Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study shows that walking can enhance connections within and between three critical brain networks, one of which is linked to Alzheimer’s disease. The research, involving older adults with normal cognitive function and those with mild cognitive impairment, showcased an improvement in memory recollection abilities after a 12-week walking exercise regimen. The brain activity observed was stronger and more synchronized post-exercise, providing hope for combating cognitive impairment and potentially delaying the onset of Alzheimer’s dementia.

Most antidepressants used for chronic pain are being prescribed with “insufficient” evidence of their effectiveness, scientists have warned.

Researchers have found a correlation between patients with rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson’s disease. In their paper published in JAMA Neurology, researchers found a significantly higher risk of Parkinson’s disease (PD) in patients with rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

Researchers have delved into the brain’s grey and white matter, investigating the impacts of fibromyalgia. Using MRI, the team detected reduced grey matter volume in the pain-processing areas of fibromyalgia patients.

Neuroscientists have discovered how vitamin D deficiency impacts the development of neurons, contributing to disorders such as schizophrenia. These findings underscore the importance of vitamin D in the structural differentiation of dopaminergic neurons and suggest that maternal vitamin D deficiency might alter how early dopaminergic circuits form.

Finally this week, researchers have cracked the mystery behind how the Botulinum neurotoxin type-A, also known as Botox, infiltrates neurons. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Credit: Nature Communications (2023). DOI: 10.1038/s41467-023-38248-4

Scientists have found that the gut microbiome holds Parkinson’s disease markers and may indicate a method of early diagnosis.

Deep sleep, also known as non-REM slow-wave sleep, may help reduce memory loss in older adults facing a heightened burden of Alzheimer’s disease. The research indicates that superior amounts of deep sleep can act as a protective factor against memory decline in those with existing high amounts of Alzheimer’s disease pathology, potentially helping to alleviate some of dementia’s most devastating outcomes.

Researchers have discovered new genetic risk factors for non-Alzheimer’s dementia, specifically Lewy body dementia (LBD) and frontotemporal dementia (FTD).

Scientists have made strides in uncovering the mechanisms underlying memory formation and consolidation in the brain during rest or sleep. A new study focuses on the role of the hippocampus, a brain region important for memory, and its place cells which “replay” neuronal sequences. The researchers built an artificial intelligence model to better understand these processes, discovering that sequences of experiences are prioritized during replay based on familiarity and rewards. The AI agent was found to learn spatial information more effectively when replaying these prioritized sequences, offering valuable insight into the way our brains learn and process information.

New research finds that the brains of otherwise healthy military personnel who are exposed to explosions show an abnormal brain accumulation of amyloid-beta protein—a protein that plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study has found that people with a genetic risk for psychosis have an imbalance of glutamate and GABA neurotransmitters in their brains, specifically in the hippocampus. This imbalance is associated with hippocampal atrophy, which may lead to the development of psychotic symptoms.

Researchers have developed human brain organoids that contain microglia, the immune cells of the brain. These organoids allow researchers to study how microglia develop and function in a more realistic setting than previous models.

Researchers used artificial intelligence to analyze speech in Parkinson’s disease patients, revealing distinct patterns. The AI found Parkinson’s patients used more verbs but fewer nouns and fillers in their speech, even before cognitive decline typically associated with PD was evident.

A research team has found that the risk of long COVID and its symptoms present very differently across diverse populations.

A new study sheds light on the potential role of diet in preventing dementia. The analysis explored the relationship between gut health and Alzheimer’s disease, uncovering a strong link between specific types of gut bacteria and the likelihood of developing dementia. The findings highlight the significance of gut microbiota in brain health and provide insights into the underlying mechanisms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, researchers have created a revolutionary device that emulates the human eye’s ability to see colour.


Weekly Neuroscience Update

Viewing interactive art online can improve our mood and reduce anxiety. People reported significant improvements in mood and anxiety after just a few minutes of viewing an interactive Monet Water Lily art exhibition.

The way our senses adjust while playing virtual reality (VR) games affects the severity of cybersickness experienced. Researchers measured how participants perceived the orientation of vertical lines before and after playing two VR games, one high-intensity, and one low-intensity. They found that those who experienced less sickness were more likely to have the largest change in the subjective visual vertical following exposure to VR. The findings could be useful for VR designers and developers in creating more comfortable and enjoyable experiences.

In a new study, scientists have discovered anatomical changes that occur in the brains of patients after their sight is restored.

Scientists have explored the links between three measures known to independently predict healthy aging: nutrient intake, brain structure and cognitive function. Their analysis adds to the evidence that these factors jointly contribute to brain health in older adults. 

Young men with cannabis use disorder are more likely to develop schizophrenia, according to a new study.

A new study challenges conventional thinking on the role of short and long-term memories in relearning motor skills. Researchers found that fleeting short-term memories, rather than long-term ones, are responsible for rapid motor learning, indicating the existence of mechanisms for regulating the learning rates for memories that are distinct from the memories themselves.

Researchers have identified spatial and temporal abnormalities in spontaneous fixational saccades as a potential biomarker for cognitive and positive symptoms in schizophrenia.

Poor verbal memory may increase the risk of psychiatric hospitalization for patients diagnosed with bipolar disorder or depression. The severity of the illness was previously thought to have an impact on poor memory, but new research shows that poor memory may also have an impact on the risk of being hospitalized.

Researchers have uncovered crucial findings regarding Long COVID, discovering significant immune system and nervous system changes that could explain the neurological symptoms experienced by patients.

A new study from Aarhus University indicates that certain types of epilepsy medication taken during pregnancy may increase the risk of severe psychiatric disorders in children.The research found a worrying link between the antiseizure medication valproate and the child’s risk of developing psychiatric disorders such as autism, ADHD and intellectual disability.

Finally this week, scientists have recently identified a unique form of cell messaging occurring in the human brain that’s not been seen before. Excitingly, the discovery hints that our brains might be even more powerful units of computation than we realized.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 Credit: Science Advances (2023)

Researchers have published a study in Science Advances that looks into the genetic mechanisms behind the development of schizophrenia.

Students whose brainwaves are more in sync with their classmates and teacher are likely to learn better than those lacking this “brain-to-brain synchrony,” shows a new study by a team of psychology and education researchers. The findings, which appear in the journal Psychological Science, offer new insights into the learning process. 

Scientists are testing a new personalized immunotherapy approach that is designed to work similarly to a vaccine by training the immune system to fight glioblastoma brain cancer.

People experiencing hearing loss who are not using a hearing aid may have a higher risk of dementia than people without hearing loss, suggests a new study published in The Lancet Public Health journal. However, using a hearing aid may reduce this risk to the same level as that of people without hearing loss.

Researchers have shown for the first time that in middle-aged men, Obstructive Sleep Apnea may cause early cognitive decline, even in patients who are otherwise healthy and not obese.

In a new study, teens who added walnuts to their diet for 100 days showed improvements in attention function, and for those with ADHD, frequent walnut consumption was associated with improvements in behavior. Researchers also noted an increase in fluid intelligence in those who frequently consumed walnuts as part of their daily diet.

Listening to or practicing music had positive implications on cognitive decline in older adults by stimulating the production of gray matter in key brain areas, a new study reveals.

Researchers have used machine learning to investigate the molecular and neural mechanisms that could underlie differences among individuals diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Their paper, published in Nature Neuroscience, identifies different subgroups of ASD associated with distinct functional connections in the brain and symptomatology, which could be related to the expression of different ASD-related genes.

A novel imaging technique is capable of showing reactive astrocyte-neuron interactions. The technique sheds new light on Alzheimer’s pathologies and offers a potential breakthrough for the diagnosis and treatment of dementia.

An international team of 79 researchers has collaborated on a study published in Nature Medicine to delve into perivascular spaces (PVS), a poorly understood artifact seen in magnetic resonance imaging of cerebral small vessel disease, a leading cause of stroke and dementia.

Finally this week, new research findings show that probiotic supplementation could be a positive strategy to counteract oxidative stress and inflammation promoted by sleep loss.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study investigates how viewing visual art affects our emotions. The findings reveal how the aesthetic experience can impact the body’s emotional response.

New research has shown centenarians have distinct immune cell type composition and activity and possess highly functional immune systems that have successfully adapted to a history of sickness allowing for exceptional longevity. These immune cells may help identify important mechanisms to recover from disease and promote longevity.

Adding more magnesium-rich foods, such as spinach and nuts, to your daily diet can help reduce age-related brain shrinkage and stave off symptoms of dementia, a new study reports.

Scientists have found that the amino acid glycine can deliver a “slow-down” signal to the brain, likely contributing to major depression, anxiety and other mood disorders in some people. The discovery improves understanding of the biological causes of major depression and could accelerate efforts to develop new, faster-acting medications for such hard-to-treat mood disorders

A new method determines, with 91% accuracy whether a person is suffering from anxious or non-anxious depression from brain signals while the eyes are closed.

Researchers have found a way to assess consciousness without external stimulation, using a little-used approach where volunteers squeeze a force sensor with their hand when they breathe in and release it when they breathe out, resulting in more precise and sensitive measurements that may help improve treatment for insomnia and coma reversal.

Finally this week, new evidence suggests astrocytes can sense and react to change. These processes are key to memory formation and behavioral shifts.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Credit: Cell Metabolism (2023). DOI: 10.1016/j.cmet.2023.02.017

Researchers have found a previously unknown mechanism linking gut bacteria, estradiol, and depression in women. The study, “Gut-microbiome-expressed 3b-hydroxysteroid dehydrogenase degrades estradiol and is linked to depression in premenopausal females,” is published in the journal Cell Metabolism.

Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne, in collaboration with Yale University, have shown that foods with high fat and sugar content change our brain.

Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) may benefit from early screening and intervention for cardiometabolic conditions according to a meta-analysis of the association between ASD and cardiometabolic conditions in children. Researchers analyzed data from 10 studies and found that children with ASD have a higher risk of developing cardiometabolic conditions such as obesity, hypertension, and dyslipidemia.

Researchers have developed a new wearable technology that records the activity of neurons in the brain as a human walks or moves.

New research published in Human Brain Mapping reveals sex differences and developmental changes in the brain’s white matter in healthy developing infants and 5-year-olds.These findings could help improve our understanding of brain development and potentially inform interventions to support healthy development in children and young adults.

Criteria used by neurologists to assess for multiple sclerosis in adults may fail to identify the illness in children with imaging suspicious for the disease, an oversight that could delay treatment of the disease at its earliest stages.

Elite male soccer players were 1.5 times more likely to develop neurodegenerative disease than population controls, according to an observational study published in The Lancet Public Health journal. The researchers believe that the repeated heading of the ball during practice and games may be a contributing factor to the increased risk of dementia. The findings raise concerns about the long-term health consequences of playing soccer and highlight the need for further research into ways to reduce the risk of dementia in professional athletes.

Using artificial intelligence, researchers have discovered how to screen for genetic mutations in cancerous brain tumors in under 90 seconds.

A common genetic signature has been linked to an increased risk of substance use disorders from smoking addiction to addiction to narcotics. The findings could pave the way to the development of new therapies for substance use disorder and may help diagnose those at risk of multiple substance use disorders.

Finally this week, listening to music may help boost the beneficial effects of medicine while helping to reduce some of the side effects. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Graphical summary of the methodological framework of the study. Credit: Nature Medicine (2023)

The most common type of brain cyst (arachnoid) has no known cause. New research investigating patients with these cysts has found something unexpected—a potential genetic link.

As we age, most of us tend to stop paying attention to new music and stick with the songs from our past. Researchers explored why we narrow our horizons for exploring new music as we age and say listening to new tracks can help create new memory bonds and experience new pleasures.

Adding to the growing body of evidence on sleep disturbances and cognitive impairment, new research finds significant links between three measures of sleep disturbance and the risk for developing dementia over a 10-year period.

A new study confirms that brain development in people with autism differs from those with typical neurodevelopment. According to the study published in PNAS, these differences are linked to genes involved in inflammation, immunity response and neural transmissions. They begin in childhood and evolve across the lifespan.

New research that focused on nutrition and mental health of adolescent athletes found an association between high protein consumption and a decrease in symptoms of depression.

Infants who are born preterm do not habituate to repeated pain the same way in which full-term babies or adults do. Researchers believe this is because preterm infants have not yet developed the mechanism that enables people to adapt to moderate pain, which is thought to develop during the third trimester of pregnancy.

Finally this week, a new study that focused on the nutrition and mental health of adolescent athletes found an association between high protein consumption and a decrease in symptoms of depression.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research has revealed how acute stress can affect the connectivity of different brain regions, leading to increased neural activity and changes in behavior.

New research has found that sleep has a crucial role in preparing the body to fight off infections. During sleep, the immune system produces cytokines, which help in fighting infections, inflammation, and stress. In contrast, sleep deprivation can weaken the immune system and increase the likelihood of getting sick. The study also found that sleeping for longer periods before an infection occurs can improve the chances of fighting it off.

A research team has found that people with chronic pain in multiple parts of the body had a higher risk of dementia and experienced broader and faster cognitive decline, including memory, executive function, learning, and attention.

Researchers have discovered how changes in blood vessels in the eye can be used to predict the progression of age-related macular degeneration (AMD), a leading cause of blindness. The researchers used high-resolution imaging techniques to measure the density of blood vessels in the retina of patients with AMD. They found that decreased blood vessel density in certain areas of the retina was associated with the progression of the disease.

A new study has identified changes in the levels of certain proteins in the blood of women with perinatal depression (depression during pregnancy or after childbirth).

A new brain connection discovered by researchers can explain how early-life stress and adversity trigger disrupted operation of the brain’s reward circuit, offering a new therapeutic target for treating mental illness. Impaired function of this circuit is thought to underlie several major disorders, such as depression, substance abuse and excessive risk-taking.

A study at the University of Tsukuba in Japan has found that routine exercise helps prevent cognitive impairment in older adults, with exercising alone being beneficial, but exercising with others having an even greater positive effect.

Although investigators have made strides in detecting signs of Alzheimer’s disease using high-quality brain imaging tests collected as part of research studies, a research team has developed an accurate method for detection that relies on routinely collected clinical brain images. The advance could lead to more accurate diagnoses.

Finally, this week, seizures can be predicted more than 30 minutes before onset in patients with temporal lobe epilepsy, opening the door to a therapy using electrodes that could be activated to prevent seizures from happening, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Any regular leisure-time physical activity at any age is linked to better brain function in later life, but maintaining an exercise routine throughout adulthood seems to be best for preserving mental acuity and memory, suggests a long-term study published in the Journal of Neurology Neurosurgery & Psychiatry.

Researchers have conducted a world-first pilot study investigating a sleep intervention for autistic adults, showing promising evidence at reducing insomnia and co-occurring anxiety symptoms.

Patients with Parkinson’s disease achieved a significant improvement in their tremors, mobility, and other physical symptoms after having a minimally invasive procedure involving focused ultrasound, according to a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Researchers have identified a mechanism for how signals from the environment are integrated with genetic information to influence the health and survival of brain cells, providing insight into the development of Parkinson’s disease.

A new study suggests a link between irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. The study found that individuals with IBS were more likely to experience symptoms of anxiety and depression than those without IBS.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers developed an electronic implant that collected information about brain activity from a single neuron for over one year.

A new AI-powered tool developed by researchers can predict which patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) are most likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease. The tool uses machine learning algorithms to analyze data from brain scans, blood tests, and cognitive assessments to identify specific biomarkers associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, a person’s personality and psychopathology levels may be associated with how strongly they prefer to focus on human faces within images, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A study of brain function in cosmonauts reveals how the brain’s organization changes after an extended period in space, demonstrating the adaption required to live in a weightless environment.

Researchers are turning to artificial intelligence to find novel drugs that can block kappa opioid receptors with the hope to alleviate opioid addiction. The kappa opioid receptor is a protein in the brain that plays a role in pain management and addiction. When opioids bind to this receptor, it can produce a range of effects, including pain relief, as well as addiction and dependence.

Adults with high levels of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) symptoms are more likely to experience anxiety and depression than adults with high levels of autistic traits, according to new research.

Scientists studying sleep difficulties have now published data in Frontiers in Neuroscience that shows that, even in an urban population experiencing disrupted sleep, humans experience longer REM sleep in winter than in summer and less deep sleep in autumn.

Regardless of the game type or length of time a child plays a video game, there is no correlation with a decline in cognitive ability, a new study reports.

Researchers have identified the in-vivo dynamics of synapses that underlie fear memory formation and extinction in the living brain. Fear memory formation and extinction are complex processes that involve changes in the connections between neurons, or synapses, in the brain. Understanding these processes at the level of individual synapses can provide important insights into the neural mechanisms of fear and anxiety disorders.

New research has found that children with conduct disorders exposed to maltreatment showed far more extensive changes in brain structure compared to children with conduct disorders who were not mistreated.

While kleptomania meets the criteria of addiction and is classified as a “Disruptive, Impulse-Control, and Conduct Disorder” by the American Psychiatry Society, few studies of the condition have been published to date. Now a team of researchers has recently found that patients with kleptomania exhibit distinct patterns of gazing and brain activity when shown images with environmental cues relevant to their symptoms. Such characteristics were not observed in healthy subjects.

Finally this week, researchers who examined the relationship between making music and mental health have found that musically active people have, on average, a slightly higher genetic risk for depression and bipolar disorder.