Weekly Neuroscience Update

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A new study reports the neurons that focus on coarse visual details could change to prefer finer details under different conditions. The findings shed new light on the neural mechanism that helps shape our perception of the world.

The most comprehensive genomic analysis of the human brain ever undertaken has revealed new insights into the changes it undergoes through development, how it varies among individuals and the roots of neuropsychiatric illnesses such as autism spectrum disorders and schizophrenia.

Researchers have identified a new role for the cerebellum. Rather than just helping to control muscle activity, the cerebellum may also play a critical role in cognitive functions.

When parents play with their child, their brains show similar bursts of brain activity. The activity is linked to their baby’s attention patterns, and not their own, researchers report.

We know a good meal can stimulate the release of the feel-good hormone dopamine, and now a study from the Max Planck Institute for Metabolism Research in Germany suggests that dopamine release in the brain occurs at two different times: at the time the food is first ingested and another once the food reaches the stomach.

A new multi-site brain imaging study shows that sub-groups of people use their brains differently when imitating emotional faces – a task that reflects their ability to interact socially.

Finally, this week, according to researchers, Botulinum toxin, or Botox, injections can help to reduce the frequency of chronic migraines.

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

 

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Credit: Herz et. al./Brown University

new study provides the first direct evidence that within each person, smell sensitivity varies over the course of each day. The pattern, according to the data, tracks with the body’s internal day-night cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Researchers have revealed the neural signatures for explicit and implicit learning.

Neuroscientists have discovered precisely where and how to electrically stimulate the human brain to enhance people’s recollection of distinct memories. People with epilepsy who received low-current electrical pulses showed a significant improvement in their ability to recognize specific faces and ignore similar ones.

Adults likely do not develop ADHD, according to new research.

Researchers propose a new theory of memory formation, reporting memory storage does not rely on the strengthening of connection between memory cells, but on the pattern of connections that form within the first few minutes of an event.

A new Finnish study shows that individual circadian preference is associated with brain activity patterns during the night.

According to researchers, the size, shape and number of dendritic spines in the brain may determine whether a person develops Alzheimer’s disease.

Finally this week, migraine triggers can increase oxidative stress, a new study reports. Targeting oxidative stress may help to prevent migraines.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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image is credited to McGill University. Philippe Albouy

A new study reveals people showed improvements in auditory memory when transcranial magnetic stimulation was applied.

The part of the brain that creates mental maps of one’s environment plays a much broader role in memory and learning than was previously thought, according to new research published this week in the journal Nature by researchers at Princeton University.

Researchers have developed new tests to help quantify automatic moral and empathetic judgement.

Neurons in the prefrontal cortex “teach” neurons in the hippocampus to “learn” rules that distinguish memory-based predictions in otherwise identical situations, suggesting that learning in the present helps guide learning in the future, according to research conducted at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and published April 5 in the journal Neuron.

Neuroimaging technology can help determine the success of failure possibilities of cochlear implants for those who lose their hearing during adulthood.

Scientists have known that a lack of sleep can interfere with the ability to learn and make memories. Now, a group of researchers have found how sleep deprivation affects memory-making in the brain.

Reducing stress in those with epilepsy may be a beneficial, low risk preventative treatment for seizures, researchers report.

Using PET scans of the brain, researchers have shown that dopamine falls and fluctuates at different times during a migraine headache.

MRIs show a brain anomaly in nearly 70 percent of babies at high risk of developing the condition who go on to be diagnosed, laying the groundwork for a predictive aid for pediatricians and the search for a potential treatment.

A new study reports the anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain associated with empathy, activates very weakly in people with autism.

Scientists at Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience developed a light-sensitive technique to visualize and manipulate neuromodulation with unprecedented spatial and temporal precision.

Finally this weekk, new research indicates that some autobiographical memories are more vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease and dementia than others.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Credit: BruceBlaus

Scientists have discovered a new genetic syndrome of obesity, over-eating, mental and behavioural problems in six families, from across the world. The study represents an important step in our understanding of how the hypothalamus and oxytocin control appetite and behaviour. 

A new study published in Biological Psychiatry suggests that a brain reward centre, the striatum, may be directly affected by inflammation and that striatal change is related to the emergence of illness behaviors.

By studying stroke patients who have lost the ability to spell, researchers have pinpointed the parts of the brain that control how we write words.

A study has shown for the first time that the structure of the brain circuitry known as the corticolimbic system is more likely to be passed down from mothers to daughters than from mothers to sons or from fathers to children of either gender. The corticolimbic system governs emotional regulation and processing and plays a role in mood disorders, including depression.

New research proves that suffering repeated traumatic experiences throughout infancy and adolescence multiplies by 7 the risk of suffering psychosis during adulthood.

Researchers are using a mathematical tool to help determine which concussion patients will go on to suffer migraine headaches, according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology.

Some of the earliest nerve cells to develop in the womb shape brain circuits that process sights and sounds, but then give way to mature networks that convert this sensory information into thoughts. This is the finding of a study led by researchers at NYU Langone Medical Center and published in the February 3 edition of Neuron.

Scientists have demonstrated for the first time that it is possible to specifically modify gene expression in diseased upper motor neurons, brain cells that break down in ALS.

New research indicates that the location of receptors that transmit pain signals IS important in how big or small a pain signal will be and how effectively drugs can block those signals.

A new way of using MRI scanners to look for evidence of multiple sclerosis in the brain has been successfully tested by researchers.

A team of European researchers has found evidence that suggests that human consciousness is a state where the neural network that makes up the brain operates at an optimal degree of connectedness. In their paper published in Journal of the Royal Society Interface, the team describes their study of the human brain using volunteers undergoing fMRI scans while succumbing to the effects of an anesthetic that caused them to lose consciousness, and what was revealed in reviewing the scan data.

Researchers have determined that testing a portion of a person’s submandibular gland may be a way to diagnose early Parkinson’s disease.

Finally this week, researchers of a new study published in the current issue of Biological Psychiatry report successful reduction of depressive symptoms in patients using a novel non-invasive method of vagus nerve stimulation, or VNS.

What happens during a migraine attack?

The figure above shows our understanding of what happens during a migraine attack.  It is now thought that a migraine is triggered when a wave of electricity which starts in the trigeminal nerve on the side of the face stimulates the release of peptides such as CGRP and other substances that cause inflammation and makes other nerves more sensitive to pain. The wave of electricity then enters the brain and ripples across the surface of the brain – and together with CGRP causes blood vessels to dilate, as shown in Inset A above. In this way sensitization of the nerves often progresses from peripheral nerve cells on the skin to central neurons in the brain.

(Adapted from the American Society for Neuroscience).

Related Post:

The Anatomy of a Migraine Attack

The anatomy of a migraine attack

Scientists have learned a lot in recent years about what happens in the brain to explain the throbbing pain, nausea, heightened sensitivity to light or sound felt during a migraine headache, and the mysterious ‘aura’ that both doctors and scientists use to describe the telltale period, starting up to an hour before a migraine attack, when a person sees dots, wavy lines, flashing lights, blind spots or difficulty with speech, sensation, or movement.

What triggers a migraine attack? 

Although researchers don’t understand exactly what triggers migraine attacks, they do know that certain foods, lack of sleep, changes in weather, and even stress can trigger a migraine attack in 1 in 200 people.

The anatomy of a migraine attack

Neuroscientists now see migraine as firstly a disturbance in nerve function rather than a disorder of the brain’s blood vessels. It is believed that in most patients, a wave of electrical activity passing through a major nerve that collects and transmits signals to the face – the trigeminal nerve – and stimulates the release of chemicals such as CGRP and other substances that cause inflammation, makes the nerves more sensitive to pain, and causes blood vessels near the brain to expand (dilate). This nerve irritation often progresses as an electrical wave from the skin to nerves located centrally in the brain.

The first 20mins are crucial for treatment

The key to treatment is to act quickly to stop the irritation spreading.  In fact anti-migraine drugs can offer relief only in the earlier stages of the attack, but not later, when the pain neurons in the brain have become sensitized. For this reason patients are advised to take medication within 20 minutes of an attack and while migraine pain is still mild.

The wave that turns into a flood

A migraine attack is triggered when a wave of electrical activity which starts in the trigeminal nerve on the side of the face enters the brain and ripples across the surface of the brain. In fact, researchers have been able to demonstrate a possible link between this wave and the experience of ‘aura’ particularly as it spreads across the visual part of the brain. Several drugs used to prevent migraine attacks work by preventing this wave from spreading.

Click on the National Headache Foundation website (www.headaches.org) for additional information.

In an upcoming post, prominent migraine research scientist  Dr. Chad Beyer will explain how the race is on to discover better and safer drugs to diminish migraine pain and prevent future attacks.

Read Part Two – What happens during a migraine attack