Tuning a piano also tunes the brain, say researchers who have seen structural changes within the brains of professional piano tuners. Researchers at University College London and Newcastle University found listening to two notes played simultaneously makes the brain adapt. Brain scans revealed highly specific changes in the hippocampus, which governs memory and navigation. These correlated with the number of years tuners had been doing this job. The Wellcome Trust researchers used magnetic resonance imaging to compare the brains of 19 professional piano tuners —who play two notes simultaneously to make them pitch-perfect—and 19 other people. What they saw was highly specific changes in both the grey matter—the nerve cells where information processing takes place—and the white matter—the nerve connections—within the brains of the piano tuners. Investigator Sundeep Teki said: “We already know that musical training can correlate with structural changes, but our group of professionals offered a rare opportunity to examine the ability of the brain to adapt over time to a very specialised form of listening.” Other researchers have noted similar hippocampal changes in taxi drivers as they build up detailed information needed to find their way around London’s labyrinth of streets. Prof Tim Griffiths, who led the latest study, published in Neuroscience, said: “There has been little work on the role of the hippocampus in auditory analysis.
“Our study is consistent with a form of navigation in pitch space as opposed to the more accepted role in spatial navigation.”
Vitamin B3 ‘helps kill superbugs’
Vitamin B3 could be the new weapon in the fight against superbugs such as MRSA, researchers have suggested. US experts found B3, also known as nicotinamide, boosts the ability of immune cells to kill Staphylococcus bacteria. B3 increases the numbers and efficacy of neutrophils, white blood cells that can kill and eat harmful bugs. The study, in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, could lead to a “major change in treatment,” a UK expert said. B3 was tested on Staphylococcal infections, such as the potentially fatal MRSA (Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus.) Such infections are found in hospitals and nursing homes, but are also on the rise in prisons, the military and among athletes.
The scientists used extremely high doses of B3—far higher than that obtained from dietary sources—in their tests, carried out both on animals and on human blood. “Antibiotics are wonder drugs, but they face increasing problems with resistance by various types of bacteria, especially Staphylococcus aureus. “This could give us a new way to treat Staph infections that can be deadly, and might be used in combination with current antibiotics. “It’s a way to tap into the power of the innate immune system and stimulate it to provide a more powerful and natural immune response.” Prof Mark Enright, of the University of Bath, said: “Neutrophils are really the front line against infections in the blood and the use of nicotinamide seems safe at this dose to use in patients as it is already licensed for use. “This could cause a major change in treatment for infections alongside conventional antibiotics to help bolster patients immune system. “I would like to see in patient clinical trials but cannot see why this couldn’t be used straight away in infected patients.”(BBC)