Beijing time on December 27th, the brain tells us what to do, how to do, how to think, and how to say. The brain can even remember the faces of strangers on the street, creating strange dreams and entertaining us while we sleep. We rely on the brain to survive and learn, but this organ is still as mysterious to us as the inside of a black hole. Every year there are new discoveries that give us a better understanding of this wonderful organ, as it will be in 2019. Scientists have found that the brain has a strange ability to protect itself from death; lonely Antarctic expeditions can cause the brain to shrink, and so on. Let’s take stock of these great discoveries about the brain this year.
People experience a lot of emotions, even anger, when they sleep. By analyzing brain activity, researchers found that it was possible to tell whether a person had an angry dream by the waves of the brain’s frontal lobe. The frontal lobe is an area that helps control emotional expression and problem solving. Specifically, asymmetric activity in the frontal lobes of the brain while sleeping and before bed may indicate that a person has an angry dream.
When we relax, the brain releases alpha brain waves at frequencies between 8 and 12 Hz. The more alpha waves are released in a region of the brain, the less they engage in work. If alpha wave activity between the two frontal lobes does not match, it indicates that the person is trying to control his or her anger. After analyzing their brain waves, the team found a similar condition in the brain when the participants fell asleep after spending two nights in a sleep lab( one week apart). People with alpha wave asymmetry in the frontal lobe of the brain reported that they had more angry dreams when they slept.
Lonely Antarctic Adventure
Loneliness has a negative effect on the brain
Humans are social creatures, even introverts, and loneliness has a negative effect on the brain. A study has found that nine explorers have shrunk their brains after more than a year in the empty Antarctica. The researchers compared brain scans of the explorers before and after their journey to the Antarctic continent and found that some areas of the explorer’s brain, such as the hippocampus, became smaller when they returned. The hippocampus is the area of the brain responsible for learning and memory. The study was published in early December.
What’s more, these explorers have lower levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factors (BDNf), a protein that supports the growth and survival of new neurons and is necessary to establish new connections in the brain. Now, researchers are trying to find ways, such as daily exercise or virtual reality, to help explorers prevent brain atrophy in this lonely, non-stimulating environment.
Vanishing sniffer ball
What an inexplicable scenario it would be if a person could pick up an apple without a hand. Similarly, the researchers found that a small number of people still have a sense of smell even if they lack the key brain regions associated with smell. The olfactory ball is located at the front of the brain and is responsible for handling odor information from the nose. Researchers stumbled upon the phenomenon while performing a brain scan on a 29-year-old woman. Later, they discovered that two other women had the same condition. They also missed the olfactory ball, but claimed they still had a sense of smell. The researchers tested the women’s brains and smells to confirm their claims.
Researchers don’t yet know what causes this magical olfactory ability, but they believe that other parts of the brain may have played the role of olfactory ball, demonstrating the brain’s ability to transform itself. Another possibility is that the previous view was wrong, and we didn’t need the olfactory ball to recognize and recognize the smell – which meant that the olfactory ball might have other functions.
Some animals can use the invisible magnetic field that surrounds the earth as a natural navigation system. As it turns out, some people may also feel the Earth’s magnetic field, and the reason is not clear. In a study published in March, researchers scanned the brain activity of 34 subjects. The subjects were asked to sit in a dark test chamber with an artificial magnetic field, and analysis of their brains showed that four of them showed strong reactions to changes in the magnetic field from northeast to northwest, but not in the opposite.
The four men’s brain waves dropped, indicating that their brains received a signal, most likely a magnetic signal. It’s not clear why some people react to magnetic fields, others don’t, and we don’t know how the brain detects these signals. But the researchers say previous research has found that the human brain contains a large amount of tiny magnetic particles, which may be related.
The concept of death
Death, like life and love, is a natural phenomenon, but a recent study shows that the brain protects us from thinking about our own death, keeping us away from the idea that one day we will sleep as long as others. In everyday life, the brain uses old information to predict what will happen in similar scenarios in the future, so in theory the brain should be able to predict that we will die one day.
But it turns out that our thoughts about our own eventual death break this mechanism of the brain. The researchers found this by looking at the brains of 24 people in response to words related to death. Measurements of brain activity show that when people think of their own death, the brain’s predictive mechanisms fail. It’s not clear why this happens, but according to theorists, being too aware of their own death reduces a person’s chances of having children because fear can be an obstacle to their search for a spouse.
Brain fluid “brainwashed”
Cerebral spinal fluid will rhythmically flow into the sleeping brain
Researchers have long known that our sleeping brain activity is very rhythmic, producing ups and downs in neuronal activity waves. But this year, for the first time, researchers have discovered another substance associated with this rhythmic cycle: cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid surrounds the brain and spinal cord at all times and acts as a protective force. Previous studies have shown that cerebrospinal fluid also removes toxic proteins from the brain while we sleep.
The researchers scanned the brains of 13 sleep participants using an MRI and found that cerebrospinal fluid did flow rhythmically into the sleeping brain. First brain activity is soothing, then blood flows out of the brain, and then cerebrospinal fluid flows into the brain. In fact, the flow of cerebrospinal fluid is stable and predictable, and by looking at the flow of cerebrospinal fluid, you can see whether a person is asleep or awake. These findings may provide new insights into brain-related problems in the aging process.
Disappeared half of the brain
For patients whose hemispheres of the brain are removed, the connection between different brain networks is stronger
The brain has extraordinary changes and adaptability, such as the ability of a few people to maintain normal function after having half their brains removed in childhood to reduce seizures. According to a new study, although these people’s brains are a full half smaller, they still work well because the remaining half is strengthened. Six adults in their 20s and 30s took part in the study, who had half their brains cut between the ages of 3 and 11. The researchers analyzed their brain activity and compared it with people with a good brain.
Brain scans showed that participants with only one hemisphere of the brain had the same synergy as people with the same network, such as vision, in the same network. They also found that patients with the brain’s hemisphere were removed had a stronger connection between different brain networks, suggesting that the brain was able to make up for a large portion of their own deficiency.
Learning a language
A study published in March showed that in order to master the mother tongue, the brain needed the equivalent of a floppy disk. The average English-speaking adult may need to learn about 12.5 million bits of information about the language, equivalent to 1.5 megabytes of storage (the study authors simply store information in the form of bits or 0s and 1s, for example). However, most of these millions of bits of linguistic information have little to do with grammar and syntax, and more to the meaning of words. At best, an adult can remember 1,000 to 2,000 bits of his or her native language a day, while at worst, they can remember about 120 bits a day.
Resurrected dead brain
Scientists resumed blood circulation and cell activity in pigs within hours of their brain’s death. This radical experiment challenges the prevailing view that the brain suffers sudden and irreversible damage after death. Studies have shown that brain cells die longer than previously thought, and in some cases can even be delayed or reversed. Researchers have developed a post-mortem brain research system called BrainEx, which injects artificial blood substitutes into the brain’s arteries. Four hours after the death of 32 pigs, the researchers injected the solution into their brains and left it in the brain for six hours. It was found that the system retained the structure of brain cells, reduced cell death, and restored some cell activity.
Although the researchers stressed that they had not observed any activity indicating conscious brain activity, the findings have led some scientists to question what it means to be alive. What’s more, the study was conducted in pigs, not humans. However, the brains of pigs are more similar to the human brain than the brains of rodents.
According to a study published in June, some patients in coma or plant-like conditions showed signs of “hidden consciousness.” The researchers analyzed brain waves from more than 100 patients who did not respond after brain damage. They found that within a few days of the injury, one in seven patients had a clear pattern of brain activity, or “hidden consciousness,” when they were told to move their hands. This indicates that the patient can understand the instruction but cannot move. A year later, 44 percent of patients with signs of primary hidden consciousness were able to take care of themselves for at least eight hours a day, compared with only 14 percent of those who showed no signs of primary hidden consciousness. In other words, patients with these “hidden consciousness” signs are more likely to recover than those without them, according to the researchers. (Any day)