Larger sample sizes needed to increase reproducibility in neuroscience studies

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Small sample sizes in studies using functional MRI to investigate brain connectivity and function are common in neuroscience, despite years of warnings that such studies likely lack sufficient statistical power. A new analysis reveals that task-based fMRI experiments involving typical sample sizes of about 30 participants are only modestly replicable. This means that independent efforts to repeat the experiments are as likely to challenge as to confirm the original results.

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Decision-making is shaped by individual differences in the functional brain connectome

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Each day brings with it a host of decisions to be made, and each person approaches those decisions differently. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that these individual differences are associated with variation in specific brain networks – particularly those related to executive, social and perceptual processes.

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The science of intelligence

 

Aron K. Barbey, professor of psychology, neuroscience, and bioengineering, is director of the Decision Neuroscience Laboratory, leader of the Intelligence, Learning, and Plasticity Initiative, the Emanuel Donchin Professorial Scholar in Psychology, and a member of the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology. In short, since arriving at Illinois almost seven years ago, he’s made important scientific contributions to the cognitive neuroscience of human intelligence—a field that aims to understand the neurobiological foundations of human intelligence and to develop tools and methods that can improve human judgement and decision-making.

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Flexibility is at the heart of human intelligence

 

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Centuries of study have yielded many theories about how the brain gives rise to human intelligence. Some neuroscientists think intelligence springs from a single region or neural network. Others argue that metabolism or the efficiency with which brain cells make use of essential resources are key. A new theory, published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences, makes the case that the brain’s dynamic properties – how it is wired but also how that wiring shifts in response to changing intellectual demands – are the best predictors of intelligence in the human brain.

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Nutrition has benefits for brain network organization

 

 
CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Nutrition has been linked to cognitive performance, but researchers have not pinpointed what underlies the connection. A new study by University of Illinois researchers found that monounsaturated fatty acids – a class of nutrients found in olive oils, nuts and avocados – are linked to general intelligence, and that this relationship is driven by the correlation between MUFAs and the organization of the brain’s attention network.

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Firmer, fitter frame linked to firmer, fitter brain

 

Scientists have observed that more aerobically fit individuals have better memories. To investigate this phenomenon, they used magnetic resonance elastography (MRE), which measures the firmness and elasticity of organs, and found that fit individuals had a firmer, more elastic hippocampus—a region of the brain associated with memory. The method could provide early diagnosis and potential interventions in the initial stages of neurodegenerative disease.

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Research at 150 Symposium on Brain Plasticity

 
 

Six teams have been awarded David Dodds Henry Lectureship Funds in support of the culminating research event of the University of Illinois’ Sesquicentennial Celebration. The symposia will highlight Illinois strengths in interdisciplinary research, exploring issues as diverse as human health, race and justice, the arts and the humanities, agriculture and the environment, and the legacy of the land-grant institution.

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Cognitive cross-training enhances learning

 

 
Just as athletes cross-train to improve physical skills, those wanting to enhance cognitive skills can benefit from multiple ways of exercising the brain, according to a comprehensive new study from University of Illinois researchers.

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