A New Explanation for Consciousness
Consciousness is your awareness of yourself and the world around you. This awareness is subjective and unique to you. A Boston University Chobanian & Avedisian School of Medicine researcher has developed a new theory of consciousness, explaining why it developed, what it is good for, which disorders affect it, and why dieting (and resisting other urges) is so difficult. “In a nutshell, our theory is that consciousness developed as a memory system that is used by our unconscious brain to help us flexibly and creatively imagine the future and plan accordingly,” explained corresponding author Andrew Budson, MD, professor of neurology. “What is completely new about this theory is that it suggests we don’t perceive the world, make decisions, or perform actions directly. Instead, we do all these things unconsciously and then—about half a second later—consciously remember doing them.” Budson explained that he developed this theory along with his co-authors, philosopher Kenneth Richman PhD, at Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Sciences and psychologist Elizabeth Kensinger, PhD from Boston College, to explain a series of phenomena that could not be easily understood with prior theories of consciousness.
Eye-opening discovery about adult brain's ability to recover vision
A discovery about how some visually impaired adults could start to see offers a new vision of the brain's possibilities. The finding that the adult brain has the potential to partially recover from inherited blindness comes from a collaboration between researchers in the University of California, Irvine School of Biological Sciences and the School of Medicine. Their paper appears in Current Biology. The team was examining treatment for Leber congenital amaurosis, known as LCA. The term refers to a group of inherited retinal diseases distinguished by severe visual impairment at birth. The condition, which stems from mutations in any of over two dozen genes, causes degeneration or dysfunction in the retina's photoreceptors. Administering chemical compounds that target the retina, called synthetic retinoids, can restore a notable amount of vision in children with LCA. The UCI team wanted to find out if the treatment could make a difference for adults who have the condition.
New genetically based score could help identify young children at high risk of impulsive behavior
While not all impulsive behavior speaks of mental illness, a wide range of mental health disorders which often emerge in adolescence, including depression and substance abuse, have been linked to impulsivity. So, finding a way to identify and treat those who may be particularly vulnerable to impulsivity early in life is especially important. A group of researchers, led by scholars at McGill University, have developed a genetically based score which could help identify, with a high degree of accuracy (greater than that of any impulsivity scores currently in use), the young children who are most at risk of impulsive behavior. Their findings are especially compelling because the score they have developed was able to detect those at a higher risk of impulsivity within three ethnically diverse community samples of children, from a cohort of close to 6,000 children. This discovery of a novel score for impulsivity in early life can inform prevention strategies and programs for children and adolescents who are at risk for psychiatric disorders. In addition, by describing the function of the gene networks comprising the score, the study can stimulate the development of new therapies in the future.