November 19, 2018

    The curious case of coffee love
    We shouldn’t like coffee, but weirdly we do - short science news and articles

    Evolutionarily, bitterness is like a natural warning system to protect us from harmful substances, so in an ideal world we should just spit out the coffee.

    However, researchers have found out that, more a person is sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine, the more they drink the coffee. This discovered that this sensitivity is due to a genetic variation in these people.

    This suggests that people who consume coffee and are especially sensitive to the bitter taste, learn to associate the bitter taste of coffee with its stimulating properties through positive reinforcement. In other words, they learn to associate ‘good things’ with coffee.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: Scientific reports


    Unique early brain signatures identified in autism
    Unique brain networks identified for Autism behaviors - short science news and articles

    Scientists have for the first time identified the unique brain network fingerprints for the prototypical behaviors observed in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    Autism is characterized by restricted behaviors (decreased interest in the surroundings), stereotypical behaviors (repetitive movements) and ritualistic behaviors (resistance to change). While, these behaviors are necessary for normal development too, their increased prevalence at age 12 months is associated with increased chances of the infant developing autism.

    These children showed abnormal functional brain connections between the default mode network (which is typically active at rest), visual, attention and executive control networks. This is the first study to identify these network abnormalities in children at a young age who then go on to develop autism like symptoms.

    Read the full story: Elsivier
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging


    Regular exercise associated with better mental health
    No exercise associated with poor mental health - short science news and articles

    While physical activities like exercise and sports are touted to prevent to cure several conditions like obesity and hypertension, long term inactivity has several negative health consequences too.

    Researchers studied a group of Japanese immigrants in Malaysia which has one of the world’s highest obesity rates. They found that people who exercised regularly spent on an average 135 minutes less time sitting down and their quality of life score was atleast 5.5 points higher than those individuals who do not exercise at all.

    This shows that regular exercise indeed is linked to better mental health.

    Read the full story: Kobe University
    Scientific publication: Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine


    Those hamburgers might not be so good afterall. Obesity is now linked to depression
    Strongest evidence connecting obesity and depression - short science articles and news

    In a biggest study of its kind, researchers have shown that obesity can increase the risk of depression irrespective of other associated health problems.

    Comparing data of 48,000 people with depression and 290,000 healthy controls, the scientists were able to separate the psychological components of obesity from the impact of obesity associated health issues by studying the genes which are linked to higher BMI but with lower diseases like diabetes. These genes were strongly associated with depression indicating that being overweight causes depression. This was especially true in women.

    Surprisingly, extremely thin men were also prone to depression compared to very thin women.

    Read the full story: Eurekalert
    Scientific publication: https://academic.oup.com/ije


    Chornic pain could be treated with brain stimulation
    Let’s stimulate the brain to treat chronic back pain- short science articles and news

    In a first, researchers were able to stimulate a particular brain region with alternating current of electricity to increase the activity of naturally occurring brain region and correlated it with lower pain sensations associated with chronic back pain. They wanted to test if the deficient alpha oscillations found in the somatosensory cortex of the brain in patients with chronic pain could be normalized using electric stimulations. The researchers used a non-invasive treatment strategy called the transcranial alternating current stimulation or tACS in this study. The participants reported a significant decrease in pain sensation. This could play an important role in decreasing the use of opioids for pain conditions which is associated with addictions and other problems.

    Read the full story: University of North Carolina Health Care
    Scientific publication: The Journal of Pain


    The function of the brain structures called perineuronal nets was discovered
    Old neuroscience mystery solved with implications for epilepsy - daily science news headlines in brief

    Since 1893, scientists have wondered what is the function of the enigmatic brain structures called perineuronal nets. Now, a group of scientists have the answer: the nets modulate electrical impulses in the brain.

    The perineuronal nets facilitate messaging between brain cells. The neurons covered by them can fire an impulse and reload up to twice as fast as non-netted neurons. The scientists also discovered that when the nets are damaged, due to disease, the result was the induction of epileptic seizures.

    “We need new approaches to treat epilepsy. I think this could be an effective way to control seizures,” said Harald Sontheimer, one of the lead authors of the study.

    Read the full story: Virginia Tech
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Forgetting distracting memories is an active process in the brain of rats and humans
    Selective amnesia: forgetting distracting memories - neuroscience short news

    Both rats and humans use the prefrontal cortex for active forgetting. Forgetting is not a passive response, as many people think, and can be trained so a rat or a person can focus on things that are important to remember. Rats, for example, when repeatedly exposed to one of two familiar objects, forget that they have seen the other object in the past. In humans, active forgetting makes it possible to recall, for instance, where you parked your car without being distracted by other memories. Thus, remembering can cause forgetting, and this surprising finding could help us to understand about people’s capacities for selective amnesia.

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


    Digital reconstruction of part of the network in the dentate gyrus, with two parvalbumin-expressing interneurons (red and yellow), the granular cell they inhibit (blue) and visualization of the synaptic connections (black & white photographs). Image: Espinoza et al, IST Asustria
    Keeping similar memories apart through lateral inhibition - neuroscience short news

    Neuroscientists have figured out how very similar, but still distinct, memories are formed in the brain without overlap. Key to this are inhibitory parvalbumin-expressing neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus that inhibit neighboring neurons in a highly specialized neural network structure. After separation of similar memories in the dentate gyrus, the CA3 region of the hippocampus then stores the memories. This makes it e.g. possible to find your car when you had parked it at slightly different locations in the parking lot at work.

    Read the full story: Institute of Science and Technology Austria
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Parkinson's might begin outside the brain
    Your redundant appendix might be the starting point of Parkinson’s - short science news and articles

    And we all thought appendix was of no significance. In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers have found out that removing the appendix early in life reduces the life-time risk of Parkinson’s disease by 19-25%. Further, they were able to show that appendectomy could push back the diagnosis in those individuals who go on to develop Parkinson’s by an average of 3.6 years. The appendix apparently acts as a major reservoir of abnormally folded alpha-synuclein proteins, which are associated with Parkinson’s onset. This is yet another pointer that the gut and the immune system is involved in this neurological condition.

    Read the full story: Van Andel Institute
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine


    Fear memory could be suppressed by targeting the newly discovered brain region nucleus reuniens
    Fear memory suppressed by a newly identified brain region - short science articles and news

    A small brain region in the thalamus named the nucleus reuniens has been implicated in inhibiting fear memory in rats.

    Prior to this the nucleus reuniens was considered to act mainly as a conduit for sensory information involved in complex thoughts.

    While the prefrontal cortex is known to play a role in emotional regulation, its connection with the nucleus reuniens plays a central role in inhibiting fear memories which could help develop new drugs and therapies for psychiatric conditions like Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD).

    Read the full story: Texas A&M University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Restriction of screen time recommended for children's mental health well-being
    Too much of screen time not good for teenagers and kids - short science news and articles

    Maybe all our mothers were right, when they chided us for spending too much time watching the TV. The NIH estimates that youngsters commonly spend between 5-7 hours on screens daily. Researchers have now found out that spending excessive amounts of time on smartphones, watching television and gaming is associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression in children who are as young as 2 years old. Surprisingly, this association is higher in the adolescents as compared to very young children. This is important because about half of mental health problems occur in adolescence. So, this could be an active point of intervention to prevent mental health problems.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Preventive Medicine Reports


    Flashing lights and sounds promote risky gambling at casinos
    Risky decision making encouraged by Casino ambience - short science news and articles

    Its been known all along but remained to be proven. Researchers have shown that the casino lights and sounds promote risky decision taking irrespective of the odds of winning. Using eye-tracker technology, it was shown that participants paid less attention to information about the odds of winning when visuals related to money and casino jingles accompanied the wins. In the absence of these sensory cue’s researchers found that participants showed more restraint in the decision taking and took lesser risks. This raises new concerns that the casino environment might encourage risky decisions and promote problem gambling.

    Read the full story: University of British Columbia
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


    Low doses of Cannabidiol could be useful for pain relief
    Cannabis: Just pain relief without the 'high'- short science articles and news

    Researchers have determined the exact dose of marijuana extract cannabidiol (CBD) for effective pain relief without the 'high' produced by THC. They have shown that CBD doesn't act via the CB1 receptor which is responsible for the euphoria associated with marijuana use. Rather, CBD acts via the receptor involved in anxiety (serotonin 5HT1A) and pain (Vanilloid TRPV1). They found that low doses of CBD were able to alleviate both pain and anxiety which are the two most common symptoms associated with chronic pain. This finding could pave the way for finding safe alternatives to opioids for pain relief.

    Read the full story: McGill University
    Scientific publication: Pain


    Adenosine positive modulators could help treat insomnia
    A new pill for treating insomnia - short science articles and news

    Insomnia is a worldwide problem with approximately 10-15% of the general population and 20-60% of the older population suffering from it. While drugs that increase the signaling of the GABA system in the CNS have long been used to treat insomnia, these are associated with several problems like cognitive impairment and amnesia. Now, researchers have used Adenosine analogs for the treatment of insomnia. While, it was long known that A2A receptor agonists induce sleep, the adverse cardiovascular effects precluded their use. However, using allosteric modulators of A2A receptors, the physiological effects of endogenous adenosine can be enhanced, and the side effects reduced. These positive modulators were able to induce sleep like natural sleep in mice and efforts to develop human medications are underway.

    Read the full story: http://www.tsukuba.ac.jp/en/research-list/p201810261030
    Scientific publication: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0028390818308074?via%3Dihub


    Alcohol hijacks a memory pathway in the brain, forming the cravings that fuel addiction. The pink areas are the fly's memory centers and the green dots are where Notch has been activated. Image: Kaun Lab / Brown University
    Alcohol: happy memories - neuroscience news

    Using the fruit fly as a model system, researchers have found that alcohol intake induces molecular and genetic changes in the reward memory pathway in the brain. The first molecule involved is known as Notch, which switches on a whole cascade of changes. One of the genes affected downstream of Notch is the dopamine-2-like receptor, which, when stimulated with dopamine, makes you feel good. This could explain why people remember preferentially only the good part of alcohol use, not the aversive effects such as nausea and hangover. This could also be at the basis of relapse following a period of abstinence, researchers say.

    Read the full story: Brown University
    Scientific publication: Neuron


    Brain connectivity is unique in children diagnosed with autism spectrum disorder
    Unique functional connectivity of the amygdala in autism - neuroscience short news

    MRI scans if school-age children’s brains revealed a surprising pattern of functional connectivity between the amygdala (involved in emotional processing) and other parts of the brain in autistic patients. One of the regions that was weaker connected with the amygdala is the occipital cortex, located in the rear of the brain, which encodes facial expressions, gaze and other facial cues. The unique pattern of connectivity in the brain of autistic patients could serve as a neural marker for the detection of autism in children.

    Read the full story: San Diego State University
    Scientific publication: Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry


    Taste might not be the deciding factor for the price of the wine
    What decides the price of wine? - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found that taste could have little to do with what the consumers are ready to pay for the wine they buy. Their decision rather hinges on the region of origin. In an interesting study, researchers conducted a series of blind tests and found that as the country and region of origin of the wine was revealed, their willingness to pay the designated MRP changed dramatically. Further, female participants and younger participants were more willing to pay higher for the wine. Importantly, those that drink rarely based their judgement mainly on the region of origin. This shows that factors other than the actual quality of the wine could affect the cost.

    Read the full story: Washington State University
    Scientific publication: British Food Journal


    Asian elephants have good counting skills
    Even Asian Elephants are good at math - short science articles and news

    While it has been long debated if animals have a keen sense of math, recently Japanese scientists have shown that Asian elephants have a keen sense of number magnitudes which isn't affected by distance and magnitude. They trained the elephant named Authai with relative numbers and she had to choose the largest number using her trunk to point on the computer screen. She did this successfully approximately 70% of the times during which she was rewarded for each trial. Also, she took more time when choosing from smaller distances and larger ratios similar to humans. This is the first study which indicates that animals could have similar human cognitive skills like counting.

    Read the full story: Springer
    Scientific publication: Journal of Ethology


    Depression could be treated with adjunct exercise therapy
    Antidepressant effect of Aerobic Exercise- short science news and articles

    An extensive meta-analysis of 455 adult depression patients across 11 trials has shown that in combination to medication supervised aerobic exercise for approximately 45 minutes, performed at a moderate intensity for 3 times per week showed an increased antidepressant effect as compared to only antidepressants and psychological therapies. Further subgroup analysis showed comparable effects for aerobic exercise across various settings and delivery style like both in outpatients and inpatients. This study shows that exercise could be an effective supportive treatment for depression.

    Read the full story: Wiley
    Scientific publication: Depression and Anxiety


    Inflammation increases risk of Alzheimer's disease
    Chronic inflammation linked to increased risk of Alzheimer's disease- short science articles and news

    While possessing ApoE4 gene is considered a major risk factor for Alzheimer's disease (AD), not all people who possess this gene develop AD.
    However, researchers have found that those individuals who have a chronic inflammation and also have the ApoE4 gene have a drastically increased risk of AD. They used the data from the Framingham Heart Study of over 3000 subjects with ApoE4 gene and found that those who had higher levels of C-reactive protein which is a marker of chronic inflammation had early onset of AD-associated dementia. They believe that this inflammation is the key to AD and anti-inflammatory treatments could be effective in its treatment.

    Read the full story: Neuroscience News
    Scientific publication: JAMA Network Open


    Brain volume and cardiovascular risk are predictors of the rate of age-related cognitive decline
    Biomarkers of aging and cognitive decline - short neuroscience news

    Two studies of a 20-year long research project have given more insight into how our brain ages, and which factors influence this. Participants were from the population-based Women’s Healthy Ageing Project, and were thus all women. In the first study, brain MRI scans taken at the age of 60 could predict memory decline at the age of 70. This result is in line with earlier observed links between brain shrinkage and cognitive decline. The second study found that high cardiovascular risk in midlife to late life indicates a higher likelihood of vascular brain damaged aged over 60. High cardiovascular risk involved high cholesterol, low “good” cholesterol (HDL), high blood pressure, smoking and diabetes. Researchers say that women should watch their cholesterol and blood pressure to avoid cognitive decline during aging as much as possible.

    Read the full story: University of Melbourne
    Scientific publication: Brain Imaging and Behavior (brain volume)
    Scientific publication: Brain Imaging and Behavior (cardiovascular risk)


    Two-photon image of neural tissue controlling the front legs of the fly. Neurons express fluorescent proteins to visualize neural activity (cyan) and neural anatomy (red). Image: Pavan Ramdya, EPFL
    New imaging technique reveals how neurons make a fly move - short neuroscience news

    By using a sophisticated microscopy technique known as two-photon imaging, researchers have been able to observe activity of neurons in flies that were walking through a complex environment. Neurons were genetically modified, so that they emitted light when they started to control muscle movement, allowing researchers to measure the activity of these neurons. Measuring neuronal activity in freely behaving animals is an important step not only to understand how movements are being controlled by the nervous system, but also to implement such knowledge in robot development.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Dementia may be caused by DNA replication errors in the womb
    Cause of dementia may be found in the embryonic stage - neuroscience news

    While dementia (Alzheimers’ disease, Lewy body dementia) has a genetic component, for most patients there are no cases of the disease in their family history. Scientists have now found, by genetic analyses of human brain samples, that spontaneous errors in our DNA might explain the development of dementia. These errors occur already during embryonic development as cells divide and replicate. Some of these errors result in wrongly folded proteins in the brain at old age, and cause dementia. Thus, the origin of dementia for most patients traces back to the time when they were not even born.

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


    Surprise! Mature neurons can be reprogrammed to become another type of neuron
    Reprogramming mature mouse neurons - neuroscience news

    While trying to convert supporting brain cells (glia cells) into neurons that produce dopamine, neuroscientists instead reprogrammed mature mouse inhibitory, GABAergic, neurons into dopamine neurons (these are lost in Parkinson’s disease). This came as a big surprise, as until now it was believed that mature neurons cannot be reprogrammed to become some other type of neuron. Researchers use stem cells instead to produce a wide variety of neurons, but apparently this is not always necesssary.

    Read the full story: UT Southwestern Medial Center
    Scientific publication: Stem Cell Reports


    Memories are stored in your brain while you sleep
    This is how the brain forms memories during sleep - neuroscience news

    Neuroscientists have for the first time recorded the brain activity underlying memory. They did this in epileptic patients that had electrodes implanted for surgery (this is normal procedure in these patients). The participants were shown a set of pictures to memorize, and then took an afternoon nap. Recordings through the electrodes revealed a characteristic electrical band pattern (known as gamma oscillations), that occurred in two phases: a superficial processing phase that took place during the first half a second after image presentation, and a deep processing phase after that. For memory to form, this activity during the deep processing phase had to coincide with a particular form of activity in the hippocampus, known as ripples. When gamma activity was reactivated when the hippocampal ripples did not occur, the information about the picture was forgotten.

    Read the full story: Ruhr Univerität Bochum
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


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