This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 17 August – 21 August
News Aug 21, 2015
Retinal changes and schizophrenia; brain-in-a-dish; visualizing the basal ganglia, and more.
Schizophrenia is associated with structural and functional alterations of the visual system, including specific structural changes in the eye. Tracking such changes may provide new measures of risk for, and progression of the disease, according to a literature review published online in the journal Schizophrenia Research: Cognition, authored by researchers at New York Eye and Ear Infirmary of Mount Sinai and Rutgers University.
New research has identified the mechanisms that trigger disruption in the brain's communication channels linked to symptoms in psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia. The University of Bristol study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, could have important implications for treating symptoms of brain disorders.
The brain organoid, engineered by Ohio State University researchers from adult human skin cells, is the most complete human brain model yet developed, said Rene Anand, professor of biological chemistry and pharmacology at Ohio State. The lab-grown brain, about the size of a pencil eraser, has an identifiable structure and contains 99 percent of the genes present in the human fetal brain. Such a system will enable ethical and more rapid and accurate testing of experimental drugs before the clinical trial stage and advance studies of genetic and environmental causes of central nervous system disorders.
Certain diseases, like Parkinson's and Huntingdon's disease, are associated with damage to the pathways between the brain's basal ganglia regions. The basal ganglia sits at the base of the brain and is responsible for, among other things, coordinating movement. It is made up of four interconnected, deep brain structures that imaging techniques have previously been unable to visualize.
Scientists have revealed never-before-seen details of how our brain sends rapid-fire messages between its cells. They mapped the 3-D atomic structure of a two-part protein complex that controls the release of neurotransmitter signaling chemicals from brain cells. Understanding how cells release those signals in less than one-thousandth of a second could help launch a new wave of research on drugs for treating brain disorders.
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.