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We're a little crazy, about science!

Archive for January, 2016

The brains of patients with schizophrenia vary depending on the type of schizophrenia

Schizophrenia art

I have a friend who lost an eye to his brother. Yes, you read that correctly, his brother tried to kill him and in the process he lost his eye. I’ve told this story before, but whenever new schizophrenia research comes out I feel the need to tell it again. While he has forgiven his brother (partly because not long after, he was diagnosed as schizophrenic), he will not be able to see him again until he is released from prison. A tragedy that could’ve been avoided had he been diagnosed sooner. Sadly now that he is treated, most days, you wouldn’t know he’s schizophrenic.

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Neurological adaptations to the presence of toxic HIV protein

Neural networks adapt to the presence of a toxic HIV protein

Nearly half of HIV infected patients suffer from impaired neurocognitive function. The HIV protein transactivator of transcription (Tat) is an important contributor to HIV neuropathogenesis because it is a potent neurotoxin that continues to be produced despite treatment with antiretroviral therapy.

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How to unlock inaccessible genes

How to unlock inaccessible genes

An international team of biologists has discovered how specialized enzymes remodel the extremely condensed genetic material in the nucleus of cells in order to control which genes can be used. It was known that the DNA in cells is wrapped around proteins in structures called nucleosomes that resemble beads on a string, which allow the genetic material to be folded and compacted into a structure called chromatin.

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It’s complicated: Benefits and toxicity of anti-prion antibodies in the brain

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

Immunotherapy to ameliorate neurodegeneration by targeting brain protein aggregates with antibodies is an area of intense investigation. A new study examines seemingly contradictory earlier results of targeting the prion protein and proposes a cautionary way forward to further test related therapeutic approaches.

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The music of the mind: throwing light on human consciousness

New theory linking brain activity to brain shape could throw light on human consciousness

New theory linking brain activity to brain shape could throw light on human consciousness

UNSW Australia scientists have shown that complex human brain activity is governed by the same simple universal rule of nature that can explain other phenomena such as the beautiful sound of a finely crafted violin or the spots on a leopard. The UNSW team has identified a link between the distinctive patterns of brain function that occur at rest and the physical structure of people’s brains.

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Why you should never use the term ‘the mentally ill’

The Power of Language and Labels: “The Mentally Ill” Versus “People With Mental Illnesses”
The Power of Language and Labels: “The Mentally Ill” Versus “People With Mental Illnesses”

Yes, it’s real… you can find more information here
Image credit goes to: Jenn Ackerman

Even subtle differences in how you refer to people with mental illness can affect levels of tolerance, a new study has found. In a first-of-its-kind study, researchers found that participants showed less tolerance toward people who were referred to as “the mentally ill” when compared to those referred to as “people with mental illness.”

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Scientists shed new light on workings of genetic regulation

Scientists shed new light on workings of genetic regulation

Scientists shed new light on workings of genetic regulation

A team of scientists has uncovered greater intricacy in protein signaling than was previously understood, shedding new light on the nature of genetic production.

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60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

60 genetic disorders affect skin and nervous system

One of the most common genetic disorders is a condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes brown spots on the skin and benign tumors on the brain, spinal cord and other parts of the nervous system. Neurofibromatosis is one of at least 60 genetic diseases called neurocutaneous disorders that involve the skin, central nervous system, and/or peripheral nervous system.

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When the music stops: Intensive instrument playing can lead to movement disorders

Intensive instrument playing can lead to movement disorders

Intensive instrument playing can lead to movement disorders

A musician takes up his/her violin and starts to play, but rather than gripping the strings, the fingers seize up–and this happens every time he/she takes up the instrument. Such a movement disorder–the so-called focal dystonia— is a dramatic disease for those affected, which has thus far barely been studied.

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Neurons in your gut help the immune system keep inflammation in check

The neurons in our gut help the immune system keep inflammation in check

The neurons in our gut help the immune system keep inflammation in check

The immune system exercises constant vigilance to protect the body from external threats–including what we eat and drink. A careful balancing act plays out as digested food travels through the intestine. Immune cells must remain alert to protect against harmful pathogens like Salmonella, but their activity also needs to be tempered since an overreaction can lead to too much inflammation and permanent tissue damage.

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Anxious? Chronic stress and anxiety can damage the brain

anxiety disorder
Chronic stress and anxiety can damage the brain

Yeah, let me just get over that anxiety since it’s a choice…

A scientific review paper warns that people need to find ways to reduce chronic stress and anxiety in their lives or they may be at increased risk for developing depression and even dementia. Led by the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences, the review examined brain areas impacted by chronic anxiety, fear and stress in animal and human studies that are already published.

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Overwhelmed and depressed? Well, there may be a connection

Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression

Emotion-processing networks disrupted in sufferers of depression

Ever feel overwhelmed when you are depressed, well the good news is it isn’t just you, the bad news is it’s probably your brain. Regions of the brain that normally work together to process emotion become decoupled in people who experience multiple episodes of depression, neuroscientists report. The findings may help identify which patients will benefit from long term antidepressant treatment to prevent the recurrence of depressive episodes.

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Can you trust your gut when public speaking?

Can you trust your gut on a crowd's mood?

Can you trust your gut on a crowd's mood?

There is good news for frequent public speakers. New research shows that individuals have the ability to quickly and accurately identify a crowd’s general emotion as focused or distracted, suggesting that we can trust our first impression of a crowd’s mood.

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Thwarting abnormal neural development with a new mutation

Thwarting abnormal neural development with a new mutation
Thwarting abnormal neural development with a new mutation

*Cue music*  You can tell by the way I walk, I’m a motor protein, no time to talk…

Researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have discovered how to reverse the abnormal axonal development characteristic of CFEOM3, a congenital disease that affects the muscles that control eye movements. The work shows how creating a specific mutation rescued abnormal axonal growth in the developing mouse brain.

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Nanodevice, build thyself

Nanodevice, build thyself

Nanodevice, build thyself

As we continue to shrink electronic components, top-down manufacturing methods begin to approach a physical limit at the nanoscale. Rather than continue to chip away at this limit, one solution of interest involves using the bottom-up self-assembly of molecular building blocks to build nanoscale devices.

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‘Space Warps’ and other citizen science projects reap major dividends for astrophysics

Three astrophysicists discuss the impact volunteer, citizen scientists are having on discovery -- and what the future holds

Three astrophysicists discuss the impact volunteer, citizen scientists are having on discovery -- and what the future holds

Thanks to the Internet, amateur volunteers known as “citizen scientists” can readily donate their time and effort to science–in fields ranging from medicine to zoology to astrophysics. The astrophysics project Space Warps offers a compelling example of why citizen science has become such a popular tool and how valuable it can be.

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Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

Autism-linked protein lays groundwork for healthy brain

A gene linked to mental disorders helps lays the foundation for a crucial brain structure during prenatal development, according to Salk Institute research. The findings reveal new mechanistic insights into the gene, known as MDGA1, which may bring a better understanding of neurodevelopmental disorders in people.

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Pay attention! Attention neuron type identified

Attention neuron type identified

Attention neuron type identified

Researchers have identified for the first time a cell type in the brain of mice that is integral to attention. Moreover, by manipulating the activity of this cell type, the scientists were able to enhance attention in mice. The results add to the understanding of how the brain’s frontal lobes work and control behaviour.

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Beam me up! Teleporting the memory of an organism

Physicists propose the first scheme to teleport the memory of an organism
Physicists propose the first scheme to teleport the memory of an organism

LLAP, Leonard Nimoy

In “Star Trek”, a transporter can teleport a person from one location to a remote location without actually making the journey along the way. Such a transporter has fascinated many people. Quantum teleportation shares several features of the transporter and is one of the most important protocols in quantum information.

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Improving your toddler’s memory skills has long-term benefits

The long-term benefits of improving your toddler's memory skills

The long-term benefits of improving your toddler's memory skills

If your toddler is a Forgetful Jones, you might want to help boost his or her brainpower sooner rather than later. New research shows that preschoolers who score lower on a memory task are likely to score higher on a dropout risk scale at the age of 12.

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Stereotype means girls should expect poorer physics grades

Girls should expect poorer physics grades

Girls should expect poorer physics grades

Imagine that you are a female student and give the exact same answer to a physics exam question as one of your male classmates, but you receive a significantly poorer grade. This is precisely what happens on a regular basis, as concluded in a study by Sarah Hofer, a researcher in the group led by ETH professor Elsbeth Stern.

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Put the cellphone away! Fragmented baby care can affect brain development

UCI study shows maternal infant-rearing link to adolescent depression

UCI study shows maternal infant-rearing link to adolescent depression

Mothers, put down your smartphones when caring for your babies! That’s the message from University of California, Irvine researchers, who have found that fragmented and chaotic maternal care can disrupt proper brain development, which can lead to emotional disorders later in life.

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Feeling sick? It’s evolution’s way of telling you to stay home

Your symptoms? Evolution's way of telling you to stay home

Your symptoms? Evolution's way of telling you to stay home

When you have a fever, your nose is stuffed and your headache is spreading to your toes, your body is telling you to stay home in bed. Feeling sick is an evolutionary adaptation according to a hypothesis put forward by Prof. Guy Shakhar of the Weizmann Institute’s Immunology Department and Dr. Keren Shakhar of the Psychology Department of the College of Management Academic Studies.

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Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment

Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment

Stem cells regulate their own proliferation and their microenvironment

A study by researchers at the Centro Nacional de Investigaciones Cardiovasculares Carlos III (CNIC) has identified a new mechanism through which hematopoietic stem cells (HSCs) control both their own proliferation and the characteristics of the niche that houses them. This control is exercised by the protein E-Selectin Ligand-1 (ESL-1).

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Are you multicellular? Thank a random mutation that created a new protein

Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf
Evolution of an ancient protein function involved in organized multicellularity in animals - See more at: http://elifesciences.org/content/5/e10147#sthash.yue93BBd.dpuf

Get it? Cell division, well long division anyway…

All it took was one mutation more than 600 million years ago. With that random act, a new protein function was born that helped our single-celled ancestor transition into an organized multicellular organism. That’s the scenario — done with some molecular time travel — that emerged from basic research in the lab of University of Oregon biochemist Ken Prehoda.

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Schizophrenia linked to loss of cells in the brain’s memory center

Lora zombie art
Lora zombie art

Art by the one and only Lora Zombie

Scientists at Columbia University’s Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute, Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC), and the Université Paris Descartes have found that deficits in social memory–a crucial yet poorly understood feature of psychiatric disorders such as schizophrenia–may be due to a decrease in the number of a particular class of brain cells, called inhibitory neurons, in a little-explored region within the brain’s memory center.

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Why daring to compare online prices pays off offline

Why daring to compare online prices pays off offline

Why daring to compare online prices pays off offline

The constant barrage of post-holiday sales touted by web-based retailers may make it seem like online shopping is killing real-world stores. But shoppers are actually engaging in “web-to-store” shopping — buying offline after comparing prices online.

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If our brain is a computer, do we really have free will?

The brain-computer duel: Do we have free will?

The brain-computer duel: Do we have free will?

The background to this new set of experiments lies in the debate regarding conscious will and determinism in human decision-making, which has attracted researchers, psychologists, philosophers and the general public, and which has been ongoing since at least the 1980s. Back then, the American researcher Benjamin Libet studied the nature of cerebral processes of study participants during conscious decision-making.

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New genes born by accident lead to evolutionary innovation

New genes born by accident lead to evolutionary innovation

New genes born by accident lead to evolutionary innovation

Novel genes are continuously emerging during evolution, but what drives this process? A new study has found that the fortuitous appearance of certain combinations of elements in the genome can lead to the generation of new genes.

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Gene-editing technique stops progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Gene-editing technique successfully stops progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Gene-editing technique successfully stops progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy

Using a new gene-editing technique, a team of scientists from UT Southwestern Medical Center stopped progression of Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD) in young mice. If efficiently and safely scaled up in DMD patients, this technique could lead to one of the first successful genome editing-based treatments for this fatal disease, researchers said.

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