April 23, 2019

    Visiting new places offers the opportunity to learn. This concept was used in mice to study memory formation.
    New memory formation depends on genes related to autism and schizophrenia - neuroscience news

    A new study has found that two proteins act together in the process of memory formation in the hippocampus of mice that were placed in a new environment. One of these proteins is FMRP, which has been associated with the autism-like condition of Fragile X syndrome. FMRP is a protein that binds mRNA and hence regulates the production of peptides and proteins. During memory formation FMRP upregulates the synthesis of a protein known as neurogranin that is typically found in contact points between neurons, the synapses. This protein has been linked to schizophrenia in humans. Thus, this study not only identifies FMRP and neurogranin as important players in memory formation, but also suggests that both are involved in cognitive disabilities observed in autism and schizophrenia.

    Read the full story: Picower Institute – MIT
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA


    How does one become aware of what one has seen? This question is coming closer to answer in a new study that used transcranial magnetic stimulation in the prefrontal cortex (the most forefront part of the brain). It turns out that cooperation of two regions in this part of the brain bring confidence of what is being seen. The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex collects the visual input, and when the input is strong enough, it sends it to the anterior prefrontal cortex. The anterior prefrontal cortex takes the evidence from the dorsolateral part and assigns confidence, or awareness, of what is being seen. This process is an example of metacognition, or the understanding of one's own thought processes.

    Read the full story: Georgia Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


    An angry boss reflects on his behaviour and engages in repairing his attitude
    Your Boss: Angry today, nice tomorrow? - short science articles

    Researchers used previous research which studied the impact of abusive bosses on the employees and focused to see how the bosses themselves responded to their own extreme behaviour. Not only did the bosses felt guilty of their own abusive behaviour but also they felt that they lost 'moral credit'. Further, working in a place where moral and ethical values are extremely important makes the supervisors more attentive to their behaviour and they experience guilt when they act abusively. These supervisors are then prone to engage in cleansing behaviours following their abusive acts. This shows that supervisors too engage actively in repairing their behaviours due to the insight they develop.

    Read the full story: Michigan State University
    Scientific publication: Applied Psychology


    Parietal cortex of the brain could be the seat of spiritual experiences
    Where does the brain process spiritual experiences - short science articles

    Spiritual experiences need not be only religious in nature, but also could be other feelings like a feeling of oneness with nature. Some spiritual experiences are profound and have deep impacts on a persons' life. Now, scientists have recognized the brain region associated with such experiences. The parietal cortex, a brain region which is usually associated with awareness of self and attentional processing seems to be the place of origin of such experiences. Researchers interviewed 27 adults to identify previous stressful and relaxing life episodes and found similar parietal cortex brain activity as subjects imagined past spiritual experiences even though the experiences were quite different. This could help us identify how spiritual experiences impact mental health.

    Read the full story: Yale University
    Scientific publication: Cerebral Cortex


    Food for thought: hunger is signaled in the brain through the cerebrospinal fluid
    New route for delivering messages in the brain - neuroscience news

    While communication from neuron to neuron through synapses and via the endocrine system are well known routes to spread news in the brain, researchers have found that there is still a third manner by which the brain sends messages. This manner is through the liquid in the brain, the cerebrospinal fluid, which was originally thought to be only important for waste management. Now it turns out this liquid can carry messenger molecules such as the neuropeptide MCH that signals hunger and reduces energy expenditure. This sort of signaling is very different as the synaptic “point-to-point” neuronal communication, as the message is able to reach essentially all parts of the brain, in this case to initiate eating.

    Read the full story: University of Southern California
    Scientific publication: Cell Metabolism


    Brain regions associated with thinking have more real estate in bigger brains. Photo credit: P.K. Reardon, NIMH Developmental Neurogenomics Unit
    Thinking areas account for more space allocation in bigger human brains - short science articles

    Some human brains are bigger than others and researchers have found out that this additional area is attributed to the thinking areas of the brain at the expense of relatively slower growth in the motor, emotional and sensory areas by studying the brain scan data of more than 3000 people. Further, these high expanding regions of the brain have increased connectivity between neurons and also consumed higher energy with increased gene expression associated with energy metabolism. This could give us insights into how certain mental disorders alter the brain size related to genetic information and impact of environmental influence.

    Read the full story: National Institute of Health
    Scientific publication: Science


    brain ageing slowed due to increased social interactions
    Slower brain ageing and memory preservation linked to higher social ties - short science articles

    Researchers have found that mice that are grouped together have better memories and healthier brains compared to mice which live in pairs. Grouped mice performed better on experiments that tested identification of objects moved to a new place and also developed better escape strategies in maze based memory tasks. Further pair housed mice had higher signs of inflammation in the brain tissue as compared to group-housed mice indicating that the later had better cognitive health. This research supports the notion that social connections indeed help in preserving the brain health.

    Read the full story: Ohio State University
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience


    Depression is not linked to having an abortion
    Having an abortion is not associated with depression- short science articles

    Several studies claim that abortion causes psychological harm to women and this narrative shapes state policies restricting access to abortion facilities in the US. Hence researchers studied the relationship between abortion and mental health by analyzing the data of 400,000 Danish women between 1980 - 1994. They studied the risk of antidepressant use as a proxy for depression around the time of an abortion. Interestingly, the researchers found that the risk of antidepressant use doesn't change one year before to one year after an abortion with their use declining as the time after an abortion increased. While women who had an abortion had a higher risk of antidepressant use, this risk was the same both the year before and after an abortion which indicates that this higher risk could be due to some other preexisting mental condition and not associated with abortion.

    Read the full story: University of Maryland
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry


    Distinct neurons in the brain identify different types of taste
    No more sweet tooth - short science articles

    Researchers have found that the innate desire for sweet taste and distaste for bitter taste can be deleted from the brain by manipulating certain neurons in the amygdala which is the emotional center of the brain. The amygdala is divided into distinct regions for bitter and sweet taste just as that seen previously in the taste identifying region of the brain. This distinction gives an opportunity to independently manipulate the neurons. When neurons for sweet taste in the amygdala were switched off the animals responded to water just as to sugar. By manipulating the neurons the researchers could change the perceived quality of taste and turned sweet taste to aversive taste or a bitter taste to an attractive one. This could give insights in eating disorders.

    Read the full story: Columbia University
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Early life seizures could lead to modifications of brain networks
    Brain networks associated with autism switch on due to early life seizures -short science articles

    There are silent neuron connections in the brain which gradually become activated with experience in children. However early life seizures lead to 'unsilencing' of these connections which could remove them from the reservoir necessary for the development of cognitive and language skills thereby increasing the likelihood of developing autism. In the study conducted in mice, researchers found that inducing seizures in a particular brain region changes the receptors in the neurons leading to disruption of proper development of that brain region. Treating these mice with NBQX an anticonvulsant drug prevented this premature unsilencing of these brain circuits and hence also avoided the behavioural abnormalities observed. So, the time period of treatment post early life seizures is critical for avoiding development of neurological disorders.

    Read the full story: Penn Medicine
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


    The placenta could play a central role in schizophrenia
    Missing link in Schizophrenia: the placenta - short science articles

    There has been a long debate of the nature vs nurture role on the development of schizophrenia. Now, researchers have found an explanation connecting the early life complications, genetic risk and their influence on mental illness and it all happens to converge on the placenta. While previous studies have always concentrated on how genes associated with behavioural disorders directly affect brain development before birth, researchers have found that several genes which are associated with risk of schizophrenia alter early brain development indirectly by influencing the health of placenta. Moreover, the more these genes were activated in the placenta the more the placenta showed signs of inflammation indicating a central role of the placenta in development of schizophrenia.

    Read the full story: LIEBER INSTITUTE FOR BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
    Scientific publication: Nature Medicine


    African-Americans have higher risk of depression
    Higher risk of depression in African-Americans and Latinos compared to Whites - short science articles

    Researchers collected data from 12,272 participants over a period of 7 years from 2005-2012 in the age range of 40-70 years and found that Latinos and African-Americans were more likely to have higher levels of chronic stress and unhealthy behaviour like cigarette smoking, drinking, insufficient exercise and poor diet compared to whites. This is opposite to previous understanding that engaging in unhealthy behaviour reduces effects of chronic stress on depression in African-Americans. Further, opposite to previous research, the study found that all in groups chronic stress was associated with less binge drinking behaviour.

    Read the full story: National Institute of Health
    Scientific publication: Preventive Medicine


    Childhood stressful situation could increase aggression in adulthood
    Living in high-risk situations increases the likelihood of kids becoming violent adults - short science articles

    Researchers have for the first time provided scientific evidence pointing out that children who experience abuse, migration, cannabis or alcohol use and live in big cities in their childhood have a higher tendency of becoming violent aggressive adults. These children have at least 10 times higher chances of aggressive behaviour of being convicted of sexual assault, battery, murder or manslaughter in their adulthood. A further epigenetic analysis of a subset of individuals showed that they had higher levels of histone deacetylase 1 (HDAC1) which indicates an environmental influence on the genes.

    Read the full story: Springer
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Early signs of Alzheimer's disease do not necessarily mean that a person will develop the disease
    Most persons with preclinical Alzheimer’s disease will not develop dementia during their lifetimes - neuroscience news

    Hopeful news about Alzheimer’s disease: most persons with early signs of the disease will not develop dementia during their lifetimes. These early signs are known as biomarkers, and present themselves before physical symptoms of the disease manifest themselves. However, biomarkers do not show the likelihood for a person that tests positive will develop Alzheimer’s disease. Risk is related to age, lifetime and the status of the disease during the screening. Thus, biomarkers should be looked at in conjuntion with lifetime risk factors.

    Read the full story: University of California – Los Angeles
    Scientific publication: Alzheimer’s and Dementia – The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Assocation


    A new drug could help protect harmful effects of space radiation
    A way to protect our brain from radiation if we travel to Mars - short science articles

    While NASA and SpaceX are planning to send humans to Mars in our lifetime, one hurdle is to figure out how would we protect our 'space travellers' from the harmful effects of cosmic radiation in deep space. To this end, researchers found that exposure of simulated space radiation to mice resulted in problems associated with memory, social interactions, anxiety, all of which are linked to the activation of the microglia cells which are a part of the brain immune system. However, if these mice were treated with the drug PLX5622 developed by pharmaceutical company Plexxikon Inc, they showed a reversal of several symptoms. This is hypothesized to be due to replacing damaged microglia with normal healthy ones providing first evidence of effectiveness of the drug.

     Read the full story: University of California San Francisco
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    When bored at work, people tend to use the internet more for personal or recreational reasons
    Use of internet for recreation during work is a response to boredom - science news in brief

    A new study suggests that personal use of internet during working hours (known as cyberloafing) is due to boredom. Many people are bored at work for various reasons, and cyberloafing could be a coping behavior that helps them relax. The research involved 463 non-instructional university personnel and concluded that those with a relatively low workload were more likely to say they felt bored at their job. This in turn was associated with greater use of internet recreationally at work. There is no consensus currently on whether cyberloafing is a negative behavior or not.

    Read the full story: Psypost
    Scientific publication: Computers in Human Behavior


    Regrowing brain tissue in mice with blood vessels in purple and nerve fibres in green. Image: UCLA
    New gel helps to regrow the brain after stroke - neuroscience news

    Researchers have succeeded at regrowing brain scar tissue after a stroke in mice, using a newly developed gel. This biomaterial suppresses scarring, and creates new scaffolding for neurons and blood vessels. This is a remarkable finding, as the brain has only limited capacity to renew itself after injury, and rather absorbs dead tissue. Scientists hope that the gel may one day be used in humans that have suffered from stroke.

    Read the full story: University of California – Los Angeles
    Scientific publication: Nature Materials


    Lower neuron connections associated with higher intelligence
    If you are smarter, then your brain has fewer connections - short science articles

    Neuroscientists used neuroimaging techniques to look for insights into the wiring of the brain microstructure especially in relation to their intelligence. Participants were brain scanned to quantify the dendrites which are extensions of the neurons which helps them communicate with other neurons. These participants also completed an IQ test and scientists found that higher the intelligence of a person, lower is the number of connections. Usually, larger brains are associated with more neuronal connections and hence considered to have more computation power. However, since the brains of intelligent people show fewer connections, this could mean that intelligent brains are in fact lean and show higher efficient due to lower connections.

    Read the full story: Ruhr-Universität Bochum
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Gene to avoid protein misfolding and deposition identified
    Gene to prevent brain disease identified - short science articles

    Abnormal protein deposits are seen in neurological disorders like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. One of the reasons for these deposits could be a failure of the cells to transmit proper genetic information to proteins. Now researchers have identified the gene Ankrd16, which prevents the protein from aggregating. Usually, transfer of information from the cell to the protein is controlled carefully, it is biologically proofread and corrected to avoid production of improper proteins. Low level of Ankrd16 gene allows the formation of improperly constructed proteins and increasing its expression rescues Purkinje cells (a type of neurons) which usually die if proofreading fails.

    Read the full story: University of California San Diego
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Protein dispositions are a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease
    Gene discovered that prevents brain disease - neuroscience news

    Scientists have found a gene that filters out proteins that are incorrectly folded, especially those proteins with a substitution of an amino acid (building blocks of proteins) by a particular amino acid called serine. Low expression of this gene, Ankrd16, puts neurons at risk of dying, as the proofreading ability in these neurons is not as efficient in the absence of Ankrd16. Incorrect folding of proteins leads to protein dispositions in the brain and causes Alzheimer’s disease. The newly discovered gene might thus help to better understand why protein dispositions form, which is still a mystery to date.

    Read the full story: University of California – San Diego
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Derivative from Cannabis could treat rare epilepsy syndromes
    Seizures in severe epilepsy decreased by cannabidiol - short science articles

    A new large-scale, randomized clinical trial has shown that cannabidiol, a compound obtained from cannabis which doesn't produce the characteristic 'high', significantly decreases the number of seizures in patients with the severe Lennox-Gastaut syndrome. Researchers reported decrease by 37.2% - 41.9% in 'drop seizures', typical seizures seen in this syndrome where the person losses his/her entire muscle tone. Similarly, cannabidiol has been shown to decrease epilepsy in Dravet syndrome, another rare untreatable condition by 39% which lead to the US-FDA approval of this drug. Patients suffer only mild to moderate side effects such as diarrhoea, sleepiness, vomiting etc. An affliction of the liver was observed in a few patients but it was reversible. This gives new hope for treatment of rare forms of epilepsy.

    Read the full story: NYU Langone Health
    Scientific publication: NEJM


    Gut microbial byproducts could help in decreasing neurodenegerative diseases
    How the gut microbes influence neurological diseases - short science articles

    Researchers have found new links between the gut and the brain and decipher how the byproducts of microorganisms residing in the gut could influence the progress of neurological diseases. Two cells play an important role in the CNS, namely microglia and astrocytes. Microglia can secrete several products which can induce inflammation and affect the astrocytes. Now, researchers have been able to show that microbes that break-down dietary tryptophan could limit this inflammation. This could play a role in reducing neurodegeneration seen in multiple sclerosis.

    Read the full story: Medical Express
    Scientific publication: Nature


    Reconstruction of a neuron in the human hippocampus. The hairs sticking out are the dendrites.
    Link between epilepsy and autism discovered - neuroscience news

    One third of the children with autism also are epileptic, and now scientists have discovered why this is. It turns out that the gene cntnap2, a risk factor for autism, stabilizes the dendritic arbors (sort of antennas) of neurons that inhibit neural activity. Cntnap2 achieves this through recruitment of an enzyme in the inhibitory neurons, known as CASK. Mutations in cntnap2 and / or CASK in autistic patients make it impossible to maintain the dendritic arbor of the inhibitory neurons, which will then become less active and stop giving instructions to the other neurons that they should calm down. The other neurons become too active, so that epilepsy can occur.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry


    Arguments with spouse could worsen pain symptoms
    Love literally hurts: arguments with a spouse worsens chronic pain - short science articles

    While we have always felt it, researchers have now found evidence that a fight with your spouse especially in those with chronic health conditions like arthritis or diabetes could lead to worsening of pain symptoms on those days. Participants of this study kept daily diaries of their mood and their interaction with spouse and found that severity of the patients' pain was correlated with tensions with their spouses. This is a significant finding because it is important to know which factors influence worsening of symptoms of chronic diseases since patients with osteoarthritis who experience greater pain become disabled rather quickly and diabetics with uncontrolled condition accelerate towards developing complications.

    Read the full story: Penn State
    Scientific publication: Annals of Behavioural Medicine


    Magnetic brain stimulation could decrease addiction cue reactivity and hence help in decreasing relapse
    Using magnetic brain stimulation to decrease addiction responses - short science articles

    While extensive research is being conducted for addiction treatments, even after 50 years there isn't any brain circuit-based treatment. Now, researchers have used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) targetted to the ventromedial prefrontal cortex dampens brain activity to drug cues in chronic alcohol and chronic cocaine addicts. Brain imaging done before and after TMS showed that on exposure to alcohol-related cues like a liquor bottle, there was a significant reduction in drug cue reactivity even after a single session of TMS. Since reactivity to drug cues is associated with relapse, TMS treatment could offer a new hope for treatment in addiction.

    Read the full story: Elsevier
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry


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