Weekly Neuroscience Update

Exposure to toxoplasma, a disease carried by cats, may increase the likelihood of developing psychosis in young people already at risk, a new study has found.

The development of drugs to treat cognitive problems in patients with mental illness may be a step closer after a team of researchers discovered that an existing drug—used to treat constipation—may be able to boost our ability to think more clearly.

The way a person’s brain responds to stress following a traumatic event, such as a car accident, may help to predict their long-term mental health outcomes, according to new research.

Researchers have identified how specific neurons in the cuneate nucleus help filter distracting information to coordinate dexterous movements. The findings have implications for the development of new prosthetics and robotic equipment that can fine-tune movement based on the sense of touch.

A new study has found structural differences in the prefrontal cortex and brain areas associated with empathy and cognitive control, between siblings where one displayed antisocial behaviors and the other did not.

It remains a central challenge in psychiatry to reliably judge whether a patient will respond to treatment. In a new study published in the journal Biological Psychiatry, researchers from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Germany show that moment-to-moment fluctuations in brain activity can reliably predict whether patients with social anxiety disorder will be receptive to cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

Researchers have identified a brain rhythm associated with emotional conflict that appears to be a biomarker for anxiety disorder.

Finally this week, people with elevated blood pressure that falls within the normal recommended range are at risk of accelerated brain ageing, according to new research. The research also found optimal blood pressure helps our brains stay at least six months younger than our actual age. 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

With normal (top) and reduced SLK expression (bottom). Without SLK, dendrites branch less; moreover, the number of inhibitory synapses (green) decreases. Credit: Institut für Neuropathologie/Uni Bonn

Researchers have shed light on the function of the enzyme SLK for the development of nerve cells in the brain. Lack of the SLK protein results in less abundant dendrites. As a lack of SLK is apparent in many patients with epilepsy, the findings could pave the way for new treatments for those suffering from the neurological disorder.

Adults who experienced traumatic events, including abuse and household dysfunction, as children had an increased risk of developing neurological conditions later in life.

Researchers have designed new antibodies that might provide more effective treatment methods for Alzheimer’s disease. By designing antibodies that bind even to the smaller aggregates, or clumps, of the amyloid-beta protein, it may be possible to check the progress of the disease.

A new study traces the mechanisms that link environmental signals and our circadian clocks.

Adolescents can speed their recovery after a sport-related concussion and reduce their risk of experiencing protracted recovery if they engage in aerobic exercise within 10 days of getting injured, according to a new study.

A new study reports a reduction of atmospheric fine particulates and better air quality can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

A team of researchers has partially solved the mystery of why some people are less naturally resistant to COVID-19 than others. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of the interferon system and the role it plays in combating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Finally this week, researchers have identified a brain rhythm associated with emotional conflict that appears to be a biomarker for anxiety disorder.

 

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.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Microglial cells – (blue: the cell nuclei) can join together using tubular projections (red) to degrade dangerous proteins in a division of labor. Credit: AG Heneka/University of Bonn

To break down toxic proteins more quickly, immune cells in the brain can join together to form networks when needed. However, certain mutations associated with Parkinson’s disease can impair this process.

New work shows that neurons and other brain cells use DNA double-strand breaks, often associated with cancer, neurodegeneration and aging, to quickly express genes related to learning and memory.

New research has identified specific drug targets within the neural circuits that encode memories, paving the way for significant advances in the treatment of a broad spectrum of brain disorders.

Pioneering research shows that dopamine levels increase in response to stressful stimuli, and not just pleasurable ones, potentially rewriting facts about the “feel-good” hormone—a critical mediator of many psychiatric diseases. This discovery is cause to rethink treatment for psychiatric disease and addiction.

A new study links viral infections including mononucleosis and pneumonia experienced during adolescence with an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis.

Researchers have discovered a new gene therapy pathway that has uncovered an important regulatory mechanism to keep our genome healthy. This pathway has the potential to protect us against serious life-limiting diseases such as cancer and dementia.

Neuroscientists have discovered specific types of neurons within the memory center of the brain that are responsible for acquiring new associative memories.

Amyloid protein made in the liver can cause neurodegeneration in the brain, according to a new study in the open-access journal PLOS Biology. Since the protein is thought to be a key contributor to development of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), the results suggest that the liver may play an important role in the onset or progression of the disease.

Higher glucose levels detected by a two-hour glucose test were an accurate predictor of poorer performance in tests of episodic memory ten years later, according to new research

A worsening cardiovascular profile after menopause may contribute to the fact that women are disproportionately affected by dementia. A new study identified a link between cardiovascular fat volume and radiodensity and cognitive function, as well as racial differences in this association.

Finally this week, a new study finds dopamine increases responses to stressful stimuli, not just pleasurable ones. The findings could have implications for the treatment of mental health disorders and addiction.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Those who exercise regularly may lower their risk of developing anxiety by 60%, researchers report.

A study published in the journal Sleep shows that a deep neural network model can accurately predict the brain age of healthy patients based on electroencephalogram data recorded during an overnight sleep study, and EEG-predicted brain age indices display unique characteristics within populations with different diseases.

A new study reveals a correlation between instances of eye contact and higher levels of engagement during conversations.

Researchers have developed a deep learning-based method that can predict the possible onset of Alzheimer’s disease from brain images with an accuracy of over 99 per cent. The method was developed while analysing functional MRI images obtained from 138 subjects and performed better in terms of accuracy, sensitivity and specificity than previously developed methods.

Scientists in Japan have identified metabolic compounds within the blood that are associated with dementia.

New research published in Cortex provides evidence that a brain region known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex contributes to cognitive biases in decision making. People with damage to this area of the brain often experience changes in personality and social behavior. But the new findings suggest that ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage can also make people more rational under some circumstances.

An immunological molecule called fractalkine can boost the production of brain cells that produce myelin, a key factor in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, according to recent research from the University of Alberta.

According to two studies conducted in Serbia during the COVID-19 lockdown, elite athletes and individuals who engaged in vigorous levels of exercise demonstrated the lowest psychological distress during this time. The findings, published in Frontiers in Psychology, further underscored the importance of adaptability, showing that athletes who reduced their training schedules during the early stages of lockdown showed lower distress than those who maintained them.

Finally this week, a new AI algorithm can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease with an accuracy of over 99% by analyzing fMRI brain scans.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research reveals that neurons in the visual cortex—the part of the brain that processes visual stimuli—change their responses to the same stimulus over time.

Menopause can mess with your memory, and a new study has identified four profiles of cognitive function that may help researchers understand why memory declines for some women and not others. This adds to the mounting evidence of the memory changes that can happen when menopause approaches and could lead to better guidance and treatment for patients experiencing memory issues.

Testing for some inflammatory proteins associated with the nervous and immune systems will help diagnose the earlier onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a Rutgers study.

Researchers have recently carried out a study investigating the role of the X-chromosome on human brain anatomy. Their findings, published in a paper in Nature Neuroscience, highlight the key role of the X-chromosome in human neurodevelopment.

A new study explores a new non-dopamine reward circuitry in the brain.

An analysis of data from 1.5 million people has identified 579 locations in the genome associated with a predisposition to different behaviors and disorders related to self-regulation, including addiction and child behavioral problems.

Virtual reality helps to relieve pain and anxiety for children undergoing medical procedures, researchers report.

Scientists have long suspected that religiosity and spirituality could be mapped to specific brain circuits, but the location of those circuits remains unknown. Now, a new study using novel technology and the human connectome, a map of neural connections, has identified a brain circuit that seems to mediate that aspect of our personality.

Finally this week, researchers reveal the neurobiological basis of why we often find it more difficult to find the right words as we age.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Two new research studies have identified the neural signals underlying music imagery. These neural signals are related to melodic expectations and predictions.

Short naps of up to 60 minutes in duration do not mitigate the effects of a night of sleep deprivation, a new study reports. However, the amount of slow-wave sleep achieved during a nap was related to reduced impairments associated with sleep deprivation.

30% of people reported changes in cognition, memory, and problems with information processing as a result of social isolation caused by pandemic lockdowns.

Some proteins in cells can separate into small droplets like oil droplets in water, but faults in this process may underlie neurodegenerative diseases in the brains of older people. Now, Rutgers researchers have developed a new method to quantify protein droplets involved in these diseases.

A new study reveals how dopamine may have a central role in maintaining our consciousness.

It’s long been known that opioid overdose deaths are caused by disrupted breathing, but the actual mechanism by which these drugs suppress respiration was not understood. Now, a new study by Salk scientists has identified a group of neurons in the brainstem that plays a key role in this process.

A new advanced imaging technique shows how cholesterol regulates the production of Alzheimer’s associated amyloid beta proteins in astrocytes.

A recent experimental study shows how regular physical exercise modulates iron metabolism in both the brain and the muscles. The findings also help to better understand the benefits of exercise in Alzheimer’s disease.

A new AI model can accurately classify a brain tumor of one of six common cancer types from a single MRI brain scan image.

A tiny region in the middle of the brain plays a far more important role than previously known in helping it respond to changes in the environment, a new study shows.

The brain’s white matter pathway organization during the first year of life may predict language acquisition and development at age five, researchers say.

Finally this week, mindfulness may provide modest benefits to cognition, particularly among older adults, finds a new review of evidence.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

An area (red-yellow) in the brain’s temporal pole specializes in familiar face recognition. Credit: Sofia Landi

New research reveals a class of neurons in the brain’s temporal pole region that links face perception to long-term memory. It’s not quite the apocryphal grandmother neuron — rather than a single cell, it’s a population of cells that collectively remembers grandma’s face. The findings, published in Science, are the first to explain how our brains inculcate the faces of those we hold dear.

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown repair process in the brain that they hope could be harnessed and enhanced to treat seizure-related brain injuries.

A new study demonstrates that puppets can attract and hold the attention of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), raising the potential for developing more engaging therapies that strengthen social engagement and facilitate learning.

Artificial neural networks is helping researchers uncover new clues as to why people on the autism spectrum have trouble interpreting facial expressions.

Researchers have revealed how proteins accumulate in the incorrect parts of brain cells in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and demonstrate how it may be possible to reverse the accumulation. ALS, more commonly known as motor neuron disease, is a progressive fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, with patients become increasingly paralyzed and losing the ability to speak, eat and breathe. 

Combining artificial intelligence, mathematical modeling, and brain imaging data, researchers have shed light on the neural processes that occur when people use mental abstraction.

A team of scientists has uncovered a system in the brain used in the processing of information and in the storing of memories—akin to how railroad switches control a train’s destination. The findings offer new insights into how the brain functions.

Finally this week, researchers have developed a powerful miniature brain platform to study the mechanistic causes of Alzheimer’s disease and to test dementia drugs in development.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows dancing to music may halt progression of Parkinson’s disease.

A new systematic review reports that individuals with more than five symptoms during the first week of a SARS-CoV-2 infection were at increased risk of developing persistent symptoms or long COVID.

Psychologists have advanced a new theory linking neurotic unhappiness and creativity, arguing that natural worriers may also have highly active imaginations and be more creative problem-solvers.

People who practice meditation often report feeling “pure awareness” in which they say they experience consciousness itself. The state encompasses specific sensations and non-specific feelings, thoughts, and perceptions. Researchers say their findings will help explain “pure consciousness,” and work to generate a prototypical minimal model for human conscious perception.

A recent study has reveals how the brain processes information about the natural environment and generates an aesthetic appreciation.

Researchers have found longer gestational age was significantly associated with better performance in tests of math, languages, social studies, and science at age nine. Children born at 41 weeks performed better in all areas, especially mathematics.

A newly developed questionnaire can detect autism in children between the ages of 18 to 30 months.

College students who experienced a high level of adversity in childhood have lower levels of social support, such as having someone to confide in, ask for advice or go to for emotional support. When students lack these supportive relationships, they are at an increased risk of experiencing depression and anxiety.

In a world first, US researchers have developed a neuroprosthetic device that successfully translated the brain waves of a paralyzed man into complete sentences

A new wearable brain-machine interface (BMI) system could improve the quality of life for people with motor dysfunction or paralysis, even those struggling with locked-in syndrome — when a person is fully conscious but unable to move or communicate.

Finally this week, participation in elite adult rugby may be associated with changes in brain structure. This is the finding of a study of 44 elite rugby players, almost half of whom had recently sustained a mild head injury while playing.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

When perceiving rhythm, the brain makes two separate decisions based on grouping and prominence. The groupings mutually inform each other to generate an overall rhythmic perception.

Face pareidolia, a phenomenon where the brain is tricked into seeing human faces in inanimate objects, may occur as a result of the brain processing the perceived facial expression in the same sequential way it perceives a human face. Neuroscientists at the University of Sydney now say how our brains identify and analyse real human faces is conducted by the same cognitive processes that identify illusory faces.

Researchers have identified a novel population of neurons in the temporal pole that links facial perception to long-term memory.

Adults with ADHD are at higher risk of a wide range of physical conditions, including nervous system, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and metabolic diseases, according to a large register-based study from Karolinska Institutet published in The Lancet Psychiatry.

A new study reveals very young infants can perceive objects that older infants, children, and adults can not see due to a phenomenon called visual backward masking.

Infant boys with a gut bacterial composition high in Bacteroidetes were found in a new study to have more advanced cognitive and language skills one year later compared to boys with lower levels of the bacteria. The finding was specific to male children.

Brain cells snap DNA in more places and in more cell types than previously realized in order to express genes for learning and memory.

Researchers have found that a component derived from turmeric essential oil, aromatic turmerone (ar-turmerone), and its derivatives act directly on dopaminergic nerves to create a neuroprotective effect on tissue cultures of a Parkinson’s disease model.

New research shows daydreaming and mind-wandering appear to occur when parts of the brain fall asleep while other areas remain awake.

Finally this week, a diet rich in fermented foods enhances the diversity of gut microbes and decreases molecular signs of inflammation, according to researchers at the Stanford School of Medicine.