Three New Findings Change Our View of the Brain

23 | By Michael A. Robinson

Our knowledge of the human brain is improving even faster than I thought.

Just last month, I told you about five new brain secrets you needed to know about. What amazes me is that in just a few weeks, top researchers have announced several major new findings.

Taken together, these latest advances mean we are getting much closer to the day when we will achieve the Holy Grail of neuroscience — complete knowledge of how the brain really works.

That’s key because many of our worst diseases target the brain. Of course, I’m talking about dreaded ailments like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. But the list also includes inoperable tumors as well as chemical imbalances that could be a major cause of mood swings and drug addiction.

I spend a lot of time reading about brain research for a very good reason. As I see it, the goal is to have a complete map of this highly complex organ. To do so, we need to know how every single brain cell works.

Some experts even foresee the day when we will reverse-engineer the entire brain. Doing that would allow us to create artificial intelligence systems that would be as smart as humans but less prone to their downsides — like anger, drinking binges, and the effects of stress.

I believe the brain ranks at the top of key breakthroughs that make the Era of Radical Change so exciting. Solving the brain puzzle we will rid mankind of many cruel diseases while making our physical world smarter and more in tune with the way our minds work.

Here is a look at three new breakthroughs pushing the limits of neuroscience.

Breakthrough No. 1: A Prosthetic Device For Impaired Minds

If you’ve ever had a hangover, you certainly know what it’s like to try and function when your mind is impaired.

No, science doesn’t have a cure for that. But in what I think is an amazing find, a team from three U.S. colleges just made a prosthetic device that can correct for bad brain signals brought on by disease or injury.

It’s still in the early stages, but this could be big. See, primates tested with the system did well at correcting their decision-making skills after having their brains compromised with cocaine.

To make the system work, the team used what they describe as an “electronic prosthetic system” to tap into the prefrontal cortex of test monkeys. The prefrontal cortex is the part of the brain involved in judgment and decision making.

After getting the cocaine, the monkeys showed a 13% decline in their thinking ability. But when they were tested with the prosthetic system, the monkeys had judgment that climbed to 10% above normal, even while still under the effects of the drug.

Team Leader Robert E. Hampson of Wake Forest University said he foresees the day when this system or something similar could work on people.

“Based on the findings of this study, we hope in the future to develop an implantable neuroprosthesis that could help people recover from cognitive deficiencies due to brain injuries,” Hampson added.

Breakthrough No. 2: Scientists Learn How Brain Cells Age

It’s taken researchers decades to understand the aging process for brain cells. That’s because it seemed that neurons don’t have the same ability to divide that other cells do.

Here’s the thing. Cell division is a key part of the biology of plants, animals and humans. The process is needed so cells can reproduce and, more to the point, so they can repair any damage they suffer.

Now, for the first time ever, a British team from Newcastle University has found that neurons do in fact follow the same pathway as skin cells, which divide to repair wounds.

This discovery calls previous beliefs in this field into question and opens new areas to explore. Team members said it could lead to treatments for such conditions as dementia, Lou Gehrig’s Disease (which affects motor neurons) as well as age-related hearing loss.

To pull off the feat, the team worked with a special colony of aged mice. They found that aging in the neurons in the brains of these rodents follow the exact same rules as skin and other cells.

“We will now need to find out whether the same mechanisms we detected in mouse brains are also associated with brain aging and cognitive loss in humans,” saidteam leader Thomas von Zglinicki. “We might have opened up a shortcut towards understanding brain aging.”

Breakthrough No. 3: How Stress Blocks Short-Term Memory

For years, experts have known that stress robs people of their ability to focus and to think clearly about the task at hand. Now, scientists think they know why.

Turns out stress blocks the ability of brain cells in your prefrontal cortex to fire properly. The prefrontal cortex is vital for short-term memory. Without it, you’d forget where you were going before you even pulled your car out of the driveway.

David Devilbiss, a psychologist at the University of Wisconsin, explains that neurons in the prefrontal cortex help store information for very short periods. He likens them to items on a chalkboard that can be written, erased and re-written over and over again. Apply stress, and the neurons become too distracted to retain information.

Devilbiss notes that in the past, scientists thought stress suppressed the function of the prefrontal cortex. But in reality, he says, it changes the nature of how the neurons work.

“Even though these neurons communicate on a scale of every thousandth of a second, they know what they did one second to one-and-a-half seconds ago,” Devilbiss said. “But if the neuron doesn’t stimulate itself again within a little more than a second, it’s lost that information.”

Let me close by noting I had no shortage of new advances about the brain to comb through. Breakthroughs are coming so fast that not even experts in the field can keep up with it all.

That says a lot about the Era of Radical Change. Every day seems to bring yet another finding that will have a huge impact on the health of the whole human race.

Because once we have the brain figured out, there’ll be no stopping us.


23 Responses to Three New Findings Change Our View of the Brain

  1. ken says:

    “Because once we have the brain figured out, there’ll be no stopping us”.

    Truer words never spoken. The God particle is within, not without. How exciting, another small step for man and giant leap for mankind.

  2. patrick m. krusto says:

    Is there work being done, regarding the neurons of the brain. I had a stroke and my vision
    is greatly impaired. I am told that the problem is the neurons that connect the
    pathway to the eyes from the brain. I am told science is 8 to 10 yrs. away from solving this problem.
    I am hopeing that your people are closer, time wise in solving this problem. If you could point me in a deriction to people that RE WORKING ON NEURONS OF THE BRAIN, i WOULD GREATLY APPRECIATE IT.
    Thank You
    Patrick M. Krusto

  3. Enrique Aguayo says:

    Great discoveries, great news. Thnak you for keeping me posted. Now, we are also in the Era of Speed, on this count I believe we could sopply researchers with a more up dated substitute of specimens. Could there be an interest in it?

  4. Dave says:

    >Because once we have the brain figured out, there’ll be no stopping us.

    I doubt any of the cited neuroscientists would agree with that statement. IMHO, it’s our very brain power that will do us in, and inventing an artificial brain will only hasten our self-destruction.

  5. curtis D culver says:

    I am very interested in the function , Reason is my wife was disabled after brain
    surgey , and radiation therapy , not from the surgery but from the 31treatments of
    the radiation . It put her in to such a state she nearly died from the siesures ,which took over due to the cut off of nurones damaged . ater a period of decline ,she now lays in a nursing home not able to talk,use her hands, or hardley part of her body , It is so very sad to see a perfectly good person to have man to damage a person so bad, It started from brain tomer called miningeoma ? I would be very pleased to have a speialist you mentioned to evaluate her, I have watched this progress the past 14 yrs . she is on a feeding tube ? please answer my request . I need Help , Thank you very much for any possabilities . CURTIS CULVER, Husband. sures

  6. Al says:

    This is all very interesting Michael. I’m a member of the The Futurist society, and I haven’t seen them uncover anything like your two brain advancement posts.

    Will diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s be minimized in the not too distant future? How far out would you guess that to be?

  7. GIL PEARSON says:

    I really look forward to your radical changes. The more we discover, the more we realize there are infinitely more ahead. These scientists who dedicate their life to such discoveries should have greater recognition but sadly the local football club makes the headlines

  8. Bowie Curry says:

    Perhaps we ought to be seeking to figure out the heart [as the moral compass of the life] first. A super charged brain without a renewed heart should be a truly frightening prospect to any rational person! Here is Jeremiah’s [an ancient Hebrew Prophet] evaluation.

    Jeremiah 17:9–10
    “The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? 10 I, the LORD, search the heart, I test the mind, Even to give every man according to his ways, According to the fruit of his doings.

  9. David Barnett says:

    Hello Michael, Your message above certainly gives people like me some very optimistic hope….I pray that your work will be in every way quickly successful. May God bless you and your efforts. Sincerely, David.

  10. Lawrence says:

    Very innovative research work, a pointer to understanding creator’s wisdom over and above science and discovery. Keep updating, your efforts are very educative.

  11. Jim McKenzie says:

    If we could make it mandatory to have one of these things implanted in everybody that would give them the ability to THINK & REMEMBER before they can become eligible to vote, this country would have a lot less lying sneaking politicians in office for nothing but personal gain, and this country would not be rapidly approaching the so called “fiscal” and other cliffs’.

  12. Margaret Nicholson says:

    My organization – NAMI – National Alliance on Mental Illness – has been waiting
    for many years for Science to focus on the increasing numbers of people
    falling victim to the ravages of brain disorders. Please advise me if you can -what percentage of investigators are devoted to the answer to the most serious affliction our young patients can face – knowing that they may never
    recover sufficiently to finish school, get a job, fall in love, get married, raise a
    family – and all the while treated as outcasts by society. I would say that’s a
    matter of urgency deserving of any new findings so these folks can participate in th Era of Radical Change they’ve been deprived of. Forgetting where the car keys are seems to pale when compared to the above. Sorry
    I had to drop this on you, Michael. I’m sure you mean well I’m just a Mom.

  13. Joseph Raglione says:


    I enjoyed reading your articles and I hope the discoveries you write about translate into usable action as soon as possible. What I dislike is reading about potential cures for problems like cancer which then never materialize into reality. Keep up the good work!

    Joseph Raglione
    Executive director: The world humanitarian peace and ecology movement.

  14. Robert Roark says:

    Telemeters strand repair, and infrared light therapy coupled with these new findings will let us cross the Brain Blood Barrier with drugs targeted to specific cells…that is a game changer

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