February 19, 2019

    Pupil size indicates brain activity in sleep
    Your pupil size might indicate the sleep state

    Daniel Huber and colleagues from the University of Geneva recently discovered that the pupil size fluctuates rhythmically with sleep. They suggest that the pupil size is a consistent indicator of sleep stage and the brain activity is correlated with the pupil size during the non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep. These fluctuations seem to be regulated by the parasympathetic system of the brain. This has interesting implications since one might be able to deduce brain activity non-invasively by pupil tracking which can be used as alternatives to electrode recordings.

    Read the full story: neurosciencenews.com
    Scientific publication: www.cell.com

    Rats know where other rats are through activation of particular cells in the hippocampus
    I know where you are! Social place cells in the hippocampus tell me!

    Bats and rats use the same neural region, the hippocampus, to orient themselves in space, and to track the whereabouts of their conspecifics, two independent research groups found. The animals use the already known “place cells” that encode their own location, and newly-found “social place cells” to code for the position of the others. These cells may be especially important for social animals (like rats, bats and humans), as knowing where conspecifics are facilitates communication, learning, or moving together.

    Read the full story: www.nature.com/articles/
    Scientific publication: science.sciencemag.org/content/bats
    Scientific publication: science.sciencemag.org/content/rats

    OpenClipart-Vectors via pixabay.com
    Abnormally interacting neurons might be the reason for cognitive deficits in Fragile X syndrome (FXS

    Dr Andre Fenton and colleagues from the New York University have discovered that in FXS which is responsible for the most widespread form of autism is characterized by normally functioning neurons for cognition and memory. However, the problem lies in the failure of these neurons interacting correctly which might result in long-term cognitive deficits. The study was conducted in mice which have genetic defects in the FMR1 gene similar to that seen in a human patient. This could have therapeutic implications since one can now target neuronal interactions instead of the upstream molecular abnormalities caused by the mutation.

    Read the full story: https://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: http://www.cell.com/neuron/

    Source: By shgmom56 via Flickr
    Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) might appear even after head impact in the absence of concuss

    Researchers have found that early evidence of CTE pathology not only persisted for long after a head injury but also spread through the brain even in the absence of concussion. The study conducted in unanesthetized mice and post-mortem brains of teenage athletes showed that pathological aggregation of tau proteins were not only detected immediately at the site of impact but also in distant brain regions after 5 months. The study should be able to shed light on the relationship between CTE, head impact and traumatic brain injury so as to develop better therapeutic and preventive strategies.

    Read the full story: https://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: https://academic.oup.com/brain/

    Source: OpenClipart-Vectors from pixabay.com
    Brain regions show hyper-connectivity in Cannabis abusers

    Dr. Nora Volkow of the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism and her colleagues as a part of the Human Connectome Project have shown that chronic cannabis abuse results in higher resting state connectivity especially in the dopaminergic circuit of the brain which is implicated in the goal seeking behavior, reward and habit formation. This state of hyper-connectivity was also more pronounced in those individuals who began cannabis use in early adolescence. The researchers speculate that this might be the source of heightened emotional disturbances and higher risk of psychosis amongst these individuals.

    Read the full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

    John Hain via pixabay.com
    Scientists might know why certain people are more creative than others.

    The brain primarily consists of the default network, which is involved, in spontaneous thinking, the executive control network involved in focused tasks and the salience network, which is necessary to switch between these two. Using functional MRI (fMRI) scientists found that a person’s creativity is based on the strength of their connections between these networks. Usually the default network and the executive control network are not activated simultaneously. However, researchers found out that creative individuals have signs of co-activation of these two regions. Now, the question remains whether one can improve creativity by modifying these networks.

    Read the full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: http://www.pnas.org/

    Ben_Kerckx from pixabay
    Infant formula prebiotics might positively affect learning and memory

    A new study recently published by researchers at the University of Illinois tested the brain level effects of prebiotics which are usually included in infant formula feeds. The Piglet Nutrition and Cognition Lab showed that the pre-biotics polydextrose and galactooligosaccharide included in the formula feed not only had a beneficial effect on the gut health but it also influenced brain development by improving memory and the exploratory behaviour. These also modulated the level of volatile fatty acids in the gut, blood, brain as also serotonin levels in the hippocampus. This is interesting since the study adds to a growing branch of research which explores the effects of gut microbes on brain and behaviour.

    Read the full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: http://www.tandfonline.com/

    TeroVesalainen from Pixabay
    How a thought travels through the brain

    Researchers from UC Berkeley attempted to track the movement of a thought in the brain and showed that prefrontal cortex, evolutionarily the most advanced part of the brain coordinates this brain activity. Scientists used the technique of Electrocorticography (ECoG) which records from the outermost layers of the brain where most of this activity takes place. For difficult tasks, the brain takes some time to respond and the prefrontal cortex also recruits other brain regions. This results in the transformation of input perceptions into physical actions which is extremely important for flexible behaviour.

    Read the full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: https://www.nature.com/

    Crystal structure of the neurophysin-oxytocin complex. Image by Edgar181, via Wikimedia Commons
    Social signals in the brain are modulated by Oxytocin

    Oxytocin, which carries the tag of 'love hormone', is also involved in a wide array of social signalling mechanisms. Researchers from Harvard, Catherine Dulac and colleagues tested the effects of oxytocin lacking male mice and discovered that these mice did not display the typical preference towards female mice. The seat of action is considered to be Amygdala, a brain region primarily associated with fear. Researchers state that Oxytocin acts as a regulator of input signals in the brain and turn up the significance of certain signals as compared to others.

    Read the full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/
    Scientific publication: https://elifesciences.org/

    Memory formation is dependent on a protein which might be viral in origin
    Memory formation is dependent on a protein which might be viral in origin
    How memory is stored is an ever enigmatic question which has been fascinating neuroscientists for many years. The endogenous protein ‘Arc’ encoded by the neurons has been known to induce plasticity (permanent neuronal structural changes) necessary for encoding memory. However, researchers from University of Utah recently discovered that Arc is released from neurons in the extracellular vesicles which then lead to transfer of Arc mRNA in neighboring neurons. None of the other non-viral proteins is known to act like this which might give the possibility that Arc is viral in origin and got incorporated with the human genome during evolution. This is exciting to know since a chance interaction millions of years ago might be the reason why we have memories.

    Read full story:   https://neurosciencenews.com/

    Scientific article: http://www.sciencedirect.com/

    Pfizer just gave up on Alzheimer and Parkinson Research
    Pfizer just gave up on Alzheimer and Parkinson Research
    Pharmaceutical research just received a major setback, when Pfizer, the third largest drug maker in the world, announced that they would abandon research to develop new drugs for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. This would not only lead to job losses for those in research positions in the company, but it would also dash the hopes of those millions suffering from these dreadful conditions who were hoping for more efficient drugs. This might trigger a series of similar reactions from other companies involved in neuroscience pharmaceutical research since as put by Matthew Norton, Director of Alzhimer’s Research, ‘Neuroscience research is high risk, in that failure for pharmaceutical companies comes at a high price.’

    Read full story: https://www.sciencealert.com/

    The development of the brain is stunted by amphetamine abuse
    The development of the brain is stunted by amphetamine abuse
    A mouse study to be published in the journal eNeuro has shown that amphetamine use during adolescence affects the development of the orbital frontal cortex which is an important brain region involved in decision making. Researcher Cecilia Flores and her associates have shown that the dopamine axons of only the orbital frontal cortex are affected and the piriform cortex which is a neighbouring region doesn't show this phenomenon. This shows that recreational drug use in adolescents might be affecting specific regions of the brain associated with complex decision making.

    Read full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/pfc-amphetamine-8285/

    Our minds may be controlled by social networking sites
    Our minds may be controlled by social networking sites
    Several individuals use Facebook and other social networking sites for interacting with others and gaming amongst other purposes. We get sucked into these websites since they provide self-relevant information and also have a bearing on our social status. These can be considered as the slot machines in casinos which pay out information as a reward. However, excessive obsession with these websites has lead to 'social networking addiction' and its high time that companies redesign their services to negate the risks of such addictions.

    Read full story: http://neurosciencenews.com/social-networking-mind-8288/

    Scientific publication: https://bmcpsychiatry.biomedcentral.com/

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