Sunday, April 21, 2013

Parkinson's, depression and the switch that might turn them off

Deep brain stimulation is becoming very precise. This technique allows surgeons to place electrodes in almost any area of the brain, and turn them up or down -- like a radio dial or thermostat -- to correct dysfunction. Andres Lozano offers a dramatic look at emerging techniques, in which a woman with Parkinson's instantly stops shaking and brain areas eroded by Alzheimer's are brought back to life. (Filmed at TEDxCaltech.)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and Depression

In this age of advanced modern medicine, it is a depressing fact that not all people suffering with a depressive illness respond to antidepressants.
The mental health charity Mind UK recently highlighted their concern that there is a serious need for a range of therapies to be made available to depression sufferers.
According to the best psychological working practices, medication is now considered to be only one option for effectively treating the illness.

Can Doodling Improve Memory and Concentration?

An experiment suggests doodling may be more than just a pleasant waste of time and paper.

All sorts of claims have been made for the power of doodling: from it being an entertaining or relaxing activity, right through to it aiding creativity, or even that you can read people's personalities in their doodles.

The idea that doodling provides a window to the soul is probably wrong. It can seem intuitively attractive but it falls into the same category as graphology: it's a pseudoscience (psychologists have found no connection between personality and handwriting).

Although it's probably a waste of time trying to interpret a doodle, could the act of doodling itself still be a beneficial habit for attention and memory in certain circumstances?

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The Neuroscience of Regret

A man is not old until regrets take the place of dreams.  ~John Barrymore 

We often associate regret with old age – the tragic image of an elderly person feeling regretful over opportunities forever missed. Now, groundbreaking new brain research shows how this stereotypemay be true, at least for a portion of the elderly who are depressed. On the other hand, healthy agingmay involve the ability to regulate regret in the brain, and move on emotionally when there is nothing more that can be done. If we can teach depressed, older people to think like their more optimistic peers, we may be able to help them let go of regret. Read on to find out how the human brain processes regret.

How Our Brains Process Regret

Studies have used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to scan the brain in real time while participants performed computer tasks that asked them to choose between different options for investing money. When participants were shown how they could have done better with alternative strategies (to prime regret), there was decreased activity in the ventral striatum, an area associated with processing rewards. There was also increased activity in the amygdala, part of the brain's limbic system that generates immediate emotional response to threat. Interestingly, when the experiment was done with a computer making all the choices, these regret patterns were not found, suggesting that a sense of personal accountability is necessary for regret