Neuroscience

From laboratory to farm: a scientist’s visit to the local herb farm

As a basic scientist, most of my neuroscience training and research has focused on the underlying biological mechanisms of disease. During the past year, I have started working with a natural compound in my research on Parkinson’s disease. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric spice, can act as an anti-oxidant and anti-aggregation agent, and may have a positive effect on the Lewy bodies found in Parkinson’s patients. At first, I was a bit skeptical about … Read More

What causes a migraine?

“I have a pounding headache!” We’ve all heard that lament – from a friend or family member, and very likely felt one ourselves. That throbbing, pounding head pain that makes it hard to think, much less do everything we need to do. According to surveys, more than 10 percent of the U.S. population suffers from migraine headaches. Women are more frequent sufferers than men, with up to 25 percent of women experiencing migraines, but less … Read More

‘Neuroprotection’: an elusive goal in fighting brain diseases

About 15 years ago, I wrote an article about treating Alzheimer’s disease that divided treatments into two categories: “symptomatic” and “neuroprotectant.” There were real options in the former category. But the “neuroprotectant” idea was more theoretical — more of a “coming attractions” approach — citing the studies that were underway to identify treatments that would actually save brain cells, protecting those neurons from further harm, and actually slowing or arresting the disease process. Sadly, despite … Read More

They’re not just in your head — functional neurological disorders

Functional or psychogenic neurological disorders are conditions with neurological symptoms that are thought to be due to psychological dysfunction rather than an underlying neurological disorder. They can be classified as malingering if the person is intentionally having the symptoms. Perhaps someone is pretending an arm or leg is weak after a car accident in hopes of getting compensation from the other driver. However, in most cases, the symptoms are not conscious or voluntary. Common symptoms … Read More

Brain News Roundup: ‘Seeing’ emotions, concussions and ‘multi-tasking’

Scientists can now see “sad” and “happy” in our brains. More news on the impact of concussions, including long-term impacts. And a roundup of more brain news, including fatherhood and our (mistaken) belief about how well we multi-task. • Scientists have discovered a way to “see” emotions with brain imaging technology, according to a recent study. Beyond being just plain fascinating, scientists hope the findings could bring a new way to analyze emotions beyond people’s … Read More

Pioneering scientist speaks about brain mapping

Those of us who work within the OHSU Brain Institute are honored to have Dr. Marcus Raichle visit us May 13 to present an evening seminar in the Brain Awareness Lecture Series, entitled “How Do We Peer Deeply into the Brain.” Raichle has been at the forefront in the development and application of advanced brain imaging techniques to advance neuroscience for four decades. He is a pioneer in the use of innovative positron emission tomography, or … Read More

Violence in the brain? And beer …

Physicians and researchers have some pretty amazing ways of peering inside the human brain. And some of those methods — and what they might show us — have been in the news a lot lately. A couple of neurosurgeons at Boston University, who have studied former NFL football players and others who have received repeated hits to the head, say that the brain of alleged Boston bomber Tamerlan Tsarnaev should be studied in a special … Read More

Smarter brain ‘glue’ — glia cells take the spotlight

Many neuroscientists will tell you that nerve cells in the brain (called neurons) are the most important part of the nervous system. They are, after all, the primary cells of the nervous system, responsible for conducting electrical currents to encode and process our senses, thoughts, memories and emotions. But there is a growing contingent of neuroscientists who study other brain cells called glia, named for the Greek word for glue. For much of the last … Read More

Valentine’s Day and love — more about your brain than your heart

As Valentine’s Day nears, and we think about love and attraction, it’s tempting to think it’s all about longing stares and fluttering hearts and fate. But beneath all of that, it’s really about … dopamine, norepinephrine, serotonin, oxytocin and vasopressin. Because when we talk about “chemistry” between two people, we are also talking a lot about “brain chemistry.” A couple of years ago, I was part of a special multimedia presentation, with Grammy nominated vocalist … Read More

A broken heart and a broken leg — much the same to our brains

The recent shootings at the Clackamas Town Center mall and then at the elementary school in Newtown, Conn., made me think about emotional distress, and the ways in which it mirrors physical pain. When we talk about emotional suffering, it is almost impossible to avoid pain-related words. We say: “She hurt my feelings.” Or: “He broke her heart.” This is not just an idiosyncrasy of the English language; a similar pattern has been documented in … Read More

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