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152 news posts in Neuroscience



28 Jun 2023

That essential morning coffee may be a placebo

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image/ Scientists testing coffee against plain caffeine found that plain caffeine only partially reproduces the effects of drinking a cup of coffee, activating areas of the brain that make you feel more alert but not the areas of the brain that affect working memory and goal-directed behavior. For many people, the day doesn’t start until their coffee mug is empty. Coffee is often thought to make you feel more alert, so people drink it to wake themselves up and improve their efficiency. Portuguese scientists studied coffee-drinkers to understand whether that wakefulness effect is dependent on the properties of caffeine, or whether it’s about the experience of drinking coffee. “There is a common expectation that coffee increases alertness and psychomotor functioning,” said Prof Nuno Sousa of the University of Minho, corresponding author of the study in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience and Field Chief Editor of the journal. “When you get to understand better the mechanisms underlying a biological phenomenon, you open pathways for exploring the factors that may modulate it and even the potential benefits of that mechanism.” A caffeine kickstart The scientists recruited people who drank a minimum of one cup of coffee […]


14 Jun 2023

Slightly lost bumblebees use scent to find their way home

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Researchers have shown that returning foragers of buff-tailed bumblebees use their own passively laid out scent marks, as well as visual information from landmarks, to find their way back to the nest entrance. These results highlight the importance of both vision and odor for guiding the navigation of bumblebees Put yourself in the exoskeleton of a bumblebee for a moment: your world would be a riot of colors and scents, both essential to guide your search for pollen and nectar. Bumblebees have excellent vision: they have a pair of compound eyes that can distinguish UV and most colors except red, plus three additional simple eyes specialized in detecting polarized light. Their sense of smell dwarfs ours: approximately 100 times more sensitive, and capable of sniffing out illegal drugs or explosives at airports, confirming pregnancy in women, or detecting cancers and diabetes in early-stage patients. Now, researchers have shown that bumblebees can also use their sense of smell to locate their nest. This is especially important when the landscape suddenly changes, for example when familiar visual landmarks are blown away by wind. The results are published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience. “Here we show that […]



05 Jun 2023

Seeing inside a dying brain: Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. What happens to the brain when we die? The mystery of what happens in the brain when we die has fascinated humans for centuries. Despite understanding gained from recent studies, there still are open questions – not lastly because obtaining data about the last moments of life is difficult. Researchers largely have to rely on descriptions of near-death-experience survivors. To fill knowledge gaps, these accounts are immensely valuable.   Now, in a review article published in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, an international team of researchers has reviewed the current knowledge on what neurophysiological changes occur in the brain during these experiences. They also examined what anatomical correlates to these changes are, and how drugs and metabolic factors are involved. Understanding the underlying neurophysiological changes in the dying human brain could be the only way to decipher the neurophysiology of death, the scientists noted. Descriptions from near-death survivors may be our only […]


19 May 2023

Our brain prefers positive vocal sounds that come from our left

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Researchers have shown that the brain’s primary auditory cortex is more responsive to human vocalizations associated with positive emotions and coming from our left side than to any other kind of sounds. This bias can be explained by the way our brain is organized, but its evolutionary significance is not yet known Sounds that we hear around us are defined physically by their frequency and amplitude. But for us, sounds have a meaning beyond those parameters: we may perceive them as pleasant or unpleasant, ominous or reassuring, and interesting and rich in information, or just noise. Read original paper Download original paper (pdf) One aspect that affects the emotional ‘valence’ of sounds – that is, whether we perceive them as positive, neutral, or negative – is where they come from. Most people rate looming sounds, which move towards us, as more unpleasant, potent, arousing, and intense than receding sounds, and especially if they come from behind rather than from the front. This bias might give a plausible evolutionary advantage: to our ancestors on the African savannah, a sound approaching from behind their vulnerable back might have signaled a predator stalking them. Now, neuroscientists from […]


15 Mar 2023

What does flattery do to our brains? Here are five Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

By Deborah Pirchner, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, it’s impossible to cover all of them. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. What praise and flattery does to our brains Both sincere praise and flattery are rewarding in different ways, but the various effects of these types of praise are not obvious. Now, researchers from Japan have published an article in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in which they examined the brain activity of participants who received sincere praise or flattery after performing a visual search task. Using neuroimaging, the researchers found different effects of praise. The activation of the part of the brain modulating reward and pleasure processing was higher when participants received sincere praise than when they received flattery. The scientists also observed a socio-emotional effect, based on the positive feedback conveyed by praise. Altogether, they found that the neural dynamics of the rewarding and socio-emotional effects of different types of praise differ. Article link: Fish bone matrix may help heal bone defects Biocompatibility and osteogenic activity are properties of decalcified bone […]


06 Mar 2023

Bees follow linear landmarks to find their way home, just like the first pilots

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer Scientists have shown that honeybees retain a memory of the dominant linear landscape elements in their home area like channels, roads, and boundaries. When transported to an unfamiliar area, they seek out local elements of this kind, compare their layout to the memory, and fly along them to seek their way home. This navigation strategy is similar to the one followed by the first human pilots. In the earliest days of human flight, before the invention of the first radio beacons and ground-based electronic systems, and modern GPS, pilots commonly navigated by following roads and railways – striking linear landscape elements at ground level that guide towards a destination of interest. Enter the honeybee. A century of research has shown that honeybees are navigators par excellence. They can navigate by their sense of smell, the sun, the sky’s pattern of polarized light, vertical landmarks that stand out from the panorama, and possibly the Earth’s magnetic field. They are also clever learners, able to recognize associations between disparate memories in order to generalize rules. Now, scientists have shown that honeybees tend to search for their way home by orienting themselves in relation to the dominant […]


15 Dec 2022

Five articles you need to check out on the future of neurology research

By Colm Gorey, Frontiers Science Communications Manager Image: In an ever-changing field of research such as neurology, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest breakthroughs. Now at Frontiers, we highlight just three of the latest research articles to shed more light on how the mind works. The human brain is an organ that has fascinated our species for centuries, with vast amounts of research so far yielding a wealth of discoveries. However, so much of how the brain works remains a mystery waiting to be solved. In 2022, Frontiers published one of the biggest neurological research breakthroughs of the year with the discovery that life may indeed flash before our eyes as we die. However, this was just one paper of thousands published by Frontiers this year that helped set the groundwork for new neurological discoveries, ranging from multiple sclerosis to deep brain stimulation. Five such articles are essential reading to anyone looking to learn more about neurology were published as part of the research topic ‘Horizons in Neurology’. The Neuroimmunology of Multiple Sclerosis: Fictions and Facts There have been tremendous advances in the neuroimmunology of multiple sclerosis (MS) over the past five decades, which have […]


04 Nov 2022

From ghost gear to microbe memories: 4 Frontiers articles you won’t want to miss

by Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just four amazing papers you may have missed. The hunt for ghost gear 25-30% of the plastic waste in the sea is lost fishing gear, or ‘ghost gear’, some of it now up to 60 years old. This ghost gear devastates the environment not only through continuing to trap fish, but also by shedding microplastics into the environment which then enter the food chain. Once it sinks as far as the sea floor, it becomes invisible from above – a hidden threat to the marine ecosystem. A team led by Andrea Stolte from the World Wildlife Foundation, writing in Frontiers in Marine Science, reported a successful ghost-hunting collaboration between fisherfolk, scientists, and divers in the Baltic Sea. This coalition of stakeholders had several options for hunting down the ghost gear. Traditionally, when lost gear is spotted, fisherfolk use search hooks and other similar tools to try to retrieve it. However, this proved to be inefficient and damaging to the […]


27 Sep 2022

4 articles you need to check out on the future of behavioral neuroscience

By Angharad Brewer Gillham, Frontiers science writer Image: How mice and rats help study depression Mice and rats are key model animals that help us understand how depression works and how to treat it. A huge number of people around the world live with this devastating disorder, but its causes and symptoms are so varied that it is hard to test new treatments and to reproduce experiments to prove those treatments work. Scientists writing in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience reviewed the evidence for rodent models of depression and found that models imitating social stress or a disrupted early life have had some success. Meanwhile, models with behavioral stressors designed to induce helplessness are easily compared to other labs’ work but aren’t complex enough to model depression. A key element of depression is anhedonia, struggling to enjoy life, but this is extremely difficult to model in nonhuman animals. The most popular options available test preference for sweet tastes. The team concluded that the best option is to provide mice with a more naturalistic setting to live in, with more space to socialize and to follow their own inclinations. This helps avoid experimenter influence and allows spontaneous behavior from the mice […]


31 Aug 2022

Excessive blue light from our gadgets may accelerate the aging process

By Tania Fitzgeorge-Balfour, science writer Image: Excessive exposure to blue light, for example example through TVs, laptops, and phones, may have an aging effect on our body, suggests a new study. It shows that the levels of specific metabolites – chemicals that are essential for cells to work correctly – are altered in the cells of fruit flies exposed to blue light. These metabolites have the same function in humans, so avoiding excessive blue light exposure may be a good anti-aging strategy. Too much screen use has been linked to obesity and psychological problems. Now a new study has identified a new problem – a study in fruit flies suggests our basic cellular functions could be impacted by the blue light emitted by these devices. These results are published in Frontiers in Aging. “Excessive exposure to blue light from everyday devices, such as TVs, laptops and phones, may have detrimental effects on a wide range of cells in our body, from skin and fat cells, to sensory neurons,“ said Dr Jadwiga Giebultowicz, a professor at the Department of Integrative Biology at Oregon State University and senior author of this study. “We are the first to show that the levels […]


18 Jul 2022

Alzheimer’s impact on the brain is broader than we thought and 4 other fascinating Frontiers articles you don’t want to miss

By Colm Gorey, Frontiers science communications manager Image: At Frontiers, we bring some of the world’s best research to a global audience. But with tens of thousands of articles published each year, many often fly under the radar. Here are just five amazing papers you may have missed. Impact of Alzheimer’s on the brain may be greater than previously thought A significant review of more than 200,000 scientific publications has shown that the effects of Alzheimer’s disease on the brain are far broader than initially thought. Writing in their review article in Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, the international team of researchers said that they wanted to understand the breadth and diversity of biological pathways – key molecular chain reactions that drive changes in cells – that contribute to Alzheimer’s disease by research over the last 30 years. They found that while nearly all known pathways have been linked to the disease, the most frequently associated biological mechanisms have not significantly changed in the last three decades, despite major technological advances. These include those related to the immune system, metabolism, and long-term depression. They also found that the top-ranked 30 pathways most frequently referred to in literature remained relatively consistent […]


13 Jul 2022

Rats can learn to navigate by watching their friends, helping us learn more about our own ‘internal GPS’

By Suzanna Burgelman, Frontiers science writer Image credit: Jesus Cobaleda/ Researchers are one step closer to understanding the ‘internal GPS’ of animals and humans, by investigating whether rats can learn spaces just by observation. In a new study published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, the researchers show that rats do not need to physically explore an environment to learn about a specific location; simply observing another rat is sufficient. Learning by observation has been reported in invertebrates (for example in bees), birds, fish, and mammals. Learning new tasks and environments is critical to the survival and well-being of an individual.  “Learning by observation is the most common form of learning from school to daily life,” said author Dr Thomas Doublet, of the Norwegian University of Science and Technology. ► Read original article► Download original article (pdf) Brain maps Research has shown that animals and humans can navigate distances and spaces thanks to the formation of cognitive maps. Functional cell types have been suggested that underlie cognitive mapping processes in the brain, among them grid cells, border cells, head direction cells, and place cells. A place cell, for example, is a neuron in the hippocampus that becomes active when an animal enters a […]


01 Jun 2022

This illusion, new to science, is strong enough to trick our reflexes

By Mischa Dijkstra, Frontiers science writer An illusion new to science shows that the pupillary light reflex, which controls the width of the pupil in anticipation of expected changes in light, depends on the perceived environment rather than the physical reality. Have a look at the above image. Do you perceive that the central black hole is expanding, as if you’re moving into a dark environment, or falling into a hole? If so, you’re not alone: a new study shows that this ‘expanding hole’ illusion, which is new to science, is perceived by approximately 86% of people. Dr Bruno Laeng, a professor at the Department of Psychology of the University of Oslo and the study’s first author, said: “The ‘expanding hole’ is a highly dynamic illusion: The circular smear or shadow gradient of the central black hole evokes a marked impression of optic flow, as if the observer were heading forward into a hole or tunnel.” Optical illusions aren’t mere gimmicks without scientific interest: researchers in the field of psychosociology study them to better understand the complex processes our visual system uses to anticipate and make sense of the visual world – in a far more roundabout way than a […]