Air Quality Impacts Early Brain Development

A link between traffic-related air pollution and an increased risk for changes in brain development relevant to neurodevelopmental disorders has been identified by researchers at the University of California, Davis. Their study[1], based on rodent models, agrees with previous epidemiological evidence showing this association. While air pollution has long been a concern for pulmonary and cardiovascular health, it has only been within the past decade that scientists have turned their attention to its effects on the brain, said UC Davis toxicologist Pamela Lein, senior author of the study.

Study Sheds Light On A Classic Visual Illusion

It’s a classic visual illusion: Two gray dots appear on a background that consists of a gradient from light gray to black. Although the two dots are identical, they appear very different based on where they are placed against the background. Scientists who study the brain have been trying to figure out the mechanism behind this illusion, known as simultaneous brightness contrast, for more than 100 years. An MIT-led study[1] now suggests that this phenomenon relies on brightness estimation that takes place before visual information reaches the brain’s visual cortex, possibly within the retina.

Suicide Rate For People With Schizophrenia Spectrum Disorders 170 Times Higher

The suicide rate for people with schizophrenia spectrum disorders (SSD) is 170 times higher than the general population according a new study - a figure the authors call “tragically high.” “What this study teaches is us that although people with SSD are at higher risk for suicide, we can target those at the highest risk with changes in policy and treatment," said lead author Dr. Juveria Zaheer, Clinician Scientist at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) Institute for Mental Health Policy Research.

Are We All OCD Now, With Obsessive Hand-Washing And Technology Addiction?

One of the hallmarks of obsessive-compulsive disorder is contamination fears and excessive hand-washing. Years ago, a patient with severe OCD came to my office wearing gloves and a mask and refused to sit on any of the “contaminated” chairs. Now, these same behaviors are accepted and even encouraged to keep everyone healthy. This new normal in the face of a deadly pandemic has permeated our culture and will continue to influence it.

Neurovascular Function Is Determined By The Neural Metabolic Environment

Blood vessels can sense the metabolic state of neighboring neural cells, recent work in the lab of Asifa Akhtar in Freiburg has shown. The researchers found that the epigenetic regulator MOF is required for equipping neurons with the right metabolic enzymes needed for processing fatty acids. “Something has to tell neural cells that there are nutrients around and they should turn on the programs needed to process them. MOF goes to the DNA and switches on the genetic programs that allow cells to process fatty acids in the brain," explains Bilal Sheikh, lead author of the study[1].

The Places You Go (Or Don't) Can Change Your Personality

The places where we spend time seem to influence our personalities, new research reports[1]. The findings suggest that the places we choose to frequent can affect not only our thinking, feelings, or behavior in the moment, but may actually change our personalities over time. If complying with shelter-in-place orders has made you feel more disorganized or less kind than usual, it may be because that’s what happens when you spend more time at home instead of public spaces, according to a new study.

Nicotine Promotes Spread Of Lung Cancer To The Brain

Among people who have the most common type of lung cancer, up to 40% develop metastatic brain tumors, with an average survival time of less than six months. But why non-small-cell lung cancer so often spreads to the brain has been poorly understood. Now scientists at Wake Forest School of Medicine have found that nicotine, a non-carcinogenic chemical found in tobacco, actually promotes the spread, or metastasis, of lung cancer cells into the brain.

Brain Organoids With The Potential To Predict Drug Permeability

The human brain is bathed in a supportive fluid called the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) that provides nutrients and is required for proper brain function. The composition of human CSF and how it is made are poorly understood due to a lack of experimental access. Madeline Lancaster’s group in the Medical Research Council of England’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology Cell Biology Division has now developed a new brain organoid that produces CSF and has the potential to predict whether drugs can access the brain[1].