Sleep has been identified as a state that optimizes the consolidation of newly acquired information in memory, depending on the specific conditions of learning and the timing of sleep. Consolidation during sleep promotes both quantitative and qualitative changes of memory representations. Through specific patterns of neuromodulatory activity and electric field potential oscillations, slow-wave sleep (SWS) and rapid eye movement ( REM) sleep support system consolidation and synaptic consolidation, respectively. During SWS, slow oscillations, spindles and ripples-at minimum cholinergic activity-coordinate the re-activation and redistribution of hippocampus-dependent memories to neocortical sites, whereas during REM sleep, local increases in plasticity-related immediate-early gene activity-at high cholinergic and theta activity-might favour the subsequent synaptic consolidation of memories in the cortex.
The availability of neuroimaging technology has spurred a marked increase in the human cognitive neuroscience literature, including the study of cognitive ageing. Although there is a growing consensus that the ageing brain retains considerable plasticity of function, currently measured primarily by means of functional MRI, it is less clear how age differences in brain activity relate to cognitive performance. The field is also hampered by the complexity of the ageing process itself and the large number of factors that are influenced by age. In this Review, current trends and unresolved issues in the cognitive neuroscience of ageing are discussed.
Feelings are mental experiences of body states. They signify physiological need (for example, hunger), tissue injury (for example, pain), optimal function (for example, well-being), threats to the organism (for example, fear or anger) or specific social interactions (for example, compassion, gratitude or love). Feelings constitute a crucial component of the mechanisms of life regulation, from simple to complex. Their neural substrates can be found at all levels of the nervous system, from individual neurons to subcortical nuclei and cortical regions.
Inter-individual variability in perception, thought and action is frequently treated as a source of 'noise' in scientific investigations of the neural mechanisms that underlie these processes, and discarded by averaging data from a group of participants. However, recent MRI studies in the human brain show that inter-individual variability in a wide range of basic and higher cognitive functions - including perception, motor control, memory, aspects of consciousness and the ability to introspect - can be predicted from the local structure of grey and white matter as assessed by voxel-based morphometry or diffusion tensor imaging. We propose that inter-individual differences can be used as a source of information to link human behaviour and cognition to brain anatomy.
A clear majority of patients with chronic pain are women; however, it has been surprisingly difficult to determine whether this sex bias corresponds to actual sex differences in pain sensitivity. A survey of the currently available epidemiological and laboratory data indicates that the evidence for clinical and experimental sex differences in pain is overwhelming. Various explanations for this phenomenon have been given, ranging from experiential and sociocultural differences in pain experience between men and women to hormonally and genetically driven sex differences in brain neurochemistry.
Human brain development occurs within a socioeconomic context and childhood socioeconomic status (SES) influences neural development particularly of the systems that subserve language and executive function. Research in humans and in animal models has implicated prenatal factors, parent-child interactions and cognitive stimulation in the home environment in the effects of SES on neural development. These findings provide a unique opportunity for understanding how environmental factors can lead to individual differences in brain development, and for improving the programmes and policies that are designed to alleviate SES-related disparities in mental health and academic achievement.
Speech production has been studied predominantly from within two traditions, psycholinguistics and motor control. These traditions have rarely interacted, and the resulting chasm between these approaches seems to reflect a level of analysis difference: whereas motor control is concerned with lower-level articulatory control, psycholinguistics focuses on higher-level linguistic processing. However, closer examination of both approaches reveals a substantial convergence of ideas. The goal of this article is to integrate psycholinguistic and motor control approaches to speech production. The result of this synthesis is a neuroanatomically grounded, hierarchical state feedback control model of speech production.
The impact of stress on brain function is increasingly recognized. Various substances are released in response to stress and can influence distinct neuronal circuits, but the functional advantages of having such a diversity of stress mediators remain unclear. Individual neurotransmitter, neuropeptide and steroid stress mediators have specific spatial and temporal niches, but these niches also overlap. In addition, the effects of individual mediators on neuronal function and plasticity are integrated, and emerging evidence suggests that there is crosstalk between them. Together, this results in the stress instruments producing an orchestrated 'symphony' that enables fine-tuned responses to diverse challenges.
Although it is well established that all brain regions contain various neuronal subtypes with different functions, astrocytes have traditionally been thought to be homogenous. However, recent evidence has shown that astrocytes in the mammalian CNS display distinct inter- and intra-regional features, as well as functional diversity. In the CNS, astrocyte processes fill the local environment in non-overlapping domains. Therefore, a potential advantage of region-specified astrocytes might be their capacity to regulate local development or optimize local neural circuit function. An overview of the regional heterogeneity of neuron astrocyte interactions indicates novel ways in which they could regulate normal neurological function and shows how they might become dysregulated in disease.
Sleep and circadian rhythm disruption are frequently observed in patients with psychiatric disorders and neurodegenerative disease. The abnormal sleep that is experienced by these patients is largely assumed to be the product of medication or some other influence that is not well defined. However, normal brain function and the generation of sleep are linked by common neurotransmitter systems and regulatory pathways. Disruption of sleep alters sleep-wake timing, destabilizes physiology and promotes a range of pathologies (from cognitive to metabolic defects) that are rarely considered to be associated with abnormal sleep. We propose that brain disorders and abnormal sleep have a common mechanistic origin and that many co-morbid pathologies that are found in brain disease arise from a destabilization of sleep mechanisms. The stabilization of sleep may be a means by which to reduce the symptoms of - and permit early intervention of - psychiatric and neurodegenerative disease.
Dynamic aspects of interactions between astrocytes, neurons and the vasculature have recently been in the neuroscience spotlight. It has emerged that not only neurons but also astrocytes are organized into networks. Whereas neuronal networks exchange information through electrical and chemical synapses, astrocytes are interconnected through gap junction channels that are regulated by extra- and intracellular signals and allow exchange of information. This intercellular communication between glia has implications for neuroglial and gliovascular interactions and hence has added another level of complexity to our understanding of brain function.
The extracellutar matrix (ECM) occupies a notable proportion of the CNS and contributes to its normal physiology. Alterations to the ECM occur after neural injury (for example, in multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injury or Alzheimer's disease) and can have drastic consequences. Of note, injury-induced changes in chondroitin sulphate proteoglycans (CSPGs)-a family of ECM proteoglycans can lead to the inhibition of myelin repair. Here, we highlight the pathophysiological roles of the brain's ECM, particularly those of CSPGs, after neural insults and discuss how the ECM can be targeted to promote remyelination.
The voltage-gated calcium channel alpha(2)delta and beta subunits are traditionally considered to be auxiliary subunits that enhance channel trafficking, increase the expression of functional calcium channels at the plasma membrane and influence the channels' biophysical properties. Accumulating evidence indicates that these subunits may also have roles in the nervous system that are not directly linked to calcium channel function. For example, beta subunits may act as transcriptional regulators, and certain alpha(2)delta subunits may function in synaptogenesis. The aim of this Review is to examine both the classic and novel roles for these auxiliary subunits in voltage-gated calcium channel function and beyond.
The application of neuroimaging methods to product marketing - neuromarketing - has recently gained considerable popularity. We propose that there are two main reasons for this trend. First, the possibility that neuroimaging will become cheaper and faster than other marketing methods; and second, the hope that neuroimaging will provide marketers with information that is not obtainable through conventional marketing methods. Although neuroimaging is unlikely to be cheaper than other tools in the near future, there is growing evidence that it may provide hidden information about the consumer experience. The most promising application of neuroimaging methods to marketing may come before a product is even released - when it is just an idea being developed.
Prominent models of human long-term memory distinguish between memory systems on the basis of whether learning and retrieval occur consciously or unconsciously. Episodic memory formation requires the rapid encoding of associations between different aspects of an event which, according to these models, depends on the hippocampus and on consciousness. However, recent evidence indicates that the hippocampus mediates rapid associative learning with and without consciousness in humans and animals, for long-term and short-term retention. Consciousness seems to be a poor criterion for differentiating between declarative (or explicit) and nondeclarative (or implicit) types of memory. A new model is therefore required in which memory systems are distinguished based on the processing operations involved rather than by consciousness.