This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 20April-24April
News Apr 24, 2015
Optogenetics update; drugs to treat brain cells lost in MS; brain networks that control tinnitus, and more.
With accolades like “method of the year” and “breakthrough of the decade,” it’s easy to assume that optogenetics—a scientific technique for turning neurons on and off using light—is, indeed, a game-changing technology. But, has it lived up to its hype? And what does the future hold for using optogenetics beyond simply studying how the brain works—can it also be useful in treating diseases as diverse as autism, PTSD, and depression?
A pair of topical medicines already alleviating skin conditions each may prove to have another, even more compelling use: instructing stem cells in the brain to reverse damage caused by multiple sclerosis. Led by researchers at Case Western Reserve, a multi-institutional team used a new discovery approach to identify drugs that could activate mouse and human brain stem cells in the laboratory.
About one in five people experience tinnitus, the perception of a sound--often described as ringing--that isn't really there. Now, researchers reporting in Current Biology have taken advantage of a rare opportunity to record directly from the brain of a person with tinnitus in order to find the brain networks responsible.
In a study that included approximately 95,000 children with older siblings, receipt of the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR) vaccine was not associated with an increased risk of autism spectrum disorders (ASD), regardless of whether older siblings had ASD, findings that indicate no harmful association between receipt of MMR vaccine and ASD even among children already at higher risk for ASD, according to a study published in the April 21 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), a theme issue on child health.
In a promising breakthrough for smokers who are trying to quit, neuroscientists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and The Scripps Research Institute have identified circuitry in the brain responsible for the increased anxiety commonly experienced during withdrawal from nicotine addiction.
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.