Brain

How much money would it take to get you to stick a pin into your palm? How much to stick a pin into the palm of a child you don’t know? How much to slap a friend in the face (with his or her permission) as part of a comedy skit? Well, what about slapping you father (with his permission) as part of a skit? How you answer questions such as these may reveal something about your morality, and even your politics — conservatives, for example, tend to care more about issues of hierarchy and respect, while liberals concentrate on caring and fairness.

People who do well on a series of decision-making tasks involving hypothetical situations tend to have more positive decision outcomes in their lives, according to a study by decision scientists at Carnegie Mellon University and the RAND Corp.

The results suggest that it may be possible to improve the quality of people’s lives by teaching them better decision-making skills.

Yes, there are gender differences in cognitive function, but they're more limited than previously thought. And yes, income does affect cognitive performance – but less than expected when only healthy children are considered. And while basic cognitive skills steadily improve in middle childhood, they then seem to level off – questioning the idea of a burst of brain development in adolescence.

New Danish research has examined the mechanisms behind latent cell memory, which can come to life and cause previously non-existent capacities suddenly to appear. Special yeast cells for example, can abruptly change from being of a single sex to hermaphrodite.

Most animals appear symmetrical at first glance, but we're full of internal lop-sidedness. From the hand used to pick up a pencil or throw a baseball, to where language is generated in the brain, to the orientation of our internal organs, humans are a glut of asymmetries. Worms aren't so different: The roundworm Caenorhabditis elegans has nerves on its left and right sides that perform different functions. Like handedness, the determination of which nerves develop on which side seems random from worm to worm.

Scientists have found evidence that the cox-2 inhibitor celecoxib, a common pain reliever used to treat arthritis, may offer a new way to reduce the risk of the most common cause of brain damage in babies born prematurely.

The work involves shoring up blood vessels in a part of the brain that in premature infants is extremely fragile and vulnerable to dangerous bleeding, which affects an estimated 12,000 children a year, leaving many permanently affected by cerebral palsy, mental retardation, and seizures.

Children who are hyperactive tend to do worse academically than their peers who are not hyperactive. Although the relationship between such behaviors as overactivity, impulsivity, and inattentiveness in children and poor achievement in math, reading, language, and other areas has been well documented, little is known about the reasons for this link. New research shows that the tie may be due to genetic influences.

Mayo Clinic researchers and a group of international collaborators have discovered a correlation between an extreme form of sleep disorder and eventual onset of parkinsonism or dementia.

The increase in the number of diagnosed cases of autism in recent years has sparked concern that environmental toxins may cause this complex disorder. A new study found, however, that exposure to Rh immune globulin preserved with mercury-containing thimerosal before birth was no higher for children with autism. The study was led by Judith Miles at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

Clinical research conducted in the Department of Communication Disorders at the University of Haifa revealed that some children who are born deaf "recover" from their deafness and do not require surgical intervention.

Implanting dopamine generators (dopaminergics) in brain cells has produced improvement in the symptoms in Parkinson's, according to the results of tests carried out with monkeys by the Navarra University Hospital, led by Dr María Rosario Luquin Piudo, neurologist at the Hospital and at the other Navarra University-based medical centre, CIMA (the Research Centre for Applied Medicine).

"Hope is being given to patients with malignant and ultimately fatal spinal tumors where hope was never before available," said Dr. Isabelle Germano, Professor of Neurosurgery and Co-Director of The Radiosurgery Program at The Mount Sinai Medical Center. "All it takes is one thirty-minute out-patient treatment of pinpointed radiation and the tumor shrinks along with the pain from the cancer. Now cancer spreading to the spine doesn't mean a lifetime of pain or a wheelchair for a patient anymore."

Free will and true spontaneity exist … in fruit flies. This is what scientists report in a groundbreaking study in the May 16, 2007 issue of the open-access journal PLoS ONE.

"Animals and especially insects are usually seen as complex robots which only respond to external stimuli," says senior author Björn Brembs from the Free University Berlin. They are assumed to be input-output devices. "When scientists observe animals responding differently even to the same external stimuli, they attribute this variability to random errors in a complex brain."

A surprisingly complete fossil skull of an ancient relative of humans, apes and monkeys bears striking evidence that our remote ancestor was less mentally advanced than expected by about 29 million years ago.

A smokeless cannabis-vaporizing device delivers the same level of active therapeutic chemical and produces the same biological effect as smoking cannabis, but without the harmful toxins, according to UCSF researchers.