Dana News E-Blast: January

Here are some stories recently posted on dana.org

cere_article_Baumann_0116_featThe Changing Face of Recreational Drug Use

by Michael H. Baumann, Ph.D.

Known as “designer drugs,” new psychoactive substances (NPS) represents a disturbing new trend. Our article describes what is known about the molecular mechanisms of action, and highlights some of the considerable challenges in dealing with this public health problem. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

Adcock, R. Alison_heashotA Study of Motivation

It’s difficult to know what motivates people, but R. Alison Adcock’s lab is using imaging to study how states like desire and curiosity can facilitate “motivated memory.” Her work could have implications in the education field, but also in other learning contexts like psychotherapy and behavior change. One of our series of Scientist Q&As. Continue reading

Get Ready for Brain Awareness Week 2016!

BAW2016Logo_withdateThe Brain Awareness Week (BAW) 2016 website has officially launched! Gearing up for BAW 2016, March 14-20, US partners can now order free publications and materials and international partners can access several new and spiffy downloadable materials (some available in multiple languages).

This year, our new Staying Sharp: Successful Aging and the Brain booklet debuts as a more condensed and updated version of the previous three Staying Sharp booklets. It answers questions such as “How do learning and memory change with age?”, and “When is memory loss a sign of dementia?”, and delves into topics such as memory formation, neuroplasticity, and living a brain-healthy lifestyle.

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Lumosity Fined for Deceptive Advertising

cere_110114_article_featWhen we published the Cerebrum article,  “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Function Really Sharpen the Mind?”, and a follow-up Q&A with the authors in November 2014, three aspects of the article were crystal clear: I) Few topics in neuroscience evoke as much debate as brain game effectiveness. 2) Advertising has convinced tens of thousands of people to open their wallets and buy products. 3) The science surrounding the benefits of brain games is sketchy at best.

The article was in direct contrast to website claims by Lumosity, a major player in the brain-game business, with more than $1 billion a year in revenues and 60-million members. At the time, Lumosity’s website boasted of nine peer-reviewed studies, 36 university collaborators, and testimonials galore.

Now, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTA):

The creators and marketers of the Lumosity ‘brain training’ program have agreed to settle FTA charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.

As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.

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Monitoring the Body’s Invisible Clock

Our body is regulated by an invisible clock that influences our wakefulness, sleep, thoughts, and emotions. The circadian clock is an important regulatory feature, yet neuroscientists still don’t completely understand it. Although cognitive tests can be performed, it was difficult to monitor brain cells over the course of a day until neuroscientist and Dana Alliance member Huda Akil, M.D., designed an experiment that gave a new perspective on circadian clocks.

“Maybe it’s simple-minded, but nobody had thought of it,” she said to The New York Times in a recent article. Her team examined the healthy brains of 55 donors who had died suddenly at different times of the day. As reported by the Times:

As each person died, his brain cells were in the midst of making proteins from certain genes. Because the brains had been quickly preserved, the scientists could still measure the activity of those genes at the time of death.

Most of the genes they examined didn’t show any regular pattern of activity over the course of the day. But they found that more than 1,000 genes followed a daily cycle. People who died at the same time of day were making those genes at the same levels.

The findings were so consistent that they even enabled the scientists to determine the time of death within the hour.

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