Weekly Neuroscience Update

glial-cells-parkinsoins-neurosciencnewes (1).jpg

Image: di Domenico/Stem Cell Reports

A new study reveals a defective version of astrocytes may be linked to the build up of alpha synuclein and could spur Parkinson’s disease. The findings show the important role glial cells play in Parkinson’s and offers insights into new targets for therapies to fight the neurodegenerative disease.

A genome-wide analysis of nearly 45,000 people has identified 16 regions of DNA associated with epilepsy, 11 of which are newly identified.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne found when people crave specific foods, the brain releases more dopamine when they finally consume the item. The study reports the gastrointestinal tract is in constant contact with the brain and uses reward stimuli to control our desire for food.

Researchers have developed a method to determine the length of mutated genes associated with Huntington’s disease quickly and easily.

Men with dyslexia have altered structural connections between the thalamus and auditory cortex on the left side of the brain, new research published in Journal of Neuroscience reveals.

A new study reports when we retrieve information about visual objects, the brain first focuses on the core meaning and afterwards recalls specific details.

Researchers report that neuron loss in Alzheimer’s disease may not be such a bad thing. The study reveals the loss of neurons may be the result of a cell quality control mechanism attempting to protect the brain from the accumulation of malfunctioning neurons.

Neurofeedback training stimulates the cortical learning process and can help improve the sense of touch, a new study reveals.

Research led by stem cell scientists at Harvard University points to a potential new biomarker and drug target for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease that is extremely difficult to diagnose and treat.

Finally this week, researchers have identified over 500 genetic variants which affect the use of, and addiction to, alcohol and tobacco.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

d41586-018-01290-0_15417716.jpg

Neurons store and transmit information in the brain.Credit: CNRI/SPL

Superconducting computing chips modeled after neurons can process information faster and more efficiently than the human brain.  

New research published in JAMA Neurology suggests that those people whose memory is intact and who do not show any signs of Alzheimer’s can have disrupted circadian rhythms — which may be a very early sign of Alzheimer’s.

Stimulating specific regions of the brain can help to improve memory and word recall in those with severe epilepsy, a new Nature Communications study reports.  

Gene therapies promise to revolutionize the treatment of many diseases, including neurological diseases such as ALS. But the small viruses that deliver therapeutic genes can have adverse side effects at high doses. Researchers have now found a structure on these viruses that makes them better at crossing from the bloodstream into the brain – a key factor for administering gene therapies at lower doses for treating brain and spinal disorders.

Researchers discover the activity of 80 percent of genes follow a day/night rhythm in many tissue types and brain regions. 

Aging or impaired brains can once again form lasting memories if an enzyme that applies the brakes too hard on a key gene is lifted, according to University of California, Irvine neurobiologists.

Researchers have implicated mossy cells in both seizures and memory problems in those with temporal lobe epilepsy. 

Increasing evidence has linked autism spectrum disorder (ASD) with dysfunction of the brain’s cerebellum, but the details have been unclear. In a new study, researchers at Boston Children’s Hospital used stem cell technology to create cerebellar cells known as Purkinje cells from patients with tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a genetic syndrome that often includes ASD-like features. In the lab, the cells showed several characteristics that may help explain how ASD develops at the molecular level.

Finally this week, neuroscientists have discovered how the brain can determine an object’s value almost as soon as we see it.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

reading-1156865_960_720

According to researchers, a brain area dedicated to reading skills has connections for the ability before children learn to read.

Researchers at the US Army Research Laboratory (ARL) have conducted studies to build a database on brain patterns that could help to predict how soldiers will react in  proactive and reactive states.

A new study reports vision relies on patterns of brain activity.

Eight people who have spent years paralyzed from spinal cord injuries have regained partial sensation and muscle control in their lower limbs after training with brain-controlled robotics, according to a study published Aug. 11 in Scientific Reports.

Contrary to an earlier study, researchers have discovered new hippocampal neurons formed as a result of exercise do not cause certain old memories to be forgotten.

Researchers report our gut bacteria is sensitive to melatonin and expresses its own circadian rhythm.

Researchers report the brain’s ‘physic engine’ helps predict how the world behaves.

A new study published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging revealed that middle-aged adults who were overweight had reduced white matter volume in the brain, compared with their lean counterparts.

A new study reports transcranial magnetic stimulation can significantly reduce phantom limb pain.

MIT engineers have developed a new device that replicates the neuromuscular junction — the vital connection where nerve meets muscle –  that could help test new treatments for ALS and other neuromuscular disorders.

Finally this week, researchers have identified two areas involved in a neural network that helps interpret situations as positive or negative.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

virtual-relaity-depression

Participant playing the role of an adult comforting a crying child. Credit: UCL.

An immersive virtual reality therapy could help people with depression to be less critical and more compassionate towards themselves, reducing depressive symptoms, finds a new study from UCL and ICREA-University of Barcelona.

After just nine weeks of internet-delivered cognitive behavioral therapy, the brain of patients suffering from social anxiety disorder changes in volume. Anxiety is reduced, and parts of the patients’ brains decrease in both volume and activity. This study could help us develop more effective therapies for one of the most common problems in mental health.

New research shows brain function associated with attention peaks during the summer and dips in winter.

Pain can sear memories into the brain, a new study finds. A full year after viewing a picture of a random, neutral object, people could remember it better if they had been feeling painful heat when they first saw it.

New research reveals the cellular mechanisms by which memory-encoding neuronal networks emerge.

Why do we remember some events, places and things, but not others? Our brains prioritize rewarding memories over others, and reinforce them by replaying them when we are at rest, according to new research.

Researchers have found evidence to suggest a significant relationship between cannabis use and the onset and exacerbation of mania symptoms.

A study provides new insight into how the brains of drug addicts may be wired differently. The findings, which appear in the journal Psychopharmacology, show that while drug users have very strong motivation to seek out “rewards,” they exhibit an impaired ability to adjust their behavior and are less fulfilled once they have achieved what they desire. Addressing this disconnect between the craving for a drug and the ability to regulate behavior may be one of the keys to breaking the cycle of addiction.

Reading and listening to music at the same time affects how you hear the music. Language scientists and neuroscientists published this finding in an article in Royal Society Open Science.

Cognitive scientists have found more evidence that aging brains work differently than younger brains when performing the same memory task, pointing to a potentially new direction for age-related cognitive care and exploration.

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to specifically modify gene expression in diseased upper motor neurons, brain cells that break down in ALS.

Finally this week, researchers have discovered how cells in the human body build their own ‘railway networks’, throwing light on how diseases such as bowel cancer work. The results have just been published in Nature Scientific Reports.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

hypothalamus-genetics-obesity

Credit: BruceBlaus

Scientists have discovered a new genetic syndrome of obesity, over-eating, mental and behavioural problems in six families, from across the world. The study represents an important step in our understanding of how the hypothalamus and oxytocin control appetite and behaviour. 

A new study published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that a brain reward centre, the striatum, may be directly affected by inflammation and that striatal change is related to the emergence of illness behaviors.

By studying stroke patients who have lost the ability to spell, researchers have pinpointed the parts of the brain that control how we write words.

A study has shown for the first time that the structure of the brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to children of either gender. The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression.

New research proves that suffering repeated traumatic experiences throughout infancy and adolescence multiplies by 7 the risk of suffering psychosis during adulthood.

Researchers are using a mathematical tool to help determine which concussion patients will go on to suffer migraine headaches, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Some of the earliest nerve cells to develop in the womb shape brain circuits that process sights and sounds, but then give way to mature networks that convert this sensory information into thoughts. This is the finding of a study led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and published in the February 3 edition of Neuron.

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to specifically modify gene expression in diseased upper motor neurons, brain cells that break down in ALS.

New research indicates that the location of receptors that transmit pain signals IS important in how big or small a pain signal will be and how effectively drugs can block those signals.

A new way of using MRI scanners to look for evidence of multiple sclerosis in the brain has been successfully tested by researchers.

A team of European researchers has found evidence that suggests that human consciousness is a state where the neural network that makes up the brain operates at an optimal degree of connectedness. In their paper published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the team describes their study of the human brain using volunteers undergoing fMRI scans while succumbing to the effects of an anesthetic that caused them to lose consciousness, and what was revealed in reviewing the scan data.

Researchers have determined that testing a portion of a person’s submandibular gland may be a way to diagnose early Parkinson’s disease.

Finally this week, researchers of a new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry report successful reduction of depressive symptoms in patients using a novel non-invasive method of vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Brain cell density remains constant with age among cognitively normal adults. (Courtesy of Dr. Keith Thulborn)

Brain cell density remains constant with age among cognitively normal adults. (Courtesy of Dr. Keith Thulborn)

New, ultra-high-field magnetic resonance images (MRI) of the brain provide the most detailed images to date to show that while the brain shrinks with age, brain cell density remains constant.

In a stunning discovery that overturns decades of textbook teaching, researchers have determined that the brain is directly connected to the immune system by vessels previously thought not to exist. That such vessels could have escaped detection when the lymphatic system has been so thoroughly mapped throughout the body is surprising on its own, but the true significance of the discovery lies in the effects it could have on the study and treatment of neurological diseases ranging from autism to Alzheimer’s disease to multiple sclerosis.

A new MRI study has found distinct injury patterns in the brains of people with concussion-related depression and anxiety, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Children and adolescents who received deep brain stimulation for generalized dystonia maintained significant symptom relief for up to eight years, according to a study presented at the 12th World Congress of the International Neuromodulation Society.

An international team of researchers is using data mapping methods created to track the spread of information on social networks to trace its dissemination across a surprisingly different system: the human brain.

A previously unknown link between the immune system and the death of motor neurons in Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, has been discovered. The finding paves the way to a whole new approach for finding a drug that can cure or at least slow the progression of such neurodegenerative diseases as ALS, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s diseases.

Spoken sentences can be reconstructed from activity patterns of human brain surface. “Brain to Text” combines knowledge from neuroscience, medicine and informatics.

Finally this week, scientists have figured out how newly learned concepts form in the human brain by visualizing how new information gets filed. They say this is the first time science visually witnessed how and where specific objects are coded in the brain.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

New brain research findings suggest long-term meditation may lead to less age-related gray matter atrophy in the human brain.

A new study has revealed that many mental disorders share a common structure in the brain. Six conditions were examined and found to be connected by the loss of gray matter in three specific areas related to cognitive functions such as self-control.

A new paper argues that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature of traumatic brain injury and how it causes chronic degenerative problems.

New research finds that there is not a single type of schizophrenia, as thought, but 8 different genetic diseases.

Scientists have discovered that babies of the age from 9 to 16 months remember the names of objects better if they had a short nap. And only after sleeping can they transfer learned names to similar new objects.

Cocaine addicted individuals may continue their habit despite unfavourable consequences like imprisonment or loss of relationships because their brain circuits responsible for predicting emotional loss are impaired, according to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists have discovered how a ‘mini-brain’ in the spinal cord aids in balance.

UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

New research has highlighted the structural improvements on the brain observed in bilingual people who immerse themselves in two languages.

Good sleep in young and middle-aged people helps boost memory up to 28 years later, a new review of the evidence finds.

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology.

Finally this week, we know that our existence depends on a bit of evolutionary genius aptly nicknamed “fight or flight.” But where in our brain does the alarm first go off, and what other parts of the brain are mobilized to express fear and remember to avoid danger in the future? New research sheds some light on this question.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Photo credit: Wellcome Images (Creative Commons)

Photo credit: Wellcome Images (Creative Commons)

UC San Francisco researchers have used brain scans to predict how young children learn to read, giving clinicians a possible tool to spot children with dyslexia and other reading difficulties before they experience reading challenges.

A new study has found, for the first time, evidence of neuroinflammation in key regions of the brains of patients with chronic pain. By showing that levels of an inflammation-linked protein are elevated in regions known to be involved in the transmission of pain, the study published online in the journal Brain paves the way for the exploration of potential new treatment strategies and identifies a possible way around one of the most frustrating limitations in the study and treatment of chronic pain – the lack of an objective way to measure the presence or intensity of pain.

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology.

Are women “wired” to be more emotional? Not exactly — but new research provides more evidence that the male and female brain may have very different ways of processing emotion. Previous research has shown that women generally experience higher levels of emotional stimulation than men. Now, a new large-scale study from the University of Basel suggests that gender differences in emotion processing are also linked to sex variation in memory and brain activity.

An international research team has identified a new gene for a progressive form of epilepsy.

According to a new study in the Journal of Neurotrauma, researchers have announced the development of a blood test that could provide a quantifiable way to measure the impact of concussions or the success of a treatment regimen.

Finally, this week, new research could move the medical community one step closer toward effectively detecting concussion and quantifying its severity.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Embed from Getty Images

Johns Hopkins researchers report that people with chronic insomnia show more plasticity and activity than good sleepers in the part of the brain that controls movement.

Researchers at The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) and Vanderbilt University have created the most detailed 3-D picture yet of a membrane protein that is linked to learning, memory, anxiety, pain and brain disorders such as schizophrenia, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and autism.

New research has revealed the dramatic effect the immune system has on the brain development of young children. The findings suggest new and better ways to prevent developmental impairment in children in developing countries, helping to free them from a cycle of poverty and disease, and to attain their full potential.

Rate of change in the thickness of the brain’s cortex is an important factor associated with a person’s change in IQ, according to a collaborative study by scientists in five countries.

Researchers have found that decision-making accuracy can be improved by postponing the onset of a decision by a mere fraction of a second. The results could further our understanding of neuropsychiatric conditions characterized by abnormalities in cognitive function and lead to new training strategies to improve decision-making in high-stake environments. The study was published in the March 5 online issue of the journal PLoS One.

A study has revealed how the fatal neurodegenerative disease amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is transmitted from cell to cell, and suggests the spread of the disease could be blocked.

Research from Karolinska Institutet in Sweden suggests that the expression of the so called MYC gene is important and necessary for neurogenesis in the spinal cord. The findings are being published in the journal  EMBO Reports .

Our memories are inaccurate, more than we’d like to believe. And now a study demonstrates one reason: we apparently add current experiences onto memories.

Damage to the brain may still occur even if symptoms of traumatic brain injury are not present, scientists suggest.

The brain processes read and heard language differently. This is the key and new finding of a study published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

University of Washington University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind. Across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco, right, wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain. Stocco’s right index finger moved involuntarily to hit the “fire” button as part of the first human brain-to-brain interface demonstration. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Washington)

University of Washington University of Washington researcher Rajesh Rao, left, plays a computer game with his mind. Across campus, researcher Andrea Stocco, right, wears a magnetic stimulation coil over the left motor cortex region of his brain. Stocco’s right index finger moved involuntarily to hit the “fire” button as part of the first human brain-to-brain interface demonstration. (Credit: Image courtesy of University of Washington)

University of Washington researchers have performed what they believe is the first noninvasive human-to-human brain interface, with one researcher able to send a brain signal via the Internet to control the hand motions of a fellow researcher.

A new study strengthens the link between amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and problems in protein production machinery of cells and identifies a possible treatment strategy.

A team of neuroscientists has found a key to the reduction of forgetting. Their findings, which appear in the journal Neuron, show that the better the coordination between two regions of the brain, the less likely we are to forget newly obtained information.

Sleep is well-known to help us better understand what we have learned. But now, researchers believe they have discovered exactly how sleep helps our brains to better learn specific motor tasks, such as typing or playing the piano.

With Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), researchers have identified specific markers in the brain which could help predict whether people with psychosis will respond to antipsychotic medications.

New findings published in the journal Nature show how one component of the brain’s circuitry – inhibitory neurons – behave during critical periods of learning.

Researchers report the first biomarker results reported from the Parkinson’s Progression Markers Initiative (PPMI), showing that a comprehensive test of protein biomarkers in spinal fluid have prognostic and diagnostic value in early stages of Parkinson’s disease. The study is reported in JAMA Neurology.