Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study reports babies’ brains are sensitive to different emotional tones they hear in voices. Researchers suggest maternal interactions may help to shape the same brain region adults use for emotional processing.

Researchers report brain alterations associated with heightened feelings of negative emotion and alienation in people who have a dependence on cannabis.

Further evidence that the brain undergoes a continuous phase transition when we awaken from sleep has been discovered.

A new deep learning algorithm can predict those at risk of psychosis with 93% accuracy by examining the latent semantic content of an individual’s speech.

Scientists in Sweden have found that some viruses can increase the buildup of protein ‘plaques’ linked to Alzheimer’s disease, a discovery that could lead to new vaccines treating the condition.

Individual differences in the striatum of habitual cannabis users distinguish between who is at increased risk of addiction and cannabis use disorder.

A new study reports areas of the brain housing alertness and determination may be on the right side for left dominant people. The new theory suggests the location of a person’s neural system for emotion depends on their handedness.

Finally this week, new research shows that 2 hours a week is a key dose of nature for health and wellbeing.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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An international team of researchers has found the Internet can produce both acute and sustained alterations in specific areas of cognition, which may reflect changes in the brain, affecting our attentional capacities, memory processes, and social interactions.

Memory performance can be enhanced by rhythmic neural stimulation, using both invasive and non-invasive techniques.

A new study has found that infants at high risk for autism were less attuned to differences in speech patterns than low-risk infants. The findings suggest that interventions to improve language skills should begin during infancy for those at high risk for autism.

A new ultrasound method restores dopaminergic pathway in the brain at Parkinson’s early stages.

Neuroimaging reveals a significantly diminished response in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex in children on the autism spectrum. The findings could be used as a biomarker for diagnosing ASD.

A correlative link has been discovered between weak upper and lower body physical performance, and an increase in depression and anxiety during midlife.

Researchers have examined new evidence about how low-grade inflammation could impact a person’s level of motivation. This may also have implications for the treatment of some cases of depression.

Finally this week, new research has suggested that virtual reality may play a crucial role in monitoring Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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New neurons continue to be formed in the hippocampus into the tenth decade of life, even in people with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. The image is credited to Orly Lazarov, et al.

Hippocampal neurogenesis continues to occur well into old age, and in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers found evidence of neurogenesis in people up to the age of 99. While neurogenesis continues to occur in those with Alzheimer’s disease, it is significantly reduced compared to those who have normal cognitive function.

Using non-invasive transcranial direct current stimulation to target the left rostrolateral prefrontal cortex improves memory retrieval.

People who have bipolar disorder may be more likely to later develop Parkinson’s disease than people who do not have bipolar disorder, according to a new study.

Cells in the body are wired like computer chips to direct signals that instruct how they function, research suggests.

Chronic insomnia disorder, which affects approximately 10 percent of adults, has a direct negative impact on cognitive function of people aged 45 and over, independent of the effect of other health issues. This is the primary finding from an analysis of sleep data from the pan-Canadian cohort of the Canadian Longitudinal Study on Aging.

Researchers have made an important advance in understanding the roles that gut bacteria play in human health.

People with mild cognitive impairment who had positive biomarkers for Alzheimer’s disease in their cerebrospinal fluid performed worse on virtual reality navigation tasks. Virtual reality which incorporates navigational tasks could prove a helpful tool in the early diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease for those at risk.

Optical illusions are helping researchers better understand attention and visual perception

Finally, this week, while learning a second language has positive benefits for children, there is little evidence that bilingual children have more advanced executive function or improved attention over those who are monolingual.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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The image is adapted from the University of Toronto news release.

An experiment led by University of Toronto psychologists has shown for the first time that grapheme-colour synesthesia  –   a condition in which individuals sense colours associated with letters and numbers – provides a clear advantage in statistical learning – an ability to discern patterns – which is a critical aspect of learning a language. The result provides insight into how we learn, and how children and adults may learn differently.

Scientists might have found an early detection method for some forms of dementia.

Neuroimaging helps researchers observe what happens in the brain as a person is rotated. The study, which gives insight into how the brain moves after the head stops moving, also provides critical information for advancing studies of TBI.

Esketamine combined with antidepressants acts rapidly to help alleviate symptoms in those with treatment-resistant depression.

Inflammation appears to reduce reward response in females. Reduced activity in the brain’s reward system is a key component of anhedonia, the loss of enjoyment in activities, a core feature of depression. The findings may explain why depression is more prevalent in women than in men.

A new study has found that a new nerve stimulation therapy to increase blood flow could help patients with the most common type of stroke up to 24 hours after onset.

The results of a new study suggest that virtual reality could make life easier for people with dementia. The authors conclude that virtual reality helped the participants recall memories and contributed to an improvement in patients’ relationships with caregivers.

Researchers have identified average levels of biological and anatomical brain changes with Alzheimer’s disease over 30 years before symptoms appear.

Magnetic stimulation of the brain improves working memory, offering a new potential avenue of therapy for individuals living with Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia, according to new research.

Sleep in teenagers can be improved by just one week of limiting their evening exposure to light-emitting screens on phones, tablets and computers,

Finally this week, using Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), scientists have captured 3D images that show how infants’ brains and skulls change shape as they move through the birth canal just before delivery.

 

 

Why is Alzheimer’s still a medical mystery?

Decades of scientific research into Alzheimer’s have failed to find a cure. Little is known about the degenerative brain disease—but this may be about to change.

As populations have aged, dementia has soared to become the fifth leading cause of death worldwide. Alzheimer’s disease, a form of dementia, accounts for most of these cases. All attempts to halt the progression of the disease have failed. Now many major drug companies have pulled out of research altogether.

So why is Alzheimer’s disease still such a medical mystery?

One of the signs of Alzheimer’s in the brain is damage of connections and the loss of large numbers of neurons over time. It affects the hippocampus and its connected structures making it harder to form new memories or learn new information. As damage spreads through the brain the cortex becomes thinner and more memories are lost. Although emotional responses can often remain. As the brain shrinks further it slowly alters personality and behaviour and eventually the ability to live and function independently.

For 35 years there has been scientific disagreement about the origins of the disease. The main area of debate has focused on the abnormal build up of clumps of protein called amyloid plaques often found in brains of those affected by Alzheimer’s. But all attempts to target this protein with drugs have failed. A new study is now challenging the way science thinks about the disease. The study suggests that the bacterium Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is involved in gum disease, may contribute to Alzheimer’s.

The risk of Alzheimer’s is higher in those who have severe head injuries and also for those with an arterial disease known as atherosclerosis. This suggests there are many causes with one endpoint. And scientists hope that finding an underlying cause that could tie these together will hold the key to better treatments in the future.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Music and mindful music listening may help people who have suffered strokes recover their impaired cognitive abilities more effectively, new research suggests.

The loss of memory and cognitive function known to afflict survivors of septic shock is the result of a sugar that is released into the bloodstream and enters the brain during the life-threatening condition. This finding, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, explains the premature mental aging that follows septic shock and may shed light on memory loss in other diseases.

Researchers have identified a new autoimmune disease that causes muscle pain and weakness.

Scientists used brain signals recorded from epilepsy patients to program a computer to mimic natural speech–an advancement that could one day have a profound effect on the ability of certain patients to communicate.

Scientists have created a “neural decoder” that translates brain activity into speech.

Autism diagnosis becomes stable starting at 14 months of age, researchers report. The accurate diagnosis of ASD, four months earlier than previously believed, leads to more opportunities for early interventions.

A new two-tier diagnostic blood test which evaluates both amyloid beta and tau, can help detect Alzheimer’s disease in presymptomatic patients.

Researchers are officially defining a new brain disorder that mimics Alzheimer’s disease. The disorder will be known as LATE, which stands for limbic-predominant age-related TDP-43 encephalopathy.

Finally this week, a new deep learning algorithm can reliably determine what visual stimuli neurons in the visual cortex respond best to.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image: Pixabay

How quickly do we experience the benefits of exercise? A new study of healthy older adults shows that just one session of exercise increased activation in the brain circuits associated with memory – including the hippocampus – which shrinks with age and is the brain region attacked first in Alzheimer’s disease.

Using a unique computational framework they developed, a team of scientist cyber-sleuths has identified 104 high-risk genes for schizophrenia.

Reduced connectivity between the amygdala and ventrolateral prefrontal cortex has been identified in children on the autism spectrum who exhibit disruptive behaviors, compared to those on the spectrum who do not. Findings suggest this distinct brain network could be independent of core autism symptoms.

A specially designed computer program can help diagnose post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in veterans by analyzing their voices.

Using CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing, researchers identified actionable pathways responsible for the growth of glioblastoma stem cells. By reverse engineering brain cancer cells, multiple potential new targets for cancer treatments have been uncovered.

Obesity is associated with alterations in brain structure, including lower grey matter volume and smaller globus pallidus volume according to new research. 

Researchers have found certain clues in the brain waves that show the reason why angry dreams occur when a person sleeps. The results of the study titled, “EEG Frontal Alpha Asymmetry and Dream Affect: Alpha Oscillations Over the Right Frontal Cortex During REM Sleep and Pre-Sleep Wakefulness Predict Anger in REM Sleep Dreams,” were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

People with the specific genotype of the Cannabinoid receptor 1 gene may be more prone to cannabis use disorder.

A rapid memory system transition from the hippocampus to the posterior parietal cortex is stabilized as we sleep. Sleep and repeated rehearsal of memory jointly contribute to long-term memory consolidation.

A new study confirms that a simple blood test can reveal whether there is accelerating nerve cell damage in the brain. 

Finally, this week, using a combination of movie clips and neuroimaging, researchers find people have positive biases to those they feel are more like them, even if they are unable to see the person’s face.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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TDP-43 inclusions are found in cells in the central nervous system. Image Credit: M. Oktar Guloglu, Wikimedia Commons

A team of researchers is fishing for a new method to treat neurodegenerative disorders. Its tactic? Bait dysfunctional proteins and prevent them from joining together into the kind of toxic globs found in almost every patient with ALS or frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

A ‘hit-and-run’ interaction between two proteins could be an important trigger for cell death, according to new research.

Biomedical engineers at Duke University have developed an automated process that can trace the shapes of active neurons as accurately as human researchers can, but in a fraction of the time.

Zapping the brains of people over 60 with a mild electrical current improved a form of memory enough that they performed like people in their 20s, a new study found.

Laughter really could be the best medicine when it comes to brain surgery. Neuroscientists at Emory University School of Medicine used electrical stimulation to activate a focal pathway in the brain and trigger laughter, which is immediately followed by a sense of calm and contentment. The technique was used while conducting diagnostic monitoring for seizure diagnosis on an epilepsy patient, with the effects later used to successfully undergo awake brain surgery on the same patient.

38 new genes have been implicated in hearing loss. One of the genes, SPNS2, has been linked to childhood deafness.

Increased kynurenic acid production has been implicated in the pathology of schizophrenia. The findings provide a new target for cell-specific treatments that help reduce the production of kynurenic acid and reduce symptoms of schizophrenia.

Scientists have pinpointed a group of cells in the brain whose activity could help explain the ability to share another’s pain.

Imbalanced communication between the hippocampus and amygdala may lead to the inability to distinguish between negative memories that have overlapping features. The findings could provide new treatment options for those with PTSD.

Finally this week, a new study reports that music synchronizes brainwaves across listeners with strong effects of repetition, familiarity and training.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Much like opaque filters we apply to pictures on social media, the vibrancy of our memories dims and fades over time. The image reflects 12 levels of visual salience, or vibrancy, used to rate how memories fade. The image is credited to Psychological Science.

Low-level visual information fades in memory over time. However, negative emotion increases subjective memory vividness.

Musical training produces lasting improvements to a cognitive mechanism that helps individuals be more attentive and less likely to be distracted by irrelevant stimuli while performing demanding tasks.

Neurobiologists have studied the formation of inhibitory synapses, a complex process that occurs when the brain adapts. 

The synesthesia effect of being able to ‘hear’ silent movements may depend upon disinhibition of signaling between the visual and auditory brain regions. A new study found musicians are more likely to experience the ‘visual ear’ phenomena than those with no musical training.

Using OCT angiography to quantify capillary changes in the back of the eye can help in the detection, and monitor the progression, of Alzheimer’s disease.

Polygenetic risk scores calculated from adults can be used to identify children and adolescents who may be at greater risk of developing depression, even before clinical symptoms have emerged.

An uncommon variant of the PDE11A gene impacts both quality and duration of sleep. 

Scientists have discovered the key brain region for navigating well-known places, helping explain why brain damage seen in early stages of Alzheimer’s disease can cause such severe disorientation.

Finally this week, a team of researchers has found what they describe as a link between the “locus of control” in adolescents and their use of tobacco and alcohol.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new prosthetic hand enables amputees to regain a subtle, close to natural, sense of touch.

Researchers at MIT have developed a new neuroimaging technique that can track signaling processes inside neurons. The MRI sensor will enable researchers to identify the roles neurons play in different types of behavior.

Estrogen in the brain is important to keep neurons communicating and memories being made, scientists report.

A new study shows that there is a very limited regeneration of cells in the brain of patients diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). These findings underline the importance of treating MS at an early stage of the disease progression, when the affected cells can repair the damage as they are not replaced by new ones.

Researchers report alterations in RNA editing play a vital role in autism spectrum disorder.

Older adults who engage in short bursts of physical activity can experience a boost in brain health even if the activity is carried out at a reasonably low intensity, according to a new study.

In children with autism, the sound of their mom’s voice creates a weaker brain response than in their peers not on the autism spectrum, a new study reports.

Researchers report they have identified biomarkers of Alzheimer’s disease in spinal fluid samples of a significant number of older patients hospitalized as a result of hip fractures. The study suggests neural alterations that lead to poor balance in older people may signify an increased risk of falls that result in hip fractures, and Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study reveals how male sex steroids impact brain development

Finally this week, scientists have found the first common genetic risk variants for autism and uncovered genetic differences in clinical subgroups of autism. The discovery means that we will in future be able to determine the genes which separate the diagnostic groups, make more precise diagnoses, and provide better counselling for the individual person suffering from autism disorders.