Health and Medical News and Resources

General interest items edited by Janice Flahiff

[Reblog] How poverty shapes the brain

From the 30 March 2015 ScienceBlog post

Family income is associated with children’s brain structure, reports a new study in Nature Neuroscience coauthored by Teachers College faculty member Kimberly Noble. The association appears to be strongest among children from lower-income families.

“We can’t say if the brain and cognitive differences we observed are causally linked to income disparities,” said Noble, who currently is both a TC Visiting Professor and Director of the Neurocognition, Early Experience and Development Lab of Columbia University Medical Center, but will join TC’s faculty as Associate professor of Neuroscience and Education in July in the Department of Biobehavioral Sciences. “But if so, policies that target poorest families would have the largest impact on brain development.”

The results do not imply that a child’s future cognitive or brain development is predetermined by socioeconomic circumstances, the researchers said.
Read more at http://scienceblog.com/77532/how-poverty-shapes-the-brain/#FpSAIVrhPFfM4hGJ.99

March 31, 2015 Posted by | Public Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

[Press Release] New evidence on the biological basis of highly impulsive and aggressive behaviors

This raises an interesting question, if those convicted of crimes should not be punished due to their biology, should they just be set free? Or should they be required to undergo therapy/treatments that might not be evidence-based? Or are other alternatives available?

 

From the 10 November 2013 Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience press release as reported by EurkAlert

For want of a receptor: Some behaviors shaped during early development

SAN DIEGO — Physical and chemical changes in the brain during development can potentially play a role in some delinquent and deviant behaviors, according to research released today. Studies looking at the underlying mechanisms that influence our ability to exercise self-control were presented at Neuroscience 2013, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

Understanding the impact of changes in specific prefrontal regions during brain development could lead to new treatments and earlier interventions for disorders in which impulsivity plays a key factor. The research may have implications for understanding and dealing with aggressive and troublesome behaviors.

Today’s new findings show that:

  • The absence of serotonin receptors during early development leads to highly aggressive and impulsive behaviors in mice. Impulsivity, but not aggression, returns to normal levels by reintroducing the receptors (Katherine Nautiyal, PhD, abstract 754.07, see attached summary).
  • Adolescents react more impulsively to danger than adults or children, and the prefrontal cortex works harder to exert control over impulsive responses to threatening cues (Kristina Caudle, PhD, abstract 852.14, see attached summary).

Other recent findings discussed show that:

  • Weak control of the brain’s prefrontal cortex (which monitors personality, decision-making, and self-restraint) over regions associated with reward and motivation could explain the lack of self-control experienced by anti-social individuals (Joshua Buckholtz, PhD, presentation 194.01, see attached speaker summary).
  • Criminal defendants increasingly use brain science to explain their actions, pointing to brain scans and the scientific literature for evidence that brain impairments affect behavior. This is impacting how the legal system assigns responsibility and punishment for criminal wrongdoing in the United States (Nita Farahany, JD, PhD, presentation 301, see attached speaker summary).

“Our deeper understanding of the origins of delinquent behavior can be a double-edged sword,” said press conference moderator BJ Casey, PhD, of Weill Cornell Medical College, an expert in attention, behavior, and related brain disorders. “While we’re making tremendous gains in neuroscience that should lead to improved treatments, our biological insights also have implications for criminal cases and the judicial process that we need to understand.”

###

This research was supported by national funding agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, as well as private and philanthropic organizations. More information about behavior and the brain can be found at BrainFacts.org.

 

November 11, 2013 Posted by | Psychiatry | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Charting the Chemical Choreography of Brain Development

Diagram of the various parts of the brain of a...

Diagram of the various parts of the brain of a six-week old embryo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

 

 

 

 

From the 27 August 2013 Director’s blog item (National Institutes of Health)

 

Once in a while a research publication reveals an entirely new perspective on a fundamental issue in biology or medicine. Today’s blog is about such a paper. The story, though complex, is very significant.

The choreography of human brain development is amazing, but quite mysterious. Today’s post highlights a study [1] that reveals the locations of some of the chemical choreographers that collaborate with DNA to orchestrate these fancy moves in the brain.

This complex developmental dance starts in the womb as our brain cells arise, migrate to their proper locations, and mature. By the time we’re born, each of us has close to 100 billion of these cells, called neurons. But that’s not all. The brain also contains lots of other cell types—especially glia. Glial cells were previously thought to act primarily as servants to the neurons, but they’re actually more like partners. Our birth inventory is just the first act. Over the course of our lives, our experiences and environment continue to shape and re-shape the brain’s connections, albeit in varying paces and patterns.

The millions of chemical tags that modify or mark the genome tell it what to do, and when and where to do it. Taken together, we call this diverse collection of chemical cues the “epigenome.”

….

Just as genetic mutations can lead to disease, glitches in DNA methylation may also trigger or increase the severity of brain disorders. Several studies have already linked abnormal methylation with disorders like schizophrenia, and conditions like Traumatic Brain Injury. This research is particularly exciting because these DNA methylation tags are not permanent. So, if we discover patterns of methylation that cause particular brain diseases, we can develop strategies to restore the healthy epigenetic profile—in effect, to bring those errant brain cells back in step with the dance of normal brain development.

Sketched image of a brain, neuron, glia, DNA, methylation sites, and a graph of methylation decreasing over time

Caption: Researchers mapped methylation sites in genomes of neurons and glia in the frontal cortex. mCH methyl tags, or non-CG methylation (purple stars), were absent at birth, but were added rapidly during the first few years of life and then more slowly until about age 30. After age 50, the number of mCH tags declined.
Credit: Eran Mukamel, Salk Institute

This study is a powerful example of how recent technological advances are revealing the secrets and complexities of the human brain—a process we hope to accelerate with the start of the BRAIN initiative!

References:

[1] Global epigenomic reconfiguration during mammalian brain development. Lister R, Mukamel EA, Nery JR, Urich M, Puddifoot CA, Johnson ND, Lucero J, Huang Y, Dwork AJ, Schultz MD, Yu M, Tonti-Filippini J, Heyn H, Hu S, Wu JC, Rao A, Esteller M, He C, Haghighi FG, Sejnowski TJ, Behrens MM, Ecker JR. Science. 2013 Aug 9;341(6146):1237905.

[2] Sequence data can be downloaded from National Center for Biotechnology Information GEO (GSE47966). The analyzed data is also available for browsing.

 

 Read the entire article here

 

 

 

 

August 28, 2013 Posted by | Biomedical Research Resources, Medical and Health Research News, Psychiatry | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

%d bloggers like this: