How To Vaccinate Yourself Against Depression #WorldMentalHealthDay

World-Mental-Health-Day-10th-October-2016Depression 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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People who played action video games that involve first-person shooters experienced shrinkage in a brain region called the hippocampus, according to a study published in Molecular Psychiatry. That part of the brain is associated with spatial navigation, stress regulation and memory. Playing Super Mario games, in which the plumber strives to rescue a princess, had the opposite effect on the hippocampus, causing growth in it.

Researchers have revealed a helpful strategy to help those with cognitive problems to improve their memory.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

A new study reports cognitive abilities mutually assist each other during development. This results in improved cognitive skills and general intelligence over time.

A sleeping brain can form fresh memories, according to a team of neuroscientists. The researchers played complex sounds to people while they were sleeping, and afterward the sleepers could recognize those sounds when they were awake.

Researchers report social norms together with increasing oxytocin can counter xenophobia by enhancing altruistic behaviors.

A new Johns Hopkins University study adds further evidence to the link between serotonin and dementia. According to researchers, lower serotonin levels may play a key role in memory decline and drive the progression of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers have devised a new odor identification test that could help doctors predict those at risk of Alzheimer’s and track the progression of the disease.

Finally this week, a new study reveals a neurobiological reason behind why we feel happy when we are being generous. Researchers discovered the connectivity between the temporal parietal junction and ventral striatum, an area of the brain associated with happiness, was enhanced in people who committed to generosity.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Brain scans from a 38-year-old, left, and a 73-year-old. 

Researchers are embarking on a new study to answer how some people are able to stay sharper than others as they age.

Neurons in the brain that produce the pleasure-signaling neurotransmitter dopamine also directly control the brain’s circadian center, or “body clock” – the area that regulates eating cycles, metabolism and waking/resting cycles – a key link that possibly affects the body’s ability to adapt to jet lag and rotating shift work, a new study has demonstrated.

A molecule produced by insulating glial cells facilitates the functional wiring of brain cells involved in motor coordination.

Using the latest MRI scanning procedures, a team of researchers has shown how certain disorders of the hippocampus can initiate a drug resistant epilepsy. The team has discovered biomarkers that – if used for screening – could massively improve treatment options for epilepsy. The researchers have published their results in the online journal eLife.

A new study reveals the role circular RNA plays in brain function, including synaptic transmission and sensorimotor gating.

Depression has been shown to alter the structure of the brain’s white matter, which contains the circuitry that allows brain cells to communicate with each other, and which underpins brain function.

According to a new Nature study, in order for our taste system to work, the connection between neurons and taste bud cells have to rewire correctly each time.

A new optogenetic method called Optobow is helping researchers to discover specific and individual components of functional neural networks in the living brain. A Nature Communications report states this new method can help provide more detailed insights into both brain function and structure.

A neuroimaging study reveals people who report widespread pain have increased gray matter and functional connectivity in sensory and motor areas of the brain.

Finally this week, a large scale SPECT imaging study reveals women’s brains are significantly more active in more regions than males, including the prefronal cortex and limbic areas. Visual and areas associated with coordination were more active in males, researchers noted.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Thousands of branches and branchlets emanate from an astrocyte’s cell body, which is the dense portion in the middle of the image.

A new study published in Neuron challenges the idea that astrocytes across the brain are largely identical.

Researchers have identified a new protein, CIB2, that is key to helping the auditory system to turn soundwaves into meaningful brain signals. Mutations of this gene leave people unable to convert the soundwaves into signals that the brain can interpret, and are deaf.

The more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life, a large-scale online trial has found.

How short-term memories become long-term ones has frequently been explored by researchers. While a definitive answer remains elusive, scientists conclude that this transformation is best explained by a “temporal hierarchy” of “time windows” that collectively alter the state of the brain.

Greater muscle strength is associated with better cognitive function in ageing men and women, according to a new Finnish study.

Researchers at King’s College London have identified a molecular mechanism that allows neural connections to adapt as a result of experience. This adaptation fuels our ability for memory and learning.

Researchers have developed a concept called Empowerment to help robots and humans to work and live side-by-side safely and effectively.

A study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has identified a new potential mechanism contributing to the biology of the disorder that may be targeted by future treatments.

A new study reveals those who die at 100 tend to suffer from fewer diseases than those who die at younger ages.

A new paper identifies 100 of the most cited neuroscience research papers. Of these papers, 78 focus on five topics. According to the authors of the paper, the most cited neuroscience research topics include the prefrontal cortex, neural connectivity, methodology, brain mapping and neurological disorders. The findings could have significant impact for future neuroscience studies.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

The same mechanisms that quickly separate mixtures of oil and water are at play when controlling the organization in an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study.

New research has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.

Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala may help explain a person’s preference for uncertain outcomes, as well as a preference for order and certainty, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to new research.

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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Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol are a step closer to understanding how the connections in our brain which control our episodic memory work in sync to make some memories stronger than others. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected division of memory function in the pathways between two areas of the brain, and suggest that certain subnetworks within the brain work separately, to enhance the distinctiveness of memories.

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

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn’t blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the brain works extra hard to stabilize our vision despite our fluttering eyes.

Our personality traits are linked to differences in the thickness and volume of various parts of our brains, an international study has suggested.

Researchers have found significant differences in the brains of teens with bipolar disorder that attempt to take their lives over those with the disorder who have never attempted suicide.

Women with lower estrogen levels may be more susceptible to developing PTSD according to new research.

A new study raises the question of whether a genetic mutation associated with neurodegeneration in one environment could act in a positive way in a different setting.

Researchers report early indicators of depression and anxiety may be evident in the brain from birth.

A cutting edge, non-invasive brain stimulation technique could improve cognitive control for people with conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

A new computerized ‘mirror game’ has been shown to give more accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia than clinical interviews.

A new study reports on how a single instance of extreme stress can lead to long term neurological changes and trauma.

Social difficulties in people with autism are exacerbated by how other people perceive them at first meeting, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers have revealed regions of the brain implicated in delusional misidentification syndromes.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Our brain’s changing structure, not simply getting older and wiser, most affects our attitudes to risk, according to new research.

A new study from Center for Music in the Brain (MIB) Aarhus University/The Royal Academy of Music, Denmark, published in Scientific Reports, shows that participants receiving oxytocin – a hormone known to promote social bonding – are more synchronized when finger-tapping together, than participants receiving placebo. This effect was observed when pairs of participants, placed in separate rooms tapped together in a leader/follower relationship.

Researchers have identified a population of neurons that appear to be responsible for muscle paralysis during REM sleep.

A team of scientists has mapped out how our brains process visuals we don’t even know we’ve seen, indicating that the neuronal encoding and maintenance of subliminal images is more substantial than previously thought.

Mutations of the GBA gene, a known risk factor for Parkinson’s disease, appear to also influence the development of cognitive decline, a new study reports.

Women and men look at faces and absorb visual information in different ways, which suggests there is a gender difference in understanding visual cues, according to a team of scientists.

A new neuroimaging study finds iron is distributed in an unusual way in the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease.

Scientists have discovered for the first time that the rhythm of breathing creates electrical activity in the human brain that enhances emotional judgements and memory recall.

A new study reveals sleep could be used as an early prevention strategy against PTSD.

Finally this week, researchers discover metaphors that involve body parts such as arms or legs, such as ‘twist my arm, engage a brain region responsible for the visual perception of those parts.

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

band-691224_960_720.jpgIt may be possible to categorise the brain strategies used by professional musicians based on how they prioritise sight vs. sound when learning to play new music, according to a new study.

When we are in a deep sleep our brain’s activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It’s hard to miss. Now, Stanford researchers have found, those same cycles exist in wake as in sleep, but with only small sections sitting and standing in unison rather than the entire stadium. It’s as if tiny portions of the brain are independently falling asleep and waking back up all the time.

Researchers report the hippocampus isn’t just important for remembering past events, it also plays a vital role in future planning.

According to a new study, the brain blocks the ability for creating new memories shortly after waking in order to prevent the disruption of the stabilisation of memory consolidation that occurs during sleep.

Patients with depression can be categorised into four unique sub-types defined by distinct patterns of abnormal connectivity in the brain, according to new research.

The inability to hear subtle changes in pitch, a common and debilitating problem for people with schizophrenia, is due to dysfunctional N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) brain receptors, according to a study by Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers. The study also shows that this hearing issue can be improved by combining auditory training exercises with a drug that targets NMDA receptors.

Researchers report abnormal activation in areas that respond to normal pain when a person with CRPS witnesses another person experience painful stimuli.

A new study has revealed the way that the brain handles the often noisy environments found on this planet, with the results explaining why animals, including humans, can easily cope with both the still and quiet of early-morning parks to the bustle and hubbub of cafés and streets. The researchers discovered that as auditory neurons become more familiar with a sound environment, they speed up their adaption to the noisiness of that environment.

The human brain is predisposed to learn negative stereotypes, according to research that offers clues as to how prejudice emerges and spreads through society.

Finally this week, researchers have conducted the first study of its kind, using proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) to look at brain regions in both adults and children who stutter.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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People have a remarkable ability to remember and recall events from the past, even when those events didn’t hold any particular importance at the time they occurred. Now, researchers reporting in the journal Current Biology on November 23 have evidence that dogs have this kind of “episodic memory” too.

PET imaging of new neurons in the brain promises to advance our understanding and treatment of depression.

Research from Mayo Clinic included in the November issue of JAMA Neurology identifies a new biomarker for brain and spinal cord inflammation, allowing for faster diagnosis and treatment of patients.

The amount of GABA in person’s dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is linked the ability to keep several things in mind simultaneously. to new research.

A new study offers important insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins within the brain. The researchers found a relationship between inflammation, a toxic protein and the onset of the disease. The study also identified a way that doctors can detect early signs of Alzheimer’s by looking at the back of patients’ eyes.

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.

In a cross-domain study, researchers have discovered unexpected cells in the protective membranes that enclose the brain, the so called meninges. These ‘neural progenitors’ – or stem cells that differentiate into different kinds of neurons – are produced during embryonic development. These findings show that the neural progenitors found in the meninges produce new neurons after birth – highlighting the importance of meningeal tissue as well as these cells’ potential in the development of new therapies for brain damage or neurodegeneration. A paper highlighting the results was published in the leading scientific journal Cell Stem Cell.

A new study reports that a single stressful event may cause long term consequences in the brain.

Researchers have identified previously unknown neural circuitry that plays a role in promoting satiety, the feeling of having had enough to eat. The discovery revises the current models for homeostatic control — the mechanisms by which the brain maintains the body’s status quo — of feeding behaviour. Published online today in Nature Neuroscience, the findings offer new insight into the regulation of hunger and satiety and could help researchers find solutions to the ongoing obesity epidemic.

Finally this week, learning by taking practice tests, a strategy known as retrieval practice, can protect memory against the negative effects of stress, according to new research.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Heading a football can significantly affect a player’s brain function and memory for 24 hours, a study has found.

Researchers have successfully transplanted embryonic neurons into damaged neural networks, a new study reports.

Scientists have identified for the first time the region in the brain responsible for the “placebo effect” in pain relief.

Results from a new clinical study conducted suggest that curtailing sleep alters the abundance of bacterial gut species that have previously been linked to compromised human metabolic health.

A new imaging technique that creates 3-D video of serotonin transport could aid antidepressant development.

Researchers have identified the cause of chronic, and currently untreatable, pain in those with amputations and severe nerve damage, as well as a potential treatment which relies on engineering instead of drugs.

A new study could explain why the ‘one size fits all’ approach to treating depression has been ineffective.

Using optogenetics to activate dopamine receptors in the ventral tegmental area could help people regain consciousness following general anesthesia, researchers report.

We all know that as we age, our skin loses its firmness and elasticity. However, researchers have now discovered our brains may also lose its elasticity as we age.

Researchers have identified a common culprit that may cause damage in stoke, brain injury and neurodegenerative disease.

Finally this week, A new study provides the first empirical evidence that self-serving lies gradually escalate and reveals how this happens in our brains.