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Category: Neuroscience

Ultra-detailed brain map shows neurons that encode the meaning of words

Ultra-detailed brain map shows neurons that encode the meaning of words

Nature reports: By eavesdropping on the brains of living people, scientists have created the highest-resolution map yet of the neurons that encode the meanings of various words. The results hint that, across individuals, the brain uses the same standard categories to classify words — helping us to turn sound into sense. The study is based on words only in English. But it’s a step along the way to working out how the brain stores words in its language library, says…

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Is conscious AI possible?

Is conscious AI possible?

Andrew Maynard writes: It seems that barely a week goes by these days where there isn’t some degree of speculation that the current crop of large language models, novel AI systems, or even the internet, are showing signs of consciousness. These are usually met with a good dose of skepticism. But under the surface there’s often a surprisingly strong conflation between advanced artificial intelligence and conscious machines — to the extent that much of the current wave of AI acceleration…

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‘Time cells’ in the brain could be more crucial than we ever realized

‘Time cells’ in the brain could be more crucial than we ever realized

Science Alert reports: When it comes to how we experience, interact with, and navigate our world, timing is everything. And new research in mice suggests a specific set of cells is fundamental to the way we learn complex behaviors that rely on timing. The discovery by a team at the University of Utah in the US could eventually help detect onset of neurodegenerative diseases that affect time perception, like Alzheimer’s. To create a memory for your own personal archives, your…

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The human brain’s complexity teeters at the edge of chaos, physicists say

The human brain’s complexity teeters at the edge of chaos, physicists say

Science Alert reports: The human brain is said to be the most complex object in the known Universe. Its 89 billion neurons each have around 7,000 connections on average, and the physical structure of all those entities may be balanced precariously on a knife’s edge, according to a new study. Two physicists at Northwestern University in the US – Helen Ansell and István Kovács – have now used statistical physics to explain the complexity seen in a highly detailed 3D…

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Brain connections reset during first half of sleep

Brain connections reset during first half of sleep

PsyPost reports: A recent study has provided new insights into the complex role of sleep in brain function. Conducted on zebrafish, the research revealed that during the first half of a night’s sleep, the brain weakens the new connections between neurons formed while awake. However, this process does not continue into the second half of the night, leaving open questions about the latter stage’s purpose. Published in the journal Nature, the study supports the Synaptic Homeostasis Hypothesis, which suggests sleep…

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Babies in the womb exposed to two languages hear speech differently when born

Babies in the womb exposed to two languages hear speech differently when born

PsyPost reports: Researchers have shown for the first time that newborns of monolingual mothers respond differently to playback of a carefully selected sound stimulus than newborns of bilingual mothers. The findings suggest that bilingual newborns are sensitive to a wider range of acoustic variation of speech, at the cost of being less selectively tuned in to any single language. These results underscore the importance of prenatal exposure for learning about speech. It’s well established that babies in the womb hear…

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Biological puzzles abound in an up-close look at a human brain

Biological puzzles abound in an up-close look at a human brain

Researchers have generated a nanoscale-resolution reconstruction of a millimeter-scale fragment of human cerebral cortex, giving an unprecedented view into the structural organization of brain tissue at the supracellular, cellular, and subcellular levels. https://t.co/AO946Lnsir pic.twitter.com/UeacNkEbym — Science Magazine (@ScienceMagazine) May 26, 2024 Science News reports: It’s a bit like seeing a world in a grain of sand. Except the view, in this case, is the exquisite detail inside a bit of human brain about half the size of a grain of…

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Electric ‘ripples’ in the resting brain tag memories for storage

Electric ‘ripples’ in the resting brain tag memories for storage

Yasemin Saplakoglu writes: György Buzsáki first started tinkering with waves when he was in high school. In his childhood home in Hungary, he built a radio receiver, tuned it to various electromagnetic frequencies and used a radio transmitter to chat with strangers from the Faroe Islands to Jordan. He remembers some of these conversations from his “ham radio” days better than others, just as you remember only some experiences from your past. Now, as a professor of neuroscience at New…

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The heart sends messages to the brain

The heart sends messages to the brain

Science News reports: Everyone knows that the brain influences the heart. Stressful thoughts can set the heart pounding, sometimes with such deep force that we worry people can hear it. Anxiety can trigger the irregular skittering of atrial fibrillation. In more extreme and rarer cases, emotional turmoil from a shock — the death of a loved one, a cancer diagnosis, an intense argument — can trigger a syndrome that mimics a heart attack. But not everyone knows that the heart…

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Optical illusion reveals key brain rule that governs consciousness

Optical illusion reveals key brain rule that governs consciousness

Live Science reports: Optical illusions play on the brain’s biases, tricking it into perceiving images differently than how they really are. And now, in mice, scientists have harnessed an optical illusion to reveal hidden insights into how the brain processes visual information. The research focused on the neon-color-spreading illusion, which incorporates patterns of thin lines on a solid background. Parts of these lines are a different color — such as lime green, in the example above — and the brain…

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Your perception of time is skewed by what you see

Your perception of time is skewed by what you see

Nature reports: How the brain processes visual information — and its perception of time — is heavily influenced by what we’re looking at, a study has found. In the experiment, participants perceived the amount of time they had spent looking at an image differently depending on how large, cluttered or memorable the contents of the picture were. They were also more likely to remember images that they thought they had viewed for longer. The findings, published on 22 April in…

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Sleeping more flushes junk out of the brain

Sleeping more flushes junk out of the brain

Elizabeth Rayne writes: As if we didn’t have enough reasons to get at least eight hours of sleep, there is now one more. Neurons are still active during sleep. We may not realize it, but the brain takes advantage of this recharging period to get rid of junk that was accumulating during waking hours. Sleep is something like a soft reboot. We knew that slow brainwaves had something to do with restful sleep; researchers at the Washington University School of…

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The new science of death: ‘There’s something happening in the brain that makes no sense’

The new science of death: ‘There’s something happening in the brain that makes no sense’

Alex Blasdel writes: At the time [Jimo] Borjigin [a professor of neurology at the University of Michigan] began her research into Patient One, the scientific understanding of death had reached an impasse. Since the 1960s, advances in resuscitation had helped to revive thousands of people who might otherwise have died. About 10% or 20% of those people brought with them stories of near-death experiences in which they felt their souls or selves departing from their bodies. A handful of those…

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The social benefits of getting our brains in sync

The social benefits of getting our brains in sync

Marta Zaraska writes: The renowned Polish piano duo Marek and Wacek didn’t use sheet music when playing live concerts. And yet onstage the pair appeared perfectly in sync. On adjacent pianos, they playfully picked up various musical themes, blended classical music with jazz and improvised in real time. “We went with the flow,” said Marek Tomaszewski, who performed with Wacek Kisielewski until Wacek’s death in 1986. “It was pure fun.” The pianists seemed to read each other’s minds by exchanging…

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Memories are made by breaking DNA — and fixing it

Memories are made by breaking DNA — and fixing it

Nature reports: When a long-term memory forms, some brain cells experience a rush of electrical activity so strong that it snaps their DNA. Then, an inflammatory response kicks in, repairing this damage and helping to cement the memory, a study in mice shows. The findings, published on 27 March in Nature, are “extremely exciting”, says Li-Huei Tsai, a neurobiologist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge who was not involved in the work. They contribute to the picture that…

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Individual neurons tune to complex speech sounds and cues

Individual neurons tune to complex speech sounds and cues

The Transmitter reports: Individual neurons in the cerebral cortex are finely tuned to the sounds of human speech—beyond just picking out consonants and vowels, two new independent studies show. The cells encode small sounds called phonemes that are said in a similar way; the order in which syllables are spoken; the beginning of sentences; vocal pitch; and word stress, among other features of speech. The studies were able to reveal this new level of detail by using Neuropixels probes, which…

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