April 23, 2019

    A device which monitors the brain and avoids jerky movements developed. (UC Berkeley image by Rikky Muller )
    A wireless Pacemaker for treating Epilepsy and Parkinson’s disease - short science news and articles

    Researchers have a developed a device named ‘WAND’, which monitors the brain’s electrical activity and then delivers an electrical stimulation if it finds something wrong.

    The device needs a brief training period and is capable of detecting neural signatures, which appear before a movement is performed and then delivers an electrical stimulation to delay that movement.

    The device registers from a 128-channel receiver, thereby having a wide coverage and hence could effectively control tremors in Parkinson’s or violent movements in Epilepsy.

    Read the full story: UC Berkeley
    Scientific publication: Nature Biomedical Engineering

    Father's depression linked to teenage depression in daughters
    Teenage girls at increased risk of depression if their fathers suffered from it after their birth - short science news and articles

    At least 1 in 20 new fathers suffer from depression in the weeks after the birth of their child. Now, researchers have found out that if the child happens to be a girl, there is an increased risk of the girl herself to suffer from depression in her teenage.

    One of the reasons of this could be that postnatal depression in fathers could lead to increased depression in mothers which could lead to a more disrupted family life of all and higher stress levels.

    Interestingly, this is not true for sons. So, we need to pay attention to paternal health too in a pregnancy.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry

    Junk food linked to depression
    Increased risk of Depression with Junk food consumption - short science news and articles

    Those fries and that burger looks delicious. But there is a down side to junk food. Researchers have found out that junk food promotes inflammation, and this increases the risk of depression by over 40%. The interpretation comes from a meta-analysis of 11 studies which looked at depression and pro-inflammatory diets consisting of 100,000 participants.

    While certain studies looked at the participants at one time point, there were other studies which followed up with the participants for up to 13 years. The results were unanimous irrespective of the duration of follow-up which the researchers indicate could be an indication that simple regulating our diet could be cheaper alternative to pharmacological intervention.

    However, it is important to understand that this is an association study and does not show causality and needs further studies to validate these claims.

    Read the full story: Manchester Metropolitan University
    Scientific publication: Clinical Nutrition

    Multiple theories of near death experiences
    All the visions of a near death experience...are they hallucinations? - short science news and articles
    The most common near-death experiences are a sense of contentment, out of body experiences, a rapid jump through a dark tunnel and a bright light at the end. While most real death experiences are positive some are negative such as lack of control, hellish imagery and awareness of nonexistence.

    The temporal lobe of the brain could play an important role in near death experiences. It is the one involved in sensory information and memory. Certain scientists indicate the depersonalization could be the reason. While certain researchers believe that endorphins release during stress might produce near-death experience especially, decreasing pain and increasing pleasant sensations.

    Certain researchers also indicate a lack of oxygen to the temporal lobe of the brain inducing seizures and hallucinations to be the reason for these experiences.

    Read the full story: The Conversation

    Brain circuits of addict individuals could be different
    What happens in the brain of compulsive drug users? - short science news and articles

    Researchers have discovered that the brain circuit connecting the decision-making circuit and the reward system is stronger in compulsive drug seeking animals.

    They implanted mice with an optic system which stimulated the brain reward circuit if the mice pressed a lever. Then they introduced an electric shock to test which mice would continue pressing the lever. 60% mice which continued pressing the lever in the presence of shock were considered compulsive.

    In these compulsive rats the circuit connecting the orbitofrontal cortex to the reward center was stronger as compared to those who stopped indicating that their brain circuits were different.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Nature

    Neuronal activity in the brains of Alzheimer's patients is altered by two proteins that are associated with the disease.
    Tau protein reduces neuronal activity in mouse models of Alzheimer’s disease - brain short science news

    The proteins amyloid-beta and tau form plaques and tangles in the brain of Alzheimer’s disease patients, but exactly how they damage the brain is still not completely known. In a new study, scientists found that the tau protein reduces neuronal activity in brains of mice with amyloid-beta plaques.

    This is intriguing considering that amyloid-beta plaques increase neuronal activity.

    Thus, the activity of tau protein dominates over that of amyloid-beta, and scientists suggest that for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, both proteins should be targeted simultaneously instead of separately.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts General Hospital
    Scientific publication: Nature Neuroscience

    Gently stroking babies reduces their pain perception
    Pain processing is reduced in babies by gently stroking them - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found that brushing infants lightly, approximately 3 cm per second provides pain relief if done just before a medical procedure. It seems that doing this reduces the activity in the infant brain which is associated with painful experiences.

    The scientists used electroencephalography (EEG) which measures bursts of electric activity from the surface of the brain. It has been previously shown that EEG activity is increased in infant brain immediately after a blood test.

    However, this EEG activation can be lowered by light stroking of the babies. This could explain the soothing power of touch based interventions such as infant massage and kangaroo care could reduce pain perception in babies.

    Read the full story: Independent
    Scientific publication: Current Biology

    Marijuana could specifically affect teen brains
    Marijuana might damage some adolescent brains - short science news and articles

    Researchers studied the effects of marijuana on adolescent mice which had the faulty gene DISC1 which is originally seen in a Scottish family with several members suffering from depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. TH, the active component of marijuana, increases the inflammation in these mice brain cells.

    Then the mice were tested in an object recognition task and the male DISC1 mice exposed to THC showed deficient memory. This effect was less profound in female mice.

    Further, it was seen that mice which had the gene mutation in the astrocytes, the brain cells which provide support and protection to the neurons, were only affected by the adolescent exposure of THC. Further injection of anti-inflammatory drug prevented these memory effects of adolescent marijuana exposure in mice.

    Read the full story: John Hopkins Medicine
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry

    Increased anxiety the next day with hangover is seen in shy people
    Shy people have higher ‘HANGXIETY’ - short science news and articles

    Well, while people say that drinking alcohol decreases shyness, there is a downside to this. Researchers have found out that very shy individuals are more likely to suffer from higher anxiety during a hangover as compared to their extroverted friends.

    In a study conducted on 100 social drinkers, drinking six units of alcohol decreased anxiety in highly shy individuals, but this slight relaxation afforded by alcohol got replaced by higher amount of anxiety the next day.

    Researchers feel that this could be trigger point of increased risk of highly shy people to develop problems with alcohol over the long run.

    Read the full story: University of Exeter
    Scientific publication: Personality and Individual Differences

    Bullying changes the brain structure
    Chronic bullying affects the brain structure - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found out that chronic peer victimization during adolescence has an impact on the mental health of these individuals due to structural changes in the brain. Of the 682 young people studied, 36 of them had suffered from chronic bullying.

    While, this research replicated the fact that chronic bullying leads to increased incidence of depression, anxiety and hyperactivity, the novelty of this study is that there was a decrease in the volumes of parts of the brain named caudate and putamen which are involved in reward sensitivity, motivation, attention and emotional processing.

    This shows that we need to limit bullying before it causes irreversible changes in the brain structure.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Molecular Psychiatry

    Now we can visualize the activity of neurons
    Technology that can visualize nerve cells firing- short science news and articles

    Researchers have developed a non-invasive technology to detect firing of nerve cells on the basis of changes in shape. When neurons fire, there is a change in the electrical potential of the cells, but also there are subtle variations in the shape of the neuron.

    This leads to a very high signal to noise ratio and hence the researchers have developed an interferometric microscope with a high-speed camera which collects 50,000 frames per second. They further developed a new algorithm that can detect that part of the neuron which moves the most further boosting the signal.

    This technology can be used to observe the neuronal activity in light-accessible parts of the body such as the eyes which could help us monitor visual functions at a cellular level.

    Read the full story: NIH/National Eye Institute
    Scientific publication: Light: Science & Applications

    The status in social hierarchy could play a role on how an individual responds to stress
    How social status affects the cellular response to stress - short science news and articles

    While stress is ubiquitous in our daily life, it seems that the social hierarchy plays an important role as to how our cells respond to stress. Researchers studied the effects of glucocorticoids (the stress hormone) injections on rhesus monkeys depending on their social hierarchy.

    It was observed that immune cells of the lower status monkeys responded less productively as compared to higher-status monkeys to glucocorticoid injections. One possible explanation could be due to gene accessibility. Interestingly, low status monkeys had immune system activation, but these cells were less accessible to signals from glucocorticoids as compared to cells from higher status monkeys.

    This indicates that not all individuals respond to stress similarly and other factors influence the animals response to stress.

    Read the full story: University of Washington
    Scientific publication: PNAS

    In mice lacking the protein called importin alpha-5 (right), MeCP2 (red), known to affect anxiety behaviors, stays on the outside brain cell nuclei (blue), instead of getting inside the nuclei, as it does in regular mice (left). Image : Weizmann Institute of Science
    Importing anxiety - brain short science news

    Researchers have found in mice that anxiety can be regulated by a particular protein, importin alpha 5. This protein is a transporter that shuttles another protein into the nucleus of the cell.

    This second protein, MeCP2, controls the expression of the gene Sphk1. When mice lack importin alpha 5, they are not anxious when they are placed in a stressful situation. Importantly, if the MeCP2-Sphk1 pathway is inhibited by a drug already used in schizophrenia (fingolimod) in normal mice, they also become less anxious.

    The current study has thus discovered a new biochemical pathway in brain cells that can be targeted for the treatment of anxiety disorders.

    Read the full story: Weizmann Institute of Science
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports

    Coffee could help in our fight against Parkinson's disease
    Coffee to protect against Parkinson’s? Why Not.. short science news and articles

    A new animal study has found that your daily cup of coffee with its caffeine and an additional component found in the waxy coating of the coffee beans might help protect against development of Parkinson’s disease.

    The additional substance called EHT is a derivative of serotonin and could work in synergy with caffeine to show these effects. While each component alone wasn’t effective, given together they prevented the accumulation of harmful substance alpha-synuclein in the brains of mice predisposed to developing these conditions.

    This gives new hope for developing therapies against Parkinson’s disease.

    Read the full story: Rutgers University
    Scientific publication: PNAS

    Inhibiting genes might be necessary to help nerves regenerate
    Shutting down genes to regrow damaged neurons - short science news and articles

    One of the holy grails of neurology is to find out how to regenerate neurons once they are injured since the neurons in the brain and the spinal cord do not regenerate as compared to those neurons in the rest of the body.

    Now, researchers have found out that while several genes are activated after a neuron is cut, there is a set of genes that needs to be inhibited for the cells to regenerate. These genes are specifically those involved in sending and receiving chemical and electrical signals which is primary duty of neurons in general.

    Plainly put, neurons have to stop doing what they are programmed to do and focus on repairing themselves once they are injured.

    Read the full story: Washington University School of Medicine
    Scientific publication: PNAS

    When electrical currents pass through the membrane of a neuron, water molecules realign and this allows monitoring of electrical activity in brain cells
    Water molecules to unlock secrets of brain cells - daily short science news headlines

    A team of researchers has come out with a new way of monitoring the electrical signals of neurons by analyzing the movement of water molecules surrounding their membranes.

    Normally, scientists measure the electrical signals of brain cells using electrodes or special molecules named fluorophores, both having disadvantages. Using water molecules as the readout is less invasive and the scientists successfully tested the technique in vitro, on mouse neurons.

    “When the membrane potential changes, the water molecules will re-orient – and we can observe that.”, the scientists declared. The discovery has potential applications both in research and in practice.

    Read the full story: EPFL
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications

    Specially designed computerized brain games can benefit chronic schizophrenia patients
    Cognitive training beneficial for schizophrenia patients - daily short science news headlines

    Cognitive training has long been around and has been advertised as a way to boost the powers of the brain, however science has shown the real benefits are limited or absent for healthy individuals.

    However, a new study shows that in the case of patients with severe schizophrenia, targeted cognitive training (TCT) can have a positive impact. TCT uses computerized training, such as brain games, to target specific neural pathways, in order to beneficially alter the way they process information. The study involved 46 patients recruited from a community-based residential treatment program, each following acute hospitalization.

    It was shown previously that CTC can improve symptoms of patients with mild to moderate forms of schizophrenia, but this is the first time the approach is shown to be useful also for chronic, refractory schizophrenia applied to patients from rehabilitation centers.

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

    Childhood infections increase the risk of mental illness in children
    Higher risk of mental illness linked to childhood infections - short science news and articles

    Throat infections, fever and infections during childhood are also a risk for developing mental disorders during infancy or in adolescence. The study finds that children who have been hospitalized with an infection have an 84% increased risk of suffering from mental disorders and a 42% higher risk of being prescribed medicines to treat mental disorders.

    The increased risk was associated with psychotic disorders, personality disorders, ADHD, autism and OCDs. Further, there was a 5.66 times higher chance of a new newly diagnosed mental disorder within the first 3 months after contact with a hospital due to an infection.

    This shows that the immune system plays a role in adolescent mental illnesses.

    Read the full story: Aarhus University
    Scientific publication: JAMA Psychiatry

    Vaping cannabis has a stronger effect than smoking it - short science news and articlesVaping cannabis gets you much higher than smoking it. Credit: blacknote.com

    Vaping is generally considered safer than smoking since the vaping devices heat cannabis at temperatures where the chemicals are released as vapors and theoretically don’t produce harmful materials such as tar or other cancer causing agents.

    However for infrequent cannabis users, researchers have found that vaping delivers higher amounts of cannabis and hence causes increased rates of short-term anxiety, memory loss, paranoia and distraction.

    Further, when these participants were involved in tasks to assess brain function, they had higher impairment when vaping versus smoking the same dose of cannabis indicating that higher dose of cannabis was delivered.

    Read the full story: John Hopkins Medicine
    Scientific publication: JAMA Network Open

    Brain region for loss of pleasure identified
    Where does loss of pleasure in depression arise in the brain? - short science news and articles

    Researchers have found out the brain region associated with the loss of pleasure seen in depression.

    Using experiments conducted in marmosets, which are non-human primates, they identified the brain region ‘area 25’, which is a part of the frontal cortex. Excessive excitement of the area 25 leads to blunting of the excitement usually associated with a reward pointing towards its role in anhedonia (i.e. loss of pleasure).

    Using PET scan imaging, researchers observed that increased activation of ‘area 25’ had a trickle down effect on other brain regions which also become more active, which indicates that it is a part of a larger circuitry involved in feeling pleasure.

    Read the full story: Neurosciencenews
    Scientific publication: Neuron

    Gut bacteria could restore social deficit in autism through the vagal nerve and oxytocin signaling in the brain
    Social deficits in autism reversed by microbiota - brain short science news

    The number of effects that gut bacteria (microbiota) exert on the brain keeps increasing.

    Now, scientists found that Lactobacillus reuteri reverses social deficits in several mouse models of autism. L. reuteri does not do this by restoring the normal intestinal bacteria population (which differs in autistic patients from that found in healthy controls), but through the vagal nerve that connects the gut and the brain, and the neuropeptide oxytocin. Oxytocin promotes social behavior by activating the reward center in the brain.

    Thus, microbial treatment of social deficits in autism might become reality in the not too distant future.

    Read the full story: Baylor College of Medicine
    Scientific publication: Neuron

    Limiting alcohol intake might help with controlling weight in diabetes
    Controlling alcohol intake could help weight loss in diabetes - short science news and articles

    Researchers studied 5000 people who were overweight and had diabetes for a period of 4 years. They found that people who abstained for alcohol consumption over these four years lost significantly more weight (5% more) as compared to those who drank any amount of alcohol during this period.

    Also, those who were heavy drinkers but abstained from alcohol during these four years did not have severe weight loss as was feared by the researchers.

    This shows that heavy alcohol drinkers are at a risk of not losing sufficient weight during treatment of diabetes which is necessary for their long term overall health. So, one intervention could be to limit the alcohol intake in patients with diabetes to manage their weight.

    Read the full story: University of Pennsylvania School of Nursing
    Scientific publication: Obesity

    Sleeping late could be bad for you
    Maybe being a night-owl is not good after all - short science news and articles

    In a review article published recently, researchers have been able to show that night owls are at an increased risk of health issues like type 2 diabetes and heart diseases. One of the primary reasons for this is because they have unhealthier eating patterns and diets.

    The increased risk of diabetes (2.5 times) was due to the change in the way glucose is metabolized in the body. Glucose which normally decline to its lowest level at night, is increased in night owls because they eat shortly before going to bed and the body cannot follow the normal biological process.

    Also, this problem was seen in shift workers especially those working in rotating shifts since they have to constantly adjust their work hours which decreases their insulin sensitivity and affects the glucose tolerance.

    Read the full story: Northumbria University
    Scientific publication: Advances in Nutrition

    The general belief is that a bigger brain means a smarter person, but is it true?
    Do bigger brains mean smarter brains - short science news

    For almost two centuries scientists have been looking for an association between the size of the brain and intelligence, but the connection remained unclear. Now, a new research study brings new data to shine some light on this matter.

    The study used MRI information to assess the brain size and correlated this with performance during cognitive tests and educational parameters. It included over 13,600 people. The study claims that indeed bigger brains make people more intelligent, but the effect is small. The size of the brain only explained 2% of the variability in intelligence.

    This implies that other factors are more important in determining how smart a person is. Such factors may include education, alimentation, stress, parenting style, among others.

    Read the full story: University of Pennsylvania
    Scientific publication: Psychological Science

    Stimulating the OFC could acutely improve mood
    Stimulating the brain for treatment of depression - short science news and articles

    Researchers have identified the lateral orbitofrontal cortex are a new region for treatment of depression by electrical stimulation. Stimulating the lateral OFC seems to produce brain activity patterns similar to naturally experienced positive mood states.

    Importantly, these effects were not seen in patients with mood symptoms indicating that brain stimulation works to act on only the mood-related circuits. The study was conducted in epilepsy patients who also suffered from depression and who had electrodes placed in the brain for specific medical reasons to identify origins of their seizure activity.

    The effects of electrical stimulation were acute and produced a sustained effect indicating it should be explored for its clinical application.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Current Biology

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