NEUROSCIENCE 

AND

BIOPSYCHOLOGY

'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.

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'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. 

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'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.

Siblings

'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.

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'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.

DOI:10.1038/s41467-021-21821-0

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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

Click image to read article - UCL

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".

DNA

'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'

UCL 

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

https://doi.org/10.1016/j.heliyon.2020.e05124

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3 November 2020

Headache

'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

'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. 

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'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.

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'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.

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'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.

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

University of Toronto - Waqas Ullah Khan et al.

DOI: 10.1093/schbul/sbaa093

Click image to read article - University of Toronto

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

Click image to read article - University of Cambridge

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.

Eye

'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

Click image to read article - University of Cambridge

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.

Molecules

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

University of Toronto

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41591-020-1103-1

Click image to read article - UoT

15 December 2020

Abstract Paint

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

UCL and Birkbeck, University of London

https://doi.org/10.1038/s41531-020-00135-w

Click image to read article - UCL

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

Click image to read article - University of Cambridge

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

Click image to read article - University of Cambridge

26 October 2020

 Young Woman Contemplating

'How depression impacts our brain as we age'

UCL-led research

https://doi.org/10.1192/bjp.2020.123

Click image to read article - UCL

15 July 2020

Brain Sketch