Prenatal Exposure to Beneficial Bacteria Prevents Autism-like Syndrome

Giving beneficial bacteria to stressed mothers during the equivalent of the third trimester of pregnancy prevents an autism-like disorder in their offspring, indicates a new animal study by Colorado University Boulder researchers. The study[1] marks the latest in a series of studies in animals and humans suggesting that exposure to certain immune-modulating microbes can dampen inflammation, positively impacting the brain and central nervous system. It’s among the first studies to suggest that such exposures during pregnancy influence neurodevelopment of a fetus and, while far more research is necessary, could open the door to new prenatal interventions.

Are Retina Layers Early Warning For Alzheimer's Disease?

A new imaging device could detect a biomarker of Alzheimer’s disease in the retina, according to research in mice[1]. The device can measure both the thickness and texture of the various layers of the retina at the back of the eye, potentially offering a widespread early warning system for the disease. “Previous research has seen a thinning of the retina in Alzheimer’s patients, but by adding a light-scattering technique to the measurement, we’ve found that the retinal nerve fiber layer is also rougher and more disordered.

Schizophrenia: When The Thalamus Misleads The Ear

There is an extremely high probability that individuals with 22q11.2 micro deletion syndrome — a rare genetic disorder — will develop schizophrenia together with one of its most common symptoms, auditory hallucinations. Scientists at the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the Synapsy National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR) have been studying this category of patients. They have succeeded in linking the onset of this hallucinatory phenomenon with the abnormal development of certain substructures of a region deep in the brain called the thalamus.

Optimal Time To Treat Huntington's Disease Identified

The earliest brain changes due to Huntington’s disease can be detected 24 years before clinical symptoms show, according to a new study led by University College London[1]. The findings could help with clinical trials by pinpointing the optimal time to begin treating the disease. There is currently no cure for Huntington’s, a hereditary neurodegenerative disease, but recent advances in genetic therapies hold great promise. Researchers would ultimately like to treat people before the genetic mutation has caused any functional impairment.

Brain's Updating Mechanisms May Create False Memories

The brain can update or ‘edit’ poorly formed memories with the wrong information, according to research from University of Technology Sydney. Senior author Professor Bryce Vissel, from the UTS Centre for Neuroscience & Regenerative Medicine, said his team used novel behavioural, molecular and computational techniques to investigate memories that have not been well-formed, and how the brain deals with them. “For memories to be useful, they have to have been well-formed during an event - that is, they have to accurately reflect what actually happened.

Does MRI Have An Environmental Impact?

Researchers from Tokyo Metropolitan University have surveyed the amount of gadolinium found in river water in Tokyo. Gadolinium is contained in contrast agents given to patients undergoing medical magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and it has been shown in labs to become toxic when exposed to ultraviolet rays. The researchers found significantly elevated levels[1], particularly near water treatment plants, highlighting the need for new public policy and removal technologies as MRI become even more commonplace.

Now Closer To Reality: Prosthetics That Can Feel

Humans do a lot of things with their hands: We squeeze avocados at the grocery story, scratch our dogs behind the ears and hold our significant others' hands. They are things that many people who have lost limbs can’t do. Biomedical engineer Jacob Segil at the University of Colorado at Boulder is working to bring back that sense of touch for amputees, including veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Family Environment Affects Adolescent Brain Development

Childhood environment and socioeconomic status affect cognitive ability and brain development during adolescence independently of genetic factors, researchers at Karolinska Institutet report in a new study[1]. The work underscores how important the family environment is, not just during early infancy but also throughout adolescence. While the way in which genes and environment affect the brain and cognitive faculties is a hotly debated topic, previous studies have not taken genes into account when describing environmental effects.