November 21, 2019

    Increased risk of a rare sleep disorder in veterans
    Veterans with PTSD have higher risk of a rare sleep disorder - short science news and articles

    It has been seen that military veterans with PTSD or head concussions are at a higher risk of suffering from a thrashing form of sleep disorder, which is higher than the general population.

    Normally, during REM sleep muscles of an individual are paralysed. However, people suffering from REM sleep behaviour disorder (RBD), have this mechanism impaired resulting in them acting out their dreams during REM sleep which could injure their partners or themselves.

    RBD might also provide early signs of development of neurodegenerative conditions such as Parkinson’s disease.

    Read the full story: Oregon Health & Science University
    Scientific publication: Sleep

    Brain transplant cells could survive with immunosuppresion
    Protecting transplanted brain cells from rejection without medication - short science news and stories

    Researchers have developed a novel approach which bypasses the immune response to transplanted cells thereby facilitating their survival and protecting the brain tissue even without the use of immune-suppressing drugs which are routinely used after transplantation.

    Researchers blocked the stimulatory signals on the immune cells thereby eventually training the immune system to accept the transplanted cells as safe.

    While, this has been currently done in mice, a positive result gives significant hope for developing human therapies for the Pelizaeus-Merzbacher disease in which the protective covering of the neurons (myelin) is not formed.

    Read the full story: John Hopkins University
    Scientific publication: Brain

    Human cultured astrocytes. Astrocytes protect neurons from toxic buildup. Image: Bruno Pascal [CC BY-SA 3.0 (]
    Neurons dump their waste to astrocytes - brain short science news

    Neurons that are highly active damage their lipids, which can become toxic. A new study found that these neurons secrete these toxic, damaged lipids, which are then being taken up and processed by astrocytes.

    Astrocytes are helper cells in the brain, and channel the lipids from the neurons to their mitochondria to produce energy.

    Most cells of the body direct damaged lipids to their mitochondria, but neurons are apparently unusual in this, and unload their toxic lipids to neighboring astrocytes.

    Read the full story: Howard Hughes Medical Institute (Janelia Research Campus)
    Scientific publication: Cell

    A genetic mutation in the immune system of the brain protects against various forms of dementia
    Genetic mutation protects against dementia - brain short science news

    A mutation in the PLCG2 gene protects against various forms of dementia. Carriers of this mutation have a greatly increased chance of turning 100 without dementia. This finding is the result of genetic research conducted with no less than half a million of hundred-year-olds worldwide.

    PLCG2 is part of the immune system in the brain, suggesting that dementia is a result of faulty immune function in patients.

    Researchers now try to determine why PLCG2 protects against dementia, so that this effect might be mimicked by medication in the future.

    Read the full story: Amsterdam UMC (in Dutch)
    Scientific publication: Acta Neuropathologica

    Nighttime TV in chidlren affects sleep patterns
    Kids who watch more TV sleep less - interesting science news

    Approximately 35% of 3-5 year old kids have TV in their bedrooms and atleast a third of them fall asleep with the TV on mostly watching violent stimulating videos. Now, researchers have shown that this affects the quality as well as duration of sleep in these kids.

    Further, it was seen that daytime napping as increased in these children but it did not fully compensate for the lost night sleep. While several parents believe TV helps kids fall to sleep, the current research bust this myth.

    The current recommended guidelines is that children between 2-4 years shouldn’t have more than one hour of sedentary screen time and it should be accompanied by parents watching the TV with the kids.

    Read the full story: University of Massachusetts at Amherst
    Scientific publication: Sleep Health

    Ability to detect small traces of coffee increases with higher craving
    Regular coffee drinkers are better to catch a whiff of it - interesting science news

    Researchers have shown that regular coffee drinkers can sniff out even trace amounts of coffee as well as faster at recognizing its aroma as compared to non-coffee drinkers.

    High caffeine consumers were able to detect even heavily diluted coffee and this ability increased as the level of craving also increased. This shows that even with mildly addictive drugs, craving increases the ability to detect that substance.

    This study points out that ability to detect the smell of a drug could be a useful index of drug dependence and open new ways to treat addictions.

    Read the full story: University of Portsmouth
    Scientific publication: Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology

    Obesity is linked to a ACBP protein synthesized by astrocytes in the hypothalamus
    Key brain protein involved in food intake discovered - interesting science news

    This might come as a shock; however researchers have revealed that controlling your weight might be dependent on a brain protein regardless of the amount of exercise or diet you could be doing. The protein in question is acyl-CoA-binding protein (ACBP).

    ACBP is produced by astrocytes, which are cells which usually support the neurons. Researchers have shown that the proopiomelanocortin neurons which reduce our food intake are in close communication with the astrocytes that produce ACBP in a specific brain region called the arcuate nucleus of the hypothalamus.

    This brain region is the feeding center of the brain and controls both food intake and energy expenditure. Absence of the ACBP gene in astrocytes in this brain region promotes obesity which indicates that it is involved in weight control.

    Read the full story: University of Montreal Hospital Research Centre (CRCHUM)
    Scientific publication: Journal of Clinical Investigation

    Gut bacteria linked to depression
    Gut bacteria and depression? - interesting science news

    Gut microbiome has been the center of the new wave of research over the last couple of years. In a recent study, researchers have shown that gut bacteria altered depression linked behavior as well as gut inflammation signs in rodents.

    Researchers found that stress altered the gut bacteria population in certain rodents which then went on to show depressive behavior. Then, they transplanted gut bacteria of stress vulnerable rats into to stress resilient rats and the later showed signs of depression too.

    The vulnerable rats had higher proportion of bacteria named Clostridia which could be at the center of this storm. Finding novel therapies some being based in gut bacterial transplants could be important for treating psychiatric conditions like depression.

    Read the full story: Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry

    Alternative treatment of epilepsy in children has been identified
    Alternative treatment of epilepsy in children identified - brain short science news

    In a collaborative effort, clinicians and scientists have identified an alternative to phenytoin in the second order treatment of convulsive status epilepticus in children.

    By assessing 0ver 300 children with epilepsy, the researchers found that levetiracetam was not better than phenytoin, but is easier to prepare and administer, and did not show any interactions with anti-epilepsy or other drugs.

    If these data will be confirmed in follow up studies, levetiracetam could become a new drug to treat epilepsy in children.

    Read the full story: University of Liverpool
    Scientific publication: The Lancet

    Genes linked to psychoactive effects of beverages linked to bitter taste preference
    Why do we love bitter coffee and beer? - interesting science news

    Ever wonder why some people love the bitter taste of coffee, while some just can’t stand it? While the scientists predicted that variations in the genes associated with taste sensations could account for this difference, it was found that rather the genes related to the psychoactive properties of these beverages are responsible.

    One of the genes linked to this preference is the FTO gene which is linked to sugar-sweetened drinks. Interestingly and counterintuitively, this is the same gene associated with lower risk of obesity.

    Research into these variations is extremely important since this could give us indications for interventions in people’s diet.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Human Molecular Genetics
    Scientific publication: Human Molecular Genetics

    A gene deletion has made mice brave
    New gene mutation makes mice brave - interesting science articles

    Researchers used a gene manipulation technology to delete the P4h-tm gene from mice and made an unexpected discovery. These mice showed increased courage, lower anxiety and fear and also increased social interaction behavior.

    This is an interesting discovery because since the P4h-tm gene is highly expressed in the amygdala which is a key brain region involved in controlling emotional reactions.

    While, gene deletion techniques are pretty far from having any therapeutic application, it can certainly help in development of new antianxiety and antidepressant drugs.

    Read the full story: University of Eastern Finland
    Scientific publication: Neuropharmacology

    Epilepsy is a disease caused by instability of brain activity
    A thermostat in the brain to balance electrical activity: implication for future epilepsy treatment - brain short science news

    Researchers have discovered how the setpoint of neuronal activity is determined, a thermostat which prevents the brain from going into a state of epilepsy (too much brain activity) or coma (too little brain activity).

    The setpoint is maintained by calcium in the brain cell’s mitochondria, the powerplants of the cells. Interestingly, a drug commonly used to treat multiple sclerosis, interferes with this mitochondrial thermostat, and may one day, once chemically optimized, be used to treat epilepsy.

    This is good news for patients with the Dravet syndrome, a dangerous childhood form of epilepsy for which there is no treatment at present.

    Read the full story: Tel Aviv University
    Scientific publication: Neuron

    Certain brain function restored in pig hours after death.
    Brain function partially restored in pig after death - interesting science news

    Immediately after death, once the oxygen and blood supply is cut off, the electrical brain activity disappears immediately, while the energy stores get depleted within minutes. This has always lead to believe that brain functions end after death irreversibly.

    Now, researchers restored the circulation and cellular activity in the pig’s brain 4 hours after its death. The circulated a uniquely formulated solution specially made to preserve brain tissue and found that neural cell integrity was preserved and certain neuronal functions were restored.

    While this technique does not have any immediate application, it could be used in future to salvage brain function in stroke patients and test new drugs for brain cellular recovery after injury.

    Read the full story: Yale University
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Anger experienced in dreams originates in the frontal cortex
    Where do angry dreams arise in the brain? - interesting science news

    In a new study conducted in healthy adults, researchers have identified a pattern of brain activity which can predict anger experienced during dreams.

    Researchers collected EEG recordings from heathy study participants during sleep studies on two separate nights. Immediately after a five minute bout of rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is associated with dreams, the study participants were woken up and inquired about their dream. It was found that those individuals who displayed greater alpha band brain activity in the right frontal cortex and not the left, both during evening wakefulness and REM sleep experienced more anger in their sleep.

    This neural signature called frontal alpha asymmetry (FAA) might be the universal indicator of emotional regulation and studying this could be important since it could give us insights into nightmares which are common in several mental and sleep disorders.

    Read the full story: Society for Neuroscience (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience

    Neurofeedback increases brain connections quickly
    How to change your brain: Train it - interesting science news

    Researchers have found out that even 1 hour of brain training exercises using neurofeedback can increase the strength of neuronal connections and improved communication between different brain regions.

    Individuals who were trained on neurofeedback and then scanned in a MRI machine showed a positive impact on the default mode network, which is the brain network, impaired after stroke, Parkinson’s disease and depression.

    This shows that neurofeedback could be a powerful way to induce brain changes quickly and hence it would be next tested in patients with neurological disorders.

    Read the full story: D’Or Institute for Research and Education (via NeuroscienceNews)
    Scientific publication: NeuroImage

    Earlier detection of CTE could be possible with this new PET scan
    NFL players have higher abnormal proteins in the brain - interesting science news

    Scientists conducted a PET scan in living National Football League (NFL) players who displayed certain cognitive and behavioural symptoms. They found that these players had abnormal levels of tau protein in the brain regions which are usually affected by Chronic Traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).

    Further, there was a significant positive correlation between more years spent playing tackle football and the levels of the tau proteins.

    Currently, CTE can be diagnosed only post mortem and this is the first study, which shows that it can be detected even before death. CTE is associated with progressive neuronal loss and this study could help us catch it earlier.

    Read the full story:
    Scientific publication: Boston Medical Center (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: NEJM

    Electrical stimulation to the brain could restore memory in older individuals
    Electrical pulses to restore memory - interesting science news

    Researchers have shown that a decline in memory due to ageing can be temporarily reversed using electrical brain stimulation.

    Scientists used non-invasive brain stimulation in 42 individuals aged between 60 – 76 years and found that these individuals showed brain responses similar to young individuals between the age of 20-29 years.

    It is hypothesized that as age increases there is a disconnection between two brain regions namely the prefrontal cortex and the temporal cortex. Electrically stimulating these brain regions helps synchronize these connections.

    Read the full story: Boston University (via The Guardian)
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience

    A zebrafish brain, with dopamine-producing nerve cells in red and the stem cells that produce them in green. Thomas Becker, The University of Edinburgh
    More insight into Parkinson’s disease - brain short science news

    Brain cells that produce dopamine are the ones that are lost in Parkinson’s disease patients.

    A new study has found that these cells regenerate constantly from a pool of specialized stem cells in the brains of zebrafish, and that the immune system plays a key role in this.

    Understanding how the immune system does this precisely could lead to novel treatment options for Parkinson’s disease patients.

    Read the full story: University of Edingburgh
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience

    Blocking the CD22 protein could be our answer to Alzheimer's disease
    Cognition restored in old mice by blocking a protein - interesting science news

    Microglia, the garbage collecting cells in the brain have several genes which are linked to Alzheimer’s disease and these genes are active only in the microglia. These genes show abnormal activity patterns in Parkinson’s disease and ALS too.

    Researchers selected 3000 genes which are responsible for encoding proteins in these microglia and selectively blocked one gene at a time. Surprisingly, only one gene which encodes CD22 found in both humans and mice was substantially upregulated in old mice.

    Blocking the protein produced by this gene in the hippocampus of the brain of old mice resulted in old mice outperforming normal mice in various tasks associated with learning and memory indicating that the cognitive ability of these mice was improved.

    Read the full story: Stanford University
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Excessive multimedia use linked to obesity
    Digital multitasking linked to obesity - interesting science news

    Researchers have found out that mindlessly switching between several digital devices is associated with increased susceptibility to food temptations and lower self-control which could ultimately lead to weight gain.

    The scientists used the Media Multitasking Revised scale which measures compulsive behavior like urge to check the phone for messages while interacting with someone else and passive behaviors like media distracting us from work. The higher score on this scale was associated with higher BMI as well as higher body fat.

    Further, certain participants then underwent a functional MRI scan and it was observed that people with higher BMI and body fat showed increased activity in the brain regions associated with food temptation on exposure to food photos.

    Read the full story: Rice university
    Scientific publication: Brain Imagaing and Behavior

    Poverty experiences in childhood could have long-lasting effects on the brain
    How poverty affects brain activity of children - interesting science news

    Researchers compared the brain activity of children from poor rural Indian background to those coming from families in Midwest America and found that the former had weaker brain activity and hence were more likely to be distracted.

    The scientists studied the visual memory which stores information momentarily. This skill develops early in childhood and is an excellent marker of cognitive development. The children from the poor Indian backgrounds performed poorly and showed increased distractibility. The frontal cortex which is involved in working memory was affected in these children.

    This shows that being born in a poor environment significantly impacts the neurological development which then could contribute to the vicious cycle of poverty.

    Read the full story: University of East Anglia
    Scientific publication: Developmental Science

    Stem cells are a source of continious new neurons even in adult life
    The source of new neurons in the brain discovered - interesting science news

    While it was once believed that mammals cannot make new neurons throughout life, researchers have shown that in mice there is a type of stem cell that makes adult neurons in the brain hippocampus all along.

    It has been shown for the first time that neurons from in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus come from a single population of stem cells and these are more flexible as compared to mature neurons which is important for healthy memory, learning and mood.

    This is like adding new units to a computers motherboard thereby keeping it at an optimal functional status. This discovery could help us understand how to repair and regenerate brain parts after injury and aging.

    Read the full story: University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Cell

    A woman with a rare genetic mutation could hold the key for pain management
    Real-life X-men: A woman living pain free - interesting science news

    How is that for a superpower? A woman in Scotland has a genetic mutation in a previously unidentified gene, now dubbed as FAAH-OUT. This gene is involved in endocannabinoid signalling, which is involved in pain sensation, mood and memory.

    This woman feels no pain and also experiences almost no anxiety or fear. Its thought that she could also have enhanced wound healing abilities. This could truly guide development of new treatments for a host of conditions.

    While there have been several unsuccessful clinical trials with the FAAH-protein, the FAAH-OUT gene could change this scenario especially for post-surgical pain.

    Read the full story: University College of London
    Scientific publication: British Journal of Anesthesia

    Salt craving neurons triggered by taste sensation discovered
    Neurons that love salt - interesting science news

    Salt is truly one of the main components of today’s fast food. However excessive salt consumption is also associated with cardiovascular diseases and cognitive disorders. Now, researchers have discovered neurons in mouse brain that control salt cravings.

    These neurons located in the hind brain which are triggered into action once the body senses that it is low on sodium. Scientists artificially stimulated these neurons with light to increase the sodium intake in these mice even if they were completely satiated with salt.

    Further they discovered that these neurons are stimulated from the taste system on the tongue and not if the salt is directly infused in the stomach. This could be a first step in regulating cravings in humans.

    Read the full story: Caltech
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Human serotonergic neuron projections (red) and cell bodies (green) that play a role in depression. Image: Salk Institute
    Why 30% of depressed individuals do not respond to treatment - brain short science news

    Abnormal neural growth may explain why SSRI’s do not work in 30% of depressed individuals, a new study found.

    Neurons from depressed people that do not respond to the SSRI treatment, which increases the communication between neurons by means of the messenger molecule serotonin, appear to develop longer neuron projections than those of patients that do respond to SSRI’s. This means that the communication between neurons in some parts of the brain could be stronger, but weaker in others.

    Thus, the brain circuit that uses serotonin as a modulator of neuronal activity may not work properly in some depressed individuals, so that SSRI treatment does not alleviate depressive symptoms.

    Read the full story: Salk Institute
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry

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