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General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

Better Brain Wiring Linked to Family Genes

Sagittal human brain with cortical regions del...

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Better Brain Wiring Linked to Family Genes

 

From the March 3 2011 Science Daily item

ScienceDaily (Mar. 3, 2011) — How well our brain functions is largely based on our family’s genetic makeup, according to a University of Melbourne led study. The study published in The Journal of Neuroscience provides the first evidence of a genetic effect on how ‘cost-efficient’ our brain network wiring is, shedding light on some of the brain’s make up.

Lead author Dr Alex Fornito from the Melbourne Neuropsychiatry Centre at the University of Melbourne said the findings have important implications for understanding why some people are better able to perform certain tasks than others and the genetic basis of mental illnesses and some neurological diseases….

…”We found that people differed greatly in terms of how cost-efficient the functioning of their brain networks were, and that over half of these differences could be explained by genes,” said Dr Fornito.

Across the entire brain, more than half (60%) of the differences between people could be explained by genes. Some of the strongest effects were observed for regions of the prefrontal cortex which play a vital role in planning, strategic thinking, decision-making and memory.

Previous work has shown that people with more efficient brain connections score higher on tests of intelligence, and that brain network cost-efficiency is reduced in people with schizophrenia, particularly in the prefrontal cortex.

“This exciting discovery opens up a whole new area of research focus for scientists around the world,” he said.

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March 4, 2011 Posted by | Medical and Health Research News | , , , | Leave a comment

Odds of Quitting Smoking May Be Clear on Scans

Odds of Quitting Smoking May Be Clear on Scans

Activity in front part of brain can predict behavior, researchers say

HealthDay news image

From the January 31, 2011 Health Day news item by Robert Preidt

MONDAY, Jan. 31 (HealthDay News) — Brain scans can predict a smoker’s chances of being able to quit, according to a new study.

It included 28 heavy smokers recruited from a smoking cessation program. Functional MRI was used to monitor the participants’ brain activity as they watched television ads meant to help people quit smoking.

The researchers contacted the participants one month later and found that they were smoking an average of five cigarettes a day, compared with an average of 21 a day at the start of the study.

But there was considerable variation in how successful individual participants were in reducing their smoking. The researchers found that a reaction in an area of the brain, called the medial prefrontal cortex, while watching the quit-smoking ads was linked to reductions in smoking during the month after the brain scan.

Previous research by the same team suggested that activity in the prefrontal cortex is predictive of behavior change.

In the new study, published in the current issue of Health Psychology,** “we targeted smokers who were already taking action to quit, and we found that neural activity can predict behavior change, above and beyond people’s own assessment of how likely they are to succeed,” study author Emily Falk, director of the Communication Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research and Department of Communication Studies, said in a university news release.

“These results bring us one step closer to the ability to use functional magnetic resonance imaging to select the messages that are most likely to affect behavior change both at the individual and population levels,” Falk said. “It seems that our brain activity may provide information that introspection does not.”

SOURCE: University of Michigan Institute for Social Research, news release, Jan. 31, 2011

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February 2, 2011 Posted by | Consumer Health, Medical and Health Research News, Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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