Biomedical engineers at Duke University have used deep brain stimulation based on light to treat motor dysfunction in an animal model of Parkinson’s disease. Succeeding where earlier attempts have failed, the method promises to provide new insights into why deep brain stimulation works and ways in which it can be improved on a patient-by-patient basis. “If you think of the area of the brain being treated in deep brain stimulation as a plate of spaghetti, with the meatballs representing nerve cell bodies and the spaghetti representing nerve cell axons, there’s a longstanding debate about whether the treatment is affecting the spaghetti, the meatballs or some combination of the two.
The mood-stabilizing drug lithium eases repetitive behaviors seen in mice missing SHANK3, an autism gene, according to a new study. The findings suggest lithium merits further study as a treatment for some people with autism, even though the drug has troublesome side effects, including tremors and impaired memory. “Lithium is, of course, a rather difficult, non-ideal treatment. It’s really hard to get people on a lithium regimen that they can tolerate well," But understanding why lithium works may set the stage for better treatments, says lead investigator Gina Turrigiano, professor of vision science at Brandeis University.
Males view “traditional” symptoms of depression as more severe than other types and they perceive men with those same traditional symptoms as less masculine, a University of Kansas professor reports in a series of studies. The findings help increase understanding of why men do or don’t seek treatment and the stigma attached to mental health and men. “The big takeaway here is that men view traditional symptoms of depression as more severe than other types of symptoms, and men with traditional depressive symptoms are perceived as more feminine and less masculine.
Astrocytes, the most abundant cells in the brain, play a direct role in the regulation of neuronal circuits involved in learning and memory, researchers at Baylor College of Medicine report. “It has become increasingly clear that astrocytes are much more than supportive cells in the healthy adult brain. They play a direct role in a wide variety of complex and essential functions, including neuronal communication through synapses and regulation of neural circuit functions.
You probably know that your lungs enable you to breathe, bringing oxygen into your body and removing carbon dioxide. However, you might be less familiar with everyday habits and common toxins that make it more difficult for them to do their job. That includes irritants like smoke and viruses that cause respiratory conditions. Healthy lungs use mucus as a protective barrier, but when lungs are damaged, they can become clogged by thick and excessive mucus that’s difficult to remove.
On the 10th floor of a nondescript building at Columbia University, test subjects with electrodes attached to their heads watch a driver’s view of a car going down a street through a virtual reality headset. All the while, images of pianos and sailboats pop up to the left and right of each test subject’s field of vision, drawing their attention. The experiment, headed by Paul Sajda, a biomedical engineer and the director of Columbia’s Laboratory for Intelligent Imaging and Neural Computing, monitors the subjects’ brain activity through electroencephalography technology (EEG), while the VR headset tracks their eye movement to see where they’re looking — a setup in which a computer interacts directly with brain waves, called a brain computer interface (BCI).
A novel class of genes known as long non-coding RNAs (lncRNAs) expressed in the brain may play a pivotal role in regulating mood and driving sex-specific susceptibility versus resilience to depression, researchers at Mount Sinai Hospital have found. The team highlighted a specific gene, LINC00473, that is downregulated in the cerebral cortex of women only, shedding light on why depression affects females at twice the rate of men. “Our study provides evidence of an important new family of molecular targets that could help scientists better understand the complex mechanisms leading to depression, particularly in women.
We are not all equal when it comes to brain aging: while some people manage to maintain well-preserved cognitive function into old age, others do not (Nyberg et al., 2012). Brain-imaging studies have attempted to capture brain aging by exploring age-related changes to specific structures and different kinds of brain tissue (Good et al., 2001; Walhovd et al., 2005). But a more recent approach has been to use one or more brain-imaging techniques to define a global, single brain-age for each individual (Franke et al.