Evolution of language-relevant brain areas uncovered

Language is one aspect that makes us human. Other animals can learn words or calls and communicate, but the ability to generate an infinite number of utterances based on a small number of syntactic rules is unique to humans. A team of researchers led by Angela Friederici from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, together with scientists from the Universities of Texas and Washington (USA), have now published a study in the journal PLOS Biology in which they directly compared the region in the human brain responsible for language with its homologous region in the chimpanzee brain using MRI data. The study shows that the area responsible for syntactic processes in humans is the result of a large expansion in the left hemisphere. Such expansion of Broca’s area in the brain during the course of evolution could be the root of humans' ability to speak.

Functional brain organisation altered in autism

Autism is a complex and multifaceted neurodevelopmental condition. Often, people with autism have altered information and perceptual processing in the brain, which alters the development of social interaction, communication and behavioural repertoires. Thus, compared to non-autistic individuals, they show subtle changes in the asymmetry of the brain structure and a lower laterality of functional activation, in terms of the use of the left or right hemisphere in the brain. Bin Wan and Sofie Valk from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and Forschungszentrum Jülich (Germany), together with international researchers from South Korea, UK, Switzerland, and Canada, have now investigated in a study whether such functional asymmetries in autism are indicative of altered systematic organisation in the brain in general.

The anatomy of memory: new mnemomic networks discovered in the brain

Using a novel approach of precision neuroimaging and high-resolution functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), neuroscientists and physicists at MPI CBS in Leipzig (Germany) and anatomist Menno Witter from the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Trondheim (Norway) have now ventured into the depths of the human memory system. They discovered previously unknown cortical networks and shed light on the anatomical organization of the human memory system. Their findings were recently published in the prestigious journal "Neuron".

Three questions to to this year’s winners of the Otto Hahn Medal

Lara Puhlmann and Esra Al, this year’s winners of the Otto Hahn Medal. more

How high blood pressure affects mental health

Our mental health and that of our cardiovascular system have a complex interaction. A recent study from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) in Leipzig, Germany, now shows the links between higher blood pressure and depressive symptoms, well-being and emotion-related brain activity that may be relevant to the development of hypertension.

Stimulus material: Many colorful monsters

How does the brain deal with new situations? How does it make decisions? Mona Garvert and Christian Doeller from MPI CBS, together with Max Planck colleagues from MPI for Human Development and MPI for Biological Cybernetics, have investigated the underlying mechanism in the brain when we apply stored knowledge to new decision-making situations in a study currently published in Nature Neuroscience.

Our native language shapes the brain wiring

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig have found evidence that the language we speak shapes the connectivity in our brains that may underlie the way we think. With the help of magnetic resonance tomography, they looked deep into the brains of native German and Arabic speakers and discovered differences in the wiring of the language regions in the brain.

Being full and better mood through plant-based nutrition?

What influence do plant-based meals have on mood and on feeling full compared to animal-based meals? Neuroscientists at MPI CBS in Leipzig investigated this in three smartphone-based studies in over 400 university cafeterias across Germany and have now published their findings in the journal Nature Science of Food.

Not just mood swings but premenstrual depression: Serotonin transporter in the brain increased

Scientists led by Julia Sacher from MPI CBS and Osama Sabri from the Leipzig University Hospital have discovered in an elaborate patient study that the transport of the neurotransmitter serotonin in the brain increases in women with premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) shortly before menstruation. Their findings provide the basis for a more targeted therapy of this specific mood disorder, in which patients only have to take antidepressants for a few days.

Brain stimulation improves athletic performance

Is it possible to enhance athletic performance using brain stimulation? In a recent study in the journal Brain Stimulation, researchers at MPI CBS in Leipzig, in collaboration with Leipzig University and the EuroMov research center at the University of Montpellier, explored this question. The results point to performance-enhancing effects when certain areas of the brain are stimulated in competitive athletes.


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