June 3, 2013 |
Hyperactive brain cells firing together could be an early indicator of autism and developmental disabilities, a team of UCLA researchers has found. Networks of neurons were found to be firing in a highly synchronized and seemingly unrelenting fashion, even through sleep, in the brains of juvenile mice that have a genetic abnormality similar to one that causes mental retardation and autism symptoms in humans, according to the research published online Monday in Nature Neuroscience.
August 2, 2011 |
It's all shrinking-brain stuff this week in the health news world, it seems. Yesterday, we reported that obesity (as well as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure) in midlife causes brains to shrink at an accelerated clip. Today, we learn that dieting causes certain brain cells to start eating bits of themselves -- triggering a hunger response. Damned if you do, damned if you don't. This act of self-cannibalism was reported by scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the journal Cell Metabolism . It occurs in mice. But there's a very good chance it would also happen in our heads as well, since many metabolic processes are very similar between our two species -- especially ancient important ones such as "eat more when you're burning more calories than you're taking in. " The neurons in question are specific ones in the hypothalamus that are involved in appetite regulation. What happens is this: The neurons in starved mice start chomping on themselves in a process known technically as autophagy ("self-eat")
September 26, 2013 |
Cocaine messes around with the brain. That scientific no-brainer has been getting more focused over the years, as neuroscientists identify key circuitry that can be reshaped by addiction. But an addiction researcher in Switzerland believes his colleagues may have been a bit too focused on the accelerator instead of the brakes - stimulation rather than disinhibition. Cocaine interferes with a natural inhibitor holding a reward neurotransmitter in balance, and without that brake, an unrestrained flow of dopamine sets off circuitry changes that have been tied to addictive behavior, according to a study published online Thursday in the journal Science.
November 20, 2013 |
The eyes may be the mirror of the soul, but for those with autism, the mouth will have to do. Researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center isolated neurons in the brain's amygdala that respond to facial expressions, and tested patients with autism against those without. Both groups could correctly identify a "happy" or "fearful" face, a function long associated with the amygdala. But when the researchers examined which neurons fired in relation to areas of the face, they found that those with autism "read" the information from the mouth area more than from the eyes and seemed to be lacking a population of nerve cells that respond only to images of eyes.
February 13, 2013 |
Researchers at USC have made mice insensitive to near-freezing temperatures by deactivating select neurons, a development that could one day lead to new treatments for pain in humans. In a study published Tuesday in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers used a bacterial toxin to kill neurons equipped with so-called TRPM8 channels, cellular structures that help relay sensations of cold. (The pathway is also responsible for sensing menthol, the cooling component of mint.) Neurons that sense heat and mechanical pain were left intact, however.
June 6, 2013 |
If you lived during the early Cold War, you got nuked. On the other hand, you may have grown new brain cells. That's the take-away of research in the journal Cell that calculated the growth of brain cells in adult brains by using an isotope of carbon that was picked up by humans from the fallout due to above-ground nuclear testing from the late 1940s to 1963. Neuroscientists have shifted from an old view that you'll never have more neurons than you had when your brain was a pup. Studies have suggested that adult brains generate new neurons, particularly in the hippocampus, an area crucial to learning and memory.