Nav: Home

JNeurosci: Highlights from the March 15 issue

March 17, 2017

A Missing Piece in the Puzzle of Language Evolution

Humans' unique language abilities have been attributed in part to a bundle of fibers that connects different parts of the brain associated with the production and comprehension of language. This connectivity -- which is much less pronounced in nonhuman primates -- is thought to support the working memory needed to learn new words. In a new study, researchers used computer modelling to compare the connectivity between these language areas in monkeys and humans and tested the response of these networks to simulated word learning. The researchers found evidence of verbal working memory only in the human network, in which short connections between nonadjacent language areas of the brain provide information-retention and processing-speed advantages over the "smaller and functionally sluggish" monkey network. These findings could help to explain why monkeys have only been able to achieve a fraction of human vocabulary, even after extensive training.

Corresponding author: Malte R. Schomers,

Migraine Impairs Clearance of Waste From the Brain

For as many as a third of migraine patients, the painful headache can be preceded by vision disturbances such as blurriness or sensitivity to light. This migraine aura is the result of altered neural activity called cortical spreading depression (CSD), a phenomenon that could negatively impact brain health over time. In a new study in mice, researchers found that CSD dramatically delays and slows the flow of cellular waste from the brain. Similar impairment of the brain's waste clearance system has been associated with lack of sleep and traumatic brain injury, which are also risk factors for neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's. Together, these findings raise the possibility that migraine aura could facilitate degenerative processes in the brain.

Corresponding author: Rami Burstein,

How Social Dysfunction May Emerge in Neuropsychiatric Disorders

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and Tourette syndrome (TS) are characterized by highly ritualized behaviors that disrupt an individual's daily life. These disorders often occur together and may share a common basis in the brain. In a new study in mice, scientists show that selective elimination of striatal cholinergic interneurons (SCIN) -- which were previously found to be impoverished in brain samples of deceased TS patients -- leads to altered social interactions that resemble those of OCD and TS patients. It did not affect motor function, balance or locomotion, but resulted in a highly repetitive and structured pattern of social investigations of other mice. This suggests a role for SCIN in regulating social behaviors that become dysfunctional in neuropsychiatric disorders.

Corresponding author: Juan Belforte,
The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 38,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.

Society for Neuroscience

Related Language Articles:

Why the language-ready brain is so complex
In a review article published in Science, Peter Hagoort, professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at Radboud University and director of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics, argues for a new model of language, involving the interaction of multiple brain networks.
Do as i say: Translating language into movement
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have developed a computer model that can translate text describing physical movements directly into simple computer-generated animations, a first step toward someday generating movies directly from scripts.
Learning language
When it comes to learning a language, the left side of the brain has traditionally been considered the hub of language processing.
Learning a second alphabet for a first language
A part of the brain that maps letters to sounds can acquire a second, visually distinct alphabet for the same language, according to a study of English speakers published in eNeuro.
Sign language reveals the hidden logical structure, and limitations, of spoken language
Sign languages can help reveal hidden aspects of the logical structure of spoken language, but they also highlight its limitations because speech lacks the rich iconic resources that sign language uses on top of its sophisticated grammar.
More Language News and Language Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Rethinking Anger
Anger is universal and complex: it can be quiet, festering, justified, vengeful, and destructive. This hour, TED speakers explore the many sides of anger, why we need it, and who's allowed to feel it. Guests include psychologists Ryan Martin and Russell Kolts, writer Soraya Chemaly, former talk radio host Lisa Fritsch, and business professor Dan Moshavi.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...