In brain-injured patients, a way to measure awareness or its impending return

In brain-injured patients, a way to measure awareness or its impending return

The precise diagnosis and prognosis of recovery of consciousness of patients after a severe brain injury is a challenging clinical task, as some brain-injured patients retain certain levels of awareness despite appearing fully unresponsive. Now, researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 26 have evidence that readily obtainable measures of the amount of glucose (sugar) consumed by the brain can directly predict a person's current level of awareness, or the likelihood that they will recover awareness within a year.

Alternative odor receptors discovered in mice

Alternative odor receptors discovered in mice

Smell in mammals turns out to be more complex than we thought. Rather than one receptor family exclusively dedicated to detecting odors, a study in mice reports that a group of neurons surrounding the olfactory bulb use an alternative mechanism for catching scents. These "necklace" neurons, as they're called, use this newly discovered olfactory detection system to respond to odors that elicit instinctive responses, such as pheromones and the smell of seeds and nuts. Harvard researchers report the finding May 26 in Cell.

Why malnutrition is an immune disorder

Why malnutrition is an immune disorder

Malnourished children are most likely to die from common infections, not starvation. New experimental evidence, reviewed May 26 in Trends in Immunology, indicates that even with a healthy diet, defects in immune system function from birth could contribute to a malnourished state throughout life. Researchers speculate that targeting immune pathways could be a new approach to reduce the poor health and mortality caused by under- and overnutrition.

Potential impact of a dengue vaccine in the Yucatan

Potential impact of a dengue vaccine in the Yucatan

While no dengue vaccine has yet been approved for general use, several candidates are in clinical development. Data from the clinical trials can be used in mathematical models to estimate the benefits and risks and of different vaccination strategies. A study published in PLOS NTDs suggests that even a moderately efficient dengue vaccine--if it induces long-lasting immunity--can substantially reduce disease burden. However, if immunity wanes over time, vaccination could cause years with higher numbers of sick people, unless the initial vaccination is followed by regular boosters.

Researchers show experience plays strong role in early stages of brain circuit development

Researchers show experience plays strong role in early stages of brain circuit development

LA JOLLA, CA - May 26, 2016 - A healthy brain has just the right ratio of cells that enhance signals (excitatory neurons) and cells that tone down signals (inhibitory neurons). These two sets of neurons start out looking exactly the same, so what determines their roles?

Metagenomics pathogen detection tool could change how infectious diseases are diagnosed

Metagenomics pathogen detection tool could change how infectious diseases are diagnosed

SALT LAKE CITY, UT, May 26, 2016--Scientists at the University of Utah, ARUP Laboratories, and IDbyDNA, Inc., have developed ultra-fast, meta-genomics analysis software called Taxonomer that dramatically improves the accuracy and speed of pathogen detection.

Mimicking deep sleep brain activity improves memory

Mimicking deep sleep brain activity improves memory

It is not surprising that a good night's sleep improves our ability to remember what we learned during the day. Now, researchers at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute in Japan have discovered a brain circuit that governs how certain memories are consolidated in the brain during sleep. Published in the May 26 issue of Science magazine, the study shows how experimentally manipulating the identified neural connection during non-REM sleep (deep sleep) can prevent or enhance memory retention in mice.

Harbour porpoises are skilled hunters and eat almost constantly

Harbour porpoises have sometimes been described as "living in the fast lane." Being smaller than other cetaceans and living in cold northern waters means that the porpoises require a lot of energy to survive, making them prone to starvation. Now researchers reporting in the Cell Press journal Current Biology on May 26 have monitored harbour porpoises in the wild with tiny computers attached to them by suction cups show that the animals hunt and eat almost constantly.

Cuing environmental responses in fungi

Fungi can sense environmental signals and react accordingly, changing their development, direction of growth, and metabolism. Sensory perception lies at the heart of adaptation to changing conditions, and helps fungi to improve growth and recycle organic waste, and to know when and how to infect a plant or animal host. New results based on characterizing and then conducting a comparative analysis of two genome sequences published online May 26, 2016 in the journal Current Biology shed new light on the evolution of sensory perception in fungi.

Genes that increase children's risk of blood infection identified

A team led by Oxford University has identified genes that make certain children more susceptible to invasive bacterial infections by performing a large genome-wide association study in African children.