Researchers identify molecular switch that controls neuronal migration in the brain

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital investigators have identified key components of a signaling pathway that controls the departure of neurons from the brain niche where they form and allows these cells to start migrating to their final destination. Defects in this system affect the architecture of the brain and are associated with epilepsy, mental retardation and perhaps malignant brain tumors.

Upper-class people have trouble recognizing others’ emotions

Upper-class people have more educational opportunities, greater financial security, and better job prospects than people from lower social classes, but that doesn’t mean they’re more skilled at everything. A new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science, finds surprisingly, that lower-class people are better at reading the emotions of others.

Therapeutic strategy for huntington’s disease could focus on containing cell ‘shrapnel’

Writing in the journal Neuron, investigators report that enzymes involved in ailments from stroke to cancer also play a role in Huntington’s disease. Blocking the function of these enzymes, called matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs), is beneficial in cell and animal models of Huntington’s, and could be an effective therapeutic strategy for patients.

Writing exercise helps women overcome sexist stereotypes

According to a new study, a brief writing exercise can help women in college physics classes improve their academic performance and reduce some of the well-documented differences between male and female science students. The writing exercise seems particularly beneficial to female students who tend to subscribe to the negative stereotype that males perform better in physics, the researchers say.

Architecture can bias your cognitive map

Some people always know which way is north and how to get out of a building. Others can live in an apartment for years without knowing which side faces the street. Differences among people that include spatial skills, experience, and preferred strategies for wayfinding are part of what determines whether people get lost in buildings—and psychological scientists could help architects understand where and why people might get lost in their buildings, according to the authors of an article published in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Scientists report molecular structure of dopamine receptor

A team led by scientists at The Scripps Research Institute has solved the structure of one of the receptors that responds to the neurotransmitter dopamine. Although dopamine transmission is essential to normal brain functioning, the biological assembly of the molecules involved in this crucial neuronal interplay had not been known—until now. The work was reported in the November 19, 2010, issue of the journal Science.

Perceptual changes are key to our consciousness

Our brain usually combines the two slightly divergent images of our eyes into a single consistent perception. However, if the visual information does not match, only one image is seen at a time. This phenomenon is called binocular rivalry. Researchers around Andreas Bartels at the Werner Reichardt Centre for Integrative Neurosciences (CIN) and the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics in Tübingen, Germany used this phenomenon to decipher a key mechanism of the brain functions that contributes to conscious visual perception.

Estrogen enhances mental performance

Estrogen is an elixir for the brain, sharpening mental performance in humans and animals and showing promise as a treatment for disorders of the brain such as Alzheimer’s disease and schizophrenia. But long-term estrogen therapy, once prescribed routinely for menopausal women, now is quite controversial because of research showing it increases the risk of cancer, heart disease and stroke.

Does sex matter? It may when evaluating mental status

Schizophrenia is a mental disorder that differs between the sexes in terms of age at onset, symptomatology, response to medication, and structural brain abnormalities. Now, a new study from the Université de Montréal shows that there is gender difference between men and women’s mental ability – with women performing better than men. These findings, published recently in, Schizophrenia Research, have implications for the more than 300 000 affected Canadians.

Being faced with gender stereotypes makes women less likely to take financial risks

omen are generally thought to be less willing to take risks than men, so he speculated that the banks could balance out risky men by employing more women. Stereotypes like this about women actually influence how women make financial decisions, making them more wary of risk, according to a new study published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

Hearing colors, seeing sounds: New research explores sensory overlap in the brain

New research indicates that the integration of senses and functions in the brain is common. About two percent of the population has a condition called synesthesia, in which two different sensations, like color and sound, are experienced at once. Although this condition is rare, the new findings suggest the brain is wired in complex and sometimes overlapping ways to help people interpret and understand their environments.