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The stars in the brain may be information regulators
Friday, March 31, 2023
URMC researcher, Nathan A. Smith,MS, PhD, explores how astrocytes may be a key player in the brain’s ability to process external and internal information simultaneously. He argues research on these cells is necessary to understand their role in the process that allows a person to have an appropriate behavioral response and also the ability to create a relevant memory to guide future behavior.
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Iron & the brain: Where and when neurodevelopmental disabilities may begin during pregnancy
Monday, March 6, 2023
Study finds possible cellular origin for impairments associated with gestational iron deficiency
The cells that make up the human brain begin developing long before the physical shape of the brain has formed. This early organizing of a network of cells plays a major role in brain health throughout the course of a lifetime. Numerous studies have found that mothers with low iron levels during pregnancy have a higher risk of giving birth to a child that develops cognitive impairments like autism, attention deficit syndrome, and learning disabilities. However, iron deficiency is still prevalent in pregnant mothers and young children.
The mechanisms by which gestational iron deficiency (GID) contributes to cognitive impairment are not fully understood. The laboratory of Margot Mayer- Proschel, PhD, a professor of Biomedical Genetics and Neuroscience at the University of Rochester Medical Center, was the first to demonstrated that the brains of animals born to iron-deficient mice react abnormally to excitatory brain stimuli, and that iron supplements giving at birth does not restore functional impairment that appears later in life. Most recently, her lab has made a significant progress in the quest to find the cellular origin of the impairment and have identified a new embryonic neuronal progenitor cell target for GID. This study was recently published in the journal Development.
“We are very excited by this finding,” Mayer-Proschel said, who was awarded a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Child Health & Human Development in 2018 to do this work. “This could connect gestational iron deficiency to these very complex disorders. Understanding that connection could lead to changes to healthcare recommendations and potential targets for future therapies.”
Read More: Iron & the brain: Where and when neurodevelopmental disabilities may begin during pregnancy
Through the eye of the beholder: People with autism may process illusory shapes differently
Tuesday, February 28, 2023
Researchers are finding the process in our brain that allows us to see these visual distinctions may not be happening the same way in the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder. They may be seeing these illusions differently.
There is this picture – you may have seen it. It is black and white and has two silhouettes facing one another. Or maybe you see the black vase with a white background. But now, you likely see both.
It is an example of a visual illusion that reminds us to consider what we did not see at first glance, what we may not be able to see, or what our experience has taught us to know – there is always more to the picture or maybe even a different image to consider altogether. Researchers are finding the process in our brain that allows us to see these visual distinctions may not be happening the same way in the brains of children with autism spectrum disorder. They may be seeing these illusions differently.
“How our brain puts together pieces of an object or visual scene is important in helping us interact with our environments,” said Emily Knight, MD, PhD, assistant professor of Neuroscience and Pediatrics at the University of Rochester Medical Center, and first author on a study out today in the Journal of Neuroscience. “When we view an object or picture, our brains use processes that consider our experience and contextual information to help anticipate sensory inputs, address ambiguity, and fill in the missing information.”
Small, involuntary eye movements help us see a stable world
Thursday, February 23, 2023
Our eyes are never at rest. Instead, they remain in motion, even between our voluntary gaze shifts, through fixational eye movements—small, continuous movements of the eye that we are not aware of making.
Scientists have long sought to understand how we humans can perceive the world as stable as our eyes are constantly moving. Past research has suggested that, in the intervals between voluntary gaze shifts, the human visual system builds a picture of a stable world by relying solely on sensory inputs from fixational eye movements. According to new research by a team at Rochester, however, there may be another contributing factor.
In a paper published in Nature Communications, the researchers—including Michele Rucci, a professor of brain and cognitive sciences and, and first author Zhetuo Zhao, a PhD student in Rucci’s lab—report that the visual system not only receives sensory inputs from fixational eye movements but also possesses knowledge of the motor behavior involved in those movements.
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Can hearing loss be reversed? Research in Patricia White's lab reveals clues that could regrow the cells that help us hear
Monday, February 13, 2023
Taking a bite of an apple is considered a healthy choice. But have you ever thought about putting in earplugs before your favorite band takes the stage?
Just like your future body will thank you for the apple, your future ears (specifically your cochlear hair cells) will thank you for protecting them. The most common cause of hearing loss is progressive because these hair cells—the primary cells to detect sound waves—cannot regenerate if damaged or lost. People who have repeated exposure to loud noises, like military personnel, construction workers, and musicians, are most at risk for this type of hearing loss. But, it can happen to anyone over time (even concert goers).
On the other hand, birds and fish can regenerate these hair cells, and now researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience are getting closer to identifying the mechanisms that may promote this type of regeneration in mammals, as explained in research recently published in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience.
“We know from our previous work that expression of an active growth gene, called ERBB2, was able to activate the growth of new hair cells (in mammals), but we didn’t fully understand why,” said Patricia White, PhD, professor of Neuroscience and Otolaryngology at the University of Rochester Medical Center. The 2018 study led by Jingyuan Zhang, PhD, a postdoctoral fellow in the White lab at the time, found that activating the growth gene ERBB2 pathway triggered a cascading series of cellular events by which cochlear support cells began to multiply and activate other neighboring stem cells to become new sensory hair cells.
Read More: Can hearing loss be reversed? Research in Patricia White's lab reveals clues that could regrow the cells that help us hear
Researchers identify neurons that "learn" to smell a threat
Tuesday, January 24, 2023
Whether conscious of it or not, when entering a new space, we use our sense of smell to assess whether it is safe or a threat. In fact, for much of the animal kingdom, this ability is necessary for survival and reproduction. Researchers at the Del Monte Institute for Neuroscience at the University of Rochester are finding new clues to how the olfactory sensory system aids in threat assessment and have found neurons that “learn” if a smell is a threat.
Julian Meeks, PhD
“We are trying to understand how animals interact with smell and how that influences their behavior in threatening social and non-social contexts,” said Julian Meeks, PhD, principal investigator of the Chemosensation and Social Learning Laboratory. “Our recent research gives us valuable tools to use in our future work and connects specific sets of neurons in our olfactory system to the memory of threatening smells.”
Read More: Researchers identify neurons that "learn" to smell a threat
Kerry O'Banion speaks with Medical News Today
Wednesday, January 18, 2023
Gut-brain connection: 3 fatty acids may be linked to tau-mediated damage
As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease (AD) continues to increase, the search for ways to treat and prevent it is ever more pressing. Newly licensed treatments, such as aducanumab and lecanemab, that clear beta-amyloidTrusted Source from the brain are a positive development, but they are expensive and controversial.
Many researchers are now focusing on other areas, one of which is the effect of the microbiomeTrusted Source — microbes, particularly bacteria, that inhabit the gut — on neurodegenerative disorders.
. "There is growing recognition of a gut-brain axis and evidence that the microbiome of individuals varies with disease status," said O'Banion. "The biggest issue is understanding whether gut changes are due to disease or contribute to disease (or both)."
Read More: Kerry O'Banion speaks with Medical News Today