'Pioneering trial of MDMA treatment hopes to help veterans with PTSD'

KCL- Rucker

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11 April 2022 

With previous research in the United States suggesting the effectiveness of prescribing MDMA for conventional PTSD treatments, researchers are planning to replicate the findings in five military veterans experiencing PTSD. While the effectiveness of conventional treatments is limited by the difficulties in overcoming traumatic experiences by the patients, MDMA enhances the treatment by reducing the overwhelming feelings of revisiting such experiences.


'Little understood brain region linked to how we perceive pain'

University of Oxford- Atilgan et al.

DOI: 10.1093/brain/awac114

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28 March 2022 

A recent review of claustrum lesion studies has detected potential associations between claustral lesions and changes in human cognitive, perceptual and motor abilities; electrical activity; mental state; and sleep. The study addressed the limited understanding of the role of the claustrum and called for further research in this field. Moreover, it was the first time that the link between claustrum and vulnerability to pain perception was uncovered.  


'Analysis of Brain Scans Reveals Differences in Brains of Boys and Girls with Autism Spectrum Disorder'

Stanford University- Supekar et al.

DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2022.13

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10 March 2022 

Despite that autistic males were four times the number of autistic females, the neurobiological basis of such gender differences is poorly understood. A recent neuroimaging study at Stanford University has observed structural differences in brain organisation that might account for the gender differences in clinical symptoms of autism spectrum disorder (ASD). Gender differences were detected in brain structures associated with motor, language and visuospatial attentional functions. Crucially, features of the primary motor cortex node were found predictive of the severity of restricted/repetitive behaviour in females while not in males with ASD.


'Blood Markers Can Predict Depression in Pregnancy'

Van Andel Research Institute- Brundin et al

DOI: 10.1038/s41398-022-01801-8

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26 January 2022 

Since depression affects up to 20% of pregnant women, researchers explored the biological underpinnings of this. Scientists analyzed the blood samples of women in each trimester, as well as postpartum, to find out whether cytokines and kynurenine metabolites can predict the development of depression in pregnancy. What they found was that cytokine and kynurenine metabolites in the second trimester had a >99% probability of accurately predicting 3rd-trimester depression. 


'Keeping the Aging Brain Connected With Words and Music'

Duke University- Andrews et al.

DOI: 10.3390/brainsci11010067

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29 December 2021 

When normal ageing leads to a decline in white matter integrity across the brain, lifestyle changes could be made beyond a healthy diet and exercise. It was recently discovered that complex sensory-motor activities that require high levels of cognitive functions could have a robust effect to slow down or even reverse the loss of white matter integrity. Scanning the brains of eight different musicians aged from 20 to 67 years old, the team suggested that highly skilled musicianship can increase cognitive brain reserve as one age. Acquiring a new language and picking up an instrument, therefore, should not be a pursuit merely restricted to young people. 


'An Element of Surprise Is the Recipe for Creating False Memories'

Duke University- Sinclair et al.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2117625118

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19 December 2021 

This study demonstrates that surprise could be a critical element to influence memory by asking participants to watch and memorise details of a series of videos. According to the researcher, surprise engages the whole brain and activates some neuromodulatory systems. Consequently, people would have a much stronger memory for an event where a surprise occurs. The finding helps to reinforce learners' memory better by strategies such as letting learners make predictions and providing surprising feedback.


'Hearing problems associated with adverse mental health outcomes in the UK Armed Forces'

KCL- Parker et al.

DOI: 10.1007/s00127-021-02169-8

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15 November 2021 

The research demonstrated a strong association between problems with hearing and higher levels of mental disorders. Meanwhile, people with hearing problems reported a higher level of alcohol misuse, which might be attributed to the maladaptive coping strategy of misusing alcohol. The research highlights the need for precautionary treatment to enhance the mental health of people with auditory difficulties. 


'Large-scale genetic study reveals new clues for the shared origins of irritable bowel syndrome and mental health disorders'

University of Cambridge- Eijsbouts et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41588-021-00950-8

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5 November 2021 

Researchers found an overlap of genetic make-up for the risk of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) as well as mood and anxiety disorders (e.g. depression). Although these two conditions do not have a causal relationship, the shared genes might lead to physical changes in brain or nerve cells, resulting in syndromes in the gut and the brain. Additionally, the intake of antibiotics during childhood is also a predictor of increased risk of IBS and mood disorders. Future research on disordered brain-gut interactions is recommended. 


'Brain monitoring suggests common link between electrical tremors and mental health disorders'

KCL- Gráinne McLoughlin et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2021.08.020

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28 October 2021 

The researchers recently reviewed EEG studies that measured brief electrical tremors — the naturally occurring electrical vibrations in the brain, known as ‘theta activity’. Results revealed that the theta activity in the brains of people with conditions like anxiety, OCD, and ADHD when performing mistakes or experiencing challenging situations is different from that of those without disorders. This indicates in the behavioural level that anxious individuals may react slower to alter their cognitive behaviour when new information occurs, which may be a result of the long-term imbalanced theta activity in their brain that make them overly focused to react immediately to environmental stimuli. 


'Brain circuits that inhibit fear instinct identified'

UCL- Fratzl et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1016/j.neuron.2021.09.003

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05 October 2021 

Scientists have identified a new inhibitory structure in the brain, namely the ventral lateral geniculate nucleus (vLGN). In an experiment where mice escaped in response to a predator-shaped shadow, it was indicated that when mice felt unthreatened, the activity of inhibitory neurons in the vLGN was high, which consequently contained their threat reactions. It was therefore concluded that vLGN could regulate animals' sensitivity to the perceived danger depending on their knowledge constructed on the previous experience. 

Transgenic Animals

'A parent’s genes can influence a child’s educational success, inherited or not'

UCL - Biyao Wang et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ajhg.2021.07.010

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20 August 2021 

While each parents only pass on half of their genes to their child, researchers have revealed an indirect impact of the unpassed genes on the educational outcomes of the child (i.e., genetic nurture). Furthermore, the findings have suggested equal importance among the parents in the forming of learning environment for their child.

Family at Home

'New dietary treatment for epilepsy well tolerated and reduced seizures'

UCL - Schoeler, Natasha E. et al.

DOI: 10.1093/braincomms/fcab160

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23 June 2021 

Researchers have designed a diet with high-fat, low-carbohydrate and sufficient protein consumption for both children and adults suffering from epilepsy. By gradual trialing, they have recorded significant effect in reducing seizures and supressed side effects. While the researchers attributed the effectiveness of such a diet to its resemblance to fasting, others have suggested the effect of high-fat consumption.

Nutritional Cooking

'Abnormalities in how the brain reorganises prior experiences identified in schizophrenia'

UCL - Matthew M.Nour et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2021.06.012

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30 June 2021 

A recent MEG study discovered that the impoverished expression of neural activity in the memory consolidation process might directly be linked to the behavioural deficit in an inference-making task of schizophrenia patients in the post-rest period of the experiment. This finding was found to solve a lot of mysteries about schizophrenia and might contribute to earlier detection of the disorder.


'High caffeine consumption may be linked to increased glaucoma risk'

UCL - Jihye Kim et al.

DOI: 10.1016/j.ophtha.2020.12.009

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8 June 2021 

The study analyzed the caffeine intake and DNA samples of 120,000 adults aged 39 to 73. The results suggested that high caffeine intake is associated with greater chance of glaucoma (i.e., excess pressure within the eyeball), as measured in IOP.


'New insight into protein production in brain could help tackle dementia'

UCL - Roberto Simone et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-03556-6

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13 May 2021 

Researchers, for the first time, found the a layer of genetic material associated with the control of tau production, which is a critical protein in the development of degenerative disorders, such as  the Parkinson's and Alzheimer's disease.


'Improving the lives of patients with schizophrenia by managing anticholinergic burden'

University of Toronto - Waqas Ullah Khan et al.

DOI: 10.1093/schbul/sbaa093

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23 March 2021

Drugs administered to treat schizophrenia is found to have side-effects on the memory and cognitive abilities of patients aged 55 or above. This may rather harm the livelihood of the patients. Therefore, doctors should manage the dosage of the medication wisely and maybe apply cognitive trainings to reduce the side-effects of the drugs.

Image by Adam Nieścioruk

'Artificial ‘brain’ reveals why we can’t always believe our eyes'

University of Cambridge & Reuben Rideaux, Andrew E. Welchman

DOI: 10.1167/jov.20.11.275

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25 February 2021

The artificial system namely the MotionNet allows the simulation of the neural network responsible for motion processing in the human brain. It does not only model visual illusions (e.g. reverse-phi motion) that are found already, but provide further insights about the underlying mechanisms.


'High insulin levels during childhood a risk for mental health problems later in life, study suggests'

University of Cambridge

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20191-3

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13 January 2021

A strong positive relationship between insulin levels from mid-childhood and risk of developing psychosis in adulthood is found. This has cast light onto the physical predictors of the onset of mental health problems. Further research is required to strengthen such link.


'Understanding how a key mutation influences the development of schizophrenia'

University of Toronto

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15 December 2020

Abstract Paint

'New app to monitor Parkinson’s progression at home'

UCL and Birkbeck, University of London

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18 December 2020

On the Phone

'Scientists have used gene therapy to regenerate damaged nerve fibres in the eye'

University of Cambridge -led research

https://doi: 10.1038/s41467-020-19436-y

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05 November 2020

Blue Eyes

'Marmoset study finds single brain region linking depression and anxiety, heart disease, and people’s sensitivity to treatment'

University of Cambridge -led research

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-19167-0

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26 October 2020

 Young Woman Contemplating

'How depression impacts our brain as we age'

UCL-led research

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15 July 2020

Brain Sketch

'Brain charts map the rapid growth and slow decline of the human brain over our lifetime'

KCL- Edwards & Hajnal

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06 April 2022 

By collecting brain scans from individuals of different ages, researchers from the Developing Human Connectome Project (dHCP) have found evidence supporting the hypothesis regarding the milestones of brain development. In general, brain scans across time have shown that the human brain develops rapidly from mid-gestation to adolescence and shrinks gradually as people reach 50 years old.


'In Hippocampus, Protein's Malfunction Is Potential Link to Memory and Other Impairments Seen in Schizophrenia'

University of Southern California- Kay et al.

DOI: 10.1192/bjp.2022.13

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17 March 2022 

A recent study with rodents has demonstrated the role of a defective protein — synapse-associated protein 97 (SAP97)— in the development of schizophrenia. The study focused on how SAP97 affects the function of the dentate gyrus, which serves as the gateway for information entering the hippocampus, a critical region associated with learning and memory formation. The dentate gyrus was also associated with the formation of episodic memory —  a recollection of life experience, a function that is often altered in individuals with schizophrenia. In short, the current study found that the damage on SAP97 contributes to the dysfunctions in synaptic mechanisms involving the dentate gyrus and hence helps generate some schizophrenia symptoms.


'Multispecies probiotic administration reduces emotional salience and improves mood in subjects with moderate depression'

University of Cambridge- Brundin et al

DOI: 10.1017/S003329172100550X

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07 February 2022 

The study investigates the influence of probiotics on emotional salience and mood. Researchers conducted a randomised double-blind placebo-controlled experiment with the experimental group having to take multispecies probiotic supplements. Results show that the probiotic group had increased accuracy in identifying neutral emotions, suggesting reduced attention on negative emotions. While the study provides insights into how probiotics could be used to treat depressive symptoms, the underlying mechanism behind its effectiveness is not made clear yet, suggesting a need for more research for probiotics to be implemented as a treatment for mood disorders.


'Everything We See is a Mash-Up of the Brain’s Last 15 Seconds of Visual Information'

University of Aberdeen & University of California- Manassi & Whitney

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abk2480

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26 January 2022 

Fascinated by the ability of the brain to perceive a consistently stable environment, in spite of changes in light, viewpoint, and other factors, scientists explored how the brain creates this illusion of visual stability. Researchers proposed that thanks to an underlying active mechanism of serial dependence, an object’s representation is continuously merged over time, resulting in the illusion of stability, in which object appearance is captured by past visual experience up to 15 seconds ago. Therefore, the visual system often sacrifices accuracy in favour of a smoother visual experience. 


'Is Energy the Key to Alzheimer’s Disease?'

University of Adelaide- Barthelson et al.

DOI: 10.1242/dmm.049187

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27 December 2021 

Given that the effects of different mutations in different genes on brain cell function differ, researchers recently discovered that Alzheimer’s disease mutations affect a crucial cell function supporting all other functions, which is the use of oxygen within cells to produce energy. The finding might be useful for scientists to develop future precautions against Alzheimer’s disease and reduce the cost it brings to the ageing population and society as a whole. 


'For the brain, context is key to new theory of movement and memory'

University of Cambridge- Heald et al.

DOI: 10.1038/s41586-021-04129-3

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24 November 2021 

A newly identified model known as the Contextual Inference (COIN) model suggested a mechanism in the brain that constantly decodes the current context. This may help humans master new skills without degrading the peripherical memory (e.g. motor movement memory). Compared to Artificial Intelligence (AI), the human brain is able to spontaneously adjust to the new context and build a new memory based on the current context.


'Six years of memory decline seen in anxious, depressed older people during pandemic'

KCL- Aarsland

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9 November 2021 

Researchers discovered that among people aged over 50, those who were particularly uneasy about the Covid-19 pandemic would experience a decline in short-term memory (analogous to six years of natural ageing). Depression and anxiety are the main attributes of such a deterioration. The findings serve as a basis of the ways to best protect the brain and mental health. 


'Scientists identify the cause of Alzheimer’s progression in the brain'

University of Cambridge- Meisl et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abh1448

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29 October 2021 

First time using the human data instead of animal models, researchers discovered that in Alzheimer’s disease, aggregates that cause brain cells to shrink and die already exist in multiple regions of the brain at the early stage. This is opposite to the previous thinking that they form at one single region and start spreading at the later stage. Therefore, it was concluded that constraining the "replication" of aggregates instead of their "propagation" is more effective to slow down the progression of the disease.


'Potential cognitive benefits of major Alzheimer’s risk gene'

UCL- Lu et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1038/s43587-021-00117-4

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07 October 2021 

The research discovered that APOE4, the gene that is associated with heightened risk of Alzheimer’s disease, is also found to be linked with some cognitive benefits such as better visual working memory. In the study where 398 participants were asked to recall the identities and locations of given objects, APOE4 carriers demonstrated better recalling ability. This research provides insights into the role of genes in the development of the Alzheimer’s and a better understanding of these risk genes. 


'Sibling brain structure differences make some more susceptible to severe antisocial behaviour'

University of Bath - Fairchild et al., 2021

DOI: 10.1017/S0033291721003202

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05 October 2021 

Researchers have long been interested in the question on why siblings sharing highly similar upbringing and genetic makeup might differ so significantly in terms of their behaviour: how do some people with a family history of conduct disorder (repetitive patterns of aggressive and antisocial behaviour) successfully abstain from it, not as their affected sibling? The current research surprisingly found through fMRI image comparison structural changes that are group-specific. That is, the structural changes in brain areas  responsible for empathy and cognitive control/ inhibiting behaviour are specific to the conduct disorder group while the non-affected siblings group were found with group-specific changes in brain regions involved in planning and decision making, providing a plausible explanation to the puzzle.


'Mindfulness may improve cognition in older adults'

UCL - Tim Whitfield

DOI: 10.1007/s11065-021-09519-y

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20 August 2021 

A meta-analysis was conducted on the previous research about the effects of mindfulness (e.g. sitting meditation) on individual's cognition, suggesting a small but significant benefit to the working memory among older adults over 60. Nevertheless, further research is needed to rule out confounds such as expectation of treatment benefits or social interactions.

Morning Meditation

'Professional rugby may be associated with changes in brain structure'

UCL - Zimmerman, Karl A. et al.

DOI: 10.1093/braincomms/fcab133

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22 June 2021 

Comparing the white matter volumes between rugby players, athletes in non-collision sports and non-athletes, researchers have revealed an abnormal white matter distribution among the rugby players, despite finding no significant difference between their memory test performance. Nevertheless, such a result casts concern about the long-term health effects of rugby.

Rugby Game

'Opinion: Covid linked to loss of brain tissue, but correlation doesn’t prove causation'

UCL - Francois Balloux

DOI: 10.1101/2021.06.11.21258690

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29 June 2021 

Reviewing the literature on the consequences of Covid, Professor Francois Balloux suggests that the virus does not only inflict damage to the respiratory system but the brain, as neuroimaging studies reveal a significant correlation between brain region sizes and physiological symptoms of patients. Nevertheless, further studies are needed to confirm such results as the statistical significance of the results are mostly marginal.

Analyzing Scans

'Neurological symptoms like fatigue common in mild Covid'

UCL - Jonathan P. Rogers et al.

DOI: 10.1136/jnnp-2021-326405

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4 June 2021 

Researchers have conducted a systematical review on 215 papers about the physical and psychological symptoms exerpienced by Covid patients. The results suggested that those experiencing mild Covid may suffer from neurological symptoms such as fatigue, loss of small and taste. Such may be moderated by psychological factors such as stress and anxiety.


'Researchers call for greater awareness of unintended consequences of CRISPR gene editing'

Univeristy of Cambridge - Gregorio Alanis-Lobato et al.

DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2004832117

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12 April 2021 

The researchers have revealed a lack in power of the conventional method in checking genetic mutations for CRISPR-Cas9 genome editing, which is a common research tool for editing sections of DNA in calls. While most of the CRISPR-Cas9-induced mutations were limited, around 16% of the samples contained large unintended mutations which may lead to severe consequences such as cancer. This calls for a more sensitive and accurate genome editing and monitoring for genetic studies on embryos. 

DNA Strand

'Can viruses hijack their hosts' circadian rhythms?'

University of Oxford - Xiaodong Zhuang et al.


Click image to read article - University of Oxford

26 March 2021

The "circadian clock" regulates bodily processes (via hormone secretion) in a 24-hour cycle. Researchers have found a close relationship between the oxygen sensing system used by this "clock" and the viral replication pathways for Hepatitis B virus (HBV). This raises concerns on the effect of the "circadian clock" on the infection of other viruses.

Image by CDC

'Video of ‘dancing DNA’ developed by researchers'

University College London & Alice Pyne, Bart Hoogenboom
DOI: 10.1038/nmeth.4455

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24 February 2021

With stresses and strains placed on DNA, scientists are now able to observe these protein molecules in motion rather than just static photographs. The technique allowed researchers to examine every single atom in the DNA as if they are "dancing".


'Breakthrough disease mechanism behind Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS) uncovered'

King’s College London

DOI: 10.1038/s41467-020-20191-3

Click image to read article - KCL

11 December 2020

Black Puzzle Pieces

'A new app explores the link between brain development and mental health'


Click image to read article - UCL

17 December 2020

Smart Phone

'Researchers show how to target a 'shape-shifting' protein in Alzheimer’s disease'

University of Cambridge -led research

https://doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abb5924

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04 November 2020

Modern Senior Woman

'Earwax sampling could measure stress hormone'

Researchers at UCL and KCL

Click image to read article - UCL

3 November 2020


'Raised blood pressure and diabetes alter brain structure to slow thinking speed and memory'

Neuroscientist University of Oxford

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7 September 2020

Blood pressure reader