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This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 20 July – 24 July

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Nociceptors as a new target for asthma treatment; key differences among ALS patients; football helmet tests not up to par, and more.

A new approach to treat asthma: Silencing nociceptor neurons in the lungs

Asthma sufferers regularly experience coughing, wheezing, chest tightness, and shortness of breath. The lung contains sensory neurons called nociceptors that respond to chemical, mechanical, or thermal stimuli, and activate coughing reflexes to protect our airways. Asthma sufferers tend to have denser nociceptor fibers which respond more quickly to irritants, suggesting that these cells would be useful targets for therapy.

Specific protein as missing link for earliest known change in Alzheimer's pathology

A recent study conducted at Nathan S. Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research and NYU Langone Medical Center implicates a new culprit in Alzheimer's disease development. The research reveals that ßCTF -- the precursor of the amyloid beta peptide -- acts at the earliest stage of Alzheimer's to initiate a range of abnormalities leading to the loss of groups of neurons critical for memory formation. Results from the study are published in the journal Molecular Psychiatry.

Low levels of hormone linked to social deficit in autism

A brain-chemistry deficit in children with autism may help to explain their social difficulties, according to new findings from the Stanford University School of Medicine. The research team found a correlation between low levels of vasopressin, a hormone involved in social behavior, and the inability of autistic children to understand that other people's thoughts and motivations can differ from their own.

Study uncovers key differences among ALS patients

Researchers on Mayo Clinic's Florida campus have identified key differences between patients with sporadic amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) and those with the most common genetic form of ALS, a mutation in the C9orf72 gene. Their findings, reported in Nature Neuroscience, demonstrate that ALS patients show abnormalities in levels and processing of RNA.

Football helmet tests may not account for concussion-prone actions

When modern football helmets were introduced, they all but eliminated traumatic skull fractures caused by blunt force impacts. Mounting evidence, however, suggests that concussions are caused by a different type of head motion, namely brain and skull rotation. Now, a group of Stanford engineers has produced a collection of results that suggest that current helmet-testing equipment and techniques are not optimized for evaluating these additional injury-causing elements.