Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Thousands of branches and branchlets emanate from an astrocyte’s cell body, which is the dense portion in the middle of the image.

A new study published in Neuron challenges the idea that astrocytes across the brain are largely identical.

Researchers have identified a new protein, CIB2, that is key to helping the auditory system to turn soundwaves into meaningful brain signals. Mutations of this gene leave people unable to convert the soundwaves into signals that the brain can interpret, and are deaf.

The more regularly people report doing word puzzles such as crosswords, the better their brain function in later life, a large-scale online trial has found.

How short-term memories become long-term ones has frequently been explored by researchers. While a definitive answer remains elusive, scientists conclude that this transformation is best explained by a “temporal hierarchy” of “time windows” that collectively alter the state of the brain.

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

Researchers at King’s College London have identified a molecular mechanism that allows neural connections to adapt as a result of experience. This adaptation fuels our ability for memory and learning.

Researchers have developed a concept called Empowerment to help robots and humans to work and live side-by-side safely and effectively.

A study of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) has identified a new potential mechanism contributing to the biology of the disorder that may be targeted by future treatments.

A new study reveals those who die at 100 tend to suffer from fewer diseases than those who die at younger ages.

A new paper identifies 100 of the most cited neuroscience research papers. Of these papers, 78 focus on five topics. According to the authors of the paper, the most cited neuroscience research topics include the prefrontal cortex, neural connectivity, methodology, brain mapping and neurological disorders. The findings could have significant impact for future neuroscience studies.

Changes in the brain’s structure that could be the result of depression have been identified in a major scanning study.

The same mechanisms that quickly separate mixtures of oil and water are at play when controlling the organization in an unusual part of our DNA called heterochromatin, according to a new study.

New research has shown just how adaptive the brain can be, knowledge that could one day be applied to recovery from conditions such as stroke.

Changes in the orbitofrontal cortex and basolateral amygdala may help explain a person’s preference for uncertain outcomes, as well as a preference for order and certainty, a new study reports.

Finally this week, a small patch of neurons in the brain can encode the movements of many body parts, according to new research.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Our brain is especially good at perceiving lines and contours even if they do not actually exist, such as the blue triangle in the foreground of this optical illusion. The pattern of neuronal connections in the brain supports this ability.

Researchers have identified how our brains are so good at perceiving contours and edges. The study, published in Nature, reports neurons are most likely to connect if they react to edges that lie on a common axis and the structure of the world around us is mirrored in the pattern of synapses.

A new study reports bilingual people think about time differently depending on the language context they are estimating event duration.

The first large study to rigorously examine brain-training games using cognitive tests and brain imaging adds to evidence that they are not particularly good at training brains and appear to have no more effect on healthy brains than video games.

Scientists report that listening to something while looking in a different direction may slow reaction times and increase the effort for auditory attention.

The part of the brain that helps control emotion may be larger in people who develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after brain injury compared to those with a brain injury without PTSD, according to a new study.

Researchers are investigating why certain language abilities are lost as a result of a traumatic brain injury, and how others can be regained.

A recently published study investigates time perception and temporal information processing in people with schizophrenia. It reveals the internal clock in schizophrenics does not necessarily run slower or faster than in healthy individuals, but rather it does not run at a consistent speed.

Finally, this week, using music to learn a physical task develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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image credited to Per Uvdal

New technology allows researchers to produce images that predate the formation of amyloid beta in the brain. The findings have prompted researchers to suggest stabilizing the protein, rather than attempting to limit it, in order to reduce Alzheimer’s symptoms.

new study shines light on the process by which head injuries lead to brain disease later in life. 

A new type of long-term potentiation that is controlled by kainate receptors has been reported by scientists. The finding could have major benefits to understanding how the brain works and what goes wrong in neurodegenerative disorders such as epilepsy and dementia.

According to researchers, axons coordinate each other’s destruction, contributing to neurodegeneration.

Dendrites are not just passive conduits, a new study reports. The finding could change scientists’ understanding of how the brain works, and lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders.

Structural differences have been found in the cerebral cortex of patients with depression, and these differences normalize with appropriate medication,  a new study reports.

Researchers at Karolinska Institutet collaborating in the large-scale Karolinska Schizophrenia Project are taking an integrative approach to unravel the disease mechanisms of schizophrenia. In the very first results now presented in the prestigious scientific journal Molecular Psychiatry, the researchers show that patients with schizophrenia have lower levels of the vital neurotransmitter GABA as well as changes in the brain’s immune cells.

Finally this week, researchers have identified a genetic variant that can accelerate normal brain aging in older people by up to 12 years.

 

 

 

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Neuroscientists at the University of Bristol are a step closer to understanding how the connections in our brain which control our episodic memory work in sync to make some memories stronger than others. The findings, published in Nature Neuroscience, reveal a previously unsuspected division of memory function in the pathways between two areas of the brain, and suggest that certain subnetworks within the brain work separately, to enhance the distinctiveness of memories.

A new study pinpoints the brain area responsible for forming direct links between environmental stimuli and enhanced focus.

Every few seconds, our eyelids automatically shutter and our eyeballs roll back in their sockets. So why doesn’t blinking plunge us into intermittent darkness and light? New research led by the University of California, Berkeley, shows that the brain works extra hard to stabilize our vision despite our fluttering eyes.

Our personality traits are linked to differences in the thickness and volume of various parts of our brains, an international study has suggested.

Researchers have found significant differences in the brains of teens with bipolar disorder that attempt to take their lives over those with the disorder who have never attempted suicide.

Women with lower estrogen levels may be more susceptible to developing PTSD according to new research.

A new study raises the question of whether a genetic mutation associated with neurodegeneration in one environment could act in a positive way in a different setting.

Researchers report early indicators of depression and anxiety may be evident in the brain from birth.

A cutting edge, non-invasive brain stimulation technique could improve cognitive control for people with conditions such as schizophrenia and autism.

A new computerized ‘mirror game’ has been shown to give more accurate diagnosis of schizophrenia than clinical interviews.

A new study reports on how a single instance of extreme stress can lead to long term neurological changes and trauma.

Social difficulties in people with autism are exacerbated by how other people perceive them at first meeting, researchers say.

Finally this week, researchers have revealed regions of the brain implicated in delusional misidentification syndromes.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Cheese contains a chemical found in addictive drugs, scientists have found.

Chronic marijuana use disrupts the brain’s natural reward processes, according to researchers at the Center for BrainHealth at The University of Texas at Dallas.

Understanding the relation of dopamine to network activity could improve schizophrenia treatment.

Using MRI brain scans, researchers have determined there is an association between the extent of disruption to the blood-brain barrier and the severity of bleeding following a stroke.

Researchers have proposed a computational model that could help explain multisensory integration in humans.

Scientists have developed a blood test that could identify which people with depression will respond to treatment so that patients can avoid spending months taking antidepressants that do not help them.

Researchers have discovered a unique pattern of scarring in the brains of those who were exposed to blast brain injuries that differs from those exposed to other types of head injury.

Intensive physical exercise four hours after learning is the key to remembering information learnt, say Dutch researchers.

Scientists have discovered a new cause of Parkinson’s disease – mutations in a gene called TMEM230. This appears to be only the third gene definitively linked to confirmed cases of Parkinson’s disease.

Finally this week, a protein called Scribble appears to orchestrate the intracellular signaling process for forgetting, a new study reports.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Dr. William Jagust explains how tau and beta amyloid, two proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease, develop in the aging brain, which his research team has visualized using positron emission tomography, or PET, scans. Photo by Stephen McNally/University of California Berkeley

Researchers have visualized the development of Alzheimer’s disease in the brain in living people using positron emission tomography, or PET scans, which they say will aid with its diagnosis and treatment. 

Researchers have  also identified a drug that targets the first step in the toxic chain reaction leading to the death of brain cells, suggesting that treatments could be developed to protect against Alzheimer’s disease, in a similar way to how statins are able to reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

new study shows that a variety of physical activities from walking to gardening and dancing can improve brain volume and cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In another study jointly led by King’s College London and the University of Southampton has found a link between gum disease and greater rates of cognitive decline in people with early stages of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Women may have a better memory for words than men despite evidence of similar levels of shrinkage in areas of the brain that show the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in Neurology.

Refugees face a substantially higher risk of psychotic disorders, including schizophrenia, compared to non-refugee migrants from the same regions of origin, finds a study published in The BMJ

Research on decision-making bias found that interactive training exercises using video games improved participants’ general decision-making abilities when used alongside other traditional training methods.

Reducing a person’s calorie intake can protect against the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s Disease.  Meanwhile, researchers may be closer to unraveling the underlying causes of Parkinson’s disease, after identifying the point at which alpha-synuclein – a protein believed to play a key role in the condition – becomes toxic to the brain.

Scientists have developed a 3D micro-scaffold technology that promotes reprogramming of stem cells into neurons, and supports growth of neuronal connections capable of transmitting electrical signals.

Finally this week, researchers in Japan have found that repetitive movements in slow-learning stages can alter an area of the brain responsible for movement, and help individuals retain these motor skills.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Red regions indicate reduced fractional anisotropy values in autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Credit: The researchers/King’s College London.

Research at King’s College London has revealed subtle brain differences in adult males with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), which may go some way towards explaining why symptoms persist into adulthood in some people with the disorder.

Women who take estrogen supplements from before or at the start of menopause and continue with them for a few years have better preserved brain structure, which may reduce the risk of dementia.

Scientists have taken a significant step toward understanding the cause of schizophrenia, in a landmark study that provides the first rigorously tested insight into the biology behind any common psychiatric disorder.

Stopping disruptions in cellular “trash removal” brought on by errors in molecular marks on DNA may guard against neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

Roughly twenty years before the first symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease appear, inflammatory changes in the brain can be seen, according to a new study from Karolinska Institutet published in the medical scientific journal Brain.

In a new study, researchers reveal how brain scans could be used to identify children at high risk for later-life depression – information that could pave the way for early intervention and prevention.

Researchers have shown that graphene can be used to make electrodes that can be implanted in the brain, which could potentially be used to restore sensory functions for amputee or paralysed patients, or for individuals with motor disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

A new study has linked stress and anxiety to the same neurocircuitry in the brain as depression and dementia.

Different regions of our brain need to work simultaneously in order for us to process emotion. But according to new research, such regions are disconnected among individuals who experience multiple episodes of major depression.

A team of international researchers have announced the discovery of a system in the brain that may underlie the development of involuntary vocalizations (commonly called vocal tics) that often occur in people with Tourette syndrome.

A new study sheds light on multiple sclerosis (MS), specifically damage in the brain caused by the disease that may explain the slow and continuous cognitive decline that many patients experience. The findings, which appear in the Journal of Neuroscience, show that the brain’s immune system is responsible for disrupting communication between nerve cells, even in parts of the brain that are not normally considered to be primary targets of the disease.

Cognitive function and health appear to be genetically linked, according to research published in Molecular Psychiatry. The study was carried out by an international team from the US, the UK and Germany.

Researchers have discovered the mechanics of how dopamine transports into and out of brain cells, a finding that could someday lead to more effective treatment of drug addictions and neurological disorders such as Parkinson’s disease.

The brains of children who are obese function differently from those of children of healthy weight, and exhibit an “imbalance” between food-seeking and food-avoiding behaviors, researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center have found.

Finally this week, neuroscientists have now shown that rhythmic brain waves, called theta oscillations, engage and synchronize the brain regions that support the integration of memories. The results were published in the journal Current Biology.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

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Scientists have successfully completed what is believed to be the most complex human brain-to-brain communication experiment ever. It allowed two people located a mile apart to play a game of “20 Questions” using only their brainwaves, a nearly imperceptible flash of light, and an internet connection to communicate.

A new study reveals clues to how thoughts take shape.

University of Pennsylvania researchers have made another advance in understanding how the brain detects errors caused by unexpected sensory events. This type of error detection is what allows the brain to learn from its mistakes, which is critical for improving fine motor control.

A new study shows that music can improve the quality of sleep of adults with sleep disorders.

From “brain games” designed to enhance mental fitness, to games used to improve real-world problems, to games created purely to entertain, today’s video games can have a variety of potential impacts on the brain. A new article argues that it is the specific content, dynamics, and mechanics of individual games that determine their effects on the brain and that action video games might have particularly positive benefits.

Training people to be compassionate rather than empathic might help to solve problems such as depression, burnout and narcissism, according to researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Human Cognitive and Brain Sciences.

How does the brain determine which direction to let its thoughts fly? Looking for the mechanisms behind cognitive control of thought, researchers have used brain scans to shed new light on this question.

The risk of suffering a stroke is significantly reduced for up to two months after receiving a flu vaccine, a major new study has shown.

A new study sheds light on why people with schizophrenia misinterpret social cues in others, often leading to unpleasant paranoid and persecutory thoughts.

A malfunctioning enzyme may be a reason that binge drinking increases the odds of alcoholism, according to a study by scientists at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

A new study finds that the part of the brain responsible for seeing is more powerful than previously believed. In fact, the visual cortex can essentially make decisions just like the brain’s traditional “higher level” areas.

The brain’s wiring patterns can shed light on a person’s positive and negative traits, researchers report in Nature Neuroscience.

Combining MRI and other data helps machine-learning systems predict effects of neurodegenerative disease.

The way our brain responds to others’ good fortune is linked to how empathetic people report themselves to be, according to new research.

Finally this week, a team of researchers have discovered that images of brain activity scanned by using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) can act as a signature pattern to accurately identify certain individuals.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Total correct score on the Eyes test for each individual is plotted as a dot, coloured according to group, to illustrate the distribution of performance by group. Mean score for each group is shown by a black dot, and the error bars indicate the 95% confidence interval of the mean score. Credit: Baron-Cohen et al./PLOS ONE.

Total correct score on the Eyes test for each individual is plotted as a dot, coloured according to group, to illustrate the distribution of performance by group. Mean score for each group is shown by a black dot, and the error bars indicate the 95% confidence interval of the mean score. Credit: Baron-Cohen et al./PLOS ONE.

New results published by researchers at the Autism Research Centre (ARC) show both men and women with autism show an extreme of the typical male pattern on the ‘Reading the Mind in the Eyes’ test.

Researchers at Mayo clinic completed analysis of a 4 year prospective study comparing detailed neurologic examination versus magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the brain to localize neurologic dysfunction. The findings, demonstrated MRI’s superior performance to the clinical exam.

Researchers at the University of Oslo have tested a new device for delivering hormone treatments for mental illness through the nose. This method was found to deliver medicine to the brain with few side effects.

Researchers have performed the first focused ultrasound treatments in the United States for dyskinesia associated with Parkinson’s disease.

A computer-based brain-training game could improve the daily lives of people with schizophrenia, say University of Cambridge researchers.

A gene linked in previous research, appears to predict more severe post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms as well as a thinner cortex in regions of the brain critical for regulating strong emotions and coping with stressful experiences. This study is believed to be the first to show that the spindle and kinetochore-associated complex subunit 2 (SKA2) gene may play a role in the development of PTSD.

Midday naps are associated with reduced blood pressure levels and prescription of fewer antihypertensive medications, according to new research.

A ‘gene signature’ that could be used to predict the onset of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s, years in advance has been developed in research published in the open access journal Genome Biology.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Using a technique dubbed “brainbow,” the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists tagged synaptic terminals with proteins that fluoresce different colors. The researchers thought one color, representing the single source of the many terminals, would dominate in the clusters. Instead, several different colors appeared together, intertwined but distinct. Credit: Virginia Tech.

Using a technique dubbed “brainbow,” the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute scientists tagged synaptic terminals with proteins that fluoresce different colors. The researchers thought one color, representing the single source of the many terminals, would dominate in the clusters. Instead, several different colors appeared together, intertwined but distinct. Image Credit: Virginia Tech.

Neuroscientists know that some connections in the brain are pruned through neural development. Function gives rise to structure, according to the textbooks. But scientists have discovered that the textbooks might be wrong. Their results were published this week in Cell Reports.

In 2011, MIT neuroscientist Rebecca Saxe and colleagues reported that in blind adults, brain regions normally dedicated to vision processing instead participate in language tasks such as speech and comprehension. Now, in a study of blind children, Saxe’s lab has found that this transformation occurs very early in life, before the age of 4. The study, appearing in the Journal of Neuroscience, suggests that the brains of young children are highly plastic, meaning that regions usually specialized for one task can adapt to new and very different roles. The findings also help to define the extent to which this type of remodeling is possible.

New research suggests individuals with autistic traits may have more advanced creativity skills than those without such traits.

Physically fit people tend to have larger brain volumes and more intact white matter than their less-fit peers. Now a new study reveals that older adults who regularly engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity have more variable brain activity at rest than those who don’t. This variability is associated with better cognitive performance, researchers say.

Young adults diagnosed with attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) in adolescence show differences in brain structure and perform poorly in memory tests compared to their peers, according to new research from the University of Cambridge, UK, and the University of Oulu, Finland.

People who will develop dementia may begin to lose awareness of their memory problems two to three years before the actual onset of the disease, according to a new study published in the online issue of Neurology. The study also found that several dementia-related brain changes, or pathologies, are associated with the decline in memory awareness.

People with Alzheimer’s disease have fat deposits in the brain. For the first time researchers have discovered accumulations of fat droplets in the brain of patients who died from the disease and have identified the nature of the fat.

Finally this week, a computer analyzing speech has correctly identified five individuals who would later experience a psychotic episode against 29 who would not among a group of high-risk patients in a proof-of-principle study. The findings raise the prospect of a clinical tool to aid the diagnosis and prognosis of severe mental disorders such as schizophrenia.