Weekly Neuroscience Update

This image shows the developing brain visualized with fluorescence laser scanning microscopy. It illustrates the neurons (blue) and growing axons (red and green). Image INc-UAB.

Researchers have identified a new cell mechanism that connects Alzheimer’s disease and cancers.

The human brain can recognise a familiar song within 100 to 300 milliseconds, highlighting the deep hold favourite tunes have on our memory, a UCL study finds.

A new method allows researchers to detect serotonin at extremely low concentrations in serum.

New research shows for the first time that patients with mood and anxiety disorders share the same abnormalities in regions of the brain involved in emotional and cognitive control. The findings hold promise for the development of new treatments targeting these regions of the brain in patients with major depressive disorder, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, and anxiety disorders.

Artificial intelligence is helping shed light on how people’s brains, bodies, and emotions react to listening to music. 

Researchers have identified a set of neurons, located in a region of the hypothalamus, that may be the switch that turns the brain off, allowing for sleep. The neurons are also tied to body temperature regulation.

According to new research, musical intervention can help to improve mood and decrease agitation in those with dementia.

Performance on two quick tests ― a cognitive screen and an olfactory test ― may rule out future dementia, including Alzheimer disease (AD), for patients with mild memory problems, results of a large follow-up study show.

Features of the functional connectome are present in the fetal brain during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy.

Finally this week, a new study reveals how acetate, a byproduct of alcohol breakdown, travels to the brain’s learning system and alters proteins that regulate DNA function.

Happy Halloween!

Happy Halloween! In keeping with the Halloween theme, here is a slide-deck from my presentation entitled: Brain, belief and the nature of Frankenstein, which I gave last year at Frankenweek@UL.

The week-long event marked the international celebration of the 200th Anniversary of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein for Halloween 2018. The workshop gave me the opportunity to explore how our brain provides differing insights, values and priorities in shaping beliefs, and in how we understand ourselves in the world.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Oxford University researchers have discovered that learned knowledge is stored in different brain circuits depending on how we acquire it.

Neuroscientists say they have identified how people can have a “crash in visual processing” — a bottleneck of feedforward and feedback signals that can cause us not to be consciously aware of stimuli that our brain recognized.

A new study shows that an innovative strategy for treating Parkinson’s disease has proven successful in neurons that derive from people living with the condition.

A new study reveals the gut has a much more direct connection to the brain through a neural circuit that allows it to transmit signals in mere seconds. The findings could lead to new treatments for obesity, eating disorders, and even depression and autism—all of which have been linked to a malfunctioning gut.

New research shows musical improvisation improves cognitive flexibility and increases inhibitory control.

A UCLA-led study has found that MRI scans can help doctors distinguish whether a person’s memory loss is being caused by Alzheimer’s disease or by traumatic brain injury.

A new study suggests a longer duration of estrogen exposure hormone therapy was associated with better cognition in older adult women.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A newly developed microfluidic device microfluidic device allowed researchers to keep tissue from the suprachiasmatic nucleus alive for over 25 days.

Neuroscientists have proved how different parts of the human brain work together to create and retrieve episodic memory.  Models suggested that, during formation of a memory, information is routed from cortex to hippocampus whilst retrieving a memory should see this information flow in reverse.

A collaborative study published today in the journal Cell Reports provides evidence for a new molecular cause for neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have identified brain circuitry differences that might be associated with suicidal behavior in individuals with mood disorders. The study, published in Psychological Medicine, provides a promising lead toward tools that can predict which individuals are at the highest risk for suicide.

A period of wakeful rest can help reduce memory intrusions associated with PTSD.

Does dementia spread gradually and evenly in all directions across the brain, or can it “jump” from one brain area to another? New research helps to settle the question by examining the progression of frontotemporal dementia.

Examining postmortem brains of autism spectrum disorder patients, researchers discover an accumulation of immune cells surrounding blood vessels in the brain.

Your personality type may influence addiction to certain drugs, a new study reveals. Those whose personalities rank higher for impulsivity are more likely to use ecstasy, while those who score higher for neurotic traits are more likely to use opioid like heroin, researchers report.

Finally this week, researchers have mapped out some of the mechanisms that may affect women’s fertility from the teenage years to menopause.

 

 

How To “Vaccinate” Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

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Today is World Mental Health Day, which is observed on 10 October every year, with the overall objective of raising awareness of mental health issues around the world and mobilizing efforts in support of mental health.

Depression is very common – it is estimated that at least one in five people in Ireland will develop depression during their lifetime. Depression is not to be confused with the normal ups and downs of everyday life. Everyone can feel a bit ‘down’ from time to time as a reaction to an upsetting event, but will start to feel better after a few days or weeks. It is a natural, short-lived response to stressful times in life.

However, some people are unable to escape this low mood, and find it difficult to carry on with life as usual. They may experience low/sad, irritable or indifferent mood, loss of interest and enjoyment in daily life and a general lack of energy. This may be often accompanied by some or all of the following physical symptoms, fatigue and reduced activity, disturbed sleep or excessive sleep, changes in appetite and weight, loss of sex drive, unexplained aches and pains e.g. headache, backache and changes to the menstrual cycle.

Depression affects different people in different ways – not everyone has the same symptoms. Other symptoms include poor concentration or reduced attention, difficulty in making decisions, tearfulness, restlessness, agitation or anxiety, low self-confidence and self-esteem, feelings of guilt, inability to cope with life as before, avoiding other people, bleak view of the future, morbid thoughts, ideas of self-harm.

Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

Starting in the 1960’s neuroscientists regarded depression as a kind of ‘anaemia’ in the brain – a lack of three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline in key emotional regions in the brain. Antidepressant drugs were then developed to bring the levels of these neurotransmitters particularly serotonin back to normal. Prozac is a good example of this type of drug and it has proved to be a safe and effective life saver for many the depressed patient.

However, recently neuroscientists have had a radical change of mind with respect to the nature of depression. This change of view is partially due to evidence from brain imaging studies in depressed patients showing dramatic changes in nerve activity in the frontal lobe of the brain.

The importance of the frontal lobe in depression

Nervous activity in the frontal lobes forms our attitudes, plans and strategies and is at least in part under our own control.    This view advocates that depression is in fact a disorder of thinking – a sort of obsessional pessimism from which the depressed patient can see no way out and this is what causes the low neurotransmitter levels.

Wisconsin Study

The WISCONSIN STUDY adds another twist by showing that the brains of depressed individuals actually exhibit the same initial levels of activity in positive/pleasure-generating brain regions. Instead they found differences in the ability to sustain those positive emotions.

Findings from my own research group and others show that three important neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline play a key role in sustaining attention and motivation the brain. Thus low neurotransmitter levels may impair the ability to ‘embed’ these new thoughts and emotions leaving the depressed patient feeling like they are back at square one. This study lends support to notion that depression is best treated by psychological/behavioral treatments or in combination of drugs, not drugs alone.

Thus while antidepressants can help treat the chemical anaemia – good mental heath in particular careful monitoring of your everyday thoughts and attitudes will ensure that negative thoughts are nipped in the bud is also vital in the treatment and even the prevention of depression.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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MIT engineers have developed a technique that allows them to rapidly image many different proteins within a synapse.

A new rapid imaging technique allows researchers to view synaptic proteins at high resolution.

There may be some good news for people with vestibular migraine, a type of migraine that causes vertigo and dizziness with or without headache pain. A small, preliminary study suggests that non-invasive nerve stimulation may show promise as a treatment for vestibular migraine attacks, a condition for which there are currently no approved treatments.

New research uses artificial intelligence to identify patterns of brain activity that make people less responsive to certain antidepressants.

A new study challenges the belief that epileptic seizures can be predicted by brain wave patterns. Researchers report they have found no evidence that specific brain wave patterns can be a predictive indicator of seizure onset.

New research shows prepartum and postpartum physical and mental health was associated with persistent severe sleep problems in their babies.

In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers have pieced together a road map of typical brain development in children during a critical window of maturation. The study shows how a “wave of brain maturation” directly underlies important social and behavioral changes children develop during the transition from childhood to adolescence.

Finally, this week, a new study highlights the role estrogen plays in the differences in the progression of Parkinson’s disease between men and women.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A team of neuroscientists from Göttingen and Tehran has shown. how our brain combines visual features to achieve a unified percept.

Research published in the journal Cerebral Cortex has shown that stronger functional connectivity—that is, communication among neurons in various networks of the brain—is linked to youthful memory in older adults. Those with superior memories—called superagers—have the strongest connectivity.

Scientists have found a link between brain’s emotion circuit and movement.

High-fat diets are not only bad for your waistline, they are also bad for your brain health. A new study reveals high-fat diets contribute to hypothalamic inflammation which occurs long before symptoms of obesity arise.

Patients with schizophrenia show increased brain activity in central areas of the brain, but lower activity in the temporal sulcus when hearing metaphors.

Researchers have developed a system that measures a patient’s pain level by analyzing brain activity from a portable neuroimaging device. The system could help doctors diagnose and treat pain in unconscious and noncommunicative patients, which could reduce the risk of chronic pain that can occur after surgery.

Finally this week, a new study reports maternal marijuana use may be detrimental to the brain development of children.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new brain mapping experiment shows that whether you read or listen to a book, the same parts of the brain are stimulated to help you understand and respond to the meaning of the words

Poor oral health has been linked to cognitive decline and increased symptoms of stress.

The brains’ of first degree relatives of those with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder differ from those with no family history of the disorders. Relatives of those with bipolar disorder tend to have larger intracranial volume, while those who had a relative with schizophrenia had smaller brain volume.

Minute-to-minute fluctuations in human brain activity, linked to changing levels of dopamine, impact whether we make risky decisions, finds a new study.

Meditation and yoga practice is associated with smaller right amygdala volume, a brain region involved in emotional processing, according to research published in Brain Imaging and Behavior.

Tiny changes in the microscopic structure of the human brain may affect how patients respond to an emerging therapy for neurological problems.

The brains of people with epilepsy appear to react to music differently from the brains of those who do not have the disorder, a finding that could lead to new therapies to prevent seizures.

Major depressive disorder has been linked to at least 22 distinct diseases, including asthma, coronary heart disease, and an increased risk of E. coli infection.

Researchers have identified a specific area of the brain responsible for auditory verbal hallucinations in people with schizophrenia. The researchers were able to control the hallucinations with the help of transcranial magnetic stimulation.

A new study challenges the existing theory that testosterone levels are linked to reduced cognitive empathy.

Finally this week, new research provides insights into what happens in our brains when curiosity is piqued. The findings could help scientists find ways to enhance overall learning and memory in both healthy individuals and those with neurological conditions.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A demonstration of the hippocampus and LEC. The image is credited to University of Warwick.

A new theory and model helps explain how entorhinal time ramping cells produce hippocampal time cells. The hippocampal cells allow for memory association between places and people to help recall event sequences.

Researchers shed light on why we need to sleep and discuss the effects of sleep deprivation.

In a groundbreaking finding, researchers have identified a new sensory organ under the skin that can detect pain as a result of impact or pinpricks. The organ comprises of glial cells with multiple long protrusions which collectively make up the mesh-like organ under the skin.

A 3D map of how the brain responds to words could unlock new ways to understand and treat dyslexia and speech disorders.

A visual test may be a new tool in the diagnosis of autism. Individuals on the autism spectrum are slower to dampen neural activity in response to visual stimuli in the brain. Using EEG data collected from the visual region, researchers could predict with 87% accuracy whether or not a person had ASD.

Contrary to popular belief, a new study reveals higher levels of testosterone may make people more sensitive to moral norms.

Boosting a single molecule in the brain can change “dispositional anxiety,” the tendency to perceive many situations as threatening, in nonhuman primates, researchers have found.

Finally this week, a new study suggests there may be genetic explanations for why some children with poor language also have poor mental health.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers have demonstrated a universal decoding system in humans that determines how we perceive vibrations of different frequencies through touch.

A new study by researchers at the University of Eastern Finland is the first to observe that dietary intake of phosphatidylcholine is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Phosphatidylcholine was also linked to enhanced cognitive performance. The main dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine were eggs and meat. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Scientists have identified a group of proteins that help to regenerate damaged nerve cells. Their findings are reported in the journal Neuron.

Difficulty sleeping in a new environment is so common that neuroscientists have a name for it: the ”first-night effect” (FNE). New research shows FNE is basically the neurological equivalent of sleeping with one eye open. When you go to sleep for the first time in a new environment only half of your brain really rests, according to a study recently published in Current Biology.

Rhythms in gene expression in the brain are highly disrupted in people with schizophrenia, according to a new study.

Moderate exercise is not only good for memory as people age, it also appears to help prevent the development of physical signs of Alzheimer’s, known as biomarkers, in those who are at risk for the disease, according to research presented at the annual convention of the American Psychological Association.

Finally this week, a new study identifies 69 genes linked to increased autism risk, including 16 new genes previously not believed to be associated with ASD.