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Posts tagged “neurobiology

Alzheimer’s genetics point to new research direction

Genetics of alzheimer's

Genetics of alzheimer's

A analysis of genetic mutations which cause early-onset Alzheimer’s disease suggests a new focus for research into the causes of the disease. Previous research has revolved around the idea that accumulation in the brain of a small, sticky protein fragment — amyloid beta — causes Alzheimer’s disease.

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Genetic repeats suggest role for DNA instability in schizophrenia

schizophrenia

My friend has a glass eye and unless you knew the story you might not think anything of it. His older brother did it. You read that correctly, in a schizophrenic induced confusion he tried to killed him. He never held what happened against his older brother, he was sick, how could he? The courts say, he cannot visit his brother while he’s in prison. This could’ve been avoided with early detection and now international researchers have used a new technique to identify significantly more DNA sequence repeats in patients with schizophrenia than in control individuals.

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Chemical changes in the brain affect Alzheimer’s disease

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

Alzheimer’s Disease Robs

A new study is helping to explain why the long-term use of common anticholinergic drugs used to treat conditions like allergies and overactive bladder lead to an increased risk of developing dementia later in life. The findings show that long-term suppression of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine – a target for anticholinergic drugs – results in dementia-like changes in the brain.

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Mothers with diabetes more likely to have anti-fetal brain autoantibodies

diabetes pregnancy

diabetes pregnancy

Mothers of children with autism and were diagnosed with metabolic conditions during pregnancy, particularly gestational and type 2 diabetes, were more likely to have anti-fetal brain autoantibodies in their blood compared to healthy women of children with autism. The presence of these anti-fetal brain autoantibodies has been previously found to be specific to some mothers of children with autism and rare among mothers of children without autism.

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Mobilizing mitochondria may be key to regenerating damaged neurons

Neurons

Neurons

Mitochondria, sure it’s the powerhouse of the cell, but maybe it can be much more that. At least that’s what it looks like thanks to researchers at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke who have discovered that boosting the transport of mitochondria along neuronal axons enhances the ability of mouse nerve cells to repair themselves after injury.

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Zika virus directly infects brain cells and evades immune system detection

zika virus

zika virus

The mosquito-borne Zika virus linked to microcephaly and other neurological problems in newborns of affected mothers directly infects the brain progenitor cells destined to become neurons. The team of researchers used a strain of Zika currently impacting the Americas, and found that the virus infects about 20 percent of cells on average, evades immune system detection, and continues to replicate for weeks.

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Schizophrenia: The brain has the ability to rescue itself

schizophrenia

schizophrenia

A team of scientists have shown that the brains of patients with schizophrenia have the capacity to reorganize and fight the illness. This is the first time that imaging data has been used to show that our brains may have the ability to reverse the effects of schizophrenia.

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How the brain makes — and breaks — a habit

OCD alphabet soup

OCD alphabet soup

Not all habits are bad. Some are even necessary. It’s a good thing, for example, that we can find our way home on “autopilot” or wash our hands without having to ponder every step. But inability to switch from acting habitually to acting in a deliberate way can underlie addiction and obsessive compulsive disorders.

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How depression and antidepressant drugs work

depression

depression

Treating depression is kind of a guessing game. Trying to find a medication that works without causing side effects can take months, or more likely, years. However, new research demonstrates the effectiveness of ketamine to treat depression in a mouse model of the disease and brings together two hypotheses for the cause of depression.

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Brain cells that aid appetite control identified

cat flap meme

cat flap meme

It’s rare for scientists to get what they describe as “clean” results without spending a lot of time repeating the same experiment over and over again. But when researchers saw the mice they were working with doubling their weight within a month or two, they knew they were on to something.

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Neuroscientists discover new learning rule for pattern completion

brain remembers

brain remembers

Recently, scientists discovered a new learning rule for a specific type of excitatory synaptic connection in the hippocampus. These synapses are located in the so-called CA3 region of the hippocampus, which plays a critical role for storage and recall of spatial information in the brain. One of its hallmark properties is that memory recall can even be triggered by incomplete cues. This enables the network to complete neuronal activity patterns, a phenomenon termed pattern completion.

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Could flies help us understand brain injuries?

traumatic brain injury

traumatic brain injury

Each year, an estimated 1.7 million people in the United States sustain traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. These injuries occur most frequently from falling, but can also result from military combat, car accidents, contact sports or domestic abuse. Recently, physicians and researchers have become increasingly concerned that even mild cases of repetitive brain trauma could have long-term, unanticipated consequences.

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Research shows body image linked to overall life satisfaction

body image

body image

We’re constantly bombarded by advertisements telling us we are too fat, too thin, not curvy enough, not flat enough — or more often than not — simply not enough. It shouldn’t be a surprise to see that effect our day to day life, like it or not — and it has. Researchers have just published results from a national study on the factors linked to satisfaction with appearance and weight.

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Epigenetic study of lactose intolerance may shed light on the origin of mental illness

mental health

mental health

A new study on the epigenetics of lactose intolerance may provide an approach to understanding schizophrenia and other complex, serious illnesses. While that may seem odd, both lactose intolerance and schizophrenia are inherited. In addition, neither condition emerges in the first years of life, but rather both appear years or even decades later.

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Digital media may be changing how you think

digital media

digital media

Tablet and laptop users beware. Using digital platforms such as tablets and laptops for reading may make you more inclined to focus on concrete details rather than interpreting information more abstractly, according to a new study. The findings serve as another wake-up call to how digital media may be affecting our likelihood of using abstract thought.

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Smartphones uncover how the world sleeps

smartphones and sleep

smartphones and sleep

A pioneering study of worldwide sleep patterns combines math modeling, mobile apps and big data to parse the roles society and biology each play in setting sleep schedules. The study used a free smartphone app that reduces jetlag to gather robust sleep data from thousands of people in 100 nations. The researchers examined how age, gender, amount of light and home country affect the amount of shut-eye people around the globe get, when they go to bed, and when they wake up.

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Origin of synaptic pruning process linked to learning, autism and schizophrenia identified

synaptic pruning

synaptic pruning

Vaccines don’t cause autism, but because the brain is so complex, we still don’t know how much of it works so figuring out the real causes (as in more than one) of autism has been slow going. Well, researchers have identified a brain receptor that appears to initiate adolescent synaptic pruning, a process believed necessary for learning, but in this case it is one that appears to go awry in both autism and schizophrenia.

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Salts in the brain control our sleep-wake cycle

Brain salt

Brain salt

Insomnia, fun fact those of us who have served or are serving in the military have a much higher incidence of sleep problems. So if you are like me and have ever been prescribed something to help you sleep, you know that there are some unwanted side effects. For instance the time I lost memory of a whole day of interacting with people to the ambien I had taken the night before, not fun. Thankfully Danish researchers found that the level of salts in the brain plays a critical role in whether we are asleep or awake.

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Don’t retweet if you want to remember

oprah retweet

oprah retweet

The whole of human intelligence, right at your fingertips. Sure it might not make the layman an engineer or physicist, but if we want to learn about a particular topic the internet can give us that information. But you better hold on tight before you lose it. New research finds retweeting or otherwise sharing information creates a “cognitive overload” that interferes with learning and retaining what you’ve just seen.

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Addiction, it’s in your genes… maybe

cyanide and happiness - http://explosm.net/comics/

Image credit goes to: Cyanide and Happiness

Why does one person who tries cocaine get addicted, while another might use it and then leave it alone? Why do some people who kick a drug habit manage to stay clean, while others relapse? And why do some families seem more prone to addiction than others? According to a new study, the road to answering these questions may have a lot to do with specific genetic factors that vary from individual to individual.

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Sleep loss detrimental to blood vessels

Sleep deprived

Sleep deprived

We all know lack of sleep is bad for the brain, but lack of sleep has even been found to impact the activation of the immune system, inflammation, carbohydrate metabolism and the hormones that regulate appetite. Worse still, researchers in a new study have found that sleep loss also influences cholesterol metabolism.

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Bad news, fructose alters hundreds of brain genes

high sugar milkshake

high sugar milkshake

Got a sweet tooth? Maybe you even have some sugary goodness with you right now… as you are reading this. Well you may want to put that down.We know a range of diseases — from diabetes to cardiovascular disease, and from Alzheimer’s disease to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder — are linked to changes to genes in the brain. Unfortunately for those who love their pop tarts, a new study  has found that hundreds of those genes can be damaged by fructose, a sugar that’s common in the Western diet, in a way that could lead to those diseases.

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Transfer of gut bacteria affects brain function and nerve fiber insulation

Brain stomach connection

Brain stomach connection

Quick hide, shut your windows and lock your doors, are you alone? No, you aren’t that’s the problem and what’s worse, you are being controlled. This isn’t a plot for the latest thriller, this is the findings of a new study and adds to growing number of studies showing that our bacteria is more of us than we realize. In fact, the study found that specific combinations of gut bacteria produce substances that affect myelin content and cause social avoidance behaviors in mice.

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Neural stem cell transplants aid traumatic brain injury recovery

Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury

No one knows Traumatic brain injuries (TBI) quite like veterans. Unfortunately, it is a major cause of mortality and morbidity, often causing lifelong disability for those who survive. There is simply no treatment, jut care, but a new study might change that. Stem cell therapy has recently been receiving attention as a way to promote recovery for injuries to the central nervous system (CNS) which opens the door for treatment of a TBI.

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Bigger brains led to bigger bodies in our ancestors

brain sizes

brain sizes

New research suggests that humans became the large-brained, large-bodied animals we are today because of natural selection to increase brain size. The work contradicts previous models that treat brain size and body size as independent traits responding to separate evolutionary pressures. Instead, the study shows that brain size and body size are genetically linked and that selection to increase brain size will “pull along” body size.

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How the brain consolidates memory during deep sleep

little girl sleeping

little girl sleeping

Research strongly suggests that sleep, which constitutes about a third of our lives, is crucial for learning and forming long-term memories. But exactly how such memory is formed is not well understood and remains, a central question of inquiry in neuroscience. Neuroscientists say they now may have an answer to this question in a new study that provides for the first time a mechanistic explanation for how deep sleep (also called slow-wave sleep) may be promoting the consolidation of recent memories.

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Scientific evidence of sexual transmission of the Zika virus

zika virus

zika virus

Well, we know now that ZIKA causes microcephaly, at least that is the latest findings. Things don’t look so good on other ZIKA fronts either, a new study confirms that the virus can be transmitted sexually. The analyses have shown 100% genetic correlation between the form of the virus present in a man who contracted the virus in Brazil and that of a woman who had never travelled in the epidemic area, but who had sexual relations with him.

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Too much cellular ‘noise’ can affect brain development

music pregnancy

Wrong kind of noise…

Using cutting-edge imaging technology, biologists have determined that uncontrolled fluctuations (known at “noise) in the concentration of the vitamin A derivative Retinoic acid (RA) can lead to disruptions in brain organization during development. Identifying how a cell responds to a signal made by another cell, despite the level of noise present, may improve our understanding of developmental disorders.

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Are humans the new supercomputer?

supercomputer intelligence

supercomputer intelligence

As a society we have become incredibly reliant on technology, from spell check to GPS, we are slowly being replaced by computers. Need more proof, a computer can routinely beat us at chess, an AI wrote portions of a book that went on to almost win a writing contest, and if you want scary robotics enter Boston dynamics spot.  So the question is,  have we outlived our place in the world? Not quite. Welcome to the front line of research in cognitive skills, quantum computers and gaming.

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The scientific brain: How the brain repurposes itself to learn scientific concepts

learning brain

learning brain

The human brain was initially used for basic survival tasks, such as staying safe and hunting and gathering. Yet, 200,000 years later, the same human brain is able to learn abstract concepts, like momentum, energy, and gravity, which have only been formally defined in the last few centuries. New research has now uncovered how the brain is able to acquire brand new types of ideas.

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Imagery enhances memory and reduces false memories

memory palace

memory palace

Using imagery is an effective way to improve memory and decrease certain types of false memories. The study examined how creating images affected the ability to accurately recall conceptually related word lists as well as rhyming word lists. People who were instructed to create images of the list words in their head were able to recall more words than people who didn’t create images, and they didn’t recall false memories as often. False memories occur when a person recalls something that didn’t happen or remembers something inaccurately.

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A newly discovered way for cells to die

huntingtons disease

huntingtons disease

Some cells are meant to live, and some are meant to die. For example, the linker cell of C. Elegans, a favored model organism for biologists, is among those destined for termination. This cell helps determine the shape of the gonad in male worms–and then it dies, after two days, just as the worms are transitioning from larvae into adults. This programmed cell death is a normal part of the animal’s development, yet the genetic and molecular mechanisms underpinning it have not been worked out.

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Could a popular painkiller hamper our ability to notice erors?

pain relief

pain relief

Pain, it’s a pain, it always seems to find ways to pop up when you least expect it, enter non-aspirin! Better known as acetaminophen, it has been known for centuries that is an effective painkiller. Since it is over the counter most people don’t give it a second thought, but according to a new study, it could also be impeding error-detection in the brain.

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Your brain has an altered response to desirable foods

Chocolate peanut butter sundae

Hungry? Well, let’s face it, that pizza looks much better than the salad. Don’t deny it salad lovers, we all know behind closed doors you look at plenty of food porn to satiate your desires. Understanding the motivations that drive us to eat is important when we talk about weight loss and how we attempt to structure diets. Now a new study shows that for overweight individuals, the brain responses differently to desirable foods., but hold that thought, because there is hope.

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Early detection of dementia in Parkinson’s disease might be key to treatment

old age

old age

If Parkinson’s disease wasn’t bad enough for families to have to learn to deal with, about 80% of patients also develop dementia. That’s the problem with the brain; while it has the amazing ability to adapt to just about anything, it can’t fix everything. There are no particularly good solutions to Parkinson’s or dementia, however, early detection of dementia is key to keeping it at bay and a new study may have a way to do just that.

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Limitless: How long-term memories are erased and how to stop it

limitless remembering everything

limitless remembering everything

Currently, neuroscientists think our brain has about enough storage space to hold the entire internet. That’s a lot of space, about a petabyte in fact — if we are to believe this estimate. So, what did you read in the news this day 5 years ago? Don’t worry, I don’t even remember what I had for breakfast this morning and my long-term memory doesn’t fair much better. However, vital information about how the brain erases long-term memories has been uncovered by researchers.

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Mental illness, that’s a funny term isn’t it?

It's dangerous out there, take this.
It's dangerous out there, take this.

If you suffer from depression, PTSD, or anything else please visit: Take this

In today’s lexicon, the term mental illness is used pretty widely. It can be used to describe someone suffering from depression, to PTSD, to even someone suicidal. In fact, today it is sort of a catch all term for anyone who is involved in a mass shooting here in the US. We are getting off point however, why are we (myself included) labeled as mentally ill? You don’t call an amputee someone suffering from body illness, nor would you call someone with cancer “cellularly ill”.

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Road rage and toxoplasmosis: Return of the parasite

road rage

road rage

It was a clear case of a false alarm, toxoplasmosis, a parasite that infects mice and cats was thought to have an effect on humans. However, after a thorough review of the data it was off the hook, or so we thought.  Individuals with a psychiatric disorder involving recurrent bouts of extreme, impulsive anger–road rage, for example–are more than twice as likely to have been exposed to a common parasite than healthy individuals with no psychiatric diagnosis.

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Sleep suppresses brain rebalancing

sleeping

sleeping

Why humans and other animals sleep is one of the remaining deep mysteries of physiology. One prominent theory in neuroscience is that sleep is when the brain replays memories “offline” to better encode them (“memory consolidation“). A prominent and competing theory is that sleep is important for rebalancing activity in brain networks that have been perturbed during learning while awake.

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A link between nightmares and suicidal behavior

Nightmare bed
Nightmare bed

Image credit goes to: Joshua Hoffine

A new study is the first to report that the relationship between nightmares and suicidal behaviors is partially mediated by a multi-step pathway via defeat, entrapment, and hopelessness. Results show that suicidal thoughts, plans or attempts were present in 62 percent of participants who experienced nightmares and only 20 percent of those without nightmares.

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Forgetting, to learn

rememberable

rememberable

They say that once you’ve learned to ride a bicycle, you never forget how to do it. Unfortunately for students who hope this applies to studying, they might not like new research suggesting that while learning, the brain is actively trying to forget. While this may at first blush seem like a bad thing, it actually may be useful for those suffering from PTSD.

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Preventing Alzheimer’s, with an implant

alzheimer's disease

alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer’s has been a losing battle, sure we can fight back with drugs, but that still just prolongs the inevitable. With that said we can all hope this research pans out, to something meaningful. In a cutting-edge treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, EPFL scientists have developed an implantable capsule that can turn the patient’s immune system against the disease. Even better, the implant is subdural, not intracranial.

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Where aging memories get stored in the brain

aging memories

aging memories

Think back to when you were a child. Now instead, try to think of something that happened just a few minutes ago; would you believe that you are using different portions of the brain? When we remember events which occurred recently, the hippocampus is activated. This area in the temporal lobe of the brain is a hub for learning and memory. But what happens, if we try to remember things that took place years or decades ago?

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Decrypting a collagen’s role in schizophrenia

Decrypting a collagen's role in schizophrenia

Decrypting a collagen's role in schizophrenia

What would be worse than having bad joints? How about schizophrenia and bad joints? To be fair that isn’t what is suggested, but they may, in fact, be linked.  A small peptide generated from a collagen protein may protect the brain from schizophrenia by promoting the formation of neuronal synapses and study may lead to new approaches to treating the mental disorder.

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New learning procedure for neural networks

neural network

neural network

Rustling leaves, a creaking branch: To a mouse, these sensory impressions may, at first, seem harmless — but not if a cat suddenly bursts out of the bush. If so, they were clues of impending life-threatening danger. Researcher Robert Gütig has now found how the brain can link sensory perceptions to events occurring after a delay.

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People with anxiety show fundamental differences in perception

anxiety disorder

anxiety disorder

People suffering from anxiety perceive the world in a fundamentally different way than others, according to a new study. The research may help explain why certain people are more prone to anxiety. The study shows that people diagnosed with anxiety are less able to distinguish between a neutral, “safe” stimulus (in this case, the sound of a tone) and one that had earlier been associated with gaining or losing money.

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Finding the circuit for experience-informed decision-making

decision making

decision making

How is the brain able to use past experiences to guide decision-making? A few years ago, researchers discovered in rats that awake mental replay of past experiences is critical for learning and making informed choices. Now, the team has discovered key secrets of the underlying brain circuitry — including a unique system that encodes location during inactive periods.

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Alzheimer’s on and now Alzheimer’s off?

labyrinth of the mind

labyrinth of the mind

Alzheimer’s disease, is anything more frustrating than seeing someone — who otherwise looks healthy — start to forget who you are? Worse than that, we don’t know exactly what causes Alzheimer’s disease, or how to stop it. Well actually that might be changing. Don’t get too excited, because we’ve had false starts before, but an international group of scientists have succeeded in sorting out the mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease development and possibly distinguished its key trigger.

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Want a younger brain? Stay in school — and take the stairs

aging brain

aging brain

Taking the stairs is normally associated with keeping your body strong and healthy. But new research shows that it improves your brain’s health too — and that education also has a positive effect. Researchers found that the more flights of stairs a person climbs, and the more years of school a person completes, the “younger” their brain physically appears.

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Brain connectivity reveals your hidden motivations

neurons firing in the brain
neurons firing in the brain

Animation from Glass Brain

To understand human behaviors, it is crucial to understand the motives behind them. So far, there was no direct way to identify motives. Simply observing behavior or eliciting explanations from individuals for their actions will not give reliable results as motives are considered to be private and people can be unwilling to unveil – or even be unaware of – their own motives.

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