Brain

Why we're smarter than chickens

Why we're smarter than chickens

Toronto researchers have discovered that a single molecular event in our cells could hold the key to how we evolved to become the smartest animal on the planet.

Benjamin Blencowe, a professor in the University of Toronto's Donnelly Centre and Banbury Chair in Medical Research, and his team have uncovered how a small change in a protein called PTBP1 can spur the creation of neurons - cells that make the brain - that could have fuelled the evolution of mammalian brains to become the largest and most complex among vertebrates.

Genetic tug of war in the brain influences behavior

Genetic tug of war in the brain influences behavior

Not every mom and dad agree on how their offspring should behave. But in genetics as in life, parenting is about knowing when your voice needs to be heard, and the best ways of doing so. Typically, compromise reigns, and one copy of each gene is inherited from each parent so that the two contribute equally to the traits who make us who we are. Occasionally, a mechanism called genomic imprinting, first described 30 years ago, allows just one parent to be heard by completely silencing the other.

Is failure to reproduce psychology papers a sign they are invalid?

Following one of the largest-scale scientific reproducibility investigations to date, a group of psychology researchers has reported results from an effort to replicate 100 recently published psychology studies; though they were able to successfully repeat the original experiments in most all cases, they were able to reproduce the original results in less than half, they report.

Cannabis use may influence cortical maturation in adolescent males

Male teens who experiment with cannabis before age 16, and have a high genetic risk for schizophrenia, show a different brain development trajectory than low risk peers who use cannabis.

The discovery, made from a combined analysis of over 1,500 youth, contributes to a growing body of evidence implicating cannabis use in adolescence and schizophrenia later in life.

The study was led by Baycrest Health Sciences' Rotman Research Institute in Toronto and is reported in JAMA Psychiatry (online) today, ahead of print publication.

Machine learning? No, machine teaching

Human learning is a complex, sometimes mysterious process. Most of us have had experiences where we have struggled to learn something new, but also times when we've picked something up nearly effortlessly.

What if a fusion of computer science and psychology could help us understand more about how people learn, making it possible to design ideal lessons?

Stepping up the sexy: visual system is a 'sensitive lie detector'

Queen's University professor Nikolaus Troje (Psychology, Biology, School of Computing) believes that it is the consistency of the whole appearance rather than the attractiveness of the parts.

"Most previous work on attractiveness focused on the effect of isolated features." says Dr. Troje. "The current study demonstrates how important it is that these features fit together well."

Why it's hard to make a bunny mad: Prion disease resistance in rabbits

Rabbits have long been considered immune to prion disease, but recently scientists have shown that they can--under certain circumstances--get transmissible spongiform encephalopathy (or TSE, the scientific term for the fatal brain disease caused by prions). Two studies published on August 6th in PLOS Pathogens address what makes rabbits hard to infect with prions and how their resistance can be overcome.

Paleo diet? Big brains needed carbs

Understanding how and why we evolved such large brains is one of the most puzzling issues in the study of human evolution. It is widely accepted that brain size increase is partly linked to changes in diet over the last 3 million years, and increases in meat consumption and the development of cooking have received particular attention from the scientific community.

Insulin's potential to treat dementia

Researchers at the UW Medicine, Veteran's Administration Puget Sound and Saint Louis University have made a promising discovery that insulin delivered high up in the nasal cavity goes to affected areas of brain with lasting results in improving memory.

The findings were published online July 30 in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

Eating away at cognitive decline

While cognitive abilities naturally diminish as part of the normal aging process, it may be possible to take a bite out of this expected decline.

Eating a group of specific foods known as the MIND diet may slow cognitive decline among aging adults, even when the person is not at risk of developing Alzheimer's disease, according to researchers at Rush University Medical Center. This finding is in addition to a previous study by the research team that found that the MIND diet may reduce a person's risk in developing Alzheimer's disease.