Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Two participants in the BrainGate clinical trial directly control a tablet computer through a brain-computer interface to chat with each other online. The research, published in PLOS ONE, is a step toward restoring the ability of people with paralysis to use everyday technologies.

New research from the BrainGate consortium shows that a brain-computer interface (BCI) can enable people with paralysis to directly operate an off-the-shelf tablet device just by thinking about making cursor movements and clicks.

A new study reports those exposed to the highest levels of noise pollution caused by traffic are at an increased risk of obesity.

Researchers have pinpointed a part of the human brain responsible for “on-the-fly” decision-making. According to the findings published in JNeurosci, the anterior cingulate cortex integrates disparate information about the desirability and amount of an option to inform choice.

MRI brain scans perform better than common clinical tests at predicting which people will go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new study.

A team of researchers has found that the brain works for a while after the heart has stopped. The research is reported in a journal paper titled, ‘AWARE—AWAreness during REsuscitation—A prospective study.’ The scientists looked at patients with cardiac arrests in Europe and the US. They noted that those of the patients who were successfully resuscitated after their heart had stopped beating could recall the conversations around them between the healthcare personnel and were aware of their surroundings.

Researchers have identified a mechanism by which immune system problems can cause commensal dysbiosis, which promotes age-related pathologies.

According to a new study, exploring objects through touch can generate detailed, lasting memories of the object, even when people don’t intend to memorize the details of the object.

A single season of high school football may be enough to cause microscopic changes in the structure of the brain, according to researchers.

Finally this week, researchers using functional MRI (fMRI) have found differences in the brains of men and women who are addicted to online gaming, according to a new study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A network of more than 200 genes encoding proteins with diverse cellular roles was revealed in a non-biased CRISPR screen for regulators of microexon splicing. Many of the genes have previously been linked to autism. Image is credited to Thomas Gonatopoulos-Pournatzis.

Using CRISPR techniques, researchers have uncovered a genetic network linked to autism.

Researchers find evidence of cognitive issues and miRNA biomarkers, indicating brain injuries from concussions or head-to-head contact, in college football players. The findings indicated lasting damage caused by sports-related concussions occur earlier than expected.

A new method for studying the mircobiome has allowed researchers to identify a connection between metabolism in gut bacteria and the development of diabetes.

A new study has identified unique functional brain networks associated with characteristic behaviors of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in 12- and 24-month old children at risk for developing ASD. The study is published in Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging.

Researchers have identified a brain network that may control the diversion of attention to focus on potential threats. Dopamine, they report, is key to the process.

New research has found preliminary evidence that high-intensity interval exercise temporarily impairs reward learning mechanisms in the brain. The research, which was published in Physiology & Behavior, indicates that this type of exercise does not improve all aspects of cognitive function.

A new study reports aerobic exercise can have antidepressant effects for patients with major depressive disorder.

Researchers propose a new theory of human thinking, suggesting our brain’s navigation system is key to thinking. This may explain why our knowledge seems to be organized in spatial fashion.

Scientists have solved a 125-year-old mystery of the brain, and, in the process, uncovered a potential treatment for acquired epilepsy.

A new neuroimaging study reveals the brains of teenage girls who self-harm show similar features to adults with borderline personality disorder.

Researchers were able to distinguish between children with or without ASD diagnosis, thanks to a new saliva-based biomarker panel. Researchers report the test can be used in children as young as 18 month, assisting in early diagnosis of autism.

Finally this week, a new study reveals common brain activity patterns associated with depressive moods.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Salk scientist finds similar rule governing traffic flow in engineered and biological systems.

An algorithm used for the internet may help researchers learn about the human brain, researchers report.

A new blood test may be as accurate as a test requiring a painful spinal tap for differentiating Parkinson’s disease from similar disorders, according to a study published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Researchers report neurons move the site of microRNA maturation away from the cytoplasm out to the dendrites.

Emotions are not innately programmed into our brains, but, in fact, are cognitive states resulting from the gathering of information, researchers conclude in the latest issue of the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A new study reveals some brain systems in a dish, dubbed circuitoids, exhibit coordinated and spontaneous rhythmic activity that can drive repetitive movements.

By using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study the brains of infants who have older siblings with autism, scientists were able to correctly identify 80 percent of the babies who would be subsequently diagnosed with autism at 2 years of age.

An international research team has found that when the brain “reads” or decodes a sentence in English or Portuguese, its neural activation patterns are the same.

New findings suggest that language-specialised brain areas work in constant interaction with other areas known to support other cognitive processes, such as perception and action.

Scientists have identified two distinct mechanisms in the brain that control the balance between accuracy and speed when making decisions.

When it comes to perceiving music, the human brain is much more tuned in to certain types of rhythms than others, according to a new study.

The effects a concussion has on driving a vehicle may continue to linger even after the symptoms disappear, according to University of Georgia researchers.

Scientists say neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s may be linked to defective brain cells disposing toxic proteins that make neighbouring cells sick.

New research from Lund University in Sweden has shown that intestinal bacteria can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

New research uncovers the brain circuit involved in processing fear, which could eventually lead to new treatment options for people with mental health disorders.

Finally this week, infants as young as 20 months of age expect adults to display surprise when discovering a false belief, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Under the microscope, staining highlights a network of vasculature amid the ball of neurons that make up a minibrain. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Hoffman-Kim lab/Brown University

Scientists have recently made a variety of mini-brains — 3-D cultures of neural cells that model basic properties of living brains — but a new finding could add to the field’s growing excitement in an entirely new “vein”: Brown University’s mini-brains now grow blood vessels, too.

A new study reports astrocytes may be a driving force behind a number of neurodegenerative diseases.

While many of us find the sound of a person chewing or breathing heavily annoying, for those with misophonia, such noises are unbearable. Researchers have identified the neural networks and brain changes associated with the disorder.

New research reveals the shape of our brain can provide surprising clues about how we behave and our risk of developing mental health disorders.

A team of investigators have found that exposure to phobic images without conscious awareness is more effective than longer, conscious exposure for reducing fear. The investigators used fMRI to determine that areas of the brain involved in fear processing were much more strongly activated by unconscious exposure. Results of the study will be published in the journal, Human Brain Mapping, on February 6, 2017.

Depression poses a risk for cardiovascular diseases in men that is just as great as that posed by high cholesterol levels and obesity.

In the latest issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), New York University neuroscientist David Heeger offers a new framework to explain how the brain makes predictions

Researchers have developed new technology that utilises infrared light in order to treat memory loss conditions.

Scientists have discovered a cell in the retina that may cause myopia when it dysfunctions. The dysfunction may be linked to the amount of time a child spends indoors and away from natural light.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

New sensors that can monitor dopamine secretion in a single neuron could help researchers better understand how dopamine influences brain activity.

Scientists have developed sensor technology for a robotic prosthetic arm that detects signals from nerves in the spinal cord.

People who use sign language have better reaction times in their peripheral vision, a new study from the University of Sheffield has found.

Finally this week, researchers report concussion can accelerate Alzheimer’s symptoms in people with a genetic risk for the disease.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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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.

Mind Your Head: Concussion Is Dangerous

Concussion from the Latin concutere, which means “to shake violently,  is a temporary unconsciousness or confusion and other symptoms caused by a blow to the head. It is the most common type of traumatic brain injury but it can be tricky to diagnose. Though you may have a visible cut or bruise on your head, you can’t actually see a concussion. It is believed to result from internal shearing leading to the tearing of axon tracts (nerve pathways) within the brain.

Concussions are graded as mild (grade 1), moderate (grade 2), or severe (grade 3), depending on such factors as loss of consciousness, amnesia (loss of memory) and loss of balance.

In the event of a suspected concussion a doctor may test coordination and reflexes to check the functions of the central nervous system and may order a brain to rule out bleeding or swelling within the brain. If a concussion is sustained during athletic activity the match referee/ sports coach  may ask you simple questions to check memory and concentration skills such as “Where do you live?,” or “What is your name?”  and insist that you stop play and sit it out. This is because the brain needs time to properly heal, so rest is key. Recovery is good for patients with less than 24hrs post-traumatic amnesia.

Even a minor concussion is dangerous because repeat concussions have cumulative effects on the brain, resulting in brain swelling, permanent brain injury, long-term disability, personality change, epilepsy or even death.

By its very nature a concussion is unexpected, so it is difficult to prevent.  Here are three common-sense precautions you can take to lessen the possibility of traumatic brain injury.

  1. Wear protective head gear.Participation in high-contact, high-risk sports such as all types of football, hurling, hockey and boxing can increase the likelihood of a concussion. Skateboarding, snowboarding, horseback riding, cycling and roller blading are also a threat to your brain’s health. Wearing headgear, padding, and mouth and eye guards can help safeguard against traumatic head injuries. Wearing a bike helmet can lower the risk of traumatic head injury by 85%. Ensure that the equipment is properly fitted, well maintained, and worn consistently.
  2. Drive smart. Always wear a seat belt (even as a passenger in a back seat), obey posted speed limits, and don’t use drugs or alcohol when driving, because they can impair reaction time.
  3. Don’t fight. Concussions are often sustained during a punch-up, and more males than females report traumatic head injuries.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

SNTF stained axons (brown) shortly after traumatic brain injury are pictured. The undulating course suggests damage to the internal skeleton, and the SNTF stain shows the high calcium concentration- activated enzymes that destroy the axon from the inside out. Credit: The laboratory of Douglas Smith, MD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

SNTF stained axons (brown) shortly after traumatic brain injury are pictured. The undulating course suggests damage to the internal skeleton, and the SNTF stain shows the high calcium concentration- activated enzymes that destroy the axon from the inside out. Credit: The laboratory of Douglas Smith, MD, Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania.

Physicians and others now recognize that seemingly mild, concussion-type head injuries lead to long-term cognitive impairments surprisingly often. A brain protein called SNTF, which rises in the blood after some concussions, signals the type of brain damage that is thought to be the source of these cognitive impairments, according to a new study.

About one third of people with depression have high levels of inflammation markers in their blood. New research indicates that persistent inflammation affects the brain in ways that are connected with stubborn symptoms of depression, such as anhedonia, the inability to experience pleasure.

Scientists have reported measurements of dopamine release with unprecedented temporal precision in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease. The measurements, collected during brain surgery as the conscious patients played an investment game, demonstrate how rapid dopamine release encodes information crucial for human choice.

Scientists have uncovered a mechanism in the brain that could account for some of the neural degeneration and memory loss in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Regardless of gender, young adults who have greater aerobic fitness also have greater volume of their entorhinal cortex, an area of the brain responsible for memory. Better aerobic fitness however does not appear to impact hippocampal volume, another area in the brain responsible for memory.

A new scientific model that incorporates the myriad drivers of depression could lead to more precise treatment for an illness that affects 350 million worldwide.

Finally this week, could staying physically active improve quality of life by delaying cognitive decline and prolonging an independent lifestyle? A new study has found that older adults who take more steps either by walking or jogging perform better on memory tasks than those who are more sedentary.

 

 

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

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People who are better able to move to a beat show more consistent brain responses to speech than those with less rhythm, according to a study published in the September 18 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience. The findings suggest that musical training could possibly sharpen the brain’s response to language.

Concussions are connected with substance abuse and suicidal thoughts in adolescents, according to new research presented at a conference on sports-related brain injuries.

The structure of the brain may predict whether a person will suffer chronic low back pain, according to researchers who used brain scans. The results, published in the journal Pain, support the growing idea that the brain plays a critical role in chronic pain, a concept that may lead to changes in the way doctors treat patients.

A drug commonly used for treating diabetes may reverse symptoms of late-stage Alzheimer’s disease and is now in the process of entering a major clinical trial.

Scientists have found a new link between early-onset Parkinson’s disease and a piece of DNA missing from chromosome 22. The findings help shed new light on the molecular changes that lead to Parkinson’s disease.

The pain and itching associated with shingles and herpes may be due to the virus causing a “short circuit” in the nerve cells that reach the skin, researchers have found.

In a new study looking at toddlers and preschoolers with autism, researchers have found that children with better motor skills were more adept at socializing and communicating. This study adds to growing evidence of the important link between autism and motor skill deficits. Motor skills and muscle memory are held in the cerebellum.

Scientists have discovered differences in the brain structure of ballet dancers that may help them avoid feeling dizzy when they perform pirouettes.

New research could offer solutions into slowing down the progression of motor neurone disease (MND).

Playing first person action games can enhance your perception of movement – but only when you’re walking backwards. This is one of the findings of a new paper by University of Leicester psychologists, published in the journal Perception, which examines the effect of playing video games on motion perception.

Two new studies investigate the relationship between self-control and reward processing for chronic dieters and people who would like to control their food intake.

Scientists say they have discovered the specific brain circuitry that causes overeating, according to a study published in the journal Science.

Bad experiences enhance memory formation about places, scientists at The University of Queensland have found.

Finally this week, a new study from MIT reveals a gene that is critical to the process of memory extinction. Enhancing the activity of this gene, known as Tet1, might benefit people with posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) by making it easier to replace fearful memories with more positive associations,

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers in Japan have used the powerful K computer, the world’s fastest supercomputer, to simulate the complex neural structure of our brain.

Heavy drinking as a teenager is the single biggest risk factor for developing dementia unusually early, according to new research. A study of almost 500,000 Swedish men identified “alcohol intoxication” as a late adolescent as the most serious of nine separate risk factors for young onset dementia (YOD) – that is, dementia before reaching 65.

For the first time, researchers have documented irregular brain activity within the first 24 hours of a concussive injury, as well as an increased level of brain activity weeks later—suggesting that the brain may compensate for the injury during the recovery time. The findings are published in the September issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society.

New findings may help neuroscientists pinpoint better targets for anti-anxiety treatments.

The synapses in the brain act as key communication points between approximately one hundred billion neurons. They form a complex network connecting various centres in the brain through electrical impulses. New research from Lund University suggests that it is precisely here, in the synapses, that Huntington’s disease might begin.

In patients with early Alzheimer’s disease, disruptions in brain networks emerge about the same time as chemical markers of the disease appear in the spinal fluid, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have shown.

New research indicates that teens with anorexia nervosa have bigger brains than teens that do not have the eating disorder.

Assessing consciousness in patients with severe brain trauma is a difficult challenge for doctors, as the injury effectively takes away any ability to blink, squeeze a hand or otherwise respond. But scientists have found a way to measure the brain’s response to a magnetic pulse, helping them determine a person’s level of awareness.