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Brainwave training to treat mental disorders

Researchers in Canada have found that training of the well-known brainwave in humans, the alpha rhythm, enhances a brain network responsible for cognitive-control.  The training technique, termed neurofeedback, is being considered as a promising new method for restoring brain function in mental disorders.  Using several neuroimaging methods, a team of researchers at the Western University and the Lawson Health Research Institute have now uncovered that functional changes within a key brain network occur directly after a 30-minute session of noninvasive, neural-based training.  Dysfunction of this cognitive-control network has previously been implicated in a range of brain disorders including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, schizophrenia, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

During neurofeedback, users learn to control their own brain activity with the help of a brain-computer interface. In the simplest case, this consists of a computer that records brainwaves through surface sensors on the scalp, known as an EEG (electroencephalogram).  The system is then able to process and simultaneously represent a user’s real-time brain activity, displayed from moment-to-moment during a training game on a computer. This set-up is known as a neurofeedback loop, because information of brain activity is continually fed-back to a user reflecting their level of control.  Such real-time feedback allows users to reproduce distinct brain states under physiologically-normal conditions, promising to be an innovative way to foster brain changes without adverse effects.

Timing is everything when it comes to weight loss

A study on mice has found that the longer the animal remained overweight, the more “irreversible” obesity became.  The finding resulting from the joint research between the University of Michigan and the Argentina-based National Council of Science and Technology (CONICET) provide explanation to one of the most frustrating mysteries of weight loss – why the weight inevitably comes back. Over time, the static, obese state of the mice reset the “normal,” body weight set point to become permanently elevated, despite dieting that initially worked to shed pounds, the researchers said.  One of the major strengths of the research was a new model of obesity-programmed mice that allowed weight loss success to be tracked at different stages and ages by flipping a genetic switch that controls hunger.

Turning on the switch right after weaning prevented the mice from overeating and ever becoming obese. Similarly, mice that remained at a healthy weight into young adulthood by strict dieting alone were able to maintain normal weight without dieting after turning on the switch.

Scented sleep can eliminate possibility of fear

Apart from helping us reset our brains and calm our emotions, sleep can wash our fears away.

It has been found that if sleepers are exposed to odours they associate with bad memories, they can lose the fear those memories bring. In a study, Prof Katherina Hauner, exposed subjects to four pictures of faces and a series of inoffensive smells such as mint.  When one of the faces appeared, the volunteers were given a painful electric shock so that they get scared.

Then the researchers measured the amount of electricity conducted by the subjects’ skin – a measure that goes up when afraid, because the sweat produced is a good conductor.

The researchers found that conductance spiked whenever the volunteers saw the face associated with the shock. The technique could eventually enhance treatments for posttraumatic stress disorder by associating images from the traumatic memory with a smell, and then using odour exposure while sleeping, said Hauner.

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