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 A preliminary version (not yet peer-reviewed) posted in 2020 was one of the first to show that the virus that causes COVID-19 can infect brain cells, especially astrocytes.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

Exercise can improve your cognitive and mental health — but not all forms and intensities of exercise affect the brain equally. The effects of exercise are much more nuanced, as specific intensities of exercise over a long period of time are associated with different aspects of memory and mental health, according to a new study.

A research team has shown for the first time that non-invasive stimulation of the vagus nerve at the ear can strengthen the communication between stomach and brain within minutes.

A mutation in a newly discovered small protein is connected to a significant increase in the risk for Alzheimer’s disease, expanding the known gene targets for the disease and presenting a new potential avenue for treatment, according to a new study.

A new report highlights the advances and challenges in prevention, clinical care, and research in traumatic brain injury, a leading cause of injury-related death and disability worldwide.

Neurons in an area of the brain responsible for memory (known as the entorhinal cortex) are significantly larger in SuperAgers compared to cognitively average peers, individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease, and even individuals 20 to 30 years younger than SuperAgers — who are aged 80 years and older, reports a new study.

Children who were infected with COVID-19 show a substantially higher risk of developing type 1 diabetes (T1D), according to new research.

Researchers have discovered a biological mechanism that increases the strength with which fear memories are stored in the brain. The study provides new knowledge on the mechanisms behind anxiety-related disorders, and identifies shared mechanisms behind anxiety and alcohol dependence.

Finally this week, a new study demonstrates how an AI algorithm can estimate biological age with high accuracy based on brain scan images.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

New research shows that moderate physical activity was linked to increased volume in brain areas associated with memory, especially in older adults.

The biological changes that occur as a result of aging could be a mechanism behind why older adults with depression do not have a full resolution of symptoms following taking antidepressants. The persistence of depressive symptoms becomes a source of depleted psychological well-being, increased disability, accelerated cognitive decline, and premature aging in older adults.

Researchers have identified a pathway that begins in the gut and ends with a pro-inflammatory protein in the brain that appears to contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study looks at the brains of black women who reported having experiences with racial discrimination. The goal of the study was to determine whether racial discrimination could affect the brain. After doing MRI scans on the women’s brains, the researchers found changes in their white matter.

The smell of fresh cut grass or blooming flowers appears to have a positive effect on a person’s overall well-being, a new study reveals.

A new study proposes a new learning method for people with autism that may accelerate the learning process and even significantly improve capabilities in terms of visual perception. According to the researchers, improving the perceptual capacity of people with autism is often a challenge, which usually requires long and tedious training alongside additional learning challenges that characterizes autism, such as the ability to generalize learning to new situations.

The unique features of an individual adolescent’s brain can help predict their risks of developing mental health problems later in life.

The effects of COVID-19 infection on neurological health are becoming more apparent. A new study reveals COVID-19 can predispose people to irreversible neurological conditions, accelerate brain aging, and increase the risk of stroke and brain bleeds.

Finally this week, researchers have found that transcranial brain stimulation can improve the age-related impairment in learning new motor skills.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Credit: Science Advances (2022). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abo0171

New evidence that suggests the SARS-CoV-2 virus is able to enter the brain by using nose cells to make nanotube tunnels is published in the journal Science Advances.

Exploring the predictive properties of neuronal metabolism can contribute to our understanding of how humans learn and remember. This key finding from a consideration of molecular mechanisms of learning and memory conducted by scientists from Russia and the U.S. has been published in Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews

Older adults who suffer from hypothyroidism are at increased risk of developing dementia. The risk is even higher in those who require thyroid hormone replacement therapy to treat their condition.

Researchers have shown that the computational imaging technique, known as “ghost imaging”, can be combined with human vision to reconstruct the image of objects hidden from view by analyzing how the brain processes barely visible reflections on a wall.

Scientists have discovered that an injury to one part of the brain changes the connections between nerve cells across the entire brain. 

Researchers have discovered the molecule in the brain responsible for associating good or bad feelings with a memory. Their discovery, published in Nature paves the way for a better understanding of why some people are more likely to retain negative emotions than positive ones—as can occur with anxiety, depression or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

New research has revealed some of the first detailed molecular clues associated with one of the leading causes of death and disability, a condition known as traumatic brain injury (TBI).

Pollution is widely known to be a risk to individual’s physical health, but can it have adverse effects on mental health as well? A study published in Developmental Psychology suggests that exposure to ozone can be a risk factor for depression in adolescents.

Finally this week, you’re fast asleep. But some regions of your brain tasked with hearing sound aren’t taking the night off, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers from the UMH-CSIC Neurosciences Institute have developed an innovative strategy that allows imaging of microglial and astrocyte activation in the gray matter of the brain using diffusion-weighted magnetic resonance imaging (dw-MRI). Credit: IN-CSIC-UMH

Research has made it possible to visualize for the first time and in great detail brain inflammation using diffusion-weighted Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This detailed “X-ray” of inflammation cannot be obtained with conventional MRI, but requires data acquisition sequences and special mathematical models. Once the method was developed, the researchers were able to quantify the alterations in the morphology of the different cell populations involved in the inflammatory process in the brain.

A new study conducted at 38 schools in Barcelona suggests that traffic noise at schools has a detrimental effect on the development of working memory and attention in primary-school students.

People who can frequently recall their dreams tend to be more creative and exhibit increased functional connectivity in a key brain network, according to new research published in the journal Nature and Science of Sleep. The findings provide new insights into the neurophysiological correlates of dreaming.

Researchers have identified elevated levels of a biomarker in the blood that persists for months in long COVID patients who experience neuropsychiatric symptoms.

Plenty of people claim they can’t function without their morning coffee, but is there a neurological basis to it? A study published in Scientific Reports suggests that coffee does have beneficial effects on cognitive function, and it may do this by reorganizing brain functional connectivity.

Low exposure to gonadal hormones during early gestation and infancy predicts higher recalled childhood gender nonconformity in men, according to new research.

Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University have explored the regions of the brain where concrete and abstract concepts materialize. A new study now explores if people who grow up in different cultures and speak different languages form these concepts in the same regions of the brain.

Finally this week, new research will explore how psilocybin affects specific brain pathways in autistic adults and is the first-ever mechanistic study of psilocybin in autistic adults.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The number of axons estimated to interconnect the 360 cortical parcels of the HCP-MMP1.0 atlas. Credit: The researchers

A new study reveals axon density is lower than previously believed between distant regions of the brain.

In a study published in the journal Cell Reports, an international team of investigators used biomarkers, statistical modeling, and other techniques to develop tools for measuring the biological ages of various organ systems. Based on their findings, the researchers report that there are multiple “clocks” within the body that vary widely based on factors including genetics and lifestyle in each individual.

Researchers have identified a new pathway in the brain that plays an important role in our response to fear.

Researchers have now demonstrated that the brain waves during periods of deep sleep in a specific area of the brain can be used to determine the extent of an individual’s propensity for risk during their everyday life.

A study at Boston Children’s Hospital explains for the first time why COVID-19 causes severe inflammation in some people, leading to acute respiratory distress and multi-organ damage. 

A team of researchers has found a link between the use of antibiotics by middle-aged women and cognitive decline later in life. The group has published a paper describing their work on the open-access site PLOS ONE.

Women who experienced childhood trauma had an increased risk of developing multiple sclerosis later in life. The evidence suggests childhood abuse and trauma can alter the immune system and increase the risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

A study has found no increased risk of developing brain tumors regardless of whether a person was a frequent cell phone user or if they had never used a cell phone before.

The consolidation of learning that occurs during sleep is a result of the learning process and not merely because certain brain regions get used a lot during learning. This finding is published in The Journal of Neuroscience and resolves a long-standing debate among sleep researchers.

People who grew up in rural or suburban areas have better spatial navigation skills than those raised in cities, particularly cities with grid-pattern streets, finds a new study.

The return of consciousness after traumatic brain injury (TBI) remains something of a mystery for scientists and is not easy to predict. A series of recently published studies have found that by using technologies to monitor brain functions after TBI, scientists may be able to better predict who will “wake up” after TBI and what brain circuits to target to potentially treat disorders of consciousness.

Finally this week, researchers have established for the first time a link between depressive disorders and mechanical changes in blood cells.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Entrainment can safely manipulate brain waves to induce improvements in memory, a new study reveals.

In the first study of its kind to explore caffeine’s effects on dynamic visual skills, researchers concluded that caffeine increases alertness and detection accuracy for moving targets. Caffeine also improved participants’ reaction times.

New research shows that a once-weekly three-minute exposure to long-wave deep red light activates mitochondria in the retina, helping to naturally boost declining vision.

While chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) cannot yet be diagnosed during life, a new study provides the best evidence to date that a commonly used brain imaging technique, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), may expedite the ability to diagnose CTE with confidence in the living.

A new study finds that people with COVID-19 who experience sleep-disordered breathing have a 31% higher likelihood of hospitalization and death.

Running may be a useful activity to undertake for better mental health. Researchers have found that only ten minutes of moderate-intensity running increases local blood flow to the various loci in the bilateral prefrontal cortex —the part of the brain that plays an important role in controlling mood and executive functions.

New research reveals how our immune cells use the body’s fat stores to fight infection. The research could help develop new approaches to treating people with bacterial infections.

Recent cannabis use is linked to extremes of nightly sleep duration—less than 6 hours or more than 9 hours—reveals a study of a large representative sample of US adults, published online in the journal Regional Anesthesia & Pain Medicine.

Finally this week, work plays an active role in keeping the brain healthy and retaining cognitive abilities as we age, researchers report.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

With normal (top) and reduced SLK expression (bottom). Without SLK, dendrites branch less; moreover, the number of inhibitory synapses (green) decreases. Credit: Institut für Neuropathologie/Uni Bonn

Researchers have shed light on the function of the enzyme SLK for the development of nerve cells in the brain. Lack of the SLK protein results in less abundant dendrites. As a lack of SLK is apparent in many patients with epilepsy, the findings could pave the way for new treatments for those suffering from the neurological disorder.

Adults who experienced traumatic events, including abuse and household dysfunction, as children had an increased risk of developing neurological conditions later in life.

Researchers have designed new antibodies that might provide more effective treatment methods for Alzheimer’s disease. By designing antibodies that bind even to the smaller aggregates, or clumps, of the amyloid-beta protein, it may be possible to check the progress of the disease.

A new study traces the mechanisms that link environmental signals and our circadian clocks.

Adolescents can speed their recovery after a sport-related concussion and reduce their risk of experiencing protracted recovery if they engage in aerobic exercise within 10 days of getting injured, according to a new study.

A new study reports a reduction of atmospheric fine particulates and better air quality can reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and other dementias.

A team of researchers has partially solved the mystery of why some people are less naturally resistant to COVID-19 than others. In their paper published in the journal Science, the group describes their study of the interferon system and the role it plays in combating the SARS-CoV-2 virus.

Finally this week, researchers have identified a brain rhythm associated with emotional conflict that appears to be a biomarker for anxiety disorder.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Bacterial curli promotes the aggregation of α-synuclein through cross-seeding, which leads to mitochondrial stress and neurodegeneration. Credit: The University of Hong Kong

Growing evidence indicates that gut microbiota plays a critical role in regulating the progression of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease (PD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD), but the molecular mechanism underlying such microbe-host interaction is still unclear. Now a research team at the University of Hong Kong (HKU) has discovered that bacteria-derived curli amyloid fibril promotes neurodegeneration in the host. This new study provides direct evidence to suggest that bacteria can secrete proteins that form an amyloid fibril, which enters the host neurons and promotes protein aggregation and neurodegeneration. Inhibiting the ability of the bacteria to secrete such proteins may be a preventative treatment for neurodegenerative diseases. 

Unusual visual inspection of objects by infants 9 months of age and older is predictive of a later diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder (ASD), new research has found.

A team of scientists recently published intriguing research on a tiny, splinter-like brain implant that doctors can slide deep into the folds of the brain and use to restore both muscular control over and sensation from a paralysis patient’s limbs.

A new study has found a new way to look at brain networks using the mathematical notion of fractals, to convey communication patterns between different brain regions as people listened to a short story. 

An experimental gene therapy that involves injecting CRISPR therapy directly into visually impaired patients’ eyeballs has vastly improved most volunteers’ vision — even allowing some to see color more vividly than ever before.

Preliminary new findings are raising concerns about the long-term effect of mild COVID-19 infection on neurological health and cognition.

Use of menopausal hormone therapy (MHT, also known as hormone replacement therapy, HRT) is not associated with an increased risk of developing dementia, regardless of hormone type, dose, or duration, concludes a large UK study.

Recent research provides empirical evidence to show the brain’s predictive ability forms the basis for musical phrasing.

Memories of past events and experiences are what define us as who we are, and yet the ability to form these episodic memories declines with age, certain dementias, and brain injury. However, a new study shows that low frequency repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation—or rTMS—delivered over the left prefrontal cortex of the brain can improve memory performance by reducing the power of low frequency brain waves as memories form.

Finally this week, a new brain imaging study shows that the hippocampus is the brain’s storyteller, connecting separate, distant events into a single narrative.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Those who exercise regularly may lower their risk of developing anxiety by 60%, researchers report.

A study published in the journal Sleep shows that a deep neural network model can accurately predict the brain age of healthy patients based on electroencephalogram data recorded during an overnight sleep study, and EEG-predicted brain age indices display unique characteristics within populations with different diseases.

A new study reveals a correlation between instances of eye contact and higher levels of engagement during conversations.

Researchers have developed a deep learning-based method that can predict the possible onset of Alzheimer’s disease from brain images with an accuracy of over 99 per cent. The method was developed while analysing functional MRI images obtained from 138 subjects and performed better in terms of accuracy, sensitivity and specificity than previously developed methods.

Scientists in Japan have identified metabolic compounds within the blood that are associated with dementia.

New research published in Cortex provides evidence that a brain region known as the ventromedial prefrontal cortex contributes to cognitive biases in decision making. People with damage to this area of the brain often experience changes in personality and social behavior. But the new findings suggest that ventromedial prefrontal cortex damage can also make people more rational under some circumstances.

An immunological molecule called fractalkine can boost the production of brain cells that produce myelin, a key factor in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, according to recent research from the University of Alberta.

According to two studies conducted in Serbia during the COVID-19 lockdown, elite athletes and individuals who engaged in vigorous levels of exercise demonstrated the lowest psychological distress during this time. The findings, published in Frontiers in Psychology, further underscored the importance of adaptability, showing that athletes who reduced their training schedules during the early stages of lockdown showed lower distress than those who maintained them.

Finally this week, a new AI algorithm can predict the onset of Alzheimer’s disease with an accuracy of over 99% by analyzing fMRI brain scans.