Weekly Neuroscience Update

 

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Fathers given boosts of the hormone oxytocin show increased activity in brain regions associated with reward and empathy when viewing photos of their toddlers, a new study finds. The journal Hormones and Behavior published the results of the study, the first to look at the influence of both oxytocin and vasopressin – another hormone linked to social bonding – on brain function in human fathers.

A new study looks at the association between tiredness, genetics, environment and health.

A genetic ‘switch’ has been discovered by researchers at the University of Leicester which could help to prevent or delay the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In a paper published in the journal Cell Death and Differentiation, the team discovered that a gene called ATF4 plays a key role in Parkinson’s disease, acting as a ‘switch’ for genes that control mitochondrial metabolism for neuron health.

A new study supports olfactory testing as an early method to detect those at risk of develop dementia.

Researchers have experimentally confirmed the hypothesis, whereby comprehension of a word’s meaning involves not only the ‘classic’ language brain centres but also the cortical regions responsible for the control of body muscles, such as hand movements. The resulting brain representations are, therefore, distributed across a network of locations involving both areas specialised for language processing and those responsible for the control of the associated action.

Better quality sleep is linked to improved emotions and fewer stressors the next day, researchers report.

New research shows that patients with mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI), even without evidence of brain lesions, may exhibit changes in brain connectivity detectable at the time of the injury that can aid in diagnosis and predicting the effects on cognitive and behavioural performance at 6 months.

Finally this week, preschool aged children who took naps after learning new verbs better understood the word when tested 24 hours later, a new study reports.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

age-brain-related-changes-autism

Researchers at the University of Miami find that large-scale connectivity in autism changes with age.

Although scientists know that depression affects the brain, they don’t know why some people respond to treatment while others do not. Now a team of researchers has shown for the first time in a large cohort of patients that electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), sometimes referred to as shock treatment, change certain areas of the brain that play a role in how people feel, learn and respond to positive and negative environmental factors.

Research by biologists at the University of York has identified new mechanisms potentially driving progression of an aggressive form of dementia.

A new study shows that the act of remembering leads to the subtle forgetting of other memories.

When we look at a known word, our brain sees it like a picture, not a group of letters needing to be processed. That’s the finding from a Georgetown University Medical Center (GUMC) study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, which shows the brain learns words quickly by tuning neurons to respond to a complete word, not parts of it.

Scientists at the University of Bonn have discovered a new cause of temporal lobe epilepsy.

Brown fat tissue, the body’s “good fat,” communicates with the brain through sensory nerves, possibly sharing information that is important for fighting human obesity, such as how much fat we have and how much fat we’ve lost, according to research published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

Finally this week, people who have suffered serious head injuries show changes in brain structure resembling those seen in older people, according to a new study.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

Brain scans of meditators and non-meditators. Areas of the brain affected by aging (in red) are fewer and less widespread in people who meditate, bottom row, than in people who don’t meditate. Negative correlations between local gray matter and age. Displayed are maximum intensity projections superimposed onto the SPM standard glass brain (sagittal, coronal, axial). Shown, in red, are significant negative age-related correlations within controls (top) and meditators (bottom). Significance profiles are corrected for multiple comparisons via controlling the family-wise error (FWE) rate at p ≤ 0.05. Note the less extended clusters in meditators compared to controls. Credit: Frontiers in Psychology.

New brain research findings suggest long-term meditation may lead to less age-related gray matter atrophy in the human brain.

A new study has revealed that many mental disorders share a common structure in the brain. Six conditions were examined and found to be connected by the loss of gray matter in three specific areas related to cognitive functions such as self-control.

A new paper argues that there is a widespread misunderstanding about the true nature of traumatic brain injury and how it causes chronic degenerative problems.

New research finds that there is not a single type of schizophrenia, as thought, but 8 different genetic diseases.

Scientists have discovered that babies of the age from 9 to 16 months remember the names of objects better if they had a short nap. And only after sleeping can they transfer learned names to similar new objects.

Cocaine addicted individuals may continue their habit despite unfavourable consequences like imprisonment or loss of relationships because their brain circuits responsible for predicting emotional loss are impaired, according to a study published in The Journal of Neuroscience.

Scientists have discovered how a ‘mini-brain’ in the spinal cord aids in balance.

UCLA neurophysicists have found that space-mapping neurons in the brain react differently to virtual reality than they do to real-world environments. Their findings could be significant for people who use virtual reality for gaming, military, commercial, scientific or other purposes.

New research has highlighted the structural improvements on the brain observed in bilingual people who immerse themselves in two languages.

Good sleep in young and middle-aged people helps boost memory up to 28 years later, a new review of the evidence finds.

For the first time, scientists have revealed a mechanism underlying the cellular degeneration of upper motor neurons, a small group of neurons in the brain recently shown to play a major role in ALS pathology.

Finally this week, we know that our existence depends on a bit of evolutionary genius aptly nicknamed “fight or flight.” But where in our brain does the alarm first go off, and what other parts of the brain are mobilized to express fear and remember to avoid danger in the future? New research sheds some light on this question.

 

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

The human brain using colors and shapes to show neurological differences between two people. Credit Arthur Toga, University of California, Los Angeles via NIGMS.

The human brain using colors and shapes to show neurological differences between two people. Credit Arthur Toga, University of California, Los Angeles via NIGMS.

While many different combinations of genetic traits can cause autism, brains affected by autism share a pattern of ramped-up immune responses, an analysis of data from autopsied human brains reveals. The study, published online in the journal Nature Communications, included data from 72 autism and control brains.

Teenagers who have suffered a traumatic brain injury are twice as likely to drink alcohol or use drugs when compared with whose who have never experienced a similar blow or trauma to the head.

Activating the brain’s amygdala, an almond-shaped mass that processes emotions, can create an addictive, intense desire for sugary foods, a new study found. Rewards such as sweet, tasty food or even addictive drugs like alcohol or cocaine can be extremely attractive when this brain structure is triggered. And another study, led by researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, revealed that the brains of obese children literally light up differently when tasting sugar.

Scientists have discovered a link between sleep loss and cell injury. Results of a new study find sleep deprivation causes the damage to cells, especially in the liver, lung, and small intestine. Recovery sleep following deprivation heals the damage.

Neural circuits that activate when we daydream run in the opposite direction to how we process reality, a new study finds.

Yale researchers using a new brain imaging analysis method have confirmed that smoking cigarettes activates a dopamine-driven pleasure and satisfaction response differently in men compared to women.

Whether we’re paying attention to something we see can be discerned by monitoring the firings of specific groups of brain cells. Now, new work from Johns Hopkins shows that the same holds true for the sense of touch.

Serious, long-term stress can have dire consequences for your brain. That’s because the immune system and the brain are intimately related, say researchers at the Ruhr University Bochum, Germany.

In the current issue of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatics a new study identifies biological characteristics who may predict who is going to respond to psychotherapy.

Some high school football players exhibit measurable brain changes after a single season of play even in the absence of concussion, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America. Meanwhile, as debate increases about whether female lacrosse players should wear headgear, a new study reports measurements of the accelerations that stick blows deliver to the head. The study also measured the dampening effect of various kinds of headgear.

Quitting smoking sets off a series of changes in the brain that researchers say may better identify smokers who will start smoking again.

Everyday events are easy to forget, but unpleasant ones can remain engraved in the brain. A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences identifies a neural mechanism through which unpleasant experiences are translated into signals that trigger fear memories by changing neural connections in a part of the brain called the amygdala. The findings show that a long-standing theory on how the brain forms memories, called Hebbian plasticity, is partially correct, but not as simple as was originally proposed.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Earlier research showed that progranulin levels were elevated near plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was unknown whether this effect counteracted or exacerbated neurodegeneration. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

Earlier research showed that progranulin levels were elevated near plaques in the brains of patients with Alzheimer’s disease, but it was unknown whether this effect counteracted or exacerbated neurodegeneration. This image is for illustrative purposes only. Credit NIH.

Low levels of the naturally occurring protein progranulin exacerbate cellular and cognitive dysfunction, while raising levels can prevent abnormalities in an Alzheimer model.

Teenagers who said they had a traumatic brain injury in their lifetime, especially girls, also reported significantly higher rates of harmful behavior, according to new research.

A new University of Iowa study further supports an inescapable message: caregivers have a profound influence – good or bad – on the emotional state of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. Patients may not remember a recent visit by a loved one or having been neglected by staff at a nursing home, but those actions can have a lasting impact on how they feel. The findings of this study are published in the September 2014 issue of the journal Cognitive and Behavioral Neurology.

A new study reveals individual neurons in the human brain are triggered by the subject’s conscious perception, rather than by the visual stimulus.

A chemical in the brain plays a vital role in controlling the involuntary movements and vocal tics associated with Tourette Syndrome (TS), a new study has shown.

Researchers discover how the brain works during meditation.

Finally, this week, teenagers who regularly do not get enough sleep are more likely to struggle academically, the results of a new study show. Swedish researchers looked at over 20,000 teenagers aged between 12 and 19 and found that those who regularly slept for less than seven hours per night were more likely to fail in school. Details of these findings are published in the journal, Sleep Medicine.

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Weekly Neuroscience Update

Granule cells connect with other cells via long projections (dendrites). The actual junctions (synapses) are located on thorn-like protuberances called “spines”. Spines are shown in green in the computer reconstruction Credit DZNE/Michaela Müller.

Granule cells connect with other cells via long projections (dendrites). The actual junctions (synapses) are located on thorn-like protuberances called “spines”. Spines are shown in green in the computer reconstruction Credit DZNE/Michaela Müller.

New findings on the link between nerve cells at the interface to the hippocampus may have an influence on learning and memory.

People choosing between two or more equally positive outcomes experience paradoxical feelings of pleasure and anxiety, feelings associated with activity in different regions of the brain, according to research at the Princeton Neuroscience Institute at Princeton University.

Latest findings on how stress hormones promote the brain’s building of negative memories.

Researchers have studied the changes in the brain that are associated with impulsiveness, a personality trait that causes difficulties in inhibiting a response in the face of a stimulus and leads to unplanned actions without considering the negative consequences. These patterns can serve as an indicator for predicting the risk of behavioural problems.

People taking dopamine for Parkinson’s disease sometimes begin to generate a lot of artwork. New research differentiates their expressiveness from obsessive or impulsive tendencies.

Researchers have uncovered more than 100 genetic markers linked to developing schizophrenia.

A type of immune cell widely believed to exacerbate chronic adult brain diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS), can actually protect the brain from traumatic brain injury (TBI) and may slow the progression of neurodegenerative diseases, according to research published in the online journal Nature Communications.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

For the study, researchers recruited twenty skilled pianists from Lyon, France. The group was asked to learn simple melodies by either hearing them several times or performing them several times on a piano. Pianists then heard all of the melodies they had learned, some of which contained wrong notes, while their brain electric signals were measured using electroencephalography (EEG). Credit: Caroline Palmer/Brian Mathias

For the study, researchers recruited twenty skilled pianists from Lyon, France. The group was asked to learn simple melodies by either hearing them several times or performing them several times on a piano. Pianists then heard all of the melodies they had learned, some of which contained wrong notes, while their brain electric signals were measured using electroencephalography (EEG). Credit: Caroline Palmer/Brian Mathias

Research from McGill University reveals that the brain’s motor network helps people remember and recognize music that they have performed in the past better than music they have only heard. 

Veterans who have been exposed to nearby explosions, but who lack clear symptoms of traumatic brain injury (TBI) may still have damage to the brain’s white matter similar to veterans with TBI, according to new research at Duke Medicine and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

University of Adelaide researchers say new insights into how the human brain responds to chronic pain could eventually lead to improved treatments for patients. And also at the University of Adelaide, studies show that a gene linked to intellectual disability is critical to the earliest stages of the development of human brains. Known as USP9X, the gene has been investigated by Adelaide researchers for more than a decade, but in recent years scientists have begun to understand its particular importance to brain development.

In order to function properly, the human brain requires the ability not only to store but also to forget. Through memory loss, unnecessary information is deleted and the nervous system retains its plasticity. A disruption of this process can lead to serious mental disorders. Scientists have now discovered a molecular mechanism that actively regulates the process of forgetting. The journal Cell has published their results.

Brain imaging using radioactive dye can detect early evidence of Alzheimer’s disease that may predict future cognitive decline.

Scientists have identified a new group of compounds that may protect brain cells from inflammation linked to seizures and neurodegenerative diseases.

Your brain’s ability to instantly link what you see with what you do is down to a dedicated information ‘highway’, suggests new research.

There has been a great deal of research on changes among different brain states during sleep, but  new findings, reported in the March 13 issue of Cell, provide a compelling example of a change in state in the awake brain.

Finally, this week, using a new method to determine whether individuals met the criteria for a clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder, researchers from UCLA tried a new approach by combining results from brain imaging, cognitive tests, and an array of temperament and behavioral measures. In an attempt to better understand the genes that cause the disorder, a collaborative research team identified about 50 brain and behavioral measures that are both under strong genetic control and associated with bipolar disorder, creating the potential to pinpoint the specific genes that contribute to the illness.

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Lesion overlap map illustrating common and distinctive brain regions for Val/Val (blue) and Val/Met (yellow) genotype patients. Overlap between Val/Val and Val/Met genotype patients is illustrated in green. In each axial slice, the right hemisphere is on the reader’s left. Credit Barbey et al./PLOS ONE.

Lesion overlap map illustrating common and distinctive brain regions for Val/Val (blue) and Val/Met (yellow) genotype patients. Overlap between Val/Val and Val/Met genotype patients is illustrated in green. In each axial slice, the right hemisphere is on the reader’s left – this is because the view is from the bottom i.e. as if one were in the neck looking up at the brain. Credit Barbey et al./PLOS ONE.

Researchers report that one tiny variation in the sequence of a gene may cause some people to be more impaired by traumatic brain injury (TBI) than others with comparable wounds.

A recent study conducted by a multicenter-research team led by Cedars-Sinai Medical Center used a new, automated imaging system to identify shrinkage of a mood-regulating brain structure in a large sample of women with multiple sclerosis (MS), who also have a certain type of depression. The research supports earlier studies suggesting that the hippocampus may contribute to the high frequency of depression seen in those who suffer from MS.

Max Ortiz Catalan, researcher at Chalmers University of Technology, has developed a new method for the treatment of phantom limb pain (PLP) after an amputation. 

University of Sydney study is looking into the effectiveness of omega-3 supplements and the antidepressant, sertraline, in reducing depressive symptoms and cognitive decline in older people, in a bid to prevent the onset of depression and dementia in later life.

Certain neurons in the human striatum—a brain region involved in movement and cognition—are renewed throughout life, according to a study published in Cell.

Researchers at the University of Oxford have discovered the molecular switch in the brain that sends us to sleep.

Can the damaged brain repair itself?

After a traumatic brain injury, it sometimes happens that the brain can repair itself, building new brain cells to replace damaged ones. But the repair doesn’t happen quickly enough to allow recovery from degenerative conditions like motor neuron disease (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease or ALS). In this video, regenerative neurologist  Siddharthan Chandran walks through some new techniques using special stem cells that could allow the damaged brain to rebuild faster.

 

Weekly Neuroscience Update

Mind wandering may increase creative thinking, according to a new international study.

Simple mental activity such as reading, writing, playing games and doing puzzles may protect brain health in old age, according to a new study.

Reduced production of myelin, a type of protective nerve fiber that is lost in diseases like multiple sclerosis, may also play a role in the development of mental illness, according to researchers at the Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Mount Sinai School of Medicine.

A small molecule known to regulate white blood cells has a surprising second role in protecting brain cells from the deleterious effects of stroke, Johns Hopkins researchers report.

Scientists have revealed the minutely detailed pain map of the hand that is contained within our brains, shedding light on how the brain makes us feel discomfort and potentially increasing our understanding of the processes involved in chronic pain.

People with Parkinson’s disease benefit from exercise programs on stationary bicycles, with the greatest effect for those who pedal faster, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

A new method to study widespread networks of neurons responsible for our memory has been discovered by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Biological Cybernetics.

The first study to estimate rates of traumatic brain injury (TBI), without relying on official figures, suggests the worldwide incidence of TBI could be six times higher than previously estimated.

MRI shows changes in the brains of people with post-concussion syndrome (PCS), according to a new study published online in the journal Radiology. Researchers hope the results point the way to improved detection and treatment for the disorder.

photo credit: pamlau.com via photopin cc