Wed, Mar 29, 2017 | updated 10:33 PM IST

Ebb-n-flow of brain network may make one a better thinker!

Updated: Oct 04, 2016 09:26 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Oct.4 (ANI): It is a long-time known fact that different areas of the brain serve unique purposes. Only recently have it has been realized by the scientists that the organization isn't static. Rather, the level of coordination between different parts of the brain seems to be like ebb and flow.

Now, by analyzing the brains of a large number of people at rest or carrying out complex tasks, researchers at Stanford University have learned that the integration between those brain regions also fluctuates. When the brain is more integrated people do better on complex tasks.

"The brain is stunning in its complexity and I feel like, in a way, we've been able to describe some of its beauty in this story," said study lead author Mac Shine.

"We've been able to say, 'Here's this underlying structure that you would never have guessed was there, that might help us explain the mystery of why the brain is organized in the way that it is'," Shine added.

In a three-part project, the researchers used open source data from the Human Connectome Project to examine how separate areas of the brain coordinate their activity over time, both while people are at rest and while they are attempting a challenging mental task. They then tested a potential neurobiological mechanism to explain these findings.

For the resting state condition, the researchers used a novel analysis technique to examine functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) data, which shows in real time which areas of the brain are active, of people who weren't doing any particular task.

The analysis estimates the amount of blood flow in pairs of brain regions and then uses the mathematics of graph theory to summarize the way that the whole network of the brain is organized. They found that even without any intentional stimulation, the brain network fluctuates between periods of higher and lower coordinated blood flow in the different areas of the brain.

To determine whether these fluctuations were relevant for the function of the brain, the researchers used fMRI data from people who had successfully performed a challenging memory test.

The researchers found that the brains of participants were more integrated while working on this complicated task than they were during quiet rest. Scientists have previously shown that the brain is inherently dynamic but further statistical analysis in this study revealed that the brain was most interconnected in people who performed the test fastest and with the greatest accuracy.

"My background is in cognitive psychology and cognitive neuroscience, and stories about how the brain works that don't relate back to behavior don't really do much for me," said co-author Poldrack. "But this research shows these really clear relationships between how the brain is functioning at a network level and how the person's actually performing on these psychological tasks."

As a final step in their study, the researchers measured pupil size to try and tease out how the brain coordinates this change in connectivity. Pupil size is an indirect measure of the activity of a small region in the brainstem called the locus coeruleus that is thought to amplify or mute signals across the entire brain. Up to a certain point, increases in pupil size likely indicate greater amplification of strong signals and greater muting of weak signals across the brain.

The researchers found that pupil size roughly tracked with changes in brain connectivity during rest, in that larger pupils were associated with greater connectedness. This suggests that the noradrenaline coming from the locus coeruleus might be what drives the brain to become more integrated during highly complicated cognitive tasks, allowing a person to perform well on that task.

The researchers plan to further investigate the connection between neural gain and integration in the brain. They also want to figure out how universal these findings are to other behaviors, such as attention and memory. This research may also eventually help us better understand cognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer's disease or Parkinson's disease, but Shine stressed that this was a curiosity-driven investigation, fueled by the passion to simply know more about the brain.

"I think we were really lucky here, in that we had an exploratory question that bore fruit," said Shine. "Now, we're in a position where we can ask new questions that will hopefully help us to make progress in understanding the brain."

The research was published in Neuron. (ANI)

Washington.D.C. [USA], Mar. 29 (ANI): A study finds that gastric acid suppression drugs increase the risk of recurrent Clostridium difficile infection - which causes diarrhea and life-threatening inflammation of the colon.

Full Story >>

Ranchi [India], Mar. 28 (ANI): Health Minister of Jharkhand, Ramchandra Chandravanshi has recently claimed that the state has come a long way from the day when Jharkhand was on 18th number among states as far as their healthcare services were concerned. It now stands third in the country, according to an independent survey.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 28 (ANI): Exposure to fungal product, called aflatoxin, is believed to cause up to 80 percent of liver cancer cases in many parts of the world.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): Attention dog lovers! With just six months of training, a German Shepherd can accurately detect breast cancer, a study finds.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): A recent study has found that a sleepless night impairs your ability to interpret subtle expressions of happiness and sadness.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): When it comes to new moms' workout programs, less is more and so, according to a Kansas State University researcher, new moms may need a bit more flexibility and support to ease back into exercise after giving birth.

Full Story >>

New approach to diagnosing mental disorders

Updated: Mar 26, 2017 10:48 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): A consortium of psychiatrists and psychologists has proposed a new approach to diagnosing mental disorders.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): Boosting natural brain opioids may be a better way to treat anxiety, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Fecal transplant offers hope for autistic kids

Updated: Mar 26, 2017 09:37 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 26 (ANI): In this new era of medical therapy dawning, fecal transplants are poised to help fight a range of conditions, from deadly superbugs to obesity and now, autism is in the firing line.

Full Story >>

Thiruvallur (Chennai) [India], Mar. 25 (ANI): A highly contagious viral disease of cattle and swine, Foot-and-Mouth Disease (FMD) has affected Karani village on the outskirts of Tamil Nadu's Tiruvallur district.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 25 (ANI): The findings of the National Family Health Survey 2015-16 confirm what we all knew from clinical evidence - that hypertension has become a major health concern among the Indian population, with as many as 22% Indians hypertensive.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A prescription weight-loss medication can decrease the urge to use opiates such as oxycodone, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has discovered a new gene that is associated with Tau accumulation, which is one of the defining features of Alzheimer disease (AD).

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): All it takes is the flip of a protein "switch" within the tiny wire-like capillaries of the brain to increase the blood flow that ensures optimal brain function.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): Scientists have found that stem cell therapy repairs damaged lungs - raising hopes of a cure for the crippling chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and cystic fibrosis.

Full Story >>

New method can cut dental implant failure

Updated: Mar 25, 2017 09:34 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has come up with a new method to reduce dental implant failure.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has come up with a fluorogenic probe that can detect the activity of multidrug-resistant pathogens in an assay system.

Full Story >>

Virus hydrophobicity can help purify vaccines

Updated: Mar 25, 2017 07:46 IST

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has found that hydrophobic proteins on virus surfaces can help purify vaccines.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Mar. 25 (ANI): A team of researchers has shed light on why survivors of childhood brain tumours may be prone to heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and early death.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], Mar. 24 (ANI): Continuing its efforts to raise awareness on tuberculosis and its diagnosis, Division of Clinical Microbiology & Molecular Medicine Department of Laboratory Medicine, AIIMS, and BD (Becton Dickinson India) for the third consecutive year organized a symposium today on "challenges in diagnosis and eradication of tuberculosis".

Full Story >>