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).
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.
Despite being a major cause of death, cancer is still far from being fully understood. Most cancer treatments target mutations that happen during the very early stages of the disease, as these genetic variants will be present in the majority of tumor cells (Bailey et al., 2018). However, not all cells inside a tumor are genetically identical, and this heterogeneity is one of the biggest problems in cancer therapy (Gatenby and Brown, 2018).
Substituting prolonged sedentary time with sleep is associated with lower stress, better mood and lower body mass index (BMI), according to new research. In addition, substituting light physical activity is associated with improved mood and lower BMI across the next year. Jacob Meyer, lead author and assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University, says light activity can include walking around your home office while talking on the phone or standing while preparing dinner.
A small area of the brain in mice that can profoundly control the animals’ sense of pain has been identified by Duke University researchers. Unexpectedly, this brain center turns pain off, not on. It’s also located in an area where few people would have thought to look for an anti-pain center, the amygdala, which is often considered the home of negative emotions and responses, like the fight or flight response and general anxiety.
Taking antidepressants during pregnancy does not appear to increase the child’s risk of autism, according to a new meta-analysis. The review examines 14 studies, many of which identified a connection between antidepressant use during pregnancy and autism. However, that research failed to account for ascertainment bias, which occurs when one group of patients or subjects undergoes testing more frequently than others, says study author Jeffrey Newport, director of the Women’s Reproductive Mental Health program at UT Health Austin’s Mulva Clinic for the Neurosciences and a professor of psychiatry at Dell Medical School at The University of Texas at Austin.
The renowned biologist E.O. Wilson once quipped, “When you have seen one bird, you have not seen them all.” The diversity of the world’s 10,000-plus bird species is truly staggering, ranging from 2.5-inch-long hummingbirds that weigh as little as a dime, to 9-foot ostriches that can kick hard enough to kill a human. For decades, though, scientists generally thought of birds as conforming to a single set of rules: Females are drab and silent, while males are flashy and boisterous.
A new treatment to dramatically reduce swelling after brain and spinal cord injuries offers hope to 75 million victims worldwide each year. The breakthrough in treating such injuries — referred to as central nervous system (CNS) edema — is thought to be hugely significant because current options are limited to putting patients in an induced coma or performing risky surgery. Brain and spinal cord injuries affect all age groups. Older people are more at risk of sustaining them from strokes or falls, while for younger age groups, major causes include road traffic accidents and injuries from sports such as rugby, US-style football and other contact games.