brain

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How does the human brain keep track of the order of events in a sequence?

New research suggests that 'time cells' – neurons in the hippocampus thought to represent temporal information – could be the glue that sticks our memories together in the right sequence so that we can properly recall the correct order in which things happened.

Evidence for these kinds of sequence-tracking time cells was previously found in rats, where specific neuron assemblies are thought to support the recollection of events and the planning of action sequences – but less is known about how episodic memory is encoded in the human brain.

To investigate, a team led by neuroscientist Leila Reddy from the Brain and Cognition Research Center (CerCo) in France monitored electrical activity in the brains of 15 epilepsy patients, using microelectrodes implanted in the hippocampus.

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Scientists have discovered a unique form of cell messaging occurring in the human brain that's not been seen before. Excitingly, the discovery hints that our brains might be even more powerful units of computation than we realized.

Early last year, researchers from institutes in Germany and Greece reported a mechanism in the brain's outer cortical cells that produces a novel 'graded' signal all on its own, one that could provide individual neurons with another way to carry out their logical functions.

By measuring the electrical activity in sections of tissue removed during surgery on epileptic patients and analysing their structure using fluorescent microscopy, the neurologists found individual cells in the cortex used not just the usual sodium ions to 'fire', but calcium as well.

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Where does the mind 'meet' the brain? While there's no shortage of research into the effects of psychedelics, drugs like LSD still have much to teach us about the way the brain operates – and can shine a light on the mysterious interface between consciousness and neural physiology, research suggests.

In a new study investigating the effects of LSD on volunteers, scientists found that the psychedelic enables the brain to function in a way beyond what anatomy usually dictates, by altering states of dynamic integration and segregation in the human brain.

"The psychedelic compound LSD induces a profoundly altered state of consciousness," explains first author and neuroscience researcher Andrea Luppi from the University of Cambridge.

"Combining pharmacological interventions with non-invasive brain imaging techniques such as functional MRI (fMRI) can provide insight into normal and abnormal brain function."

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