Neuroscience News from the UR Community
Monday, December 7, 2015
Robert “Berch” Griggs, M.D.
More than 15 years of research led by neurologists at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) has culminated in the first approved treatment for individuals with a rare neuromuscular disorder called periodic paralysis. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved dichlorphenamide, which is being marketed under the brand name Keveyis by Taro Pharmaceuticals, for individuals with the disease.
Periodic paralysis is extremely rare – an estimated 5,000 people in the U.S. suffer from the disease – and the condition is generally neither fatal nor life shortening, but can have a significant impact on quality of life depending upon the frequency and severity of the paralytic “attacks” that are the hallmark of the disease. Some patients can go months without an attack and may only experience limited movement in an extremity, while others experience attacks daily and can be immobilized for several hours at a time. Over time, many patients become weaker.
“This is one of the most dramatic diseases in medicine,” said Robert “Berch” Griggs, M.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Neurology and principal investigator of the clinical studies that led to the drug’s approval. “A patient can wake up in the morning and be completely paralyzed from the neck down. Over the course of hours they regain mobility so by the time they get the doctor’s office they are often completely normal.”
Griggs is an internationally recognized expert in periodic paralysis and is sought out by patients from around the world. Almost 45 years ago, Griggs first demonstrated that the drug acetazolamide was partially effective in treating periodic paralysis and, more recently, was part of a team of researchers that discovered the genetic cause of periodic paralysis. In 2003, the National Institutes of Health tapped Griggs to head a national network of physicians and scientists that are focusing on rare neurological disorders such as periodic paralysis.
URMC’s role in bringing dichlorphenamide to market began in 2000, when Griggs and his colleague Rabi Tawil, M.D. showed in a small study that dichlorphenamide was highly effective in preventing the attacks and keeping patients’ muscles strong.
Read More: New Drug for Periodic Paralysis has Roots in URMC Research
Friday, November 13, 2015
Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., has been awarded $1.8 million from NASA to study whether extended deep space travel places astronauts at risk for neuro-degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's.
The grant is one of nine announced by NASA that will fund research that employ beams of high-energy, heavy ions simulating space radiation. The studies will be conducted in part at the NASA Space Radiation Laboratory at Brookhaven National Laboratory on Long Island. By colliding matter together at very high speeds, the accelerators at Brookhaven can reproduce the radioactive particles found in space.
The studies will seek to better understand and reduce the risks to humans associated with long journeys in deep space, specifically focusing on neurological and cardiovascular diseases and cancer. Understanding the potential health impact of space travel is a priority for NASA as it develops future plans for maned voyages to Mars and other destinations.Read More: NASA Grant Will Explore Impact of Space Travel on the Brain
Friday, November 6, 2015
Seizure Disorders, Depression Among Issues More Prevalent than in General Population
While the spotlight of autism research generally shines on children, research at the University of Rochester Medical Center shows that adults with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to suffer serious health problems like seizure disorders and depression. The study, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, reveals a need for greater advocacy and awareness to ensure that adults with autism have access to appropriate and effective care.Read More: Study Sheds Light on Health Needs of Adults with Autism
Thursday, November 5, 2015
Scientists have been studying curiosity since the 19th century, but combining techniques from several fields now makes it possible for the first time to study it with full scientific rigor, according to the authors of a new paper.
Benjamin Hayden and Celeste Kidd, researchers in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, are proposing that scientists utilize these techniques to focus on curiosity’s function, evolution, mechanism, and development, rather than on what it is and what it isn't.
Read More: What 'Drives' Curiosity Research?
Curiosity is a long-standing problem that is fascinating, but has been difficult to approach scientifically, said Hayden, an assistant professor and co-author of a
Perspective article published today in Neuron.
Wednesday, November 4, 2015
A new study appearing in the Journal of Neuroinflammation suggests that the brain’s immune system could potentially be harnessed to help clear the amyloid plaques that are a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease.
This research confirms earlier observations that, when activated to fight inflammation, the brain's immune system plays a role in the removal of amyloid beta, said M. Kerry O'Banion, M.D., Ph.D., a professor in the University of Rochester Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy, the Del Monte Neuromedicine Institute, and the lead author of the study.
We have also demonstrated that the immune system can be manipulated in a manner that accelerates this process, potentially pointing to a new therapeutic approach to Alzheimer's disease.
The findings are the culmination of years of investigation that were triggered when O'Banion and his colleagues made a surprising discovery while studying mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. They observed that amyloid beta plaques – which scientists believe play a major role in the disease – were being cleared in animals with chronic brain inflammation.
For more information, visit the URMC NewsroomRead More: Study: Brain's Immune System Could Be Harnessed to Fight Alzheimer's
Friday, October 30, 2015
Most of us at one time or another have counted the seconds between a lightning flash and its thunder to estimate distance. University researcher Duje Tadin and his colleagues have discovered that humans can unconsciously notice and make use of sound delays as short as 40 milliseconds (ms) to fine tune what our eyes see when estimating distances to nearby events.
Much of the world around us is audiovisual, says Tadin, Associate Professor of Brain and Cognitive Sciences and senior author of the study.
Although humans are primarily visual creatures, our research shows that estimating relative distance is more precise when visual cues are supported with corresponding auditory signals. Our brains recognize those signals even when they are separated from visual cues by a time that is too brief to consciously notice.
For the study, published in PLOS ONE, researchers used projected three-dimensional (3D) images to test the human brain's ability to use sound delays to estimate the relative distance of objects.
For the entire story, visit the Univ. Rochester Newscenter.Read More: What We Hear, Even Subconsciously, Fine Tunes Our Sense of Distance
Saturday, October 17, 2015
UR Medicine leaders will today break ground on a new building that will house a state-of-the-art outpatient Imaging Center, as well as the region’s first stand-alone clinic to integrate care of autism with pediatric neuromedicine and child and adolescent psychiatry services.
The 90,000-square-foot, three-story building creates space to relocate outpatient imaging, interventional radiology clinics and autism/neuromedicine/behavioral health pediatric programs from the University of Rochester Medical Center campus to an easily accessible location along East River Road and the I-390 corridor.Read More: UR Medicine Building New Site for Outpatient Imaging, Autism Care
Monday, September 14, 2015
Gluten-free, casein-free diets have become popular complementary treatments for children with autism spectrum disorder, but a rigorous study at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) found that eliminating these foods had no effect on a child’s behavior, sleep, or bowel patterns.
Results of the study, which was the most tightly-controlled research on dietary intervention and autism to date, were published in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders earlier this month.
The study, which followed a group of children between the ages of 2.5 and 5.5 over the course of 30 weeks, strictly implemented the gluten-free, casein-free (GFCF) diet with each child. The foods were then reintroduced as double-blind placebo-controlled challenges, while the children’s attention, activity, sleep patterns, and bowel movements were meticulously recorded. No significant changes were found when the children were given snack foods with gluten, casein, a combination of both, or a placebo.Read More: GFCF Diets Found to be Ineffective for Children with Autism
Tuesday, September 8, 2015
A pair of studies suggests that a region of the brain – called the insular cortex – may hold the key to treating addiction. Scientists have come to this conclusion after finding that smokers who suffered a stroke in the insular cortex were far more likely to quit smoking and experience fewer and less severe withdrawal symptoms than those with strokes in other parts of the brain.
“These findings indicate that the insular cortex may play a central role in addiction,” said Amir Abdolahi Ph.D., M.P.H., lead author of the studies. “When this part of the brain is damaged during stroke, smokers are about twice as likely to stop smoking and their craving and withdrawal symptoms are far less severe.”
Abdolahi is a clinical research scientist at Philips Research North America and conducted the research while an epidemiology doctoral student in Department of Public Health Sciences at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
While smoking rates have remained flat for the last decade, smoking is still responsible for nearly one of every five deaths in the U.S. and smoking places individuals at a significantly higher risk for heart disease, cancer, and stroke.Read More: Brain Damage During Stroke May Point to Source of Addiction
Tuesday, August 11, 2015
You’re in the middle of a conversation with a colleague, and lose your thought halfway through a sentence. You call your children by the dog’s name. (If you name your dog after your first born, you might save yourself some embarrassment!). Your desk is plastered with sticky note reminders. You find yourself asking your significant other,
Honey, can you call my phone? I can’t find it. You wish you could do the same with your keys and wallet.
It’s not in your head: Menopausal memory loss is real.
Read More: Menopause Infographic: Brain Fog
If a woman approaching menopause feels she is having memory problems, no one should brush it off or attribute it to a jam-packed schedule. She can find comfort in knowing that there are new research findings that support her experience. She can view her experience as normal, lead researcher Miriam Weber, Ph.D., said in a statement. Between one-third and two-thirds of women report forgetfulness and other memory difficulties during perimenopause and menopause, according to Weber.
Wednesday, August 5, 2015
Researchers at SUNY Stony Brook and The University of Rochester think so.
Sleeping in the lateral, or side position, as compared to sleeping on one’s back or stomach, may more effectively remove brain waste and prove to be an important practice to help reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other neurological diseases, according to researchers at Stony Brook University.
In the paper, “The Effect of Body Posture on Brain Glymphatic Transport,” Dr. Benveniste and colleagues used a dynamic contrast MRI method along with kinetic modeling to quantify the CSF-ISF exchange rates in anesthetized rodents’ brains in three positions – lateral (side), prone (down), and supine (up).
Dr. Benveniste and first-author Dr. Hedok Lee, Assistant Professor in the Departments of Anesthesiology and Radiology at Stony Brook developed the safe posture positions for the experiments. Their colleagues at the University of Rochester, including Lulu Xie, Rashid Deane and Maiken Nedergaard, PhD, used fluorescence microscopy and radioactive tracers to validate the MRI data and to assess the influence of body posture on the clearance of amyloid from the brains.Read More: Could Your Sleep Position Help Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk?
Thursday, July 23, 2015
Researchers Pinpoint Brain's Audiovisual Processing Center
A new study is helping scientists more precisely understand how the brain stitches together sensory information such as sound and images, insight that could shed new light on conditions such as Autism. The research, which appears in the Journal of Neuroscience, identifies an area of the brain in the frontal lobe responsible for working memory and sensory integration.
Work in our laboratory is aimed at understanding how auditory and visual information are integrated since we know this process is crucial for recognizing objects by sight and sound, communicating effectively, and navigating through our complex world, said Lizabeth Romanski, Ph.D., an associate professor in the University of Rochester Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy and co-author of the study.
Read More: Work of Liz Romanski Recognized by the University Research Community
Our recent study demonstrates that the prefrontal cortex plays an essential role in audiovisual working memory, and when this area is switched off our ability to remember both the auditory and visual cues is impaired, said Bethany Plakke, Ph.D., a postdoctoral fellow in the Romanski lab and co-author of this study.
Monday, July 20, 2015
Infants can use their expectations about the world to rapidly shape their developing brains, researchers have found.
A series of experiments with infants 5 to 7 months old has shown that portions of babies' brains responsible for visual processing respond not just to the presence of visual stimuli, but also to the mere expectation of visual stimuli, according to researchers from the University of Rochester and the University of South Carolina.
That type of complex neural processing was once thought to happen only in adults—not infants—whose brains are still developing important neural connections.
We show that in situations of learning and situations of expectations, babies are in fact able to really quickly use their experience to shift the ways different areas of their brain respond to the environment, said Lauren Emberson, who conducted the study at the University of Rochester's Baby Lab while a research associate with Richard Aslin in the department of brain and cognitive sciences.
For more information, visit the University of Rochester Newscenter.Read More: Babies' expectations may help brain development
Researcher Wins Auditory Neuroscience Award
Tuesday, July 7, 2015
Laurel Carney, a professor of Biomedical Engineering, has been recognized for her work by the premier scientific organization in the field of acoustics. The Acoustical Society of America has awarded Carney the William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience.
It's truly a great honor to receive an award created by Bill and Christine Hartmann, two of my role models, said Carney.
I welcome the challenge to emulate their life of discovery, presentation, publication, service, and education throughout the world.
William and Christine Hartmann established the award with a donation to recognize and honor
research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals. William Hartmann is a physicist, psychoacoustician, and former president of the Acoustical Society of America. His contributions to the field involved pitch perception, signal detection, modulation detection, and the localization of sound.
In her research lab, Carney is working to better understand how the brain translates sounds into patterns of electrical impulses. By studying physiology, human hearing, and computer models, Carney hopes to learn how the brain distinguishes sounds in noisy environments and why even a small degree of hearing loss can lead to major problems. Her ultimate goal is to develop effective strategies to help people who have experienced hearing loss.
Carney earned her M.S. and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. She was an associate professor of biomedical engineering at Boston University and professor of biomedical engineering at Syracuse University before joining the faculty at the University of Rochester in 2007, where she serves as professor in three departments—biomedical engineering, neurobiology and anatomy, and electrical and computer engineering.
For additional information, visit the Rochester Newsroom.
Thursday, July 2, 2015
Ruchira Singh, Ph.D.
University of Rochester Medical Center scientist Ruchira Singh, Ph.D., received a grant from the
Knights Templar Eye Foundation to investigate how neurodegenerative diseases,
such as juvenile Batten disease, cause blindness.
Singh, assistant professor of Ophthalmology and Biomedical Genetics, will use the $60,000
grant to create a human model of Batten disease (CNL3) using patient’s own cells. The project may lead to better understand the disease mechanisms, aiding in the
development of drug therapies to preserve vision in affected patients.
For the complete article, visit the URMC newsroom.Read More: Flaum Eye Institute Scientist Gets Funding to Study Vision Loss in Batten Disease
Mink Receives First Ever Tourette’s Association of America Award
Wednesday, July 1, 2015
Dr. Jonathan Mink
Jonathan Mink, M.D., Ph.D., chief of Child Neurology at Golisano Children’s Hospital, is the first recipient of the Tourette Association of America’s Oliver Sacks Award for Excellence. The award, named for the famous British neurologist, was to be presented at the First World Congress on Tourette Syndrome and Tic Disorders, but due to a scheduling conflict, representatives from TAA instead traveled to Rochester to present him with the award in a surprise ceremony.
The award is in recognition of his many years of leadership, mentorship, research, and care on behalf of all people touched by Tourette syndrome and tic disorders around the world.
Monday, June 22, 2015
Our brains track moving objects by applying one of the algorithms your phone's GPS uses, according to researchers at the University of Rochester.
This same algorithm also explains why we are fooled by several motion-related optical illusions, including the sudden
break of baseball's
Like GPS, our visual ability, although quite impressive, has many limitations, said the study's coauthor, Duje Tadin, associate professor of brain and
cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester.
The new open-access study published in PNAS shows that our brains apply an algorithm, known as a Kalman filter, when tracking
an object's position. This algorithm helps the brain process less than perfect visual signals, such as when objects move to the periphery of our visual field where acuity is low.Read More: Duje Tadin explains how understanding GPS can help you hit a curveball
Laurel Carney Awarded the 2015 William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience
Wednesday, June 10, 2015
Laurel H. Carney has been awarded the William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience by the Acoustical Society of America (ASA).
The award was presented at the 169th meeting of the ASA on 20 May 2015 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
The William and Christine Hartmann Prize in Auditory Neuroscience was established in 2011 through a generous donation by Bill and Chris Hartmann
to the Acoustical Society of America to recognize and honor research that links auditory physiology with auditory perception or behavior in humans or other animals.
The Acoustical Society of America provides an important scientific home for researchers pursuing questions related to sound and hearing. This group has positively
shaped many of our careers, especially by providing access to an incredible group of mentors and role models. Receiving an award created by Bill and Christine Hartmann,
two of my own role models, is truly a great honor. This award presents a challenge for me to emulate their life of discovery, presentation, publication, service,
and education throughout the world, said Carney.
The goal of Dr. Carney's research program is to understand how the brain hears. The initial response of brain cells to sound is a complicated pattern of electrical pulses,
a pattern that is modified and interpreted by millions of cells in many parts of the brain. Studies of physiology, human hearing, and computer models are combined to
understand how this process works in listeners with normal hearing, so that an answer can be found to the question: How is the brain so good at hearing in noisy environments?
Another goal is to understand why only relatively small amounts of hearing loss cause significant problems. Why does background noise (such as that in a busy restaurant)
become so problematic for people with hearing loss? Answers to both of these questions will lead to better strategies for aiding listeners with hearing loss.
Tuesday, June 9, 2015
John J. Foxe, Ph.D., a nationally-regarded scientist in the field of neurobiology, has been named the research director of the DelMonte Neuromedicine Institute (DNI) and the Kilian J. and Caroline F. Schmitt Chair of the Department of Neurobiology and Anatomy at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry.
The University of Rochester has long been home to some of the nation’s most innovative and groundbreaking research in the field of neuroscience and neuromedicine, said Joel Seligman, president of the University of Rochester.
John’s appointment signals our determination to make this field a centerpiece of our progress as a University and Medical Center.
Read More: Foxe Appointed to Head Neuromedicine Research at URMC
I am honored to be taking the helm of the DNI at this incredibly exciting time in modern neuroscience research, said Foxe.
The University of Rochester is already world-renowned for its superb work in this field and we now have the opportunity to build an even stronger presence. Tens of millions of Americans suffer from a major mental illness each year, be it depression or anxiety, a major psychotic disorder, or Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, or addiction. And the list goes on. The National Institutes of Health estimates that only about half of these people ever receive treatment. We can and we must do better. It is only through research that we can develop new effective treatments and I am committed to placing the DNI and the University of Rochester at the very forefront of these efforts.
Thursday, June 4, 2015
Suzanne Haber leads a research team to investigate OCD. She says the disease is characterized by intrusive,
ruminating thoughts (obsessions), and impulses to carry out repetitive behaviors (compulsions), despite the awareness by most patients that these behaviors don't make sense.
The goal of a new $10 million grant awarded to the scientists is to improve our understanding of the brain networks that play a central role in
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).
Together with leading mental health researchers at four other institutions in the U.S., they will pinpoint specific abnormalities within the brain circuits that
are associated with the disease and use this information to guide new treatment options for the three million-plus Americans who live with the disorder.
The five-year grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) establishes a new
Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic and Translational Mental Health Research at the University of Rochester. Conte Centers are designed to bring scientists with diverse
but complimentary backgrounds together to improve the diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders.
Read More: $10 Million Grant Funds Center to Study OCD at UR School of Medicine and Dentistry
Memorial Service Held for Neurologist Richard Satran
Thursday, May 14, 2015
Dr. Richard Satran, M.D.
A memorial service was held Thursday May 7th, at the Rochester Academy of Medicine in honor of neurologist, Dr. Richard Satran who died September 20, 2014 at the age of 86. Please view the video of the service, above.
Dr. Satran was a founding member of the department of Neurology arriving in Rochester in 1962 under the leadership of Paul Garvey. He never left and built his formidable career around patient care, teaching, and the history of neurology. He became Professor Emeritus in 1997.
From the first week I moved to Rochester in 1990 when he was my attending in resident clinic, to the very last discussions we had about health care and teaching, Dr. Satran was always a mentor to me and to many others, said chair of Neurology, Robert G. Holloway, M.D., M.P.H.
He was a neurologist's neurologist and his passion, integrity and approach to neurology lives on in all of us. He was from the biopyschosocial era of the Medical School and was always a fierce advocate for patients and their quality of life - he taught many to always think about the broader context within which a patient’s disease occurs, lessons that are more relevant today than ever, continued Holloway.
Thursday, May 7, 2015
A new $1.7 million grant will bring together a team of researchers to study – an ultimately thwart – the chain reaction that occurs in the body after cardiac arrest that can ultimately lead to brain damage and death.
“While the biological sequence of events is triggered by cardiac arrest, the death and disability associated with this event is the result of a broader systemic injury caused the initial loss of blood flow and subsequent tissue inflammation once blood circulation is restored,” said University of Rochester Medical Center neurologist Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D., the principal investigator of the study. Read More: Understanding the Enemy Within that Causes Brain Damage after Cardiac Arrest
In fact, it is the cumulative effect of this systemic injury on the brain, and not the heart – that ultimately leads to mortality in the disorder.
Investigating Batten Disease
Saturday, May 2, 2015
Dr. Jonathan Mink discusses Batten Disease in a recently published Research Media article.
International Innovation, published by Research Media, is the leading global dissemination resource for the wider scientific, technology and research communities, dedicated to disseminating the latest science, research and technological innovations on a global level.
More information and a complimentary subscription offer to the publication can be found at Research Media's website.
Thursday, April 30, 2015
Drug Developed at School of Medicine and Dentistry Targets Damaging Inflammation in the Brain
NGP faculty members Handy Gelbard M.D., Ph.D. and Stephen Dewhurst Ph.D. have founded Camber NeuroTherapeutics Inc. based on work done in their laboratories. They plan to attack the cognitive component of neurodegenerative diseases using a completely new approach: stopping the inflammation in the brain, so-called neuroinflammation, that impairs the function of nerve cells and the vast networks they create. These neural networks allow us to store and recall memories, plan and prioritize, focus on particular tasks, and process sensory information.
For more information, visit the URMC newsroom.Read More: URMC Start-up Takes Aim at Memory and Cognitive Problems
Friday, April 24, 2015
New research published today in the journal Nature Communications represents a potentially fundamental shift in our understanding of how nerve cells in the brain generate the energy needed to function. The study shows neurons are more independent than previously believed and this research has implications for a range of neurological disorders.
Read More: Study Sheds New Light on Brain’s Source of Power
These findings suggest that we need to rethink the way we look at brain metabolism, said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the University of Rochester Center for Translational Neuromedicine and lead author of the study.
Neurons, and not the brain’s support cells, are the primary consumers of glucose and this consumption appears to correlate with brain activity.
Friday, April 3, 2015
Researchers have identified a new genetic mutation at the heart of a severe and potentially deadly seizure disorder found in infants and young children. The finding, which was reported today in the American Journal of Human Genetics, may help scientists unravel the complex biological mechanism behind these diseases.
These findings allow us to open up what was, up to this point, a black box and more fully understand the biological pathways associated with these disorders and why some individuals do not respond to treatment, said Alex Paciorkowski, M.D., an assistant professor of Neurology at the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC) and lead author of the study.
Once the mutation was identified, the researchers worked with neurobiologists in the lab of Marc Halterman, M.D., Ph.D. in the URMC Center for Neural Development and Disease, and were able to identify the downstream impact of the mutation, namely that it regulated another gene that has been associated with severe seizures called myocyte-specific enhancer factor 2C (MEF2C).Read More: Study Finds New Genetic Clues to Pediatric Seizure Disorders
Friday, February 13, 2015
When University researchers Steven Goldman and Maiken Nedergaard created a mouse model whose brains consisted of both animal neurons and human glia cells, their study initially focused on findings that the human cells essentially made the mice smarter.
However, they also created a powerful new platform for researchers to study human glial cells in experimental animals. And that is providing new insights into Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML).
The study, out today in the journal Cell Stem Cell, suggests that the evolution of a subset of glia called astrocytes – which are larger and more complex in humans than other species – may have been one of the key events that led to the higher cognitive functions that distinguish us from other species.
For more information please visit the URMC Newsroom article.Read More: Mouse Model Helps Researchers Target Deadly Brain Disease
Friday, February 13, 2015
A new study appearing today in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that creatine does not slow the progression of Parkinson’s disease. However, researchers are still committed to pursuing therapies that may help patients manage the symptoms of the disease for a longer period of time.
The study, which was led by Karl Kieburtz, M.D., director of the University of Rochester Clinical and Translational Science Institute, was halted in 2013 when it became apparent that creatine was not providing a benefit to Parkinson’s patients. While the findings are a setback, efforts are ongoing to identify a therapy that may slow the disease’s progress. Most notably STEADY-PD 3, a $23 million Phase 3 clinical trial co-led by the University of Rochester and Northwestern University, is currently underway to evaluate isradipine, a drug currently used to treat high blood pressure.Read More: Neuroprotection for Parkinson’s Remains Elusive
Thursday, February 12, 2015
Monkeys are notoriously curious, and new research has quantified just how eager they are to gain new information, even if there are not immediate benefits. The findings offer insights into how a certain part of the brain shared by monkeys and humans plays a role in decision making, and perhaps even in some disorders and addictions in humans.
The study, by researchers at the University of Rochester and Columbia University, shows that rhesus macaques have such robust curiosity that they are willing to give up a surprisingly large portion of a potential prize in order to quickly find out if they selected the winning option at a game of chance.
“It’s like buying a lottery ticket that you can scratch off and find out if you win immediately, or you can buy one that has a drawing after the evening news,” explained Benjamin Hayden, co-senior author of the study and professor in brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. “Regardless, you won’t get the money any more quickly, or in the case of the monkeys, they won’t get the squirt of water any sooner. They will just find out if they selected the winning option.”
In the study published in Neuron, monkeys were presented with a video gambling task in which they consistently chose to learn in advance if they picked the winning option. The monkeys did not receive their prize any sooner, which was a measure of juice or water; they were simply informed immediately if they selected a winner.
“When it’s simply a choice between getting the information earlier or not, the monkeys show a pretty strong preference for getting it earlier. But what we really wanted to do is quantify this preference,” said first author and lead researcher Tommy Blanchard, a Ph.D. candidate in Hayden’s lab.Read More: Curious monkeys share our thirst for knowledge