April 23, 2019

    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


    When people lose all hope and really give up, if nothing is done, death usually occurs within a few weeks
    Do not give up – it could literally save your life! - science news

    According to a new research study, giving up can simply kill. Many people want to give up at some point in their life, for various reasons: they feel defeated or find themselves in an inescapable situation. This kind of thinking often leads to the death of the individual, a term called psychogenic death. According to the study, this could stem from a change in a frontal-subcortical circuit of the brain governing how a person maintains goal-directed behavior. Death isn't inevitable in someone suffering from “give-up-itis” and can be reversed at each stage of the disorder. What usually works is physical activity and/or the realization that that person is at least partially in control of the situation. Both situations trigger the release of the feel-good chemical dopamine.

    Read the full story: University of Portsmouth
    Scientific publication: Medical Hypotheses


    The brain resists the idea of getting off the couch and going to the gym
    Your brain favors laziness - science news in brief

    We want to have a decent level of daily physical activity, but never actually do it. I know I am guilty of that. This “physical activity paradox” (like when you subscribe to the gym, but go there only once per year) was investigated by a team of neuroscientists, trying to understand how this happens in the brain. 29 people were fitted with electrodes (to record an electroencephalograph) while being asked to choose between physical activity and inactivity. It turns out that this decision creates a conflict between reason (I have to play sport to be healthy) and the automatic system based on affect (sport will make me feel tired). Scientists believe that our natural inclination for sedentarism comes from our ancestors that had to avoid unnecessary physical effort to increase their chances of survival.

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


    Study shows that variations in how people are perceived translate quantitatively into differences in how they are treated
    Scientists quantify how we discriminate based on stereotypes - short science news

    Stereotypes and discrimination are widespread; however, it is difficult to measure the influence of one’s biases in the way they treat others. To address this, a group of scientists developed a mathematical model able to quantify and predict unequal treatment based on perceptions of warmth and competence. The model was applied in a study that showed that there is a direct, measurable relationship between one’s perceived image and the benefits or rewards that person will receive. “We found that people don’t just see certain groups as warmer or nicer, but if you’re warmer by X unit, you get Y dollars more,” said Ming Hsu, one of the main authors.

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


    Smoking cannabis during pregnancy could affect only the male child
    In utero exposure to cannabis affects the sociability of male child only - short science news and articles

    In a study to determine the effects of cannabis smoking during pregnancy, it was found that ingesting cannabinoids during pregnancy leads to behavioral and neurological deficits, but only in male offspring. There was little to no effect on the female offspring. In the experiment conducted in rats, the male offspring showed a decreased sociability and increased neuronal excitability in males only. Importantly, while social interaction was specifically impaired in the male rats, there was no effect on locomotion, cognition and anxiety in either of the sexes. The brain region implicated is the prefrontal cortex, which is involved in higher order functions.

    Read the full story: eLife
    Scientific publication: eLife


    Children with ADHD might be at increased risk of Parkinson's disease
    Parkinson’s risk increased in children with ADHD - short science news and articles

    In a retrospective population based study, researchers have found out that children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder have as much as twice the risk of early onset Parkinson’s and Parkinson-like disease. In addition, they indicate that patients with severe forms of ADHD may have an inherent risk of being at increased risk of Parkinson’s disease and it might not be related to the stimulant therapy that is used in children for treatment of ADHD. However, they consider this study to be preliminary and indicate that further studies are necessary to confirm this link.

    Read the full story: University of Utah
    Scientific publication: Neuropsychopharmacology


    Binge drinking could show different brain effects depending on gender
    Males and Females affected differently by binge drinking - short science articles and news

    In an animal model of binge drinking, researchers have been able to show that in brain regions associated with addiction, gene expression is affected differently in male and female mice. The brain region in question is called the nucleus accumbens, which is considered the addiction center of the brain. Scientists were able to show that in females the genes associated with hormonal signaling and immune function are affected, while in male mice the nerve signaling was affected. Further, they were able to show that pharmacologically manipulating a brain circuit only affected binge drinking in male mice with no effect on the female mice indicating a dichotomy in the effects of alcohol based on gender.

    Read the full story: Genetic and Bioengineering news
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Genetics


    Mindful meditation could help feel less pain
    Mindful individuals feel lesser pain - short science articles and news

    Mindfulness, which means being aware of the present without emotional reactions is not just a latest craze in psychology. Researchers have shown that those individuals who are more mindful during a painful stimulation feel less pain. Importantly, these individuals have a greater deactivation of the brain region, the posterior cingulate cortex that is an important part of the default mode circuit of the brain. Previous research has also shown that one can increase mindfulness through short periods of mindfulness meditation training and thus could possibly help in providing pain relief to millions of people who are suffering from chronic pain.

    Read the full story: Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center
    Scientific publication: PAIN


    The brain allows for logical decision making by setting aside a previously hold believe
    Setting aside biases to make logical decisions - neuroscience news

    Neuroscientists found that people do not seek to confirm their previously formed opinion, or bias, on the basis of new experiences, but rather set their bias aside to be able to weigh the new information properly and, if necessary, update their bias and believes. Participants in this study were presented with moving dots on a screen that could move in any direction, but the researchers had built-in a bias so that dots moved more in one direction than another. The participants were surprisingly good at updating their bias, once the researchers changed the movement of the dots. These results show that the human brain can set aside previously hold believes to allow for logic decision making.

    Read the full story: Columbia University – Zuckerman Institute
    Scientific publication: Neuron


    Specific brain cells are responsible for bravery
    Bravery neurons discovered in the brain - short science articles and news

    Researchers have found that there are certain neurons in the hippocampus that play an important role in the expression of bravery. They have shown that these neurons termed as the OLM cells are responsible for producing a brain rhythm, which is present when an animal feels relatively safe in a threatening situation, like hiding from a predator but knowing where the predator is. The scientists also have shown that anxiety and risk taking behavior can be modulated by manipulating these OLM neurons. This discovery is significant since reduced risk taking is seen in individuals with high anxiety trait and find ways to modulate very specific groups of neurons in a specific brain region could help in controlling pathological anxiety disorders.

    Read the full story: Uppsala University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Children associate with those who win fairly in a social setting
    Kids prefer winners, but only those whose status is acknowledged by others - short science articles and news

    Even though 18-month-old kids have just begun to walk and talk, they have an innate sense of power. They associate with individuals with power since those in power can provide people with better access to resources. However, in contrast to other primates, these youngest humans acknowledge only those whose position is acknowledged by others and not those who just assume a dominant position by mere brute force. This indicates that children have this innate repulsion to bullies too. All of this indicates that this preference is evolutionarily preserved and might stem from the core social relationships which have developed due to years of living in close communities.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: Nature Human Behaviour


    Loneliness subconsciously increased distance from loved ones
    One stands further away from loved ones if lonely - short science articles and news

    Researchers have for the first time shown a direct evidence linking interpersonal distance preferences and loneliness. They indicate that the social 'survival mode' triggers an increased preference for higher personal space in lonely individuals. Interestingly loneliness increased the probability of staying away from their loved ones by two times but did not change their proximity with strangers. Previous experiments have also shown that lonelier individuals also display increased vigilance for social threats like rejections or hostility. They also indicate that lonely individuals subconsciously keep their distance even if they want higher social interaction.

    Read the full story: University of Chicago
    Scientific publication: PLOS one


    Stress caused by starvation rewired a worm's nervous system and made adults act like juveniles. Image: Hobert lab, Columbia University, N.Y.
    Past experience shapes brain development in worms - neuroscience news

    Starving male worms before sexual maturation prevents normal changes in the developing brain, so that the worms will behave immaturely as adults. Immature neuronal connections remained in the tail, which are normally eliminated during development. The absence of such pruning was caused by a lack of serotonin (linked to depression in humans), the production of which was inhibited by octopamine (related to the stress hormone noradrenaline in humans). Giving serotonin during starvation restored normal brain development and adult behavior. Thus, the development of the nervous system of worms is controlled by external, environmental factors. Whether this applies to the developing brain of more complex organisms and humans remains to be seen.

    Read the full story: NIH – NINDS
    Scientific publication: Nature


    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


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