Scientists have developed a sensor that can record brainwaves without the need for electrodes to be inserted into the brain or even for them to be placed on the scalp. Conventional electroencephalograms (EEGs) monitor electrical activity in the brain with electrodes placed either on the scalp (involving hair removal and skin abrasion) or inserted directly into the brain with needles. Now a non-invasive form of EEG has been devised by Professor Terry Clark and his colleagues in the Centre for Physical Electronics at the University of Sussex. Instead of measuring charge flow through an electrode (with attendant distortions, in the case of scalp electrodes) the new system measures electric fields remotely, an advance made possible by new developments in sensor technology.
A seemingly mild “insult” to the brain could sensitize neurons to attack by immune system proteins that are otherwise protective, researchers have found. The finding could explain why sufferers of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases significantly worsen following such insults. The scientists believe that drugs to selectively inhibit the immune proteins could reduce the rate of neural damage in a wide range of neurodegenerative diseases. Such drugs could also protect other organs against damage from autoimmune diseases such as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis, in which the immune system attacks body tissues.
Brain cell membranes have established “doorways” that accept or reject molecules trying to pass into the cell, researchers have founbd. The discovery fundamentally changes how researchers think about the behavior of neurons. It had been long believed that surface molecules such as receptors are enveloped right where they rest in the fatty membrane, to be drawn into the cell’s interior.
Researchers in Los Angeles have localized a region on chromosome 16 that is likely to contain a risk gene for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, the most prevalent childhood-onset psychiatric disorder. The scientists say their finding suggest that the suspected risk gene may contribute as much as 30 percent of the underlying genetic cause of ADHD and may also be involved in a separate childhood onset disorder, autism.
Federal researchers say they’ve developed several drug candidates that show promise in protecting the brain against damage from stroke, with the potential to fight chronic neurodegenerative conditions like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease as well.. The drugs, called p53 inhibitors, attack a key protein involved in nerve cell death and represent a new strategy for preserving brain function following sudden injury or chronic disease.
Researchers in Ohio say they’ve developed a way to use a decade-old imaging technology to directly compare the brains of monkeys and humans. Specifically, they used MRIs to compare parts of the monkey and human brains — the visual cortex — concerned with processing visual information. “Implicit in the neuroscience community was that the monkey cortex is a good model for the human cortex,” said one of the researchers. “Scientists didn’t have any choice but to make that assumption, as the monkey brain was the only model we had to work with.” But with the MRI they’ve found that there are in fact big differences.
Cancer researchers in San Diego have developed a 3-step process in which human leukemia cells and neighboring immune-system T cells are manipulated together in the laboratory to create a powerful and specific cancer-killing cocktail. “For reasons that are not yet entirely clear, leukemia cells fail to trigger immune responses,” said the study’s senior author, Edward D. Ball, M.D., of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center. “We have developed a method in which we induce the leukemia cell to change its behavior and stimulate the immune system. At the same time, we persuade the immune system to wake up and attack only the leukemia cells.” The details of this approach, known as adoptive immunotherapy or cellular therapy, are reported in the October issue of the journal Biology of Blood and Marrow Transplantation.
For the first time, a distributed computing experiment has produced significant results that have been published in a scientific journal. Writing in the online edition of Nature magazine, Stanford University scientists describe how they — with the help of 30,000 personal computers — successfully simulated part of the complex folding process that a typical protein molecule undergoes to achieve its unique, three-dimensional shape.
Scientists in Sweden have figured out why it’s so difficult to keep a straight face if others around you are grinning away. It’s your unconscious mind taking control. The researchers at Uppsala University had volunteers look at pictures of expressionless, happy, and angry faces. In return they were told to adopt blank, happy, or angry expressions. When they had to meet a smile with a frown, or a frown with a smile, they had trouble. Twitching in the subjects’ faces — measured with electronic equipment — indicated they simply didn’t have control of their muscles. It’s believed that there’s a shortcut to the part of the brain that recognizes faces and expressions that bypasses the area responsible for conscious processing.
Researchers have discovered a communication link between proteins in the brain that could lead to improved treatments for psychiatric disorders and stroke. The discovery could create the possibility that new antipsychotic medication could be designed to modify the interaction related to cell-to-cell communication to prevent abnormal activity and cell death.
Researchers say they’ve developed a new test for prions that improves the accuracy and speed with which the malformed and infectious proteins can be detected. Prions cause neurodegenerative diseases in sheep, deer and elk, plus Mad Cow disease in cattle and Creutzfeldt-Jakob in humans.
Researchers have discovered a gene mutation that causes a condition apparently identical to Huntington’s Disease, helping explain why some people with the disorder do not have a separate mutation found in most cases. The finding may help reveal why some diseases, like Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, destroy some brain cells while sparing others. “For all practical purposes this is Huntington’s Disease, yet it’s caused by a different mutation on a completely different chromosome,” said Russell L. Margolis, M.D., associate professor of Psychiatry at Hopkins and director of the Johns Hopkins Laboratory of Genetic Neurobiology. “This is a rare version of an already rare disorder, but the mutation that causes it may not only help us better understand Huntington’s Disease, but could boost our understanding of many other neurodegenerative disorders.”