August 21, 2018

    Sensory and cognitive decline in elderly people may be partially reversed by antidepressants
    Antidepressants may keep your brain young - neuroscience news

    In contrast to what was generally believed, the aging brain does not lose neurons, but neurons lose their arbors, a new study found. These arbors are antenna-like outgrowths of neurons that make it possible that the neuron changes (plasticity). The reduced capacity to change is likely at the basis of cognitive and sensory declines in the elderly. When the researchers gave aged mice the antidepressant fluoxetine (also known as Prozac), the neurons started to grow arbors again, and plasticity was restored. While the neuroscientists studied inhibitory interneurons in the visual cortex of mice, such rejuvenation of brain cells by an antidepressant may occur in other brain regions as well, perhaps also in the human brain.

    Read the full story: MIT – The Picower Institute
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


    Retinal thickness could correlate with disease progression in Parkinson's disease
    Eyes could be the window to the brain of Parkinson's patients - short science news and articles

    Patients with Parkinson's gradually lose neurons which produce dopamine, the chemical which helps control movement. Scientists have now found out that thinning of the retina which is the nerve cells in the back of the eye is linked with this neuronal loss. They studied 49 individuals who were diagnosed with Parkinson's disease and discovered that thinner the retina, higher is the severity of the disease. This could lead to someday development of simple eye scans which could detect Parkinson's disease at a much earlier stage before the movement problems and then we could implement preventive strategies to prevent progression of the disease.

    Read the full story: American Academy of Neurology
    Scientific publication: Neurology


    Exposure to DDT during pregnancy could increase the risk of Autism
    First evidence linking DDT and Autism found - short science news and articles

    Researchers studied more than 1 million pregnancies in Finland and found the first evidence of the link between an insecticide and risk for autism. Blood from mothers taken during the beginning of the pregnancy was analyzed for the metabolite DDE of the insecticide DDT and the investigators found that the chances of the baby suffering from autism with intellectual disability increased by twofold if DDE levels were in the top quartile of the population. Whats more surprising is that this insecticide DDT is banned in Finland. Researchers suspect that DDE inhibits binding of hormone androgen to the receptors which is also seen in rat models of autism.

    Read the full story: Columbia University
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Psychiatry


    Depressive symptoms and poor sleep are associated with increased brain activity in areas associated with short-term memory, the self, and negative emotions
    Connection between depressive symptoms and poor sleep quality explained by new research - short science news

    New research has identified functional connectivities in the brain that mediate the association between depressive symptoms and poor sleep quality. The researchers examined data from 1,017 participants. They found that both poor sleep quality and depressive symptoms were associated with increased neural connections involving several brain regions: the lateral orbitofrontal cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex, the cingulate cortex, and the precuneus. This may suggest that “people with poor sleep or depression may focus too much on the negative things and dwell on bad thoughts, which leads to a poor quality of sleep,” said author Jianfeng Feng.

    Read the full story: PsyPost
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry


    Inflammation of the brain during pregnancy could influence sexual behavior in the offspring
    Immune cells decide whether to display male or female sexual behavior - neuroscience news

    A surprising outcome of a recent study reveals that a certain type of immune cells, known as mast cells, play an important role in determining whether an animal will display male or female sexual behavior. When mast cells are silenced in young male rats, female sexual behavior was observed when these rats were adults. When these cells were activated in young female rats, the animals displayed male sexual behavior in adulthood. Mast cells in male rats appeared to be activated by estrogen, a hormone that drives the development of male traits. This study shows that immune cells steer the development of sexual behavior, so that it is possible that allergic reactions, injury or inflammation during pregnancy could influence sexual behavior in the offspring, probably also in humans.

    Read the full story: Ohio State University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


    Negative mood linked to neuropsychiatric disorders is localized in the brain's caudate nucleus
    Pinpointing pessimism - neuroscience news

    By stimulating a brain region known as the caudate nucleus, scientists found that experimental animals generate rather negative expectations. Such negative mood makes the stimulated animals focus on negative outcomes of a given situation, more than on potential benefits. By giving more weight to negative outlook, the animals make more negative decisions. The localization of negative moods to the caudate nucleus is relevant for patients with neuropsychiatric disorders such as anxiety or depression, who manifest similar negative outlooks that cloud decision-making.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Neuron


    Picture of Dopamine neurons involved in Social interaction. Credit: UNIGE
    Poor maturation of synapses responsible for poor social interactions in autism - science news in short

    One of the hallmark symptoms of autism is a deficit in social interactions. A new study from the Universities of Geneva and Basel revealed some of the neural mechanism that could explain how this happens. A malfunction of the synaptic activity of the neurons present in the reward system seems to be important. To understand this, scientists studied mice in whom a gene called “Neuroligin 3” was suppressed or whose activity in dopaminergic neurons had been greatly reduced, in order to imitate a mutation identified in autistic people. Unlike their counterparts, these mice had a lack of interest in novelty and less motivation to interact socially, behavioral traits frequently found in some autistic individuals. The study is taking one step further in the understanding of a disorder that affects more than one child in 200 today.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Increasing temperatures may lead to higher suicide rates due to the impact of warmer weather on how individuals perceive, evaluate and act on their own personal situation
    Global warming will likely increase suicide rates globally - science news

    According to a new study, rising temperature due to global warming will have a surprising effect: they will increase the rates of suicide worldwide. The study estimates that by 2050 increasing temperatures could lead to an additional 21,000 suicides in the United States and Mexico. Until now, it has been difficult to disentangle the role of temperature and other risk factors in suicide. This study could be the first evidence that climate change will have a substantial effect on mental health, with tragic consequences.

    Read the full story: Univresity of California, Berkely
    Scientific publication: Nature Climate Change


    The parietal cortex detects and corrects errors in this aspiring tennis player
    Where is the error? The parietal cortex knows! - neuroscience news

    Practice is needed to acquire new skills. One would for instance need to learn to control one’s own movements, as well as those of a moving target, like when you want to hit a tennis ball. A miss can be caused by your own, untrained, motor system or by an unexpected curve of the tennis ball. As these two errors mean different things to learn, neuroscientists have sought, and found, the brain region that may differentiate between one’s own motor errors and prediction errors imposed by the target. It turned out that Brodmann area 5 in the parietal cortex detects movement errors and provides signals for correction, whereas the neighboring Brodmann area 7 detect target errors. These findings give insight in learning on the basis of correction of errors, and might be used to improve learning methods for robots.

    Read the full story: Osaka University
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    One neuron can link two memories, but will store unique features of each in its synapses
    Memories share cells, but not synaptic plasticity - neuroscience news

    How two memories are on the one hand stored together in the same cells, but on the other hand remain their unique identity has long remained a mystery. By learning mice to be scared off two different tones that were delivered five hours apart, researchers have found that the memory of fear is shared by the same neurons in the amygdala (the almond-shaped brain structure important for fear), but that the points (synapses) on these neurons that receive the information about the fearful stimulus are not. Thus, the researchers were able to downplay the synaptic strength for one tone (the animals show less fear behavior), while leaving the strength for the other intact (fear response for the second tone remains the same). Thus, the sharing of cells links memories, but specific synaptic activity gives the identity to each fear memory.

    Read the full story: Japan Science and Technology Agency
    Scientific publication: Science


    Expecting a difficult day could affect your working memory
    Your cognitive ability decreases if you expect a stressful day - short science articles

    Researchers have found that if you begin your day by thinking how stressful it is going to be, harms your mindset throughout the day. It specifically affects our working memory which is that memory which helps people learn and retain information even when distracted. This indicates that the stress process commences way before a stressful event happens. This lower working memory has a negative impact on an individuals life, especially in older adults who are experiencing cognitive decline.

    Read the full story: Penn State
    Scientific publication: The Journals of Gerontology


    Light entering the eye is converted into action in the brain
    From vision to action - neuroscience news

    Things you see reach the brain via the eyes, where the visual signal will be converted into movement to react adequately to what it was that you have seen. By adapting mouse cells so that they start to emit fluorescent light when they become active, neuroscientists were able to identify the brain region that is important for the association between visual input and motor output. The mice were placed in a task, where two visual stimuli either indicated that they should lick to get a liquid reward, or should remain immobile. The cells in the parietal cortex were especially active during a combination of visual stimulation and muscle activity, identifying this region as a central node in the conversion from seeing to acting.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    fMRI showed the importance of injection volume in the brain in this study
    Small and precise: new drug delivery tools for the brain - neuroscience news

    Neuroscientists have implanted microprobes into the brain that allows for a precise control of the volume of a drug (down to nanoliters!), and in very precisely defined brain areas. The infusions were monitored by fMRI, so that the effects of volume on brain activity could be assessed directly. While the current study is a proof-of-concept study in laboratory animals, it is nevertheless an important step forward for the treatment of neurological diseases. Two of the current problems is that today’s delivery methods either require bigger cannulae and probes, and that the volume injected and injection site cannot be controlled accurately. To circumvent these problems, miniaturization is necessary and will reduce side-effects.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression.
    Newborn cells in the brain help to protect against stress - neuroscience news

    New neurons that are formed in the hippocampus, an important memory center and controlling emotions, appear to dampen the effects of chronic stress, a new study found. When the amount of new neurons in the hippocampus of mice is experimentally doubled, these mice are less stressed by the presence of a big, dominant mouse, and their hippocampus becomes less active. This study made it possible to look at biological reactions to stress in real-time, and now researchers hope to find ways to increase the birth of new hippocampal cells in humans for the development of new and hopefully more effective antidepressants.

    Read the full story: Columbia University – Irving Medical Center
    Scientific publication: Nature


    A new receptor with no known brain function could be a target for treatment of alcohol addiction
    A novel target for treating alcoholism - short science articles

    Researchers have discovered a new target in the brain, a receptor which has no known function which could reduce excessive alcohol use and withdrawal symptoms in a rat model of alcohol addiction. While over 1/3rd of the approved drugs belong to the G-protein coupled receptor family, one receptor, the GPR139 is highly expressed in a brain region called habenula which plays a critical role in addiction. Researchers activated this receptor and it reduced alcohol intake and also restored pain sensitivity in compulsively drinking alcohol mice.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: eNeuro


    Dopamine is necessary for forgetting fear memory
    Dopamine plays a role in unlearning fear - short science articles

    Researchers have discovered a brain circuit necessary for unlearning fear. Rats were trained to associate a sound with a foot shock and then trained them to unlearn fear. However, they found that certain neurons in the brain which secrete dopamine were necessary to fire for this unlearning to occur. Then researchers deactivated these dopamine neurons and discovered that inhibiting them prevented the rats from unlearning the fear. They used a technique called optogenetics by which certain neurons can be selectively activated or inactivated using light. Now, they are trying to develop drugs to manipulate fear memories.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Serotonin modulated learning by influencing plasticity
    Serotonin might be involved in learning - short science articles

    Researchers have shown that serotonin which is one of the most widely available chemicals in the brain might be involved in learning. They used the optogenetic technique in which one can modulate neuron firing using light and found that the learning rate in mice was modulated by serotonin stimulation. Mice normally use a win-stay, lose-switch strategy in which they repeated a choice which was rewards but shifted if that choice wasn't rewarded. However, serotonin accentuated a long-term strategy in which they made decisions based on a long history of rewards. Scientists suggest that serotonin boosted plasticity by influencing rate of learning.

    Read the full story: UCL
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Air pollution not linked to ADHD
    Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy NOT LINKED to ADHD - short science articles

    ADHD is characterized by behavioural symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity in children of school going age. Recent studies had linked ADHD like symptoms to exposure to pollution during pregnancy though the results were not conclusive. Now, a large-scale study which included data on 30,000 children from seven European countries has shown that there was no association between air pollution and ADHD. However, the researchers state that there could be other harmful effects on neuropsychological development, especially in genetically susceptible children.

    Read the full story: Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)
    Scientific publication: Epidemiology


    Learning to play the piano helps kindergarten-aged children to better understand language
    Music lessons help kindergartners’ ability to discriminate spoken words - science news

    A new study shows that piano lessons induce a very specific effect in children. Musical training improved the ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words. However, the music lessons did not appear to confer any benefit for overall cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, attention span, and working memory. The study suggests that musical training is equally beneficial in improving language skills, as reading lessons.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    CRIPR could be used for treatment of autism like conditions
    CRISPR editing used to decrease autism-like symptoms in mice - short science articles

    Using gold nanoparticles to deliver DNA cutting enzyme in mice brain, researchers could modify a gene of a neurotransmitter and thereby decrease repetitive behaviours in mice displaying behaviour features of fragile X syndrome. Researchers injected the CRISPR-Gold in the brain regions which is involved in habit forming and is related to repetitive behaviours in autism-like disorders. The gene inactivated was mGLuR5, a receptor which is involved in cell signalling and repetitive behaviours. This could help develop treatments for brain disorders for which genes are already known.

    Read the full story: Medical Express
    Scientific publication: Nature Biomedical Engineering


    This image of a dendrite — a branch of a neuron — and its spines was reconstructed with electron microscopy (foreground) after it was imaged with two-photon microscopy in an intact brain (background). Credit: Sur Lab, MIT
    When a synapse is strengthened, its neighbors weaken – new rule of synaptic plasticity discovered - science news in brief

    Brain plasticity is a complex process that allows the brain to be flexible and mediate learning and memory. Plasticity allows neurons to do new things by creating fresh connections or strengthening old ones, however, there are still many mysteries about this phenomenon. Now, a new fundamental rule of plasticity in the brain has been discovered. According to a recent study, every time one connection (a synapse) strengthens, immediately neighboring synapses weaken and this process is mediated by a protein called Arc. “Collective behaviors of complex systems always have simple rules,” says Sur, author of the study. This finding provides an explanation of how synaptic strengthening and weakening combine in neurons to produce plasticity.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Science


    Ketamine induces specific changes in the neurons for faster action
    Why is ketamine such a fast-acting anti-depressant? - short science articles

    Ketamine acts much faster than classical antidepressants which usually take a few weeks to show their effect. Previous research by scientists has shown that classical antidepressants accumulate in the fat tissue of the neuronal membrane and this induces specific proteins in the membrane called the 'G proteins' to level the cell surface which allows better communication amongst neurons. When the same analysis was conducted for ketamine, it was seen that not only the G protein left the lipid tissue of the neuronal membrane faster but these proteins were also slow to move back in the cell membrane. This also shows that the movement of G proteins from the neuronal membrane is a true marker of efficacy of antidepressants.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois at Chicago
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Scientists analyzed variations in the language used on Twitter to understand how our thinking patterns change throughout the day
    The way you think follows a 24-hour pattern - analysis of 800 million tweets shows - science news in brief

    A team of scientists analyzed over 800 million tweets, every hour over the course of four years, across 54 of the UK’s largest cities, to determine how our thinking modes change. Interestingly, they discovered a pattern that changes throughout the day. Apparently, at 6 am analytical thinking dominates. However, in the evenings and nights, this thinking style changed towards a more emotional and existential one. Overall, the study discovered strong evidence that our language changes dramatically between night and day, reflecting changes in our concerns and underlying cognitive and emotional processes.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: PLOS One


    Impaired inhibitory signalling in a brain center for emotion regulation causes alcoholism
    Mechanism underlying alcoholism further unravelled - neuroscience news

    Why does a minority of 10-15 % of people develop alcohol-releated problems, while the majority doesn’t ? To answer this questions, researchers have first established a rat model for the choice between alcohol consumption or a healthy reward. They found that a minority of the rats continued to take alcohol, even if sugar, which rats normally prefer, was available. Like human alcoholics, these rats were highly motivated to take alcohol despite adverse consequences. The motivation to take alcohol was caused by impaired clearance of the inhibitor of neuronal activity GABA in the central amygdala, which is important for emotion regulation. Postmortem tissue analysis suggested that the pathology as found in the rats could equally apply to human alcoholism.

    Read the full story: Linkoping University
    Scientific publication: Science


    Neurons from the embryonic subplate migrate into the cortex during development
    Mystery of the missing brain layer resolved - neuroscience news

    During early development, the brain consists of several developing layers, one of which was thought to disappear in adulthood. However, new research has shown that this layer, know as the subplate, is not missing at all. Rather, the cells in this layer migrate into the cortex to become projection neurons (neurons that project within or outside the cortex). Also, the research identified genes and proteins in subplate cells, and it turned out that some of these are important for autism spectrum disorders. Thus, these findings have broad implications for neuroscience and neural disorders, as the identified developmental mechanism may lead to stem cell therapy one day to treat these disorders.

    Read the full story: Rockefeller University
    Scientific publication: Cell Stem Cell


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