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06 Sep 2020
Coronavirus: The Pandemic Is Changing Our Brains

The Pandemic Is Changing Our Brains

Summary: Coronavirus can cause several significant neurological disorders, and the pandemic has been linked to a rise in people reporting mental health problems such as depression and anxiety. Researchers examine how COVID-19 affects brain and mental health and provides some techniques which can help to improve well-being during the pandemic.

Source: The Conversation

Whether you have contracted COVID-19 or not, your brain is likely to have changed over the past few months. The virus itself can cause a number of neurological problems, along with anxiety and depression. The isolation and worry caused by the pandemic can similarly alter our brain chemistry and cause mood disorders.

In our new paper, published in Neuropsychopharmacology Reviews, we have investigated how to best overcome the brain changes linked to the pandemic.

Let’s start with COVID-19 infection. In addition to mood disorders, common symptoms include fatigue, headaches, memory loss and problems with attention. There may be a number of reasons for these brain changes, including inflammation and cerebrovascular events (a syndrome caused by disruption of blood supply to the brain).

Research suggests that the virus may gain access to the brain via the forebrain’s olfactory bulb, which is important for the processing of smell. Loss of smell is a symptom in many patients with COVID-19.

As part of the system responsible for your sense of smell, the olfactory bulb sends information about smell to be further processed in other brain regions – including the amygdala, orbitofrontal cortex and the hippocampus – which play a major role in emotion, learning and memory.

As well as having extensive connections to other brain regions, the olfactory bulb is rich in the chemical dopamine, which is important for pleasure, motivation and action. It may be that COVID-19 alters the levels of dopamine and other chemicals, such as serotonin and acetylcholine, in the brain, but we can’t say for sure yet. All these chemicals are known to be involved in attention, learning, memory and mood.

These changes in the brain are likely responsible for the mood, fatigue and cognitive changes that are commonly experienced by COVID-19 patients. This in turn may underlie the reported symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in patients who have contracted the virus.

But it’s not just people who have contracted the COVID-19 virus that have suffered from increased anxiety and depression during the pandemic. Excessive worry over contracting or spreading the virus to other family members, as well as isolation and loneliness, can also change our brain chemistry.

Repeated stress is a major trigger for persistent inflammation in the body, which can also affect the brain and shrink the hippocampus and therefore affect our emotions. Stress can also affect levels of brain serotonin and cortisol, which can affect our mood. Eventually, these changes can cause symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Brain training

The good thing about the brain, however, is that it is incredibly plastic, which means it is changeable and can compensate for damage. Even serious conditions such as memory loss and depression can be improved by doing things that alter the brain function and its chemistry.

Our paper looks at promising solutions to combat symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression – in COVID-19 patients and others.

We already know that exercise and mindfulness training – techniques that help us stay in the present – are helpful when it comes to combating brain stress. Indeed, studies have shown beneficial functional and structural changes in the brain’s prefrontal cortex (involved in planning and decision making), hippocampus and amygdala following mindfulness training.

This drawing has covid 19 in the head in place of a brain
The novel coronavirus is affecting our brains, whether we’ve caught it or not. Image is adapted from The Conversation news release.

One study showed an enhanced density of grey matter – the tissue containing most of the brain’s cell bodies and a key component of the central nervous system – in the left hippocampus after eight weeks of training (in comparison to controls).


Importantly, these are all regions that are impacted by the COVID-19 virus. Additionally, gamified cognitive training can also help improve attention, memory function and increase motivation. Those who have persistent or severe mental health symptoms may require clinical evaluation by a psychologist or psychiatrist. In such cases, there are pharmacological and psychological treatments available, such as antidepressants or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Given that many countries haven’t completely come out of lockdown yet, and there are long delays in accessing healthcare, modern techniques such as wearable devices (activity trackers) and digital platforms (mobile apps), that can be easily integrated into daily life, are promising.

For example, activity trackers can monitor things like heart rate and sleeping patterns, indicating when the wearer may benefit from activities such as meditation, exercise or extra sleep. There are also apps that can help you reduce your stress levels yourself.

These techniques are likely be beneficial to everyone, and may help us to better promote cognitive resilience and mental health – preparing us for future critical events such as global pandemics. As a society, we need to anticipate future challenges to our brain health, cognition and wellbeing. We should be utilising these techniques in schools to promote lifelong resilience starting at an early age.

Funding: Barbara Jacquelyn Sahakian has received funding from the Wallitt Foundation and Eton College. She consults for Cambridge Cognition, Greenfield BioVentures and Cassava Sciences .Cambridge Enterprise has technology transferred Wizard and Decoder to PEAK.

Christelle Langley and Deniz Vatansever do not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and have disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: https://neurosciencenews.com/coronavirus-brain-16972/

07 Dec 2019
The Growing Importance of Talent Base Economy

The Growing Importance of Talent Base Economy

Dec 05, 2019 (Heraldkeepers) — A talent-driven economy has become a key requirement for the growth and development of the modern economy. The workforce can generate innovatively, and new ideas surpass all other drivers of economic development. The future success of an economy depends on the quality of talent retained. Some of the main reasons why the modern economy should focus on talents include:

1. Maximize Productivity

With the talent economy, the chance of growth of the modern economy is high. The human capabilities are considered to be the fundamental drivers of economic development. By focusing on the talents and brains, the modern economy will be able to retain the best skills and knowledge. The fresh talents can utilize their innovative ideas and maximize the productivity of individuals, organizations, as well as the entire community, which ultimately leads to the growth and success of the overall economy.

2. Better Development

Focusing on talents can help the modern economy in gaining better development opportunities. The quality of the workforce is of paramount importance for the development of the economy. The availability of skilled talents helps in increasing investments and enhancing the returns on investment for better development of the economy.

3. Expand Capabilities


By giving importance to talent economy, the modern economy can expand its capabilities much easily. The talents acquired can help in overcoming the potential challenges with the use of their innovative and new ideas. The growing demand of the talented workforce across the globe allows the modern economy to expand successfully.

Effect of Intellectual Property Rights and Patents on Economy

Intellectual property rights and patents have a significant impact on the global economy. Apart from a talent economy, intellectual property rights and patents can also help in stimulating the growth and development of the modern economy.

Intellectual property rights play an important role in encouraging innovation, technical change, as well as product development. An IPRS system that favors the diffusion of information through the low-cost imitation of foreign technologies and products is likely to impact the economy of a country positively.

The intellectual property rights also help in rewarding the risk-taking and creativity of the new entrepreneurs and enterprises, thereby leading to the growth of the economy. The IPRs can also help in stimulating dissemination and acquisition of new information. The new information gained paves the way for further inventions.

The patent also provides the firms with certainty that they will face fewer threats of uncompensated appropriation. It helps the firms induce products and technologies more readily, enabling the enhancement of the economy. By strengthening intellectual property rights, the developing countries tend to attract more inflows of technology.

IPRs also encourage the growth and development of interregional as well as international marketing networks that help in achieving economies of scale. A strengthened intellectual property enables inducing greater R & D that helps in meeting the needs of the developing countries.

Focusing on talent as well as intellectual property rights and patents can help in the successful growth and development of the modern economy.

Author : Manahel Thabet

Source: https://www.marketwatch.com/press-release/the-growing-importance-of-talent-base-economy-2019-12-05

03 Oct 2019
Prosthetic Leg with Neurofeedback Makes Walking Easier, Treats Phantom Pain

Prosthetic Leg with Neurofeedback Makes Walking Easier, Treats Phantom Pain

Today’s prosthetic legs come in a variety of designs, but they lack the ability to give users a natural sense of themselves. They feel simply like man-made devices strapped to the stump, as tools and not as part of the body of whoever wears them. Researchers from ETH Zurich, University of Freiburg, University of Belgrade, and the companies SensArs and Össur, have combined their expertise in a variety of topics to give existing commercial prosthetic legs a sense of touch.

SensArs, a Swiss firm, is behind an interface that can link a prosthesis with residual nerves in the thigh and create a neurofeedback mechanism. Two patients with an above-the-knee amputation had the neurostimulation system implanted at the University of Belgrade. Following calibration and after a period of initial usage, the two volunteers demonstrated significant improvements in their walking ability, including traversing a sandy surface with a much more natural gait.

“This proof-of-concept study shows how beneficial it is to the health of leg amputees to have a prosthesis that works with neural implants to restore sensory feedback,” said Stanisa Raspopovic, a Professor at the Institute of Robotics and Intelligent Systems at ETH Zurich.


A commercially available leg from Össur was used, which was outfitted with pressure sensors on its sole, as well as around the knee to know where in the gait the leg is at all times. The electrodes and neurostimulator were then implanted into the volunteers and the tissues were allowed to heal around.

Subsequently, the researchers studied which signals best match the natural feeling of walking and allowed those to be transmitted to the neurostimulator and onto the residual nerves toward the brain. The volunteers were able to sense their legs and didn’t have to constantly look at them to make sure everything was going well. Moreover, they spent a lot less energy walking, as measured by oxygen consumption, and mentally they were not as tired, as confirmed by measuring brain activity.

One not entirely surprising finding, but a very welcome one, is that phantom limb pain was significantly reduced in one of the volunteers and completely gone in the other. As this affects a great deal of amputees, the new technique may be used to treat that condition.

Source: https://www.medgadget.com/2019/09/prosthetic-leg-with-neurofeedback-makes-walking-easier-treats-phantom-pain.html

28 Aug 2019
Realizing the Potential of Disruptive Technologies

Realizing the Potential of Disruptive Technologies

Electric scooters dominate the streets of our cities, used for nearly 40 million trips across the country just last year alone. Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies continue to emerge as formidable alternatives to cash and credit, with companies like Square boasting nearly $125 million in sales. And autonomous cars are making their debut as soon as this month in New York City and California.

These are just a few examples of how disruptive technologies are reaching into all corners of society and reshaping contemporary life; from how we pay for goods and services to how we commute and engage with co-workers and peers from across the globe.

Yet, as disruptive technologies continue to make headlines, they also prompt the need for specialized regulations that protect people and preserve existing infrastructure. This leaves many local and state governments with a daunting challenge: how to reconcile seemingly competing impulses of safety with innovation.

Cities across the nation have banned scooters, citing rises in accidents and fears of fatalities. U.S. Department of the Treasury officials, in the wake of Facebook’s Libra, have recently argued that cryptocurrencies represent threats to national security. And widespread distrust in autonomous cars has driven automakers to halt the once-breakneck pace of development for this technology.

Rather than propel innovators to work to improve these new technologies, history tells us that stringent regulatory legislation or even outright bans have, more often than not, caused innovators to abandon them. In 1865, for example, the British Parliament responded to the advent of steam-powered vehicles — and the fear that they would endanger other users of public roadways — with a law requiring that such vehicles be preceded by a pedestrian waving a red flag as a warning signal. Unsurprisingly, this law discouraged further development of “horseless carriages” in Britain, effectively smothering a nascent industry and creating opportunity for more forward-looking nations. Just 15 years later, the first internal-combustion vehicles were introduced in Germany.

In the face of rapid change, experimentation, and the “failing forward” that defines the current era of disruptive innovation, regulators struggle to keep pace because they continue to adopt a reactive posture, developing rules in response to new technologies on a fixed timeline. Such a standpoint, though, fails to account for the rapid cycles of iterative development that innovations will undergo. And so, to catch up, regulators are often tempted to implement bans or strict precautionary regulations that stifle new technologies from achieving their potentially transformative potential.

In turn, the United States runs the same risk of falling behind other nations at the forefront of this technological revolution.

However, history also illustrates that when regulators strike that right balance in their policies and guidelines, they can encourage innovators and businesses to improve their technologies in ways that reflect needed protections. While federal anti-pollution laws enacted in the late 1970s didn’t ban gasoline-powered automobiles, they did require automakers to reduce emissions to a certain level. Although General Motors initially resisted the new legislation, GM eventually turned to scientists at Corning Incorporated to develop the materials essential for catalytic converters, which made those necessary reductions in emissions possible.

By taking a more adaptive approach to regulation, characterized by a similar cycle of trial and error for the very technologies that they are monitoring, regulators can more effectively respond to new developments, jettison rules that no longer work well, and quickly implement new, more effective policies.

Regulatory spaces, sometimes referred to as “sandboxes,” are emerging as promising incubators for adaptive regulations, encouraging innovators to develop safer or better technology through waivers, close partnerships across sectors, and testing opportunities with small cohorts of customers. These spaces not only allow for technological improvements, but enable the collaborative creation of regulations that benefit both businesses and society. The United Kingdom, for instance, has already put this vision into practice for two dozen companies at the forefront of financial technology — and other countries have followed suit.

Why not extend the same approach to autonomous cars, scooters, and other emerging technologies ranging from 5G to artificial intelligence? We can encourage rapid prototyping and real-time monitoring that surfaces necessary adjustments in the interest of safety and aligned regulations — and all in a low-stakes testing environment.

As we step over yet another electric scooter splayed across the sidewalk or read about problems with another form of cryptocurrency, we should not just gripe about the inconvenience, danger or aesthetic demerits of the technology — or call for the technology to be banned outright.

Instead, let’s facilitate conversations between government officials and private companies to regulate them better. Let’s structure opportunities for innovators and entrepreneurs to pilot their products under close oversight and consultation. If we want these companies to behave better, and technologies to be safer, let’s create a framework that balances their interests with those of the public.

Source: https://www.govtech.com/analysis/Realizing-the-Potential-of-Disruptive-Technologies-Contributed.html

07 Jul 2019

Can You Make Innovation Happen?

Companies used to stay competitive by being reliable. They provided the tried and true. Customers valued companies that reduced the risk in their lives. But the technology boom turned that completely around. Now almost every industry must contend with the need to innovate. Customers want products and services that are high quality but also the latest and newest vs. the tried and true.

This demand for innovation has sent companies and their leaders into a tailspin trying to figure out how to make innovation happen. I’m often brought in to help them try to solve this dilemma. But the hardest thing for them to hear is that you can’t make innovation happen. There, I’ve said it.

So now what? Well, actually, there’s a lot that can be done. But the focus isn’t about making innovation happen. It should be on making innovation probable. And there’s quite a bit a company and its leadership can do for that.

Some key opportunities, that range anywhere from the simple to the complex, include the following:

Take the risk out of risk taking. One of the biggest challenges companies tackle is their fear of failure and mistakes. A great way to do that is to put it right out in the open. From the CEO to the frontline employee, creating a dialogue that tackles that fear head on helps demystify what it takes to make risk taking work for their culture and goals.

This includes sharing lessons learned, clarifying priorities, encouraging a growth mindset and focusing on the value from lessons learned.

Make risk taking more predictable. When leadership discusses how to mitigate risk it helps set a clearer path on how to navigate all the gray area of risk taking. This includes sharing a method for how to propose new ideas, build a business case and conduct low risk trial runs. When people get to take the risk out of sharing their ideas, they are more likely to focus on the risk of genuinely out of the box thinking vs. avoiding rejection or having their reputation ruined.

Get people sharing ideas. Imagination tends to have a fantastic domino effect when shared with others. One out there idea begets another out there idea, until you end up with a genius idea. This is often attempted through the act of group brainstorming. It’s a great concept, in theory. But where it often falls apart is in the execution. Too often the brainstorming sessions become a one or two-person show. Original ideas can get stamped out by group think and seeking approval.

One solution is better facilitated brainstorming sessions. Another option is leveraging collaboration software. Software tools make collaboration independent of time and place, and they also help focus and guide the collaboration to be more productive towards what the company is trying to achieve. Viima Solutions is an example of that kind of software. They focus on providing tools that help facilitate sharing of ideas wherever and whenever.

Measure what’s working and let go of what isn’t. Part of what makes innovation so elusive is people sit around assuming they’ll know what’s innovative or not. But what separates an interesting idea from a truly innovative one is the level of impact it has on the company’s bottom line. If customers don’t care about your idea, then does it matter?

If you know what to measure for, you will be better prepared to gauge whether the issue is the quality of the idea or the readiness of the customer. The latter calls for a phased approach, looking for early adopters and building momentum. The former calls for a post mortem and return to the drawing board. Key things to consider measuring include the effectiveness of collaboration efforts, impact on brand differentiation and consumer behavior.

Have a holistic approach. Though Viima Solutions makes their bread and butter on companies that use their software, they’re the first to admit that the biggest mistake is to think that innovation is easy, or something that can be achieved with a couple of quick superficial projects like introducing a new software tool or organizing a couple of idea challenges. These kinds of tools and methods are essential for driving sustainable results within the organization but won’t lead to innovation in and of themselves.

What’s ultimately needed is a holistic and determined effort that combines all the key aspects of innovation management: strategy, culture, structures and capabilities. The right tools certainly help across all of these factors, and in putting it all together, but you’re still going to need to put in the work to get all of those different aspects right.

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/hvmacarthur/2019/07/03/can-you-make-innovation-happen/#2f017db1b89c


27 Apr 2019
10 Major Barriers Hindering The Digitalization Of Chronic Conditions

10 Major Barriers Hindering The Digitalization Of Chronic Conditions

Hundreds of millions of patients are affected by chronic diseases globally, often suffering from several of them. Despite such a huge opportunity, the coverage of chronic conditions with digital solutions is still below the acceptable level. Today, more than twenty common chronic conditions have its own specificity and are currently at its digital development stage, yet all of them face the same challenges in the digital health market, according to a recent Research2Guidance report.

1.  Lack of Consumer Capital

All chronic conditions, apart from digital diabetes, still lack the consumer focus in digital offerings. The main goal of the consumer-oriented approach is to provide and promote a solution that empowers patients to better manage their disease.

2.  Low add value

The existing chronic disease apps often create little added value for end users. Most of the currently available solutions offer either basic educational advice or simple tracking based on manual or automated data input.

3.  Missing business models for consumers and payers

In the digital health market, payer organizations are now pushing digital services to their member base; however, in the majority of chronic conditions, the reimbursement of digital services is still an issue. Apart from the digital diabetes market, consumer bundle subscription offers or payer models (implemented on the pay-per-member-per-month basis) hardly exist. Digital solution providers should pay more attention to creating reimbursement-oriented packages, which can potentially bundle services, digital content, medical products, and accessories.

4.  Insufficient cost-saving evidence for payers

There are many clinical studies across all major chronic conditions that have generated evidence to support efficiency and efficacy of digital solutions in assisting chronic disease patients. What is currently missing is the link to cost savings, which hinders a larger engagement of payer organizations.

5.  Unfavorable demographic and behavioral characteristics of patient populations

Patient population characteristics can have significant implications for digitalizing disease management. Solution providers have to find appropriate strategies to increase patient control despite these demographic and behavioral barriers. The development of caregiver solutions is one of the possible responses to this problem. Currently, nearly all of the available solutions are designed for patients or doctors, whereas the role of caregivers in patient management is still underestimated.

6.  Non-regular use of digital solutions

Chronic conditions are rather different in terms of usage regularity. In conditions with a limited necessity of regular measurements, the creation of passive monitoring solutions, such as wearable-based measurements, could be one of the means to ensure a constant use of digital solutions.

7. Low connectivity level

Although the use of digital apps in managing chronic conditions is increasing, it is not accompanied by significant growth in the use of connected medical devices, such as blood glucose meters, spirometers, blood pressure meters, etc.

8. Missing services for comorbidities

All chronic conditions have numerous comorbidities, which affect patients no less than diagnosed chronic disease. In many cases, patients suffer from several closely-related chronic conditions at a time. However, solution providers currently focus on primary chronic diseases, offering no services for such conditions as anxiety, depression, obesity, etc. As a result, many chronic condition offerings remain single use case solutions, which do not fully address patients’ needs. Weight-loss, hypertension, and diabetes solution providers are already expanding their primary use cases to other conditions, whereas respiratory conditions still lag behind them

9. Low communication support between medical professionals and patients

Communication between healthcare professionals and patients is seen as the most valuable feature within digital health solutions to drive user engagement and retention. Current digital respiratory solutions offer population management features for HCPs or PDF report generation but do not support direct HCP-patient interaction via chat, email or video call.

10. Dependency on slow regulatory processes

Many digital disease management solutions are treated as medical devices under local regulations, if they include regulated components, such as devices and/or medical products. To avoid extensively long time-to-market, services and/or connected devices can be split into regulated (such as a bolus calculator in diabetes solutions) and a non-regulated (such as behavior change features) components.

Research2Guidance states these barriers is the prerequisite for the success of digital health solutions designed for managing chronic conditions. The market has already seen several successful cases when digital solution providers went beyond the obstacles that were perceived as “natural”.


21 Mar 2019

Why Every Company Needs An Artificial Intelligence (AI) Strategy For 2019

There’s no doubt that artificial intelligence (AI) is a transformative technology – perhaps even the most transformative technology available today. But if you think the transformative nature of AI is limited to global tech giants and blue-chip companies, think again. AI is ultimately going to transform every business, in every industry. 

Perhaps you read that last sentence and thought to yourself, well, not my businessMy retail business [or HR consultancy, B2B service provider, fashion design business, disaster relief charity, football club or whatever] has nothing to do with AI. I repeat, think again. Even if you can’t yet imagine how AI will impact your organisation, trust that, in the not-too-distant future, it most definitely will.  

That’s why every company needs an AI strategy.  

Like any business transformation, if you want to get the most out of AI, it all starts with strategy. Your AI strategy will help you to focus on your core business objectives and prioritise ways that AI can help deliver those business goals. 

In general, there are two ways businesses are using AI to drive success: 

  • Creating intelligent products and services 
  • Designing intelligent business processes  

Let’s look at these two uses in a little more detail.  

Intelligent products and services  

AI is, at heart, about making machines smarter, so that they can think and act like humans (or even better). We need only look at the popularity of devices like smart phones, smart fitness trackers and smart thermostats to see how consumers wholeheartedly embrace products and services that can make their life easier, smarter, more streamlined, more connected.  

Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/bernardmarr/2019/03/21/why-every-company-needs-an-artificial-intelligence-ai-strategy-for-2019/#2a0311c868ea

10 Mar 2019
Business leaders love AI. In theory, that is

Business leaders love AI.

In theory, that is of hundreds of AI start-ups examined over the past few years, ‘very few companies are building unambiguously labour-replacing technologies’

Microsoft has unveiled the results of a survey of business leaders on the topic of artificial intelligence (AI). The findings are surprising: German and Russian entrepreneurs and executives appear to come out ahead of those from the US and other advanced European economies when it comes to adopting the technology.

Mostly, however, this and several other studies confirm a frustrating problem: the AI hype is making it impossible to figure out how much businesses really need it and are using it.

The 800 respondents in the study came from seven countries — the US, Germany, France, the UK, Italy, the Netherlands and Switzerland. It’s not a globe-spanning data-set and it doesn’t include the potential AI leader, China, nor one of the leaders in AI research, Canada. But the study’s scope is respectable. It shows that the US isn’t among the leaders of the AI race, though a 2018 study by Capgemini Consulting, for example, puts it out ahead and Russia far behind.

The problem with this survey — and a similar one by McKinsey — is that when people say they are using AI in their business, they may not all mean the same thing; they may not even be describing uses that fall under the rather broad definition of AI; and they may simply be boasting because the technology is fashionable.

In a new report, “The State of AI: Divergence, 2019,” the UK venture capital fund MMC Ventures claims that “one in seven large companies has adopted AI; in 24 months, two thirds of large companies will have live AI initiatives. In 2019, AI ‘crosses the chasm’ from early adopters to the early majority.”

Read more: https://www.businesslive.co.za/bd/opinion/2019-03-10-business-leaders-love-ai-in-theory-that-is/

24 Jan 2019
A memory pill? Cognitive neuroscience’s contributions to the study of memory

A memory pill? Cognitive neuroscience’s contributions to the study of memory

Hebbian Learning

In 1949, Canadian psychologist Donald Hebb proposed the theory of Hebbian learning to explain how a learning task is transformed into a long-term memory. In this way, healthy habits become automatically retained after their continual repetition.

Learning and memory are a consequence of how our brain cells (neurons) communicate with each other. When we learn, neurons communicate through molecular transmissions which hop across synapses producing a memory circuit. Known as long-term potentiation(LTP), the more often a learning task is repeated, the more often transmission continues and the stronger a memory circuit becomes. It is this unique ability of neurons to create and strengthen synaptic connections by repeated activation that leads to Hebbian learning.

Memory and the hippocampus

Understanding the brain requires investigation through different approaches and from a variety of specialities. The field of cognitive neuroscience initially developed through a small number of pioneers. Their experimental designs and observations led to the foundation for how we understand learning and memory today.

Donald Hebb’s contributions at McGill University remain the driving force to explain memory. Under his supervision, neuropsychologist Brenda Milner studied a patient with impaired memory following a lobectomy. Further studies with neurosurgeon Wilder Penfield enabled Milner to expand her study of memory and learning in patients following brain surgery.

Read more: https://theconversation.com/a-memory-pill-cognitive-neurosciences-contributions-to-the-study-of-memory-109707

25 Jan 2018
Manahel Thabet

We May Have Just Figured Out How the Brain Processes Good and Bad Experiences


We associate positive feelings with foods and experiences we enjoy, and negative feelings with the opposite. One new study dives deeper than ever before into why.


A new study has mapped out in unprecedented detail the “neighborhoods” of the brain that assign good and bad feelings to objects and experiences. Led by MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye, the research is illuminating brain processes that neuroscientists still don’t understand, and could have implications for treating mental health disorders.

In 2016, Tye’s research team found that within the amygdala — the center for emotions in the brain — there are neurons that assign good or bad feelings known as “valence.” These responses are integral to human survival; it is vitally important that we remember what foods or other experiences are good, and what are bad and could sicken or kill us. The new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, more deeply explores the inner workings of valence by focusing on a particular section of the amygdala, the basolateral amygdala.

The team, led by lead author Anna Beyeler, trained mice to associate “good” tasting sucrose drops with a certain audible tone, and bitter quinine drops with a different tone. They later recorded the neural responses of the mice when the different tones were played, to see which valence they were conditioned to express. They then identified and manipulated those neurons identified to play a key role in valence and engineered them to respond to light pulses. This allowed them to record the electrical activity of the neurons and their nearby agents, revealing what influenced local circuits and how.

By looking at these interactions and system structures close up, the team found that within the basolateral amygdala region, there are distinct and diverse “neighborhoods,” in which valence is determined through connections to other regions in the brain and interactions with the basolateral amygdala itself.


At the end of the experiment, the team had mapped over 1,600 neurons. Within these, they highlighted three different types of neurons that project to different parts of the brain and are associated with different types of valence. The team also found that different types of neurons tend to group together in “hotspots.” However, despite these tight groupings, they also noted that different types of neurons often mixed together.

The future prospective applications of this research are undefined as of yet. Yet there are hopes that by understanding how the brain processes good and bad experiences, scientists could better understand certain mental health issues and addiction.Additionally, the researchers found that depending on the type of neuron, they have different abilities to influence one another. Tye stated in a press release that this could be due to the mixing the observed: “Perhaps the intermingling that there is might facilitate the ability of these neurons to influence each other.”

“Perturbations of emotional valence processing is at the core of many mental health disorders,” said Tye in the press release. “Anxiety and addiction, for example, may be an imbalance or a misassignment of positive or negative valence with different stimuli.”

Even beyond this, there is theoretical potential in manipulating feelings or desires through control of these neurons and networks. Researchers have not suggested any plans to use the research this way, but it is certainly not out of the question.

Source: Futurism