February 19, 2019

    fMRI showed the importance of injection volume in the brain in this study
    Small and precise: new drug delivery tools for the brain - neuroscience news

    Neuroscientists have implanted microprobes into the brain that allows for a precise control of the volume of a drug (down to nanoliters!), and in very precisely defined brain areas. The infusions were monitored by fMRI, so that the effects of volume on brain activity could be assessed directly. While the current study is a proof-of-concept study in laboratory animals, it is nevertheless an important step forward for the treatment of neurological diseases. Two of the current problems is that today’s delivery methods either require bigger cannulae and probes, and that the volume injected and injection site cannot be controlled accurately. To circumvent these problems, miniaturization is necessary and will reduce side-effects.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    Chronic stress can lead to anxiety and depression.
    Newborn cells in the brain help to protect against stress - neuroscience news

    New neurons that are formed in the hippocampus, an important memory center and controlling emotions, appear to dampen the effects of chronic stress, a new study found. When the amount of new neurons in the hippocampus of mice is experimentally doubled, these mice are less stressed by the presence of a big, dominant mouse, and their hippocampus becomes less active. This study made it possible to look at biological reactions to stress in real-time, and now researchers hope to find ways to increase the birth of new hippocampal cells in humans for the development of new and hopefully more effective antidepressants.

    Read the full story: Columbia University – Irving Medical Center
    Scientific publication: Nature


    A new receptor with no known brain function could be a target for treatment of alcohol addiction
    A novel target for treating alcoholism - short science articles

    Researchers have discovered a new target in the brain, a receptor which has no known function which could reduce excessive alcohol use and withdrawal symptoms in a rat model of alcohol addiction. While over 1/3rd of the approved drugs belong to the G-protein coupled receptor family, one receptor, the GPR139 is highly expressed in a brain region called habenula which plays a critical role in addiction. Researchers activated this receptor and it reduced alcohol intake and also restored pain sensitivity in compulsively drinking alcohol mice.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: eNeuro


    Dopamine is necessary for forgetting fear memory
    Dopamine plays a role in unlearning fear - short science articles

    Researchers have discovered a brain circuit necessary for unlearning fear. Rats were trained to associate a sound with a foot shock and then trained them to unlearn fear. However, they found that certain neurons in the brain which secrete dopamine were necessary to fire for this unlearning to occur. Then researchers deactivated these dopamine neurons and discovered that inhibiting them prevented the rats from unlearning the fear. They used a technique called optogenetics by which certain neurons can be selectively activated or inactivated using light. Now, they are trying to develop drugs to manipulate fear memories.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Serotonin modulated learning by influencing plasticity
    Serotonin might be involved in learning - short science articles

    Researchers have shown that serotonin which is one of the most widely available chemicals in the brain might be involved in learning. They used the optogenetic technique in which one can modulate neuron firing using light and found that the learning rate in mice was modulated by serotonin stimulation. Mice normally use a win-stay, lose-switch strategy in which they repeated a choice which was rewards but shifted if that choice wasn't rewarded. However, serotonin accentuated a long-term strategy in which they made decisions based on a long history of rewards. Scientists suggest that serotonin boosted plasticity by influencing rate of learning.

    Read the full story: UCL
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Air pollution not linked to ADHD
    Exposure to air pollution during pregnancy NOT LINKED to ADHD - short science articles

    ADHD is characterized by behavioural symptoms of hyperactivity, inattention and impulsivity in children of school going age. Recent studies had linked ADHD like symptoms to exposure to pollution during pregnancy though the results were not conclusive. Now, a large-scale study which included data on 30,000 children from seven European countries has shown that there was no association between air pollution and ADHD. However, the researchers state that there could be other harmful effects on neuropsychological development, especially in genetically susceptible children.

    Read the full story: Barcelona Institute for Global Health (ISGlobal)
    Scientific publication: Epidemiology


    Learning to play the piano helps kindergarten-aged children to better understand language
    Music lessons help kindergartners’ ability to discriminate spoken words - science news

    A new study shows that piano lessons induce a very specific effect in children. Musical training improved the ability to distinguish different pitches, which translates into an improvement in discriminating between spoken words. However, the music lessons did not appear to confer any benefit for overall cognitive ability, as measured by IQ, attention span, and working memory. The study suggests that musical training is equally beneficial in improving language skills, as reading lessons.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    CRIPR could be used for treatment of autism like conditions
    CRISPR editing used to decrease autism-like symptoms in mice - short science articles

    Using gold nanoparticles to deliver DNA cutting enzyme in mice brain, researchers could modify a gene of a neurotransmitter and thereby decrease repetitive behaviours in mice displaying behaviour features of fragile X syndrome. Researchers injected the CRISPR-Gold in the brain regions which is involved in habit forming and is related to repetitive behaviours in autism-like disorders. The gene inactivated was mGLuR5, a receptor which is involved in cell signalling and repetitive behaviours. This could help develop treatments for brain disorders for which genes are already known.

    Read the full story: Medical Express
    Scientific publication: Nature Biomedical Engineering


    This image of a dendrite — a branch of a neuron — and its spines was reconstructed with electron microscopy (foreground) after it was imaged with two-photon microscopy in an intact brain (background). Credit: Sur Lab, MIT
    When a synapse is strengthened, its neighbors weaken – new rule of synaptic plasticity discovered - science news in brief

    Brain plasticity is a complex process that allows the brain to be flexible and mediate learning and memory. Plasticity allows neurons to do new things by creating fresh connections or strengthening old ones, however, there are still many mysteries about this phenomenon. Now, a new fundamental rule of plasticity in the brain has been discovered. According to a recent study, every time one connection (a synapse) strengthens, immediately neighboring synapses weaken and this process is mediated by a protein called Arc. “Collective behaviors of complex systems always have simple rules,” says Sur, author of the study. This finding provides an explanation of how synaptic strengthening and weakening combine in neurons to produce plasticity.

    Read the full story: MIT
    Scientific publication: Science


    Ketamine induces specific changes in the neurons for faster action
    Why is ketamine such a fast-acting anti-depressant? - short science articles

    Ketamine acts much faster than classical antidepressants which usually take a few weeks to show their effect. Previous research by scientists has shown that classical antidepressants accumulate in the fat tissue of the neuronal membrane and this induces specific proteins in the membrane called the 'G proteins' to level the cell surface which allows better communication amongst neurons. When the same analysis was conducted for ketamine, it was seen that not only the G protein left the lipid tissue of the neuronal membrane faster but these proteins were also slow to move back in the cell membrane. This also shows that the movement of G proteins from the neuronal membrane is a true marker of efficacy of antidepressants.

    Read the full story: University of Illinois at Chicago
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Scientists analyzed variations in the language used on Twitter to understand how our thinking patterns change throughout the day
    The way you think follows a 24-hour pattern - analysis of 800 million tweets shows - science news in brief

    A team of scientists analyzed over 800 million tweets, every hour over the course of four years, across 54 of the UK’s largest cities, to determine how our thinking modes change. Interestingly, they discovered a pattern that changes throughout the day. Apparently, at 6 am analytical thinking dominates. However, in the evenings and nights, this thinking style changed towards a more emotional and existential one. Overall, the study discovered strong evidence that our language changes dramatically between night and day, reflecting changes in our concerns and underlying cognitive and emotional processes.

    Read the full story: University of Bristol
    Scientific publication: PLOS One


    Impaired inhibitory signalling in a brain center for emotion regulation causes alcoholism
    Mechanism underlying alcoholism further unravelled - neuroscience news

    Why does a minority of 10-15 % of people develop alcohol-releated problems, while the majority doesn’t ? To answer this questions, researchers have first established a rat model for the choice between alcohol consumption or a healthy reward. They found that a minority of the rats continued to take alcohol, even if sugar, which rats normally prefer, was available. Like human alcoholics, these rats were highly motivated to take alcohol despite adverse consequences. The motivation to take alcohol was caused by impaired clearance of the inhibitor of neuronal activity GABA in the central amygdala, which is important for emotion regulation. Postmortem tissue analysis suggested that the pathology as found in the rats could equally apply to human alcoholism.

    Read the full story: Linkoping University
    Scientific publication: Science


    Neurons from the embryonic subplate migrate into the cortex during development
    Mystery of the missing brain layer resolved - neuroscience news

    During early development, the brain consists of several developing layers, one of which was thought to disappear in adulthood. However, new research has shown that this layer, know as the subplate, is not missing at all. Rather, the cells in this layer migrate into the cortex to become projection neurons (neurons that project within or outside the cortex). Also, the research identified genes and proteins in subplate cells, and it turned out that some of these are important for autism spectrum disorders. Thus, these findings have broad implications for neuroscience and neural disorders, as the identified developmental mechanism may lead to stem cell therapy one day to treat these disorders.

    Read the full story: Rockefeller University
    Scientific publication: Cell Stem Cell


    Parent child therapy decreases incidence of depression in children
    Children with depression benefit from parent-child therapy - short science articles

    Children as young as 3 years can be clinically depressed which then recurs as they grow older. However, psychologists have now demonstrated that involving parents and children together in an interactive therapy which could potentially reduce the rate of depression and also severe the symptom severity in the children. The aim of this intervention is to identify depression early on and then assist the children to change the way they perceive their emotions which could potentially change the trajectory of depression. The therapy aims to train parents on how to manage the child's emotion in stressful situations.

    Read the full story: Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis
    Scientific publication: American Journal of Psychiatry


    Astrocytes in red and neurons in green work together in learning and memory. Image: Ethell Lab, UC Riverside
    Astrocytes are the stars of memory and learning - neuroscience news

    New research has shown the importance of astrocytes, star-shaped cells that have a supportive function in the brain, in learning and memory through their expression of the protein ephrin-B1. If the astrocytes, that are far more numerous in the brain than neurons, produce too much of ephrin-B1, experimental animals forget a task that had just learned, and their synapses between neurons are degraded. The opposite is true if production of ephrin-B1 is low. By their influence on synaptic communication between neurons, astrocytes have been shown not only to be supportive cells, but also to play an important role in the regulation of learning and memory. This has important implications for neural development, dementia, and traumatic brain injury.

    Read the full story: University of California – Riverside
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


    Spinal cord injury could be treated with gene therapy
    Gene therapy for regaining hand movement after spinal cord injury in rats - short science articles

    Researchers have shown that rats in whom spinal cord injury is induced, could re-acquire skilled hand movements after treatment with gene therapy. Scientists have developed a new gene therapy which can be switched on or off using a common antibiotic. This could be used for optimising the time needed for recovery of spinal cord injury patients. The gene therapy induces the producing of the chondroitinase enzyme which can break down the scar tissue thereby allowing the nerve cells to regenerate. Further, they added a 'stealth gene' to provide a safeguard against the immune reaction against the gene switch.

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


    Helicopter parents do more harm than good
    Overcontrolling parents have adverse long-term effects on children - short science articles

    Helicopter parenting hampers the ability of children to appropriately manage their emotions and behaviours. Researchers have found that these children have difficulty navigating complicated school environments. Also, these kids had poorer impulse control and poorer social skills. On the contrary, children with better emotional regulation at the age of 5 are likely to have better social skills and are more productive in school at the age of 10 years. This points out that it is important to educate parents that they should support children's autonomy while handling emotional challenges.

    Read the full story: American Psychological Association
    Scientific publication: Developmental Psychology


    Convergent molecular pathways in neuron differentiation for the first time described in the fruit fly
    Many ways to form the same neuron - neuroscience news

    Using advanced gene sequencing techniques, scientists have found that different molecular pathways during the differentiation from stem cell to neuron can yield a similar type of neuron. This appeared especially true for the type of messenger molecules they make, the neurotransmitters. While these data have been obtained in the visual system of the fruit fly, there is reason to believe that convergence of molecular signaling is applied more broadly to other neuronal characteristics. This is important information to understand how neurons and the brain are formed, and how stem cell replacement therapy should be used.

    Read the full story: New York University
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Stress during development matures certain brain regions faster
    Childhood stress accelerates brain maturation - but not in a good way - short science articles

    Early childhood stress accelerates the brain maturation of certain brain regions during adolescence. While negative experiences during childhood such as illness and divorce lead to faster maturation of the prefrontal cortex and amygdala in the adolescence, stress during the negative social environment during adolescence like poor self-esteem in school was associated with a slow maturation of hippocampus and a part of the prefrontal cortex. Further researchers state that a stronger stress also increases the risk of development of antisocial personality traits.

    Read the full story: Radbound University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    A study in mice has shown that a traumatic event, such as a mild electric shock to the feet, activates a population of cells in the hippocampus. Importantly, the very same group of neurons is also activated when the mice underwent extinction therapy. These results show that both fear memory and fear attenuation are linked to the activity of the same neurons that can apparently rewrite traumatic memories towards safety. These results bring us one step closer to making treatment of even long-term memories of trauma possible.

    Read the full story: Ecole Polytechnique Federale de Lausanne
    Scientific publication: Science


    People with religious affiliations might live longer
    Religious people might live longer - short science articles

    Psychologists studied more than 1000 obituaries and were surprised to discover that those with religious affiliations lived at 5.64 years longer than those individuals without any religious ties. This advantage shrunk to 3.82 years when gender and marital statuses were considered. They further studied if volunteering and social opportunities which are available to people with religious affiliations could be the reason for this longevity but found that these two parameters only accounted for less than 1-year increase in longevity. It could be possible that the rules associated with religion like avoiding unhealthy behaviours like drinking and drug use or avoiding promiscuous behaviour could be the reasons for a long life span.

    Read the full story: Ohio State University
    Scientific publication: Social Psychological and Personality Science


    A particular type of brain activity is very well correlated with the ability to remember information over long periods of time
    Brainwave could predict long-term learning - science news

    A team of researchers has identified for the first time a potential biomarker for long-term learning. They measured students’ brain waves using electroencephalography (EEG) while they were learning new information. They found a particular spike in a specific brainwave (the late positive component - LPC) that was correlated with the ability to retain the new information over a period of six months. According to the researchers, this brain-wave biomarker has the potential to allow educators to try out different techniques to improve long-lasting learning.

    Read the full story: Boston University School of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience


    Psychedelics promote neuronal branching and could help treat depression
    Psychedelics are literally mind-altering drugs - could help fight depression - short science articles

    Psychedelic drugs like LSD, DMT and DOI can physically change the brain cells. Neuroscientists have shown that in depression the extensions of neurons which facilitate them to communicate with each other decrease in branching. Psychedelics were shown to increase the branching of the neurons in the prefrontal cortex of rats and flies which is associated with emotions and profoundly affected in depression. The fact that these effects were common in species separated by several years of evolution could mean that the effect could be conserved even in humans. This gives the possibility to treat depression, addiction and PTSD with psychedelics.

    Read the full story: Medical Xpress
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


    Mitochondria produce less energy and eventually burst open in Parkinson's disease
    Mitochondria dysfunction and neuronal cell death in Parkinson’s disease - neuroscience news

    Scientists have found out why a protein in brain cells of Parkinson’s patients causes these cells to die. The protein, known as alpha-synuclein, forms clumps that bind to the surface of mitochondria, the enery powerhouses of cells, so that the cells produce less energy. Second, the clumps trigger the opening of a channel on the membrane of mitochondria, so that they swell and burst. In the process, chemicals leak out of the mitochondria into the cells, instructing the cell to die. These results underline the importance of finding therapies against the clumped form of alpha-synuclein to stop cell death, while leaving normal alpha-synuclein intact.

    Read the full story: Francis Crick Institute
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Food occupies an important place in our memory system
    The brain in your gut tells the brain in your head where the food is - neuroscience news

    Scientists have discovered that the neural system in the gastrointestinal tract informs the brain via the vagus nerve where the location of food is. This is then stored in the memory center of the brain, the hippocampus. This mechanism is important for animals and humans, as it is clearly beneficial to know where you might find your next meal, be it juicy herbs for an animal, or a juicy steak for us humans. Thus, researchers have established that your gut feeling is at the basis of your memory of the best restaurants in town!

    Read the full story: University of Southern California
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


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