The first educational program for camping management in Opatija

first_imgThe Opatija Faculty of Management in Tourism and Hospitality is the first in Croatia and among the few in Europe to introduce an educational program for camping management at the beginning of next year, within which participants will master specific knowledge in the field of modern camping services.Specifically, it is a lifelong learning program through professional development for jobs called “Camping Resort Management”, and after completing the program, participants will be able to take responsibility for providing a more complex camping service and build entrepreneurial skills to build and run a camp. The “Camping Resort Management” program is the first lifelong education program in camping management in Croatia developed to enable participants to learn and master specific knowledge in the field of modern camping services.”Motivated by the knowledge that global tourism trends require the transformation of camps into camping resorts, the Faculty of Management in Tourism and Hospitality in Opatija as the only institution that is fully oriented to education and scientific development in the field of tourism and hospitality, in the academic year 2016/2017. organizes and implements a lifelong learning program in the field of modern camping services ” stand out from the Faculty of Management in Tourism and Hospitality from Opatija.The acquired knowledge and competencies will contribute to the development of the overall camping offer in the direction of quality differentiation and specialization, which in general achieves a significant competitive advantage of the Croatian camping service in the Mediterranean. Classes are taught by respected professors of the Faculty of Management in Tourism and Hospitality Opatija and numerous experienced lecturers with many years of practical experience from reputable tourism companies that have the best Croatian camping resorts in their portfolio. Participants will participate in 51 hours of classes, practical exercises and field classes in the camp.See more about the conditions and the entire lifelong learning program “Camping Resort Management” herelast_img read more

Study of brain networks shows differences in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder

first_imgEmail “Most fundamentally, we show that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex, a key region of the brain associated with cognitive control, exerts exaggerated brain network effects in OCD,” said Dr. Diwadkar, an associate professor. “This result provides a putative scientific framework for what clinicians have noted about OCD-related behaviors. These network-based effects have been suggested, but not explicitly demonstrated before in brain imaging data in the disorder. Our studies are perfectly aligned with the renewed emphasis of the National Institute of Mental Health to discover mechanisms of neuropsychiatric disease in the brain. If you can discover a reliable mechanism underlying disease, you have the promise of improved pathways toward treatment.”The results are highly consistent with observations in the clinic, said Dr. Rosenberg, who is a professor and the department’s chair. “Children with OCD are beset by preoccupations and can’t easily move on from certain tasks and behaviors. As all complex behavior arises from brain networks, being trapped in this mode must arise from impaired brain network interactions in OCD. In our previous studies we had focused on assessing the structure and the neurochemistry of the anterior cingulate. We had long suspected that brain network interactions originating in this region are impaired in the disorder. But this is the first study to clearly demonstrate this.”The full paper, “Dysfunctional activation and brain network profiles in youth with obsessive-compulsive disorder: a focus on the dorsal anterior cingulate during working memory,” appears in a special issue of the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, and is available to the public on the journal’s website. LinkedIn A new study by scientists at the Wayne State University School of Medicine demonstrates that communication between some of the brain’s most important centers is altered in children with obsessive-compulsive disorder.The research led by the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neuroscience’s David Rosenberg, M.D., and Vaibhav Diwadkar, Ph.D., sheds significant light on our understanding of how brain networks contribute to obsessive-compulsive disorder in youth.The study included youth with a diagnosis of OCD and a comparison group free of psychiatric illness. The investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging, or fMRI, to collect brain responses while participants engaged in a basic working memory task. Task difficulty was varied to evoke activity in a core brain sub-network responsible for implementing complex processes such as cognitive control. Then, using sophisticated network analyses, the investigators quantified differences in brain network function between the two groups. Pinterestcenter_img Share Share on Facebook Share on Twitterlast_img read more

Link between proteins points to possibilities for future Alzheimer’s treatments

first_imgShare Share on Twitter Share on Facebook Pinterest LinkedIncenter_img Email Researchers have found that the proteins that control the progression of Alzheimer’s are linked in a pathway, and that drugs targeting this pathway may be a way of treating the disease, which affects 40 million people worldwide. The findings are published today (23 April) in the journal Cell Reports.The scientists, from the University of Cambridge, found that as a protein called amyloid precursor protein (APP) is broken down into toxic protein fragments called amyloid-beta, it affects changes in the way that another key protein, tau, behaves. Though links between these proteins have been described in earlier work, this research has identified a new association between them, and found that manipulating the rate at which APP is broken down is directly connected to levels of tau.While it is not known exactly what causes Alzheimer’s, it is known that amyloid-beta and tau build up in the brain, forming ‘plaques’ and ‘tangles’ which disrupt the connections between neurons, eventually killing them. There are no treatments to stop or reverse the progression of the disease, although researchers are starting to understand the mechanisms which cause it to progress. Most people who develop Alzheimer’s will first start showing symptoms in later life, typically in their sixties or seventies. However, between one and five percent of individuals with Alzheimer’s have a genetic version of the disease which is passed down through families, with onset typically occurring in their thirties or forties.The Cambridge researchers used skin cells from individuals with the genetic form of Alzheimer’s and reprogrammed them to become induced pluripotent stem cells, which can become almost any type of cells in the body. The stem cells were then directed to become neurons with all the characteristics of Alzheimer’s.Working with these clusters of human neurons – in essence, ‘mini brains’ – the researchers used three classes of drugs to manipulate the rate at which APP is ‘chewed up’ by inhibiting the secretase enzymes which are responsible for breaking it into amyloid-beta fragments. By using drugs to increase or decrease the rate at which APP is broken down, they observed that levels of tau can be altered as well.Earlier research looking into the link between amyloid-beta and tau had found that once the APP gets broken down, a chunk of amyloid-beta gets outside the cell, which triggers increased production of tau. “What we’re seeing is that there’s a second pathway, and that the amyloid-beta doesn’t have to be outside the cell to change levels of tau – in essence, the cell does it to itself,” said Dr Rick Livesey of the Wellcome Trust/Cancer Research UK Gurdon Institute, who led the research.While the researchers identified this pathway in neurons with the far rarer familial form of Alzheimer’s, they found that the same pathway exists in healthy neurons as well, pointing to the possibility that targeting the same pathway in late-onset Alzheimer’s may be a way of treating the disease.Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “We are pleased to see that our investment in this innovative research using stem cell technology is boosting our understanding of Alzheimer’s disease mechanisms. Alzheimer’s Research UK is committed to funding pioneering research and through our Stem Cell Research Centre at the University of Cambridge we hope to unpick the molecular changes that cause dementia, and crucially, to test new drugs that halt disease progression. With 850,000 people living with dementia in this country, investment in research to find new treatments is critical.”The research also points to the growing importance of human stem cells in medical research. “The question is why hasn’t this pathway been identified, given that Alzheimer’s is so well-studied?” said Livesey. “The answer is that mice don’t develop Alzheimer’s disease, and they don’t respond to these drugs the way human neurons do. It’s something we can only do by looking at real human neurons.”last_img read more

Did your child just drop the F-bomb? What can you do when children curse?

first_imgPinterest Share on Facebook Share Share on Twitter How do young children learn to swear – and why do they seem to do it at the most inappropriate moments?Recently, a group of parents have become convinced that the Minion toys in McDonald’s Happy Meals are saying, “What the f—k!” To protest, they have taken to the airwaves to warn others about the potentially corrupting influence of the mealtime treat.McDonald’s responded to the criticism by explaining that Minions are just speaking Minionese, “a random combination of languages and nonsense words.” The company says nothing they say can be translated into any known language.center_img LinkedIn Email As a child psychologist and early childhood educator, I study how children learn to communicate their feelings – and am well-acquainted with their ability to use new words at the most embarrassing moments.So, are children today swearing more than they did previously? Well – yes and no.Why children curseChildren are learning to swear at an earlier age. Timothy Jay, a psychology professor, suggests that the rise in profanity among children is not surprising, given the general rise in the use of swearing among adults since the 1980’s.“By the time kids go to school now, they’re saying all the words that we try to protect them from on television,” says Jay. “We find that swearing really takes off between (ages) three and four.”However, children do not appear yet to be using worse swear words than in the past – just common swear words more often, according to the new research.When young children swear before the age of two or three years old, they are usually just repeating what they have heard. Because they are learning to use language to communicate, children mimic words to make sounds and to see how those around them will respond. Through these responses, children come to understand what the words mean.So, before taking your young child’s insult to heart, it may be important to realize that she may have no idea what she is actually saying.When slightly older, children swear for different reasons. If they do not hear a word often, they may be using it because they do not understand that it is offensive.Perhaps they have heard it pass through the lips of someone they admire. And they say it in an attempt to be similarly cool. Or, they might just like the sound of it.By the time children are in pre-K and kindergarten, they often begin to realize that curse words are offensive and may quit swearing on their own. But, as I have found in my clinical work, they may still “drop the bomb” when they are scared, feeling frustrated or want to hurt others.While working as a school counselor, I found that some children like the attention receive when “talking dirty” and may use profanity to show off in front of their peers.When words have superpowersAs I have found in my work, when words get an extreme reaction, children are more likely to view that word as important and retain it for future use.Likewise, given that most people curse when they are frustrated, shocked, thrilled, or otherwise emotionally charged, profanity is usually uttered with a little extra “oomph!”Children in the midst of developing their own vocabularies are like language vacuum cleaners, sucking up as many words as they can. Emotionally charged expletives stand out like superheroes.Though they may not know what they mean, curse words are internalized as words with superpowers. And they get used when normal words just won’t fit the bill.That’s why children often curse at the most embarrassing moments – when visiting the dentist for the first time, in the grocery checkout aisle when told they can’t have a package of gum, on the first day of school or when your boss is invited over for dinner.In each of these examples, children might be confronting new or different expectations, experiencing fear, frustration or disappointment, or receiving less attention than might be typical.Likewise, during times when you are distracted, nervous or frustrated, your child’s anxiety may also be heightened. Because they have learned, perhaps from you, that curse words are for moments when we aren’t really sure what else to say, it often seems that they let them fly when we most wish they would not.How to clean up the potty mouthTo prevent younger children from cursing, prevention is the best strategy.If children are not exposed to profanity, they will not begin using it. Though television, cartoons and the world at large are full of curse words, children are most likely to hear adult language at home.It may not help that parents can sometimes be hypocritical when it comes to swearing. Nearly two-thirds of adults surveyed who had rules about their children swearing at home found that they broke their own rules on a regular basis.This sends a mixed, confusing message about swearing and when it’s appropriate.For older children, understanding why your child is cursing and what the cursing is meant to communicate is important in determining how best to respond. For example, if the child swears only when frustrated, he may not have another way to express himself.Suggesting more acceptable language or providing more constructive outlets for his frustration will redirect the behavior. And cursing should diminish.So, if the “Minions parents” are talking too much about “WTF” in front of their children, they can be sure that their children will likely be using the expression the next time they need to communicate a big emotion.My advice: if they don’t like what the toys are saying, throw them away and don’t make a big deal out of it!By Travis Wright, University of Wisconsin-MadisonTravis Wright is Assistant Professor of Multicultural Education, Teacher Education, and Childhood Studies at University of Wisconsin-Madison.This article was originally published on The Conversation.Read the original article.last_img read more

Study shows how dominant parents affect kids’ self-worth

first_imgChildren’s self-esteem is linked to the behaviour of who is considered the most powerful parent within the household, new University of Sussex research suggests.The study of English and Indian families living in Britain is the first to assess the impact on a child’s wellbeing of the household power structures that exist within different cultures.Psychologists interviewed 125 English and Indian families living in West London. They found that English children whose mothers displayed more negative parenting traits – such as detachment, intrusiveness, lax enforcement of discipline, and controlling behaviour – reported lower self-esteem. But, for Indian children, the father’s behaviour had more of an impact.In Indian culture, as often characterises more traditional cultures, mothers have inferior positions to fathers, both within and outside the household. Fathers are considered to be the head of the family, in terms of power and their role as disciplinarian. These differences often remain in spite of immigration into Britain.In contrast, in Western cultures, although still somewhat patriarchal, mothers have more central roles than fathers within the home and are often responsible for routine care and discipline.Dr Alison Pike, Reader in Psychology at the University of Sussex, co-authored the study. She said: “Mothers and fathers play different roles in different cultures – these findings highlight the importance of these distinct gender-based power structures on a child’s self-worth.“Parenting literature is still dominated by mothering, reflecting Western norms. With 7.5 million foreign-born residents in the UK, we need to spend more time considering parenting practice through a cultural lens.”The study, carried out in collaboration with Dr Naama Atzaba-Poria from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Israel, is published in the Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology. Email Pinterest Share on Twittercenter_img LinkedIn Share Share on Facebooklast_img read more

Lack of D1 receptor leads to slowness of movements in Parkinson’s disease

first_imgShare on Facebook Share Normally, the electrical stimulation of the motor cortex, which resembles the electrical activity during voluntary movements, causes triphasic response consisting of early excitation, inhibition and late excitation in the nerve cells of the EPN, and the “inhibition” is mediated by the “direct pathway” and acts to initiate movements. When D1 receptors were reduced in the transgenic mice by “doxycycline”, the triphasic response was changed, and the “inhibition” was largely decreased. These results suggest that dopamine transmission mediated by D1 receptors is essential for information flow through the “direct pathway” to appropriately initiate movements.The research team also revealed that spontaneous activity of nerve cells in the ENP did not change when D1 receptors were reduced, which denies the prevalent view that lack of D1 receptor-mediated dopamine transmission increases spontaneous nerve cell activity in the EPN. The results suggest that transient activity changes through the “direct pathway”, not spontaneous activity changes, in the EPN are responsible for slowness of movements in Parkinson’s disease.“We have shown that lack of dopamine transmission via D1 receptors disrupts information flow through the ‘direct pathway’ and results in slowness of movements in Parkinson’s disease. This finding provides us important clues to develop new therapies to the disease, such as on-demand activation of D1 receptors to facilitate the information flow through the ‘direct pathway’”, Professor Nambu said. Dopamine deficiency in the basal ganglia (a set of subcortical structures) causes severe motor dysfunctions, such as slowness of movements (bradykinesia), as observed in Parkinson’s disease. Dopamine binds D1 and D2 receptors that are expressed in the nerve cells of the striatum (a structure of the basal ganglia), and exerts different effects on the nerve cells. However, how dopamine controls through these receptors the information flow in the basal ganglia and voluntary movements is still not clear.Assistant Professor Satomi Chiken and Professor Atsushi Nambu from National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Dr. Asako Sato from Kitasato University, Professor Toshikuni Sasaoka from Niigata University, and their research team members have revealed that lack of dopamine transmission through D1 receptors disturbs information flow through the “direct pathway” in the basal ganglia, and ends up in difficulty in initiating voluntary movements. This study was supported by JSPS KAKENHI and CREST, and published online in the Oxford journal Cerebral Cortex on October 7, 2015.The research team successfully developed a novel transgenic mouse model in which dopamine D1 receptors can be reversibly reduced by a pharmacological agent “doxycycline”, and found that the mice showed decreased movements when D1 receptors were reduced. The team used electrophysiological techniques in awake mice and examined the electrical activity of the nerve cells in the entopeduncular nucleus (EPN, the homologous structure to the internal segment of the globus pallidus in humans) that is the output station of the basal ganglia. Share on Twittercenter_img LinkedIn Email Pinterestlast_img read more

Pressure to ‘publish or perish’ may discourage innovative research, UCLA study suggests

first_imgEmail Their study, published in the American Sociological Review, is among the first to analyze the tension between productive tradition and risky innovation on this massive scale.The study found that a remarkably consistent pattern characterizes contemporary research in biomedicine and chemistry: more than 60 percent of the papers had no new connections, meaning that they primarily built on tradition and eschewed innovation.Drawing on their analysis of scientific rewards, Foster and his colleagues argue that researchers who confine their work to answering established questions are more likely to have the results published, which is a key to career advancement in academia. Conversely, researchers who ask more original questions and seek to forge new links in the web of knowledge are more likely to stumble on the road to publication, which can make them appear unproductive to their colleagues. If published, however, these innovative research projects are more highly rewarded with citations. And scientists who win awards — especially major ones, like a Nobel Prize — have more of these innovative moves in their research portfolio.“Published papers that make a novel connection are rare but more highly rewarded,” said Foster, the study’s lead author. “So what accounts for scientists’ disposition to pursue tradition over innovation? Our evidence points to a simple explanation: Innovative research is a gamble whose payoff, on average, does not justify the risk. It’s not a reliable way to accumulate scientific reward.”Foster added: “When scientists innovate, they may be betting on extraordinary impact. They are playing for posterity.”Foster specializes in the computational study of scientific ideas. The paper’s co-authors were James Evans, a University of Chicago associate professor of sociology, and Andrey Rzhetsky, a professor of medicine and human genetics at Chicago.The authors suggest that universities could encourage more risk-taking in research by decoupling job security from productivity. They note that a similar approach was especially successful at Bell Labs in the mid-20th century; scientists there could work on a project for years before it was evaluated. The study also recommends a model in which research funding goes to individual scientists, rather than specific research projects — a strategy being used by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and for some National Institutes of Health grants.Institutions and funding organizations could also reduce barriers to innovative research by using funding schemes that make it less risky for researchers to pitch a novel idea — and more likely for that idea to be funded. The Gates Foundation takes this approach in certain research programs, drastically reducing the length of initial applications, funding projects on a trial basis, and structuring review panels so that out-of-the-box ideas can find champions rather than just critics.Foster urged that universities, other research organizations and funding agencies use more large-scale quantitative analysis to inform research policy.“Studying science at a large scale gives us a new perspective on this critical institution. A better understanding of science will lead to better science,” he said. Share on Facebook Pinterest Share on Twittercenter_img Share The traditional pressure in academia for faculty to “publish or perish” advances knowledge in established areas. But it also might discourage scientists from asking the innovative questions that are most likely to lead to the biggest breakthroughs, according to a new study spearheaded by a UCLA professor.Researchers have long faced a natural tension and tradeoff when deciding whether to build on accumulated knowledge in a field or pursue a bold new idea that challenges established thinking. UCLA assistant professor of sociology Jacob Foster and his co-authors describe it as a conflict between “productive tradition” and “risky innovation.”To study this tension, Foster and his colleagues assembled a database of more than 6.4 million scholarly publications in the fields of biomedicine and chemistry from 1934 to 2008. They then analyzed whether individual publications built on existing discoveries or created new connections — in effect, creating a map of the growing web of scientific knowledge. Finally, they correlated each of the two broad strategies with two types of reward: citations in subsequent research and more substantial recognition conferred by 137 different scholarly awards. LinkedInlast_img read more

First insights into changes to developing brain caused by gene associated with autism

first_imgEmail LinkedIn Pinterest Share Share on Twittercenter_img About one in 68 children are identified with autism spectrum disorder in the US and about one in six children had a developmental disability of some kind in 2006-2008. In the UK, 1.1% of the population may have autism, equating to around 700,000 people.Variations to the Kirrel3 gene are known to be associated with intellectual disability, autism, and Jacobsen syndrome, a rare developmental disorder that often includes intellectual disabilities. Because of this strong association, the University of Utah team investigated how changes to Kirrel3 impair brain circuits critical for memory and learning.Any cognitive task, from learning a new skill, having a conversation or driving to work requires the neurons of our brains to talk to each other. They are linked by connections called synapses that transmit these messages from one neuron to the next. Each neuron makes multiple synapses allowing it to send and receive information to many neurons within a large network.The study shows that Kirrel3 helps form part of a large synaptic structure called the mossy fibre synapse that is located in the hippocampus, a major region of the brain required for learning and memory. In developing mice that don’t have Kirrel3, the mossy fibre synapse becomes malformed, causing the hippocampus to become overactive.“Our work shows how even very small changes to synapses can alter brain function and could lead to intellectual disabilities,” says Williams.“In addition to being in the hippocampus, the gene is also expressed in other parts of the brain. It is possible that defects in those regions may also contribute to the neurodevelopmental disorders associated with Kirrel3.”Changes in the activity of synapses are thought to play an important role in the physical changes to the brain found in several neuropsychiatric disorders. Both synapses that inhibit and excite the stimulation of nerves are important to normal function and an imbalance between them can cause dysfunction. Decreased inhibition is implicated in autism spectrum disorders, whereas excess inhibition has been proposed to occur in mental retardation syndromes, such as Down’s and Rett Syndromes.The team led by Harvard Medical School propose that mutations in the proteins Neurixin, Neuroligin and CASK may have a direct impact on chemical messengers that reduce the activity of neurons.“Our results provide additional biochemical links between the genes associated with autism spectrum disorders and the inhibition of nerve cells,” says lead author Joshua Kaplan. A study led by the University of Utah School of Medicine provides new insights into how the subtle changes within cells, caused by disruptions in a gene called Kirrel3, could underlie some types of intellectual disability and autism.A second paper to be published on the same day in the journal eLife, led by Harvard Medical School, shows how three proteins regulate chemical messengers that are key to autism spectrum disorders and syndromes such as Down’s and Rett syndrome.“Understanding fundamental changes in the brain that could lead to intellectual disabilities may one day help in the development of better treatments,” says Megan Williams, lead author on the Kirrel3 study. Share on Facebooklast_img read more

Reading an opponent’s face gives the edge in martial arts

first_imgShare on Twitter Email Share on Facebook LinkedIn Pinterestcenter_img Share There’s more to excelling in the martial arts combat sport of taekwondo than just being able to produce well-aimed kicks or punches. A participant’s skill at reading the emotions on an opponent’s face and to therefore anticipate his or her next move can mean the difference between winning and losing a sparring match. This is according to Yu-Ling Shih and Chia-Yen Lin of the National Taiwan University of Sport.In a study published in Springer’s journal Cognitive Processing, the researchers also note that the understanding of intent is a skill more developed in taekwondo athletes than by weightlifters.The ability to pre-empt an opponent’s next move is called action anticipation. It is regarded as a critical skill that people who excel in time-constrained combat and ball sports in which they come face to face with an opponent possess. Research has confirmed that such athletes are able to quickly gather lots of information about an opponent’s body mechanics and movements. While most research on the subject has been done on ball sports such as tennis or soccer, not much is known about how it plays out in close-contact combat sports. Shih and Lin therefore turned to taekwondo and weightlifting to investigate whether the recognition of facial emotions has an influence on participants’ action anticipation skills.Their study group contained taekwondo athletes, weightlifters and people without any professional sport training. Each group comprised seven men and seven women. They were shown sets of static pictures of taekwondo athletes and weightlifters in action, and had to predict what would be happening next. They also had to name the emotions experienced by a person in another series of photographs.Participants were generally better at predicting what would happen next when the photographs were from a later stage in a movement. Taekwondo athletes, in particular, tended to respond faster than the other participants when presented pictures in which more than 50 percent of a movement was already completed.“The recognition of facial emotions plays a role in the action prediction in combat sports such as taekwondo, and is not only about the dynamics of movement,” says Shih.The results also suggest that being able to recognize facial emotions is more important in combat sports such as taekwondo where two contestants face off within two meters of each other than in weightlifting. The latter is a closed skill sport in which athletes do not compete directly against another, and they therefore do not need to be so sensitive towards subtle changes in an opponent’s face.“Our results contribute to recent findings about mechanisms underlying superior action prediction skills, including excellent strategies of memory, visual searching, and body kinematic information extraction,” adds Lin.last_img read more

Study shows how judgment of sensory simultaneity may develop in the brain

first_imgShare Share on Facebook LinkedIn Share on Twitter Emailcenter_img Most people encounter most things by sensing them in multiple ways. As we hear the words people speak, we also see their lips move. We smell, see and hear the onions as we chop them — and we feel them with teary eyes.It turns out that the ability to judge such sensory inputs as simultaneous, and therefore likely pertaining to the same thing, is something animal brains must develop through experience. A new study using tadpoles as a model organism shows how that appears to happen.In making their findings, the scientists hope they can better understand how this sensory integration may sometimes go askew, perhaps contributing to disorders including autism. Some studies have suggested that difficulty merging sound and vision in some autism disorders may lead to language deficits. Pinterest “People have tried to distill how the brain detects this temporal coincidence,” said study corresponding author Carlos Aizenman, a professor of neuroscience at Brown University. “We created a preparation where we could study how the different inputs are combined in a single cell and what types of brain circuits are involved.”In the study online in the journal eLife, Aizenman, lead author Daniel Felch and Bard College colleague Arseny Khakhalin were able to electrically stimulate the senses of vision and vibration in the brains of tadpoles at key stages of their neural development. They did so with very precise timing (small fractions of a second apart) and then tracked the responses of neurons in the optic tectum of the tadpole brains, where sensory information is processed and integrated. In humans and other mammals, the same part of the brain is called the superior colliculus, and neurons there do the same job.The scientists found that sensory integration neurons in the optic tectum in relatively immature tadpole brains would become and remain excited by receiving two stimuli even if they were somewhat far apart in time. As the tadpole brains matured into later stages of development the same neural circuits would squelch their initial excitement if the sensory inputs came similarly far apart. More mature brains became better at determining when stimuli were nearly simultaneous and suppressing excitement when they weren’t.The results suggest that as tadpole brains mature, inhibitory neurons gain more sway in their balance with excitatory neurons, leading to more refined discrimination between sensory inputs that are truly simultaneous rather than merely proximate in time. In one experiment of the study, the scientists blocked inhibition. That stunted the tadpole brains’ ability to discriminate.Perturbing the processThe study illustrates, as others have as well, how sensory experiences shape the developing brain, Aizenman said.“The brain normally starts out poorly wired,” he said. “Activity in the brain sculpts the response of the brain to have a much more refined and fine-tuned function.”What’s new is that the research also explains the mechanism by which that happens and shows that it can be derailed.“The balance of excitation and inhibition in the brain is important for creating this type of temporal window,” Aizenman said. “If you disrupt it, you get abnormal multisensory processing.”In future work, Aizenman said he hopes to do more of that: experiment with different ways of perturbing the process at different times during development to see what effect that may have on tadpole behaviors such as finding food or avoiding danger.Tadpoles do not experience language, of course, but the results may still contribute, at a basic level, to generating hypotheses about how sensory integration may be affected in human development. Even though they develop somewhat differently and encounter different experiences, tadpoles and people share the same basic brain organization.“What’s important here are not the things that are different, but the things that are the same,” Aizenman said. “The fundamental principles are conserved.”last_img read more