Brain

Playground roughhousing has long been a tradition of children and adolescents, much to the chagrin of several generations of parents who worry that their child will be hurt or worse, become accustom to violence and aggression. But animal research may paint a different portrait of rough and tumble play; one that suggests that social and emotional development may rely heavily on such peer interaction.

Within the mind of every smoker trying to quit rages a battle between the higher-order functions of the brain wanting to break the habit and the lower-order functions screaming for another cigarette, say researchers at Duke University Medical Center. More often than not, that cigarette gets lit.

Disrupt the gene that regulates the biological clocks in mice and they become manic, exhibiting behaviors similar to humans with bipolar disorder, UT Southwestern Medical Center researchers have found.

Scientists' inability to follow the whereabouts of cells injected into the human body has long been a major drawback in developing effective medical therapies. Now, researchers at Johns Hopkins have developed a promising new technique for noninvasively tracking where living cells go after they are put into the body. The new technique, which uses genetically encoded cells producing a natural contrast that can be viewed using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), appears much more effective than present methods used to detect injected biomaterials.

Psychiatric researchers at The Zucker Hillside Hospital campus of The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research have uncovered evidence of a new gene that appears to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, a disorder characterized by distorted thinking, hallucinations and a reduced ability to feel normal emotions..

What is the very best way to learn a complex task? Is it practice, practice, practice, or is watching and thinking enough to let you imitate a physical activity, such as skiing or ballet? A new study from Brandeis University published this week in the Journal of Vision unravels some of the mysteries surrounding how we learn to do things like tie our shoes, feed ourselves, or perform dazzling dance steps.

Psychologists have taken the "media priming" effects of popular video console and PC-based games on the road, finding that virtual racing seems to lead to aggressive driving and a propensity for risk taking. Extending prior findings on how aggressive virtual-shooter games increase aggression-related thoughts, feelings and behaviors, researchers at Munich's Ludwig-Maximilians University and the Allianz Center for Technology found that of 198 men and women, those who play more virtual car-racing games were more likely to report that they drive aggressively and get in accidents.

Humans acquire fears using similar neural processes whether they’ve personally experienced an aversive event or only witnessed it, according to a study by researchers at New York University’s Departments of Psychology. This is the first study examining the brain basis of fears acquired indirectly, through the observation of others. The study shows that the amygdala, which is known to be critical to the acquisition and expression of fears from personal experience, is also involved during the acquisition and expression of fears obtained indirectly through social observation.

According to a new study from the University of Rochester, playing action video games sharpens vision. In tests of visual acuity that assess the ability to see objects accurately in a cluttered space, game players scored higher than their non-playing peers.

Neurobiologists have discovered a mechanism by which the constantly changing brain retains memories—from that dog bite to that first kiss. They have found that the brain co-opts the same machinery by which cells stably alter their genes to specialize during embryonic development.

Courtney Miller and David Sweatt reported their findings in the March 15, 2007 issue of the journal Neuron, published by Cell Press.