Brain

Using a state-of-the-art technique to map neurons in the spinal cord of a larval zebrafish, Cornell University scientists have found a surprising pattern of activity that regulates the speed of the fish’s movement. The research may have long-term implications for treating injured human spinal cords and Parkinson’s disease, where movements slow down and become erratic.

Among the central mysteries of neurobiology is what properties of the young brain enable it to so adeptly wire itself to adapt to experience—a quality known as plasticity. The extraordinary plasticity of the young brain occurs only during a narrow window of time known as the critical period. For example, children deprived of normal visual stimulation during an early critical period of the first few years of life suffer the permanent visual impairment of amblyopia.

The function of an enzyme in the brain – strongly linked to a number of major brain diseases such as Alzheimer's, schizophrenia and bi-polar disorder – has been identified for the first time by researchers at the University of Bristol, UK.

These findings, published today in Neuron, will help in the understanding of how memories are laid down and what goes wrong in these disorders.

People who see the world as essentially fair can just maintain this perception through a diminished sense of moral outrage, according to a study by researchers in New York University's Department of Psychology. The findings appear in the March issue of the journal Psychological Science, which is published by the Association for Psychological Science.

To function, each living cell needs both to build new and to degrade old or damaged proteins. To accomplish that, a number of intracellular systems work in concert to keep the cell healthy and from clogging up with damaged proteins. When proteins or peptides mutate, they can present major problems to the clearing up of the intracellular environment. In Huntington's disease (HD) the disease provoking mutation in the huntingtin gene eventually causes the cell to build up intranuclear and cellular inclusions of protein-aggregates, made up primarily of huntingtin.

The brain appears to process information more chaotically than has long been assumed. This is demonstrated by a new study conducted by scientists at the University of Bonn. The passing on of information from neuron to neuron does not, they show, occur exclusively at the synapses, i.e. the junctions between the nerve cell extensions. Rather, it seems that the neurons release their chemical messengers along the entire length of these extensions and, in this way, excite the neighbouring cells.

MIT researchers have developed a technique to encourage the survival and growth of adult stem cells, a step that could help realize the therapeutic potential of such cells.

Adult stem cells, found in many tissues in the body, are precursor cells for specific cell types. For example, stem cells found in the bone marrow develop into blood cells, bone cells and other connective tissues, and neural stem cells develop into brain tissue.

Those stem cells hold great promise for treatment of injuries and some diseases, says MIT professor of biological engineering Linda Griffith.

Digital atlases of the brains of humans, monkeys, dogs, cats, mice, birds and other animals have been created and posted online by researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience.

According to a new study published in the latest issue of The Journal of Sexual Medicine and conducted in the Department of Psychology of McGill University, thermography shows great promise as a diagnostic method of measuring sexual arousal. It is less intrusive than currently utilized methods, and is the only available test that requires no physical contact with participants. Thermography is currently the only method that can be used to diagnose sexual health problems in both women and men.

Scientists from Université Laval’s Faculty of Medicine have succeeded in producing neurons in vitro using stem cells extracted from adult human skin. This is the first time such an advanced state of nerve cell differentiation has been achieved from human skin, according to lead researcher Professor François Berthod. This breakthrough could eventually lead to revolutionary advances in the treatment of neurodegenerative illnesses such as Parkinson’s disease. Berthod and his team described the method used to produce these neurons in a recent issue of the Journal of Cellular Physiology.