A new study published in Lancet on Tuesday presents the first strong evidence that human embryonic stem cells are helping patients. Human embryonic stem cells, which can become any cell in the body, have long been thought of as a source for replacement tissue. In this study, stem cells were transformed into retinal pigment epithelium cells, and then injected into one eye of patients going blind. After injection, the patients were followed for an average of 22 months, and two of them for over three years. While the study was mostly designed to see if the treatment was safe, many of the patients were pleasantly surprised that their vision improved due to treatment. In fact, vision improved by what is considered to be a significant amount in eight of the eighteen treated eyes. The scientists caution though that this work is in its early stages, but are expanding the trial and following more patients.
Read more of New York Time’s coverage at NYTimes.com.
New research indicates that there just might be a neural basis for altruism. Using structural and functional MRI, researchers imaged the brains of extraordinary altruists (people who volunteered to donate a kidney to a stranger). The scans showed that compared to control subjects, the extraordinary altruists not only had larger amygdalas, but that their amydalas had greater activation when they viewed pictures of people displaying fear. Interestingly, these results are the polar opposite from the researchers’ earlier work with psychopaths. The psychopaths were found to have smaller amygdalas with less activation when viewing faces displaying fear compared to control.
Read more of NPR’s coverage at NRP.org.
New research suggests that the neural network that controls attention may develop more slowly in children who have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). While previous research suggested that the brains of children with ADHD develop more slowly, this new research was able to detect changes in connectivity within and between key brain regions.
Read more about the research at NRP.org.
Dennis Aabo Sorensen became the first amputee to feel sensory information in real-time from a prosthetic that had been wired the nerves in his upper arm. With the new prosthetic, Sorensen can grasp objects intuitively and can identify the shape and texture of objects by touch while blindfolded.
Read more and watch a video of Sorensen here.
Ever wonder how your dog knows what you’re feeling? Researchers in Budapest recently discovered a neural circuit in dogs’ brains that respond to the emotions in voices — both dog voices and human voices. The circuit seems to work similarly to a voice-detection circuit found in the human brain. This research was no small feat, as the dog subjects were required to lie completely still for 10 minutes at a time in an fRMI scanner. Thankfully, the dogs were motivated by treats and praise. Read more at NPR’s coverage: How Dogs Read Our Moods:Emotion Detector Found in Fido’s Brain
The folks at Backyard Brains have developed a device called RoboRoach that lets you control the movement of a cockroach with your iPhone! With the RoboRoach you can control a single insect, but what if you had control of an entire swarm? One researcher is trying to develop such technology to aid in search-and-rescue missions. Read more at NPR’s coverage: What’s Creepy, Crawly And a Champion of Neuroscience?
The light show at the Mickey Hart Band concert is part science, part art. Mickey Hart, best known as the percussionist for the Grateful Dead, wears an EEG cap while he plays which powers the light show for concert. Read more at NPR’s coverage: This is Musician Mickey Hart’s Brain on Music
Using fMRI, scientists have located a part of the brain – just above each of the ears – that responds to quantities. It allows us to look at objects and quickly tell how many there are. This ability maxs out at five objects for most people, but anything less than that and we can quickly tell how many objects there are without even counting thanks to this region of the brain. Read more at NPR’s coverage: Scientists Put a ‘Sixth Sense’ for Numbers on Brain Map
In an effort to figure out how language helps babies learn, researchers studied infant learning in response to lemur screeches. Amazingly, 3 month old human infants learned in response to lemur shrieks. Although, this effect was gone by 6 months, at which point only human speech helped the babies learn. Read more at NPR’s coverage: Enough with Baby Talk; Infants Learn from Lemur Screeches, too
As part of ongoing research to determine the causes of migraines, researchers using MRI discovered that the brains of those of us who suffer from migraines have white matter abnormalities that appear similar to mini-strokes. There is also a slightly increased risk for stroke for those who experience migraines with aura (flashing lights before a migraine), making it very important to practice stroke prevention. Read more at NPR’s coverage: Migraine Brain Changes
The Japanese company Scentee has created an attachment for the iPhone that can spray out scents ranging from flowers to cooked meats. In their commercial, the company makes it seem like smelling food can actually hold off cravings, yet scientists beg to differ. You’ll be able to test it yourself in late November 2013 when Scentee makes its debut in the United States. Read more at NPR’s coverage: A Japanese iPhone Gadget Teases The Tummy With Food Smells
Researcher Andrea Stocco sits ready to receive brain signals from his collaborator. Source: R.P.N. Rao and A. Stocco.
NPR – Don’t Call It A Mind-Meld: Human Brains Connect Via Internet. Using electroencephalography (EEG) and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS), researchers were able to have one person’s thoughts control another person’s actions. In this case, the subjects (who were also the researchers) were only playing a video game and pressing a button to fire, but still – very cool!