Friday Science Review: September 18, 2009
September 18, 2009
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Some “brainy” research this week…
Curiosity Driven <=> Intelligence: There is new evidence that “fostering curiosity should also foster intelligence and vice versa.“ Researchers have discovered what they believe is the region of the brain, the dentate gyrus in the hippocampus, that is responsible for generating curiosity. They also identified that the interaction between the neuronal calcium sensor-1 protein (NCS-1) with the dopamine type-2 receptors (D2R) is what triggers the curiosity-like behaviour. In the investigation lead by Dr. John Roder at the Samuel Lunenfeld Research Institute, they modestly overexpressed NCS-1 in the dentate gyrus region of mice and observed an exploratory type behaviour, interpreted as curiosity driven. Researchers also noted improvements in intelligence as demonstrated by the performance of the mice in spatial memory tests. Conversely, these phenotypes were reversed when the mice were treated with a drug that inhibits NCS-1 from binding to D2R. This study appears in the latest edition of Neuron. So go ahead and let your mind go free…
Dream on: Here’s how you can enjoy your nice dream twice as long – have your doctor perform deep brain stimulations (DBS) on you! When scientists specifically stimulated an area of the brain responsible for the deep REM (rapid eye movement) sleep in parkinsonian patients undergoing a surgical procedure, they observed an extended period of brain wave activity consistent with REM sleep. This is the “dreaming sleep” that we enjoy and provides the refreshing recharge we all need. Sleep specialist Dr. Brian Murray was the lead investigator in the study conducted at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and published in Annals of Neurology: “This finding is significant for patients as it confirms, in principle, that we can selectively adjust different stages of sleep and this may make a big difference to sleep quality as well as other affected neurological functions and brain health.” Now we just need a longer day to accommodate the extra sleep!
Helping the vision impaired to see: evSpex, is an innovative sunglass-type device that can help those who are nearly blind to see via a digital image captured on a high resolution camera and played on a small LCD screen projected onto the user’s eyes. The key feature is that the image is first processed and customized to the user before it is presented to the part of the vision that is most functional, maximizing “vision.” The device includes features such as zoom and recording capabilities that can be played back instantly in case the viewer missed something. Many people with different types of visual impairments will be able to benefit greatly from this technology.
evSpex was developed by eSight Corp in Ottawa with help from Dr. Réjean Munger, a senior scientist at the Ottawa Hospital Research Institute.