Thursday, March 30, 2006

Small brain, Big IQ

via NewScientist

In this study, they found out that the size of children's brain is not the main factor to evaluate the neural corrolate of IQ. They found a correlation between the thickness of the prefrontal cortex and the IQ. But as others studies showed before, there's also a correlatino with parent's job and education. Then, we still have the nature-nurture debat. The hypothesis of the scientist is that the way the brain is used when we are young will influence the thickness of prefrontal cortex, so the environment modulate IQ through the prefrontal's thickness.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Redbull and Alcool

via NewScientist

They have a article on the effect of redbull mixed to alcool. They found that people who drink it says that they fell less effects of alcool. But, on the motor skill task, they are as worst as only alcool drinkers. So, don't take redbull to drive your car, you'll probably crash it !

Neurobiology of infant attachment.

There's a polemic around universal childcare program in Quebec right now. More and more children spend a lot of hours in those center as young as six month. Moreover, a survey from C.D. Howe Institut show that there's more children in day-care center than the average in the rest of Canada (51,4% again 16,3%). Obviously, it's less expensive here in Quebec, that can explain why there's more children here than anywhere. Also, they show that Quebec's children are more agressive and more anxious than in the rest of Canada (agressivity: 34% vs 11,8%; anxiety: 24,2% vs 1,7%). Of course, this survey isn't based of scientifics facts but those differences are pretty high, so if we did a controled study on the subject, we could probably find some significant different between Quebec's children and Canada's children.

How can we explain the link between going to day-care center and agressivity and anxiety ? I'll try to explain it through neurobiology of attachment. First of all, we are ready to attach to the care-giver when we are young. The noradrenergic locus coeruleus helping the early brain to learn fast to attach to care-giver. On the other hand, the hypofunctionning of the amygdala avoid learning aversives to care-giver (Moriceau, & Sullivan, 2005). If you're in day-care center, this innate system is broken from is regular development. Could it produce the agressivity and anxious behavior, we talked ?

As we discuss on a previous post, we know that amygdala is often more activated on people who commit violent behavior, so if there's problem with basic attachment because children are in day-care center, the amygdala could read the environment as hostile and that the children can be more agressive and more anxious. This is just a hypothese I didn't find any study doing the correlation between the attachement, the response of amygdala when the children is growing up, agressivity and anxiety, but with what we know about amygdala and emotion, it could be possible I think. Don't you ?

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Here in Quebec, every year we have a scientific contest for high-school and college students. Today, I've been to the regional part of this contest. I feel a lot of enthusiasm about neuroscience. Actually, the majority of presentation was so-so, but one guy keep my attention.

He talked about the role of the astrocyte in the synchronicity of cerebral activity and the possible link with cognition. He present this paper, and he does the hypothesis that the modulation of glutamate release by the astrocyte could influence the way we process information, then our cognition. Obviously, he wasn't a Ph.D. candidate so he throw the idea in the air, but that sound good. I'm not either a Ph.D. candidate on the subject so I don't know waht is the link between glia and cognition. I'll try to read on the subject in the next days and comeback with more information.

Friday, March 24, 2006

Ethical issues on genetics of violent behavior

via Science
One gene thought to play a role in violent behavior codes for an enzyme called monoamine oxidase A (MAO-A)... In a recent study, researchers showed that males with lower levels were more likely to develop antisocial behavior in response to being maltreated during childhood (Science, 2 August 2002, p. 851.). This may be because they are less able to reduce their neurotransmitter levels to a baseline level after a stressful event, limiting their ability to control aggressive impulses... The differences, as revealed by MRI scans, were striking: For example, brain regions known to be involved in control of emotions and impulsivity, such as the anterior cingulate cortex, were on average 8% smaller in subjects with low levels of MAO-A. In addition, when subjects were shown pictures of angry or fearful faces, those with low MAO-A showed much greater activation of the amygdala, a region associated with anger and violent behavior

There's a important ethical issues with this study. In a after 9/11 security world, the gouvernments increased mesure on security. Then, if they could know in early stage of life who could became antisocial and commit violent behavior, they could also want to control them. A exemple of mesure that they could do is to keep a registry of how everyone rate on a biological violent behavior scale. This idea seems unethical to me, but for a lot of people that probably sound a good and safe idea. In those people, I think of Mr. Bush for the U.S. and maybe M. Harper for Canada, they are both conservative. I don't know the laws about the utility of scientific finding but I hope there's a law to protect people on those kind of issue. I really think we need this knowledge as scientific fact, but I'm again the utilisation for control of violent behavior. We need a protection for futur genetics finding, if we don't want to all of us be scan by genetics screening and be put on a file.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Sixth sense can come from within

via Nature

This article present a theory of perception of our body in space, or proprioception. Usually, the main idea is that nerve impulse coming from muscles and joints to the brain. Ok, that sound good ! But the found nerve impulse out-going from the brain to the limbs. They suppose "some sort of comparison between outgoing and ingoing signals that result in the final sense of position".

A generation of immortal humans

By studying the genetics of aging, some labs try to find out if there's a longetivity gene. Right now, the most susceptible gene that could play this role is SIR2: "Sirtuins are hypothesized to play a key role in an organism's response to stresses (such as heat or starvation) and to be responsible for the lifespan-extending effects of calorie restriction". They found a life extension of 30% in yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae and up to 50% in roundworm.

Usually, the calorie restriction is the way to increased lifespan, the old idea was that process reduced the geneal metabolism, but in fact calorie restriction is speeding up the metabolism. The new idea is that calorie restriction is a stressor, then there's a double inhibition on genes that usually inhibit the production of SIR2 so the production increased.

What's the possibilities for life extension of Humans ? Right now, they found that the human version of SIR2, the SIRT1, give a longer life to cells. But, we don't know on lifespan what could happen. We cannot do a calorie restiction in human enough long to get the result. The scientists need to create a drug to increased this gene, try it on animal, and maybe in years we'll find a cure to aging. Soon is the time when at 100 years old, you'll be considered as young...

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Visual cortex can gives meaning to non-visual inputs

MIT news report a research at Picower Institute for Learning and Memory. Marshall G. Shule and Mark F. Bear found that neurons responses to light, nothing special here, but the paired it with the delivery of a drop of water. The neuronal activity changed. Moreover, the neuronal activity continued same if the light stimulation wasn't showed to the rat, as long as the water was delivered. They thought that's in link with the anticipation of rewards. This kind of association is usual in associative cortex but in the visual primary cortex it's the first time scientist found it. Their conclusion said "These neurons were not acting in response to what the stimuli were, but what they had come to mean". The visual cortex isn't just a detector but can process this information.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

D2 receptor for craving in drug addiction

via Science Daily
Dr. David Self and graduate student Scott Edwards bases the study on the different between the activation of D1 and D2 (dopamine receptors) in the craving behavior when a rats became addict to cocaïne, "molecules that activate D1 are believed to decrease the craving response, while D2 activators are believed to increase it." They found that "the strongly addicted rats responded more aggressively to the craving-enhancing D2 activator than the less-addicted rats did, and were not as strongly deterred by the D1 activator." By studying those receptors they wants to help addicted humans to fight again this illness. As they said: "If people do become addicted and say they want to quit, their brain system for inhibiting craving is weaker. We want to try to strengthen those systems that help them inhibit their craving,"

And the winner is....

In my last post I talked about a neuroword contest, the winner is known. It's Neil H. with neurologism. Switch your vocab from neologism to neurologism.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Neologism or Neurologism

I'm late on this news, but I found it on mindhacks today and I learn about a new blog, neurofuture. They start a competition on neologism with neuro at the beggining, now we maybe have to talk about neurologism. Go over and read it, there's some really good neologism.

The science of religion

Daniel Dennett posted on Seed magazine about why the scientific study of religion is a necessary.

He first talking about a general introduction on science's rules: "Those who want to make claims about religion will have to live by the same rules: prove it or drop it." He shows with this affirmation that science is not again religion, but if religion wants to claims anythings, they have to prove it as any sciences does. They haven't a special status that raise them over the scientific facts !

Then, he gives some good exemples of how usefull it's to study it. There's some scientific facts on the positives effects of believing in God for health and moral. "There is growing evidence that many religions have succeeded remarkably well on this score, improving both the health and the morale of their members, quite independently of the good works they may have accomplished to benefit."

There's numbers of study that shows how minds can control somatic aspect of life, there's maybe the same process for praying or believing, it's probably changing our mind states and have outcome on physicals aspects. As Dennett said: "There is no better source of truth on any topic than well-conducted science, and they know it (religious people)." Then, lets the science doing his works, the truth at the ends could be good for scientist and believers !

Sunday, March 19, 2006

The best part of being a scientist

Few days ago, I post about the worst part of being a scientist, but I missed a post from Daily transcript about the best part.
That lets me some hope ! There's some good things !

Going red...

Just a post to thanks you all guys to come over. I've seen on the map that there's people from many differents places. Don't be shy to talk about the blog around you. I wish to get a map complety red a day.

First poster: part 2

I'm back from my first congress, and I found this one really boring !
We were only 3 to present stuff on animals, so the majority just walk nose up in front of my poster. If it ain't about human, it ain't psychology. That the feeling a get. Anyway, few curious people came over to ask more about our work. The others guys working on animals told me that in neuroscience congress the interaction between scientist is better. Hope the next one is gonna help me in my carrer. I meet a guy from the lab where I'll be on next summer that the only good thing of this congress.

Friday, March 17, 2006

my next reading...

Every year, ScienceDirect post the top25 hottest articles in every field of study. In neuroscience, there is some article that seems really interesting to me.

The #6: Memory consolidation and reconsolidation: what is the role of sleep?

The #11: The Neural Basis of Financial Risk Taking

The #25: Subcortical loops through the basal ganglia

Before, I must finish a "Looking for Spinoza: Joy, Sorrow, and the Feeling Brain" from Antonio Damasio. I'll will reviews it all, when it'll be over.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Replay for better memory

I fall on a month old article in Scientific American about the reversing firing neurones in hippocampus of mices when they learn spatial pattern.

This way for consolidation of memory in mouse seems like when we repete a phone numbers to be sure to do not forget it. We haven't the tools to study the replay of spatial pattern in human brain but I'd like to know if it's the same things in human as mouse. Maybe in a couple of years !

The worst parts of being scientist

This morning, I start as usually reading some blog and I fall on Daily Transcript, which is one of my favorite out of my main interest. The post is about the worst part of being scientist. That pretty funny to read and gave me good idea of how it's working in scientific world.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Imaging genetics and mind

I just learned, by a post on mindhacks about a new technique to investigate the like between the brain and the mind. In fact, the author of the paper on >Science and Consciousness Review is Thomas Ramsoy.

He found a link between the version (Small or Long allele) of the gene that codes for 5-HT and the levels of 5-HT in the amygdala. Moreover, some papers have shown a link between the link of 5-HT and behavior (anxiety, fear, depression). Quick link to read, go over.

Monday, March 13, 2006

First poster

Today, I spend all my time polishing my first poster as first author. I'm kinda proud about what I did. I'm not going in a big congress, it's not SFN or FENS or whatever others big congress. It's not that small, but the main subjet isn't neuroscience, it's psychology. The congress is SQRP, in english Quebec Society for Research in Psychology. I'll probably be the only, or maybe we're gonne be a couple if I'm lucky, one working on animal.

My poster title is: Effect of exposition to a novel or familiar stimulation on the expression of arg3.1 in C57BL/6 mice.

Arg3.1 is IEG a gene that code for a protein implicated in synaptic plasticity, it's found in dendrites and some scientists said that means it plays a role in activity-dependant plasticity. We found that the expression of this gene is higher in deep layer VI. This layer is in link with intra-cortical and sub-cortical connection, so that leads us to believe in plasticity at this level instead of in layer IV where the inputs from the senses arrived.

That means that there's encoding system in first stage of processing informations in the primary cortex. Moreover, when the simulation becomes familiar, the stimulus has already switched in longterm memory, then they is a massive drop of arg3.1's neurones in cortex. That leads us to think that there's a early process in encoding that changes in a another process on comparison of the stimulus with what is on longterm memory, probably through the hippocampus.

Brain for numbers

Seed magazine report a research on how the brain procede the information about numbers. They found a difference in activation for discret versus continous quantities in the intraparietal sulcus. Go over to learn more

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Apes to Humans

I found out via Aetiology that scientist have found a regulatory gene that could be implicated in fast evolution from apes to humans. The genes is working as an interrupter on a huge numbers of others gene. One gene changing a lot more. Find more on Chicago Tribune.

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Taste like shit...

I was surfing around and looking on what's new on nature neuroscience, when I fall on a paper by Jack Nitschke. They did MRIf on tasting. I like this kind of paper which show the control of mind over the sensory system. I didn't read it all, but I feel that nature doesn't let a shitty paper comes out on their pages.

They showed that if we expecting a less aversive taste than the reality, we have less activation in opeculum and in insula. Moreover, the behavioral response on the taste is also gonna be less stronger. That give us a good trick for when we have to eat stuff that doesn't taste good: close your eye and think that's taste amazing.

Week-end days

What does it mean exactly ? Week-end days ?

Since, I'm in psychology, I don't really know, the grade challengw, who's gonna be the best is so important that I don't take time to relaxe same if its week-end. You know, the graduate school ?

Yeah, if you want to become a psychologist you need good GPA, then you have to study a lot. Anyway, I don't want to be a psychologist, but GPA is important to get bursuries. Yeah, I need it to full me résumé, to get funding as graduate student next year.

In this way, I'm not so bad. I've worked in a lab last summer on NSREC summer award, this summer I'll do the same, but I'll also be at a lab at University of Montreal. I have to show what I worth in a lab. I'd like to study over there for my M.Sc.

Back to main subject, week-end days shame on you !!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Enstein, Danone and DHA

Today, I've seen a new publicity from Danone on a canadian channel. The publicity showed a bunch of children, who were disguised in Enstein, eating danone yagourt with DHA

Yes, there is a link between DHA and the developpement of the brain, but it doesn't mean that there is a link between DHA and the IQ. Anyway, I just really hate this kind of publicity. When I'm tuning the T.V. and sawing this kind of marketing based on hypothesis scientifics facts trying to utilize the mom's feeling about their kids.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

New blog

All aroung the blogosphere, we can read a bunch of blogs written by graduate student, on differents topics. So why not a independant undergraduate blog ? I found a lot of sponsorized university undergraduate blog, but not that much without any link to a university. Then, I start this one !

I'll post on the life of a undergraduate student who want to go through the academic world to become (in a few years or more...) a university professor. I'm studying psychology, but my mean interest is the behavioral neuroscience. I'll probably try to post on this topic either. I use probably cause I really don't know right now what am I gonna blog about...

Feel free to read me, to email, to whatever...