brain research

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Tracking Dyslexia In The Preschool Brain

By Karen Weintraub
Guest Contributor

Roughly one child in 10 will struggle to learn to read, but no one can tell which one until he or she starts to fall seriously behind.

At that point – often in 3rd grade – they’ve already taken a hit to their self-esteem and they’re too old for early intervention that can make the biggest difference.

This conundrum has troubled MIT professor John Gabrieli for years.

The area highlighted in yellow, called the arcuate fasciculus, is less robust in children at high risk for dyslexia, according to a new study.

The area highlighted in yellow, called the arcuate fasciculus, is less robust in children at high risk for dyslexia, according to a new study.

Today, the neuroscientist and colleagues published a study that begins to address the problem. They showed on brain scans that kindergartners at risk for dyslexia also had less robust connections between two key language areas on the left side of the brain.

Previously, researchers weren’t sure whether the differences they saw in the brains of people with dyslexia were causes of the condition, or effects of their struggle to read. Because Gabrieli’s group saw the distinction in children too young to read, their brain differences must predate reading problems.

His ultimate hope, of course, is to use these differences to identify children before they begin to struggle, and get them into early intervention programs. Continue reading

Why To Exercise Today: Better Grades

Granted, this is a study about kids, but don’t we all want better grades in life, too?

Reuters reports here today:

“Children who get more exercise also tend to do better in school, whether the exercise comes as recess, physical education classes or getting exercise on the way to school, according to an international study. The findings, published in the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, come as U.S. schools in general cut physical activity time in favor of more academic test preparation.”

Dr. John Ratey, a Cambridge-based psychiatrist and author of the excellent book “Spark,” is all over the topic of how exercise helps children learn, and I see on his Website that it even hosts a documentary called “Brain Gains” about the effects of pilot exercise programs in schools.

Reuters reports:

Three of the four studies involving an exercise intervention found that students given more exercise time scored higher on measures of academic performance. Continue reading

Why To Exercise Today: A Revitalized Brain

Well-exercised mice were found to have re-energized brain cells

Here’s a great motivating piece by Gretchen Reynolds in The New York Times today looking at a brain study involving exercising versus sedentary mice.

For eight weeks, a group of mice were placed on a treadmill to run, while their control-group colleagues lounged around. After two months, both sets of mice were made to run on the treadmill, and, not surprisingly, the runners far outpaced the slackers on endurance. But, the story says:

More interesting, though, was what was happening inside their brain cells. When the scientists examined tissue samples from different portions of the exercised animals’ brains, they found markers of upwelling mitochondrial development in all of the tissues. Some parts of their brains showed more activity than others, but in each of the samples, the brain cells held newborn mitochondria.

There was no comparable activity in brain cells from the sedentary mice.

This is the first report to show that, in mice at least, two months of exercise training “is sufficient stimulus to increase mitochondrial biogenesis,” Dr. Davis and his co-authors write in the study.

And even cooler is the kicker:

Best of all, the effort required to round your brain cells into shape is not daunting. A 30-minute jog, Dr. Davis says, is probably a good human equivalent of the workout that the mice completed.

Daily Rounds: Caritas Hearing Today; Motherhood Triggers Brain Growth; Lifestyle Influences Genetics; The Oldest Galaxy Discovered: House Calls On Facebook

Cerberus has history of tough decisions – The Boston Globe “Over the past decade, it has shut down a Houston mortgage company and fired nearly 800 employees, after first canceling their health insurance. It took a bottling company public without disclosing that it had just lost a major client, then let go hundreds of workers. And it shuttered a Wisconsin paper mill three years after entering the paper business…This morning, at a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court hearing, Caritas and Cerberus face the final hurdle in an approval process that began in the spring.” (Boston Globe)

The real 'mommy brain': New mothers’ grew “Motherhood may actually cause the brain to grow, not turn it into mush, as some have claimed. Exploratory research published by the American Psychological Association found that the brains of new mothers bulked up in areas linked to motivation and behavior, and that mothers who gushed the most about their babies showed the greatest growth in key parts of the mid-brain.” (EurekAlert)

Lifestyle Factors May Alter Genetic Traits, Study Finds | WBUR & NPR“Morris set up an experiment with lab rats to see if the biological consequences of a father overeating could somehow get passed on to his daughters.” Incredibly, it seems, they could. When the researcher looked specifically at the daughters, he found that “all of them had a similar genetic makeup, but those with overweight fathers had some of the same problems that their dads did. They weren't overweight, but their production of insulin was impaired. The finding, says Andy Feinberg, at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, is "a way it's saying the metabolic sins of the father can be visited on the daughters.” (WBUR | 90.9 FM)

Astronomers Say They've Found Oldest Galaxy So Far – NYTimes.com “Hidden in a Hubble Space Telescope photo released earlier this year is a small smudge of light that European astronomers now calculate is a galaxy from 13.1 billion years ago. That's a time when the universe was very young, just shy of 600 million years old. That would make it the earliest and most distant galaxy seen so far.” (The New York Times)

Nurse spots cancer on Facebook picture | News | Nursing Times (nursingtimes.net) “Nurse Nicola Sharp…was browsing through friend Michele Freeman’s profile when she saw a flash photo of Michele’s daughter Grace. It showed the two-year-old with a white pupil in her left eye instead of the usual “red eye” effect. Ms. Sharp knew this could indicate an eye tumour and, as a result, the child was diagnosed and treated for retinoblastoma.