As one of academia's leading neurocriminologists, Adrian Raine has asserted the controversial hypothesis that brain structure may help determine whether an individual becomes a psychopath, a violent criminal, or in Professor Raine's case, a university professor.Professor Raine of the University of Pennsylvania specializes in bio-social research concerning anti-social and criminal behavior. In his new book, The Anatomy of Violence, he draws on the field's latest scientific research to help explain how various brain disorders and environmentally induced cognitive impairments
can exert some level of control over an individual's decision-making ability, as well as one's emotionally-tuned intellectual capacity to empathize. All such factors may foster a physiologically altered brain structure over time.
Over the past thirty-five years Professor Raine has documented extensive bio-indicators that suggest the possibility for certain predispositions to violent tendencies. He also notes case studies of 41 convicted murderers, all of whom had limited functionality in the prefrontal cortex. Additionally, after conducting a comparative analysis of 21 subjects diagnosed with anti-social personality disorder versus those with normal brain functionality, Raine observed that the anti-social group showed an 11 percent reduced volume of neurological grey matter.
While Professor Raine's research does not claim to have established statistically significant research samples suggesting causality, he continues to offer a tempered corrective to any misleading assumptions that biology or brain scans might ultimately determine one's social fate. According to Raine's recounting of his personal background, he points out his keen surprise when examining his own PET (positron emission tomography) profile scan as he discovered that the structure of his own cognitive physiology held similar characteristics to that of psychopathic murderers than with the control group of his very own research.
To learn more about Professor Raine's research, please visit this recent in-depth interview
UK scientists report that a moderate serving of champagne may help stave off brain disorders.
The research team at Reading University noted that a compound known as phenolic acid, typically found in the grapes used to make champagne may be the source of a surprising nutritional benefit.
Their initial conclusion comes following an experiment recently conducted on lab rats in which the subjects were fed champagne in a mixture of their regular food source over a period of six weeks.
Each lab rat was then led through a series of cognitive tests with each test being repeated after several minutes of rest to gauge whether the subject recalled how to navigate through the various puzzles.
Surprisingly, the lab rats that consumed the champagne mixture experienced over a seventy percent success rate compared to the control group.
Researchers now hope to conduct a similar experiment on human subjects over the age of sixty. To find out more, please visit
the original news release at "Three glasses of champagne...
"or visit the University of Reading's Centre for Integrative Neuroscience and Neurodynamics
Could the progressively lucrative area of brain science also harbor a national political agenda behind it?While many in the scientific community welcome the increasing interest in neuroscience, others are skeptical about recent government funded initiatives.
Earlier this March, the Ontario government indicated it might pledge $100 million within the next 5 years to brain research. Such an investment follows recent efforts like the Obama administration’s $3 billion to create a national research project dubbed the Brain Activity Map. Following in step, other nationalized initiatives, particularly in European, are likewise seeking to produce a supercomputer simulation from the human brain’s gray matter.
Scholars, bloggers, and medical experts are weighing in around the globe with many finding similarities between such previous large-scale efforts, such as the Human Genome Project. Some scientists are concerned that diversity and academic freedom may be sacrificed as massive funds are funneled into directed research aims while other fundamental scientific approaches are potentially neglected. To read more, please visit
the University of Toronto's recent article on the "Neuroscience Arms Race."
To read more about the original brain study discussing impulse control and the brain region known as the anterior cingulate cortex, or ACC, as it relates to potentially "predicting" crime, please visit this in-depth interview
with the study's researchers published in the Huffington Post.
Academic Journal Ref.:
- E.Aharoni, G.M.Vincent, C.L.Harenski, V.D.Calhoun, W.Sinnott-Armstrong, M.S.Gazzaniga, and K.A.Kiehl. "Neuro-prediction of future rearrest." Proceedings of the Nat'l Academy of Sciences. 2013; pub. ahead of print 27Mar.2013.
A new study sponsored by the National Institute of Health has made it possible to record brain activity from a remote location in real time while a test subject continues to function amid natural environmental settings.
Typically, previous studies that recorded brain activity relied heavily on controlled environments facilitated in a laboratory setting with the subject connected to wired-devices. This new technology allows for ubiquitous monitoring of the brain through the use of a small implantable sensor.
While further development of the implantable remote technology is still underway, the device has yet to be used on human test subjects. Additional testing is necessary, though the goal of the study ultimately aims to find new ways to shorten the rehabilitation process for those who suffer from paralysis and amputations. The clinical applications for this new technology may one day even allow for improved treatment of epilepsy and other forms of neurological impairment by allowing scientists to understand how the brain circuitry coordinates muscle control.
At this point the implantable monitoring device is only slightly larger than the size of a quarter, yet numerous hurdles to further development still exist. Researchers hope to design a sensor small enough to be less invasive and delicate enough to support both the microscopic wireless technology while not harming the soft tissue in the surrounding area. While previous implantable devices were non-rechargeable and weak in translating brain activity into digital signals, this new experiment drastically improves upon former studies by offering a long-term implant that can be recharged remotely through a wireless connection.
To read more about this study, published in the April 2013 issue of the Journal of Neural Engineering
. Please visit their website.
Academic Journal Ref.:
Borton D., Yin M., Aceros J. and Nurmikko A. "An implantable wireless neural interface for recording cortical circuit dynamics in moving primates." Journal of Neural Engineering. 10('13)026010 (16p).
New Research on Treating Depression with Trans-Cranial Direct Current Stimulation
Imagine a depressed patient lying on the clinic table with electrodes connected to her head. Suddenly, the current begins to flow into her brain. This might seem like a frightening scenario. But thankfully, there are no seizures or memory loss. The days of electric shock therapy are long gone. What’s more encouraging, there are no straps, no mouthpieces, and certainly no team of male nurses holding the poor patient down. This is not Electro-Convulsive Therapy (ECT) – the archaic and misguided institutional treatments of yesteryear. Instead, science has welcomed a new age treatment which involves non-invasive electrode treatment therapy better known as Trans-cranial Direct Current Stimulation, also known as tDCS.
This non-invasive new electrode treatment is currently being investigated for its potential use with depressed patients as an adjunct to drug therapies. Precisely, how tDCS works is still unclear. It may promote brain activity in the frontal lobe. But its usefulness appears to offer the patient some relief of the various symptoms of depression from an altogether different neurological mechanism than the commonly used SSRI drugs. The electrical current used in tDCS method is approximately 1/400th of that used in previously unsuccessful and outdated ECT treatment. With the use of tDCS, the patient stays conscious and feels almost nothing during the 20-30 minute outpatient procedure. The equipment is compact and inexpensive and the side effects have thus far been shown to be minimal.
To read more about tDCS and the clinical study done by the University of Sao Paulo, please visit the JAMA Network
for the abstract.
Academic Journal Ref.:
Brunoni A.R., Valiengo L., Baccaro A., et al. “The Sertraline vs Electrical Current Therapy for Treating Depression Clinical Study: Results From a Factorial, Randomized, Controlled Trial.” Journal of the American Medical Assoc. – Psychiatry. 6Feb.’13, Online: 1-9.
New Study Provides Hope for Alzheimer’s Patients.
Preliminary research is under way in the United States to evaluate the effectiveness of Deep Brain Stimulation, or DBS, in Alzheimer’s patients. Alzheimer’s is a merciless ailment that impacts the memory centers of the brain, and causes the affected individual’s mental facilities to deteriorate gradually. Although medication is accessible for Alzheimer’s patients, it is often ineffective and does not prevent further deterioration.
DBS involves the implantation of minuscule wires inside the brain to reconnect damaged circuits. These wires, which operate quite similar to a pacemaker, deliver continual stimulation in the regions of the brain affected by Alzheimer’s. Ongoing research will determine if the reconnection of the brain's circuitry, previously damaged by plaque, reduces further deterioration of the physical brain and mental cognizance.
Similar studies originated in Canada in 2003, when a Toronto Western Hospital Neurosurgeon conceptualized the theory that this technique could potentially prevent an Alzheimer’s patient's memories from deteriorating beyond the damage inflicted during the early stages. The National Institutes of Health have provided financing for a follow-up study. Click this link to read more about Deep Brain Stimulation
While the trained Yogi can make exotic body movements appear effortless and graceful, top ranked neuro-scientists are painstakingly analyzing precisely how the brain commands limb movements. Researchers at the University of Western Ontario are using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to map what parts of the brain are in charge of the actions of the left and right arms and other various coordinated limb movements.
The work is being led by Dr. Randy Flanagan and Dr. Jason Gallivan. Recently, the Canadian Institute of Health Research has given them a considerable research grant to support their efforts. While their work is still in the preliminary stages, they hope to discover new treatments for sufferers of spinal-cord injuries and others with neurological movement-impairments.
Using the fMRI analysis they were able to detect which arm movements were going to commit to exerting a specific action just before it happened. The initial goal of their research is to figure out precisely how the brain maps out movement beforehand and gauges skilled mechanical balance using limb coordination. Thus far, they have had some success in detecting various predictive changes in brain activity patterns.
Another study conducted at the university analyzed how the brain learns to gauge object movement patters along with their mechanical properties. Their research has thus far found that human body movements utilize a series of mismatches between predicted and actual fingertip gestures to build internal familiarity, or brain models, to produce skilled manipulation of the properties.To read more of their professionally published work, please visit The Journal of Neuroscience to read their latest jointly published work.
Academic Journal Ref.:
Gallivan J.P., McLean D.A., Flanagan J.R., Culham J.C. "Where One Hand Meets-the-Other." The Journal of Neuroscience, 30Jan.'13, 33(5): '91-'08.