Weekly Neuroscience Update

Researchers have taken another step forward in developing an artificial intelligence tool to predict schizophrenia by analyzing brain scans.

COVID-19 may not directly infect the brain, but the virus is still capable of causing significant neurological damage, a new study reports. Researchers say the neurological changes seen as a result of coronavirus infection are likely related to inflammation triggered by viral infection in different parts of the body or the brain’s blood vessels.

Stroke risk for patients with traumatic brain injuries is at its highest in the four months following injury and remains significant for up to five years post-injury, finds a new systematic review.

A new blood test can distinguish the severity of a person’s depression and their risk for developing severe depression at a later point. The test can also determine if a person is at risk for developing bipolar disorder. Researchers say the blood test can also assist in tailoring individual options for therapeutic interventions.

Light therapy which consists of exposure to both controlled natural light and artificial lighting may be a new tool in the treatment of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease.

Researchers link the inflammation associated with chronic sinus infections to alterations in brain activity in networks that govern cognition, external stimuli, and introspection. The findings shed light on why people suffering from sinus infections often report poor concentration and other short-term cognitive problems.

A new study recently published in eNeuro lays the groundwork for more detailed research on how humans hear in dynamic environments.

When people make eye contact with another person, their attention is immediately solicited and this causes a distortion in temporal perception. However, the shift in time perception does not change when people glance at non-social items or objects according to new research.

Sharing our personal experiences on social media may negatively impact how we feel about our memories, especially if the post doesn’t get many likes, a new study reports.

New research has shed light on how autism-spectrum disorder (ASD) manifests in the brains of girls, prompting the scientists to warn that conclusions drawn from studies conducted primarily in boys should not be assumed to hold true for girls.

Finally this week, a shared set of systems in the brain may play an important role in controlling the retrieval of facts and personal memories utilised in everyday life, new research shows.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

Communication between the brain’s auditory and reward circuits is the reason why humans find music rewarding, according to new research published in Journal of Neuroscience.

Multilingual people have trained their brains to learn languages, making it easier to acquire more new languages after mastering a second or third. In addition to demystifying the seemingly herculean genius of multilinguals, researchers say these results provide some of the first neuroscientific evidence that language skills are additive, a theory known as the cumulative-enhancement model of language acquisition.

A new whole-genome sequencing study has revealed thirteen novel genes associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers also found a new link between Alzheimer’s and synaptic function.

For people with Parkinson’s disease, problems with thinking and memory skills are among the most common nonmotor symptoms of the disease. A new study shows that exercise may help slow cognitive decline for some people with the disease.

Computer scientists have created a ground-breaking model that could improve our understanding of developmental disorders such as autism.

Researchers have succeeded for the first time in measuring brain waves directly via a cochlear implant. These brainwaves indicate in an objective way how good or bad a person’s hearing is. The research results are important for the further development of smart hearing aids.

New research suggests that chronic viral infections have a profound and lasting impact on the human immune system in ways that are similar to those seen during aging.

A study of Japanese university students and recent graduates has revealed that writing on physical paper can lead to more brain activity when remembering the information an hour later. Researchers say that the unique, complex, spatial and tactile information associated with writing by hand on physical paper is likely what leads to improved memory.

Finally this week, a new study confirms that the processing of visual information is altered in depressed people, a phenomenon most likely linked with the processing of information in the cerebral cortex.

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Illustration of a hand action in typically developed individuals and a foot action in individuals with dysplasia. A network in frontal and parietal areas, shown in yellow-orange, prefer a specific action type, regardless of the acting body part. Credit: Yuqi Liu, PhD

 

A new study of reaching and grasping with hand or food reveals novel brain insights. 

Researchers have discovered a new mechanism by which clumps of tau protein are created in the brain, killing brain cells and causing Alzheimer’s disease.

New research reveals a single brain region links depression and anxiety, heart disease and treatment sensitivity. 

A Danish study shows that people doing hard physical work have a 55-percent higher risk of developing dementia than those doing sedentary work.

A new theory suggests electromagnetic energy in the brain enables neurons and brain regions to create consciousness and our ability to critically think.

Brain cell dysfunction in low oxygen is, caused by the very same responder system that is intended to be protective, according to a new published study.

A new study reveals a correlation between multimedia multitasking, memory loss, and difficulties in maintaining attention.

A recent study reveals how gene control mechanisms define the identity of developing neurons in the brainstem. The researchers also showed that a failure in differentiation of the brainstem neurons leads to behavioural abnormalities, including hyperactivity and attention deficit.

The decline of striosomal activity in the brain may explain why people lose the motivation to learn as they age.

Finally this week, researchers have shown how a genetic mutation throws off the timing of the biological clock, causing a common sleep syndrome called delayed sleep phase disorder.

 

 

 

How To “Vaccinate” Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

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

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

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

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

Treatment is available and recovery is possible.

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

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

The importance of the frontal lobe in depression

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

Wisconsin Study

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

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

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

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Researchers argue COVID-19 should be considered as an inflammatory disease as the severity of the infection is associated with a dysregulation of the inflammatory immune response.

Cortical thickness and regional brain connectivity pay an equally important role in linking brain and behavior.

Adolescents and adults whose mothers experienced depression, either during pregnancy or shortly after, had a 70% increased risk of being diagnosed with depression.

A research team has concluded that personal perception can be an important indicator for the early detection of Alzheimer’s disease. 

A pair of recently published studies add to our growing understanding of how fine particle pollution — the tiny, inhalable pollutants from cars and power plants — impacts our brains.

Scientists have discovered that humans use the visual part of their brain when processing sounds in the dark, even if they have never had sight in their lifetime.

A team of researchers has released new findings in Translational Psychiatry in an effort to better comprehend how gene expression associated with inflammation may be used to establish people with depressive disorders who are responsive to drug treatments.

Finally this week, new research shows that a patient’s pupils can reveal if they have suffered a traumatic experience in the past.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Brain regions where symptoms of depression and anxiety were associated with decreased opioid receptor availability. Image is credited to Lauri Nummenmaa

New research reveals how the brain’s opioid system is linked to mood changes associated with depression and anxiety. Neuroimaging revealed, in those with depression, there is a decreased number of opioid receptors in specific areas of the brain.

Chandelier cells have an unusual direct method of communication. Unlike other neurons, chandelier cells connect directly to the part of a target neuron that initiates a spike.

Using optogenetics, researchers were able to manipulate oxytocin producing cells in a highly precise manner. They discovered oxytocin can amplify aggression as well as social friendliness.

Some coronavirus patients exhibit clinical and neurochemical signs of brain injury associated with the viral infection. 

When it comes to processing information about motion, neurons in the ventral intraparietal area of the brain are more flexible in switching between reference frames. The findings could be used to develop neural prosthetics designed for motion control.

The suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population according to a study published in the journal Schizophrenia Research.

Repetitive negative thinking in those aged over 55 is associated with an increased risk of cognitive decline and deposition of proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers have identified a specific, front-line defense that limits the infection to the olfactory bulb and protects the neurons of the olfactory bulb from damage due to the infection.

A new study offers clues to how neurons can rewire and restore pathways following injury or illness.

Older men who have a weak or irregular circadian rhythm guiding their daily cycles of rest and activity are more likely to later develop Parkinson’s disease, according to a new study.

Finally this week, a team of researchers has created a new technology that enhances scientists’ ability to communicate with neural cells using light.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image showing a map of the brain surface showing regions that preferentially activate during face (blue) and scene (red) identification. Image is credited to Oscar Woolnough, PhD, postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Neurosurgery at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth in Houston.

A new study reveals areas of brain where recognition and identification occur.

Researchers have identified a hippocampal neural network that activates during stress. Activity in a hippocampal-hypothalamus network predicts greater feelings of stress, while connectivity between the hippocampus and dorsolateral prefrontal cortex predicts less stress.

Researchers have identified27 protein biomarkers that can predict whether a patient with COVID-19 is likely to develop severe coronavirus symptoms.

While the amount of antibodies generated varies widely in patients who have recovered from coronavirus, most people generate at least some antibodies which are intrinsically capable of neutralizing the SARS-CoV-2 virus according to a new study.

Twenty-nine genes have now been identified as being linked to problematic alcohol use. 

Toxic versions of the protein tau are believed to cause death of neurons of the brain in Alzheimer’s disease. A new study published in Nature Communications shows that the spread of toxic tau in the human brain in elderly individuals may occur via connected neurons. The researchers could see that beta-amyloid facilitates the spread of toxic tau.

Certain personality traits could increase the risk of developing mild cognitive impairment, a new study reports.

The anesthetic drug ketamine has been shown, in low doses, to have a rapid effect on difficult-to-treat depression. Researchers at Karolinska Institutet now report that they have identified a key target for the drug: specific serotonin receptors in the brain. Their findings, which are published in Translational Psychiatry, give hope of new, effective antidepressants.

Finally this week, a new study shows some infants can identify differences in musical tones at six months.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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It’s never too late to lace up your sneakers for brain health, according to a study published in the May 13, 2020, online issue of Neurology. The study suggests older adults, even couch potatoes, may perform better on certain thinking and memory tests after just six months of aerobic exercise.

A new case study reveals a link between COVID-19 and clotting in blood vessels in the brain that results in an increased risk of ischemic stroke.

Rhythm begins in the womb and the heartbeat. And recent findings in neuroscience reveal that for the rest of our lives, rhythm will continue to have a fundamental impact on our ability to walk, talk — and even love.

Researchers studying the structure of the virus that causes COVID-19 have found a unique feature that could explain why it is so transmissible between people.

Recovered coronavirus patients show a wide range of immune responses following the infection, with about half from a current study showing sustained antibodies two weeks later. Results indicate which parts of the virus are most effective at triggering the immune responses.

Neuroscientists have identified memory cells that help us interpret new situations.

The strength of a person’s mental imagery is associated with excitability in the prefrontal cortex and visual cortex. Highly excitable neurons in the visual cortex may reduce a person’s ability to imagine mental images.

Finally this week, after studying global data from the COVID-19 pandemic, researchers have discovered a strong correlation between severe vitamin D deficiency and mortality rates.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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In a new study, researchers identified the most common characteristics of 85 COVID-19 patients who died in Wuhan, China in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. The study reports on commonalities of the largest group of coronavirus patient deaths to be studied to date.

Abnormal blood clotting contributes to death in some patients with severe COVID-19 infections.

A newly developed blood test for Alzheimer’s disease measures a specific variant of the tau protein. Early results show the test has a good capacity to distinguish Alzheimer’s disease from other tauopathies.

New findings support the theory that impaired prefrontal control of the dopamine system is a key mechanism for the development of schizophrenia.

Researchers report that in depressed individuals there are increased amounts of an unmodified structural protein, called tubulin, in lipid rafts — fatty sections of a cell membrane — compared with non-depressed individuals.

A new genetics test for COVID-19 has been developed by an international team of researchers. 

Genetic variability in the human immune system may affect susceptibility to, and severity of infection by severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the virus responsible for the coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

Researchers have developed a new approach to prevent amyloid plaque formation by engineering a nanodevice that captures the peptides before they can assemble.

A new study puts into question conventional belief that the eyes communicate with the brain exclusively via one signaling pathway. Researchers have identified a subset of retinal neurons that sends inhibitory signals to the brain. This subset of neurons is also involved in the synchronization of circadian rhythms to light/dark cycles and pupil constriction to bright light intensity.

Finally, this week, a new study sheds light on the role brain insulin plays in weight and visceral fat accumulation.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A holographic image of the human brain. The image is credited to Case Western Reserve.

Researchers have used the HoloLense software to create an interactive holographic mapping system for axonal pathways in the human brain.

Does Parkinson’s disease (PD) start in the brain or the gut? In a new contribution published in the Journal of Parkinson’s Disease, scientists hypothesize that PD can be divided into two subtypes: gut-first, originating in the peripheral nervous system (PNS) of the gut and spreading to the brain; and brain-first, originating in the brain, or entering the brain via the olfactory system, and spreading to the brainstem and peripheral nervous system.

In the largest study of its kind, researchers identified similarities in the brain activity of people with major depressive disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, bipolar disorder, and anxiety disorders.

A new theory, inspired by thermodynamics, takes a high-level perspective of how neural networks in the brain transiently organize to give rise to memories, thought and consciousness.

For the first time, researchers have extracted and isolated amyloid beta (Aβ) fibrils from the brains of three people who had died of Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study has revelled that deep sleep restores the medial prefrontal cortex mechanisms that restore emotion. This lowers emotional and physiological reactivity, preventing the escalation of stress and anxiety.

The largest brain imaging study of its kind may have found the reason why people with anxiety and mood disorders so often feel unable to escape negative thoughts and emotions.

Finally this week, researchers have now developed a novel computational approach to accelerate finding optimal stimuli, by building deep artificial neural networks that can accurately predict the neural responses produced by a biological brain to arbitrary visual stimuli.