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Technological Breakthroughs Transform the Future of Neuroscience

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Promising devices and drugs shed light on diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases

As major research projects around the globe such as the BRAIN Initiative push forward the development of new technologies to better understand the brain, researchers at Neuroscience 2014 unveiled remarkable advances in bioimaging and nanotechnology. Innovations in bioimaging allow scientists to observe and even manipulate neurons deep within the brain, leading to important findings about the neurological mechanisms underlying eating disorders, Parkinson’s disease, and other brain conditions. In addition, advances in nanotechnology — including a “nanodrug” that reverses some of the features of Parkinson’s disease in a mouse model — are pointing to exciting possibilities for the treatment of various brain diseases.

These findings were presented at Neuroscience 2014, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

The findings show that:

  • ♦? Nanoparticles derived from a rare earth metal can slow down some of the brain-cell degeneration in a mouse model of Parkinson’s disease, suggesting that these nanoparticles may offer a potential treatment for the disease. Read more.
  • ♦ Using hair-thin visual probes and high-resolution fluorescence microscopes, scientists have identified separate groups of cells deep within the brains of mice that play key roles in hunger and eating, which could offer new insights into self-destructive eating disorders such as anorexia and bulimia. Read more.
  • ♦ Using a technology called optogenetics, researchers have demonstrated in mice that the brain chemical dopamine plays a crucial role in enabling the body to move, thus helping to explain how the motor-system symptoms of Parkinson’s and other movement disorders develop. Read more.

“These and other innovative technologies are truly transforming the field of neuroscience,” said David Van Essen, PhD, of Washington University in St. Louis, Mo., an expert in brain mapping and a past president of SfN. “They’re providing us with an unprecedented ability to monitor and control the nervous system, and are therefore helping us to devise better ways to treat or potentially prevent brain disorders that currently devastate so many lives.”

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Society for Neuroscience press release