April 12, 2011

Using light to probe the brain’s self-repair after a stroke

Anne McIlroy of The Globe and Mail has written a nice article on how researchers are using optogenetics to study how the brain repairs itself after a stroke.

Click here to read the article.

Click here for videos on optogenetics.

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March 3, 2011

Interactive Video: Progression of Alzheimer’s in the Brain

Click here for an interactive video showing the progression of Alzheimer’s in the brain from the Globe and Mail.

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March 5, 2008

Gene variants may increase risk of anxiety disorders

anx.jpegFrom physorg: Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) researchers – in collaboration with scientists at the University of California at San Diego and Yale University – have discovered perhaps the strongest evidence yet linking variation in a particular gene with anxiety-related traits. In the March issue of Archives of General Psychiatry, the team describes finding that particular versions of a gene that affects the activity of important neurotransmitter receptors were more common in both children and adults assessed as being inhibited or introverted and also were associated with increased activity of brain regions involved in emotional processing.

“We found that variations in this gene were associated with shy, inhibited behavior in children, introverted personality in adults and the reactivity of brain regions involved in processing fear and anxiety,” says Jordan Smoller, MD, ScD, of the MGH Department of Psychiatry, the report’s lead author. “Each of these traits appears to be a risk factor for social anxiety disorder, the most common type of anxiety disorder in the U.S.”

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February 20, 2007

Biological Psychiatry — Special issue on autism

autist.gifThe journal Biological Psychiatry has a special issue on the autism spectrum, its diagnosis and treatment.

It is a comprehensive yet diverse collection of multidisciplinary treatment of the issue, containing articles onautism and phenotypic homogeneity; cortical layering and thickness; cortical dysfunction; executive function and gaze fixation.

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December 29, 2006

Genetic Mechanism Helps Explain Chronic Pain Disorders

genetics,pain,perception — thomasr @ 7:09 am

painbrain.jpegResearchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have discovered that commonly occurring variations of a gene trigger a domino effect in chronic pain disorders. The finding might lead to more effective treatments for temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJD) and other chronic pain conditions.

Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT), an enzyme that metabolizes neurotransmitters such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine and that has been implicated in the modulation of persistent pain, as well as cognition and mood, is regulated by a gene, also called COMT. Previous UNC-led research showed that common genetic variants of this gene are associated with increased pain sensitivity and the likelihood of developing TMJD.

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December 17, 2006

The mutation that takes away pain

genetics,pain,perception — thomasr @ 4:34 pm

headache.jpgImagine being unable to feel any pain at all. For a tiny handful of people, that is the reality — and medical researchers have now pinpointed the mutation that removes their ability to perceive painful sensations.The study began when doctors in northern Pakistan examined a remarkable group of related families in which several individuals seem entirely unaffected by pain. Their attention was first attracted by one member of the clan, a locally famous boy who performed street theatre involving walking on burning coals and stabbing his arms with knives.Although it sounds like a party trick, the condition is devastating, as sufferers don’t learn to know their limits. The street-performing boy killed himself on his fourteenth birthday after jumping off a house roof. The researchers studied six of his relatives, aged between 4 and 14 years. All had suffered many cuts and bruises, and injuries to lips and tongue caused by biting themselves; several had fractured bones without noticing.

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November 16, 2006

Neanderthal genotyping spurs novel scientific field

neanderthal1.jpgThe reality of a complete Neanderthal genome draws near, as two papers report the sequencing of large amounts of Neanderthal DNA. The results help answer some central questions on human evolution. This novel trend in gene research opens up a new research field that by some is called “ancient genomics”. The question is, when will we see a gene sequencing of Homo Erectus or Homo Habilis.

Nature.com (requires subscription) Full Text | PDF | Editor’s summary

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October 4, 2006

Genetics of emotional regulation

amygdala1.jpg The second most read article in TICS (see previous headline) is a review (PDF) of studies from imaging genetics, the study of how genes make up our minds, as we have described here at SCR. Ahmad Hariri and Andrew Holmes reviews the evidence and discusses the implications of the genetic regulation of serotonin function on both brain function and behaviour in emotions.

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March 24, 2006

Aggression gene and impulse control

genetics — thomasr @ 2:05 pm

A version of a gene previously linked to impulsive violence appears to weaken brain circuits that regulate impulses, emotional memory and thinking in humans, researchers at the National Institutes of Health’s (NIH) National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) have found. Brain scans revealed that people with this version — especially males — tended to have relatively smaller emotion-related brain structures, a hyperactive alarm center and under-active impulse control circuitry. The study identifies neural mechanisms by which this gene likely contributes to risk for violent and impulsive behavior through effects on the developing brain.

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