Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Brain and...

THE BRAIN AND AUTISM. An article and video on a Philadelphia TV station's website explains recent findings about how the brains of Aspie and autistic children work. One study has found that autistic brains respond in a delayed fashion to sounds or speech, which can lead to difficulties in recognizing the sound. Another study shows underactivation in areas of the brain that understand faces and expressions. Go to the site.

BRAIN-MACHINE INTERFACE. Researchers using electrocorticography (monitoring signals from the surface of the brain) have allowed patients to "communicate" a letter to a computer via brainwaves. The computer first recorded the patients' responses to
viewing particular letters. Then, when patients concentrated in their mind on a particular letter, the computer could read their pattern of brain waves and bring up the letter on the computer screen. Read more.

THE BRAIN AND READING. Carnegie Mellon University scientists Timothy Keller and Marcel Just have uncovered the first evidence that intensive instruction to improve reading skills in young children causes the brain to physically rewire itself, creating new white matter that improves communication within the brain. As the researchers reported in the journal
Neuron, brain imaging of children between the ages of 8 and 10 showed that the quality of white matter -- the brain tissue that carries signals between areas of grey matter, where information is processed -- improved substantially after the children received 100 hours of remedial training. After the training, imaging indicated that the capability of the white matter to transmit signals efficiently had increased, and testing showed the children could read better. Read more from the Carnegie Mellon article/press release. Or, listen to an NPR program about the research findings.

US News has released its third annual report on "America's Best High Schools." You can find that report, along with other lists such as "Top IB Programs," here.

Science Daily reports that young adults with higher blood lead levels appear more likely to have major depression and panic disorders, even if they have exposure to lead levels generally considered safe. Cigarette smoking affects blood lead levels, and smoking elevated the risks even further, 2.5 times for depressive disorder and 8.2 times for panic disorder. The article explains that lead may disrupt brain processes involving the neurotransmitters catecholamine and serotonin. Read the article. (Note that the most recent issue of 2e: Twice-Exceptional Newsletter contains three articles on the biomedical/biochemical view of certain 2e conditions and treatment.)

HEALTHY BRAINS. Well, actually, this is about a new resource for healthy children in general, although we notice that the site
does include dozens of articles about brain-related topics. The American Academy of Pediatrics has just launched -- just, as in today, December 10th -- a site providing pediatrician-approved health information for parents. According to the Academy, parents may browse sections such as:
  • Ages & Stages: Information on the health issues of infants through adolescents, including interactive content on developmental milestones
  • Healthy Living: Up-to-date guidance on fitness, sports, oral health, emotional wellness and nutrition
  • Safety & Prevention: Preparing for health scenarios that occur at home, school and on the go, as well as in-depth information on the immunizations children need to stay healthy
  • Health Issues: An exhaustive, A-to-Z list of more than 300 health care topics.
Parents may customize information based on their children’s ages and health topics, or, by using the “Ask the Pediatrician” tool, browse a list of frequently asked questions or pose their own questions. Find the site.

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