Zebrafish give new insight to sound sensitivity in autism

These tiny fish are helping scientists understand how the human brain processes sound.

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  • 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.
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Become fluent in another language with 50% off a lifetime Babbel subscription

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.
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Adult language-learning changes how the brain’s hemispheres function

It's never too late to learn a new language. Just don't count on speaking French like a Parisian.

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  • 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

The universe works like a huge human brain, discover scientists

A new study found similarities between the human brain and the cosmic network of galaxies.

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  • 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.
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New bed, no sleep? First night blues

Heard about the phenomenon of FNE, or 'first night effect'?

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Have you ever woken up in a new place and noted with disappointment that you are still tired?

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