August 18, 2019

    Forgetting a memory activates the brain more than remembering it
    Forgetting takes more effort - interesting science news

    Researchers have found out that choosing to forget something requires more mental effort than remembering it. Further, the research indicates that, if one wants to forget an unwanted experience, one needs to focus more attention on it.

    This study focused on the sensory and perception areas of the brain, i.e. the ventral temporal cortex and found that humans have an ability to control what they want to forget but it requires more activity in this brain region than when we are trying to remember these memories.

    This could help form the basis of therapy necessary to eliminate memories, which can trigger maladaptive responses, so that we can form new more healthy memories.

    Read the full story: University of Texas at Austin
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


    People laughing together reveals their relationship even to kids
    For kids, the difference between a friend and stranger is a laugh - interesting science news

    We need to give more credit to kids than we do. Infants who are as young as 5 months are able to distinguish between friends and strangers. Smart, isn’t it?

    It has been recently shown that colaughter, i.e. two or ore people laughing simultaneously allows adult listeners to evaluate the nature of relationships between people. This seems to hold true even for kids.

    When exposed to social interactions in which the infants were shown pictures of two people laughing together, the infants spent more time looking at them if they were friends. They also listened to colaughter of friends longer than strangers thereby proving that they could predict the nature of the relationships.

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


    Sleep helps in DNA repair and hence important
    Why do we need sleep? - interesting science news

    This question has been bugging biologists since several years. Why do animals sleep when there is this constant threat of predators? Researchers have found the first evidence of an unexpected function of sleep.

    They used 3D time-lapse imaging technique in live zebrafish and were able to show that single neurons require sleep to perform nuclear maintenance. DNA damage can occur due to several reasons like radiation, oxidative stress and regular neural activity. This damage accumulates during wakefulness and can reach unsafe levels too.

    Sleep helps in repairing this DNA damage in each neuron. The DNA repair process does not occur efficiently during wakefulness and requires an offline sleep period during which there are reduced inputs. This could explain how sleep and sleep disturbances can affect brain performance as well as ageing and other brain disorders.

    Read the full story: Bar-Ilan University (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: Nature Communication


    There are several forms of autism that share a common risk gene profile
    Common risks genes discovered for autism - brain short science news

    While pinpointing the precise contribution of genes to the development of autism spectrum disorders has been difficult, researchers have now established a set of several genes that are common to all forms of autism.

    Also, they have found genes that are risk factors for specific forms. The genes involved are responsible for proper development of the cortex of the brain.

    As the hereditary factor of autism is about 80%, the new findings are expected to lead to better diagnosis and counseling for individual persons suffering from one of the forms of autism.

    Read the full story: University of Aarhus
    Scientific publication: Nature Genetics


    Missing a gene is not normally good news. However, in this case, it might as it helps recovery from stroke
    Missing a gene helps recovery from mild stroke - science news articles

    Scientists have found that patients missing a gene called CCR5 recover better from mild stokes than patients having the gene.

    The study looked at 446 patients recovering after stroke and discovered that individuals without this gene improved faster in walking, arm and leg control, and other types of movement. The findings were confirmed in lab animals where the gene was manipulated by researchers.

    Interestingly, one year after stroke, patients missing CCR5 also scored higher in tests assessing memory, verbal function and attention. This discovery could one day lead scientist to the development of a treatment for reversing the damage induced by stroke.

    Read the full story: University of California, Los Angeles
    Scientific publication: Cell


    Scientists continue to look for the genetic origin of depression
    Reversing depression by exciting excitatory neurons - brain short science news

    Activation of a gene known as SIRT1 in the prefrontal cortex can reduce the symptoms of depression in male mice, a new study shows.

    In the absence of this gene, the excitatory neurons in the prefrontal cortex have less mitochondria, the energy generators of the cell, and the mice show depressive behavior. SIRT1 is thus necessary to energize the excitatory neurons to prevent depression.

    While the SIRT1 gene had been found to be related to depression previously in women, modulating the amount of SIRT1 in female mice was without effect. Thus, SIRT1 has anti-depressive activity, but more research is needed to translate this finding to the clinic.

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


    Teenage cannabis use linked to adult depression - interesting science news
    Adolescent cannabis smoking might be considered cool, but it causes mental health problems

    Cannabis has been lot in news lately with all the health benefits it is touted for especially for psychosis. However, not much attention is given to its use and the risk of depression and anxiety.

    Now, researchers have done a huge meta-analysis comprising of 11 international studies, which included a total of 23,317 patients, and it shows that cannabis use especially in adolescents is associated with increased risk of depression and suicide in adulthood. However, its use is not linked to anxiety.

    This translates to about 400,000 adolescent cases of depression in the US alone. However, the study falls short of finding a dose-dependent risk of cannabis use.

    Read the full story: University of Oxford (via ScienceDaily)
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry


    Virtual reality scenarios may help autistic patients cope with their fears
    Immersive virtual reality to treat autism phobias - latest science news in brief

    Immersive virtual reality (VR) can help children with autism to overcome their phobias, according to a new research study. Scientists created a special room for VR experiences, which requires no googles, to allow patients to investigate various scenarios with the help of a therapist.

    In a randomized controlled trial, 32 children with autism received treatment for phobias using the VR system. According to the authors, 40% of children showed improvements 2 weeks later and 45% after six months.

    In a separate study, the VR room was also used for adults with autism. Although this study only tested on eight adults, five of them reported improved symptoms six months after the therapy.

    Read the full story: Newcastle University
    Scientific publication: Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders


    Diabetes and its link to Alzheimer's revealed
    Alzheimer’s linked to insulin signaling failure - interesting science news

    Researchers have found that impaired insulin signalling in the brain diminishes its learning and memory properties as a result of which those with type 2 diabetes are at a greater risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

    Researchers developed a new mouse model in which they blocked the expression of insulin and insulin like growth factor receptors in the brain regions involved with learning and memory by testing these mice in a maze.

    These mice also had decreased expression of the glutamate receptor GluA1 which is involved in making important brain connections. This could be the reason for altered mood and cognition impairment in these mice.

    Read the full story: Joslin Diabetes Center
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    A specific type of neurons might mediate cocaine addiction
    Cocaine addiction linked to increased number of orexin neurons - top science news stories

    In a new research study, scientists found an interesting correlation between a type of brain cells called orexin neurons and cocaine addiction. When the number of orexin neurons is higher the chance of becoming addicted or relapsing is increased.

    The study involved rats that were addicted. These animals had a greater number of brain cells that produce orexins. The increase in neurons lasted for up to six months after cocaine use, which might explain why addicts often relapse.

    Interestingly, when researchers restored the number of neurons to normal, cocaine-seeking rats were no longer addicted. Moreover, a previous study already showed a similar pattern in humans that were addicted to heroin.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry


    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


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