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  1. bpod-mrc: Growing Nerves Our nervous system is made up of the brain, spinal cord and neurons [nerves] – an intricate network that allows our brain to communicate with the rest of our body. Development of the human nervous system begins when an embryo is in its 5th week. Neurons extend a projection from their cell body called the axon (pictured in green, pink and blue in a developing mouse spinal cord) along a specific path in response to a variety of molecular cues, systematically guiding its journey to the spinal cord (left) and eventually the wider body, establishing the nervous system. One particular molecular cue called netrin1 organises axon growth, but researchers have been trying to understand how. By halting the activity of netrin1, axon growth was disrupted and highly disorganised (right), highlighting how netrin1 influences axon growth and providing insight into how researchers could regenerate axons in people with nerve damage. Written by Katie Pantell Image from work by Supraja G. Varadarajan and colleagues, Broad Center, UCLA Department of Neurobiology, University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA Image copyright held by original authors Research published in Neuron, May 2017 You can also follow BPoD on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook via
  2. neurosciencestuff: Nerve cells in our brains work together in harmony to store and retrieve short-term memory, and are not solo artists as was previously thought, Western-led brain research has determined. The research turns on its head decades of studies assuming that single neurons independently encode information in our working memories. “These findings suggest that even neurons we previously thought were ‘useless’ because they didn’t individually encode information have a purpose when working in concert with other neurons,” said researcher Julio Martinez-Trujillo, based at the Robarts Research Institute and the Brain and Mind Institute at Western University. “Knowing they work together helps us better understand the circuits in the brain that can either improve or hamper executive function. And that in turn may have implications for how we work though brain-health issues where short-term memory is a problem, including Alzheimer disease, schizophrenia, autism, depression and attention deficit disorder.” Working memory is the ability to learn, retain and retrieve bits of information we all need in the short term: items on a grocery list or driving directions, for example. Working memory deteriorates faster in people with dementia or other disorders of the brain and mind. In the past, researchers have believed this executive function was the job of single neurons acting independently from one another – the brain’s version of a crowd of people in a large room all singing different songs in different rhythms and different keys. An outsider trying to decipher any tune in all that white noise would have an extraordinarily difficult task. This research, however, suggests many in the neuron throng are singing from the same songbook, in essence creating chords to strengthen the collective voice of memory. With neural prosthetic technology – microchips that can “listen” to many neurons at the same time – researchers are able to find correlations between the activity of many nerve cells. “Using that same choir analogy, you can start perceiving some sounds that have a rhythm, a tune and chords that are related to each other: in sum, short-term memories,” said Martinez-Trujillo, who is also an associate professor at Western’s Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry. And while the ramifications of this discovery are still being explored, “this gives us good material to work with as we move forward in brain research. It provides us with the necessary knowledge to find ways to manipulate brain circuits and improve short term memory in affected individuals,” Martinez-Trujillo said. “The microchip technology also allows us to extract signals from the brain in order to reverse-engineer brain circuitry and decode the information that is in the subject’s mind,” said Adam Sachs, neurosurgeon and associate scientist at The Ottawa Hospital and assistant professor at the University of Ottawa Brain and Mind Research Institute. “In the near future, we could use this information to allow cognitive control of neural prosthetics in patients with ALS or severe cervical spinal cord injury.” via
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  5. Laika puppy cloned from ear meets ‘original mom’ in Russia Lab-produced dogs cloned from bio material taken from the two best representatives of the Yakutian Laika species have arrived in Russia from South Korea for genetic research. One met its ‘original mother’. The scientists succeeded in cloning the Yakutian Laikas, a type of hunting dog from Northern Russia and Siberia, from a 12-year-old male and a 6-year-old female. via
  6. the-future-now: the-future-now: After 40 years, scientists may have solved the mystery of the “Wow!” space signal In August of 1977, a group of astronomers examining radio transmissions in Ohio received a mysterious signal from an unknown source. Shocked by its incredible length — 72 seconds — one scientist scribbled “Wow!” next to the recording, inadvertently giving the unusual communication a nickname that would last decades. Now, after 40 years of grappling with possible explanations for the Wow! signal — which even include the possibility of aliens — scientists at the Center for Planetary Science have finally solved the puzzle. A comet unknown to researchers in the 1970s likely caused the signal, and researchers were able to test that theory in a recent fly-by. Read more (6/8/17) follow @the-future-now​ Update: Turns out, that mysterious Wow! signal may still be a mystery Not everyone is on board with the recent “Wow!” signal discovery. Alan Fitzsimmons, a scientist at the United Kingdom’s Queens University Belfast, told Astronomy Now that it’s actually “rubbish.” He claims that a 1420-MHZ signal from a comet has never been detected before, and that the 266/P Christensen would be too quiet, even at perihelion — the point that a comet is closest to the sun. Meanwhile, comets are typically very active when at perihelion. Read more (6/12/17) via
  7. neurosciencestuff: Our nervous systems have left-right differences that are important for correct functioning. Handedness is probably the best-known asymmetry arising from the development of the nervous system. This is observed very early on: embryos of eight weeks already tend to move their right arms more often than their left arms. At this ‘age’ signals are not sent from the brain to the arms yet, but only from the spinal cord. A few weeks later, left-right differences also become visible in the shape and size of the premature brain. A team of scientists from the Netherlands, the UK and China searched for genes that contribute to left-right differences in the nervous system, in the period between four and eight weeks after fertilisation. The genetic analysis showed that the left and right sides of the spinal cord develop at different paces. The left side of the spinal cord matures slightly faster than the right side. Sets of key genes that control growth and maturity were found to reach a more advanced profile of activity on the left side than the right. In the hindbrain, an area which is the predecessor for some adult parts of the brain, this was the other way around. “This seems logical, since many nerve fibers cross over from one side to the other at the boundary between the hindbrain and spinal cord,” says Carolien de Kovel, lead author of the study and researcher at the Max Plank Institute for Psycholinguistics (MPI). “How exactly this left-right genetic difference in the spinal cord leads to right-handedness is, however, not yet clear.” Clyde Francks, head of the MPI research group ‘Brain and behavioral asymmetries’ and Research Fellow at the Donders Institute at the Radboud University, explains, “We think that these very early left-right differences in the spinal cord may act to trigger some of the later asymmetries of the brain, such as the eventual dominance of the left hemisphere for language functions in most adults’. Asymmetry and schizophrenia “Around 85% of humans are right-handed; it seems the standard in human development,” De Kovel adds, “but genetic and environmental factors may provide alternative paths of development, such as left-handedness or two-handedness. Interestingly, disturbances in such asymmetries seem to be more common in people with psychiatric conditions such as schizophrenia.” Hence, De Kovel and her colleagues also compared the results of their study with genetic factors that influence the risk of schizophrenia. It was found that genes which exhibit the largest left-right differences in the embryos also tended to be involved in the risk of schizophrenia. “The findings do not prove directly that these genes cause schizophrenia by their actions in the spinal cord, because the same genes are also active in the grown-up brain. However this does provide us with clues on which we can base further research,” De Kovel explains. via
  8. The New iMac Badass Pro WWDC2017

  9. cellimagelibrary: Melanoma! Image of the Week - June 5, 2017 CIL:38978 -
      Hello guest!
    Description: Human melanoma cell undergoing cell division. The chromosomes (blue) have separated and the two daughter cells have almost split apart - only a small bridge of cytoplasm remains. The green staining labels the endoplasmic reticulum and the red labels the mitochondria. The image was produced on a confocal microscope; the ER and mitochondria are from a single optical section but the chromosomes are a 3D reconstruction from a series of sections. Authors :Paul J. Smith and Rachel Errington Licensing: Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 UK: England & Wales (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 UK) via
  10. neurosciencestuff: How does heightened attention improve our mental capacity? This is the question tackled by new University of Bristol research published in the journal Cell Reports, which reveals a chemical signal released across the brain in response to attention demanding or arousing situations. The new discoveries indicate how current drugs used in the treatment of Alzheimer’s, designed to boost this chemical signal, counter the symptoms of dementia. The results could also lead to new ways of enhancing cognitive function to counteract the effects of diseases such as Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia, as well as enhancing memory in healthy people. The team of medical researchers at the Universities of Bristol and Maynooth in collaboration with pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly & Company, studied how the release of the chemical ‘acetylcholine’ fluctuates during the day but found that the release is at its highest when the brain is engaged with more challenging mental tasks. The fluctuations are coordinated across the brain indicating a brain-wide signal to increase mental capacity with specific spikes in acetylcholine release occurring at particularly arousing times such as gaining reward. Professor Jack Mellor, lead researcher from Bristol’s Centre for Synaptic Plasticity, said: “These findings are about how brain state is regulated and updated on a rapid basis to optimise the encoding of memory and cognitive performance. Many current and future drug therapies for a wide range of brain disorders including Alzheimer’s and schizophrenia are designed to target chemical systems such as acetylcholine so understanding when they are active and therefore how they function will be crucial for their future development and clinical use.” Professor Lowry, who led the team at Maynooth University, added: “This work highlights the importance of cross-disciplinary basic research between universities and industry. Using real-time biosensor technology to improve our understanding of the role of important neurochemicals associated with memory is very exciting and timely, particularly given the increasing multifaceted societal burden caused by memory affecting neurological disorders such as dementia.” Primary author Dr Leonor Ruivo added: “This collaboration gave us access to a new generation of tools which, in combination with other powerful techniques, will allow researchers to build on our findings and provide a much more detailed map of the action of brain chemicals in health, disease and therapeutic intervention.” via
  11. Tea Consumption Leads to Epigenetic Changes in Women: currentsinbiology: Epigenetic changes are chemical modifications that turn our genes off or on. In a new study from Uppsala University, researchers show that tea consumption in women leads to epigenetic changes in genes that are known to interact with cancer and estrogen metabolism. The results are published in the journal Human Molecular Genetics. It is well known that our environment and lifestyle factors, such as food choices, smoking and exposure to chemicals, can lead to epigenetic changes. In the current study, researchers from Uppsala University in collaboration with research groups around Europe, investigated if coffee and tea consumption may lead to epigenetic changes. Previous studies have suggested that both coffee and tea play an important role in modulating disease-risk in humans by suppressing tumour progression, decreasing inflammation and influencing estrogen metabolism, mechanisms that may be mediated by epigenetic changes. The results show that there are epigenetic changes in women consuming tea, but not in men. Interestingly, many of these epigenetic changes were found in genes involved in cancer and estrogen metabolism. ”Previous studies have shown that tea consumption reduces estrogen levels which highlights a potential difference between the biological response to tea in men and women. Women also drink higher amounts of tea compared to men, which increases our power to find association in women”, says Weronica Ek, researcher at the Department of Immunology, Genetics and Pathology, who led the study. The study did not find any epigenetic changes in individuals drinking coffee. “Tea and coffee consumption in relation to DNA methylation in four European cohorts” by Weronica E. Ek, Elmar W. Tobi, Muhammad Ahsan, Erik Lampa, Erica Ponzi, Soterios A. Kyrtopoulos, Panagiotis Georgiadis, L.H Lumey, Bastiaan T. Heijmans, Maria Botsivali, Ingvar A. Bergdahl, Torgny Karlsson, Mathias Rask-Andersen, Domenico Palli, Erik Ingelsson, Åsa K. Hedman, Lena M. Nilsson, Paolo Vineis, Lars Lind, James M. Flanagan, Åsa Johansson on behalf of the Epigenome-Wide Association study Consortium in Human Molecular Genetics. Published online May 23 2017 doi:10.1093/hmg/ddx194 via
  12. neurosciencestuff: A new research study contradicts the established view that so-called split-brain patients have a split consciousness. Instead, the researchers behind the study, led by UvA psychologist Yair Pinto, have found strong evidence showing that despite being characterised by little to no communication between the right and left brain hemispheres, split brain does not cause two independent conscious perceivers in one brain. Their results are published in the latest edition of the journal Brain. Split brain is a lay term to describe the result of a corpus callosotomy, a surgical procedure first performed in the 1940s to alleviate severe epilepsy among patients. During this procedure, the corpus callosum, a bundle of neural fibres connecting the left and right cerebral hemispheres, is severed to prevent the spread of epileptic activity between the two brain halves. While mostly successful in relieving epilepsy, the procedure also virtually eliminates all communication between the cerebral hemispheres, thereby resulting in a ‘split brain’. This condition was made famous by the work of Nobel laureate Roger Sperry and Michael Gazzaniga. In their canonical work, Sperry and Gazzaniga discovered that split-brain patients can only respond to stimuli in the right visual field with their right hand and vice versa. This was taken as evidence that severing the corpus callosum causes each hemisphere to gain its own consciousness. Divided perception For their study, Pinto and his fellow researchers conducted a series of tests on two patients who had undergone a full callosotomy. In one of the tests, the patients were placed in front of a screen and shown various objects displayed in several locations. The patients were then asked to confirm whether an object appeared and to indicate its location. In another test, they had to correctly name the object they had seen, a notorious difficulty among spit-brain patients. ‘Our main aim was to determine whether the patients performed better when responding to the left visual field with their left hand instead of their right hand and vice versa’, says Pinto, assistant professor of Cognitive Psychology. ‘This question was based on the textbook notion of two independent conscious agents: one experiencing the left visual field and controlling the left hand, and one experiencing the right visual field and controlling the right hand.’ To the researchers’ surprise, the patients were able to respond to stimuli throughout the entire visual field with all the response types: left hand, right hand and verbally. Pinto: ‘The patients could accurately indicate whether an object was present in the left visual field and pinpoint its location, even when they responded with the right hand or verbally. This despite the fact that their cerebral hemispheres can hardly communicate with each other and do so at perhaps 1 bit per second, which is less than a normal conversation. I was so surprised that I decide repeat the experiments several more times with all types of control.’ (Image caption: A depiction of the traditional view of the split brain syndrome (top) versus what the researchers actually found in two split-brain patients across a wide variety of tasks (bottom). Credit: Yair Pinto) Undivided consciousness According to Pinto, the results present clear evidence for unity of consciousness in split-brain patients. ‘The established view of split-brain patients implies that physical connections transmitting massive amounts of information are indispensable for unified consciousness, i.e. one conscious agent in one brain. Our findings, however, reveal that although the two hemispheres are completely insulated from each other, the brain as a whole is still able to produce only one conscious agent. This directly contradicts current orthodoxy and highlights the complexity of unified consciousness.’ In the coming period, Pinto plans to conduct research on more split-brain patients to see whether his findings can be replicated. ‘These patients, who are rapidly decreasing in numbers, are our only way to find out what happens when large subsystems in the brain no longer communicate with each other. This phenomenon raises important questions that cannot be investigated in healthy adults because we have no technique to isolate large subsystems in healthy brains.’ via
  13. How Good Are Nike’s New VaporMax Sneakers? via
  14. Migratory birds bumped off schedule as climate change shifts spring: mindblowingscience: New research shows climate change is altering the delicate seasonal clock that North American migratory songbirds rely on to successfully mate and raise healthy offspring, setting in motion a domino effect that could threaten the survival of many familiar backyard bird species. A growing shift in the onset of spring has left nine of 48 species of songbirds studied unable to reach their northern breeding grounds at the calendar marks critical for producing the next generation of fledglings, according to a paper published today in Scientific Reports. That’s because in many regions, warming temperatures are triggering plants to begin their growth earlier or later than normal, skewing biological cycles that have long been in sync. The result, researchers say, could be a future much like the one Rachel Carson hinted at more than 50 years ago. “It’s like ‘Silent Spring,’ but with a more elusive culprit,” said Stephen Mayor, a postdoctoral researcher with the Florida Museum of Natural History at the University of Florida and first author of the study. “We’re seeing spring-like conditions well before birds arrive. The growing mismatch means fewer birds are likely to survive, reproduce and return the following year. These are birds people are used to seeing and hearing in their backyards. They’re part of the American landscape, part of our psyche. To imagine a future where they’re much less common would be a real loss.” Continue Reading. via
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