Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image showing a map of the brain surface showing regions that preferentially activate during face (blue) and scene (red) identification. Image is credited to Oscar Woolnough, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.

A new study reveals areas of brain where recognition and identification occur.

Researchers have identified a hippocampal neural network that activates during stress. Activity in a hippocampal-hypothalamus network predicts greater feelings of stress, while connectivity between the hippocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex predicts less stress.

Researchers have identified27 protein biomarkers that can predict whether a patient with COVID-19 is likely to develop severe coronavirus symptoms.

While the amount of antibodies generated varies widely in patients who have recovered from coronavirus, most people generate at least some antibodies which are intrinsically capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus according to a new study.

Twenty-nine genes have now been identified as being linked to problematic alcohol use. 

Toxic versions of the protein tau are believed to cause death of neurons of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. A new study published in Nature Communications shows that the spread of toxic tau in the human brain in elderly individuals may occur via connected neurons. The researchers could see that beta-amyloid facilitates the spread of toxic tau.

Certain personality traits could increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a new study reports.

The anesthetic drug ketamine has been shown, in low doses, to have a rapid effect on difficult-to-treat depression. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet now report that they have identified a key target for the drug: specific serotonin receptors in the brain. Their findings, which are published in Translational Psychiatry, give hope of new, effective antidepressants.

Finally this week, a new study shows some infants can identify differences in musical tones at six months.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new neuroimaging study sheds new light on how we perceive colors. Activity in higher visual cortex areas matched the colors test subjects saw.

New neurostimulation technology works safely and non-invasively to modify brain activity. The findings may provide some foundational knowledge for the development of future technologies that could expedite cognitive processes.

New research has shown that certain presentations of memory concerns by older adults are predictive of future dementia.

A team of researchers has provided compelling evidence of the impact of adversity in childhood on neuropsychological functioning in adulthood. They also showed that neuropsychological difficulties may explain why early adversity is linked to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in later life.

A new machine-learning algorithm is more accurate at determining personality traits based on selfie photographs than humans are.

Neuroscientists have traced neural pathways that connect the brain to the stomach, providing a biological mechanism to explain how stress can foster ulcer development.

Researchers have identified both genetic and neural mechanisms associated with romantic love and attachment. 

The placentas of sixteen women who contracted COVID-19 during pregnancy showed evidence of significant injury, a new study reports. The placental injuries were consistent with abnormal blood flow between mother and baby in-utero, suggesting another complication of coronavirus infection in pregnant women.

Researchers have developed a sniff test that can detect which patients in a vegetative state following a TBI will regain consciousness.

During early childhood, girls with autism tend to show greater reduction and less rise in their autism symptom severity than boys with autism, a new study has found.

Finally this week, a new study reviewing neuroimaging and neurological symptoms in patients with COVID-19 may shed light on the virus’s impact on the central nervous system.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Drumming in a group stimulates behavioral and physiological synchronization, which contributes to the formation of social bonds and the ability to cooperate.

Caffeine and urate have been associated with a reduced risk of idiopathic Parkinson’s disease. Researchers noted a lower caffeine intake in idiopathic Parkinson’s patients. Increasing caffeine consumption was linked to decreased odds of being diagnosed with Parkinson’s. Lower levels of blood urate were also associated with an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease.

The endogenous compound anandamide—often referred to as the body’s own marijuana—plays a role in erasing memories of a traumatic event. 

A recent neuroimaging study reveals the neural basis for the motivation to reunite with the ones you love. The findings could lead to new therapies for disorders associated with social behaviors, and may also help explain why social distancing is so tough.

Researchers have identified a new, early biomarker for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) on the teeth of children.

Following a one year program of aerobic exercise improves memory function and boosts blood flow to brain areas critical for cognition in older adults with risk factors for dementia.

A new blood test can help predict which patients with multiple sclerosis will see a decline in their condition over 12 months. 

In late-stage multiple sclerosis, inflammatory cells no longer enter the brain via the bloodstream, but instead the cells arise in memory from local memory cells inside the brain. The findings suggest during the late phases of multiple sclerosis, the disease is occurring entirely inside the brain.

Women who take oral birth control pills have higher levels of oxytocin than women who don’t use the pill.

Researchers have uncovered the process by which air pollution can damage brain cells, leading to an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease. Chemicals found in diesel fuel reduced autophagic flux, which is a major pathway implicated in neurodegeneration.

Finally this week, new evidence suggests the brain can update poorly formed memories with incorrect information, leading to the creation of false memories.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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It’s never too late to lace up your sneakers for brain health, according to a study published in the May 13, 2020, online issue of Neurology. The study suggests older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.

A new case study reveals a link between COVID-19 and clotting in blood vessels in the brain that results in an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

Rhythm begins in the womb and the heartbeat. And recent findings in neuroscience reveal that for the rest of our lives, rhythm will continue to have a fundamental impact on our ability to walk, talk — and even love.

Researchers studying the structure of the virus that causes COVID-19 have found a unique feature that could explain why it is so transmissible between people.

Recovered coronavirus patients show a wide range of immune responses following the infection, with about half from a current study showing sustained antibodies two weeks later. Results indicate which parts of the virus are most effective at triggering the immune responses.

Neuroscientists have identified memory cells that help us interpret new situations.

The strength of a person’s mental imagery is associated with excitability in the prefrontal cortex and visual cortex. Highly excitable neurons in the visual cortex may reduce a person’s ability to imagine mental images.

Finally this week, after studying global data from the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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In a new study, researchers identified the most common characteristics of 85 COVID-19 patients who died in Wuhan, China in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The study reports on commonalities of the largest group of coronavirus patient deaths to be studied to date.

Abnormal blood clotting contributes to death in some patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

A newly developed blood test for Alzheimer’s disease measures a specific variant of the tau protein. Early results show the test has a good capacity to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other tauopathies.

New findings support the theory that impaired prefrontal control of the dopamine system is a key mechanism for the development of schizophrenia.

Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts — fatty sections of a cell membrane — compared with non-depressed individuals.

A new genetics test for COVID-19 has been developed by an international team of researchers. 

Genetic variability in the human immune system may affect susceptibility to, and severity of infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Researchers have developed a new approach to prevent amyloid plaque formation by engineering a nanodevice that captures the peptides before they can assemble.

A new study puts into question conventional belief that the eyes communicate with the brain exclusively via one signaling pathway. Researchers have identified a subset of retinal neurons that sends inhibitory signals to the brain. This subset of neurons is also involved in the synchronization of circadian rhythms to light/dark cycles and pupil constriction to bright light intensity.

Finally, this week, a new study sheds light on the role brain insulin plays in weight and visceral fat accumulation.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers have created a new technique that can rapidly “print’ two-dimensional arrays of cells and proteins that mimic a variety of cellular environments in the body.
 

People who develop Parkinson’s disease before age 50 may have been born with disordered brain cells that went undetected for decades, according to new research. The research points to a drug that potentially might help correct these disease processes.

A new substance named Lu AF60097 may help reduce side effects from tricyclic antidepressants in those with severe depression.

Researchers have uncovered a key role of medial prefrontal cortex corticotropin-releasing factor interneurons for bidirectionally controlling motivated behavioral styles under stress. The findings could help in the development of new treatments for PTSD.

MIT researchers have identified a protein fragment that may inhibit COVID-19’s ability to enter human lung cells. 

Researchers have developed a new method to record brain activity at scale. The new technique could help in the development of new neuroprosthetic devices to help amputees and those with movement restricting neurological conditions.

New research suggests that eye movements may come before hand movements in actions that require a two-step decision-making process. 

A new method to accurately record brain activity at scale has been developed by researchers. The technique could lead to new medical devices to help amputees, people with paralysis or people with neurological conditions such as motor neuron disease.

Stress, loneliness, and sleep loss can weaken the immune system, leaving people more susceptible to COVID-19.

Finally this week. using robotics, researchers have uncovered mechanisms in the cerebellum and spinal cord that determine how the nervous system responds to induced changes in step length. The findings could have implications for physical rehabilitation programs for people with movement disorders.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A baby next to fMRI scanning images of its brain. Understanding how an infant’s brain is typically organized may help answer questions when something goes awry. The image is credited to Cory Inman.

A newborn’s brain is more adult-like than previously assumed. Neuroimaging revealed much of the visual cortex scaffolding is in place, along with patterns of brain activity at 27 days of age, although it is not quite as strong as seen in adult brains.

New research uses the mating songs of birds to show how intrinsic properties of cells are closely tied to the complex processes of learning.

People with a life-long history of antisocial behavior had decreased mean surface area of the brain and lower mean cortical thickness than those with no history of antisocial behavior. Much of the cortical thinning was in areas associated with emotional regulation, motivation, and goal-directed behavior.

Two separate studies display the fascinating relations between AI and neuroscience.

Low-intensity exercise triggers brain networks associated with cognitive control and attention processing, while high-intensity exercise activates networks involved in emotional processing.

Following a stroke, dysfunction in the glymphatic system causes cerebrospinal fluid to flood the brain, drowning neurons, and triggering cerebral edema.

An unexpected research finding is providing new information that could lead to new treatments of certain neurological diseases and disorders, including multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease and spinal cord injury.

Male patients on the autism spectrum who were given oxytocin for four weeks experienced improvements in social attachment behaviors for up to 12 months.

Finally this week, new brain networks come ‘online’ during adolescence, allowing teenagers to develop more complex adult social skills, but potentially putting them at increased risk of mental illness, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have developed a new method of measuring axons using MRI neuroimaging.

People with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) appear to suffer malfunctions in a cell that produces a special coating around nerve fibers that facilitates efficient electrical communication across the brain. 

New findings about dopaminergic neurons in the striatum could have implications for treating Parkinson’s disease and Tourette syndrome.

Researchers have found that it is possible to assess a person’s ability to feel empathy by studying their brain activity while they are resting rather than while they are engaged in specific tasks.

Boys who exhibit inattention-hyperactivity by age 10 have an increased risk for traumatic brain injury later in life.

Combining fMRI and behavioral data, researchers examined gender identity in cisgender and transgender individuals using a new machine learning algorithm. The AI identified at least nine dimensions of brain-gender variation.

New research has provided insights into why people often make unrealistic plans that are doomed to fail.

Finally this week, a new study has found that dopamine — a neurotransmitter that plays an important role in our cognitive, emotional, and behavioral functioning — plays a direct role in the reward experience induced by music. The findings have been published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Is music really a “universal language”? Two articles in Science support the idea that music all around the globe shares important commonalities, despite many differences.

Researchers studying six adults who had one of their brain hemispheres removed during childhood to reduce epileptic seizures found that the remaining half of the brain formed unusually strong connections between different functional brain networks, which potentially help the body to function as if the brain were intact. 

Excessive exposure to certain antibiotics can predispose a person to Parkinson’s disease, with a delay of onset of up to 15 years.

Findings debunk the common theory that attention is the only cognitive function affected by sleep deprivation. Lack of sleep also hinders a person’s ability to complete activities that require following multiple steps.

A new study reveals how the insular cortex helps assess and predict physiological states of the body. The findings shed light on the neural basis for interoception.

Finally this week, neuroscientists have discovered how the listening brain scans speech to break it down into syllables. The findings provide for the first time a neural basis for the fundamental atoms of language and insights into our perception of the rhythmic poetry of speech. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A holographic image of the human brain. The image is credited to Case Western Reserve.

Researchers have used the HoloLense software to create an interactive holographic mapping system for axonal pathways in the human brain.

Does Parkinson’s disease (PD) start in the brain or the gut? In a new contribution published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, scientists hypothesize that PD can be divided into two subtypes: gut-first, originating in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) of the gut and spreading to the brain; and brain-first, originating in the brain, or entering the brain via the olfactory system, and spreading to the brainstem and peripheral nervous system.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers identified similarities in the brain activity of people with major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

A new theory, inspired by thermodynamics, takes a high-level perspective of how neural networks in the brain transiently organize to give rise to memories, thought and consciousness.

For the first time, researchers have extracted and isolated amyloid beta (Aβ) fibrils from the brains of three people who had died of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study has revelled that deep sleep restores the medial prefrontal cortex mechanisms that restore emotion. This lowers emotional and physiological reactivity, preventing the escalation of stress and anxiety.

The largest brain imaging study of its kind may have found the reason why people with anxiety and mood disorders so often feel unable to escape negative thoughts and emotions.

Finally this week, researchers have now developed a novel computational approach to accelerate finding optimal stimuli, by building deep artificial neural networks that can accurately predict the neural responses produced by a biological brain to arbitrary visual stimuli.