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This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 9-13 November

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Therapeutic mechanisms of antidepressants; recognizing faces and objects; taste perception in noisy environments, and more.

Homing in on the therapeutic mechanisms of commonly used antidepressants

With the advent of new technology, comes a better understanding of the brain and the hope for novel treatments and medications with improved specificity and therapeutic efficacy. The most widely used class of antidepressants is selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), which block the reuptake of serotonin from the presynaptic terminal, allowing for accumulation of serotonin within the synaptic cleft. Chronic treatment with SSRIs also induces neurogenesis of mature granule cells in the dentate gyrus of the hippocampus which are thought to contribute to the antidepressant response. Mature granule cells express high levels of the serotonin receptor, 5HT1A. These receptors are intimately involved in anxiety, depression, and response to antidepressants.

Team finds long-sought protein sensor for the ‘sixth sense’—proprioception

Can you touch a finger to the tip of your nose with your eyes closed? Most of us can, thanks to a sense called proprioception, which tells us where our body parts are relative to each other and our environment. Not surprisingly, this sense is essential for normal movement and balance—walking, for instance. For decades, biologists have been trying to find the crucial sensor protein in nerve endings that translates muscle and tendon stretching into proprioceptive nerve signals. Now in a study published in Nature Neuroscience, a team led by scientists from The Scripps Research Institute has identified this sensor protein in mice.

Thickness of gray matter predicts ability to recognize faces and objects

When you see a familiar face, when a bird-watcher catches a glimpse of a rare bird perched on a limb, or when a car-fancier spots a classic auto driving past, the same small region in the brain becomes engaged. For almost two decades, neuroscientists have known that this area, called the fusiform face area (FFA), plays a vital role in the brain's ability to recognize faces and objects that an individual has learned to identify. Now a new study, accepted for publication by the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, has taken this a step further by finding that the thickness of the cortex in the FFA—as measured using magnetic resonance imaging—can predict a person's ability to recognize faces and objects.

Protein findings open new avenues to understanding and treatment of schizophrenia

Stem cells from adult schizophrenia patients form new proteins more slowly than those from healthy people, according to new research. The findings are enhancing understanding of how schizophrenia affects the workings of the brain, and open the way to new approaches for future drug therapies. Involving scientists from Griffith University's Eskitis Institute for Drug Discovery, the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland and University College Dublin, the research is published in the journal Translational Psychiatry.

Taste perception is influenced by extreme noise conditions

Eating is a fundamentally multisensory experience: we don't just eat our food, we also see it, smell it, and hear ourselves chewing it. However, perception of non-food components of the dining experience can also influence flavor perception. For instance, desserts are rated as sweeter if they are presented on a white vs. black plate, and exposure to loud noise reduces affective food ratings.