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Why the child's brain learns grammar effortlessly

Anyone who has ever learned a foreign language knows how laborious it is to acquire vocabulary and grammar. In contrast, children acquire their first language seemingly effortlessly. By the age of four, many children are already speaking without errors and can draw on a large vocabulary. But how can the brain accomplish this? In a study published in the journal "Cerebral Cortex", scientists from MPI CBS now describe that the development of language ability in three to four year olds is accompanied by the maturation of brain areas within the same language network that is also responsible for understanding and producing language in adults. more

How the mother's mood influences her baby's ability to speak

Communicating with babies in infant-directed-speech is considered an essential prerequisite for successful language development of the little ones. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have now investigated how the mood of mothers in the postpartum period affects their child’s development. They found that even children whose mothers suffer from mild depressive mood that do not yet require medical treatment show early signs of delayed language development. The reason for this could be the way the women talk to the newborns. The findings could help prevent potential deficits early on. more

Show me your brain scan and I'll tell you how old you really are

The biological age of a person can be accurately determined from brain images using the latest AI technology, so-called artificial neural networks. Until now, however, it was unclear which features these networks used to infer age. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have now developed an algorithm that reveals: Age estimation goes back to a whole range of features in the brain, providing general information about a person's state of health. The algorithm could thus help to detect tumours or Alzheimer's disease more quickly and allows conclusions to be drawn about the neurological consequences of diseases such as diabetes. more

Schematic picture of a human brain. The two hemispheres have two different colors and in the right hemisphere the cerebellum looks more differentiated. The picture should thus emphasize the asymmetry of the two hemispheres.

Although the brain is divided into two halves, it is not exactly a mirror image. Some functions are processed more on the left side, others more on the right. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) and Forschungszentrum Juelich (FZJ), together with an international team of neuroscientists, have now discovered heritable underpinnings of brain asymmetry—and—how much we share with monkeys. more

High-resolution MR-image of the human brain showing the nigrosome1 area (located in the posterior third of the substantia nigra).

A team of neurophysicists, led by Malte Brammerloh of MPI CBS, found evidence that the identification of a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) sign for Parkinson's diagnosis, as a specific anatomical region in the brain, is widespread but not at all correct. A better understanding of the MRI contrast of the anatomical region called "nigrosome 1" has led to clarification of the misunderstanding and could even help diagnose Parkinson's earlier. more

Film negative is held against setting sun

A natural disaster, a dented car, an injured person - memories of traumatic experiences can be controlled by deliberately suppressing the images that arise. Until now, however, it was unclear what happens to the memory in the process and how the process is reflected in the brain. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) have now shown: The memories of the experiences fade and their traces in the brain are less strongly reactivated when we try to remember them. more

Non-invasive brain stimulation shows clear beneficial effects for motor deficits following stroke

Persistent paralysis and coordination problems are among the most common consequences of a stroke. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig (MPI CBS), the University Medical Center Halle, and the Charité-Universitätsmedizin in Berlin have discovered that brain stimulation helps. Direct current, applied via electrodes attached to the head, led to significant improvement of patients’ impaired movements. In addition to showing pronounced effects after a single application, the study suggests that the therapy may need to be individually tailored to specific patients for optimal benefit. more

Another Way of Being in Tune: How Fingers and Brains Coordinate When Making Music

Playing an instrument presents an enormous challenge for our brains. How exactly the brain masters the complex coordination tasks needed to meet that challenge is the subject of two new studies by scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Empirical Aesthetics in Frankfurt am Main (MPI AE) and the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig (MPI CBS). In their open-access article, just published in the journal Cerebral Cortex, the researchers identify the region of the brain in which a musical idea becomes a finger movement during solo playing; and they show that when playing duets, the brains of both musicians must be on the same “wavelength.” more

Hair analysis shows: Meditation training reduces long-term stress

Mental training that promotes skills such as mindfulness, gratitude or compassion reduces the concentration of the stress hormone cortisol in hair. This is what scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig and the Social Neuroscience Research Group of the Max Planck Society in Berlin have found out. The amount of cortisol in hair provides information about how much a person is burdened by persistent stress. Earlier positive training effects had been shown in acutely stressful situations or on individual days - or were based on study participants’ self-reports. The current study thus provides the first objective evidence that mental training reduces physical signs of long periods of stress, even in healthy people. more

<h1 class="serif">Depression in old age: Smoking and other risk factors are less decisive</h1>

Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases also increase the likelihood of suffering from depressive mood or depression. Until now, however, it was unclear whether this influence changes over the course of life or is independent of age. A study by the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences and the University of Münster shows: Among those over 65, these risk factors play a smaller role in relation to depression than among younger. more

<h1 class="serif"><a href="internallink:1193023">Language is more than speaking: How the brain processes sign language  </a></h1>

Over 70 million deaf people around the world use one of more than 200 different sign languages as their preferred form of communication. Although they access similar structures in the brain as spoken languages, it has been difficult to identify the brain regions that process both forms of language equally. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) have now discovered in a meta-analysis that Broca's area in the left hemisphere of the brain, which has already been shown to be the central hub for spoken languages, is also the crucial brain region for sign languages. This is where the grammar and meaning of language are processed, regardless of whether it is spoken or signed language. This shows that our brain is generally specialized in processing linguistic information. Whether this information is spoken or signed seems to be of secondary importance. more

<h1 class="serif"><a href="internallink:1192993">How the female brain reacts to antidepressant when learning </a></h1>

Women are the majority of patients who are prescribed antidepressants – two out of three patients who have been prescribed a drug for depression are female. Some of these antidepressants are thought to help with motor recovery after stroke. While age-specific stroke rates are higher in men, women experience more frequent and more severe stroke events, and are less likely to recover. But in many pre-clinical trials it is still mainly male participants who are tested, although there is clear evidence of sex-specific differences in disease and the response to medication. In order to bridge this gap neuroscientists around Julia Sacher from the Max-Planck-Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences have tested 64 healthy women, to see how their brain reacts to the combination of motor learning while taking a common antidepressant. Surprisingly, and in contrast to previous clinical trials, they found no improvement in motor learning among the participants. more

<h1 class="serif">Different from a computer: Why the brain never processes the same input in the same way</h1>

The brain never processes the same information in the same way. Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS) have found out why this is the case and how it works. A decisive role plays a critical state of the neuronal networks. more

<h1 class="serif">Short nerve fibres made visible</h1>

Areas in the visual cortex of the brain, which process the same part of the visual field, are also more strongly interconnected more

<h1 class="serif">Three questions to...</h1>

Three questions to...

April 08, 2020

Each year the Max Planck Society honours young scientists and researchers  with the Otto Hahn Medal for outstanding scientific achievements. This year, Leon Kroczek, former PhD student of IMPRS NeuroCom at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences (MPI CBS), won one of the prestigious awards. more

<h1 class="serif">The Science of a Billboard Hit Song</h1>

Why is it that people find songs such as James Taylor’s “Country Roads,” UB40’s “Red, Red Wine,” or The Beatles’ “Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” so irresistibly enjoyable? In a study reported in the journal Current Biology on November 7, researchers analyze 80,000 chords in 745 classic U.S. Billboard pop songs—including those three—and find that musical pleasure comes from the right combination of uncertainty and surprise. more

<h1 class="serif">Mothers’ behavior influences bonding hormone oxytocin in babies</h1>

Oxytocin is an extremely important hormone, involved in social interaction and bonding in mammals, including humans. It helps us relate to others. It strengthens trust, closeness in relationships, and can be triggered by eye contact, empathy, or pleasant touch. It's well known that a new mother's oxytocin levels can influence her behavior and as a result, the bond she makes with her baby. A new epigenetic study by Kathleen Krol and Jessica Connelly from the University of Virginia and Tobias Grossmann from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences now suggests that mothers' behavior can also have a substantial impact on their children's developing oxytocin systems. more

<h1 class="serif">"Whoa, I didn't expect that"</h1>

"Whoa, I didn't expect that"

October 14, 2019

Babies seek to understand the world around them and learn many new things every day. Unexpected events – for example when a ball falls through a table – provide researchers with the unique opportunity to understand infants’ learning processes. What happens in their brains as they learn and integrate new information? Miriam Langeloh from the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences, Moritz Köster from the Freie Universität Berlin, and Stefanie Höhl from the University of Vienna address that question in a new study with nine-month-old babies, published in Psychological Science. more

<h3>Cellular aging is linked to structural changes in the brain</h3>

Telomeres are the protective caps of our chromosomes and play a central role in the ageing process. Shorter telomeres are associated with chronic diseases and high stress levels can contribute to their shortening. A new study now shows that if telomeres change in their length, that change is also reflected in our brain structure. This association was identified by a team of scientists including Lara Puhlmann and Pascal Vrtička from the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive Brain Sciences in Leipzig together with Elissa Epel from the University of California and Tania Singer from the Social Neuroscience Lab in Berlin as part of Singer’s ReSource Project. more

<h3><a href="internallink:949274"><strong>Sexual hormone oestradiol protects female brain in mid-life </strong></a></h3>

Rachel Zsido and Julia Sacher found that oestradiol plays a crucial role in keeping the structure of networks in the female brain structurally intact and the memory healthy, especially in mid-life. more

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