This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 2 March – 6 March
News Mar 06, 2015
Neural code for learning and memory; image-guided treatment for migraines; genetic risk for MS, and more.
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: researchers slice a brain into thin little sections and, just by measuring the properties of specific neurons, they can determine what an organism learned before it died. In fact, this sort of mind reading has become a reality. In work published in Nature, researchers describe how postmortem brain slices can be "read" to determine how a rat was trained to behave in response to specific sounds. The work provides one of the first examples of how specific changes in the activity of individual neurons encode particular acts of learning and memory in the brain.
Doctors write millions of prescriptions a year for drugs to calm the behavior of people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. But non-drug approaches actually work better, and carry far fewer risks, experts conclude in a new report.
An innovative interventional radiology treatment has been found to offer chronic migraine sufferers sustained relief of their headaches, according to research presented at the Society of Interventional Radiology's Annual Scientific Meeting. Clinicians used a treatment called image-guided, intranasal sphenopalatine ganglion (SPG) blocks to give patients enough ongoing relief that they required less medication to relieve migraine pain.
Researchers have identified a genetic variation that in women significantly increases their risk of developing MS. The variant occurs almost twice as often among women with MS as in women without the disease, making it "one of the strongest genetic risk factors for MS discovered to date."
Neuroscientists have identified a new pathway by which several brain areas communicate within the brain's striatum. The findings illustrate structural and functional connections that allow the brain to use reinforcement learning to make spatial decisions, such as the dorsolateral prefrontal, orbitofrontal cortex, and posterior parietal cortex. Communication between these regions is important for abilities like how a baseball player is able to estimate where to swing his bat or how a person finds a car in a large parking lot filled with similar cars.
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.