April 23, 2019

    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

    Methyllycaconitine could be useful for treatment of opioid relapse
    A potential novel treatment for drug relapse revealed - short science articles

    Addiction relapse is associated with cues which are scenarios associated with the drug intake like the place of consumption, group of friends etc and treating relapse is extremely important for the overall treatment of the addict. Now, researchers have tested the drug methyllycaconitine (MLA) which is derived from the Delphinium plants which blocked relapse of morphine in mice and rats. This drug is a blocker of the alpha-7-nicotinic receptor of the acetylcholine neurotransmitter. The brain region 'hippocampus' which is usually associated with emotional memories is the site of action of this drug. This is interesting also because the acetylcholine system is usually associated with nicotine addiction and could indicate a common thread for several drug addictions.

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

    A bacterial injection could make our brains resilient to stress
    Could we immunize against stress? - short science articles

    Researchers have found that transferring beneficial bacteria could produce long-lasting anti-inflammatory effects which could make the brain more resilient to stress. Rats were injected with the beneficial bacteria Mycobacterium vaccae for 3 weeks and this resulted in a shift of the brain towards an anti-inflammatory state. Previous research has shown that trauma or illness can sensitize certain brain regions to subsequent stressors thereby leading to mood disorders. Interestingly, Mycobacterium vaccae was able to block this sensitizing effect of stress too. If this could be replicated in humans, then maybe we could develop bacteria based immunizations for certain mood disorders.

    Read the full story: University of Colorado Boulder
    Scientific publication: Brain Behaviour and Immunity

    A new protein discovered could provide insights in depression
    A new type of depression identified - short science articles

    Depression affects 300 million individuals worldwide and while treatments do exist, these are dependent on only one disease model (lack of serotonin and norepinephrine) and those patients who do not fit this model do not benefit from treatment. Now, neuroscientists have discovered that a protein 'RGS8' plays a role in depression. The RGS8 protein controls a hormone receptor MCHR1 which is involved in regulating sleep, feeding and mood. This MCHR1 is inactivated by the RGS8 protein. Mice with higher expression of RGS8 in their nervous system showed lower signs of depressive-like behaviour. Also, there were structural differences in the hippocampus (the brain region involved in memory and mood) in mice with higher expression of the RGS8 protein as compared to mice who had lower expression. This makes RGS8 a promising candidate for depression-like behaviour treatment.

    Read the full story: Hiroshima University
    Scientific publication: Neuroscience

    Hunger could manifest as anger if we interpret our emotions incorrectly
    Hangry = hungry + angry? What makes it so- short science articles

    We all have experienced getting angrier as we become increasingly hungry. But this is dependent on a lot more than just a fall in blood sugar. Researchers have found that hungry people feel greater levels of unpleasant emotions like stress and hate. But, there are two things that contribute towards negative emotions when we get hungry: context and self-awareness. We feel 'hangry' when we feel unpleasant due to hunger but our brain interprets it as negative emotions for other people or situations. Further, people who are more aware of their hunger being manifested as an emotion makes them less likely to become 'hangry'.

    Read the full story: American Psychological Association
    Scientific publication: Emotion

    Non-coding RNAs form regulatory networks in brain cells
    Network of non-coding RNAs identified in the brain - neuroscience news

    RNA is typically known to encode genetic information from the DNA to direct protein synthesis. However, most of the RNA does not code for proteins at all, but are regulatory molecules that modify protein synthesis. A new study has found that different types of such non-coding RNA form a network in the brain, consisting of two microRNAs (very short, as their name indicates), one circular RNA, and one long non-coding RNA. This network ensures that the levels of one microRNA, miR-7 are kept extremely low, and those of one circular RNA, Cdr1as, high. The precise function of the network is still not completely known, but other recent research suggests that it might influence neuronal activity.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Cell

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