Weekly Neuroscience Update

dog-2751115_960_720.jpgThe tendency of dogs to seek contact with their owners is associated with genetic variations in sensitivity for the hormone oxytocin, according to a new study from Linköping University, Sweden.

A new study reveals schizophrenia is up to 79% hereditary.

Metacognition of a tactile working memory task has been demonstrated by researchers for the first time. Understanding this brain function might help in the development of new treatments for neuropsychiatric illnesses in the future.

Researchers have shed light on how motor signals help sharpen our ability to decipher complex sound flows.

Increased communication between distant brain regions helps older adults compensate for the negative aspects of ageing, reports a new study published this week in Human Brain Mapping.

Scientists report brain network organization changes can influence executive function in young adults.

A news study has found that brain functions in young men and women are changed by long-term alcohol use, but that these changes are significantly different in men and women.

Mindfulness and meditation can affect brain plasticity, resulting in the ability for adults to acquire new social skills, researchers report.

A new study has found that chronic tinnitus (ringing or buzzing in the ears) is associated with changes in certain networks in the brain, and furthermore, those changes cause the brain to stay more at attention and less at rest.

Finnish researchers have revealed how eating stimulates brain’s endogenous opioid system to signal pleasure and satiety.

Finally this week, sleep deprivation — typically administered in controlled, inpatient settings — rapidly reduces symptoms of depression in roughly half of depression patients, according to the first meta-analysis on the subject in nearly 30 years.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Childhood poverty impacted how much the two regions of the prefrontal cortex (as shown in orange circles) were engaged during emotion regulation. (Credit: University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine)

Childhood poverty impacted how much the two regions of the prefrontal cortex (as shown in orange circles) were engaged during emotion regulation. (Credit: University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine)

Childhood poverty and chronic stress may lead to problems regulating emotions as an adult, according to research published online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

New research shows that one of the brain’s fundamental self-protection mechanisms depends on coordinated, finely calibrated teamwork among neurons and non-neural cells knows as glial cells, which until fairly recently were thought to be mere support cells for neurons. The study, which has implications for understanding neurodegenerative diseases, stroke, and other nervous system disorders, adds to a growing body of evidence that glial cells are integral to brain function.

Researchers at higher education institutions have identified six proteins in spinal fluid that can be used as markers for Alzheimer’s disease. And another study suggests that older adults who don’t sleep well have more of the brain plaques that are hallmarks of Alzheimer’s.

Researchers from the Centre for Functional Resonance Imaging of the Brain (FMRIB) at the University of Oxford in the UK, say through monitoring patients’ brain waves while under anesthetic, they were able to pinpoint degrees of consciousness dependent on the doses of anesthetic administered.

Finally, this week, a new study from the UCLA School of Nursing shows that the body’s autonomic responses — the controls that impact such functions as blood pressure, heart rate and sweating — are weaker in people with obstructive sleep apnea but are even more diminished in women.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

UC Santa Barbara scientists turned to the simple sponge to find clues about the evolution of the complex nervous system and found that, but for a mechanism that coordinates the expression of genes that lead to the formation of neural synapses, sponges and the rest of the animal world may not be so distant after all.

Scientists have discovered a mechanism which stops the process of forgetting anxiety after a stress event. In experiments they showed that feelings of anxiety don’t subside if too little dynorphin is released into the brain. The results can help open up new paths in the treatment of trauma patients. The study has been published in the current edition of the Journal of Neuroscience.

The biological role of a gene variant implicated in multiple sclerosis (MS) has been determined by researchers at Oxford University. The finding explains why MS patients do badly on a set of drugs used successfully in other autoimmune diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease – something that has been a puzzle for over 10 years.

A clinical trial of an Alzheimer’s disease treatment developed at MIT has found that the nutrient cocktail can improve memory in patients with early Alzheimer’s. The results confirm and expand the findings of an earlier trial of the nutritional supplement, which is designed to promote new connections between brain cells.

An international consortium, has taken cells from Huntington’s Disease patients and generated human brain cells that develop aspects of the disease in the laboratory. The cells and the new technology will speed up research into understanding the disease and also accelerate drug discovery programs aimed at treating this terminal, genetic disorder. 

Stem cells that come from a specific part of the developing brain help fuel the growth of brain tumors caused by an inherited condition, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis report.

Findings from the first study directly examining gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) concentrations in the brains of children with ADHD were published last week in the Archives of General Psychiatry. In this new article researchers report finding significantly lower concentrations of GABA in the cerebral cortexes of children diagnosed with ADHD, compared with typically developing children. GABA is the brain’s main inhibitory neurotransmitter. The differences were detected in the region of the brain that controls voluntary movement.

People who are born deaf process the sense of touch differently than people who are born with normal hearing, according to research funded by the National Institutes of Health. The finding reveals how the early loss of a sense— in this case hearing—affects brain development. It adds to a growing list of discoveries that confirm the impact of experiences and outside influences in molding the developing brain. The study is published in the July 11 online issue of The Journal of Neuroscience.

Neuronal abnormalities in the brains of children with obstructive sleep apnea are reversible with treatment, a prospective study has shown.

Although many areas of the human brain are devoted to social tasks like detecting another person nearby, a new study has found that one small region carries information only for decisions during social interactions. Specifically, the area is active when we encounter a worthy opponent and decide whether to deceive them. A brain imaging study conducted by researchers at the Duke Center for Interdisciplinary Decision Science (D-CIDES) put human subjects through a functional MRI brain scan while playing a simplified game of poker against a computer and human opponents. Using computer algorithms to sort out what amount of information each area of the brain was processing, the team found only one brain region — the temporal-parietal junction, or TPJ — carried information that was unique to decisions against the human opponent.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

A new study shows that sleeping after processing new information is most effective. Titled “Memory for Semantically Related and Unrelated Declarative Information: The Benefit of Sleep, the Cost of Wake,” the study was published March 22 in PLOSOne.

Snorting, gasping, or short interruptions in breathing during sleep (sleep apnea) may be linked to depression symptoms, new research shows.

Like the mute button on the TV remote control, our brains filter out unwanted noise so we can focus on what we’re listening to. But when it comes to following our own speech, a new brain study from the University of California, Berkeley, shows that instead of one homogenous mute button, we have a network of volume settings that can selectively silence and amplify the sounds we make and hear.

Just as the familiar sugar in food can be bad for the teeth and waistline, another sugar has been implicated as a health menace and blocking its action may have benefits that include improving long-term memory in older people and treating cancer. Progress toward finding such a blocker for the sugar — with the appropriately malicious-sounding name “oh-glick-nack” — was the topic of a report at the 243rd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS), the world’s largest scientific society.

A hidden and never before recognized layer of information in the genetic code has been uncovered by a team of scientists at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) thanks to a technique developed at UCSF called ribosome profiling, which enables the measurement of gene activity inside living cells — including the speed with which proteins are made.