Weekly Neuroscience Update

Newly formed emotional memories can be erased from the human brain. This is shown by researchers from Uppsala University in a new study now being published by the academic journal Science. The findings may represent a breakthrough in research on memory and fear.

A growing body of research shows that children who suffer severe neglect and social isolation have cognitive and social impairments as adults. A study from Boston Children’s Hospital shows, for the first time, how these functional impairments arise: Social isolation during early life prevents the cells that make up the brain’s white matter from maturing and producing the right amount of myelin, the fatty “insulation” on nerve fibers that helps them transmit long-distance messages within the brain.

People with psychopathic tendencies have an impaired sense of smell, which points to inefficient processing in the front part of the brain [orbitofrontal cortex]. These findings by Mehmet Mahmut and Richard Stevenson, from Macquarie University in Australia, are published online in Springer’s journal Chemosensory Perception.

According to new research of MRI scans of children’s appetite and pleasure centers in their brains, the logos of such fast-food giants as McDonald’s, Pizza Hut, and Burger King causes those areas to “light up”.

New signs of future Alzheimer’s disease have been identified by researchers at Lund University and Skane University in Sweden. Dr. Peder Buchhave and his team explain that disease-modifying treatments are more beneficial if started early, so it is essential identify Alzheimer’s disease patients as quickly as possible.

A new study from MIT neuroscientists sheds light on a neural circuit that makes us likelier to remember what we’re seeing when our brains are in a more attentive state.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Scientists have discovered that older honey bees effectively reverse brain aging when they take on nest responsibilities typically handled by much younger bees. While current research on human age-related dementia focuses on potential new drug treatments, researchers say these findings suggest that social interventions may be used to slow or treat age-related dementia.

Although many areas of the human brain are devoted to social tasks like detecting another person nearby, a new study has found that one small region carries information only for decisions during social interactions. Specifically, the area is active when we encounter a worthy opponent and decide whether to deceive them.

Scientists tracked brain activity in 40 people with new back injuries and found a pattern of activity that could predict — with 85% accuracy — which patients were destined to develop chronic pain and which weren’t.

Scientists have discovered a mechanism which stops the process of forgetting anxiety after a stress event. In experiments they showed that feelings of anxiety don’t subside if too little dynorphin is released into the brain. The results can help open up new paths in the treatment of trauma patients.

Research published in Neuron reveals that underdevelopment of an impulse control center in the brain is, at least in part, the reason children who fully understand the concept of fairness fail to act accordingly.

Researchers are developing a robotic system with ability to predict the specific action or movement that they should perform when handling an object.

The widely used diabetes drug metformin comes with a rather unexpected and  side effect: it encourages the growth of new neurons in the brain.

Researchers have long been interested in discovering the ways that human brains represent thoughts through a complex interplay of electrical signals. Recent improvements in brain recording and statistical methods have given researchers unprecedented insight into the physical processes under-lying thoughts. For example, researchers have begun to show that it is possible to use brain recordings to reconstruct aspects of an image or movie clip someone is viewing, a sound someone is hearing or even the text someone is reading.

A new brain scanner has been developed to help people who are completely paralysed speak by enabling them to spell words using their thoughts.

Easing the pain of migraine attacks

Dr Chad Beyer

Welcome to Part Three of this series on migraine attacks. Today, I am stepping into the world of guest blogging and am delighted to host Inside The Brain’s first guest blogger – Dr Chad Beyer, who explains how the race is on to discover better and safer drugs to diminish migraine pain and prevent future attacks.  

If you belong to the 1 in 4 households in theUnited States or the 11% of the world who suffer from acute migraines, you have about a 50/50 chance of being prescribed a “triptan” or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as aspirin.  Unfortunately for patients, both treatment options are routinely accompanied by severe safety liabilities.  Most people are probably aware of the gastrointestinal and cardiovascular side-effects associated with NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors – if you are not, just Google Vioxx or Celebrex!

Collectively, the triptans (exemplified by sumatriptan) are not a squeaky clean class of molecules either and bring with them potential cardiovascular liabilities that make them contraindicated in roughly 20% of migraineurs who are also diagnosed with high blood pressure, angina and several other cardiovascular-related events.  This is due to the non-specific vasoconstriction induced by triptans – which is great in the middle cerebral and meningeal arteries where migraines are suspected to occur but notsomuch in other arteries within the cardiovascular, pulmonary and renal systems.

Therefore, despite the marked advances in our understanding of the complex biology of migraines (i.e., the vasoconstriction and neuropeptide (CGRP) hypotheses) and the discovery of a variety of prescription medicines used to manage the clinical symptoms (the triptans), there remain considerable unmet needs requiring a focused eye towards improving both the efficacy and safety profile of future migraine treatments.

Although commercially-available triptans only work in about 40% of migraine patients, they continue to be the market leader used to combat migraine.  My opinion is that not all migraines are created equal and if you have found a treatment strategy (e.g., a triptan) that works well for you and one that you can tolerate – then by all means, keep doing what you are doing!

However, there is clear evidence that exists to support the discovery and development of therapies designed to work by a novel mechanism to treat migraine.  We (and other companies focused on this problem) are excited about the possibility to bring to the world a novel medication that demonstrates superior safety and possibly efficacy for the millions of patients suffering from acute migraine.  To find out more about our treatment approach for migraine and our company, please visit arielpharma.com to learn more.

For additional information on the prevalence of migraine, current treatment options or to read patient testimonials, the following websites are an excellent starting point:

www.migraineresearchfoundation.org

www.headaches.org

 

Read the first two parts of this series:

The Anatomy Of A Migraine Attack (Part One)

What Happens During A Migraine Attack (Part Two)