Tag Archives: cerebral cortex

Genome-wide Atlas of Gene Enhancers in the Brain On-line

Collaboration Led by Berkeley Lab Researchers Creates High-Resolution Map of Gene Regulatory Elements in the Brain

Future research into the underlying causes of neurological disorders such as autism, epilepsy and schizophrenia, should greatly benefit from a first-of-its-kind atlas of gene-enhancers in the cerebrum (telencephalon). This new atlas, developed by a team led by researchers with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE)’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) is a publicly accessible Web-based collection of data that identifies and locates thousands of gene-regulating elements in a region of the brain that is of critical importance for cognition, motor functions and emotion.

“Understanding how the brain develops and functions, and how it malfunctions in neurological disorders, remains one of the most daunting challenges in contemporary science,” says Axel Visel, a geneticist with Berkeley Lab’s Genomics Division. “We’ve created a genome-wide digital atlas of gene enhancers in the human brain – the switches that tell genes when and where they need to be switched on or off. This enhancer atlas will enable other scientists to study in more detail how individual genes are regulated during development of the brain, and how genetic mutations may impact human neurological disorders.” (more…)

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Lack of Protein Sp2 Disrupts Neuron Creation in Brain

A protein known as Sp2 is key to the proper creation of neurons from stem cells, according to researchers at North Carolina State University. Understanding how this protein works could enable scientists to “program” stem cells for regeneration, which has implications for neural therapies.

Troy Ghashghaei and Jon Horowitz, both faculty in NC State’s Department of Molecular Biomedical Sciences and researchers in the Center for Comparative Medicine and Translational Research, wanted to know more about the function of Sp2, a cell cycle regulator that helps control how cells divide. Previous research from Horowitz had shown that too much Sp2 in skin-producing stem cells resulted in tumors in experimental mice. Excessive amounts of Sp2 prevented the stem cells from creating normal cell “offspring,” or skin cells. Instead, the stem cells just kept producing more stem cells, which led to tumor formation. (more…)

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Berkeley Lab Scientists Help Develop Promising Therapy for Huntington’s Disease

Initial results in mice could lead to new way to fight neurodegenerative diseases

There’s new hope in the fight against Huntington’s disease. A group of researchers that includes scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) have designed a compound that suppresses symptoms of the devastating disease in mice.

The compound is a synthetic antioxidant that targets mitochondria, an organelle within cells that serves as a cell’s power plant. Oxidative damage to mitochondria is implicated in many neurodegenerative diseases including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and Huntington’s. (more…)

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UCLA Scientists Discover Sleeping Brain Behaves as If It’s Remembering Something

UCLA researchers have for the first time measured the activity of a brain region known to be involved in learning, memory and Alzheimer’s disease during sleep. They discovered that this region, called the entorhinal cortex, behaves as if it’s remembering something, even during anesthesia–induced sleep — a finding that counters conventional theories about sleep-time memory consolidation.

The research team simultaneously measured the activity of single neurons from multiple parts of the brain that are involved in memory formation. The technique allowed them to determine which brain region was activating other areas and how that activation was spreading, said the study’s senior author, Mayank R. Mehta, a professor of neurophysics in UCLA’s departments of neurology, neurobiology, and physics and astronomy. (more…)

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UCLA Researchers Map Damaged Connections in Phineas Gage’s Brain

Famous 1848 case of man who survived a terrible accident has modern parallel

Poor Phineas Gage. In 1848, the supervisor for the Rutland and Burlington Railroad in Vermont was using a 13-pound, 3-foot-7-inch rod to pack blasting powder into a rock when he triggered an explosion that drove the rod through his left cheek and out of the top of his head. As reported at the time, the rod was later found, “smeared with blood and brains.”

Miraculously, Gage lived, becoming the most famous case in the history of neuroscience — not only because he survived a horrific accident that led to the destruction of much of his left frontal lobe but also because of the injury’s reported effects on his personality and behavior, which were said to be profound. Gage went from being an affable 25-year-old to one that was fitful, irreverent and profane. His friends and acquaintances said he was “no longer Gage.” (more…)

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How the Brain Strings Words Into Sentences

Distinct neural pathways are important for different aspects of language processing, researchers have discovered, studying patients with language impairments caused by neurodegenerative diseases.

While it has long been recognized that certain areas in the brain’s left hemisphere enable us to understand and produce language, scientists are still figuring out exactly how those areas divvy up the highly complex processes necessary to comprehend and produce language. (more…)

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Is Meditation the Push-up for the Brain?

*Study shows practice may have potential to change brain’s physical structure*

Two years ago, researchers at UCLA found that specific regions in the brains of long-term meditators were larger and had more gray matter than the brains of individuals in a control group. This suggested that meditation may indeed be good for all of us since, alas, our brains shrink naturally with age.

Now, a follow-up study suggests that people who meditate also have stronger connections between brain regions and show less age-related brain atrophy. Having stronger connections influences the ability to rapidly relay electrical signals in the brain. And significantly, these effects are evident throughout the entire brain, not just in specific areas. (more…)

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Tiny Variation in One Gene May Have Led to Crucial Changes in Human Brain

The human brain has yet to explain the origin of one its defining features – the deep fissures and convolutions that increase its surface area and allow for rational and abstract thoughts.

An international collaboration of scientists from the Yale School of Medicine and Turkey may have discovered humanity’s beneficiary – a tiny variation within a single gene that determines the formation of brain convolutions – they report online May 15 in the journal Nature Genetics. (more…)

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