January 24, 2019

    Erasing drug memories could help reduce drug addiction
    Deleting cocaine use memory to decrease drug seeking - interesting science news

    Drug addiction is very much a memory condition since as soon as the person is exposed to cues associated with the drug, the brain fires the same neurons associated with drug-seeking behavior.

    In the present experiment, the rats learned to associate some audiovisual cues with cocaine and exhibited behavior similar to craving, ie. pressing the lever for cocaine repeatedly. Then they used electrical recording from the brain tissue and found that brain medial geniculate nucleus which is associated with sounds and amygdala which is important in memory were highly connected.

    Then they erased the cocaine cue memories using a technique called optogenetics which uses light to inhibit certain specific neurons. On doing this the rats significantly reduced the learn-pressing behavior, thus showing that if we disrupt these memories which are linked to these cues, it significantly reduces drug-seeking behavior.

    Read the full story: University of Pittsburgh (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


    These strips could prove lifesaving. Photo credit: Stephen Crocker/Brown University
    Fentanyl test strips could be effective in reducing overdose - interesting science news

    Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid and even an extremely small amount of the drug can lead to fatal overdose. It presents a major health hazard because it is used to lace heroin and cocaine and drug users have difficulty in detecting this.

    Researchers provided rapid-acting fentanyl strips to young adults who were at risk of overdoing and found that these people not only used these strips but also reported that it assisted in changing their behaviour thereby decreasing the risk of fatal overdose.

    Participants used these fentanyl strips to test for suspicious drug supplies and also gave it to other people who they thought might be at a risk of overdose. With just $1 Each these strips are being distributed by harm reduction organization throughout USA.

    Read the full story: Brown University
    Scientific publication: Harm Reduction journal


    Imbalance of inhibition and excitation in the autistic brain is not the cause of, but an adaptation to the disease
    Main theory about what goes wrong in the autistic brain is not correct - brain short science news

    Scientists think that brain cells of autistic patients receive too little inhibition, or much excitation, leading to hyperactivity in the brain. This is supposed to create “noise”, leading to social and attention deficits.

    However, new research in four mouse models of autism has shown that, while neurons do receive less inhibition, the altered balance between inhibition and excitation does not lead to increased activity of the cells. Rather, it appears that this reflects a compensatory mechanism related to the disease, i.e. to stabilize neuronal activity.

    This is fundamentally different from the current theory, and, considering that much research is devoted to the development of treatments to increase inhibition, an important new insight for more effective treatment of autism.

    Read the full story: University of California - Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Neuron


    Early deprivation in childhood has long lasting effects on the mental health of these children
    Early childhood neglect linked to poor memory - interesting science news

    Children who have not experienced the warmth of a family life and have faced neglect in institutionalized settings have poor memory and executive functions at 8-16 years compared to children who have been placed in quality foster homes early in life.

    Researchers analyzed the data which reported higher mental health problems in institutionalized children in adolescence such as rule-breaking, stealing or assault to come to this conclusion.

    This shows that early deprivation and neglect in childhood has long term and sometimes irreversible impact on the cognitive development of children and our focus should be to avoid these problems.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Gene mutations in the developing hypothalmus linked to early onset obesity
    Genes linked to early onset obesity discovered - interesting science news

    It has been known that the brain region hypothalamus plays an important role in regulating food intake. Now, researchers have found out molecules that are associated with this brain circuit.

    Scientists found that the developing hypothalamus neurons communicate with other neurons by releasing semaphorins, which guides these neurons towards each other. Blocking these semaphorins not only disrupted the developing hypothalamus but also caused increased body weight.

    Then the scientists moved towards testing the genes associated with these mechanisms in humans and found out that individuals with an early onset obesity had gene mutations involved in semaphorins. This shows that some people are prewired to develop obesity.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Cell


    A new study indicates that one sense can compensate another.
    Do you crave some delicious food? Smelling it should be enough - interesting science news

    We all know that feeling when just a whiff of French fries triggers us in having a high-calorie meal. However, now researchers have found out that just the food scent could directly satisfy this craving.

    Researchers found an inverse correlation between the length of exposure time and whether someone will eat that food item. Those given a choice between cookies and strawberries, chose cookies if they could smell it for less than 30 seconds but if they were exposed to the same smell for two minutes, they ended up choosing the healthier strawberries.

    This study could help us effectively influence people’s food choices rather than the currently used restrictive policies.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Journal of Marketing Research


    New sleeping pill can help patients wake up in response to threat
    A new sleep pill that won’t suppress your ability to wake up in presence of threat - interesting science news

    Benzodiazepines, which are the most commonly prescribed sleep pills impair the brains ability to arose in presence of threat and several study participants sleep through loud noises like vacuuming close to their ears. This poses threat when these drugs impair a person’s ability to wake up when there is a sudden earthquake or fire.

    Now, researchers have developed a new drug named DORA-22 which when tested in mice, arose them quickly in presence of threat, but these mice could go back to sleep immediately after the threat was withdrawn.

    DORA or dual orexin receptor antagonists selectively act on the brain’s sleep pathways and hence safer than traditional benzodiazepines.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience


    A higher mid waist linked to smaller brain size
    Got love handles? This is linked to smaller brain size - interesting science news

    If you are carrying some extra body fat, especially around your mid waist, then it might be linked to brain shrinkage.

    Researchers used the MRI machine to determine brain volumes for white and grey brain matter and volumes in different brain regions. They also measured Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio in study participants and found out that those having high scores on both measures had lower brain volumes.

    Specifically, those with higher BMI had a brain volume of 786 cubic centimetre while that with normal BMI had 798 cubic centimetre. Now, it remains to be determined if abnormalities in the brain lead to obesity or it’s the other way round.

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


    There is a higher risk of depression in teenage girls with regular social media use
    Social media use doubles the risk of depression in girls - interesting science news
    At 14 years of age, girls are twice more likely to show signs of depression compared to boys. Researchers have found out that at this age, girls are heavy social media users with on an average 3 hours more use per day as compared to boys.

    They speculate that the underlying reasons for this could be that 40% of the girls experienced online bullying and sleep disturbances while this number was around 25% for boys.

    This could be linked to poor sleep, poor body image and low self esteem issues increasing the risk of depression.

    Read the full story: UCL
    Scientific publication: EClinicalMedicine


    Are you left or right handed? Maybe it depends on if you were breastfed - science news articles
    Breast feeding linked to left-handedness

    Researchers have proposed that the prevalence of being left handed is lower in infants who were breastfed than those infants who were bottle-fed. The study included 60,000 mother-child pairs and it took into consideration other factors associated with handedness.

    Lets not confuse this correlation with causality since this study doesn’t propose that breastfeeding is the cause of left-handedness.

    This study indicates that breastfeeding optimizes the processes involved which solidify the handedness of a person.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition


    Botox could be an effective way to treat migraine
    Botox injections for treating migraine? Why Not - short science news and articles

    A recent review and meta-analysis of several clinical trial data has shown that botulinum toxin is effective in reducing chronic migraine headaches.

    Data from 17 previous studies was pooled together which showed that botulinum toxin was significantly better compared to placebo for migraines. Three months after the injections, patients treated with botulinum injections had 1.6 times fewer migraine attacks per month.

    Further, although the injections had higher side effects that placebo, none of these were serious side effects.

    Read the full story: American Society of Plastic Surgeons
    Scientific publication: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery


    New technology allows obtaining PET images of the brain in freely moving animals
    Brain scans in moving animals now possible - daily short science news

    PET (positron-emission tomography) scans have long been used in research for imaging the brain of small animals. However, the classical approach requires the animals to be anesthetized, which perturbs many neurological parameters. But now, researchers report achieving PET scans in awake, moving animals.

    The technique allows for simultaneous brain imaging and behavioral tests which has great potential for research. To achieve this, scientists built a system containing a motion-sensitive observation chamber which adapts to the animal’s head position within the PET field-of-view.

    The new system was successfully tested in an experiment measuring the rate of binding of specific compounds to dopamine receptors in the brain. Thus, this approach holds important applications in neuroscience research.

    Read the full story: Physics World
    Scientific publication: Neuroimage


    A device which monitors the brain and avoids jerky movements developed. (UC Berkeley image by Rikky Muller )
    A wireless Pacemaker for treating Epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease - short science news and articles

    Researchers have a developed a device named ‘WAND’, which monitors the brain’s electrical activity and then delivers an electrical stimulation if it finds something wrong.

    The device needs a brief training period and is capable of detecting neural signatures, which appear before a movement is performed and then delivers an electrical stimulation to delay that movement.

    The device registers from a 128-channel receiver, thereby having a wide coverage and hence could effectively control tremors in Parkinson’s or violent movements in Epilepsy.

    Read the full story: UC Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature Biomedical Engineering


    Father's depression linked to teenage depression in daughters
    Teenage girls at increased risk of depression if their fathers suffered from it after their birth - short science news and articles

    At least 1 in 20 new fathers suffer from depression in the weeks after the birth of their child. Now, researchers have found out that if the child happens to be a girl, there is an increased risk of the girl herself to suffer from depression in her teenage.

    One of the reasons of this could be that postnatal depression in fathers could lead to increased depression in mothers which could lead to a more disrupted family life of all and higher stress levels.

    Interestingly, this is not true for sons. So, we need to pay attention to paternal health too in a pregnancy.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry


    Junk food linked to depression
    Increased risk of Depression with Junk food consumption - short science news and articles

    Those fries and that burger looks delicious. But there is a down side to junk food. Researchers have found out that junk food promotes inflammation, and this increases the risk of depression by over 40%. The interpretation comes from a meta-analysis of 11 studies which looked at depression and pro-inflammatory diets consisting of 100,000 participants.

    While certain studies looked at the participants at one time point, there were other studies which followed up with the participants for up to 13 years. The results were unanimous irrespective of the duration of follow-up which the researchers indicate could be an indication that simple regulating our diet could be cheaper alternative to pharmacological intervention.

    However, it is important to understand that this is an association study and does not show causality and needs further studies to validate these claims.

    Read the full story: Manchester Metropolitan University
    Scientific publication: Clinical Nutrition


    Multiple theories of near death experiences
    All the visions of a near death experience...are they hallucinations? - short science news and articles
    The most common near-death experiences are a sense of contentment, out of body experiences, a rapid jump through a dark tunnel and a bright light at the end. While most real death experiences are positive some are negative such as lack of control, hellish imagery and awareness of nonexistence.

    The temporal lobe of the brain could play an important role in near death experiences. It is the one involved in sensory information and memory. Certain scientists indicate the depersonalization could be the reason. While certain researchers believe that endorphins release during stress might produce near-death experience especially, decreasing pain and increasing pleasant sensations.

    Certain researchers also indicate a lack of oxygen to the temporal lobe of the brain inducing seizures and hallucinations to be the reason for these experiences.

    Read the full story: The Conversation


    Brain circuits of addict individuals could be different
    What happens in the brain of compulsive drug users? - short science news and articles

    Researchers have discovered that the brain circuit connecting the decision-making circuit and the reward system is stronger in compulsive drug seeking animals.

    They implanted mice with an optic system which stimulated the brain reward circuit if the mice pressed a lever. Then they introduced an electric shock to test which mice would continue pressing the lever. 60% mice which continued pressing the lever in the presence of shock were considered compulsive.

    In these compulsive rats the circuit connecting the orbitofrontal cortex to the reward center was stronger as compared to those who stopped indicating that their brain circuits were different.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Neuronal activity in the brains of Alzheimer's patients is altered by two proteins that are associated with the disease.
    Tau protein reduces neuronal activity in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease - brain short science news

    The proteins amyloid-beta and tau form plaques and tangles in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients, but exactly how they damage the brain is still not completely known. In a new study, scientists found that the tau protein reduces neuronal activity in brains of mice with amyloid-beta plaques.

    This is intriguing considering that amyloid-beta plaques increase neuronal activity.

    Thus, the activity of tau protein dominates over that of amyloid-beta, and scientists suggest that for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, both proteins should be targeted simultaneously instead of separately.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts General Hospital
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Gently stroking babies reduces their pain perception
    Pain processing is reduced in babies by gently stroking them - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found that brushing infants lightly, approximately 3 cm per second provides pain relief if done just before a medical procedure. It seems that doing this reduces the activity in the infant brain which is associated with painful experiences.

    The scientists used electroencephalography (EEG) which measures bursts of electric activity from the surface of the brain. It has been previously shown that EEG activity is increased in infant brain immediately after a blood test.

    However, this EEG activation can be lowered by light stroking of the babies. This could explain the soothing power of touch based interventions such as infant massage and kangaroo care could reduce pain perception in babies.

    Read the full story: Independent
    Scientific publication: Current Biology


    Marijuana could specifically affect teen brains
    Marijuana might damage some adolescent brains - short science news and articles

    Researchers studied the effects of marijuana on adolescent mice which had the faulty gene DISC1 which is originally seen in a Scottish family with several members suffering from depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. TH, the active component of marijuana, increases the inflammation in these mice brain cells.

    Then the mice were tested in an object recognition task and the male DISC1 mice exposed to THC showed deficient memory. This effect was less profound in female mice.

    Further, it was seen that mice which had the gene mutation in the astrocytes, the brain cells which provide support and protection to the neurons, were only affected by the adolescent exposure of THC. Further injection of anti-inflammatory drug prevented these memory effects of adolescent marijuana exposure in mice.

    Read the full story: John Hopkins Medicine
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry


    Increased anxiety the next day with hangover is seen in shy people
    Shy people have higher ‘HANGXIETY’ - short science news and articles

    Well, while people say that drinking alcohol decreases shyness, there is a downside to this. Researchers have found out that very shy individuals are more likely to suffer from higher anxiety during a hangover as compared to their extroverted friends.

    In a study conducted on 100 social drinkers, drinking six units of alcohol decreased anxiety in highly shy individuals, but this slight relaxation afforded by alcohol got replaced by higher amount of anxiety the next day.

    Researchers feel that this could be trigger point of increased risk of highly shy people to develop problems with alcohol over the long run.

    Read the full story: University of Exeter
    Scientific publication: Personality and Individual Differences


    Bullying changes the brain structure
    Chronic bullying affects the brain structure - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found out that chronic peer victimization during adolescence has an impact on the mental health of these individuals due to structural changes in the brain. Of the 682 young people studied, 36 of them had suffered from chronic bullying.

    While, this research replicated the fact that chronic bullying leads to increased incidence of depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, the novelty of this study is that there was a decrease in the volumes of parts of the brain named caudate and putamen which are involved in reward sensitivity, motivation, attention and emotional processing.

    This shows that we need to limit bullying before it causes irreversible changes in the brain structure.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Now we can visualize the activity of neurons
    Technology that can visualize nerve cells firing- short science news and articles

    Researchers have developed a non-invasive technology to detect firing of nerve cells on the basis of changes in shape. When neurons fire, there is a change in the electrical potential of the cells, but also there are subtle variations in the shape of the neuron.

    This leads to a very high signal to noise ratio and hence the researchers have developed an interferometric microscope with a high-speed camera which collects 50,000 frames per second. They further developed a new algorithm that can detect that part of the neuron which moves the most further boosting the signal.

    This technology can be used to observe the neuronal activity in light-accessible parts of the body such as the eyes which could help us monitor visual functions at a cellular level.

    Read the full story: NIH/National Eye Institute
    Scientific publication: Light: Science & Applications


    The status in social hierarchy could play a role on how an individual responds to stress
    How social status affects the cellular response to stress - short science news and articles

    While stress is ubiquitous in our daily life, it seems that the social hierarchy plays an important role as to how our cells respond to stress. Researchers studied the effects of glucocorticoids (the stress hormone) injections on rhesus monkeys depending on their social hierarchy.

    It was observed that immune cells of the lower status monkeys responded less productively as compared to higher-status monkeys to glucocorticoid injections. One possible explanation could be due to gene accessibility. Interestingly, low status monkeys had immune system activation, but these cells were less accessible to signals from glucocorticoids as compared to cells from higher status monkeys.

    This indicates that not all individuals respond to stress similarly and other factors influence the animals response to stress.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    In mice lacking the protein called importin alpha-5 (right), MeCP2 (red), known to affect anxiety behaviors, stays on the outside brain cell nuclei (blue), instead of getting inside the nuclei, as it does in regular mice (left). Image : Weizmann Institute of Science
    Importing anxiety - brain short science news

    Researchers have found in mice that anxiety can be regulated by a particular protein, importin alpha 5. This protein is a transporter that shuttles another protein into the nucleus of the cell.

    This second protein, MeCP2, controls the expression of the gene Sphk1. When mice lack importin alpha 5, they are not anxious when they are placed in a stressful situation. Importantly, if the MeCP2-Sphk1 pathway is inhibited by a drug already used in schizophrenia (fingolimod) in normal mice, they also become less anxious.

    The current study has thus discovered a new biochemical pathway in brain cells that can be targeted for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

    Read the full story: Weizmann Institute of Science
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


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