How sleep and mood impact working memory

Two new studies assess how working memory — the memory we use on a day-to-day basis in decision-making processes — is affected by age, mood, and sleep quality and whether these factors impact memory together or on their own.

Working memory is the short-term memory that a person uses on a daily basis while navigating the world, assessing situations, using language, and making decisions.

As a person advances in age, this faculty tends to decline, but there are also other factors — particularly depressed mood and low sleep quality — that can affect it, both in the short and long terms.

Full story at Medical News Today

Music Brings Memories Back to the Injured Brain

In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories. Amee Baird and Séverine Samson outline the results and conclusions of their pioneering research in the recent issue of the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

Although their study covered a small number of cases, it’s the very first to examine ‘music-evoked autobiographical memories’ (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries (ABIs), rather than those who are healthy or suffer from Alzheimer’s Disease.

In their study, Baird and Samson played extracts from ‘Billboard Hot 100’ number-one songs in random order to five patients. The songs, taken from the whole of the patient’s lifespan from age five, were also played to five control subjects with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked.

Doctors Baird and Samson found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38%-71%) and controls (48%-71%). Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients. In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive. Songs that evoked a memory were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not.

Full story of music bringing back memories at Science Daily

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Half of us may be able to see without light

Wave your hand slowly in front of your face.

Did your eyes track the movement? If so, your brain has formed a memory of that action; it will remember what the motion looks like in case you ever do it again.

In fact, a new study suggests that even if you wave your hand in front of your face in total darkness, your eyes may “see” it simply because they’ve seen it before.

“One thing our brains are exceptionally good at is picking up on reliable patterns,” said lead study author Duje Tadin, professor of cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. “Think about how many times you moved your hand and saw that movement … It makes sense that our brains exploit this strong link.”

Tadin and his colleagues conducted five experiments involving a total of 129 people. Their results were published online this week in the journal Psychological Science.

The blindfolds

For the first two experiments, participants were shown two blindfolds. They were told that one of the blindfolds “may allow a small amount of light to pass through.” In reality, both blindfolds blocked all light.

Full story of seeing without light at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Can brain scientists read your mind?

What are you thinking about? You wouldn’t always want the answer to that question available to others, but science may be heading in that direction.

For now, researchers are far from being able to tap into your thoughts. But a new study shows how, just by looking at brain activity, it may be possible to see whether or not you’re thinking about numbers.

“The patient doesn’t need to talk to you. They can think about numbers and you can see that red mark (corresponding with activity in a particular brain region) go up,” said Dr. Josef Parvizi, associate professor of neurology at the Stanford University Medical Center and senior author of the study. The study is published in the journal Nature Communications.
Take note, this study was done on only three people with uncontrolled seizures – that’s a tiny sliver of humanity. But Parvizi said most studies on patients with intracranial electrodes only involve two to five participants, since recruitment is so difficult.

These patients had electrodes implanted in their brains to locate the source of their seizures. Surgeons perform this procedure to isolate or remove the area where seizures begin.

The researchers used these electrodes that had been implanted for locating seizures to investigate brain activity in relation to thinking about numbers, particularly in the parietal lobe. In previous studies, this brain area has been shown to be important to a person’s ability to do numerical calculations.

Full story of scientists reading the mind at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education

Study questions brain benefit of omega-3s (VIDEO)

If there were a food or dietary supplement guaranteed to help preserve our thinking skills, memory and verbal fluency later in life, we’d all take it. Unfortunately, we don’t have such a miracle pill.

Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fatty fish and nuts, have been touted as potential brain-boosters in aging. In some studies they were shown to be associated with a lower risk of dementia.

A new study in the journal Neurology is a knock against that theory, but more research needs to be done to confirm, as it does not prove or disprove a cause-and-effect relationship.

“Our study was observational and should not be viewed as a definitive answer on the relationship between omega-3s and cognitive function,” lead study author Eric Ammann of the University of Iowa said in an e-mail. “In making health-related decisions about diet and supplements, we would advise people to consider the total body of evidence and to consult with their health care providers.”

Participants

The study looked at 2,157 women aged 65 to 80 who had normal cognition and were already enrolled in a clinical trial for hormone therapy. They were part of a sub-study of the large Women’s Health Initiative study.

Researchers followed the participants for a median of 5.9 years.

Full story of omega-3s and brain research at CNN Health

Beedie Savage – President of Quantum Units Education