There is a surprising connection between frontotemporal dementia (FTD) and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), two disorders of the nervous system, and the genetic mutation normally understood to cause Huntington’s disease, a study led by researchers at the National Institutes of Health has discovered1. The finding potentially creates a new pathway for diagnosing and treating some individuals with FTD or ALS. Several neurological disorders have been linked to “repeat expansions,” a kind of mutation that results in abnormal repetition of certain DNA building blocks.
The concentration of different kinds of immune cells in the blood alters in relation to the presence of different bacterial strains in the human gut, researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center report. The scientific community had already accepted the idea that the gut microbiota was important for the health of the human immune system, but the data they used to make that assumption came from animal studies, says Sloan Kettering Institute systems biologist Joao Xavier, co-senior author of the paper1 together with his former postdoc Jonas Schluter, now an assistant professor at NYU Langone Health.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began in the spring, many people have only seen their close friends and loved ones during video calls, if at all. A new study from MIT finds that the longings we feel during this kind of social isolation share a neural basis with the food cravings we feel when hungry. Credit: Christine Daniloff, MIT The researchers found that after one day of total isolation, the sight of people having fun together activates the same brain region that lights up when someone who hasn’t eaten all day sees a picture of a plate of cheesy pasta.
A population of brain cells whose activity appears to drive physiological arousal responses to strong emotions such as fear and anxiety has been identified by scientists at University of North Carolina. They found that artificially forcing the activity of these brain cells in mice produced an arousal response in the form of dilated pupils and faster heart rate, and worsened anxiety-like behaviors. Focusing on arousal responses might offer a new way to intervene in psychiatric disorders,
Prazosin, a drug once used to treat high blood pressure, can help alcoholics who are experiencing withdrawal symptoms to reduce or eliminate their drinking, researchers report. There has been no treatment readily available for people who experience severe withdrawal symptoms and these are the people at highest risk of relapse and are most likely to end up in hospital emergency rooms,” said Rajita Sinha, a professor of psychiatry and neuroscience, director of the Yale University Stress Center, and corresponding author of the paper1.
The antidepressant fluvoxamine seems to restrain some of the more serious complications of COVID-19, reports a study of adult outpatients with mild-to-moderate symptoms.1 Researchers say the drug also appeared to lower the chances for them requiring supplemental oxygen and hospitalization. The patients who took fluvoxamine did not develop serious breathing difficulties or require hospitalization for problems with lung function. Most investigational treatments for COVID-19 have been aimed at the very sickest patients, but it’s also important to find therapies that prevent patients from getting sick enough to require supplemental oxygen or to have to go to the hospital.
Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Goethe University Frankfurt have uncovered a neural pathway in the rodent brain that may play a key role in processing spatial perspectives and help the animal to detect boundaries to avoid bumping into things. Animals use landmarks in the environment as a reference point to identify the self’s position and navigate their surroundings. In rodents, this ability is supported by very specialized types of neurons, including place cells and grid cells, that fire only when the animal is at a precise location in the environment, even in an open arena,
When you hear a sound, how do your senses figure out what direction it is coming from? A sound coming from your right will reach your right ear a few fractions of a millisecond earlier than your left ear. The brain uses this difference, known as the interaural time difference (ITD), to locate the sound. But we are also significantly better at locating sounds that come from in front of us than from sources at our sides.