Page 34-35 - NeuRA 2013 in Review

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Transcranial direct current stimulation, in which low
currents are applied through electrodes on the scalp, is
an emerging treatment for psychiatric conditions as well
as neurological disorders. The treatment is safe, and has
potential to translate into clinical practice, but how it
works and what changes occur in the brain as a result are
not well understood.
NeuRA researchers studying depression have shown how
the brain responds to the treatment by decreasing acidity
and by synthesis of major high-energy molecules. This may
provide a way to identify those most likely to respond to a
course of brain stimulation treatment, as well as a way to
optimise depression treatments.
How does the brain
process emotion?
Melodies in music carry an inherent
emotion that can be identified by almost
everyone, regardless of their culture, as
positive or negative, uplifting or
depressing. NeuRA researchers found
that people suffering from semantic
dementia, a rare type of dementia
affecting factual knowledge of words
and objects, were more impaired at
recognising emotions in music than
those with Alzheimer’s disease.
They discovered that recognition of the
emotional content in a tune draws on
some of the same brain regions involved
in language and verbal skills. With this
finding, our researchers are challenging
the current understanding of how the
brain processes emotions.
Botox helps restore electrical
activity in the brain
Botox (botulinum toxin) may be most
commonly associated with frown lines
and wrinkles, but it is also an important
treatment for rigid and stiff arm muscles
following a stroke.
NeuRA researchers found that when
botulinum toxin is injected into these
arm muscles it not only improves
movement, but also restores electrical
activity in the cortex – the brain region
responsible for movement, memory,
learning and thinking. Restoring normal
activity in the brain may assist with
long-term recovery in stroke patients.
Stimulating the brain
NeuRA researchers are challenging the current
understanding of how the brain processes emotion.
Your Brain | 33
Clockwise from top left:
PhD student Marshall Dalton; Dr Sharpley Hsieh (right)
with volunteer Bob Bryans; Dr William Huynh studies the arm of a stroke patient;
A stained slide of the human medulla oblongata, the lower portion of the brainstem.