Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have taken another step forward in developing an artificial intelligence tool to predict schizophrenia by analyzing brain scans.

COVID-19 may not directly infect the brain, but the virus is still capable of causing significant neurological damage, a new study reports. Researchers say the neurological changes seen as a result of coronavirus infection are likely related to inflammation triggered by viral infection in different parts of the body or the brain’s blood vessels.

Stroke risk for patients with traumatic brain injuries is at its highest in the four months following injury and remains significant for up to five years post-injury, finds a new systematic review.

A new blood test can distinguish the severity of a person’s depression and their risk for developing severe depression at a later point. The test can also determine if a person is at risk for developing bipolar disorder. Researchers say the blood test can also assist in tailoring individual options for therapeutic interventions.

Light therapy which consists of exposure to both controlled natural light and artificial lighting may be a new tool in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers link the inflammation associated with chronic sinus infections to alterations in brain activity in networks that govern cognition, external stimuli, and introspection. The findings shed light on why people suffering from sinus infections often report poor concentration and other short-term cognitive problems.

A new study recently published in eNeuro lays the groundwork for more detailed research on how humans hear in dynamic environments.

When people make eye contact with another person, their attention is immediately solicited and this causes a distortion in temporal perception. However, the shift in time perception does not change when people glance at non-social items or objects according to new research.

Sharing our personal experiences on social media may negatively impact how we feel about our memories, especially if the post doesn’t get many likes, a new study reports.

New research has shed light on how autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests in the brains of girls, prompting the scientists to warn that conclusions drawn from studies conducted primarily in boys should not be assumed to hold true for girls.

Finally this week, a shared set of systems in the brain may play an important role in controlling the retrieval of facts and personal memories utilised in everyday life, new research shows.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

Communication between the brain’s auditory and reward circuits is the reason why humans find music rewarding, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.

Multilingual people have trained their brains to learn languages, making it easier to acquire more new languages after mastering a second or third. In addition to demystifying the seemingly herculean genius of multilinguals, researchers say these results provide some of the first neuroscientific evidence that language skills are additive, a theory known as the cumulative-enhancement model of language acquisition.

A new whole-genome sequencing study has revealed thirteen novel genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found a new link between Alzheimer’s and synaptic function.

For people with Parkinson’s disease, problems with thinking and memory skills are among the most common nonmotor symptoms of the disease. A new study shows that exercise may help slow cognitive decline for some people with the disease.

Computer scientists have created a ground-breaking model that could improve our understanding of developmental disorders such as autism.

Researchers have succeeded for the first time in measuring brain waves directly via a cochlear implant. These brainwaves indicate in an objective way how good or bad a person’s hearing is. The research results are important for the further development of smart hearing aids.

New research suggests that chronic viral infections have a profound and lasting impact on the human immune system in ways that are similar to those seen during aging.

A study of Japanese university students and recent graduates has revealed that writing on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later. Researchers say that the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory.

Finally this week, a new study confirms that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex.

 

 

 

 

How To “Vaccinate” Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

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Today is World Mental Health Day, which is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

Depression is very common – it is estimated that at least one in five people in Ireland will develop depression during their lifetime. Depression is not to be confused with the normal ups and downs of everyday life. Everyone can feel a bit ‘down’ from time to time as a reaction to an upsetting event, but will start to feel better after a few days or weeks. It is a natural, short-lived response to stressful times in life.

However, some people are unable to escape this low mood, and find it difficult to carry on with life as usual. They may experience low/sad, irritable or indifferent mood, loss of interest and enjoyment in daily life and a general lack of energy. This may be often accompanied by some or all of the following physical symptoms, fatigue and reduced activity, disturbed sleep or excessive sleep, changes in appetite and weight, loss of sex drive, unexplained aches and pains e.g. headache, backache and changes to the menstrual cycle.

Depression affects different people in different ways – not everyone has the same symptoms. Other symptoms include poor concentration or reduced attention, difficulty in making decisions, tearfulness, restlessness, agitation or anxiety, low self-confidence and self-esteem, feelings of guilt, inability to cope with life as before, avoiding other people, bleak view of the future, morbid thoughts, ideas of self-harm.

Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Starting in the 1960’s neuroscientists regarded depression as a kind of ‘anaemia’ in the brain – a lack of three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline in key emotional regions in the brain. Antidepressant drugs were then developed to bring the levels of these neurotransmitters particularly serotonin back to normal. Prozac is a good example of this type of drug and it has proved to be a safe and effective life saver for many the depressed patient.

However, recently neuroscientists have had a radical change of mind with respect to the nature of depression. This change of view is partially due to evidence from brain imaging studies in depressed patients showing dramatic changes in nerve activity in the frontal lobe of the brain.

The importance of the frontal lobe in depression

Nervous activity in the frontal lobes forms our attitudes, plans and strategies and is at least in part under our own control.    This view advocates that depression is in fact a disorder of thinking – a sort of obsessional pessimism from which the depressed patient can see no way out and this is what causes the low neurotransmitter levels.

Wisconsin Study

The WISCONSIN STUDY adds another twist by showing that the brains of depressed individuals actually exhibit the same initial levels of activity in positive/pleasure-generating brain regions. Instead they found differences in the ability to sustain those positive emotions.

Findings from my own research group and others show that three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline play a key role in sustaining attention and motivation the brain. Thus low neurotransmitter levels may impair the ability to ‘embed’ these new thoughts and emotions leaving the depressed patient feeling like they are back at square one. This study lends support to notion that depression is best treated by psychological/behavioral treatments or in combination of drugs, not drugs alone.

Thus while antidepressants can help treat the chemical anaemia – good mental heath in particular careful monitoring of your everyday thoughts and attitudes will ensure that negative thoughts are nipped in the bud is also vital in the treatment and even the prevention of depression.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

How we adapt to aging late in life may be genetically influenced, according to a new study.

Concussions could have lasting implications on sleep, a new study reports. People who experienced concussion reported sleep disturbances, daytime drowsiness, and fatigue that were persistent months after their injury.

Researchers have identified three populations of neurons in layer 6 of the cortex that contribute to alertness.

An neuroimaging study reveals social learning is represented in the anterior cingulate cortex, while direct learning is represented in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. The two areas both interact with the striatum, which helps compute both reward prediction error and social prediction error.

A new population of taste cells that can detect multiple types of stimuli has been identified.

It is known that different regions of the brain help us prioritize information so we can efficiently process visual scenes. A new study by a team of neuroscientists has discovered that one specific region, the occipital cortex, plays a causal role in piloting our attention to manage the intake of images.

Rhythms produced by the brain can reliably be used to predict how sensitive we are to pain, new research shows.

Mitochondria regulate how neural stem cells become neurons during brain development. The findings may help explain how humans developed larger brains during evolution and how mitochondrial defects lead to some neurodevelopmental disorders.

Active social connection is the strongest protective factor for depression, a new study reports. 

Finally this week, researchers report that high levels of iron in the blood have a negative impact on aging. Keeping the levels in check could prevent age-related health and neurodegenerative problems.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers argue COVID-19 should be considered as an inflammatory disease as the severity of the infection is associated with a dysregulation of the inflammatory immune response.

Cortical thickness and regional brain connectivity pay an equally important role in linking brain and behavior.

Adolescents and adults whose mothers experienced depression, either during pregnancy or shortly after, had a 70% increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

A research team has concluded that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. 

A pair of recently published studies add to our growing understanding of how fine particle pollution — the tiny, inhalable pollutants from cars and power plants — impacts our brains.

Scientists have discovered that humans use the visual part of their brain when processing sounds in the dark, even if they have never had sight in their lifetime.

A team of researchers has released new findings in Translational Psychiatry in an effort to better comprehend how gene expression associated with inflammation may be used to establish people with depressive disorders who are responsive to drug treatments.

Finally this week, new research shows that a patient’s pupils can reveal if they have suffered a traumatic experience in the past.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Biased attention to sad faces increases the risk of teenagers developing depression, a new study reports.

Music training does not have a positive impact on children’s cognitive skills, such as memory, and academic achievement, such as maths, reading or writing, according to a study published in Memory & Cognition.

New findings show that scene selective cortical regions are more sensitive to age than face-selective regions when it comes to memory and perception.

Mapping the thalamic reticular nucleus, researchers have identified two distinct subnetworks of neurons with different functions. Findings offer insight into more specific targets for therapeutics to alleviate some sensory, sleep, and attention symptoms associated with ASD and other disorders characterized by sensory hypersensitivity.

In anxiety, neural activity becomes elevated across many specific brain regions, and normal coordination between the networks becomes decreased.

Activating p38gamma, a naturally protective enzyme in the brain, may help to prevent the development of Alzheimer’s disease symptoms. Researchers showed the naturally protective effects of p38gamma could be harnessed to improve memory in the later stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

Depending on the network state, certain neurons in the primary somatosensory cortex can be more or less excitable, which shapes stimulus processing in the brain.

Botox injections appear to improve symptoms of depression, regardless of the injection site, a new study reports. Researchers found depression was reported 40 – 88% less often in patients treated with Botox.

Finally this week, Alzheimer’s risk factors could be apparent as early as our teenage years, researchers report. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study provides the first evidence that rotigotine, a drug that acts on dopamine transmission in the brain, improves cognitive function in patients with mild-to-moderate Alzheimer’s disease.

Tiny eye movements can be used as an index of humans’ ability to anticipate relevant information in the environment independent of the information’s sensory modality, a team of scientists has found. The work reveals a connection between eye movements and the sense of touch.

A team of researchers has identified for the first time brain-wide neural correlates of the transition from fear to anxiety.

A new study provides evidence that hearing is the last sense to go during the process of active death. Many people become unresponsive during the final hours of life, however, EEG data revealed the dying brain responds to sounds throughout the final moments of life.

Neurological complications of Covid-19 can include delirium, brain inflammation, stroke and nerve damage, finds new research.

A new study uncovers DNA hypermethylation is responsible for reduced amygdala volume in male patients with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.

Finally this week, new research has identified the specific brain cells that control how much sugar you eat and how much you crave sweet tasting food.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers using MRI have found that iron accumulation in the outer layer of the brain is associated with cognitive deterioration in people with Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the journal Radiology.

Examining the brains of frequent cannabis users, researchers have identified a pattern of connectivity related to craving the substance.

Auditory hallucinations, a common feature of psychosis and schizophrenia, may be the result of increased connectivity between sensory and language processing areas in the brain.

Nitrous oxide may provide temporary relief to veterans suffering from PTSD, a new study reports.

Light to moderate weekly alcohol consumption during middle age could help preserve brain function as we get older. Compared to non-drinkers, those who had a drink or two a day tended to have better performance on cognitive tests over time.

Low levels of the stress hormone cortisol and the GLIZ protein can trigger chronic inflammatory responses in the body, contributing to the aging process.

The placentas of sixteen women who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy showed evidence of significant injury, a new study reports. The placental injuries were consistent with abnormal blood flow between mother and baby in-utero, suggesting another complication of coronavirus infection in pregnant women.

Finally this week, a new study highlights the most common neurological and psychological complications that arise as a result of coronavirus infection.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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New findings suggest humans have a stereo sense of smell that subconsciously guides navigation.

The study of a man with a neurodegenerative disease that has robbed his ability to see certain numbers sheds light on how the brain processes information without any visual awareness of the stimuli.

Young adults who acquire fewer genetic mutations over time lived five years longer than those who acquired them more rapidly.

96% of patients hospitalized for coronavirus infections report experiencing PTSD as a result of their illness. Researchers also found an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders in those hospitalized for COVID-19.

Genetic deletions associated with neurodevelopmental disorders may also be linked to dysfunctional organ development, a new study reports.

A new study reveals the relationship between attentional state and emotions from pupillary reactions. Visual perception elicits emotions in all attentional state, while auditory perception elicits emotions only when attention is paid to sounds.

Statins lowered the death rate and decreased the need for mechanical ventilation in patients hospitalized for severe COVID-19.

A new study has identified a different set of individual neurons in the medial frontal cortex that is responsible for memory-based decision making. The findings have implications for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, schizophrenia, and other disorders associated with problems in cognitive flexibility.

Elevated pulse pressure in blood traveling to the brain causes inflammation, oxidative stress, and apoptosis in the blood-brain barrier that leads to brain damage.

Researchers have found an unexpected set of mental illnesses in patients with a spectrum of a rare genetic disorder. Their study revealed the need for clinicians to consider the complexities of co-existing conditions in patients with both psychological and fragile X associated disorders.

Finally this week, people experience a flattening of emotions following a single night of poor sleep. Researchers also found a link between sleep deprivation, learning, and reaction time.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Brain regions where symptoms of depression and anxiety were associated with decreased opioid receptor availability. Image is credited to Lauri Nummenmaa

New research reveals how the brain’s opioid system is linked to mood changes associated with depression and anxiety. Neuroimaging revealed, in those with depression, there is a decreased number of opioid receptors in specific areas of the brain.

Chandelier cells have an unusual direct method of communication. Unlike other neurons, chandelier cells connect directly to the part of a target neuron that initiates a spike.

Using optogenetics, researchers were able to manipulate oxytocin producing cells in a highly precise manner. They discovered oxytocin can amplify aggression as well as social friendliness.

Some coronavirus patients exhibit clinical and neurochemical signs of brain injury associated with the viral infection. 

When it comes to processing information about motion, neurons in the ventral intraparietal area of the brain are more flexible in switching between reference frames. The findings could be used to develop neural prosthetics designed for motion control.

The suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population according to a study published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Repetitive negative thinking in those aged over 55 is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and deposition of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have identified a specific, front-line defense that limits the infection to the olfactory bulb and protects the neurons of the olfactory bulb from damage due to the infection.

A new study offers clues to how neurons can rewire and restore pathways following injury or illness.

Older men who have a weak or irregular circadian rhythm guiding their daily cycles of rest and activity are more likely to later develop Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.

Finally this week, a team of researchers has created a new technology that enhances scientists’ ability to communicate with neural cells using light.