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Did You Know Natalie Portman Co-Authored A Paper About Neuroimaging?

Did you know that Natalie Portman (under the name, Natalie Hershlag) published a paper in a scientific journal in 2002 while at Harvard?

Frontal lobe activation during object permanence: data from near-infrared spectroscopy.

The ability to create and hold a mental schema of an object is one of the milestones in cognitive development. Developmental scientists have named the behavioral manifestation of this competence object permanence. Convergent evidence indicates that frontal lobe maturation plays a critical role in the display of object permanence, but methodological and ethical constrains have made it difficult to collect neurophysiological evidence from awake, behaving infants. Near-infrared spectroscopy provides a noninvasive assessment of changes in oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin and total hemoglobin concentration within a prescribed region. The evidence described in this report reveals that the emergence of object permanence is related to an increase in hemoglobin concentration in frontal cortex.

*This blog post was originally published at ScienceRoll*

Meditation: How It May Change The Brain

Meditation sounds like a great idea from the perspective of a psychiatrist: Anything that calms and focuses the mind is a good thing (and without pharmaceuticals, even better).

Personally, I tried transcendental meditation as a kid (more to do with my mother than with me) and found it to be boring. I have trouble keeping my thoughts still. They wander to what I want for dinner, and should I write about this on Shrink Rap, and will Clink and Victor ever eat crabcakes with me again, and did I remember to give my last patient informed consent, and a zillion other things. Holding my thoughts still is work.

The New York Times Well blog has an article on meditation and brain changes. In “How Meditation May Change the Brain,” Sindya N. Bhanoo writes:

The researchers report that those who meditated for about 30 minutes a day for eight weeks had measurable changes in gray-matter density in parts of the brain associated with memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. The findings will appear in the Jan. 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging.

M.R.I. brain scans taken before and after the participants’ meditation regimen found increased gray matter in the hippocampus, an area important for learning and memory. The images also showed a reduction of gray matter in the amygdala, a region connected to anxiety and stress. A control group that did not practice meditation showed no such changes.

Lower stress, lower blood pressure, higher empathy. I may have to give meditation another try.

*This blog post was originally published at Shrink Rap*

Autism In Adults: Diagnosed With A 15-Minute Brain Scan?

A team of researchers at King’s College of the University of London (KCL) has developed a brain scan which can purportedly detect autism in adults. The scan, which uses MRI to obtain images of the brain, can identify autism based on the physical makeup of grey matter in the brain. Results of an initial study involving the scan were published in the Journal of Neuroscience today.

From the article:

The team used an MRI scanner to take pictures of the brain’s grey matter. A separate imaging technique was then used to reconstruct these scans into 3D images that could be assessed for structure, shape and thickness — all intricate measurements that reveal Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) at its root.

The research studied 20 healthy adults, 20 adults with ASD, and 19 adults with ADHD. All participants were males aged between 20 and 68 years. After first being diagnosed by traditional methods (an IQ test, psychiatric interview, physical examination and blood test), scientists used the newly-developed brain scanning technique as a comparison. The brain scan was highly effective in identifying individuals with autism and may therefore provide a rapid diagnostic instrument, using biological signposts, to detect autism in the future.

KCL’s press release: Adult autism diagnosis by brain scan…

Abstract in the Journal of Neuroscience: Describing the Brain in Autism in Five Dimensions — Magnetic Resonance Imaging-Assisted Diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder Using a Multiparameter Classification Approach…

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

MRI Of The Female Orgasm

6774nnd.jpgScientists at Rutgers University are studying the female orgasm using functional MRI (fMRI).

During the experiment, women masturbate with the help of a dildo inside the fMRI machine so the team can study which areas of the brain are activated by arousal.

First they map the cervix, uterus, and clitoris to regions of the brain to create a sort of sexual homunculus. Then the women get ten minutes to stimulate to an orgasm, which is signaled to the researchers by raising a hand. Read more »

*This blog post was originally published at Medgadget*

Latest Interviews

IDEA Labs: Medical Students Take The Lead In Healthcare Innovation

It’s no secret that doctors are disappointed with the way that the U.S. healthcare system is evolving. Most feel helpless about improving their work conditions or solving technical problems in patient care. Fortunately one young medical student was undeterred by the mountain of disappointment carried by his senior clinician mentors…

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How To Be A Successful Patient: Young Doctors Offer Some Advice

I am proud to be a part of the American Resident Project an initiative that promotes the writing of medical students residents and new physicians as they explore ideas for transforming American health care delivery. I recently had the opportunity to interview three of the writing fellows about how to…

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Latest Book Reviews

Book Review: Is Empathy Learned By Faking It Till It’s Real?

I m often asked to do book reviews on my blog and I rarely agree to them. This is because it takes me a long time to read a book and then if I don t enjoy it I figure the author would rather me remain silent than publish my…

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The Spirit Of The Place: Samuel Shem’s New Book May Depress You

When I was in medical school I read Samuel Shem s House Of God as a right of passage. At the time I found it to be a cynical yet eerily accurate portrayal of the underbelly of academic medicine. I gained comfort from its gallows humor and it made me…

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Eat To Save Your Life: Another Half-True Diet Book

I am hesitant to review diet books because they are so often a tangled mess of fact and fiction. Teasing out their truth from falsehood is about as exhausting as delousing a long-haired elementary school student. However after being approached by the authors’ PR agency with the promise of a…

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