Zapping a brain for math's sake, and other news
November 4th, 2010
03:40 PM ET

Zapping a brain for math's sake, and other news

This week, as we've watched news and trends on brain matters, we've seen some fascinating studies and perspectives about enhancing the mind and understanding diseases of the brain. Here's a sampling:

A head for numbers
Don't try this at home, but researchers at the University of Oxford say applying an electrical current to the head can improve mathematical ability, depending on the direction of the current, the BBC reports. The study involved only 15 people, though, and more research needs to be done before it becomes a standard practice for people who aren't good with numbers.

New clues in autism
Some of the problems seen in autism spectrum disorders in terms of language, social difficulties and repetitive behaviors, may result from a particular rewiring in the brain, Time.com's Healthland blog reports. A variant of the gene CNTNAP2 may have something to do with it. These results give support to a theory called "intense world," meaning that some of the extremes in attention and perception seen in autism might result from excessive functioning in some brain regions. The patterns of brain circuitry seen in this study could lead to this hyper-responsiveness.

Unraveling Alzheimer's
Mouse studies aren't always applicable to humans, but they may lead to a better understanding of certain conditions. With that grain of salt, a new study finds that a brain area called the entorhinal cortex might be critical in the spread of plaques to the rest of the brain in Alzheimer's disease, MSNBC reports.  This points to a new potential target for treatment: In other words, perhaps a drug directed at the entorhinal cortex could prevent the disease from spreading to other brain areas.

Baby brain
If you've been pregnant, you may have experienced memory loss during that time that some call "baby brain." In turns out the brain may temporarily shrink up to 8 percent in pregnant women, and then restore to its original size after the child is born - check it out from CBS New York.

Brightening the day
Here are 13 ways to make a lousy day better from Gretchen Rubin, author and blogger for Psychology Today.

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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.