Weekly Neuroscience Update

Nerve cells communicate with each other via intricate projections. In brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s these extensions atrophy, thereby causing connectivity problems. Credit DZNE/Detlef Friedrichs.

Nerve cells communicate with each other via intricate projections. In brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s these extensions atrophy, thereby causing connectivity problems. Credit DZNE/Detlef Friedrichs.

A new study shows the interdependency between the structure and function of neurons.

Neuroscientists have discovered an unexpected benefit of getting older – a more nuanced understanding of social signals, such as the age of others.

Children with autism show different patterns of brain activity during everyday gestures and movements than controls do, suggest unpublished results presented at the 2014 Society for Neuroscience annual meeting.

Researchers have gained fresh insights into how ‘local’ body clocks control waking and sleeping.

People with bipolar disorder who are being treated with the drug lithium are at risk of acute kidney damage and need careful monitoring, according to new research.

Age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) is the major cause of blindness in the western world, affecting around 50 million people. Now scientists at The University of Manchester have identified an important new factor behind its causes, which they hope could lead to new treatments.

A team of researchers has identified an enzyme key to the survival and spread of glioblastoma cancer cells that is not present in healthy brain cells, making the enzyme a promising therapeutic target.

It is claimed one in five students have taken the ‘smart’ drug Modafinil to boost their ability to study and improve their chances of exam success. But new research into the effects of Modafinil has shown that healthy students could find their performance impaired by the drug.

Researchers have developed new insight into a rare but deadly brain infection, called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). This disease – which is caused by the JC virus – is most frequently found in people with suppressed immune systems and, until now, scientists have had no effective way to study it or test new treatments.

New research offers insight into short-term effects of maternal caregiving on a developing brain.

A team of researchers  has now been able to demonstrate in a study that the bonding hormone oxytocin inhibits the fear center in the brain and allows fear stimuli to subside more easily. This basic research could also usher in a new era in the treatment of anxiety disorders.

Blocking a key receptor in brain cells that is used by oxygen free radicals could play a major role in neutralizing the biological consequences of Alzheimer’s disease, according to new research.

Finally this week, brain scientists have long believed that older people have less of the neural flexibility (plasticity) required to learn new things. A new study shows that older people learned a visual task just as well as younger ones, but the seniors who showed a strong degree of learning exhibited plasticity in a different part of the brain than younger learners did.

 

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