Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have developed a new brain imaging method that uses pulsed laser light to monitor cerebral blood flow more accurately than more traditional methods.

Researchers say specific gut bacteria could play a significant role in the development of Type 2 diabetes. People with higher levels of the gut bacteria Coprococcus tend to have higher insulin sensitivity, while those with higher levels of Flavonifractor have lower levels of insulin sensitivity.

Common levels of pollution from traffic can impair brain function within a matter of hours, a new study reports. Just two hours of exposure to diesel exhaust impairs functional connectivity in the brain.

Even a simple movement like pushing a button sends ripples of activity throughout networks of neurons spanning across the brain, new research shows. The finding highlights just how complex the human brain is, challenging the simplified textbook picture of distinct brain areas dedicated to specific functions.

In many neurodegenerative conditions, brain changes occur before symptoms emerge. But now, researchers from Japan have found a new way to distinguish these conditions in the early stages according to changes in brain activity patterns.

Researchers have developed an AI model capable of accurately capturing cognitive decline by measuring how fast the brain is aging. Findings reveal sex-specific differences in how the brain ages. Certain regions of the brain age faster in males than in females, and vice versa. The model has far-reaching applications that extend into personalized medicine and can be used to design patient-tailored interventions for a wide range of brain health concerns.

Finally this week, a healthy diet is associated with slower memory decline, finds a decade-long study of older adults in China, published in The BMJ.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Music can induce a range of emotions and help us to better understand different cultures. But what is it that makes us tune in to some songs more than others? Researchers say when we listen to a song, our brains predict what happens next, and that prediction dictates whether we like that song or not.

New research has found significant changes in fathers’ brains between the prenatal and the postpartum period. The main changes occurred in cortical areas associated with visual processing, attention, and empathy toward their baby.

Objective measurement of psychiatric disorders has long proved challenging. Yet, there is ample evidence that analysis of speech patterns can accurately diagnose depression and psychosis, measure their severity, and predict their onset, according to a literature review featured in the January/February issue of the Harvard Review of Psychiatry

Alzheimer’s disease onset may be accelerated by viruses that inflame and disrupt signals from the olfactory system to the hippocampus, a new study reports.

As many as one in four patients who receive anesthesia may suffer accidental awareness during their procedure. Researchers have identified specific brain structures that may predict whether a person will experience accidental awareness under anesthesia. The findings will help identify patients who require higher-than-average doses of anesthesia.

A new study aims to investigate the interaction between the digestive and nervous systems, or the gut-brain axis, to discover more about the links between digestive health and neurodegenerative diseases.

Neuroscientists have now shown that two distinct cell populations in the striatum are affected differently by Huntington’s disease. They believe that neurodegeneration of one of these populations leads to motor impairments, while damage to the other population, located in structures called striosomes, may account for the mood disorders that are often seen in the early stages of the disease.

Finally this week, older adults with cognitive decline who have higher levels of vitamin D in their brains had better cognitive function than their peers with lower levels of vitamin D according to a new study.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research suggests that the brain of a bilingual person who knows two alphabets is different from that of a bilingual person who only knows one alphabet. The differences occur in a region called the visual word form area (VWFA).

A new study reports chronic infections of the upper gastrointestinal tract could be linked to Parkinson’s disease. Researchers say alpha synuclein, a Parkinson’s linked protein, is released during upper GI infections, inducing an immune response. Findings suggest frequent chronic infections could overwhelm the body’s ability to remove the protein, leading to the onset of Parkinson’s.

New research has found significant changes in fathers’ brains between the prenatal and the postpartum period. The main changes occurred in cortical areas associated with visual processing, attention, and empathy toward their baby.

A novel deep learning method that uses graph convolutional neural networks (gCNNs) can predict cognitive function based on the brain’s size and structure. The algorithm may provide insights into the relationship between brain morphology and different cognitive functions, as well as declines in cognitive function.

A study led by researchers at the Hospital del Mar Medical Research Institute links psychological trauma in childhood with an increased risk of developing some kind of mental disorder years later.

Music can induce a range of emotions and help us to better understand different cultures. But what is it that makes us tune in to some songs more than others? Researchers say when we listen to a song, our brains predict what happens next, and that prediction dictates whether we like that song or not.

Finally this week, a new study published by University of Oxford researchers in JMIR Pediatrics and Parenting, shows that although many school-age adolescents are spending considerable time gaming, it is not having a negative impact on their well-being.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry offers evidence that a simple walk through nature can lower activity in stress-related brain regions. The experiment revealed that participants who walked for an hour in a forest showed decreased amygdala activity during a stress task, while those who walked for an hour in the city did not.

A team of scientists has developed the first computer model predicting the role of cortical glial cells in cognition.

A number of studies have suggested that eating a healthy diet may reduce a person’s risk of dementia, but a new study has found that two diets, including the Mediterranean diet, are not linked to a reduced risk of dementia.

A new theory proposes there is an underlying relationship between nap transition in young children, brain development, and memory formation.

The dose of nicotine from a single cigarette blocks estrogen production in the brain, causing behavioral changes. These findings may shed new light on why quitting smoking may be more difficult for women than men.

A new study suggests quantum processes are part of cognitive and conscious brain functions.

Proteins associated with motor neuron disease, or ALS are present in the gut many years before disease pathologies can be found in the brain. A stool sample or gut biopsy could help identify the presence of MND-associated proteins years before symptoms appear.

Crossword puzzles have an edge over computerized memory games in improving memory function in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

A team of neuroscientists has recently uncovered how the brain works to make distinctions between “right” and “wrong” sounds—research that provides a deeper understanding of how we learn complex audio-motor tasks like speaking or playing music.

A new study looks deep inside the brain, where previous learning was reactivated during sleep, resulting in improved memory.

Finally this week, a study of nearly 2,000 children found that those who reported playing video games for three hours per day or more performed better on cognitive skills tests involving impulse control and working memory compared to children who had never played video games.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Human brain organoids showing neurons and their dendrites (green), telencephalic (forebrain) cells (blue), and a kind of cell-cell contact called tight junctions (red). By Allessandra DiCorato A single-cell analysis of 3D models of the human cerebral cortex suggests they can be used to study important brain processes that have been difficult to investigate. Credit: Noelia Anton Bolanos and Irene Faravelli

Researchers have found that human brain organoids replicate many important cellular and molecular events of the developing human cortex, the part of the brain responsible for movement, perception, and thought.

Loneliness, restless sleep, and unhappiness have a significant effect on biological aging, a new study reports.

A Brazilian study published in the journal PNAS describes some of the effects infection by SARS-CoV-2 can have on the central nervous system. A preliminary version (not yet peer-reviewed) posted in 2020 was one of the first to show that the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect brain cells, especially astrocytes. It also broke new ground by describing alterations in the structure of the cortex, the most neuron-rich brain region, even in cases of mild COVID-19.

New research reveals how changes in pupil size affect the way we perceive our surroundings.

Human Brain Project (HBP) researchers have identified a new marker for predicting the clinical outcome of patients with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) through magnetoencephalography. This marker can be measured in the brain during its resting state and highlights the importance of brain flexibility for ALS patients.

A new theory of consciousness suggests decisions are made unconsciously, then about half a second later, they become conscious.

Strenuous cognitive work leads to an accumulation of glutamate in the prefrontal cortex, according to new research published in the journal Current Biology. The new findings suggest that mental fatigue is a neuropsychological mechanism that helps to avert the build-up of potentially toxic byproducts of prolonged cognitive activity.

A research team has identified a specific cell group in the brain responsible for shifts in the sleep-wake rhythm caused by psychostimulants.

Amid much speculation and research about how our genetics affect the way we age, new research shows that individual differences in our DNA matter less as we get older and become prone to diseases of aging, such as diabetes and cancer.

Finally, this week, listening to birdsong reduces anxiety and paranoia, a new study reports.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Exercise can improve your cognitive and mental health — but not all forms and intensities of exercise affect the brain equally. The effects of exercise are much more nuanced, as specific intensities of exercise over a long period of time are associated with different aspects of memory and mental health, according to a new study.

A research team has shown for the first time that non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve at the ear can strengthen the communication between stomach and brain within minutes.

A mutation in a newly discovered small protein is connected to a significant increase in the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, expanding the known gene targets for the disease and presenting a new potential avenue for treatment, according to a new study.

A new report highlights the advances and challenges in prevention, clinical care, and research in traumatic brain injury, a leading cause of injury-related death and disability worldwide.

Neurons in an area of the brain responsible for memory (known as the entorhinal cortex) are significantly larger in SuperAgers compared to cognitively average peers, individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and even individuals 20 to 30 years younger than SuperAgers — who are aged 80 years and older, reports a new study.

Children who were infected with COVID-19 show a substantially higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D), according to new research.

Researchers have discovered a biological mechanism that increases the strength with which fear memories are stored in the brain. The study provides new knowledge on the mechanisms behind anxiety-related disorders, and identifies shared mechanisms behind anxiety and alcohol dependence.

Finally this week, a new study demonstrates how an AI algorithm can estimate biological age with high accuracy based on brain scan images.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have presented new findings which found after one session of aerobic exercise people showed reduced cravings for alcohol, lower levels of stress, and improvements in mood.

When our eyes move during REM sleep, we’re gazing at things in the dream world our brains have created, according to a new study. The findings shed light not only into how we dream, but also into how our imaginations work.

Measuring how the eyes’ pupils change in response to light—known as the pupillary light reflex—could potentially be used to screen for autism in young children, according to a new study.

Researchers have made an important discovery about the way our brains process the sensations of sound and touch. They found that sensory systems in the brain are closely interconnected, with regions that respond to touch also involved when we listen to specific sounds connected to touching certain objects.

A study into the effect of surprise on our memory has inadvertently discovered a method that might help us to perform better in exams.

Scientists have uncovered how dopamine connects subregions of the striatum essential for habit formation, findings that may change the overall understanding of how habits are formed—and could be broken.

New research finds the brains of people playing online video games synchronize, even when there is a physical distance between the players.

By estimating people’s brain age from MRI scans using machine learning, a team of researchers has identified multiple risk factors for a prematurely aging brain. They found that worse cardiovascular health at age 36 predicted a higher brain age later in life, while men also tended to have older brains than women of the same age, as they report in The Lancet Healthy Longevity.

Young people with 22q11.2 Deletion Syndrome have distinct and marked EEG differences in brain activity during sleep, which could influence psychiatric symptoms.

Tight control of blood sugar in teens with Type 1 diabetes may help reduce the disease’s damaging effects on the brain, effects which have been shown even in younger children, according to a study published in Nature Communications.

Tests of the brain’s electrical activity have revealed fentanyl’s effects over time and indicated that the drug stops people’s breathing before other noticeable changes and before they lose consciousness.

A newly developed artificial intelligence model can detect Parkinson’s disease by reading a person’s breathing patterns. The algorithm can also discern the severity of Parkinson’s disease and track progression over time.

A new study reveals how a molecule produced by astrocytes interferes with normal neuron development in a range of neurodevelopmental disorders.

People with an obsessive urge to constantly check the news are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, as well as physical ill health, finds a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal Health Communication.

Finally this week, the impact of breathing diesel exhaust fumes may be more severe for females than males, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

For the first time, a team of international scientists has studied the development of the main immune cell population residing in the human brain, called microglia, on human tissue.

Scientists have uncovered a molecular pathway that distills threatening sights, sounds and smells into a single message: Be afraid. A molecule called CGRP enables neurons in two separate areas of the brain to bundle threatening sensory cues into a unified signal, tag it as negative and convey it to the amygdala, which translates the signal into fear. The research, published in Cell Reports on August 16, 2022, may lead to new therapies for fear-related disorders such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) or hypersensitivity disorders such as autism, migraines and fibromyalgia.

Researchers have identified a new type of retinal ganglion cell, the neurons in the retina that encode the visual environment and transmit information back to the brain.

Children who sleep less than 9 hours per night have significant differences in brain regions associated with memory, intelligence, and well-being compared to their peers who sleep 9 or more hours per night. Less sleep in children was also associated with increased risks of depression, anxiety, and impulsive behaviors.

A new study finds that Alzheimer’s disease disrupts at least one form of visual memory by degrading a newly identified circuit that connects the vision processing centers of each brain hemisphere.

Leisure activities, such as reading a book, doing yoga and spending time with family and friends may help lower the risk of dementia, according to a new meta-analysis published in the August 10, 2022, online issue of Neurology.

Finally this week, a novel study reports the dynamics of consciousness may be understood by a newly developed conceptual and mathematical framework.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows that moderate physical activity was linked to increased volume in brain areas associated with memory, especially in older adults.

The biological changes that occur as a result of aging could be a mechanism behind why older adults with depression do not have a full resolution of symptoms following taking antidepressants. The persistence of depressive symptoms becomes a source of depleted psychological well-being, increased disability, accelerated cognitive decline, and premature aging in older adults.

Researchers have identified a pathway that begins in the gut and ends with a pro-inflammatory protein in the brain that appears to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study looks at the brains of black women who reported having experiences with racial discrimination. The goal of the study was to determine whether racial discrimination could affect the brain. After doing MRI scans on the women’s brains, the researchers found changes in their white matter.

The smell of fresh cut grass or blooming flowers appears to have a positive effect on a person’s overall well-being, a new study reveals.

A new study proposes a new learning method for people with autism that may accelerate the learning process and even significantly improve capabilities in terms of visual perception. According to the researchers, improving the perceptual capacity of people with autism is often a challenge, which usually requires long and tedious training alongside additional learning challenges that characterizes autism, such as the ability to generalize learning to new situations.

The unique features of an individual adolescent’s brain can help predict their risks of developing mental health problems later in life.

The effects of COVID-19 infection on neurological health are becoming more apparent. A new study reveals COVID-19 can predispose people to irreversible neurological conditions, accelerate brain aging, and increase the risk of stroke and brain bleeds.

Finally this week, researchers have found that transcranial brain stimulation can improve the age-related impairment in learning new motor skills.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study explores the use of music-listening to relieve acute pain, finding that people who were given the impression that they had control over the music they heard experienced more pain relief than people who were not given such control.

Better diagnosis and treatment of the incurable eye disease age-related macular degeneration is a step closer, thanks to the discovery of new genetic signatures of the disease.

Research continues to demonstrate the many ways the gut microbiome can influence human health, and an active area within this field centres on its role in Alzheimer’s disease. A new study has furthered our knowledge of this relationship by demonstrating what’s described as a clear genetic link between the two, while also pointing to the potential for new treatments.

Neuroscientists have confirmed that the exact same network is activated in speakers of 45 different languages representing 12 distinct language families.   

Pollution is widely known to be a risk to individual’s physical health, but can it have adverse effects on mental health as well? A study published in Developmental Psychology suggests that exposure to ozone can be a risk factor for depression in adolescents.

Researchers have developed a comprehensive “toolbox” to establish that the mobility of receptors exists in intact brain tissue, and this mobility is critical for certain types of memory.

People challenged with chronic back pain have been given hope with a new treatment that focuses on retraining how the back and the brain communicate, a randomised controlled trial run by researchers at UNSW Sydney and Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and several other Australian and European universities has shown.

A group of hippocampal neurons show rhythmic activity at different frequencies in the desynchronized state, but can align their rhythmic frequency to produce a synchronized brain rhythm upon activation.

A new hypothesis suggests when people are awake during the biological circadian night there are neurophysiological changes in the brain that alters the way in which we interact with the world, especially when it comes to impulse control, information processing, and reward processing.

Finally this week, you’re fast asleep. But some regions of your brain tasked with hearing sound aren’t taking the night off, according to new research.