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Core Concept

Why Doesn’t Your Brain Heal Like Your Skin?

Skin wounds may be painful, but they usually heal perfectly. Worst case scenario, you may be left with a scar. In contrast, when the brain gets injured, we are often left with disabilities that stay with us for the rest of our lives. What is so different about the brain and how does it repair itself? Brain cells face unique challenges when they get injured, for example by a concussion or a stroke. And to cope with these challenges, the brain developed an ingenious strategy to deal with injury.

Authors

Nina Weishaupt / Angela Zhang
Reviewed by Trafalgar School for Girls
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New Discovery

Training Your Emotional Brain: From Science Fiction to Neuroscience

Our neuroscience research project begins with a science fiction story: in the future, androids (robots made of flesh and bones) became virtually identical to humans, except that they lacked deep emotions, such as empathy. What if we could find out a way to read empathic feelings just by measuring brain activity in real life? And, even more, what if a person could boost their empathic feelings (e.g. love, tenderness or affection) using information from their own brain activity? This was our goal. We asked 24 volunteers to enter in an MRI scanner that measures brain activity. Inside the machine, they should think about significant others while looking at their own brain activity on a monitor – a process called “neurofeedback”. Volunteers receiving neurofeedback were able to increase their brain activity associated with empathy. This evidence opens the possibility that people can change their brain’s emotional states and boost empathy.

Authors

Patricia Bado / Maria Stewart / Jorge Moll
Reviewed by St. Andrew’s College
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Core Concept

What Are Neural Stem Cells, and Why Are They Important?

For as long as anyone can remember, people have noticed that the brain has a limited ability to heal after injury. It was generally thought that this was in part due to the inability of the brain to make new cells. Then researchers observed that there are two special regions of the brain that actually do produce new cells, even in adults. The cells from these two special regions are called neural stem cells and now scientists are working hard to determine how their special properties can be used to treat different types of damage in the brain.

Authors

Leigh Anne Swayne / Juan C. Sanchez-Arias / Andrew Agbay / Stephanie Michelle Willerth
Reviewed by School of the Madeleine
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Core Concept

Why Is It Important to Improve Vaccines against Latent Tuberculosis?

Tuberculosis (TB) is an infectious (contagious) disease transmitted from persons that many times harbor the bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis within their lungs, from where they are expelled during coughing. TB is mainly present in developing countries, yet, given the facility to travel among different cities and countries; a single infected person could potentially spread TB to people in several places. TB affects several parts of the body during childhood and could become a fatal disease, therefore vaccination is recommended shortly after birth in countries with elevated numbers of infected people. Today, the only available vaccine is ineffective in preventing a chronic (latent) form of infection. During latent TB, Mycobacterium tuberculosis remains “dormant” within an infected person without causing trouble, but upon weakening of our defense (immune) system, it “awakes” and promotes active disease with coughing and potential to transmit to other people. Here, I present ideas to improve vaccines to prevent chronic (latent) tuberculosis as a way to diminish the chances of starting new infectious cycles upon “awakening” of “dormant” mycobacteria.

Authors

Mario Alberto Flores-Valdez
Reviewed by Aidan
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Core Concept

How Do We Understand Other People?

Imagine this: you walk into class, and see your friend sitting alone at a table. You notice your friend is looking downward, with a frown on her face. You would probably think from these clues that your friend is sad. But how did you know that? One way that your brain could accomplish this is by simulating, or copying in your mind what you see the other person doing. This may help you understand that when you are doing these things you are usually sad, so it is probably the case that your friend is sad too. While there are other hypotheses for how our brain understands others, we are going to focus on simulation, and how special cells in the brain-- called mirror neurons—may help to make simulation possible. We will first examine neuroimaging experiments, in monkeys and in humans, which help us understand this system better. Lastly, we discuss disorders such as autism, in which it may be more difficult to understand others’ actions, intentions and emotions.

Authors

Jennifer Stiso / Anat Perry
Reviewed by School of the Madeleine
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Core Concept

Caring for Your Brain: What You Need to Know about Concussions

Concussions are an injury to the brain that can result in changes in the way you think (cognitive), the way your brain works (neurological) and the way you feel (physical and emotional). Concussions can be caused by accidents where you hit your head with the ground, tree, or another person. It is important to know the signs and symptoms of a concussion and what you need to do to allow your brain to heal properly. It is also important to know how to prevent concussions.

Authors

Caroline J. Ketcham / Eric E. Hall
Reviewed by Darius
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Core Concept

Emotions and the Brain – Or How to Master “The Force”

Do you like science fiction? Have you heard of, or are you even a fan of, the iconic ‘Star Wars’ series? To summarize, there are rebels, emperors, princesses, robots and many more fabulous creatures. There is also a power source called ‘The Force’. It is used by the Jedi’s (the good ones), but also by the dark side (the evil ones). Only the dark side uses the destructive power of ‘The Force’ which exists based on negative emotions such as fear, anger, jealousy or hate. A Jedi masters ‘The Force’, and uses it for knowledge and defense by learning to control their emotions. Our research also looks at emotions and how to control them. We know that in our galaxy too, we have more success when we can control our feelings. Therefore, we want to find brain regions responsible for emotion processing and regulation and help those children struggling.

Authors

Nora Maria Raschle / Ebongo Tshomba / Willeke Martine Menks / Lynn Valérie Fehlbaum / Christina Stadler
Reviewed by Riverside Elementary School
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New Discovery

Can Children See Emotions in Faces?

One way in which we make judgements about how people are feeling is based on how their face looks. Being able to do this allows us to react in the right way in social situations. But are young children good at recognizing facial expressions of emotion? And how does this ability develop across childhood and the teenage years? Children are able to recognise certain emotions very well when they are just 6 years old but become better at recognizing other emotions as they grow older. At all ages, girls seem to have less difficulty at recognizing emotions than boys. Hormones that our body produces at puberty don’t just influence how our body develops but also influence how our brain develops and how we change emotionally. Understanding more about the typical development of emotion recognition can guide us in helping children who have difficulties with these skills.

Authors

Kate Lawrence / Ruth Campbell / David Henry Skuse
Reviewed by Jeya
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Core Concept

Big Bad Biofilms: How Communities of Bacteria Cause Long-Term Infections

Bacteria are tiny living things that like to attach to surfaces. Most bacteria are harmless, but if the wrong kind of bacteria get into the human body where they do not belong, they can cause an infection. Infections make the human body very sick. Most infections can be cured by antibiotics, but not infections caused by biofilms! Biofilms are communities of bacteria living together and covered in protective sticky goo, and most medicine does not work against them. Here we explain how biofilms protect bacteria from antibiotics, and what we can do to fight these long-term infections.

Authors

Mira Okshevsky / Rikke Louise Meyer
Reviewed by Vine Academy
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New Discovery

Can Money Buy You a Better Brain? What Do You Think?

The things you do and experience in the environment you grow up in as a child can impact the way your brain develops and works throughout your life. Our brains keep changing as we learn new skills and form new memories even when we get to be older adults. When we are in our childhood and adolescent years, our brains are like sponges, soaking up things we learn, see, eat, and do at a much faster rate than later in life. If you spent all of your time doing nothing when you are a kid, then, your brain would have nothing to tell it how to wire itself as you grow up. So, it is important that you give your brain a chance to experience new activities like sports, art, and music, to learn new things from reading books, or going to museums, and, to make new friends to play and learn with. You don’t need a lot of money to do many of these things, so, get off of the couch, and start training your brain!

Authors

Kristina Uban / Megan Herting / Elizabeth R. Sowell
Reviewed by Carpenter Community Charter School
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