Today the world learned that neuroscientist Roger Y. Tsien passed away on August 24, 2016. His life’s work transformed cellular neuroscience.
The Zika virus, which is spread by mosquitoes and causes severe neurodevelopmental defects in infants who become infected by the virus during fetal development, also attacks neural stem cells in the adult brain according to a new study. The research was performed by a team of researchers at Rockefeller University, UC San Diego, and the Sanford Burnham Institute in La Jolla, and published on-line in advance of print yesterday (August 18, 2016) in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
In the eerie science fiction film, Under the Skin, starring Scarlett Johansson as an alien vixen clothed in human skin, roaming the earth in search of single men for nefarious purposes, a turning point comes when she offers a hooded man on a dark road a ride in her vehicle. When the man takes off his hood we see his shockingly disfigured face. It is not make up. The disfigurement is caused by a genetic condition, neurofibromatosis, affecting actor Adam Pearson. Pearson’s brother has the same disorder, but no disfigurement. Instead he suffers memory problems. The film is a head scratcher–in the best possible way–but neurofibromatosis is not. Let’s have a look.
The Brain Mapping Initiative announced by President Barack Obama earlier this year seeks to map and monitor the function of neural connections in the entire brain of experimental animals, and eventually in the human cerebral cortex. Several researchers have raised doubts about the project, cautioning that mapping the brain is a far more complex endeavor than mapping the human genome, and its usefulness more uncertain.
Glia are brain cells that cannot generate electrical impulses. As a consequence glia were thought to have no function in information processing or transmission. In fact glia were communicating with themselves and with neurons all along, but without using electricity. For a century neuroscientists were deaf to glial communication as they passionately studied neurons, because they were using the wrong tools for the job. Probing the brain with electrodes, the way neuroscientists do to understand neuronal communication, is useless to intercept glial communications. What revealed glia communicating was a new technique called calcium imaging, developed in the 1980s and 90s. These videos will allow you to see with your own eyes glia communicating using waves of calcium.
Forget about stomach staples. Treatment for obesity in the future may involve an X-ray beam to the brain. This is what researchers have discovered to keep mice slim, trim, and energetic while gorging on a fatty diet. How it works offers a fascinating new insight into the cellular mechanisms of the brain in a spot where appetite is controlled.
Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me… We all know how untrue that childhood incantation is. Words do hurt. Ridicule, distain, humiliation, taunting, all cause injury, and when it is delivered in childhood from a child’s peers, verbal abuse causes more than emotional trauma. It inflicts lasting physical effects on brain structure.
How can poking needles into the body soothe pain? At an international meeting in Fukuoka, Japan this summer, Professor Geoffrey Burnstock of the University College London presented a new hypothesis, which he discussed with me in the recorded interview I invite you to hear. The meeting was organized by Prof. Kazuhide Inoue, of the Kyushu University, Japan, a leading researcher on glia in chronic pain.