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

CSF flow speed becomes hyperdynamic with severe CAA. Credit: Nature Aging (2022). DOI: 10.1038/s43587-022-00181-4

A new study suggests that a contributing factor in dementia may come down to a double dose of bad waste management in the brain.

The first major study to compare brain scans of people before and after they catch Covid has revealed shrinkage and tissue damage in regions linked to smell and mental capacities months after subjects tested positive.

Light-to-moderate regular alcohol consumption is linked to reductions in overall brain volume, a new study reports.

Researchers have discovered two types of brain cells that play a key role in dividing continuous human experience into distinct segments that can be recalled later. The discovery provides new promise as a path toward development of novel treatments for memory disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Stanford Medicine researchers have linked a specific gene known to be associated with ALS with a characteristic of the disease, opening avenues for a targeted therapy.

A research group from the University of Bologna discovered the first causal evidence of the double dissociation between what we see and what we believe we see: these two different mechanisms derive from the frequency and amplitude of alpha oscillations.

A new, first-of-its-kind clinical trial will examine how the brain adapts to advanced, bionic arms in children born without a limb, with the ultimate goal of improving children’s control of their prosthetic.

People who suffer from a neurological or mental health condition are at increased risk of developing another disorder later in life. Parkinson’s disease patients are four times more likely to develop dementia, and those with mental health disorders were also at greater risk of developing dementia later in life.

Finally this week, new research shows if the circadian clock is disrupted, we might be at greater risk of retinal degeneration as we age.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

An area (red-yellow) in the brain’s temporal pole specializes in familiar face recognition. Credit: Sofia Landi

New research reveals a class of neurons in the brain’s temporal pole region that links face perception to long-term memory. It’s not quite the apocryphal grandmother neuron — rather than a single cell, it’s a population of cells that collectively remembers grandma’s face. The findings, published in Science, are the first to explain how our brains inculcate the faces of those we hold dear.

Researchers have discovered a previously unknown repair process in the brain that they hope could be harnessed and enhanced to treat seizure-related brain injuries.

A new study demonstrates that puppets can attract and hold the attention of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), raising the potential for developing more engaging therapies that strengthen social engagement and facilitate learning.

Artificial neural networks is helping researchers uncover new clues as to why people on the autism spectrum have trouble interpreting facial expressions.

Researchers have revealed how proteins accumulate in the incorrect parts of brain cells in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and demonstrate how it may be possible to reverse the accumulation. ALS, more commonly known as motor neuron disease, is a progressive fatal disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, causing loss of muscle control, with patients become increasingly paralyzed and losing the ability to speak, eat and breathe. 

Combining artificial intelligence, mathematical modeling, and brain imaging data, researchers have shed light on the neural processes that occur when people use mental abstraction.

A team of scientists has uncovered a system in the brain used in the processing of information and in the storing of memories—akin to how railroad switches control a train’s destination. The findings offer new insights into how the brain functions.

Finally this week, researchers have developed a powerful miniature brain platform to study the mechanistic causes of Alzheimer’s disease and to test dementia drugs in development.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

A new study identifies the neural markers of beat synchronization in the brain and sheds light on how auditory perception and motor processes work together.

Current sleep patterns could help determine your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease as you age. People who experience more fragmented sleep and less non-REM slow-wave sleep are more likely to have increased levels of amyloid-beta.

An international research team reports that problems in spatial navigation can also be detected in people with a genetic risk for Alzheimer’s. 

A new study demonstrates that a technology developed at the University of Central Florida could serve as a more reliable clinically-based model of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and a better screening tool for novel therapies than currently use preclinical models.

New long-term brain monitoring technologies that can continuously record brain activity could help improve the treatment and management of epilepsy.

Scientists have developed a new theory as to how hearing loss may cause dementia and believe that tackling this sensory impairment early may help to prevent the disease.

A new study compares adolescent siblings to determine the impact of early and frequent use of marijuana on cognitive function

Finally this week a new two-stage model seeks to answer a longstanding philosophical debate over whether consciousness is continuous or discrete. Findings suggest discrete consciousness is preceded by a long-lasting unconscious processing period.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new review of neurological symptoms of COVID-19 patients reveals the disease poses a global threat to the entire nervous system, reports a study in Annals of Neurology.

Researchers have combined tools from machine learning and neuroscience to discover that the brain uses a mathematical system to organize visual objects according to their principal components.

A new system for high-density EEG helps with the imaging of the origin and path of both normal and abnormal neural activity.

Brain function depends on inhibitory cells that balance or ‘brake’ excitation. These neurons allow the brain to process information and also prevent runaway seizures. A new study however, reports that in some critical structures of the developing brain, the inhibitory neurons cause excitation rather than suppression of brain activity. The findings, published in Science Advances, could have implications for the treatment of neonatal seizures.

New research shows changes in gut mucus may contribute to Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other neurological disorders.

Researchers have identified how specific genetic mutations cause ALS. The pathway, they believe, may also be responsible for the development of frontotemporal dementia.

Cancer itself, rather than chemotherapy alone, may contribute to the development of neuropathy some patients experience.

Finally this week, results from a new study suggest that whether certain genes are expressed — turned on or off– may play a role in susceptibility to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

 

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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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

 

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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

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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.