This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 25 May – 29 May
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Prediction of language outcome in autism; effectiveness of antidepressants; therapeutic strategy to combat Alzheimer’s, and more.
An essential component of current research initiatives on brain disorders is to enhance our understanding of normal and atypical brain development and how certain trajectories impact or underlie disease-related phenotypes. Studying brain disorders is inherently difficult, mostly due to their heterogeneity, genetic and biological complexity, and high comorbidity with other disorders. One strategy to enhance our understanding of these disorders is to identify core features that lend themselves to systematic and longitudinal investigations.
Strapped into a motion-enabled simulator and wearing 3D glasses, 36 adolescent volunteers recently experienced what it was like to "travel" through a field of virtual stars. The experiments provided new and convention-busting data about how sensory stimuli are processed by the brains of individuals with autism spectrum disorder
Many have recently questioned the efficacy of the most common antidepressant medications, the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). The conclusion that these drugs are ineffective is however partly based on a misinterpretation of the outcome of the clinical trials once conducted to demonstrate their efficacy. This was the finding of a study conducted by researchers at the Sahlgrenska Academy.
A new research method allows computers to calculate the brain functions of very premature babies during their first hours of life. "Brainstorm barometer" is based on the hypothesis that the brainstorms generated by the billions of neurons inside a baby's head are governed by the same rules as other massive natural phenomena.
A typical characteristic of the brain of an Alzheimer sufferer is the presence of insoluble Tau protein aggregates. Scientists at VIB, KU Leuven and Janssen Pharmaceutica have demonstrated that the distribution of these aggregates through the brain is facilitated by synaptic connections between brain cells. This news is highly significant because the focus is increasingly on repairing synaptic connections as a therapeutic strategy in neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s. In fact, it is generally accepted that a loss of synaptic connections leads to a loss in cognitive skills.