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

Credit: Oxford University

Researchers at Oxford University have implanted a novel closed-loop research platform for investigating the role of the pedunculopontine nucleus (PPN)—a brainstem nucleus—in Parkinson’s-like Multiple Systems Atrophy (MSA).

Your brain remains as nimble as ever until you hit your 60s, according to a report published in the journal Nature Human Behaviour.

A team of researchers has developed a way to create a molecular map of the human blood-brain barrier. In their paper published in the journal Nature, the group describes how they created their map and what it revealed about disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.

Brain organization differs between boys and girls with autism, according to a new study from the Stanford University School of Medicine.

Children with insomnia symptoms are likely to persist with them as young adults and are significantly more likely to develop an insomnia disorder in early adulthood compared to children who do not have difficulty sleeping, according to new research.

A specific group of fungi residing in the intestines can protect against intestinal injury and influence social behavior, according to new preclinical research.

The University of Oulu Functional Neuroimaging research group has for the first time succeeded in describing how the various types of pulsations in the human brain change when a person sleeps. Brain pulsation changes during sleep and their role in brain clearance have not been previously studied in humans. The results of the study may also help understand the mechanisms behind many brain diseases.

Finally this week, selenium, a natural mineral found in grains, meats, and nuts can reverse cognitive impairment following a stroke and improve learning and memory in the aging brain.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Ke Wu, a PhD student in BU’s department of mechanical engineering, demonstrates a new magnetic metamaterial device intended to be used in conjunction with MRI machines to boost the quality of brain scans. Credit: Cydney Scott, Boston University

A novel wearable magnetic metamaterial could help make MRI imaging faster, cheaper, and crisper.

While the word “mutation” may conjure up alarming notions, a mutation in brain immune cells serves a positive role in protecting people against Alzheimer’s disease. Now University of California, Irvine biologists have discovered the mechanisms behind this crucial process.

People cannot distinguish between a face generated by Artificial Intelligence – using StyleGAN2- and a real face say researchers, who are calling for safeguards to prevent “deep fakes”.

Minor everyday rises in blood pressure due to short-term stressors can be linked to a brain area that controls conscious and learned motor skills. This discovery, presented by researchers, paves the way for a chance to influence the rises in blood pressure and, in the long run, prevent hypertension.

MRI scans of children aged 9 to 10 years with ADHD showed few differences in structural brain measurements compared to their unaffected peers, according to a new study.

A recent study has shown that the brain has neurons that fire specifically during certain mathematical operations. The findings indicate that some of the neurons detected are active exclusively during additions, while others are active during subtractions. They do not care whether the calculation instruction is written down as a word or a symbol.

New research has shown that a bacterium commonly present in the nose can sneak into the brain and set off a cascade of events that may lead to Alzheimer’s disease.

A research team has discovered that communication between two key memory regions in the brain determines how what we experience becomes part of what we remember, and as these regions mature, the precise ways by which they interact make us better at forming lasting memories.

Finally this week, digital twins are already used in manufacturing, industry, and aerospace. Now a European project called Neurotwin wants to make virtual copies of brains.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study underscores the importance of healthy sleep to prevent the Alzheimer’s related amyloid-beta 42 protein from forming clumps in the brain.

It has long been known that there is an association between food and pain, as people with chronic pain often struggle with their weight. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience may have found an explanation in a new study that suggests that circuitry in the brain responsible for motivation and pleasure is impacted when someone experiences pain.

Researchers have found 90 minutes of mild- to moderate-intensity exercise directly after a flu or COVID-19 vaccine may provide an extra immune boost.

When a person tries to access a memory, their brain quickly sifts through everything stored in it to find the relevant information. But as we age, many of us have difficulty retrieving memories. In a review published in the journal Trends in Cognitive Sciences researchers propose an explanation for why this might be happening: the brains of older adults allocate more space to accumulated knowledge and have more material to navigate when attempting to access memories.

Researchers have discovered a critical role the dorsal precentral gyrus plays in how people use the sound of their voices to control how they want the words they speak to sound.

Finally this week, a new study has uncovered new evidence linking higher levels of neuroticism and anxiety with the ability to experience a deeply relaxing sensation known as the Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR).

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers propose forgetting memories or things we have learned may be a functional feature in the brain and actually an additional form of learning.

Scientists have developed a device for recording brain activity that is more compact and affordable than the solutions currently on the market. With its high signal quality and customizable configuration, the device could help people with restricted mobility regain control of their limbs or provide advance warnings of an impending seizure to patients with epilepsy. The article presenting the device and testing results came out in Experimental Brain Research.

A new, large-scale study led by scientists at the Yale School of Public Health has established a robust link between long-term ozone exposure and an increased risk of cognitive impairment in older adults.

A new study found that frailty was a strong risk factor for dementia, even among people who are at a high genetic risk for dementia, and that it might be modified through a healthy lifestyle.

A systematic review published in the scientific journal Addiction has found that cannabis use leads to acute cognitive impairments that may continue beyond the period of intoxication.

Neuroscientists have identified a specific signal that young children and even babies use to determine whether two people have a strong relationship and a mutual obligation to help each other.

Finally this week a new study reveals how the body produces different health-promoting signaling molecules in an organ-specific manner following exercise at different points during the day.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Running may be a useful activity to undertake for better mental health. Researchers have found that only ten minutes of moderate-intensity running increases local blood flow to the various loci in the bilateral prefrontal cortex —the part of the brain that plays an important role in controlling mood and executive functions.

New research reveals how our immune cells use the body’s fat stores to fight infection. The research could help develop new approaches to treating people with bacterial infections.

Recent cannabis use is linked to extremes of nightly sleep duration—less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours—reveals a study of a large representative sample of US adults, published online in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

The risk of developing multiple sclerosis increases 32 fold following Epstein-Barr virus infection.

Living alone for several years and/or experiencing serial relationship break-ups are strongly linked to raised levels of inflammatory markers in the blood–but only in men–finds a large population study published online in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

Long before the onset of dementia, there is evidence for increased activity of the brain’s immune system. Researchers came to this conclusion based on a study of more than 1,000 older adults. 

Sleep deprivation increases the levels of serotonin 2A neurotransmitter receptors within 6 – 8 hours. Abnormal serotonin 2A receptor function is associated with hallucinations, cognitive impairment, and is linked to psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia.

Finally this week, work plays an active role in keeping the brain healthy and retaining cognitive abilities as we age, researchers report.

End of Year Neuroscience Update

Welcome to the final research update of the year. 

A new study shows that people who do vigorous physical activities, like jogging or playing competitive sports, in areas with higher air pollution may show less benefit from that exercise when it comes to certain markers of brain disease. The markers examined in the study included white matter hyperintensities, which indicate injury to the brain’s white matter, and gray matter volume. Larger gray matter volumes and smaller white matter hyperintensity volumes are markers of overall better brain health.

Long-term memory consolidation and short-term memory processes that occur during sleep do so at a cost to one another according to new research. 

In a discovery that could one day benefit people suffering from traumatic brain injury, Alzheimer’s disease, and schizophrenia, researchers have identified the characteristics of more than 100 memory-sensitive neurons that play a central role in how memories are recalled in the brain.

An observational study of more than 3,000 adults aged 65 years or older has uncovered a link between cataract surgery and a reduced risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers in Japan used magnetic resonance imaging to study the brains of secondary school students during a task focused on musical observation. They found that students trained to play music from a young age exhibited certain kinds of brain activity more strongly than other students. The researchers also observed a specific link between musical processing and areas of the brain associated with language processing for the first time.

A new theory suggests consciousness is a state tied to complex cognitive operations, and not a passive basic state that automatically prevails when we are awake.

Why do so many children with autism often suffer from epilepsy? Scientists have discovered an important brain protein that quiets overactive brain cells and is at abnormally low levels in children with autism.

A newly developed self-assessment test of cognitive function can help detect early signs of dementia sooner than commonly used office-based cognitive tests.

Scientists have identified a neural mechanism that supports advanced cognitive functions such as planning and problem-solving. The mechanism distributes information from a single neuron to larger neural populations in the prefrontal cortex.

A team of researchers has found a link between the way that cells produce energy for brain function and the mutated genes found in Alzheimer’s disease.

Children with autism have abnormally low levels of the CNTNAP2 protein. The protein, which can be detected in cerebrospinal fluid samples, may serve as a new biomarker for autism and could potentially become a target to treat epilepsy that is commonly associated with ASD.

Finally, this new study brings understanding how the brain processes information one step closer.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Entrainment can safely manipulate brain waves to induce improvements in memory, a new study reveals.

In the first study of its kind to explore caffeine’s effects on dynamic visual skills, researchers concluded that caffeine increases alertness and detection accuracy for moving targets. Caffeine also improved participants’ reaction times.

New research shows that a once-weekly three-minute exposure to long-wave deep red light activates mitochondria in the retina, helping to naturally boost declining vision.

While chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) cannot yet be diagnosed during life, a new study provides the best evidence to date that a commonly used brain imaging technique, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may expedite the ability to diagnose CTE with confidence in the living.

A new study finds that people with COVID-19 who experience sleep-disordered breathing have a 31% higher likelihood of hospitalization and death.

Running may be a useful activity to undertake for better mental health. Researchers have found that only ten minutes of moderate-intensity running increases local blood flow to the various loci in the bilateral prefrontal cortex —the part of the brain that plays an important role in controlling mood and executive functions.

New research reveals how our immune cells use the body’s fat stores to fight infection. The research could help develop new approaches to treating people with bacterial infections.

Recent cannabis use is linked to extremes of nightly sleep duration—less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours—reveals a study of a large representative sample of US adults, published online in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

Finally this week, work plays an active role in keeping the brain healthy and retaining cognitive abilities as we age, researchers report.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Bacterial curli promotes the aggregation of α-synuclein through cross-seeding, which leads to mitochondrial stress and neurodegeneration. Credit: The University of Hong Kong

Growing evidence indicates that gut microbiota plays a critical role in regulating the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but the molecular mechanism underlying such microbe-host interaction is still unclear. Now a research team at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has discovered that bacteria-derived curli amyloid fibril promotes neurodegeneration in the host. This new study provides direct evidence to suggest that bacteria can secrete proteins that form an amyloid fibril, which enters the host neurons and promotes protein aggregation and neurodegeneration. Inhibiting the ability of the bacteria to secrete such proteins may be a preventative treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. 

Unusual visual inspection of objects by infants 9 months of age and older is predictive of a later diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research has found.

A team of scientists recently published intriguing research on a tiny, splinter-like brain implant that doctors can slide deep into the folds of the brain and use to restore both muscular control over and sensation from a paralysis patient’s limbs.

A new study has found a new way to look at brain networks using the mathematical notion of fractals, to convey communication patterns between different brain regions as people listened to a short story. 

An experimental gene therapy that involves injecting CRISPR therapy directly into visually impaired patients’ eyeballs has vastly improved most volunteers’ vision — even allowing some to see color more vividly than ever before.

Preliminary new findings are raising concerns about the long-term effect of mild COVID-19 infection on neurological health and cognition.

Use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT, also known as hormone replacement therapy, HRT) is not associated with an increased risk of developing dementia, regardless of hormone type, dose, or duration, concludes a large UK study.

Recent research provides empirical evidence to show the brain’s predictive ability forms the basis for musical phrasing.

Memories of past events and experiences are what define us as who we are, and yet the ability to form these episodic memories declines with age, certain dementias, and brain injury. However, a new study shows that low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation—or rTMS—delivered over the left prefrontal cortex of the brain can improve memory performance by reducing the power of low frequency brain waves as memories form.

Finally this week, a new brain imaging study shows that the hippocampus is the brain’s storyteller, connecting separate, distant events into a single narrative.