02 November 2010

Babies Born Ready for Introspection and Daydreaming?

Resting state networks are connected systems of neurons in the brain that are constantly active, even when a person is not focusing on a particular task, or during sleep. The researchers found that these networks were at an adult-equivalent level by the time the babies reached the normal time of birth.

One particular resting state network identified in the babies, called the default mode network, has been thought to be involved in introspection and daydreaming. MRI scans have shown that the default mode network is highly active if a person is not carrying out a defined task, but is much less active while consciously performing tasks. _SD
The resting state default mode network (DMN) appears as a particular mode of brain activity in the resting brain, primarily made in the posterior cingulate cortex (PCC) and the medial prefrontal cortex (MPFC), but also in the ventral anterior cingulate cortex (vACC), and lateral parietal cortex. The characteristic synchronised activity between these regions in the awake resting state, in light sleep, and even during anesthesia in monkeys. This network is supposed to represent mental activity in casual monitoring of the self and the environment and in daydreaming.

The discovery that such a network appears to be functional by the 40th week of gestation in newborns -- but not much before the 40th week -- suggests that the DMN may be important in the learning deluge which is triggered by the fact of the child's birth. Its development and activation appears to be timed to coincide with the normal time of delivery.

In other brain news:

EEG sleep spindles in stage II sleep may represent the transfer of memories from sub-cortical centers such as the hippocampus to cortical centers.

Transfer of motor skills to the frontal cortex from the basal ganglia appears to be crucial for these skills to become automatic

University of Utah researchers have made some important discoveries about how brain attentional networks are mapped in the intraparietal sulcus according to the specific type of stimulus being attended to.

University of the Netherlands researchers have discovered that besides being a great motivator, experiencing anger can bring pleasure.

Two studies looking at the brain's mitochondrial energy supply suggest that it is possible to determine a brain's metabolic age independent of chronological age, and to identify potential energy crises which may lead to Parkinson's Disease -- long before actual disease occurs, by understanding the brains energy and metabolic networks.

A thorough understanding of the brain requires intense study on many different levels, and via several different disciplines. Few individual researchers are capable of achieving such study at any significant depth or breadth. Fortunately we have computers to help us correlate findings across the wide array of the cognitive sciences, including neuroscience.

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