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.

Study Traces Brain-to-gut Connections

Neuroscientists at the University of Pittsburgh Brain Institute have traced neural pathways that connect the brain to the stomach, providing a biological mechanism to explain how stress can foster ulcer development. The findings[1] build a scientific basis for the brain’s influence over organ function and emphasize the importance of the brain-body connection. “Pavlov demonstrated many years ago that the central nervous system uses environmental signals and past experience to generate anticipatory responses that promote efficient digestion.

Motor Performance: Acetylcholine In Action

Acetylcholine is a neurotransmitter that helps organisms filter the vast amounts of information received from the environment. In the sensory cortex, it acts by fine-tuning the activity of neurons to heighten attention, which helps with learning and memory (Sarter and Lustig, 2019; Lee and Dan, 2012; Picciotto et al., 2012). Heightened attention also boosts the precision and speed of movements (Song, 2019). Previous research in this area has focused on neuromodulation in the basal ganglia, a group of neural structures in the forebrain that help to select, initiate, maintain, and adapt motor actions (Berke, 2018; Mink, 1996; Turner and Desmurget, 2010).

Loss Of Smell, Confusion, Strokes: Does Covid-19 Target The Nervous System?

For many people, a sudden loss of smell is the first sign that something’s wrong. “One gentleman said he realized it with hand sanitizer. All of a sudden it was like water to him,” says Carol Yan, a rhinologist at the University of California, San Diego. The loss of smell, or anosmia, is such a common symptom of Covid-19 that the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently added it to its official list.