February 19, 2019

    Using a new fluorescent technique to visualize neuronal communication
    et's watch the neurons speak to each other - short science articles and news

    Scientists have developed a new way to record neurons actually speaking to each other in bright colours. This technique could help provide answers to long-awaited questions related to Alzheimer's disease, depression and schizophrenia. They have used this technique to visualize the neurotransmitter acetylcholine which affects, memory, mood and involved in various mental health problems. Being able to identify acetylcholine and other neurotransmitters in fluorescent colours, we could establish a baseline level of good brain health and then treat towards restoring the deranged systems as seen in neurological diseases.

    Read the full story: University of Virginia Health System
    Scientific publication: Nature Biotechnology


    Blood cortisol in pregnant women changes brain connectivity in the infants, especially girls
    Maternal cortisol linked to mood disorders in the infants - neuroscience news

    High levels of cortisol in the blood of pregnant women, such as those found during stress, have been shown to alter connectivity between parts of the brain that regulate mood and emotions in the fetus. The amygdala was particularly stronger connected to other brain areas. These effects were, however, only observed in girls. When the children were tested at two years of age, girls from mothers who had high cortisol levels showed more anxiety-related behavior, and symptoms of depression. Exposure to stress during pregnancy might therefore have a life-long impact on the well-being of the children.

    Read the full story: Biological Psychiatry
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry


    Inhibiting the metabolism of nictonine could help reduce craving for cigarettes
    Potential drugs to reduce smoking developed - short science articles and news

    Nicotine in cigarettes triggers the release of dopamine and serotonin, which is responsible for the pleasure felt due to the habit. However, as nicotine is metabolized by the liver enzyme CYP2A6 the user beings to experience withdrawal symptoms like tingling, anxiety, sweating and irritability. Now, researchers have developed at least a dozen candidate drugs, which slow down the metabolism of nicotine, thereby decreasing the withdrawal symptoms. They hope that this could help the users to reduce their consumption of tobacco if not quit it totally. More importantly, the inhibition of the enzyme CYP2A6 might not hamper the overall health of the person, which could help in targeted action.

    Read the full story: Washington State University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Medical Chemistry


    Cannabidiol could help decrease the psychotic symptoms in patients
    Cannabis could help reduce psychotic symptoms - short science articles and news

    Researchers have discovered that a single dose of cannabis extract cannabidiol could decrease psychosis associated brain function abnormalities thereby providing the first evidence as to how cannabidiol could reduce psychotic symptoms. Interestingly, cannabidiol works opposite to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the ingredient which is responsible for the high associated with the cannabis use and linked strongly with psychosis development. Cannabidiol has also been recently approved for the treatment of rare types of childhood epilepsies. One of the main advantages associated with cannabidiol use is that its pretty well tolerated and has lesser side effects.

    Read the full story: King's College London
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry


    Ketamine could modulate the opioid system with potential for dependence if used for depression
    Antidepressant effect of ketamine through the opioid system - short science articles and news

    For the first time, researchers have shown that the acute antidepressant effect of ketamine is through the activation of the opioid system. While opioids were historically used to treat depression, their likelihood of causing dependence makes the researchers caution us against the widespread use of ketamine until the mechanism of action and likely side effects are elucidated. The scientists figured out the opioid system mediated action of ketamine by first administering the opioid antagonist naltrexone which led to the abolishment of the antidepressant effect without having any effects on the dissociative effects of ketamine. The effect was so strong that the clinical trial had to be stopped prior to completion.

    Read the full story: American Psychiatric Association
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Psychiatry


    Secret tunnels transfer immune cells from skull bone marrow to the brain
    Hidden tunnels found between skull and brain - short science articles and news

    Bone marrow is the tissue within the hollow bones of our body which produce blood cells which help against infections. Now, researchers have discovered that there are miniature tunnels between the skull bone marrow and the brain lining which could provide a direct route for these immune cells to research the brain in case of injuries due to stroke or other disorders. The skull bone marrow contributes more to the immune response as compared to other bones and the scientists indicate that the stromal cell-derived factor-1 (SDF-1) could be responsible for this. They used state-of-the-art imaging techniques and found that while normally immune cells flow in this channel from skull's interior to the bone marrow (so, further inside), after brain tissue damage the cells move in the opposite direction, i.e more towards the brain.

    Read the full story: NIH
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Identifying the site of action of Deep Brain Stimulation could help reduce side effects
    Deep brain stimulation for patients with Parkinson's disease - short science articles and news

    Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is used in Parkinson's patients who do not respond adequately to drugs. The brain region targetted by is the subthalamic nucleus which is not only responsible for motor processes but is also important for cognitive decision making. Researchers have now been able to show that the improved motor control is mediated by a different neural pathway as compared to the undesirable side effects like premature decision making. This could help in making the treatment more effective by using targeted therapy and thus improve the quality of life of these patients by reducing the side effects.

    Read the full story: Charité - Universitätsmedizin Berlin
    Scientific publication: Brain


    What sets our brain apart from an animal's brain? Perhaps the newly discovered human brain cell?
    New cell discovered in the human brain - neuroscience news

    In post-mortem tissue from two men that had donated their brains to science, neuroscientists have found a completely new cell type that seems to absent in rodents. This new neuron is located in layer I of the cortex, which is the outer part of the brain directly under the skull. It is an inhibitory neuron that puts the brakes on the activity of other cortical neurons. Its shape, which led the scientists to name it rosehip neuron, and its genetic makeup are unique. Its precise role in the brain has not yet been elucidated, nor is it known whether monkeys and apes have it. However, the fact that rats and mice, typically used in neuroscience, do not have it illustrates the difficulties scientists can experience when modeling human disease in laboratory animals.

    Read the full story: Allen Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Infrequent news readers' brain identifies which news article could go viral
    Those who don't read the news are better at predicting which one will go viral - short science articles

    Scientists have discovered that increased activity in the ventromedial prefrontal cortex indicates how much a person wants to read a specific news. However, what is startling is that while the activity of ventromedial prefrontal cortex in frequent news readers lit up for all articles, the activity in the same brain region of infrequent news readers was able to differentiate between heavily shared articles and the less popular ones. Also, when frequent news shares a particular article, the connection between the ventromedial prefrontal cortex and brain regions controlling thoughts and emotions gets lit up indicating that they were determining the value of a news article in correspondence to their own motivations. Infrequent news readers brain, however, reacts as to how the general audience would respond.

    Read the full story: University of Pennsylvania
    Scientific publication: Cerebral Cortex


    Hangover effects on the next day could be source of unproductive work which is grossly neglected
    The hangover lasts longer than you think - short science articles and news

    Researchers have found that the cognitive effects of alcohol last on the next day even if there is no longer any alcohol in the blood. They found that the hangover effects on psychomotor speed, long and short-term memory and attention exists on the next day too which could impair the work performance. Although almost all workplaces have a strict policy related to alcohol intoxication at work, very few grasp the seriousness of the problem regarding the effects of the hangover the next day. It is estimated that the economic loss due to hangover based absenteeism is around 1.9 billion pounds per year.

    Read the full story: University of Bath
    Scientific publication: Addiction


    A faster countdown could help improve patience of people
    People are more patient when exposed to faster countdowns - short science articles and news

    Researchers have found that time flies i.e. people become more patient when subjected to a countdown clock. They tested it on video game players and found that the speed of the countdown influenced the patience and decision-making both during and after the game. Participants were more patient when the clock quickly counted down the remaining time instead of when the clock slowly displayed the countdown. They hypothesize that a faster countdown could subconsciously indicate that the time is passing by faster and it could encourage deliberate decision-making. What's more interesting is that this could not only help manage a person's emotion but also help them make better decisions.

    Read the full story: Penn State
    Scientific publication: Timing & Time Perception


    The Prefrontal cortex is necessary for avoid act of revenge
    Brain region for suppressing revenge identified - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found that the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex is extremely important in suppressing the act of revenge. They developed an economic game in which the participant experiences fair behaviour from one player and unfair provocative behaviour from another. Imaging the brain during this activity researchers were able to identify which brain region is activated when the participant experienced unfairness. However, interestingly they then gave an opportunity for the participant to take revenge. What they found that the more the dorsolateral PFC was active during the provocation phase, less was the tendency for him/her to take revenge. This shows that dorsolateral PFC is involved in emotional regulation and rational behavioural choices.

    Read the full story: University of Geneva
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Vagal nerve stimulation improves quality of life in severely depressed patients.
    Nerve stimulation improves quality of life of depressed patients - short science articles and news

    While vagal nerve stimulation was approved for treatment-resistant depression in 2005, it is slowly being recognized that evaluating only the antidepressant response does not give the complete picture on the quality of life improvement. Now, researchers tested the effect of vagal nerve stimulation on 600 treatment-resistant patients (those not responding to four or more antidepressants) and found that their quality of life improved even if the depression symptoms were not completely subsided. It improved measures such as social relationships, leisure activities, ability to work and mood. Researchers indicate that increased ability to concentrate might be one of the main reasons for this effect.

    Read the full story: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
    Scientific publication: The journal of Clinical Psychiatry


    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


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