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

New artificial intelligence technology reveals previously unknown cell components. The findings may shed new light on human development and diseases.

A new mathematical model explains how the brain has the ability to continuously acquire new skills, specifically movement-based skills, without forgetting or degrading old ones. The theory, dubbed COIN, suggests identifying current context is key to learning how to move our bodies when acquiring skills.

Playing video games that are heavy on action can make you better at some new tasks. New research reveals that these games are helping by teaching players to be quicker learners.

The “background noise” in the brain disrupts long-memory signals by neurons. This noise interrupts the consistent rhythm of long-memory alpha wave signals in people experiencing identity confusion.

Memory errors may indicate a way in which the human cognitive system is optimally running, researchers say.

Housework is linked to sharper memory, attention span, and better leg strength, and by extension, greater protection against falls, in older adults, finds research published in the open access journal BMJ Open.

Repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) can be used to modulate brain rhythms and cognitive behaviors related to “giving up” during problem-solving tasks.

New research reveals that specialized cells within neural circuitry that triggers complex learning in songbirds bears a striking resemblance to a type of neural cell associated with the development of fine motor skills in the cortex of the human brain.

Finally this week, a new study links a propensity to binge-watch TV shows with personality traits. Researchers found those who lack impulse control and emotional clarity are most likely to binge-watch a television series.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Image Credit: Dartmouth College

Distinct information about familiar faces is encoded in a neural code that is shared across brains, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A new study conducted in adults with a history of childhood maltreatment showed that two groups – those with a history of sexual abuse and those with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – had reduced brain connectivity in the attention systems known as the ventral and dorsal attention network (VAN-DAN).

New findings reveals dopamine neurons that play a role in learning and memory also drive motivation.

For the first time, researchers have used human data to quantify the speed of different processes that lead to Alzheimer’s disease and found that it develops in a very different way than previously thought. Their results could have important implications for the development of potential treatments.

Musical therapy can help to improve fine motor skills in patients with Parkinson’s disease according to new research. 

A genetic predisposition for depression combined with exposure to high-particulate-matter air pollution greatly elevates the risk that healthy people will experience depression, according to a first-of-its-kind study published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Sciences (PNAS).

Recently published research found people who continued to spend a higher amount of time sitting between April and June 2020 were likely to have higher symptoms of depression.

A new study, published in the International Journal of MS Care, found that the vibration training improved not only physical symptoms associated with multiple sclerosis, such as increased walking speeds, but also cognitive functions, such as memory capacity and executive function.

A newly developed AI algorithm can directly predict eye position and movement during an MRI scan. The technology could provide new diagnostics for neurological disorders that manifest in changes in eye-movement patterns.

A team of researchers has found a possible connection between depression and anxiety for IBD patients and the vascular barrier in the brain choroid plexus closing. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of the gut-brain axis response to inflammation and its link to psychiatric illnesses.

Researchers have created the first body map of sensations experienced during hallucinations in people experiencing psychosis.

Recent resarch reveals the severity of PTSD symptoms was associated with fewer risky choices and increased activation of the amygdala. Decreased activity in the ventral striatum, an area of the brain associated with processing positive valence such as reward, predicted more severe PTSD symptoms 14 months post-trauma.

Finally this week, people who consume a diet containing anti-inflammatory foods, including fruits, vegetables, and coffee, are less likely to develop dementia as they age, a new study reports.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have investigated why many of us wake in the middle of the night and dwell on our fears.

In response to gut inflammation, such as that caused by inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), the vascular barrier in the brain choroid plexus closes, locking down access to the brain, according to a new study.

A multiyear study of older adults found that both short and long sleepers experienced greater cognitive decline than people who slept a moderate amount, even when the effects of early Alzheimer’s disease were taken into account.

A brain circuit that works as a “brake” on binge alcohol drinking may help explain male-female differences in vulnerability to alcohol use disorders, according to a preclinical study led by scientists at Weill Cornell Medicine.

The Mediterranean diet does not only have beneficial effects for the cardiovascular health of those who follow it, but it can allow them to improve their memory and prevent or delay the effects of cognitive deterioration connected to aging. 

People with higher levels of anxiety have altered perceptions of their breathing compared to those with lower levels of anxiety. The altered perception of respiration can lead to an increase in feelings of anxiety, researchers report.

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

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.