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Neuroscience News from the UR Community

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URMC Plays Role in New Epilepsy Technology

Monday, December 2, 2013

XRay Showing Responsive Neurostimulator System

Physicians at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Strong Epilepsy Center were involved in the recent approval of a new treatment for epilepsy. The implantable medical device - called the Responsive Neurostimulator System (RNS) - monitors brain activity and can detect and counteract seizures.

URMC was one of only 28 sites in the country to conduct clinical trials of RNS, which was developed by the California-based company Neuropace. The research showed that the device decreases the number of monthly seizures by nearly 38 percent. URMC neurologists Michel Berg, M.D. and James Fessler, M.D., and neurosurgeon Web Pilcher, M.D., Ph.D. were involved in the study.

This is the first FDA-approved brain implant for epilepsy that responds to the brain’s activity, said Berg, an associate professor of Neurology. For patients who are unable to control their seizures with medications or are not eligible for resective surgery, this device could provide an important treatment option.

Read More: URMC Plays Role in New Epilepsy Technology

Sleep 'Cleans' the Brain of Toxins

Thursday, October 17, 2013

The US team believe the waste removal system is one of the fundamental reasons for sleep. Their study, in the journal Science, showed brain cells shrink during sleep to open up the gaps between neurons and allow fluid to wash the brain clean. They also suggest that failing to clear away some toxic proteins may play a role in brain disorders.

One big question for sleep researchers is why do animals sleep at all when it leaves them vulnerable to predators? It has been shown to have a big role in the fixing of memories in the brain and learning, but a team at the University of Rochester Medical Centre believe that housework may be one of the primary reasons for sleep.

The brain only has limited energy at its disposal and it appears that it must choose between two different functional states - awake and aware or asleep and cleaning up, said researcher Dr Maiken Nedergaard. You can think of it like having a house party. You can either entertain the guests or clean up the house, but you can't really do both at the same time.

Read More: Sleep 'Cleans' the Brain of Toxins

Bringing the Science of Adolescent Brain Development to the Rochester Community

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Dr. Dana Helmreich and colleagues in the Department of Psychiatry have won a Center for Community Health Mini-Grant to develop a curriculum on adolescent brain development and function for the larger Rochester community. The curriculum will be developed collaboratively with parents, teachers, and other community members so that is relevant to a variety of topics in adolescent development.

Brain's 'Garbage Truck' May Hold Key to Treating Alzheimer's and Other Disorders

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Brain Vascular Web

In a perspective piece appearing today in the journal Science, researchers at University of Rochester Medical Center point to a newly discovered system by which the brain removes waste as a potentially powerful new tool to treat neurological disorders like Alzheimer's disease. In fact, scientists believe that some of these conditions may arise when the system is not doing its job properly.

Essentially all neurodegenerative diseases are associated with the accumulation of cellular waste products, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the URMC Center for Translational Neuromedicine and author of the article. Understanding and ultimately discovering how to modulate the brain’s system for removing toxic waste could point to new ways to treat these diseases.

The body defends the brain like a fortress and rings it with a complex system of gateways that control which molecules can enter and exit. While this blood-brain barrier was first described in the late 1800s, scientists are only now just beginning to understand the dynamics of how these mechanisms function. In fact, the complex network of waste removal, which researchers have dubbed the glymphatic system, was only first disclosed by URMC scientists last August in the journal Science Translational Medicine.

Read More: Brain's 'Garbage Truck' May Hold Key to Treating Alzheimer's and Other Disorders

Huntington's Brain Cells Regenerated, in Mice

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Huntington's disease, like other neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson's, is characterized by the loss of a particular type of brain cell. This cell type has been regenerated in a mouse model of the disease, in a study led by University of Rochester Medical Center scientists.

Mice whose received this brain regeneration treatment lived far longer than untreated mice. The study was published online Thursday in Cell Stem Cell.

We believe that our data suggest the feasibility of this process as a viable therapeutic strategy for Huntington's disease, said senior study author Steve Goldman, co-director of Rochester's Center for Translational Neuromedicine, in a press release.

Read More: Huntington's Brain Cells Regenerated, in Mice

Researchers Identify Genetic Signature of Deadly Brain Cancer

Monday, June 3, 2013

x-ray composed image of human head and a glioma

A multi-institutional team of researchers have pinpointed the genetic traits of the cells that give rise to gliomas – the most common form of malignant brain cancer. The findings, which appear in the journal Cell Reports, provide scientists with rich new potential set of targets to treat the disease.

This study identifies a core set of genes and pathways that are dysregulated during both the early and late stages of tumor progression,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., the senior author of the study and co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine. “By virtue of their marked difference from normal cells, these genes appear to comprise a promising set of targets for therapeutic intervention.

Read More: Researchers Identify Genetic Signature of Deadly Brain Cancer

Kids With Autism Quick To Detect Motion

Friday, May 10, 2013

Children with autism see simple movements twice as fast as other children their age, a new study finds. Researchers at Vanderbilt University and the University of Rochester were looking to test a common theory about autism which holds that overwhelming sensory stimulation inhibits other brain functions. The researchers figured they could check that by studying how kids with autism process moving images.

One can think of autism as a brain impairment, but another way to view autism is as a condition where the balance between different brain processes is impaired, says Duje Tadin, a co-author of the study out this week in the Journal of Neuroscience. That imbalance could lead to functional impairments, and it often does, but it can also result in enhancements.

Read More: Kids With Autism Quick To Detect Motion

Upstate Researchers Tackle Toilet Training for Autistic Children

Monday, May 6, 2013

Researchers in upstate New York have developed a wearable sensor system that will help toilet train autistic children. The device, created at the University of Rochester, involves a moisture pager that can connect to a smartphone app and alert caregivers to accidents.

It seems like something that you would think already exists, and it doesn't, says Stephen McAleavey, a biomedical engineering professor, and part of the team that developed the technology. So the goal with this was to develop a wireless device that could be used to monitor children - for when they're having an accident - and to try to make it as easy to use for the parents or the caregivers as possible.

Read More: Upstate Researchers Tackle Toilet Training for Autistic Children

Scientists Find Way to Image Brain Waste Removal Process Which May Lead to Alzheimer's Diagnostic

Friday, February 22, 2013

A novel way to image the entire brain’s glymphatic pathway, a dynamic process that clears waste and solutes from the brain that otherwise might build-up and contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, may provide the basis for a new strategy to evaluate disease susceptibility, according to a research paper published online in the Journal of Clinical Investigation. Through contrast enhanced magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and other tools, a Stony Brook University-led research team successfully mapped this brain-wide pathway and identified key anatomical clearance routes of brain waste.

In their article titled “Brain-wide pathway for waste clearance captured by contrast enhanced MRI,” Principal Investigator Helene Benveniste, MD, PhD, a Professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Radiology at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, and colleagues built upon a previous finding by Jeffrey Iliff, PhD, and Maiken Nedergaard, MD, PhD, from University of Rochester that initially discovered and defined the glymphatic pathway, where cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) filters through the brain and exchanges with interstitial fluid (ISF) to clear waste, similar to the way lymphatic vessels clear waste from other organs of the body. Despite the discovery of the glymphatic pathway, researchers could not visualize the brain wide flow of this pathway with previous imaging techniques.

Bathing the Brain

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The brain and spinal cord are surrounded by cerebrospinal fluid, which provides a mechanically stable environment for these delicate structures against the forces of gravity and sudden acceleration and deceleration. Neurons and glia comprising the parenchyma of the brain are enveloped in their microenvironment by interstitial fluid. Interstitial fluid has long been considered to be unaffected by the production and flow of cerebrospinal fluid outside the brain parenchyma. However, two recent papers by Iliff et al. demonstrate that cerebrospinal fluid enters the deep substance of the brain, mixes with the interstitial fluid surrounding neurons and glia, and plays an important role in the exchange and clearance of molecules in the interstitial space of the central nervous system.

Read More: Bathing the Brain

Study: Model for Brain Signaling Flawed

Thursday, January 10, 2013

A new study out today in the journal Science turns two decades of understanding about how brain cells communicate on its head. The study demonstrates that the tripartite synapse – a model long accepted by the scientific community and one in which multiple cells collaborate to move signals in the central nervous system – does not exist in the adult brain.

Our findings demonstrate that the tripartite synaptic model is incorrect, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., lead author of the study and co-director of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Center for Translational Neuromedicine. This concept does not represent the process for transmitting signals between neurons in the brain beyond the developmental stage.

Read More: Study: Model for Brain Signaling Flawed

A Trip to Mars Could Increase Chances of Alzheimer's for Astronauts

Thursday, January 3, 2013

As if space travel was not already filled with enough dangers, a new study out today in the journal PLOS ONE shows that cosmic radiation – which would bombard astronauts on deep space missions to places like Mars – could accelerate the onset of Alzheimer's disease.

Galactic cosmic radiation poses a significant threat to future astronauts, said M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) Department of Neurobiology & Anatomy and the senior author of the study. The possibility that radiation exposure in space may give rise to health problems such as cancer has long been recognized. However, this study shows for the first time that exposure to radiation levels equivalent to a mission to Mars could produce cognitive problems and speed up changes in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's disease.