Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image Credit: Guillaume Sandoz, CNRS

Researchers at CNRS, Université Côte d’Azur and Inserm have demonstrated a new mechanism related to the onset of migraine. In fact, they found how a mutation, causes dysfunction in a protein which inhibits neuronal electrical activity, induces migraines. These results, published in Neuron on Dec. 17, 2018, open a new path for the development of anti-migraine medicines.

Scientists using eye tracking software, report what we look at helps guide our decisions when faced with two visible choices.

A new study reports children and teens who face chronic bullying have altered brain structure, as well as problems with anxiety and depression. Researchers found those who were bullies had structural changes to the putamen and caudate, contributing to the development of anxiety related behaviors and emotional processing.

Researchers have identified specific neurons in the medial prefrontal cortex, called self-monitoring error neurons, that fire immediately after people make a mistake.

New findings show how alcohol influences dopaminergic and inhibitory neurons in the ventral tegmental area. The findings could help develop new treatments for alcohol dependence.

A diet of fast food, cakes and processed meat increases your risk of depression, according to a new study.

Scientists who recently identified the molecular start of Alzheimer’s disease have used that finding to determine that it should be possible to forecast which type of dementia will develop over time – a form of personalized medicine for neurodegenerative diseases.

A new study reports lightly stroking an infant, at a speed of 3 centimeters per second, can help to provide pain relief prior to medical procedures.

Researchers have identified cognitive subgroups related to genetic differences in Alzheimer’s patients. The findings could open the door for more personalized treatments of the neurodegenerative disease.

A previously unknown brain mechanism that regulates anxiety has come to light. It allows a gene-altering protein to enter the nucleus of brain cells.

Finally this week, researchers discovered activity in brain regions involved in reward response from dopamine was higher in subjects injected with the hormone ghrelin, but only when responding to images associated with food smells. The study reports ghrelin controls the extent to which the brain associates reward with food odors.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

guitar-869217_960_720.jpgResearchers say those who can improvise are better musicians than those who have limited improvisational experience.

Melatonin is a hormone known to promote sleep, but its underlying mechanisms are unknown. Now, researchers have discovered how melatonin suppresses neurons in the brain that keeps you awake and alert. These findings could lead to new therapies for those who suffer from insomnia.

A new study shows how specific neurons can process sensory information about temperature and facilitate a change in behavior to adapt to the climate.

Researchers have identified electrical activity in the brain that is specific to the start of migraines. The new study reports spreading depolarization can be seen as a migraine begins, and an electrical current can be used to stop it in its tracks.

Adolescent drinking is associated with changes in the metabolite profile, a new study shows. 

Scientists are using big data and artificial intelligence to map neural networks in the brain. The new technology could help to better understand the progression of neurodegenerative diseases.

Sound and object motion can be used to change perceptions about body size, according to a new study.

Researchers report impairments in the neuroprotective communication between neural blood vessels, astrocytes and neurons may be an early factor in how high blood pressure may impair cognitive function.

A new study confirms a link between a number of autoimmune diseases and an increased risk of developing psychosis.

Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) – the relaxing ‘brain tingles’ experienced by some people in response to specific triggers, such as whispering, tapping and slow hand movements – may have benefits for both mental and physical health, according to new research.

Researchers have developed new neural implants that enable targeted delivery of drugs deep into brain structures.

A new study reports specific alterations in signaling circuits associated with memory can induce an abnormal response in neurons, which is linked to the aging process and cognitive decline.

Researchers say the combination of low muscle mass and strength in the context of high-fat mass, could be a predictor of cognitive function in older adults. 

Obstructive sleep apnoea (OSA) is associated with changes to the structure of the brain that are also seen in the early stages of dementia, according to a study published in the European Respiratory Journal.

Finally, this week, a new study reports a mother’s diet during pregnancy may have an effect on the composition of her child’s gut bacteria. 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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AI research has come full circle, helping neuroscientist better understand how the human brain works, researchers say.

Babies removed from their mothers for 24 hours when they were 9 days old exhibited significant behavioral and brain structural abnormalities in adulthood, a new study reports. Researchers noted memory impairment and less communication between specific brain regions in those removed from maternal care.

Researchers have identified three genes linked to hemiplegic migraine.

People whose negative emotional responses to stress carry over to the following day are more likely to report health problems and physical limitations later in life compared with peers who are able to “let it go,” according to findings published in Psychological Science.

Using electrical fields to simulate slow wave sleep, researchers enhance memory.

A new study has identified a link between visual processing problems and an increased risk of developing a mental health disorder. The study reports the risk for mental illness increases when the visual cortex has difficulty communicating with networks associated with focus and introspection.

The superior size and complexity of the human brain compared to other mammals may actually originate from fewer initial starting materials, new research has suggested.

According to researchers, dopamine neurons may play a key role in the formation of episodic memory. The findings could help in the development of new treatments for neurodegenerative disorders that affect memory.

A new study reveals up to 25% of rhythmic genes lose their biological rhythm following a 4-day night shift simulation.

Damage to some of the pathways that carry information throughout the brain may be responsible for attention deficit in patients who have had a subcortical stroke in the brain’s right hemisphere, according to a study published online in the journal Radiology. Researchers hope the findings may provide a measure for selecting suitable patients for early interventions aimed at reducing cognitive decline following a stroke.

Finally this week, a new machine learning study has revealed a novel combination of factors that can increase a person’s risk of developing dementia.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Sleep-deprived brain cells react more slowly and fire more weakly, and their signals are more drawn out. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to UCLA.

A Japanese research group has revealed that elderly people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) have a particularly weakened ability to memorize human faces in the short term when compared to healthy elderly people. MCI patients also had a different gaze behavior when trying to memorize a face. This research may lead to the early detection of dementia.

Researchers provide new insight into human consciousness, reporting we don’t consciously choose our feelings or thoughts; we simply become aware of them.

If a mother’s immune system is activated by infection during pregnancy, it could result in critical cognitive deficits linked to schizophrenia in her offspring, a new study has revealed.

People on the autism spectrum appear to have different reactions to subliminal social odors, researchers report.

Information from brain MRIs can help identify people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and distinguish among subtypes of the condition, according to a study appearing online in the journal Radiology.

Migraine triggers can increase oxidative stress, a new study reports. Targeting oxidative stress may help to prevent migraines.

A new study reveals how the mechanism for storing olfactory memories differs slightly from erasing unnecessary memories. Understanding how the brain gets rid of unimportant memories could help unlock new avenues of research to better understand memory loss in aging, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers report a developmental abnormality more prevalent in premature and male babies, may contribute to SIDS risk, in conjunction to the sleep position.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death. Credit Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin.

Parkin-expressing cells (red) are undergoing programmed cell death. Credit Dr. Emilie Hollville and Professor Seamus Martin, Trinity College Dublin.

Scientists at Trinity College Dublin have made an important breakthrough in our understanding of Parkin – a protein that regulates the repair and replacement of nerve cells within the brain. This breakthrough generates a new perspective on how nerve cells die in Parkinson’s disease.

A new study, which may have implications for approaches to education, finds that brain mechanisms engaged when people allow their minds to rest and reflect on things they’ve learned before may boost later learning.

A study in which more than 43,000 children were evaluated for head trauma offers an unprecedented picture of how children most frequently suffer head injuries. For teens, top causes are assaults, sports, car crashes; for younger children, falls lead the list.The findings also indicate how often such incidents result in significant brain injuries, computerized tomography (CT) scans to assess head injuries, and neurosurgery to treat them.

Neighborhoods that motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults.

People who are depressed often complain that they find it difficult to make decisions. A new study provides an explanation. Researchers tested 29 patients diagnosed with major depression and 27 healthy controls and they found that the people with depression had an impaired ability to go with their gut instincts, or what we might call intuition.

Learning a new language changes your brain network both structurally and functionally, according to Penn State researchers.

Finally this week, being shown pictures of others being loved and cared for reduces the brain’s response to threat, new research from the University of Exeter has found.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

The theory and experimental findings showed that fast Hebbian and slow homeostatic plasticity work together during learning, but only after each has independently assured stability on its own timescale. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit Nicolas P. Rougier.

Complex biochemical signals that coordinate fast and slow changes in neuronal networks keep the brain in balance during learning, according to an international team of science researchers.

An imaging study by Stanford University School of Medicine investigators has found distinct differences between the brains of patients with chronic fatigue syndrome and those of healthy people. The findings could lead to more definitive diagnoses of the syndrome and may also point to an underlying mechanism in the disease process.

Breakdown in gut barriers to bacteria may promote inflammation and craving in alcoholics. 

Seizures and migraines have always been considered separate physiological events in the brain, but now a team of engineers and neuroscientists looking at the brain from a physics viewpoint discovered a link between these and related phenomena.

All physical activity benefits the brain. This is the main message of a new study that compared the effects of different kinds of exercise on cognition in older adults.

Finally this week, certain meditation techniques can promote creative thinking, even if you have never meditated before. This is the outcome of a study by cognitive psychologist Lorenza Colzato and Dominique Lippelt at Leiden University, published in Mindfulness.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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The brains of deaf people reorganize not only to compensate for the loss of hearing, but also to process language from visual stimuli—sign language, according to a study published  in Nature Communications. Despite this reorganization for interpreting visual language, however, language processing is still completed in the same brain region.

Our love of music and appreciation of musical harmony is learnt and not based on natural ability – a new study by University of Melbourne researchers has found.

For many patients with difficult-to-treat neuropathic pain, deep brain stimulation (DBS) can lead to long-term improvement in pain scores and other outcomes, according to a study in the February issue of Neurosurgery.

New brain imaging research from Carnegie Mellon University provides some of the first evidence showing how the brain unconsciously processes decision information in ways that lead to improved decision making. Published in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience, the study found that the brain regions responsible for making decisions continue to be active even when the conscious brain is distracted with a different task.

An interdisciplinary team of researchers has found a new way to influence the vital serotonin signaling system—possibly leading to more effective medications with fewer side effects.

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC describe in PLoS ONE how an electrode array sitting on top of the brain enabled a 30-year-old paralyzed man to control the movement of a character on a computer screen in three dimensions with just his thoughts. It also enabled him to move a robot arm to touch a friend’s hand for the first time in the seven years since he was injured in a motorcycle accident.

Researchers have discovered a molecule that accumulates with age and inhibits the formation of new neurons. The finding might help scientists design therapies to prevent age-related cognitive decline.

Wearing a nerve stimulator for 20 minutes a day may be a new option for migraine sufferers, according to new research published in the February 6, 2013, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

photo credit: Hindrik S via photopin cc

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)

 

 

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