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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Parents and carers who regularly read with small children are giving them a language advantage of eight months, a study shows.

Smartphone and internet addiction appears to have an impact on brain chemistry. A new study reports the ratio of GABA to Glx is significantly increased in the anterior cingulate cortex of teens who are addicted to their smartphones.

Researchers report neurons from people on the autism spectrum exhibit different growth patterns and develop at a faster rate.

A new study reports obesity and excessive body fat around the middle is associated with lower grey matter volume in the brain. The study also found a link between obesity and shrinkage in specific brain areas.

Researchers have shed light on the epidemiological factors that help shape our gut bacteria from social relationships, socioeconomic status and health related behaviors.

Scientists used EEG to investigate how the brain processes stimuli to determine whether an image or word is positive or negative. The study found words associated with loss causes neural reactions in the visual cortex after 100 milliseconds.

A new study identifies a direct dopamine neuron link to circadian rhythm.

A noninvasive hearing test may assist with early detection and diagnosis of autism spectrum disorders, according to research published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.

Scripps researchers have uncovered the process that helps control neuron growth.

A new study has identified racial disparities between African Americans and Caucasians in the level of a key biomarker used to identify Alzheimer’s disease.

Neuroscientists have identified exactly how breathing changes the brain.

A new study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), sheds light on a mechanism underlying Parkinson’s disease and suggests that Tacrolimus — an existing drug that targets the toxic protein interaction explored in the study — could be used as a novel treatment.

Researchers have identified a mechanism that may explain what is known as the Mozart Effect, where sound input is linked to developing cognitive function.

Neuroscientists have identified a neural population in the human auditory cortex that responds selectively to sounds that people typically categorize as music, but not to speech or other environmental sounds.

Finally this week, researchers at the Netherlands Institute for Neuroscience revealed that there are five types of insomnia

 

 

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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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

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Researchers have found “different patterns” in brain scans among children who record heavy smart device and video game use, according to initial data from a major ongoing US study.

A new study reports the combination of a toxic herbicide and lectins may trigger Parkinsonism after the toxins travel from the stomach to the brain.

Later-born siblings of children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) or attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are at elevated risk for both disorders, a new study has concluded. The study suggests that families who already have a child diagnosed with ASD or ADHD may wish to monitor younger siblings for symptoms of both conditions.

Researchers have shed light on the dual nature of dopamine, as a neurotransmitter that makes us seek pleasure and also reinforces avoidance of pain.

A new neuroimaging study reveals imagination may help people with fear or anxiety disorders overcome them. The study reports imagining a threat can alter the way it is represented in the brain.

Stimulating the lateral orbitofrontal cortex improves mood in those suffering from depression, a new study reveals.

Scientists report low levels of GABA producing bacteria is associated with brain signatures of depression. They believe it may be possible to treat clinical depression by increasing GABA producing bacteria.

Finally, this week, using machine learning to analyze fMRI brain scans of grieving people, researchers shed light on how unconscious suppression occurs.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Serotonin-induced activation of serotonin (3A) receptors. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine.

Using cryo-electron microscopy, researchers have successfully imaged serotonin attaching to the receptor and twisting open the channel, allowing sodium molecules to travel through.

Researchers report adults who sleep six hours per night, as opposed to the recommended eight, have higher chances of waking up dehydrated.

A new study reports some genetic factors that increase obesity work to lower metabolic risk. 14 genetic variations, researchers report, are linked to higher BMI but lower diabetes risk.

A new method for studying the mircobiome has allowed researchers to identify a connection between metabolism in gut bacteria and the development of diabetes.

Researchers have discovered how the nature of T cells help protect the brain from viruses. The findings shed light on the role the immune system plays in a number of neurodegenerative disorders.

A new study has identified a brain network that may control the diversion of attention to focus on potential threats. Dopamine, they report, is key to the process.

As the adage goes “neurons that fire together, wire together,” but a new paper published today in Neuron demonstrates that, in addition to response similarity, projection target also constrains local connectivity.

A new study reveals common brain activity patterns associated with depressive moods.

Engaging in regular exercise can help preserve the motor and non-motor function of Parkinson’s disease patients, most likely as a result of an increased release of dopamine in the brain, a small study suggests.

Researchers have identified abnormalities in specific neural networks that may be a biomarker to predict the risk of developing schizophrenia.

Researchers find evidence of cognitive issues and miRNA biomarkers, indicating brain injuries from concussions or head-to-head contact, in college football players. The findings indicated lasting damage caused by sports-related concussions occur earlier than expected.

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Axons of retinal ganglion cells (red) derived from human pluripotent stem cells bundle together and navigate their environment using growth cones (green), similar to human development of the optic nerve. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Department of Biology, School of Science at IUPUI

Biologists are growing ‘mini retinas’ in the lab from stem cells to mimic the growth of the human retina. The researchers hope to use the research to restore sight when critical connections between the eye and the brain are damaged. These models also allow the researchers to better understand how cells in the retina develop and are organized. These results are published online in Scientific Reports, a Nature Research journal.

Researchers have discovered how the brain attempts to compensate for poor performance in tasks which require complicated transformation, such as writing your name backwards.

Observing the brain’s response to repeated stimuli has helped KAUST researchers develop a method for modeling connectivity patterns in neural networks. Mapping connectivity patterns will help to better understand brain function, ultimately improving diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases and mental disorders.

A new study reveals unique connections within brain networks in children on the autism spectrum. Researchers say, in ASD, the amygdala shows marked differences in connection with the occipital cortex than in typically developing children.

Researchers have identified key differences between the way males and females with schizophrenia process the emotional states of others than those without the condition. The study reports those with schizophrenia use less complex brain regions than healthy controls to process other people’s emotions.

According to a new study, certain behavioral risk factors strongly predict the likelihood of a person developing depression, and these risk factors change as we age.

Using neuroimaging technology, researchers have identified three different subtypes of depressive disorder, including one that seems to be untreatable by common SSRI antidepressants.

Finally this week, researchers report those who have had appendectomies have a reduced risk of developing Parkinson’s disease. A new study reveals the appendix acts as a reservoir for proteins associated with the neurodegenerative disease.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Mood is represented across multiple sites in the brain rather than localized regions, which makes decoding them a computational challenge, according to a USC expert. NeuroscienceNews.com image is credited to Sani et. al., Nature Biotechnology.

Researchers have built a decoder which is able to translate neural signals into mood variations.

How and why human-unique characteristics such as highly social behavior, languages and complex culture have evolved is a long-standing question. A research team led by Tohoku University in Japan has revealed the evolution of a gene related to such human-unique psychiatric traits.

A new study reports mast cells play a key role in determining sex differences in the developing brain.

An inhaled form of a high blood pressure medication has potential to treat certain types of anxiety as well as pain, according to a new study by the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).

Functional connectivity within a specific neural network helps dampen a newborn’s brain activity in response to pain, researchers report.

A new blood test can help identify your body’s precise internal time clock in relation to external time. Researchers say the test could help examine the impact of misaligned circadian clocks in a wide range of diseases.

Researchers report a neural network called the isthmic system helps us to select visual objects that catch our attention.

According to researchers, drumming for an hour a week helps improve learning at school for children on the autism spectrum. The study reports drumming not only improves dexterity, rhythm and timing for those with ASD, it also helps improve concentration and enhances communication with peers.

A new study reports those with ADHD are at an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.

In one of the biggest breakthroughs in schizophrenia research in recent times, Professor Cynthia Shannon Weickert from Neuroscience Research Australia (NeuRA) and UNSW Sydney has identified immune cells in greater amounts in the brains of some people with schizophrenia.

Finally this week, esearchers are looking at what happens in the brain when we make snap decisions under stress.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Image Credit: Kolbjørn Skarpnes & Rita Elmkvist Nilsen / NTNU Communication Division & Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience

Researchers at the Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience in Norway in have discovered a network of brain cells that express our sense of time within experiences and memories.

A new study reports a strong hand grip is correlated with better visual memory and reaction times in people with psychiatric disorders, such as schizophrenia.

Dr Max Ortiz Catalan of Chalmers University of Technology, Sweden, has developed a new theory for the origin of the mysterious condition, ‘phantom limb pain’. Published in the journal Frontiers in Neurology, his hypothesis builds upon his previous work on a revolutionary treatment for the condition, that uses machine learning and augmented reality.

Researchers report ADHD and conduct disorder exhibit similar, overlapping changes in the brain.

A new study in SLEEP, published by Oxford University Press, indicates that delaying school start times results in students getting more sleep, and feeling better, even within societies where trading sleep for academic success is common.

Scientists have identified a group of blood metabolites that could help detect some children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD). 

Researchers report the adverse cognitive effects associated with DBS in Pakinson’s patients are linked to a different neural pathway than the one responsible for the motor effects generated by the treatment.

According to a new study, people who have suffered a stroke are twice as likely to develop dementia.

Researchers have developed a new deep learning neural network that can identify speech patterns indicative of depression from audio data. The algorithm is 77% effective at detecting depression.

Finally this week, a new study reports genetic factors count for about 70% of stable academic achievement throughout schooling.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Staining one section of the brain, as shown, reveals layers of the piriform cortex–in green, brownish-red, and white–and other cells of the brain in blue. Image is credited to Salk Institute.

Researchers say the randomness of the piriform cortex plays a critical role when it comes to distinguishing between similar odors.

A new study sheds light into how we recognize facial expressions of emotion. Researchers report our interpretation of emotions expressed facially by others depends upon our pre-conceived understanding of emotion.

Scientists in Israel have developed a breath test that can detect people with early-stage Parkinson’s disease.

A new study, published in the journal PNAS, suggests that a diagnostic blood test for depression may soon be on the horizon. The new research shows that treatment-resistant depression is characterized by reduced blood levels of a specific molecule.

‘Inattentional smell blindness’, or inattentional anosmia, has been proven to exist in a new study.

Yale researchers have tested a new method for directly measuring synaptic loss in individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. The method, which uses PET imaging technology to scan for a specific protein in the brain linked to synapses, has the potential to accelerate research for new Alzheimer’s treatments.

A recent study finds that noninvasive brain stimulation, activated while asleep, improves memory performance the next day.

Finally this week, researchers have identified a neural link between depression and sleep problems. The study reports brain regions associated with short-term memory, self and negative emotions are strongly connected in those with depression, and this may lead to bad sleep quality.