These tiny fish are helping scientists understand how the human brain processes sound.
- Fragile X syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by changes in a gene that scientists call the "fragile X mental retardation 1 (FMR1)" gene. People who have FXS or autism often struggle with sensitivity to sound.
- According to the research team, FXS is caused by the disruption of a gene. By disrupting that same gene in zebrafish larvae, they can examine the effects and begin to understand more about this disrupted gene in the human brain.
- Using the zebrafish, Dr. Constantin and the team were able to gather insights into which parts of the brain are used to process sensory information.
By disrupting a specific gene in Zebrafish, we're able to better understand the same disruption of that gene in humans with FXS or autism.
Credit: slowmotiongli on Adobe Stock<p>"Loud noises often cause sensory overload and anxiety in people with autism and Fragile X syndrome -- sensitivity to sound is common to both conditions," <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110102527.htm" target="_blank">Dr. Constantin explained to Science Daily</a>.</p><p><strong>How do zebrafish relate to humans with autism? </strong></p><p>According to the research team, FXS is caused by the disruption of a gene. By disrupting that same gene in zebrafish larvae, they can examine the effects and begin to understand more about this disrupted gene in the human brain. </p><p>The thalamus, according to Dr. Constantin, works as a control center, relaying sensory information from around the body to different parts of the brain. The hindbrain then coordinates different behavioral responses. Using the different sound tests, the team was able to study the whole brain of the zebrafish larvae under microscopes and see the activity of each brain cell individually. </p><p>According to Dr. Constantin, the research team recorded the brain activity of zebrafish larvae while showing them movies or exposing them to bursts of sound. The movies stimulated movement, a reaction to the visual stimuli that was the same for fish with the Fragile X mutation and those without. However, when the fish were given a burst of white noise, there was a dramatic difference in the brain activity of the fish with the Fragile X mutation.<br></p><p>After seeing how the noise radically affected the fish brain, the team designed a range of 12 different volumes of sound and found the Fragile X model fish could hear much quieter volumes than the control fish. </p><p>"The fish with Fragile X mutations had more connections between different regions of their brain and their responses to the sounds were more plentiful in the hindbrain and thalamus," <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2020/11/201110102527.htm" target="_blank">said Dr. Constantin</a>.</p><p>Essentially, the fish with Fragile X mutation had more connections between the regions of their brain and so their responses to the sounds were more notable. </p><p><strong>Understanding how this gene disruption works in zebrafish will give us a better understanding of sound hypersensitivity in humans with FXS or autism.</strong> </p><p>"How our neural pathways develop and respond to the stimulation of our senses gives us insights into which parts of the brain are used and how sensory information is processed," Dr. Constantin said.</p><p>Using the zebrafish, Dr. Constantin and the team were able to gather insights into which parts of the brain are used to process sensory information. </p><p>"We hope that by discovering fundamental information about how the brain processes sound, we will gain further insights into the sensory challenges faced by people with Fragile X syndrome and autism."</p>
The top-grossing language-learning app on the market just got a major discount.
- After just one month of learning, many Babbel users became conversational in a new language.
- A lifetime subscription to Babbel provides users with the ability to learn 14 different languages whenever they want.
- Babbel is the top-grossing language-learning app on the market.
It's never too late to learn a new language. Just don't count on speaking French like a Parisian.
- Language processing has long been thought to occur primarily in the left hemisphere of the brain.
- A new study used fMRI on groups of adults to examine how the brain's left and right hemispheres contribute to learning a new language.
- The results showed that, as the participants progressed, they began to use more of their right hemisphere, but only for some aspects of language processing.
Learning a new language as an adult changes how the brain's hemispheres contribute to language processing, according to a new study.
The brain's left and right hemispheres are generally specialized to perform different tasks. The left hemisphere has long been thought to handle language processing, particularly in regions like Broca's area and Wernicke's area.
But the right hemisphere also plays a role. For example, stroke victims with damage to their left hemisphere have been able to (partially) recover language abilities after right-hemisphere regions reorganized themselves to compensate for the injury.
Illustration of left and right brain hemispheres
Credit: Chickensaresocute via Wikipedia Commons
So, is the left hemisphere indeed hard-wired for language? In terms of learning a new language later in life, what roles do the hemispheres play, and how does neuroplasticity factor in?
The new study, published in The Journal of Neuroscience, explored these questions by conducting fMRI on groups of adults as they read, listened to, and spoke both their native language and a new language. In the early stages, the fMRI results looked similar for the native and new languages.
As learning progressed, however, the participants increasingly employed regions from the brain's right hemisphere. But this was only true for reading comprehension and, to a lesser extent, speech comprehension of the new language. Speaking the new language remained a left-dominant (or left-lateralized) task.
The results suggest neuroplasticity for speech production is far more limited, which may explain why adults have a harder time speaking a new language, though they can learn to read and comprehend one relatively easy. It also suggests the brain's left hemisphere is hard-wired for speech production.
Benefits of learning a new language later in life
Neuroplasticity does gradually decrease with age, and if you're an adult picking up a new language you may never become a totally fluent speaker. Still, learning a new language later in life is totally possible. In addition to broadening your career options and opportunities to explore other cultures, studies suggest that learning a second (or third) language can help:
Learn a new language—super fast. Here’s how. | Steve Kaufmann | Big Think
A new study found similarities between the human brain and the cosmic network of galaxies.
- A new study finds similarities between the structures and processes of the human brain and the cosmic web.
- The research was carried out by an astrophysicist and a neurosurgeon.
- The two systems are vastly different in size but resemble each other in several key areas.
Section of the human brain (left) and a simulated section of the cosmos (right).
Credit: University of Bologna
Michio Kaku: Consciousness Can be Quantified | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="cffa17161bfc4dd6dbee720749452fdc"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/0GS2rxROcPo?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><em>"Believe it or not, sitting on our shoulders is the most complex object that Mother Nature has created in the known universe. </em><em>You have to go at least 24 trillion miles to the nearest star to find a planet that may have life and may have intelligence. And yet our brain only consumes about 20-30 watts of power and yet it performs calculations better than any large supercomputer." </em>- Michio Kaku</p>
Heard about the phenomenon of FNE, or 'first night effect'?
Have you ever woken up in a new place and noted with disappointment that you are still tired?