Mapping the Human Brain’s Facial Recognition System

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Humans have evolved an ability to recognize faces, and this ability is so important that there is an area in the brain, the fusiform gyrus, solely dedicated to this task. Brain imaging studies have consistently shown that this region of the temporal lobe becomes active when people look at faces.

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Brain Scans Help Scientists Read Dreams

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A: functional subdivision of rostral PFC according to an earlier meta-analysis of functional neuroimaging studies, B: regions of activation for contrasts related to attention, Image by Oxford University Press.

A team of Japanese researchers have been working on using neuroimaging techniques to decode the dreams of people while they sleep. The researchers were led by Yukiyasu Kamitani of the ATR Computational Neuroscience Laboratory in Kyoto, Japan and they used functional neuroimaging to scan the brains of patients.

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The Scientific Cause of Near-Death Experiences

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Although the specific causes of this part of near-death experiences remain unclear, tunnel vision can occur when blood and oxygen flow is depleted to the eye. Image: Neil T/Flickr

Near-death experiences that have been widely reported by patients now have a scientific explanation. This phenomenon is thought to be caused by the abnormal functioning of dopamine and oxygen flow.

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Growth in Brain’s White Matter Tracts Could Predict Literacy

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Section through nerve fibers within the sciatic nerve as seen under the electron microscope: the axons (nerve cell projections, pink) are only poorly surrounded by a myelin sheath (generated by Schwann cells, coloured blue) following inactivation of the gene encoding BACE1, which controls the myelination process (right panel). The nerve fibres in a control animal (left panel, BACE1 gene is intact) are in contrast surrounded by thick myelin sheaths (dark rings). (Picture: Dr. Alistair Garratt/Copyright: MDC).

Brain connectivity can predict reading skills, thanks to brain scans and the examination of the growth of long-range connections in the brain. These allow researchers to predict how a child’s reading skills will develop.

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Bearing a Male Child Can Alter a Woman’s Brain

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A male cell (arrow), presumably fetal in origin, in the liver tissue from a woman with autoimmune hepatitis

A new study indicates that male DNA, left over from pregnancy with a male fetus, can persist in a woman’s brain throughout the rest of her life. Although the exact biological impact of the DNA is yet unclear, the study found that women with more male DNA in their brains were less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease, suggesting that male DNA could help protect mothers from this disease.

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Optimism Bias Disrupted with a Small Magnetic Field

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Humans will embrace good news and attenuate bad news. People tend to overestimate their odds in a number of different things, while underplaying the risks of cancer, divorce or unemployment. Researchers from the University of College London (UCL) have found a way of removing the optimism bias that humans suffer from by using a magnetic field on a small region of the brain called the left inferior frontal gyrus (IFG).

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The Neuroscience of Threat Response

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It’s a biological imperative how organisms respond to threats, and humans are no exception. Humans respond to threats, perceived or real, in an instinctual way, but the exact neuroscience behind these reactions is still somewhat of a mystery.

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