Tag Archives: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

Brain circuitry behind cigarette cravings revealed

Brain circuitry behind cigarette cravings revealed.

Addiction to cigarettes and other drugs may result from abnormal wiring in the brain’s frontal cortex, an area critical for self-control, a new study finds.

Drug cravings can be brought on by many factors, such as the sight of drugs, drug availability and lack of self-control. Now, researchers have uncovered some of the neural mechanisms involved in cigarette craving. Two brain areas, the orbitofrontal cortex and the prefrontal cortex, interact to turn cravings on or off depending on whether drugs are available, the study reports Tuesday in the journal the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Researchers find clues to how the brain decides when to rest

Researchers find clues to how the brain decides when to rest.

A team of researchers in France has found what they call a “signal” that tells a person when to rest while engaging in work, and then when to resume once rested.

Scientists studying how people make decisions regarding work have over time devised theories of cost versus benefit scenarios to describe what causes people to engage in work activities, or to not. Not so well studied is how people come to decide when it’s time to take a break. Some have suggested that some part of the brain is constantly engaged in weighing the costs of the work involved with potential rewards, and based on both creates a signal of sorts alerting the rest of the brain to when it’s time to pause. This new research supports that theory.

Brain region associated with selfishness

Brain region associated with selfishness

Brain region associated with selfishness.

People with damage to a specific part of the brain entrusted unexpectedly large amounts of money to complete strangers. In an investment game played in the lab, three women with damage to a small part of the brain called the basolateral amygdala handed over nearly twice as much money as healthy people.

The results suggest that normally, the basolateral amygdala enables selfishness — putting the squeeze on generosity.

Study of comatose brains finds changes to highly connected hub areas

Study of comatose brains finds changes to highly connected hub areas.

Scientists have uncovered a key property of comatose brains that differentiates them from normal brains and may explain what goes wrong during severe brain injury. The report, published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, utilizes graph theory, which uses data to determine how well connected each part of a network is to every other part of the network. The approach has been used to study social networks like Facebook and circuit engineering for electronics.

Your unconscious brain can do math, process language

Your unconscious brain can do math, process language.

The unconscious brain may not be able to ace an SAT test, but new brain research suggests that it can handle more complex language processing and arithmetic tasks than anyone has previously believed. According to these findings, just published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, we may be blithely unaware of all the hard work the unconscious brain is doing.