Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image: di Domenico/Stem Cell Reports

A new study reveals a defective version of astrocytes may be linked to the build up of alpha synuclein and could spur Parkinson’s disease. The findings show the important role glial cells play in Parkinson’s and offers insights into new targets for therapies to fight the neurodegenerative disease.

A genome-wide analysis of nearly 45,000 people has identified 16 regions of DNA associated with epilepsy, 11 of which are newly identified.

Scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Cologne found when people crave specific foods, the brain releases more dopamine when they finally consume the item. The study reports the gastrointestinal tract is in constant contact with the brain and uses reward stimuli to control our desire for food.

Researchers have developed a method to determine the length of mutated genes associated with Huntington’s disease quickly and easily.

Men with dyslexia have altered structural connections between the thalamus and auditory cortex on the left side of the brain, new research published in Journal of Neuroscience reveals.

A new study reports when we retrieve information about visual objects, the brain first focuses on the core meaning and afterwards recalls specific details.

Researchers report that neuron loss in Alzheimer’s disease may not be such a bad thing. The study reveals the loss of neurons may be the result of a cell quality control mechanism attempting to protect the brain from the accumulation of malfunctioning neurons.

Neurofeedback training stimulates the cortical learning process and can help improve the sense of touch, a new study reveals.

Research led by stem cell scientists at Harvard University points to a potential new biomarker and drug target for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), a neurological disease that is extremely difficult to diagnose and treat.

Finally this week, researchers have identified over 500 genetic variants which affect the use of, and addiction to, alcohol and tobacco.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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How do neural networks in different brain areas communicate with each other? The Bernstein Center Freiburg proposes a new model.

Researchers propose a new model to help explain how the level of activity in neural networks influences the flow of information.

A neurofeedback system enables Parkinson’s disease patients to voluntarily control brainwaves associated with symptoms of the disorder, according to new research published in eNeuro.

One night of sleep loss can increase the desirability of junk foods, finds a study of healthy weight young men published in Journal of Neuroscience.

When two events occur within a brief window of time they become linked in memory, such that calling forth the memory of one helps retrieve memory for the other event, according to research published in Psychological Science. This happens even when temporal proximity is the only feature that the two events share.

Researchers have identified specific diffusible molecules that are essential for boundary formation in the brain.

Scientists report that neuron loss in Alzheimer’s disease may not be such a bad thing. The study reveals the loss of neurons may be the result of a cell quality control mechanism attempting to protect the brain from the accumulation of malfunctioning neurons.

A new study reveals passive exposure to foreign speech sounds over the course of several consecutive days helps enhance language learning.

People with Huntington’s disease who participated in intellectually stimulating activities had less brain atrophy than those with the disease who did not take up such activities.

Finally this week, boys with good motor skills are better problem-solvers than their less skillful peers, a new study from Finland shows. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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A new guideline for medical practitioners says they should recommend twice-weekly exercise to people with mild cognitive impairment to improve memory and thinking.

Researchers reveal Parkinson’s patients have more copies of mitochondrial DNA in the brain stem, leading to increased cell death within that area.

Musical training may enhance the ability to process speech in noisy settings, a new study shows.

A new study reveals the piriform cortex is able to archive long term memory, but requires instruction from the orbiotfrontal cortex to indicate the event is to be stored as a long-term memory.

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

Researchers have discovered a new biomarker that can help diagnose Huntington’s disease. They note the findings could result in the development of treatments to postpone neuron death in those who carry the Huntington’s gene mutation, but who do not currently show symptoms of the disease.

A new study reveals the superior temporal gyrus appears to be critical for voice recognition.

Researchers have identified several new genes responsible for Alzheimer’s disease (AD) including those leading to functional and structural changes in the brain and elevated levels of AD proteins in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

Finally this week, a new study adds to evidence that current clinical tools can fail to capture autism presentations in females.

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study finds those “earworm” songs that get stuck in our heads are usually faster, fairly generic and easier to remember, but with unique intervals that set them apart from ‘average’ pop songs.

Researchers have for the first time recorded how cells of the epidermis behave during the regrowth of adult limbs after amputation.

Proper communication between the left and right sides of the brain is critical for the development of advanced language skills, according to new research.

A team of researchers at TU Dresden has examined the underlying neural processes associated with short term task learning in a current imaging study. The results of the study are published today in Nature Communications.

A new study confirms that scanning a person’s brain with an fMRI is more accurate at picking up lies than a traditional polygraph test.

Contrary to popular belief, language is not limited to speech. A  recent study published in the journal PNAS, reveals that people also apply the rules of their spoken language to sign language.

Scientists at The University of Manchester have shown for the first time that if the brain is ‘tuned-in’ to a particular frequency, pain can be alleviated.

A new study appears to build on the previous research that suggests genetic mutations which affect mitochondria function could be critical to the development and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Meanwhile, researchers have also discovered a possible new treatment for the disease after noticing the way in which insulin signaling works in the brains and pancreas of diabetic patients; and in another study degeneration of the basal forebrain appears before cognitive and behavioural symptoms of Alzheimer’s occur.

Researchers were able to predict the orientation preference of individual neurons by adding up the responses of their dendritic spines, a new study reports.

Scientists have mapped what happens neurologically when new information influences a person to change his or her mind, a finding that offers more insight into the mechanics of learning.

The brain regulates social behaviour differently in males and females, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

A team of  researchers has uncovered new details about the biology of telomeres, “caps” of DNA that protect the tips of chromosomes and play key roles in a number of health conditions, including cancer, inflammation and aging.

A new study uses retinal prosthetics to assess the brain’s ability to process visual information years after blindness occurs.

People suffering medical conditions causing low levels of oxytocin perform worse on empathy tasks, according to new research. And a new measuring method has detected oxytocin at much higher rates in blood serum and plasma than researchers previously thought.

Researchers believe they may have pinpointed an area of the brain that plays a role in maintaining human consciousness.

Scientists have uncovered new details about how a repeating nucleotide sequence in the gene for a mutant protein may trigger Huntington’s disease and other neurological diseases.

Finally this  week, a new study reports context processing problems could help to explain some of the symptoms and neuroimaging findings associated with PTSD.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Regions with significant phoneme classification at the NoNoise condition for each group. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to the researchers/Nature Communications.

Researchers have pinpointed the specific part of the brain that older adults rely on to differentiate speech sounds in background noise, which could revolutionise the treatment of hearing loss.

New research has identified how cells protect themselves against ‘protein clumps’ known to be the cause of neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s disease.

Transcranial alternating current stimulation may help to improve memory when targeted to a specific kind of brain activity achieved during sleep.

Researchers in the US and Australia have made a breakthrough discovery in the international quest to discover a new and potentially effective vaccine targeting the pathological proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

A new study identifies different brain regions that become active when a strategy of categorisation is applied.

Researchers have developed a new machine learning system that analyses the entire human genome to predict which genes may cause autism spectrum disorder, raising the number of genes that could be linked to the disorder from 65 to 2,500.

Results from a study published in the online publication Nature Genetics finds 15 genomic regions that are significantly associated with a diagnosis of depression.

According to researchers, age related changes in the organization of neural networks when performing short term memory tasks may help to compensate for other aspects of brain aging.

Researchers report smoking related deficits in dopamine return to normal three months after quitting.

Genetic changes associated with Parkinson’s disease have been found in liver, fat, immune and developmental cells, a new study reports.

Brain imaging, twin studies and transcriptome data reveal genetic relationships between lobes.

Finally this week, a new study suggests regular physical activity may lead to greater hippocampal volume and could stave off dementia, especially in older people.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

This image from the study shows changes in degree of connectivity in the feedback group. Increases are shown in red/yellow and decreases in blue/purple. Decreases in connectivity are seen in limbic areas, and increases are seen in prefrontal regions. (Credit: D Scheinost et al./Yale University)

People provided with a real-time readout of activity in specific regions of their brains can learn to control that activity and lessen their anxiety, say Yale researchers.

A new study provides neurobiological evidence for dysfunction in the neural circuitry underlying emotion regulation in people with insomnia, which may have implications for the risk relationship between insomnia and depression.

Different brain areas are activated when we choose for ourselves to suppress an emotion, compared to situations where we are instructed to inhibit an emotion, according to a new study from the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience and Ghent University.

Migraines and depression can each cause a great deal of suffering, but new research indicates the combination of the two may be linked to something else entirely—a smaller brain.

The epigenetic modifications, which alter the way genes function without changing the underlying DNA sequence, can apparently be detected in the blood of pregnant women during any trimester, potentially providing a simple way to foretell depression in the weeks after giving birth, and an opportunity to intervene before symptoms become debilitating.

A three-year multinational study has tracked and detailed the progression of Huntington’s disease (HD), predicting clinical decline in people carrying the HD gene more than 10 years before the expected onset of symptoms.

Researchers have pinpointed a catalytic trigger for the onset of Alzheimer’s disease – when the fundamental structure of a protein molecule changes to cause a chain reaction that leads to the death of neurons in the brain.

Individuals who learn two languages at an early age seem to switch back and forth between separate “sound systems” for each language, according to new research conducted at the University of Arizona.

Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face. Now, researchers at NYU School of Medicine have explored for the first time what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD in the absence of external triggers.

And finally this week…

Listening to new music is rewarding for the brain, a study suggests. Using MRI scans, a Canadian team of scientists found that areas in the reward centre of the brain became active when people heard a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The study is published in the journal Science

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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The researchers monitored brain activity while playing volunteers new music

Listening to new music is rewarding for the brain, a study suggests. Using MRI scans, a Canadian team of scientists found that areas in the reward centre of the brain became active when people heard a song for the first time. The more the listener enjoyed what they were hearing, the stronger the connections were in the region of the brain called the nucleus accumbens. The study is published in the journal Science.

Meanwhile, an imaging study by Stanford University School of Medicine scientists reveals that the brains of different people listening to the same piece of music actually respond in the same way –  which may in part explain why music plays such a big role in our social existence.

Researchers have identified an important therapeutic target for alleviating the symptoms of Lou Gehrig’s disease, also known as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other related neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and Huntington’s disease.

In a study published in the online version of Neurobiology of Disease, the team both confirmed the importance of this new target as well as a series of compounds that can be used to attenuate the dysregulation of one of the important cellular processes that lead to and ultimately to .

Neuroscientists have developed a method of analyzing brain activity to detect autism in children. Their findings appear in the online journal PLOS ONE.

Slow oscillations in brain activity, which occur during so-called slow-wave sleep, are critical for retaining memories. Researchers reporting online in the Cell Press journal Neuron have found that playing sounds synchronized to the rhythm of the slow brain oscillations of people who are sleeping enhances these oscillations and boosts their memory. This demonstrates an easy and noninvasive way to influence human brain activity to improve sleep and enhance memory.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A run of poor sleep can have a potentially profound effect on the internal workings of the human body, say UK researchers.

As a bird sings, some neurons in its brain prepare to make the next sounds while others are synchronized with the current notes—a coordination of physical actions and brain activity that is needed to produce complex movements, new research at the University of Chicago shows. In an article in the current issue of Nature, neuroscientist Daniel Margoliash and colleagues show, for the first time, how the brain is organized to govern skilled performance—a finding that may lead to new ways of understanding human speech production.

Deep brain stimulation has helped people with severe obsessive-compulsive disorder, and new research begins to explain why. A Dutch study appearing in the Feb. 24 online issue of the journal Nature Neuroscience found the procedure essentially restored normal function in a part of the brain called the nucleus accumbens.

Researchers have identified a possible treatment window of several years for plaques in the brain that are thought to cause memory loss in diseases such as Alzheimer’s. The Mayo Clinic study is published in the Feb. 27 online issue of Neurology.

Though it’s most often associated with disorders like diabetes, Harvard researchers have shown how the signaling pathway of insulin and insulin-like peptides plays another critical role in the body – helping to regulate learning and memory.

Researchers in Scotland and Germany have discovered a molecular mechanism that shows promise for developing a cure for Huntington’s Disease (HD).

Some people do not learn from their mistakes because of the way their brain works, according to research led by an academic at Goldsmiths, University of London. The research examined what it is about the brain that defines someone as a ‘good learner’ from those who do not learn from their mistakes.

Scientists from the University of Oxford say they have discovered how the brain protects itself from damage that occurs in stroke.

A team of French researchers has discovered that the human brain is capable of distinguishing between different types of syllables as early as three months prior to full term birth. 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A bird listening to birdsong may experience some of the same emotions as a human listening to music, suggests a new study on white-throated sparrows, published in Frontiers of Evolutionary Neuroscience.

Scientists at University College Cork (UCC) have come up with an innovative strategy to deliver a therapy into the brain to treat the neurogenerative disease, Huntington’s disease (HD). The strategy, which involves using modified sugars to carry gene therapies into the brain, is being hailed as an exciting development which could be applied to many brain disorders, especially those with a genetic basis.

Researchers have used brain imaging technology to show that young people with a known genetic risk of bipolar but no clinical signs of the condition have clear and quantifiable differences in brain activity when compared to controls.

Scientists have identified a previously unknown group of nerve cells in the brain. The nerve cells regulate cardiovascular functions such as heart rhythm and blood pressure. It is hoped that the discovery, which is published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, will be significant in the long term in the treatment of cardiovascular diseases in humans.

Scientists say they have found a way to distinguish between different types of dementia without the need for invasive tests, like a lumbar puncture.

Scientists at the University of Western Ontario have discovered that perhaps IQ is not the best measure of cognitive performance. Instead, they found that verbal language, short-term memory, and logical reasoning were the most important predictors of cognitive performance.

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