Fri, Aug 18, 2017 | updated 02:40 AM IST

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

Updated: Oct 04, 2016 09:26 IST      
Ebb-n-flow of brain network may make one a better thinker!

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)

Cloudy water risks your stomach health

Updated: Aug 17, 2017 12:53 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 17 (ANI): A new study has linked cloudy drinking water, even if it's within the limits allowed by some cities, to increased cases of gastrointestinal illness.

Full Story >>

Soon, a 'powerful' pain reliever that could end opioid crisis

Updated: Aug 17, 2017 11:07 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 17 (ANI): A team of scientists has discovered what they say is a powerful pain reliever that acts on a previously unknown pain pathway.

Full Story >>

Using e-cigarettes daily can help you 'kick the butt'

Updated: Aug 17, 2017 10:17 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 17 (ANI): If you've been struggling to kick that cigarette addiction of yours, you may want to turn to the electronic version of butts as a recent study has suggested so.

Full Story >>

E-cigarette may help people quit smoking: Study

Updated: Aug 17, 2017 07:07 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 17 (ANI): Good news! Vaping is safer, as a study recently reveals that adults who use e-cigarettes daily were three times more likely to quit cigarettes compared to those who have never tried e-cigarettes.

Full Story >>

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 16 (ANI): Older people receiving electric shock therapy, also known as electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), to combat the blues of age will need an additional treatment if insomnia is one of their symptoms, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

A protein cocktail that helps mend a broken heart

Updated: Aug 15, 2017 12:54 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 15 (ANI): A team of researchers has uncovered a novel role for transcription factor Gata4 in reducing the post-heart attack fibrosis.

Full Story >>

You could be binge-watching your way to poor sleep

Updated: Aug 15, 2017 10:16 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 15 (ANI): Binge-watching may be fun, but it comes at a price, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Is diabetes cure right under our skin?

Updated: Aug 15, 2017 09:47 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 15 (ANI): The optimal location to treat type 1 diabetes (T1D) might be just under our skin, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Gautam Gambhir pledges to spread awareness for Organ Donation

Updated: Aug 14, 2017 06:08 IST     

New Delhi [India], August 14 (ANI): Indraprastha Apollo Hospitals, in association and cricketer Gautam Gambhir, came together on the occasion of World Organ Donation Day to encourage people to take a pledge for donating organs to save countless lives.

Full Story >>

This memory trick may help older adults boost memory

Updated: Aug 13, 2017 15:42 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 13 (ANI): A team of researchers have revealed a helpful strategy that may help older adults improve their memory.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], August 13 (ANI): There are a large number of people still waiting for a transplant and it is a fact that these patients will succumb to their ailments due to an insufficient number of organ donors.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], August 13 (ANI): Every year, 90% people in need of a critical organ to save their life end up facing death due to unavailability of donors.

Full Story >>

New device can help you take more accurate BP readings

Updated: Aug 13, 2017 05:25 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 13 (ANI): A team of researchers has come up with a new device that could improve how systolic blood pressure (BP) is measured.

Full Story >>

E-cigarettes make your heart's ageing clock tick 'faster'

Updated: Aug 13, 2017 03:31 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 13 (ANI): A new study has suggested that a single exposure to e-cigarette vapour may be enough to impair vascular function.

Full Story >>

This monsoon, keep fungal infections at bay

Updated: Aug 12, 2017 14:42 IST     

New Delhi [India] August 12 (ANI): Monsoon has been here for a while now, but it's not just the muddy roads and never ending traffic, which is a matter of concern. Monsoon brings with it skin and fungal infection that can be downright uncomfortable for anyone.

Full Story >>

New Delhi [India], August 12 (ANI): There has been a significant increase in the incidence of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, with low awareness about the cure and control status of ailments linked to it.

Full Story >>

Top 8 radiation sources at your home

Updated: Aug 12, 2017 06:15 IST      By: Pallavi Aman Singh

New Delhi [India], Aug 12 (ANI): That tower, outside your home should concern you and rightly so; but what about the materials and products sitting around your house that could be emitting radiation?

Full Story >>

Using only alternative therapy for cancer ups death risk

Updated: Aug 11, 2017 05:19 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 11 (ANI): Patients who choose to receive alternative therapy as treatment for curable cancers instead of conventional cancer treatment have a higher risk of death, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

When it comes to health, is any job better than no job?

Updated: Aug 11, 2017 03:21 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 11 (ANI): People employed in low paying or highly stressful jobs may not actually enjoy better health than those who remain unemployed, according to a recent study.

Full Story >>

Here's why you may want to stop judging your emotions

Updated: Aug 11, 2017 02:14 IST     

Washington D.C. [USA], Aug 11 (ANI): Want to feel the sunshine? Embrace the cloudiness of your darker moods as according to a recent study, feeling bad about feeling bad can make you feel worse.

Full Story >>