April 23, 2019

    Spinal stretch reflexes help to control hand position
    Spinal cord can perform complicated tasks, independent from the brain - neuroscience short news

    The spinal cord can control complex functions, and not only the brain is able to doing so, new research indicates.

    While the spinal cord has always been conceived as a highway of passing information back and forth between the brain and the body, it can control complex tasks such as maintaining the position and orientation of the hand.

    This finding was made possible by the use of specialized robotic technology, and raises questions of what other smart things the spinal cord can do by itself, without instructions from the brain.

    Read the full story: University of Western Ontario
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Exercises like swimming could reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease
    Exercise to prevent Alzheimer’s? Why not - interesting science news

    Physical activity has been shown to improve memory. However, now researchers have shown that it could also decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

    Recently, it was shown that exercise releases a hormone named irisin. While the initial thought was that it was involved in energy metabolism, now researchers have shown that it also improves neuronal growth in the hippocampus, which is a brain region, involved with learning and memory. More interestingly, post mortem evidence showed that irisin levels were lower in patients who had Alzheimer’s.

    The researchers then tested the hypothesis in mice and found that inhibiting irisin in healthy mice impaired their memory and boosting its level improved it. This could be the first step towards developing new drugs for Alzheimer’s disease.

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


    Lets start choosing desserts first
    Choosing a high-calorie dessert first might be good - interesting science news

    It’s the usual scenario, we go to a restaurant, eat a heavy meal and then choose the dessert which is even more high on calories. Now, psychologists have found out that if we flip the situation and first choose a high-calorie dessert, then we might actually end up have a healthier main course. But there is a caveat.

    The caveat being, if there was a lot on the mind of the person and he/she were distracted, then the participants who chose an indulgent dessert also choose a high calorie main dish.

    This shows that restaurants and cafeterias as well as food delivery websites could promote healthy eating depending on where they place those high calorie dessert. Whether they would do that is another question all together.

    Read the full story: American Psychological Association
    Scientific publication: Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied


    Only the amount of alcohol you drink matters for Hangover; the order doesn't
    Beer before wine and its fine? No, say scientists - interesting science news

    There is an age old saying, ‘Beer before wine and you will feel fine; wine before beer and you will feel queer.’ Now, scientists actually tested this theory to know if the order in which we drink alcohol is important for avoiding hangover.

    To everyone’s disappointment, it really doesn’t matter and the amount of alcohol a person drinks is much more important than the order in which you drink. The researchers studied three groups of individuals with varying sequence of alcohol intake and found that as per the Acute Hangover Scale which is based on thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea and other symptoms, all groups had similar Hangover score.

    The most important aspect of this study was that it had a crossover design which means that the same person was made to drink different sequence of alcohol on different days thereby negating any individual differences.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition


    A simple treatment using four small molecules converts human astrocytes - a common type of cells in the nervous system - into new neurons Image: Gong Chen Lab, Penn State
    Simple drug formulation turns astrocytes into neurons - brain short science news

    The biggest hurdle to recovery after neuronal damage is the fact that neurons do not divide. Cells known as astrocytes that support and insulate neurons can divide and infiltrate the side of nerve injury.

    Now, scientists have developed a simple formula consisting of only four drugs that turn human astrocytes into functional neurons.

    While these results were obtained in a lab dish, scientists say that an important step forward has been made for effective treatment of nerve injuries in the future.

    Read the full story: Penn State
    Scientific publication: Stem Cell Reports


    A brain region induces immediate laughter and then calms you down
    Laughter is the best medicine to calm you during brain surgery - interesting science news

    Neuroscientists have discovered that electrically stimulating a brain region called cingulum bundle results in immediate laughter and then a sense of calmness and happiness even while undergoing awake brain surgery.

    This was discovered in a patient who was undergoing testing for brain stimulation for epilepsy and this was then used in the same patients awake brain surgery. How cool is that.

    Applications other than awake brain surgery could be understanding how cingulum bundle could help treat depression, anxiety and panic disorders. This is unique because previously the focus was on nucleus accumbens which is the brain region for reward and cingulum bundle doesn’t lie in the reward pathway.

    Read the full story: Emory University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Clinical Investigation


    Women have brains 3 years younger than men
    Its official!!! Women’s brains are younger than men’s - interesting science news

    We all know that as we age, the brain tends to shrink. Now researchers have shown that it shrinks faster in men than in women. Women have brains, which are three years younger as compared to chronologically matched men.

    The study was conducted in approximately 100 men and women whose brains were scanned in PET scans which measures the flow of oxygen and glucose in the brain. The data collected regarding the metabolism was then fed into an algorithm and it was tested to predict the age of the participants.

    This could be one reason why women retain their cognitive skills at a later age while men show an accelerated decline as they before older.

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


    Alzheimer's disease might not be caused by plaques in the brain, but by a blood-clotting factor
    Blood-clotting factor responsible for Alzheimer’s disease - brain short science news

    The blood-clotting protein fibrinogen could be at the basis of cognitive decline, such as seen in Alzheimer’s disease, a new study reports.

    It was already known that Alzheimer’s patients have abnormalities in the blood vessel network in the brain, and now it turns out that fibrinogen from the blood is responsible for a series of molecular and cellular events that destroy the connections between neurons. It does so by activating the brain’s immune system and triggers them to attack synapses which mediate the contact between neurons.

    These observations could change the way we think about cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease, and how to cure it.

    Read the full story: Gladstone Institutes
    Scientific publication: Neuron


    In a study on DNA from 2 million patients, many genes could be newly linked to depression
    269 genes newly linked to depression - brain short science news

    In a huge study concerning anonymized data from no less than 2 million patients, 269 genes have been found that could be linked to depression.

    . By using advanced statistical methods, the researchers could exclude factors such as aging or income. Interestingly, some of the newly linked genes indicate that depression could be a driving force for the onset of smoking, whereas others had already been associated with neuroticism.

    Thus, this study is important for the understanding of the origin of depression, and highlights the personality types that could be at risk of developing the disease.

    Read the full story: University of Edinburgh
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Tbx3 (green) plays a crucial role for the function and maintenance of satiety neurons in the brain. Image: modified from Quarta, C. & Fisette, A. et al. (Nature Metabolism)
    The yin and yang of obesity - brain short science news

    The feelings of hunger and satiety are controlled in the brain, in the hypothalamus to be precise. Here two cell types with opposing function mediate the balance between eating and fasting.

    Now, scientists have discovered that the transcription factor Tbx3 plays a key role in metabolism. When Tbx3 is absent or modified, the cells that give the feeling of satiety cannot make the proper cellular messengers that signal to stop eating.

    Scientists hope that Tbx3 might become a target for drug therapy to restore energy and sugar metabolism in obese individuals.

    Read the full story: Helmholtz Zentrum
    Scientific publication: Nature Metabolism


    Autism might be linked with mutations in the RNA, rather than in the DNA
    Faulty RNA editing linked to autism - brain short science news

    While the precise cause of the onset of autism spectrum disorders is still unknown, scientists have found that faulty RNA editing might be involved. RNA is described from DNA, and processed before it will serve as a template for protein synthesis.

    Now it appears that RNA mutations (similar to DNA mutations, except that the genes on the DNA are correct) lead to incorrect editing. Scientists found thousands of RNA editing sites in post-mortem brains where autistic patients show less or more editing when compared to controls. Interestingly, there seems to be a functional role in RNA editing for two proteins that had already been linked to autism, as were many of the proteins that are coded by the RNA.

    While a causal link between autism and faulty RNA editing could not be demonstrated, the study highlights the importance of RNA editing in brain disorders, a hitherto underexplored field of study.

    Read the full story: UCLA
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience


    Translating brain signals to speech could help patients who lose their voice
    Brain signals translated directly to speech - interesting science news

    Speech is a major evolutionary advancement for us and it helps us connect with family and friends. Hence losing speech has devastating consequences on our social and psychological well being.

    Now neuroengineers have created a system, which translates our thoughts into intelligent speech, which is easily recognizable. This technology uses a vocoder, which is a computer algorithm that can synthesize speech after being trained on the voice recordings of people talking.

    The scientists worked with epilepsy patients who underwent brain surgery and used their brain signals generated after listening to sounds. These brain signals were then used to trained neural networks which mimic the biological brain.

    Read the full story: The Zuckerman Institute at Columbia University
    Scientific publication: Scientific Reports


    Being in a romantic relationship has its advantages like better health
    Even thinking of your partner brings the blood pressure down - interesting science news

    What to do when you are stuck in a stressful situation? Well, it seems even if you just think of your romantic partner the blood pressure comes down as much as literally having them in the same room.

    Participants in the study were exposed to a cold-water stress (submerging one foot in extremely cold water). Those who either thought of their partner or had the partner in the room had a significantly lower cardiovascular response to this stress.

    This adds to previous research and indicates that being in a romantic relationship supports a person health by helping them cope better with stress.

    Read the full story: University of Arizona
    Scientific publication: Psychophysiology


    Erasing drug memories could help reduce drug addiction
    Deleting cocaine use memory to decrease drug seeking - interesting science news

    Drug addiction is very much a memory condition since as soon as the person is exposed to cues associated with the drug, the brain fires the same neurons associated with drug-seeking behavior.

    In the present experiment, the rats learned to associate some audiovisual cues with cocaine and exhibited behavior similar to craving, ie. pressing the lever for cocaine repeatedly. Then they used electrical recording from the brain tissue and found that brain medial geniculate nucleus which is associated with sounds and amygdala which is important in memory were highly connected.

    Then they erased the cocaine cue memories using a technique called optogenetics which uses light to inhibit certain specific neurons. On doing this the rats significantly reduced the learn-pressing behavior, thus showing that if we disrupt these memories which are linked to these cues, it significantly reduces drug-seeking behavior.

    Read the full story: University of Pittsburgh (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


    These strips could prove lifesaving. Photo credit: Stephen Crocker/Brown University
    Fentanyl test strips could be effective in reducing overdose - interesting science news

    Fentanyl is a highly potent opioid and even an extremely small amount of the drug can lead to fatal overdose. It presents a major health hazard because it is used to lace heroin and cocaine and drug users have difficulty in detecting this.

    Researchers provided rapid-acting fentanyl strips to young adults who were at risk of overdoing and found that these people not only used these strips but also reported that it assisted in changing their behaviour thereby decreasing the risk of fatal overdose.

    Participants used these fentanyl strips to test for suspicious drug supplies and also gave it to other people who they thought might be at a risk of overdose. With just $1 Each these strips are being distributed by harm reduction organization throughout USA.

    Read the full story: Brown University
    Scientific publication: Harm Reduction journal


    Imbalance of inhibition and excitation in the autistic brain is not the cause of, but an adaptation to the disease
    Main theory about what goes wrong in the autistic brain is not correct - brain short science news

    Scientists think that brain cells of autistic patients receive too little inhibition, or much excitation, leading to hyperactivity in the brain. This is supposed to create “noise”, leading to social and attention deficits.

    However, new research in four mouse models of autism has shown that, while neurons do receive less inhibition, the altered balance between inhibition and excitation does not lead to increased activity of the cells. Rather, it appears that this reflects a compensatory mechanism related to the disease, i.e. to stabilize neuronal activity.

    This is fundamentally different from the current theory, and, considering that much research is devoted to the development of treatments to increase inhibition, an important new insight for more effective treatment of autism.

    Read the full story: University of California - Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Neuron


    Early deprivation in childhood has long lasting effects on the mental health of these children
    Early childhood neglect linked to poor memory - interesting science news

    Children who have not experienced the warmth of a family life and have faced neglect in institutionalized settings have poor memory and executive functions at 8-16 years compared to children who have been placed in quality foster homes early in life.

    Researchers analyzed the data which reported higher mental health problems in institutionalized children in adolescence such as rule-breaking, stealing or assault to come to this conclusion.

    This shows that early deprivation and neglect in childhood has long term and sometimes irreversible impact on the cognitive development of children and our focus should be to avoid these problems.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    Gene mutations in the developing hypothalmus linked to early onset obesity
    Genes linked to early onset obesity discovered - interesting science news

    It has been known that the brain region hypothalamus plays an important role in regulating food intake. Now, researchers have found out molecules that are associated with this brain circuit.

    Scientists found that the developing hypothalamus neurons communicate with other neurons by releasing semaphorins, which guides these neurons towards each other. Blocking these semaphorins not only disrupted the developing hypothalamus but also caused increased body weight.

    Then the scientists moved towards testing the genes associated with these mechanisms in humans and found out that individuals with an early onset obesity had gene mutations involved in semaphorins. This shows that some people are prewired to develop obesity.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Cell


    A new study indicates that one sense can compensate another.
    Do you crave some delicious food? Smelling it should be enough - interesting science news

    We all know that feeling when just a whiff of French fries triggers us in having a high-calorie meal. However, now researchers have found out that just the food scent could directly satisfy this craving.

    Researchers found an inverse correlation between the length of exposure time and whether someone will eat that food item. Those given a choice between cookies and strawberries, chose cookies if they could smell it for less than 30 seconds but if they were exposed to the same smell for two minutes, they ended up choosing the healthier strawberries.

    This study could help us effectively influence people’s food choices rather than the currently used restrictive policies.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Journal of Marketing Research


    New sleeping pill can help patients wake up in response to threat
    A new sleep pill that won’t suppress your ability to wake up in presence of threat - interesting science news

    Benzodiazepines, which are the most commonly prescribed sleep pills impair the brains ability to arose in presence of threat and several study participants sleep through loud noises like vacuuming close to their ears. This poses threat when these drugs impair a person’s ability to wake up when there is a sudden earthquake or fire.

    Now, researchers have developed a new drug named DORA-22 which when tested in mice, arose them quickly in presence of threat, but these mice could go back to sleep immediately after the threat was withdrawn.

    DORA or dual orexin receptor antagonists selectively act on the brain’s sleep pathways and hence safer than traditional benzodiazepines.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience


    A higher mid waist linked to smaller brain size
    Got love handles? This is linked to smaller brain size - interesting science news

    If you are carrying some extra body fat, especially around your mid waist, then it might be linked to brain shrinkage.

    Researchers used the MRI machine to determine brain volumes for white and grey brain matter and volumes in different brain regions. They also measured Body Mass Index (BMI) and waist-to-hip ratio in study participants and found out that those having high scores on both measures had lower brain volumes.

    Specifically, those with higher BMI had a brain volume of 786 cubic centimetre while that with normal BMI had 798 cubic centimetre. Now, it remains to be determined if abnormalities in the brain lead to obesity or it’s the other way round.

    Read the full story: American Academy of Neurology
    Scientific publication: Neurology


    There is a higher risk of depression in teenage girls with regular social media use
    Social media use doubles the risk of depression in girls - interesting science news
    At 14 years of age, girls are twice more likely to show signs of depression compared to boys. Researchers have found out that at this age, girls are heavy social media users with on an average 3 hours more use per day as compared to boys.

    They speculate that the underlying reasons for this could be that 40% of the girls experienced online bullying and sleep disturbances while this number was around 25% for boys.

    This could be linked to poor sleep, poor body image and low self esteem issues increasing the risk of depression.

    Read the full story: UCL
    Scientific publication: EClinicalMedicine


    Are you left or right handed? Maybe it depends on if you were breastfed - science news articles
    Breast feeding linked to left-handedness

    Researchers have proposed that the prevalence of being left handed is lower in infants who were breastfed than those infants who were bottle-fed. The study included 60,000 mother-child pairs and it took into consideration other factors associated with handedness.

    Lets not confuse this correlation with causality since this study doesn’t propose that breastfeeding is the cause of left-handedness.

    This study indicates that breastfeeding optimizes the processes involved which solidify the handedness of a person.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: Laterality: Asymmetries of Body, Brain and Cognition


    Botox could be an effective way to treat migraine
    Botox injections for treating migraine? Why Not - short science news and articles

    A recent review and meta-analysis of several clinical trial data has shown that botulinum toxin is effective in reducing chronic migraine headaches.

    Data from 17 previous studies was pooled together which showed that botulinum toxin was significantly better compared to placebo for migraines. Three months after the injections, patients treated with botulinum injections had 1.6 times fewer migraine attacks per month.

    Further, although the injections had higher side effects that placebo, none of these were serious side effects.

    Read the full story: American Society of Plastic Surgeons
    Scientific publication: Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery


    New technology allows obtaining PET images of the brain in freely moving animals
    Brain scans in moving animals now possible - daily short science news

    PET (positron-emission tomography) scans have long been used in research for imaging the brain of small animals. However, the classical approach requires the animals to be anesthetized, which perturbs many neurological parameters. But now, researchers report achieving PET scans in awake, moving animals.

    The technique allows for simultaneous brain imaging and behavioral tests which has great potential for research. To achieve this, scientists built a system containing a motion-sensitive observation chamber which adapts to the animal’s head position within the PET field-of-view.

    The new system was successfully tested in an experiment measuring the rate of binding of specific compounds to dopamine receptors in the brain. Thus, this approach holds important applications in neuroscience research.

    Read the full story: Physics World
    Scientific publication: Neuroimage


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