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Scientists Can Give Sleeping Mice False Happy Memories

The experiment is part of research into future treatment of humans suffering from PTSD.

image via (cc) flickr user maryscheirer

Imagine waking up one morning and having a wonderful—albeit fuzzy—memory of a place you barely cared about when you went to bed the night before. You can’t quite explain why, but the next time you go to that place you feel terrific, as if you’re somewhere you’ve always loved, even though you know that’s never actually been the case. This, more or less, is what laboratory mice at France’s National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) have experienced recently, after undergoing what The Guardian calls “the first demonstration of memory manipulation during sleep.”

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Scientist Claims Head Transplants Are Just Two Years Away

Can we really attach a head onto a new body? Despite ethics concerns, one researcher says “yes.”

Photo by HauntingVisionsStock via DeviantArt

An Italian scientist is once again in the news for his efforts to make head transplants—that’s right, attaching a human head to a new body—a reality in the very near future. On Wednesday, New Scientist reported that Sergio Canavero of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group would launch his Frankensteinian project at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurological and Orthopaedic Surgeons. At the meeting, Canavero will recruit like-minded scientists and spread the gospel of his new technique, published earlier this month in the journal Surgical Neurology International. In the paper, fantastically titled, “The ‘Gemini’ spinal cord fusion protocol: Reloaded,” Canavero gives a broad outline of how the surgery could be successful, despite the widely-noted problems of fusing the spine and keeping the host body from rejecting the new noggin. The New Scientist describes the process, which Canavero believes can treat patients with certain forms of paralysis or failing organs:

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Sweet! Science Identifies the “Sugar Craving” Circuit in Our Brains

Now that we’ve identified it, can we use it to help us eat better?

image via (cc) flickr user tjadin

A new study done by researchers out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s has, for the first time, identified the existence of a specific neural pathway in the brain which regulates compulsive sugar cravings independent of the body's other appetite-related processes. That's good news for anyone who finds themselves the owner of a seriously unhealthy sweet tooth—an independent neural circuit responsible for extreme sugar cravings has the potential to be treated without interfering with the body's natural appetite for other (hopefully healthier) foods.

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Liberal Brains Bigger in Areas of Complexity; Conservative Brains Bigger in Areas of Fear

Surprise! A new study says there are brain differences between conservatives and liberals.


This is going to sound sort of obvious, but here we go: A study from University College London published this week in Current Biology has discovered that there are actually differences in the brains of liberals and conservatives. Specifically, liberals' brains tend to be bigger in the area that deals with processing complex ideas and situations, while conservatives' brains are bigger in the area that processes fear.

According to the report: "We found that greater liberalism was associated with increased gray matter volume in the anterior cingulate cortex, whereas greater conservatism was associated with increased volume of the right amygdala."

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Fascinating: This Is Your Brain in Love

Get clinical this Valentine's Day by taking a look at our brain's newly discovered "passion network."

Syracuse University professor Stephanie Ortigue compiled MRIs from people around the world who indicated they were either in love or were "experiencing maternal or unconditional love." Using that data, she was then able reveal a "passion network" in our brains, a roadmap of spots that "release neurotransmitters and other chemicals in the brain and blood that create the sensations of attraction, arousal, pleasure … and obsession."

Above is a depiction of the various points on the brain that compose this newfound network, the specifics of which can be found here. Among other interesting machinations of a body in love, cortisol levels in the blood increase, jacking up stress and alertness but lowering pain sensitivity. Also, the brain's serotonin levels decrease, subsequently spiking obsessive thinking and aggression.

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Brain Machine of the Future Could Record Your Dreams

It sounds like something conjured by Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, but we might soon have machines capable of recording and playing back dreams.



It sounds like something concocted by Charlie Kaufman and Michel Gondry, but developments in the monitoring of brain activity suggest we might soon have machines capable of recording and playing back dreams. Here's more from io9:

A team writing in Nature has announced that it has developed a brain-machine interface capable of recording higher level brain activity. Moran Cerf and his team at UCLA have been able to connect the activity of individual neurons with specific images. When an individual thinks about these images, the neurons light up, and, if they are hooked up to a brain-machine interface, can call up a specific image on a computer screen. Cerf's team has been able to identify a handful of these image-specific neurons in each participant in a recent study, specific neurons that light up when an individual thinks about, for example, the Eiffel Tower or Marilyn Monroe.

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