Please check out the article links below and feel free to comment with other information related to these subjects. I enjoy learning as much as I can about the brain and passing this information on to everyone else that shares these passions.
This is for the week beginning June 27, 2016.
Please come back each week and hopefully I will have some more highlights. Feel free to share with me ones that you have found and I may highlight those as well.
Feel free to check out the highlighted articles from June 20, 2016
Neuroscience Of PainA primer on the neurobiology of pain pathways.
The sensation of pain is a necessary function that warns the body of potential or actual injury. It occurs when a nociceptor fiber detects a painful stimulus on the skin or in an internal organ (peripheral nervous system).1 The detection of that signal is “picked up” by receptors at the dorsal horn of the spinal cord and brainstem and transmitted to various areas of the brain as sensory information.
The facilitators of this pathway are known as neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are endogenous chemical messengers that transmit signals across a chemical synapse, from one neuron to another “target” neuron, muscle cell, or gland cell.2 Some neurotransmitters are excitatory, facilitating transmission of messages, while others are inhibitory neurotransmitters, impeding transmission.2 These chemical messages are critical in the modulation of pain.
- The Neuroscience of Pain
- Source: www.practicalpainmanagement.com
- Robert J. Gatchel, PhD, ABPP, Christopher T. Ray, PhD, Kiayra Spights, Tyler Garner, MS, Emily Beggs, Ryan Hulla, BA, BS, Eric Salas, MA, Meghan Humphrey and Alyssa Castro
Why Do Our Minds Wander?Sometimes the mind wanders. Thoughts pop into consciousness. Ideas or images are present when just a moment before they were not. Scientists recently have been turning their attention to making sense of this.
One natural picture of the phenomenon goes something like this. Typically, our thoughts and feelings are shaped by what we are doing, by what there is around us. The world captures our attention and compels our minds this way or that. What explains the fact that you think of a red car when there is a red car in front of you is, well, the red car. And similarly, it is that loud noise that causes you to orient yourself to the commotion that is producing it. In such cases, we might say, the mind is coupled to the world around it and the world, in a way, plays us the way a person might play a piano.
But sometimes, even without going to sleep, we turn away from the world. We turn inward. We are contemplative or detached. We decouple ourselves from the environment and we are set free, as it were, to let our minds play themselves.
Brain Signatures of Spontaneous ThoughtsWithout prompting, they fill our stream of consciousness–Sudden amusement at a joke you heard yesterday, or a flash of panic over an important meeting that slipped your mind. Spontaneous thoughts constitute the majority of our mental landscape, yet little is known about how they arise. Because these events are harder to predict, manipulate or monitor than other experiences like seeing, speaking or paying attention, they pose unique challenges to studying in the lab. Recently, a team of Canadian researchers led by Kalina Christoff devised a clever approach to unveiling the neural underpinnings of a wandering mind. By tapping into the heightened internal awareness of experienced meditators, they unraveled the temporal progression of brain activity underlying the generation and evaluation of spontaneous thoughts.
Mindfulness meditators are exquisitely adept in their introspective abilities. Because of their exceptional accuracy at monitoring their internal experience, they are an ideal population in which to study conscious thoughts. Therefore, Christoff and her colleagues used fMRI to image the brain activity of 18 experienced (>3000 training hours) mindfulness meditators during a simple awareness task. In one condition, the meditators responded when they detected a word on the screen, while in another they indicated when a spontaneous thought arose. In both conditions, they classified the word or thought as an image, narrative, emotion or sensation.