Weekly Neuroscience Update

The return of consciousness after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains something of a mystery for scientists and is not easy to predict. A series of recently published studies have found that by using technologies to monitor brain functions after TBI, scientists may be able to better predict who will “wake up” after TBI and what brain circuits to target to potentially treat disorders of consciousness.

According to a new report, both genetics and environmental factors contribute to socioeconomic status’ impact in an interplay with effects that spans several areas of the brain.

An immersive virtual-reality anger control training program can reduce the level of anger provoked, according to a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior, and Social Networking. 

A new study examines the influence of statins on emotional bias, a marker for risk of depression.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden have studied how the screen habits of U.S. children correlate with how their cognitive abilities develop over time. They found that the children who spent an above-average time playing video games increased their intelligence more than the average, while TV watching or social media had neither a positive nor a negative effect.

Finally this week, a new study reveals the mechanisms behind repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation’s effect on the brain in the treatment of depression.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Can people who understand the emotions of others better interpret emotions conveyed through music? A new study by an international team of researchers suggests the abilities are linked. People who are more accurate at reading another person’s emotions are better able to understand what a musician is trying to convey through their compositions. Additionally, those with higher empathetic accuracy are better able to feel the emotions conveyed through music.

A team of researchers affiliated with several institutions in the U.S. has identified a subtype of brain cells that die in Parkinson’s patients.

Elevated levels of PHGDH in the blood could signal the earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers caution older adults against using “brain-boosting” supplements that contain serine due to its link to PHGDH. As PHGDH is a key enzyme in serine production, elevated PHGDH levels result in increased serine levels in the brain.

A new study examines the role of a brain area called the anterior superior temporal sulcus (aSTS) in forgiving those who make unintentional mistakes.

Using artificial intelligence technology, researchers have identified both risk and protective factors for depression in middle-aged to older adults. Social isolation, the study found, was the biggest risk factor for depression, followed by mobility difficulties and health issues.

Could there be a link between cognitive decline and excessive daytime napping? New research published in Alzheimer’s and Dementia suggests a potential connection.

Stimulating the vagus nerve, which provides a direct link between the gut and brain, makes people pay less attention to sad facial expressions according to new research published in the journal Neuroscience.

A new study reveals a mechanism that appears to reverse the build-up of protein aggregates by refolding them, rather than removing them.

Researchers found idiopathic autism occurs as the result of epigenetic abnormalities in hematopoietic cells during fetal development, leading to immune dysregulation in the brain and gut.

A specific Parkinson’s related gene could be a driver behind vocal production problems associated with the disease. The findings could lead to earlier diagnosis and treatment of Parkinson’s disease.

Finally this week by scanning the brains of 24 people actively suppressing a particular memory, researchers found a neural circuit that detects, inhibits, and eventually erodes intrusive memories.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 Clock proteins generating cyanobacterial circadian rhythms. Credit: NINS/IMS

Scientists want to increase their understanding of circadian rhythms, those internal 24-hour biological clock cycles of sleeping and waking that occur in organisms, ranging from humans to plants to fungi to bacteria. Now a research team has examined the complex workings of cyanobacteria and can better comprehend what drives its circadian clock.

A new study published is the first to look at multiple levels of biology within women with postpartum depression (PPD) to see how women with the condition differ from those without it.

There are five different diseases that attack the language areas in the left hemisphere of the brain and slowly cause progressive impairments of language known as primary progressive aphasia, reports a new study.

A team of scientists has discovered how working memory is “formatted”—a finding that enhances our understanding of how visual memories are stored. 

People whose brains release more of the neurochemical oxytocin are kinder to others and are more satisfied with their lives. This is the finding of new research, published in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience, that also discovered that oxytocin release increases with age, showing why, on average, people are more caring as they get older.

A genetic study involving thousands of people with bipolar disorder has revealed new insight into the condition’s molecular underpinnings.  

One of the most important molecules in the brain doesn’t work quite the way scientists thought it did, according to new work by researchers. The results, published April 20 in Nature, may aid the development of a new generation of more effective neurological and psychiatric therapies with fewer side effects.

Alzheimer’s Disease could be caused by damage to a protective barrier in the body that allows fatty substances to build up in the brain, newly published research argues.

Researchers have established for the first time a link between depressive disorders and mechanical changes in blood cells.

Nearly half of all older adults now die with a diagnosis of dementia listed on their medical record, up 36% from two decades ago, a new study shows.

Finally this week, epigenetic markers of cognitive aging can predict performance on cognitive tests later in life, according to a study published in the journal Aging.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The number of axons estimated to interconnect the 360 cortical parcels of the HCP-MMP1.0 atlas. Credit: The researchers

A new study reveals axon density is lower than previously believed between distant regions of the brain.

In a study published in the journal Cell Reports, an international team of investigators used biomarkers, statistical modeling, and other techniques to develop tools for measuring the biological ages of various organ systems. Based on their findings, the researchers report that there are multiple “clocks” within the body that vary widely based on factors including genetics and lifestyle in each individual.

Researchers have identified a new pathway in the brain that plays an important role in our response to fear.

Researchers have now demonstrated that the brain waves during periods of deep sleep in a specific area of the brain can be used to determine the extent of an individual’s propensity for risk during their everyday life.

A study at Boston Children’s Hospital explains for the first time why COVID-19 causes severe inflammation in some people, leading to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ damage. 

A team of researchers has found a link between the use of antibiotics by middle-aged women and cognitive decline later in life. The group has published a paper describing their work on the open-access site PLOS ONE.

Women who experienced childhood trauma had an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis later in life. The evidence suggests childhood abuse and trauma can alter the immune system and increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

A study has found no increased risk of developing brain tumors regardless of whether a person was a frequent cell phone user or if they had never used a cell phone before.

The consolidation of learning that occurs during sleep is a result of the learning process and not merely because certain brain regions get used a lot during learning. This finding is published in The Journal of Neuroscience and resolves a long-standing debate among sleep researchers.

People who grew up in rural or suburban areas have better spatial navigation skills than those raised in cities, particularly cities with grid-pattern streets, finds a new study.

The return of consciousness after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains something of a mystery for scientists and is not easy to predict. A series of recently published studies have found that by using technologies to monitor brain functions after TBI, scientists may be able to better predict who will “wake up” after TBI and what brain circuits to target to potentially treat disorders of consciousness.

Finally this week, researchers have established for the first time a link between depressive disorders and mechanical changes in blood cells.

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.