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How brain organises what we see

Scientists have created the first ever map of how the brain organises the thousands of images that come flooding in through our eyes every day.

A team at the University of California, Berkeley, found that the brain is wired to put in order all the categories of objects and actions that we see.

To illustrate their findings, they have created the first map of how the brain organises these categories across the cortex, the ‘Daily Mail’ reported. The result - achieved through computational models of brain imaging data collected while test subjects watched hours of video clips - is what researchers call ‘a continuous semantic space’. The UC Berkeley team have mapped this data across the human cortex to show which areas of the brain deal with which categories of objects we see in the world around us.

The team used functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI) to record the brain activity of participants as they watched two hours of film clips. Researchers then analysed the readings to find correlations in data and build a model showing how each of 30,000 subdivisions in the cortex responded to the 1,700 categories of objects and actions shown. Next, they used principal components analysis, a statistical method that can summarise large data sets, to find the ‘semantic space’ that was common to all the study subjects.

“Our methods open a door that will quickly lead to a more complete and detailed understanding of how the brain is organised,” said Alexander Huth, lead author of the study.

Researchers found that the brain efficiently represents the diversity of categories in a compact space. Instead of having a distinct brain area devoted to each category, as previous work had identified, for some but not all types of stimuli, the researchers found brain activity is organised by the relationship between categories.

A simple eye test to reveal extent of multiple sclerosis

Scientists have developed a new simple eye test that may offer a fast and easy way to monitor patients with multiple sclerosis (MS). The Optical Coherence Tomography (OCT) scan measures the thickness of the lining at the back of the eye - the retina. It takes a few minutes per eye and can be performed in a doctor’s surgery, ‘BBC News’ reported. Multiple sclerosis is an illness that affects the nerves in the brain and spinal cord causing problems with muscle movement, balance and vision.

A trial involving 164 people found those with thinning of their retina had earlier and more active MS. Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine tracked the patients’ disease progression over a two-year period.

In MS, the protective sheath or layer around nerves, called myelin, comes under attack which, in turn, leaves the nerves open to damaged.

Researchers found that brain scans can reveal inflammation and scarring, but it is not clear how early these changes might occur in the disease and whether they accurately reflect ongoing damage. Scientists have been looking for additional ways to track MS, and believe OCT may be a contender. Unlike nerve cells in the rest of the brain which are covered with protective myelin, the nerve cells in the retina are bare with no myelin coat.

Experts suspect that this means the nerves here will show the earliest signs of MS damage, the report said.

The study found that people with MS relapses had much faster thinning of their retina than people with MS who had no relapses. So too did those whose level of disability worsened. Similarly, people with MS who had inflammatory lesions that were visible on brain scans also had faster retinal thinning than those without visible brain lesions.

Carrot can cure several ailments

Carrot can offer prevention against different ailments, say health experts.
The vegetable-cum-fruit contains rich vitamin and mineral contents, besides other valuable nutrients.  Considering the effectiveness of carrot, doctors and health experts have declared it "apple" for the people having meager resources, the News reported. Dr Mian Iftikhar, a Medical Specialist, said that carrot especially its juice, is better for stomach and gastrointestinal health, which also solves a variety of digestive problems. 

He said carrot is useful in different cases like stomach disorder, peptic ulcers, gastritis, crohn’s disease (chronic inflammatory disease affecting the whole of the alimentary tract), diarrhoea, celiac disease (defective digestion found in children).

Carrot juice, combined with spinach and a little lemon juice, is very effective in the treatment of constipation, he added. The juice cleanses the bowels, he said and added that this effect could not be expected soon after taking the juice but within two months, the bowel starts emptying regularly.

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