October 23, 2012 |
Here's something for raw-food aficionados to chew on: Cooked food might be a big reason humans were able to grow such large brains compared to their body size, scientists say. If modern human ancestors had eaten only raw food, they'd have to regularly feed more than nine hours a day, according to a study published online Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. A pair of researchers from the Instituto Nacional de Neurociéncia Translacional in São Paulo, Brazil, decided to try and help explain why modern humans' brains were able to grow so large compared to their body size and why other primates' brains did not. They looked at the relative brain-to-neuron-counts of a host of primates, from owl monkeys to baboons.
April 26, 2013 |
Nicholas Spitzer and Davide Dulcis felt for people in higher latitudes whose attitudes soured in the shorter daylight hours of winter. The neuroscientists, who work in balmy San Diego, wondered whether summer was a bummer for rats. They're nocturnal, after all. That thought experiment has led the researchers to discover that an adult mammal's brain can “rewire” itself in response to light by recruiting brain cells to change the signaling chemical they ordinarily produce. Their research, published Thursday in the journal Science, offers hints toward new avenues of research into Parkinson's disease, stroke, addiction and depression.
February 6, 2014 |
A generic blood pressure drug could prevent hyperactive brain cell firing associated with early stages of autism spectrum disorder, according to a new study. Injecting pregnant mice with Bumetanide, a diuretic, appears to correct a developmental switch flipped during childbirth that reverses the firing characteristics of neurons in newborns, according to a study published online Thursday in the journal Science. Bumetanide mimics the effects of oxytocin, a hormone released during labor that helps protect newborns from the stresses and complications of birth, the study found.
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.
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.
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.