Sunday, November 30, 2008

You may not have rhythm, but your brain does.

You May Not Have Rhythm, but Your Brain Does
By Nikhil Swaminathan

Review/reflection by Richard Burrows

New research begins to demystify communication between brain regions, potentially paving the way to treating disorders caused by crossed signals.

Researchers have been probing the areas of the brain that help with movement and the auditory cortex. They feel that communication between these regions is key. E. Miller, a professor of neuroscience from MIT, reports that faster computers and advance electronics will provide us with an opportunity to research unexplained areas of the brain.
He states, “Deciphering the chatter between brain regions may one day allow scientists to augment certain modes of thought and suppress others.” This forms new methodology to combat attention disorders, depression and psychosis. Two studies from Science support this theory.
P.Fries and T. Wolmelsdorf hypothesized that two neuronal groups can only communicate efficiently with each other when their rhythms are coordinated and synchronized. “If the rhythms are not coordinated, then one group sends information over while the other is not ready to take it on and vice versa.” Scientists from University of Melbourne found evidence of communication between the cortex and the medial temporal region. This research has found, when two groups have their rhythms in phase with each other, they have a greater influence. “Thus, the phase and precision of neuronal synchronization could be a fundamental mechanism modulating the effective strength of a given anatomical connection.”
An Australian research T. Vidyasagar reports,
“The parietal neurons seem to code for what is salient or relevant in the world and allocate attentional resources accordingly. The medial temporal neurons are sensory one that process the visual signals, but due to the influence of the parietal cortex the activity across the medial temporal area is varied.”
It is now agreed that neuronal network interactions need to be further researched to understand normal cognition.

I find this article is a little vague with information. I would have enjoyed a bit more detail into “what” exactly needs to be researched more. They make inferences to possible treatment for disorders but do not say how or why. This topic seems to be very hot right now, as Dr. Patel from the Neuroscience Institute also drew reference to the auditory cortex and movement, however I feel this article only skims the surface. It doesn’t excite me to look for more information and certainly does not give references to any specific articles that contain information. It does reference one journal article, but it is still in print and is not accessible until it is published.

I think the idea of correlated cortex is a fascinating topic. The thought of developing a treatment for attentional disorders based on the cortex research is very gratifying. Rhythm is so innate for humans. The way we walk, the way our heart beats, even the way we brush our teeth, certainly proves valid to the salience of rhythm. We live in such an exciting era of discovery, of experimentation, and of resolution. I can’t wait to see what science will unleash next.


Lee said...

What is the reference for this article? Yes, the function of rhythmic processes and phenomena seems to be atthe forefront now - even in health. Just looked at Mark Rider's book, The Rythmic Language of Health and Disease, and although it seems a bit of a "self-publish" effort, it points to very important research addressing the rhythmic connections to healthy processes.


Adam Golding said...

Rich, you'll find a much friendlier intro under various articles on "Neural Binding", such as this wiki article:

and there's probably an entry in the MIT encyclopaedia of the cognitive sciences available through the library on cognet.

The first thing I'd wonder when it comes to relating our experience of rhythm to the 'rhythms' we find in the brain is whether the parallels are merely coincidental--any physical system has rhythms of a sort. Some of the parallels are surely not coincidental, but others surely are.

On a related note, if we think of music being used to synchronize large group activities, such as sea chanties, we might say that the same sorts of solutions appear in networks of neurons and in networks of people--if such an argument can be made, the next question is whether the relationships happen at the person level *because* they happen at the neuronal level, or whether the patterns emerge at both levels independently simply by virtue of being good solutions to similar sorts of problems.