New Look for Brain in the News

Brain in the News, the Dana Foundation’s free, monthly print publication, is getting a makeover. The content will not change, but the design of the publication will. Starting with the January issue, BitN will have a new look. The previously green banner will now be blue, consistent with the main color on the Dana website. There will be more font uniformity, and we will no longer exclusively rely on stories stacking on top of one another—Guy McKhann’s column, for example, will appear as, well, a column. There are more subtle changes as well.

While layout and design are a matter of taste and preference, we hope readers will find the new look to be cleaner and more modern than its predecessor. And Brain in the News will still feature accurate, interesting neuroscience articles from a variety of publications.

To subscribe to Brain in the News—remember, it’s free and will be delivered to your mailbox every month—click here and register.

– Andrew Kahn

H.M.’s brain: part of a good month for memory

As December began we reported
on the imminent sectioning of the brain of Henry Molaison, or H.M., whose inability
to form new memories has fascinated neuroscientists for decades. Many other
articles, both about H.M. specifically and memory more generally, have appeared
in the weeks since the sectioning.

Dana’s Brain
in the News
advisor, Guy McKhann, made H.M. the subject of his December
commentary
. McKhann provides a neuroscientist’s first-person perspective on
why the continuing study of Molaison’s brain is important.

In addition to the San
Diego Union-Tribune
article
we mentioned in our initial coverage, the Hartford
Courant
published an in-depth
piece
about Molaison on Nov. 29. On Dec. 4, after the sectioning had begun,
a public radio program in San Diego featured a conversation
with researcher Jacopo Annese of the University of California, San Diego (who
was in charge of the sectioning) and Dana Alliance member Suzanne Corkin of the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (who studied Molaison extensively during
his life and wrote
briefly about him in a 2008 Cerebrum book review). CNN also posted a story
that day about Molaison.

Just this week, the New
York Times
published
a piece
that focuses less on Molaison and more on the dissection technique,
which resulted in about 2,500 paper-thin slices of the brain. The scientists in
charge plan to extend the process to many other donated brains, both normal and
abnormal, and put up digital reproductions of slices online for access by
researchers worldwide. This combination of precision and accessibility should
open new doors in the study of brain anatomy, the researchers say.

And what of memory in general? This past week, Canada’s National Post has run a series of
well-thought-out articles
that delve deeply into the subject, with a couple
of passing mentions of H.M. but a much broader approach; first on the list is “Is [Memory] What
Makes Us Human?”
A related podcast
features an interview with the author of the series, Joseph Brean.

-Dan Gordon

Marathon Mind

Monday's Washington Post outpaces the typical Olympic news coverage with a curious story on the neuroscience of running.

The surprising study in “The Sprinter's Brain” suggests that all sprinters take off faster when they position their right-foot on the starter's block. The advantage holds for novice runners and Olympians alike, regardless of their handedness or preferred foot. Researchers chalk up the unexpected results to the asymmetric structure of our brains.

We know that the right hemisphere—which largely controls the left side of the body—plays a central role in reaction time. But because the left hemisphere dominates in overall movement control—especially in moving the right side of the body—the right-foot-back position has, on average, an 80-millisecond advantage. If you've been following the summer games, you know that such slivers of time cleave runners with gold feet from those with lead.

While reading this article and checking my e-mail Monday morning, I leaned awkwardly at my desk, holding an ice pack to my throbbing knee with one hand and typing with the other. After an hour of working diagonally, my work ethic was palling, and I began to wonder whether my decision two months ago to begin training for the Baltimore Marathon signaled some sort of brain disorder.

A quick scan through the Dana Guide to Brain Health failed to confirm this suspicion, but it did console my joints with the fact that regular exercise is linked to enhanced levels of a growth factor in the brain that sustains many types of neurons. News about the beneficial effects of exercise on brain health makes headlines regularly—our August issue of Brain in the News will feature a story focusing on Alzheimer's disease.

Less common are those stories on the neurology of sport. How would the brain scans of these Olympians contrast with mine?

I suppose I can test the movement, balance and coordination of my own motor cortex this October, when the marathon takes place. For now, the neurons are willing, but the knees are weak.

—Ben Mauk

Web offers brain resources

Each month I have the opportunity to explore brain-related sites for a three-item column in Brain in the News, one of the print publications I edit. Although we do not have online reprint permission for stories from other sources, there is no reason not to share these links. Mental health is a recurring theme on the June list:

NARSAD: The Mental Health Research Association features quick links to conditions including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and childhood disorders at its site, www.narsad.org. Look for more under the “Diseases & Conditions” category at the top. Also learn about related events and publications.

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, www.nami.org, is also laden with information. Front and center are links grouped under “Inform Yourself,” “Find Support” and “Take Action.” There are additional links in the column on the left side of the page, including Communities, which are designed for the exchange of information.

The Global Neuroscience Initiative Foundation, http://gnif.org, is a nonprofit charity with some interesting links online, including Webcasts of surgeries (it’s one of seven links that appear when you scroll over “Projects”) and a blog called Brain Blogger. Under “Resources,” find basics about the brain and information related to mental health.

— Dan Gordon

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