February 19, 2019

    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


    Some maybe be better adept at not being affected by violence
    Resilience could have a neurobiological basis - short science news and articles

    Exposure to neighborhood violence is consistently associated with increased of impaired cardiometabolic heath in youth. However, not all youth are equally affected and some show better abilities to handle this kind of stress.

    Researchers have now identified that the youth who have a lower frontoparietal Central executive network resting state connectivity (CEN) on a functional MRI were most susceptible. Those with higher resting state connectivity in this brain network did not have increased risk poor metabolic health such as obesity or insulin resistance.

    This could be associated with better self-control and higher abilities to reinterpret threatening events as well as ability to suppress unwanted emotional imagery due to high resting state activity in these circuits.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: PNAS


    As we age, RNA fragments accumulate in certain brain cells, and reduce the production of proteins
    RNA fragments accumulate in brain cells during aging and could interfere with brain cell function - brain short science news

    Neuroscientists have found that damage to aging neurons caused by oxidative stress produces a surprising pileup of short RNA fragments. These fragments bind to ribosomes, the protein factories of the cell, so that the cells will decrease protein production.

    This phenomenon was found in discrete brain regions (frontal cortex and striatum) and for about 400 genes with a wide variety of functions. Also, some brain cell types were more affected than others.

    While it is presently unknown what the precise functional consequences are for brain cell function, the RNA fragments can be considered to be a hallmark of aging, in mice and humans alike.

    Read the full story: Massachusetts Institute of Technology
    Scientific publication: Cell Reports


    Genes associated with increased risk of ADHD identified
    Genes that increase risk for ADHD identified for the first time - short science news and articles

    A huge international collaborative study has identified genetic risk factors of ADHD for the first time. The entire genome of 20,000 people with ADHD and 35,000 without ADHD was studied and the researchers were able to identify 12 sites in the genome with a particular genetic variation associated with increased risk of ADHD.

    Interestingly, the same genes identified in this study are also associated with increased impulsivity and decreased attention in the general population. It is noteworthy to understand that these behaviours are hallmarks of ADHD.

    Further increased of ADHD due to these genetic variants was also associated poor education performance and increased risk of being overweight and type 2 diabetes.

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


    High impact sports in youth affects brain development
    Playing American football affects youth brain development - short science news and articles

    Playing even a single season of contact sports might affect the development of the brain of young football players. Researchers have found out that repeated head impacts could affect the normal pruning of the neurons in the brain which is necessary for normal development.

    For this experiment, they selected 60 youths with no prior neurological problems and who were fitted with the Head Impact Telemetry System (HITS). By dividing the players into low-impact and high-impact players they found that those with high impact had weaker connections between different brain regions due to affected development.

    These brain regions are involved in higher cognitive functions such as control of social behavior and planning indicating that even one season of playing could be dangerous.

    Read the full story: Radiological Society of North America


    Shopping personalities determine your Black Friday
    Why some love and some hate Black Friday - short science news and articles

    Researchers are trying to find why some people enjoy the thrill of Black Friday shopping while others loathe it. While some search for bargains like they train for marathons, others stay in the safe confines of their homes happy that no one will invade their personal space.

    Now, researchers say that there are two types of shoppers, namely task-oriented shoppers and social shoppers. While the task-oriented shoppers find even a handful of other shoppers to be a crowd and deem them an obstacle, the social shoppers are in fact energized by the presence of other consumers. These later shoppers who don’t require much personal space feel increased excitement when others are around them.

    So, under which category do you fall into?

    Read the full story: The Conversation


    A new vaccine could help our fight against Alzheimer's disease
    DNA vaccine for treatment of Alzheimer’s disease - short science articles and news

    Alzheimer’s disease is associated with accumulation of tau and amyloid beta proteins in the brain leading to neurodegeneration. Now, researchers have developed a DNA vaccine, which decreases the accumulation of these proteins in mice.

    This DNA vaccine contained a coding sequence for a segment of beta-amyloid protein. After injecting it into mice, the immune system produces antibodies against the amyloid protein thereby decreasing its accumulation in the brain. Interestingly, it also reduced the tau protein accumulation in these mice modeled to have Alzheimer’s disease.

    If found successful in future tests, this could pave the way for future human clinical trials.

    Read the full story: UT Southwestern Medical Center
    Scientific publication: Alzheimer's Research & Therapy


    Two different ways brain predicts the future
    Brain uses two clocks to predict the future - short science news and articles

    While one clock uses memories from past experiences, the other clock relies on the rhythm. And importantly both are necessary to navigate through this world. Researchers studied people with Parkinson’s disease in which there is impairment of the basal ganglia and people with cerebellar degeneration to come to this conclusion.

    Interestingly, the interval timing clock which relies on past experiences relies on the cerebellum, while the rhythmic timing clock relies on the basal ganglia. This is opposite to the dogmatic evidence that the brain uses only one system to handle all our timing needs.

    This also means that we can modify the environments of these patients to make their interactions with the world much easier.

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


    A group of humans can solve complex problems by balancing innovation and refining solutions based on previous experience
    How citizen scientists solve complex problems - latest science news - mind and brain

    When citizen scientists are asked to perform a complex task, they can compete with state-of-the-art algorithms in terms of solving natural science problems. But it is not clear why a collective of citizen scientists can solve such complex tasks.

    In a new experiment, scientists gave experts and citizen scientists live access to a complicated problem involving an ultra-cold quantum gas experiment. By manipulating laser beams and magnetic fields, the task was to cool as many atoms as possible down to just above absolute zero at -273.15°C.

    Both groups successfully completed the problem. The researchers concluded that what makes human problem solving unique is how a collective of individuals balance new attempts and refine existing solutions based on their previous performance. This can provide inspiration for future algorithmic improvements for supercomputers.

    Read the full story: University of Sussex
    Scientific publication: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS)


    The curious case of coffee love
    We shouldn’t like coffee, but weirdly we do - short science news and articles

    Evolutionarily, bitterness is like a natural warning system to protect us from harmful substances, so in an ideal world we should just spit out the coffee.

    However, researchers have found out that, more a person is sensitive to the bitter taste of caffeine, the more they drink the coffee. This discovered that this sensitivity is due to a genetic variation in these people.

    This suggests that people who consume coffee and are especially sensitive to the bitter taste, learn to associate the bitter taste of coffee with its stimulating properties through positive reinforcement. In other words, they learn to associate ‘good things’ with coffee.

    Read the full story: Northwestern University
    Scientific publication: Scientific reports


    Unique early brain signatures identified in autism
    Unique brain networks identified for Autism behaviors - short science news and articles

    Scientists have for the first time identified the unique brain network fingerprints for the prototypical behaviors observed in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

    Autism is characterized by restricted behaviors (decreased interest in the surroundings), stereotypical behaviors (repetitive movements) and ritualistic behaviors (resistance to change). While, these behaviors are necessary for normal development too, their increased prevalence at age 12 months is associated with increased chances of the infant developing autism.

    These children showed abnormal functional brain connections between the default mode network (which is typically active at rest), visual, attention and executive control networks. This is the first study to identify these network abnormalities in children at a young age who then go on to develop autism like symptoms.

    Read the full story: Elsivier
    Scientific publication: Biological Psychiatry: Cognitive Neuroscience and Neuroimaging


    Regular exercise associated with better mental health
    No exercise associated with poor mental health - short science news and articles

    While physical activities like exercise and sports are touted to prevent to cure several conditions like obesity and hypertension, long term inactivity has several negative health consequences too.

    Researchers studied a group of Japanese immigrants in Malaysia which has one of the world’s highest obesity rates. They found that people who exercised regularly spent on an average 135 minutes less time sitting down and their quality of life score was atleast 5.5 points higher than those individuals who do not exercise at all.

    This shows that regular exercise indeed is linked to better mental health.

    Read the full story: Kobe University
    Scientific publication: Gerontology and Geriatric Medicine


    Those hamburgers might not be so good afterall. Obesity is now linked to depression
    Strongest evidence connecting obesity and depression - short science articles and news

    In a biggest study of its kind, researchers have shown that obesity can increase the risk of depression irrespective of other associated health problems.

    Comparing data of 48,000 people with depression and 290,000 healthy controls, the scientists were able to separate the psychological components of obesity from the impact of obesity associated health issues by studying the genes which are linked to higher BMI but with lower diseases like diabetes. These genes were strongly associated with depression indicating that being overweight causes depression. This was especially true in women.

    Surprisingly, extremely thin men were also prone to depression compared to very thin women.

    Read the full story: Eurekalert
    Scientific publication: International Journal of Epidemiology


    Chornic pain could be treated with brain stimulation
    Let’s stimulate the brain to treat chronic back pain- short science articles and news

    In a first, researchers were able to stimulate a particular brain region with alternating current of electricity to increase the activity of naturally occurring brain region and correlated it with lower pain sensations associated with chronic back pain. They wanted to test if the deficient alpha oscillations found in the somatosensory cortex of the brain in patients with chronic pain could be normalized using electric stimulations. The researchers used a non-invasive treatment strategy called the transcranial alternating current stimulation or tACS in this study. The participants reported a significant decrease in pain sensation. This could play an important role in decreasing the use of opioids for pain conditions which is associated with addictions and other problems.

    Read the full story: University of North Carolina Health Care
    Scientific publication: The Journal of Pain


    The function of the brain structures called perineuronal nets was discovered
    Old neuroscience mystery solved with implications for epilepsy - daily science news headlines in brief

    Since 1893, scientists have wondered what is the function of the enigmatic brain structures called perineuronal nets. Now, a group of scientists have the answer: the nets modulate electrical impulses in the brain.

    The perineuronal nets facilitate messaging between brain cells. The neurons covered by them can fire an impulse and reload up to twice as fast as non-netted neurons. The scientists also discovered that when the nets are damaged, due to disease, the result was the induction of epileptic seizures.

    “We need new approaches to treat epilepsy. I think this could be an effective way to control seizures,” said Harald Sontheimer, one of the lead authors of the study.

    Read the full story: Virginia Tech
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Forgetting distracting memories is an active process in the brain of rats and humans
    Selective amnesia: forgetting distracting memories - neuroscience short news

    Both rats and humans use the prefrontal cortex for active forgetting. Forgetting is not a passive response, as many people think, and can be trained so a rat or a person can focus on things that are important to remember. Rats, for example, when repeatedly exposed to one of two familiar objects, forget that they have seen the other object in the past. In humans, active forgetting makes it possible to recall, for instance, where you parked your car without being distracted by other memories. Thus, remembering can cause forgetting, and this surprising finding could help us to understand about people’s capacities for selective amnesia.

    Read the full story: University of Cambridge
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Digital reconstruction of part of the network in the dentate gyrus, with two parvalbumin-expressing interneurons (red and yellow), the granular cell they inhibit (blue) and visualization of the synaptic connections (black & white photographs). Image: Espinoza et al, IST Asustria
    Keeping similar memories apart through lateral inhibition - neuroscience short news

    Neuroscientists have figured out how very similar, but still distinct, memories are formed in the brain without overlap. Key to this are inhibitory parvalbumin-expressing neurons in the hippocampal dentate gyrus that inhibit neighboring neurons in a highly specialized neural network structure. After separation of similar memories in the dentate gyrus, the CA3 region of the hippocampus then stores the memories. This makes it e.g. possible to find your car when you had parked it at slightly different locations in the parking lot at work.

    Read the full story: Institute of Science and Technology Austria
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Parkinson's might begin outside the brain
    Your redundant appendix might be the starting point of Parkinson’s - short science news and articles

    And we all thought appendix was of no significance. In one of the largest studies of its kind, researchers have found out that removing the appendix early in life reduces the life-time risk of Parkinson’s disease by 19-25%. Further, they were able to show that appendectomy could push back the diagnosis in those individuals who go on to develop Parkinson’s by an average of 3.6 years. The appendix apparently acts as a major reservoir of abnormally folded alpha-synuclein proteins, which are associated with Parkinson’s onset. This is yet another pointer that the gut and the immune system is involved in this neurological condition.

    Read the full story: Van Andel Institute
    Scientific publication: Science Translational Medicine


    Fear memory could be suppressed by targeting the newly discovered brain region nucleus reuniens
    Fear memory suppressed by a newly identified brain region - short science articles and news

    A small brain region in the thalamus named the nucleus reuniens has been implicated in inhibiting fear memory in rats.

    Prior to this the nucleus reuniens was considered to act mainly as a conduit for sensory information involved in complex thoughts.

    While the prefrontal cortex is known to play a role in emotional regulation, its connection with the nucleus reuniens plays a central role in inhibiting fear memories which could help develop new drugs and therapies for psychiatric conditions like Post Traumatic Stress disorder (PTSD).

    Read the full story: Texas A&M University
    Scientific publication: Nature Communications


    Restriction of screen time recommended for children's mental health well-being
    Too much of screen time not good for teenagers and kids - short science news and articles

    Maybe all our mothers were right, when they chided us for spending too much time watching the TV. The NIH estimates that youngsters commonly spend between 5-7 hours on screens daily. Researchers have now found out that spending excessive amounts of time on smartphones, watching television and gaming is associated with increased levels of anxiety and depression in children who are as young as 2 years old. Surprisingly, this association is higher in the adolescents as compared to very young children. This is important because about half of mental health problems occur in adolescence. So, this could be an active point of intervention to prevent mental health problems.

    Read the full story: ScienceDaily
    Scientific publication: Preventive Medicine Reports


    Flashing lights and sounds promote risky gambling at casinos
    Risky decision making encouraged by Casino ambience - short science news and articles

    Its been known all along but remained to be proven. Researchers have shown that the casino lights and sounds promote risky decision taking irrespective of the odds of winning. Using eye-tracker technology, it was shown that participants paid less attention to information about the odds of winning when visuals related to money and casino jingles accompanied the wins. In the absence of these sensory cue’s researchers found that participants showed more restraint in the decision taking and took lesser risks. This raises new concerns that the casino environment might encourage risky decisions and promote problem gambling.

    Read the full story: University of British Columbia
    Scientific publication: Journal of Neuroscience


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