Archive for the ‘neuroscience’ category

Apr 2, 2020

Our brains as hard drives – could we delete, modify or add memories and skills?

Posted by in categories: computing, genetics, neuroscience, virtual reality

Given the rapid development of virtual reality technology, we may very well be moving toward a time when we’re able to manage the brain’s memories.

Could we develop a similar capability? That may depend heavily upon a handful of ambitious attempts at brain-computer interfacing. But science is moving in baby steps with other tactics in both laboratory animals and humans.

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Apr 2, 2020

Control of brain tumor growth

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

Although innate immune cells are typically present inside tumors, they often have an inactive phenotype such that they are ineffective at killing the cancer cells or even promote tumor growth. Sarkar et al. discovered that it may be possible to reprogram these cells to a more active type using niacin (vitamin B3). The authors showed that niacin-exposed monocytes can inhibit the growth of brain tumor–initiating cells. Moreover, niacin treatment of intracranial mouse models of glioblastoma increased monocyte and macrophage infiltration into the tumors, stimulated antitumor immune responses, and extended the animals’ survival, especially when combined with the chemotherapeutic drug temozolomide.

Glioblastomas are generally incurable partly because monocytes, macrophages, and microglia in afflicted patients do not function in an antitumor capacity. Medications that reactivate these macrophages/microglia, as well as circulating monocytes that become macrophages, could thus be useful to treat glioblastoma. We have discovered that niacin (vitamin B3) is a potential stimulator of these inefficient myeloid cells. Niacin-exposed monocytes attenuated the growth of brain tumor–initiating cells (BTICs) derived from glioblastoma patients by producing anti-proliferative interferon-α14. Niacin treatment of mice bearing intracranial BTICs increased macrophage/microglia representation within the tumor, reduced tumor size, and prolonged survival. These therapeutic outcomes were negated in mice depleted of circulating monocytes or harboring interferon-α receptor–deleted BTICs. Combination treatment with temozolomide enhanced niacin-promoted survival.

Apr 2, 2020

A “remarkable” finding links a common vitamin to fighting brain cancer

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

The effort to create a treatment for glioblastoma has so far been unsuccessful, but a new study points to a potential step forward — the common vitamin, niacin.

Mar 31, 2020

Getting Closer to a Blood Test for Alzheimer’s Disease?

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, neuroscience

As research on Alzheimer’s disease (AD) advances, a desperate need remains for an easy blood test to help diagnose the condition as early as possible. Ideally, such a test could also distinguish AD from other forms of dementia that produce similar symptoms. As published recently in Nature Medicine, an NIH-funded research team has designed a simple blood test that is on course to meet these criteria [1].

The latest work builds on a large body of work showing that one secret to predicting a person’s cognitive decline and treatment response in AD lies in a protein called tau. Using the powerful, but expensive, approach of PET scan imaging, we know that tau builds up in the brain as Alzheimer’s disease progresses. We also know that some tau spills from the brain into the bloodstream.

The trouble is that the circulating tau protein breaks down far too quickly for a blood test to offer a reliable measure of what’s happening in a person’s brain. A few years ago, researchers discovered a possible solution: test for blood levels of a slightly different and more stable version of the protein called pTau181 [2]. (The “p” in its name comes from the addition of phosphorus in a particular part of the protein’s structure.)

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Mar 31, 2020

Unearthing gut secret paves way for targeted treatments

Posted by in category: neuroscience

Scientists at Flinders University have, for the first time, identified a specific type of sensory nerve ending in the gut and how these may ‘talk’ to the spinal cord, communicating pain or discomfort to the brain.

This discovery is set to inform the development of new medications to treat problems associated with gut-to-brain communication, paving the way for targeted treatments to mitigate related dysfunction.

While our understanding of the gut’s neurosensory abilities has grown rapidly in recent years, two of the great mysteries have been where and how the different types of sensory nerve endings in the gut lie, and how they are activated.

Mar 31, 2020

How stress remodels the brain

Posted by in category: neuroscience

Stress restructures the brain by halting the production of crucial ion channel proteins, according to research in mice recently published in JNeurosci.

Stress harms the brain and body in profound ways. One way is by altering astrocytes, the brain’s housekeepers tasked with mopping up neurotransmitters after they’ve been released into the synapse. On the cellular level, stress causes the branches of astrocytes to retract from the synapses they wrap around.

Bender et al. investigated what controlled astrocyte changes after mice experienced exposure to the urine of a fox, their natural predator. This single stressful event caused quick but long-lasting retraction of the astrocyte’s branches. Stress induces this change by halting the production of GluA1, an essential subunit of glutamate receptors. During a stressful event, the stress hormone norepinephrine suppresses a molecular pathway that normally culminates in the protein synthesis of GluA1. Without functional GluA1 or glutamate receptors, neurons and astrocytes lose their ability to communicate with each other.

Mar 31, 2020

Machine translates brainwaves into sentences

Posted by in categories: information science, neuroscience

Scientists have taken a step forward in their ability to decode what a person is saying just by looking at their brainwaves when they speak.

They trained algorithms to transfer the brain patterns into sentences in real-time and with word error rates as low as 3%.

Previously, these so-called “brain-machine interfaces” have had limited success in decoding neural activity.

Mar 30, 2020

Scientists develop AI that can turn brain activity into text

Posted by in categories: cyborgs, neuroscience, robotics/AI

“We are not there yet but we think this could be the basis of a speech prosthesis,” said Dr Joseph Makin, co-author of the research from the University of California, San Francisco.

Writing in the journal Nature Neuroscience, Makin and colleagues reveal how they developed their system by recruiting four participants who had electrode arrays implanted in their brain to monitor epileptic seizures.

These participants were asked to read aloud from 50 set sentences multiple times, including “Tina Turner is a pop singer”, and “Those thieves stole 30 jewels”. The team tracked their neural activity while they were speaking.

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Mar 30, 2020

HOW COVID-19 KILLS–I’m a Surgeon–And Why We Can’t Save You

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, education, finance, neuroscience

Dr. Duc Vuong, World’s #1 Weight Loss Surgeon, Author of 13 books, explains how coronavirus kills its victims.

Talk with Dr. V Live at

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Mar 30, 2020

Coronavirus helped Google Classroom surpass 50 million downloads

Posted by in categories: biotech/medical, education, neuroscience

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, most schools and universities around the world have had to close. Institutions have turned to services such as Zoom and Google Classroom, which have skyrocketed to being the most popular ones on the Play Store. Google’s service has become so famous that it just passed 50 million downloads.

AppBrain’s data shows the app was not even in the top 100 most popular at the beginning of the month but has rapidly spiked starting March 10 to reach the top 5 most popular ones in the US last week. In fact, the app is also being downloaded massively all around the world, as it’s amongst the most installed ones in Indonesia, Mexico, Canada, Finland, Italy, and Poland as well.

In times like this, it’s heartwarming to see there are free platforms readily available for teachers and students to keep learning and stay in touch, helping them continue to learn despite being on lockdown.

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