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New Discovery

Move!—Because Exercise Can Boost Your Brainpower

Have you ever considered preparing for an exam by doing physical exercise? Wouldn’t it be great to go outside and play capture the flag or double Dutch with your friends instead of doing math? Of course, you already know that this is wishful thinking. Everyone has to prepare carefully and learn attentively if they want to do better in their exams. However, it is also true that exercise can boost your brainpower. In the following article, we are going to look into when and to what extent physical exercise is beneficial to your brain and under what circumstances positive effects like these can occur.

Authors

Valentin Benzing / Mirko Schmidt
Reviewed by Peterhead Academy
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Core Concept

What Are Different Brains Made Of?

How are brains built? What are the parts and pieces that make a brain what it is? Looking at the brains of different animals, we can see similarities and differences. They have similar shapes, with similar structures, but vary a lot in size and in their folds. So, are the brains of all animals built the same way? If that were true, the human brain would be a larger version of a rodent's brain. But several studies applying a new technique to count the number of cells that make up the nervous tissue says otherwise. Not all brains are built in a single way. The relationships between brain size and its number of neurons can vary a lot. This brings a lot of interesting consequences about how the brain changed in different species through the history of life.

Authors

Kleber Neves / Felipe daCunha / Suzana Herculano-Houzel
Reviewed by Riverside Elementary School
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New Discovery

How Does Aspirin Work in Plants and Humans?

Millions of people rely on aspirin to treat their headaches, fevers, and other ailments. But what most people don’t know is that the active ingredient in aspirin was first discovered in plants, where it plays a major role in keeping plants healthy. In the body, aspirin breaks down into a compound called salicylic acid (SA). In plants, SA is a critical hormone that regulates many processes, including immunity. Using powerful screens, we identified more than two dozen proteins that change their activities when they bind SA. SA and related compounds, both natural and synthetic, also have multiple targets in humans. We recently discovered several previously unknown SA targets, which are associated with prevalent, devastating human diseases. We have also identified several SA-based compounds that bind to these proteins more tightly and therefore inhibit their disease-associated activities much better than SA; this gives hope that better aspirin-type drugs can be developed.

Authors

Dan Klessig
Reviewed by ITI Galileo Ferraris
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New Discovery

Focusing Is Hard! Brain Responses to Reward in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder

Have there been times when you just couldn’t focus on homework or wait for your turn to speak? We all have these experiences! But for some children and adults, focusing, sitting or waiting is extra hard, and that gets them into trouble all the time. They may have something called, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (“ADHD”). But why is it harder for them? We thought that perhaps a part of their brains might work a little differently. So, we looked inside the brains of college students to see their brain activity. We found that, for the students who had ADHD, one brain area was not very active when they were waiting for good things. When the brain sends signals that ‘good things are coming soon!’ this helps us wait or focus, even during boring tasks! For those with ADHD, these signals might be weaker, making it harder to wait and focus.

Authors

Emi Furukawa / Patricia Bado / Gail Tripp / Paulo Mattos / Jorge Moll
Reviewed by Champions of Science, Chabot Space and Science Center
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Core Concept

Get Off the Couch! Exercise Your Way to a Healthy Brain

We all know that physical activity is good for our heart and lungs, but is it also good for our brain? Research has shown that regular physical activity can boost brain performance in a variety of different populations, from children and young adults, to older adults at-risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease. These improvements in brain performance can be measured by tests of memory, thinking, and attention. It is thought that physical activity improves brain performance by changing brain function and size, a process known as neuroplasticity. In particular, physical activity may increase the size of the hippocampus – the brain’s memory center. Importantly, the benefits of physical activity on the brain are seen at all ages, which means it’s never too late to start. This research shows that being physically active may be an enjoyable way to help us improve our grades at school now, and keep our brains healthy throughout our lives.

Authors

Lindsay S. Nagamatsu
Reviewed by Dylan
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Core Concept

Connecting the Dots: Your Brain and Creativity

Have you ever taken the opportunity to marvel at an intricate painting, relax to a delicate piece of music or ponder a complex poem? Humans pursue creative expression and enjoy consuming creatively produced material everyday. Creativity is essential for the arts, innovation and human expression. How does the brain support creativity? However, while creativity is all around us and a fundamental aspect of our lives, scientific inquiry into creativity has been difficult. While we can identify creative acts and processes, there has been some trouble testing and measuring creativity. Here we explore the scientific research of creativity. In particular we ask, what is happening in the brain and in our thoughts in order for us to pursue creative endeavors? Lastly, we explore some myths surrounding the brain and creativity and the benefits that being creative has in your life.

Authors

Dita Cavdarbasha / Jake Kurczek
Reviewed by Amalia
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Core Concept

Knowing What We See

Have you ever wondered how you know what you see? For example, when you see a round, red object at the grocery store, how do you know that it is called an apple and that it can be eaten? This type of knowledge is called semantic memory. Semantic memories are learned over a lifetime and can be accessed without remembering a specific experience. In other words, you do not need to remember details from the last time you ate an apple to identify one at the grocery store. Although knowledge about apples seems to come to mind rather easily when we see them, linking semantic memory to vision actually requires a lot of brain power! The purpose of this paper is to explain how the brain accomplishes this goal and describe the functions of key brain regions. We also discuss the functional importance of linking semantic memory and vision.

Authors

Chris B. Martin / Celia Fidalgo / Morgan D. Barense
Reviewed by Princeton Friends School
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Core Concept

What Is Spinal Cord Injury?

The spinal cord is a pathway for messages to and from the brain and other parts of the body. It has nerve cells called neurons which are divided into white matter – which has a fatty coating called myelin and grey matter. It is protected by the boney spine. When the spinal cord is injured, the injury happens in two stages: the first of these is the actual injury where the cord is bruised or torn and the second is known as the secondary injury. The secondary injury includes a few different reactions that happen in the body because of the bruising and tearing. Spinal cord injuries can cause a person to lose feeling or use of their arms and legs so scientists are working to find different ways of stopping or reducing the secondary injury to help people with spinal cord injuries recover better.

Authors

Madeleine O’Higgins / Anna Badner / Michael G. Fehlings
Reviewed by Noa
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New Discovery

What Is in Milk? How Nutrition Influences the Developing Brain

Have you ever noticed that babies less than six-months of age only drink milk? This is because their digestive system is not quite developed enough to handle all the different foods and drinks that you can easily digest. You may have also noticed that babies can’t walk, talk, or read during that same time. This is partially because their brains also haven’t matured enough let them do activities that you can easily do. The brain is growing very quickly at this time, so it is important to make sure babies are provided the best nutrition for brain growth. However, it is difficult to test babies, so our research looks at how different components in milk affect a piglet’s brain development, since piglets are much more similar to human infants than you might have thought. This study shows that some components of milk may help the brain develop.

Authors

Austin T. Mudd / Lindsey S. Alexander / Rosaline V. Waworuntu / Brian M. Berg / Sharon M. Donovan / Ryan N. Dilger
Reviewed by University of Memphis Campus School
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Core Concept

Getting Out of the Laboratory to Make Experiments Real: Can Sports Fans Influence Muay Thai Judges?

To find out if one thing actually causes another, carefully controlled experiments are needed. Experiments usually take place in a laboratory. However, to examine how people respond to things that happen in particular places at particular times, it can also be important to step outside the laboratory. This article discusses how to have enough control in an experiment to be confident that something caused something else to happen, yet also be confident the same effect would happen with other people, at other times, and in other places. To illustrate how this can be done, the article looks at a study that investigates the effect of crowd noise on sports officials during Muay Thai competitions.

Authors

Tony D. Myers
Reviewed by Emily
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