This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 05 January – 09 January
News Jan 10, 2015
The gut-brain connection; predicting future behavior; brain differences in bipolar disorder and more.
After each one of those big meals you ate over the holidays, the cells lining your stomach and intestines released hormones into the bloodstream to signal the brain that you were full and should stop eating. Researchers at Duke University have now mapped out another system, a cell-to-cell connection between the gut and the nervous system, that may be more direct than the release of hormones in the blood.
Noninvasive brain scans, such as functional magnetic resonance imaging, have led to basic science discoveries about the human brain, but they've had only limited impacts on people's day-to-day lives. A review article published in the January 7 issue of the journal Neuron, however, highlights a number of recent studies showing that brain imaging can help predict an individual's future learning, criminality, health-related behaviors, and response to drug or behavioral treatments. The technology may offer opportunities to personalize educational and clinical practices.
Using a different type of MRI imaging, researchers at the University of Iowa (UI) have discovered previously unrecognized differences in the brains of patients with bipolar disorder. In particular, the study, published Jan. 6 in the journal Molecular Psychiatry, revealed differences in the white matter of patients' brains and in the cerebellum, an area of the brain not previously linked with the disorder. Interestingly, the cerebellar differences were not present in patients taking lithium, the most commonly used treatment for bipolar disorder.
Shortly after birth, human brains expand rapidly with the experience of an entirely new world. During this period, neurons in the newborn brain compete with one another to form lasting connections, called synapses. A new study by Duke researchers provides a close-up of synapse refinement and identifies a protein that is crucial in this process. Disruptions in the protein, called hevin, have previously been linked to autism, depression and suicide, but the molecule’s role in the developing brain was mostly unknown until now.
Although some reports have suggested a link between human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccination and development of multiple sclerosis or other demyelinating diseases, a follow-up of girls and women in Denmark and Sweden who received this vaccination found no increased risk for these disorders, according to a study in the January 6 issue of JAMA.
Neurons in the human brain receive electrical signals from thousands of other cells, and long neural extensions called dendrites play a critical role in incorporating all of that information. Using hard-to-obtain samples of human brain tissue, MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that human dendrites have different electrical properties from those of other species.