLgN8C&amp;printsec=frontcover&amp;dq=derogatis+psychedelic&amp;source=bl&amp;ots=XhQcAqhj7S&amp;sig=-xcJmxJRjQhGoDoD8kcSGeYULc0&amp;hl=en&amp;ei=75NuTc-PEcLSgQfBk9BB&amp;sa=X&amp;oi=book_result&amp;ct=result&amp;resnum=2&amp;ved=0CCIQ6AEwAQ#v=onepage&amp;q&amp;f=false">fine history here</a>), <a href="http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/phantosmia/AN01684">olfactory hallucinations</a> &ndash; even <a href="http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC491362/">tactile hallucinations</a>.</p><p>As for those visual patterns: they certainly seem to recur in plenty of places. To see them, eat some magic mushrooms or go have <a href="http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=104397005">a near-death experience</a>. Of course, you could also just pay half-attention as you're drifting off to sleep. Or simply press on your eyeballs a little. Totally your call. But the key, Cowan says, is that the brain produces these patterns as it&rsquo;s passing through a state of instability &ndash; whether it&rsquo;s semi-sleep or a neurochemical imbalance brought on by drugs.</p><p>Basically, as excitation ripples through our neural networks, it makes actual patterns in there &ndash; often stripes or a regular series of blobs &ndash; of firing or resting neurons. Then, because of the way our visual network is designed, those patterns appear to our eyes as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Form_constant">spirals, funnels and tunnels, honeycombs or cobwebs</a>. In fact, those four patterns seem to be pretty much it: Our brain architecture is capable of producing only <a href="http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/089976602317250861">variations on those four themes</a>.</p><p>But Cowan points out that the excitations that cause the hallucinations don't stop in the brain&rsquo;s sensory areas &ndash; they propagate deeper into areas connected with emotions, memory and self-image. That, added to the fact that they are associated with passing from one state into another (sober to tripping, awake to asleep, alive to dead), may contribute to the profundity we often ascribe to them. And perhaps there is something profound there after all: the idea that the same pattern-making mechanisms are at work in our minds as in clouds, or sands worked by the tides. That is pretty deep, man.</p><p>And kids, say no to drugs.</p><p>Subscribe to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174">podcast</a>, follow us on <a href="http://twitter.com/cleverapes">Twitter </a>and find us on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 02 Mar 2011 20:09:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-03-02/cave-art-and-acid-trips-math-they-didnt-teach-you-school-83266 Clever Apes #8: Sense abilities http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-02-28/clever-apes-8-sense-abilities-83045 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//ear_coch.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;">&nbsp;<img height="492" align="middle" width="428" title="Cochlear implants show how our senses depend on both machine and mind. " alt="Cochlear implants show how our senses depend on both machine and mind. " class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-February/2011-02-27/ear_coch.jpg" /></p><p>Our senses tell us about the world, but they also reveal a lot about ourselves. On the latest installment of Clever Apes, we find that research into <a href="http://www.utdallas.edu/~loizou/cimplants/tutorial/">cochlear implants</a> helps us understand how all hearing is really both mechanical and subjective, machine and mind. Then we meet a <a href="http://experts.uchicago.edu/experts.php?id=493">mathematical neuroscientist</a> (or would that be neuro-mathematician?) who has solved the equations behind <a href="http://thesciencenetwork.org/programs/raw-science/geometric-visual-hallucinations">visual hallucinations</a> (hint: it involves a fun romp into <a href="http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/quantum-field-theory/">quantum field theory</a>! Oh yeah, and it also may help explain cave art and religion &hellip; more on that in a future post.)</p><p><span player="null" class="filefield_audio_insert_player" id="filefield_audio_insert_player-89087" href="/sites/default/files/Clever Apes_110228_GS.mp3">Clever Apes_110228_GS.mp3</span></p><p>Meanwhile, as we discuss in the episode, cochlear implants work largely on the same principle as the vocoder (hear a fascinating history of the <a href="http://www.kraftwerkfaq.hu/equipment.html#vocoder">vocoder </a>from our colleagues at Sound Opinions). This involves encoding sound &ndash; as in, ripples in air pressure &ndash; onto a piece of white noise. The result is that familiar robotic-type sound that lovers of <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VXa9tXcMhXQ">Kraftwerk </a>know so well. Dr. Valeriy Shafiro offers a fine<a href="http://www.rushu.rush.edu/cds/arl/CurrentResearch.html"> demonstration of the effect</a> at his lab's web site (heard only in Internet Explorer, I'm afraid). You can plainly hear how speech comes across much better than environmental sound.</p><p style="text-align: center;"><img height="277" align="middle" width="369" alt="Implant patient Mary Callahan, with audiologist Dr. Valeriy Shafiro. " title="Implant patient Mary Callahan, with audiologist Dr. Valeriy Shafiro. " class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-February/2011-02-27/Mary small.JPG" /></p><p>Another Rush University researcher, <a href="http://www.rushu.rush.edu/servlet/Satellite?ParentId=1194024352668&amp;ParentType=RushUnivLevel3Page&amp;bcp=1194024350616&amp;c=RushUnivNews&amp;cid=1259591326935&amp;mHeaderImage=L2headAbt_01.png&amp;mHeaderImageOver=L2headAbt-over_01.png&amp;pagename=Rush/RushUnivNews/News_Detail_Page">Julia Cheng</a>, is doing work on cochlear implant patients' ability to appreciate music. Incidentally, Mary Callahan, the patient in the story, says she can really only appreciate music that she remembers from when she had in-tact hearing. She laments that she went deaf when Cindy Lauper's <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIb6AZdTr-A">&quot;Girls Just Want to Have Fun&quot;</a> was topping the charts, leaving her musical palate very limited. Though I have to say that Lauper has worn better than I ever would have expected.</p><p>Also, you&rsquo;ll notice Clever Apes is a tad shorter this month than in past episodes. This is part of what we hope will soon become the new-look, twice-monthly Clever Apes, heard regularly during Morning Edition and via a more robust podcast. So don&rsquo;t hate.</p><p>As always, subscribe to our <a href="http://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/wbezs-clever-apes/id379051174">podcast</a>, follow us on <a href="http://twitter.com/cleverapes">Twitter </a>and find us on <a href="http://www.facebook.com/pages/Clever-Apes-on-WBEZ/118246851551412">Facebook</a>.</p></p> Mon, 28 Feb 2011 12:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blog/clever-apes/2011-02-28/clever-apes-8-sense-abilities-83045