Weekly Neuroscience Update

Antwwaun Molden, Keith Toston, Julian Standord, Antwon Blake, John ChickIn a small study of former NFL players, about one quarter were found to have “mild cognitive impairment,” or problems with thinking and memory, a rate slightly higher than expected in the general population.

Research at the University of Edinburgh tracked electrical signals in the part of the brain linked to spatial awareness. The study could help us understand how, if we know a room, we can go into it with our eyes shut and find our way around. This is closely related to the way we map out how to get from one place to another.

Scientists have long wondered how nerve cell activity in the brain’s hippocampus, the epicenter for learning and memory, is controlled — too much synaptic communication between neurons can trigger a seizure, and too little impairs information processing, promoting neurodegeneration. Researchers at Georgetown University Medical Center say they now have an answer. In the January 10 issue of Neuron, they report that synapses that link two different groups of nerve cells in the hippocampus serve as a kind of “volume control,” keeping neuronal activity throughout that region at a steady, optimal level.

Seniors who have spoken two languages since childhood are faster than single-language speakers at switching from one task to another, according to a study published in the January 9 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. Compared to their monolingual peers, lifelong bilinguals also show different patterns of brain activity when making the switch, the study found.

Repression of a single protein in ordinary fibroblasts is sufficient to directly convert the cells – abundantly found in connective tissues – into functional neurons. The findings, which could have far-reaching implications for the development of new treatments for neurodegenerative diseases like Huntington’s, Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, will be published online in advance of the January 17 issue of the journal Cell.

Advertisements