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Neuroscience News from the UR Community

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New imaging technique helps predict how vision recovers after brain tumor removal

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Understanding recovery process could have implications for many different injuries of the central nervous system

An interdisciplinary team of University neuroscientists and neurosurgeons has used a new imaging technique to show how the human brain heals itself in just a few weeks following surgical removal of a brain tumor.

In a study featured on the cover of the current issue of the journal Science Translational Medicine, the team found that recovery of vision in patients with pituitary tumors is predicted by the integrity of myelin—the insulation that wraps around connections between neurons—in the optic nerves.

“Before the study, we weren’t able to tell patients how much, if at all, they would recover their vision after surgery,” explained David Paul, an M.D. candidate in the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, and first author of the study.

When pituitary tumors grow large, they can compress the optic chiasm, the intersection of the nerves that connect visual input from the eyes to the brain. Nerve compression can lead to vision loss, which usually improves after these tumors are surgically removed.

Paul and his colleagues used a technique called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to show how changes in a particular bundle of nerve fibers relate to vision changes in these patients.

“DTI measures how water spreads in tissue,” explained Bradford Mahon, assistant professor in the Department Brain and Cognitive Sciences and the Department of Neurosurgery, and senior author of the study. “The myelin insulation normally prevents water from spreading within the nerves, which would cause the nerves to malfunction.”

Read More: New imaging technique helps predict how vision recovers after brain tumor removal

Mice injected with human brain cells get smarter, scientists say

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

What would Stuart Little make of it? Mice have been created whose brains are half-human. As a result, the animals are smarter than their siblings. The idea is not to mimic fiction but to advance understanding of human brain diseases by studying them in whole mouse brains rather than in laboratory dishes.

The altered mice still have mouse neurons - the thinking cells that make up around half of all their brain cells. But practically all their glial cells, the ones that support the neurons, are human.

It’s still a mouse brain, not a human brain, says Steve Goldman of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. But all the non-neuronal cells are human.

Read More: Mice injected with human brain cells get smarter, scientists say

Blows to Head Damage Brain's 'Garbage Truck', Accelerate Dementia

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Pictures of MRI

A new study out today in the Journal of Neuroscience shows that traumatic brain injury can disrupt the function of the brain's waste removal system. When this occurs, toxic proteins may accumulate in the brain, setting the stage for the onset of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.

We know that traumatic brain injury early in life is a risk factor for the early development of dementia in the decades that follow, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and senior author of the article. This study shows that these injuries set into motion a cascading series of events that impair the brain's ability to clear waste, allowing proteins like tau to spread throughout the brain and eventually reach toxic levels.

The findings are the latest in a series of new insights that are fundamentally changing the way scientists understand neurological disorders. These discoveries are possible due to a study published in 2012 in which Nedergaard and her colleagues described a previously unknown system of waste removal that is unique to the brain which researchers have dubbed the glymphatic system.

Read More: Blows to Head Damage Brain's 'Garbage Truck', Accelerate Dementia

Researchers Using New Tools to Fight Brain Infection

Monday, November 17, 2014

Researchers have developed new insight into a rare but deadly brain infection, called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML). This disease – which is caused by the JC virus – is most frequently found in people with suppressed immune systems and, until now, scientists have had no effective way to study it or test new treatments.

The JC virus is an example of an infection that specifically targets glia, the brain’s support cells, said neurologist Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., co-director of University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and senior author of the paper. Because this virus only infects human glia and not brain cells in other species, it has eluded our efforts to better understand this disease. To get around this problem, we have developed a new mouse model that allows us to study human glia in live animals.

The new discovery – which appears today in the Journal of Clinical Investigation – was the result of research using a new tool developed at the University of Rochester. Last year, Goldman and Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., reported that they had created a mouse model whose brains consisted of both animal neurons and human glia cells. While the previous study focused on the fact that the human cells essentially made the mice smarter, at the same time it created a powerful new platform for researchers to study human glial cells in live adult animals, including diseases that impact these cells.

Read More: Researchers Using New Tools to Fight Brain Infection

Doug Portman Elected to Succeed Krystel Huxlin as Next President of the Rochester Chapter of SfN

Monday, October 20, 2014

Douglas Portman will start his term as President of the Chapter January 1st, 2015.
Thank you for everyone who participated in the first presidential elections.
Thank you Krystel for serving as the first President and for reviving the Chapter.

Read More: Doug Portman Elected to Succeed Krystel Huxlin as Next President of the Rochester Chapter of SfN

'Red Effect' Sparks Interest in Female Monkeys

Monday, October 20, 2014

Ben Hayden, Ph.D.

Ben Hayden, Ph.D.

Recent studies have indicated that the color red tends to increase human attraction toward others, feelings of jealousy, and reaction times. New research by Ben Hayden, assistant professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, shows that female monkeys also respond to the color red, suggesting that biology, rather than culture, may play a fundamental role in red responses.

Read more about Red Effects...

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Male Brains Wired to Ignore Food in Favour of Sex, Study Shows

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Douglas Portman, Ph.D.

Douglas Portman, Ph.D.

Males can suppress their hunger in order to focus on finding a mate, a new scientific study of a species of worm has shown.

The study, conducted by Douglas Portman at the University of Rochester Medical Center, points to how subtle changes in the brain's circuitry dictate differences in behaviour between males and females.

URMC Tourette Center Named Tourette Syndrome Association Center of Excellence

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

The national Tourette Syndrome Association today announced the designation of 10 Tourette Syndrome Association Centers of Excellence at premier healthcare facilities, research centers and academic institutions located across the United States.

Among them was the Tourette Center (affiliated with the Child Neurology division) here at URMC, headed by unit chief, Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D.

The designation of Tourette Syndrome Association Centers of Excellence in communities across the country, particularly in underserved areas, is crucial to our mission, said Annetta Hewko, President of the Tourette Syndrome Association. Today, there is no standard model of care for Tourette's or Tic Disorders. Our aim is to partner with the Centers of Excellence to set these standards and increase access to informed, evidence-based treatment, compassionate care and guidance. We are genuinely excited to launch this initiative. It can significantly impact our mission to serve to all people affected by Tourette’s and Tic Disorders.

The newly designated Centers will be the catalysts for cutting-edge scientific and clinical research aimed at decreasing diagnostic variability, deciphering the cause(s) and improving treatment of both tic and non-tic features. The Centers will also lead the way in training the next generation of experts in TS and Tic Disorders, said Dr. Kevin St.P. McNaught, the Tourette Syndrome Association's Vice President for Medical and Scientific Programs.

read the entire press release ...

Research Seeks to Break New Ground in Understanding of Schizophrenia

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

More than $6 million in funding from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) is supporting new research that could fundamentally alter the way we comprehend and, perhaps ultimately, treat schizophrenia.

The research - which is being led by University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine co-directors Steve Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc. - will explore the role that support cells found in the brain, called glia, play in the disease.

The new research is possible because of findings published by Goldman and Nedergaard last year that showed that glial cells play an important role in the complex signaling activity that is unique to the human brain. In these experiments the researchers showed that when human glial cells were implanted into the brains of newborn mice the human cells influenced communication within the animals' brains, allowing the mice to learn more rapidly.

Read More: Research Seeks to Break New Ground in Understanding of Schizophrenia

Dr. Jonathan Mink Appears on ABC’s 20/20 to Discuss Tourette Syndrome in Athletes

Friday, August 15, 2014

Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., Frederick A. Horner, MD Endowed Professor in Pediatric Neurology, appeared on ABC's 20/20 on August 15the to discuss Tourette Syndrome in athletes and whether it gives them an advantage. Mink, who specializes in Tourette syndrome and other movement disorders at the University of Rochester, and is the co-chair of the National Tourette Syndrome Association’s scientific advisory board, is more skeptical, citing conflicting studies. He said the science isn’t there yet to definitively prove that Tourette's can help give athletes with the condition superior skills or make, say, a basketball player the next Lebron James.

The studies that have been done of people where actually measuring their movements, measuring how fast their movements are and the reaction times show that on average, people with Tourette Syndrome are about the same as people without, Mink said.

Read More: Dr. Jonathan Mink Appears on ABC’s 20/20 to Discuss Tourette Syndrome in Athletes

New Mouse Model May Open Autism Treatment Research Avenues

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The hallmark of an excellent researcher is an open mind. That flexibility and openness is what led Nina Schor, M.D., Ph.D., the William H. Eilinger Chair of Pediatrics at the University of Rochester, to follow a hunch about a brain receptor – resulting in a new mouse model that may give researchers a new avenue for testing drugs for autism. Nature Publishing Groups’ Translational Psychiatry published the study online today.

Schor had been studying p75 neurotrophin receptors in her long-standing neuroblastoma research, but she also knew that p75NTR is involved in the reaction to oxidative stress in the brain, which some research posits plays a role in the development of autism. The receptor is also prevalent in the developing brain and drops off as a child reaches 2 to 3 years old, which is when autism symptoms often begin to appear. P75NTR stays present in the typically developing cerebellum, hippocampus and basal forebrain, parts of the brain that are anatomically abnormal in autism.

“Science doesn’t always travel in a straight line,” Schor said. “Sometimes the importance of a scientific study in one field is what it unexpectedly tells us about another field.”

photo of Nina Schor

While other researchers are focused on the proteins found to be abnormal in patients with autism, Schor approached her investigation from the opposite direction. She thought about what characteristics a protein would have to have to be involved in processes thought to play a role in autism. “That list of characteristics looked suspiciously like those we had found to be associated with p75NTR.”

Read More: New Mouse Model May Open Autism Treatment Research Avenues

UR Medicine Opens Doors on New NeuroMedicine ICU

Monday, July 28, 2014

UR Medicine today unveiled a new state-of-the-art unit dedicated to highly specialized care for people with serious and life-threatening neurological conditions, like strokes, seizures, brain and spinal tumors, and traumatic brain injury. The Neuromedicine Intensive Care Unit (ICU), which is the only unit of its kind in the region, is located on the eighth floor of Strong Memorial Hospital.

The $5.5 million, 5,500-square-foot unit consists of 12 beds and is staffed around the clock by an extended multidisciplinary team trained to treat the most challenging and difficult neurological disorders. The neurocritical care team members include neurointensivists, neurologists, neurosurgeons, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, critical care nurses, anesthesiologists, respiratory therapists, social workers, physical therapists, speech-language pathologists, occupational therapists, nutritionists, and clinical pharmacologists.

Diseases and injuries that impact the brain and central nervous system have a unique set of challenges and require expertise that is not commonly found in a traditional ICU setting. While brain function must be continuously monitored, providers also need to be trained to recognize that these conditions can potentially lead to other problems, such as cardiovascular, kidney, and respiratory complications or infections, particularly if a patient remains in an ICU setting for a long period of time. Also, once a patient has been stabilized, there must be continuity of care as they begin the process of recovery and transition to rehabilitation.

Read More: UR Medicine Opens Doors on New NeuroMedicine ICU

New Evidence Links Air Pollution to Autism, Schizophrenia

Friday, June 6, 2014

New research from the University of Rochester Medical Center describes how exposure to air pollution early in life produces harmful changes in the brains of mice, including an enlargement of part of the brain that is seen in humans who have autism and schizophrenia.

The new findings are consistent with several recent studies that have shown a link between air pollution and autism in children. Most notably, a 2013 study in JAMA Psychiatry reported that children who lived in areas with high levels of traffic-related air pollution during their first year of life were three times as likely to develop autism.

Our findings add to the growing body of evidence that air pollution may play a role in autism, as well as in other neurodevelopmental disorders, said Deborah Cory-Slechta, Ph.D., professor of Environmental Medicine at the University of Rochester and lead author of the study, published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

Read More: New Evidence Links Air Pollution to Autism, Schizophrenia

Drug Improves Vision in Individuals with Neurological Disorder

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

The drug acetazolamide, combined with a low-sodium weight reduction diet, improves vision in individuals with idiopathic intracranial hypertension (IIH), a condition brought about by abnormal pressure on the brain that is not the result of a tumor or other diseases.

he study, which appears this week in the journal JAMA, was coordinated by Karl Kieburtz, M.D. and Michael McDermott, Ph.D. with the University of Rochester’s Center for Human Experimental Therapeutics (CHET) and also involved Steven Feldon, M.D. with the Flaum Eye Institute.

Read More: Drug Improves Vision in Individuals with Neurological Disorder

Global Burden of Neurological Diseases Requires New Approaches

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

A perspective piece appearing today in the journal JAMA focuses on the challenges and opportunities arising from the increasing global incidence of neurological disorders. The authors advocate for new approaches that will increase access, lower costs, influence lifestyle changes, and create international research and clinical partnerships that address overlooked neurological conditions and underserved global populations.

The piece is authored by University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry neurologists Gretchen Birbeck, M.D. and Robert Griggs, M.D., and Michael Hanna, M.D. with University College London. Birbeck is also member of the Epilepsy Care Team at Chikankata Hospital in Mazabuka, Zambia.

Read More: Global Burden of Neurological Diseases Requires New Approaches

Anne Leubke Presents Listening Through Noise: Search for Autism Biomarkers in the Spring CTSI Seminar Series

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Anne Leubke, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering and of Neurobiology & Anatomy, and Loisa Bennetto, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Psychology, presented Listening through Noise: Search for Autism Biomarkers on March 25th in the Helen Wood Hall Auditorium as part of the spring CTSI Seminar Series.

Those wishing to see the presentation can see a video taped copy from the URMC media site. Login is required with your NetID.

Air Pollution Exposure May Increase Risk of Autism, Schizophrenia

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Air pollution exposure has long been suspected to increase the risk of both heart and lung diseases, but another important organ may also be at risk of injury from this contaminated air: the brain. Researchers at the American Association for the Advancement of Sciences (AAAS) annual meeting in Chicago recently detailed the impact that constant exposure to air pollution may have on the developing brain. According to the panel, a series of mouse models have suggested that constant inhalation of air pollution may lead to enlargement of the brain’s ventricles – a hallmark of neurodevelopmental disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.

According to the organizer of the panel, Dr. Deborah Cory-Slechta, air pollution is a cocktail of various metals and gases, often consisting of many different sized particles. The larger particles typically do not pose a risk to the body, as they are often coughed up and disposed, but the very small particles are the ones that health experts say pose the biggest health threat.

The component people worry about the most are the smallest particles – the ultrafine particles, Cory-Slechta, professor in the department of environmental medicine at the University of Rochester School of Medicine, told FoxNews.com. And the reason is because those go all the way down into the bottom of the lung. Once they get to the bottom of the lung, they can be absorbed into the blood stream.

Read More: Air Pollution Exposure May Increase Risk of Autism, Schizophrenia

Local Researchers Develop Possible Treatment for Parkinson's

Monday, February 10, 2014

Astrocyte Photo

Researchers in Rochester have developed a new cell therapy that could treat Parkinson’s disease, a neurological disorder which affects motor function. The study from the University of Rochester Medical Center suggests this new approach could not only halt progression of the disease, but also reverse its impact on the brain.

Now, researchers have found a way to use supporter cells known as astrocytes to spur wider recovery throughout the brain. So we can think of them as a work crew that delivers multiple tools at the same time, each of which can target a different cell population, says lead author Chris Proschel.

Proschel says they were careful to begin their treatment only after their lab mice had developed signs of Parkinson’s disease. He says this delay is important because it mimics the way therapies are actually used in humans, where damage has occurred and symptoms have presented before any treatment is carried out.

Read More: Local Researchers Develop Possible Treatment for Parkinson's