Posts Tagged ‘MRI’

Play Ball!

October 27, 2010

Our hometown San Francisco Giants kick off the World Series tonight. If they win, it would be the franchise’s first World Series victory since the 50s when they were the New York Giants. Only the Cleveland Indians and Chicago Cubs have gone longer without a World Series Title.

Cognitive neuroscientist Jordan Grafman, Chief of the Cognitive Neuroscience Section at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), uses functional MRI scans of the brain to find out what’s going on cognitively as individuals wrestle with big questions such as politics and religion. And according to an article in Discover Magazine, he also “delved into the social neuroscience literature to understand why anyone would love the Chicago Cubs.”

Grafman says that Cubs worshippers are similar to religious adherents in their staunch belief that every “next year” will be the year. He says this hope springs from the prefrontal cortex, the region of the brain responsible for high-level cognitive activities such as planning, reasoning, establishing context—and, undoubtedly, inventing justifications for loving perennial losers in baseball.

So hats off to those religious Cubs, Indians and Giants fans among us with such well-developed prefrontal cortexes. And who knows – this year might finally be “next year” for the Giants!

Forget the apple. How about a walk a day?

October 25, 2010

This brain stuff just gets cooler and cooler.

A recent cardiovascular health study published in Neurology shows that older adults can increase the grey matter in their brains with increased physical activity. The conclusion? “Greater amounts of walking are associated with greater gray matter volume, which is in turn associated with a reduced risk of cognitive impairment.”

Specifically, walking at least 72 blocks per week was necessary to promote increased grey matter. But beyond 72 blocks, there wasn’t a significant increase in grey matter. But the grey matter increase brought about by 72 blocks per week of walking reduced the occurrence of cognitive impairment by half.

At Be Amazing Learning, we have had great success with a number of adults seeking to improve their cognitive fitness. Older individuals may also be interested in programs from Posit Science, which leverage some of the same technology that’s behind the Fast ForWord programs to improve brain fitness in adults.

We’ve previously posted about the cognitive benefits of exercise. And it’s a hot topic: Our post referenced a NY Times article, and Scientific Learning (creators of the Fast ForWord programs) featured it in a recent blog post.

Using MRI to diagnose autism

October 18, 2010

From Science Daily: A recent study of individuals with autism at the University of Utah used MRI to study the strength of connections between the individuals’ left and right brain hemispheres. The study, published in Cerebral Cortex, indicates communication deficiencies in the areas responsible for motor control, social functioning, attention, and facial recognition.

Other than increased brain size in young children with autism, there are no major structural differences between the brains of people with autism and those who do not have the disorder that can be used to diagnose autism on a routine brain MRI. It has been long believed that more profound differences could be discovered by studying how regions in the brain communicate with each other. The study, and other work U of U researchers are doing using diffusion tensor imaging (measures microstructure of white matter that connects brain regions), reveals important information about autism. The advances highlight MRI as a potential diagnostic tool, so patients could be screened objectively, quickly, and early on when interventions are most successful. The advances also show the power of MRI to help scientists better understand and potentially better treat autism at all ages.

“We still don’t know precisely what’s going on in the brain in autism,” says Janet Lainhart, M.D., U of U associate professor of psychiatry and pediatrics and the study’s principal investigator. “This work adds an important piece of information to the autism puzzle. It adds evidence of functional impairment in brain connectivity in autism and brings us a step closer to a better understanding of this disorder. When you understand it at a biological level, you can envision how the disorder develops, what are the factors that cause it, and how can we change it. “

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