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News and Multimedia from 2011 Featuring DNBBS

Neurons Grown from Skin Cells May Hold Clues to Autism

Press Release

catecholamine producing neurons

Potential clues to how autism miswires the brain are emerging from a study of a rare, purely genetic form of the disorders that affects fewer than 20 people worldwide. Using cutting-edge “disease-in a-dish” technology, researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have grown patients’ skin cells into neurons to discover what goes wrong in the brain in Timothy Syndrome. Affected children often show symptoms of autism spectrum disorders along with a constellation of physical problems.

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Unlocking the Genetic Code

Video.

Dr. Joel Kleinman explains when and where genes turn on in the brain

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Perinatal Antidepressant Stunts Brain Development in Rats

Press Release

abnormal axon

Rats exposed to an antidepressant just before and after birth showed substantial brain abnormalities and behaviors, in a study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Balance Tips toward Environment as Heritability Ebbs in Autism?

Press Release

Two toddler boys crawling on a colorful play mat

The largest and most rigorous twin study of its kind to date has found that shared environment influences susceptibility to autism more than previously thought.

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Drug Boosts Growth Factor to Jump-start Rapid Antidepressant Response

Press Release

ketamine mechanism of action

A study in mice has pinpointed a pivotal new player in triggering the rapid antidepressant response produced by ketamine. By deactivating a little-known enzyme, the drug takes the brakes off rapid synthesis of a key growth factor thought to lift depression, say researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health.

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Autism Blurs Distinctions Between Brain Regions

Press Release

brain with autism

Autism blurs the molecular differences that normally distinguish different brain regions, a new study suggests. Among more than 500 genes that are normally expressed at significantly different levels in the front versus the lower middle part of the brain’s outer mantle, or cortex, only 8 showed such differences in brains of people with autism, say researchers funded in part by the National Institutes of Health.

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Tired Neurons Caught Nodding Off in Sleep-deprived Rats

Press Release

rats with objects of interest

A new study in rats is shedding light on how sleep-deprived lifestyles might impair functioning without people realizing it. The more rats are sleep-deprived, the more some of their neurons take catnaps – with consequent declines in task performance. Even though the animals are awake and active, brainwave measures reveal that scattered groups of neurons in the thinking part of their brain, or cortex, are briefly falling asleep, scientists funded by the National Institutes of Health have discovered.

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Study Reveals New Clues to How Depression May Develop

Science Update

lateral habenula neuron

Activating neurons in a brain structure linked to disappointment increased depression-like behaviors in rats, while suppressing the neurons’ activity reduced the behaviors, according to an NIMH-funded study. The findings help to explain previous research linking this brain structure to depression in humans and highlight a cellular process that hadn’t been previously explored in mood disorders research. The study was published in the February 24, 2011, issue of Nature.

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Light Switches Brain Pathway On-and-Off to Dissect How Anxiety Works

Science Update

neurons

Scientists, for the first time, have switched anxiety on-and-off in active animals by shining light at a brain pathway. Instinctively reclusive mice suddenly began exploring normally forbidding open spaces when a blue laser activated the pathway – and retreated into a protected area when it dimmed. By contrast, anxiety-like behaviors increased when an amber laser inhibited the same pathway.

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Mice with Autism-related Mutations Replicate Autism-like Behaviors

Science Update

mouse synapses

Mice bred to harbor mutations similar to those discovered in people with autism show autism-like repetitive behaviors and social impairments. The behaviors, triggered by deletions in a gene called SHANK3, implicated in some cases of autism, were traced to weak neural connections for functions disturbed in autism.

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Nurturing Newborn Neurons Sharpens Minds in Mice

Press Release

Newborn neurons in mouse hippocampus

Adult mice engineered to have more newborn neurons in their brain memory hub excelled at accurately discriminating between similar experiences – an ability that declines with normal aging and in some anxiety disorders. Boosting such neurogenesis in the adult hippocampus also produced antidepressant-like effects when combined with exercise, in the study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

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Enzyme Enhances, Erases Long-term Memories in Rats

Press Release

Neuron over-expressing PKMzeta

Even long after it is formed, a memory in rats can be enhanced or erased by increasing or decreasing the activity of a brain enzyme, say researchers supported, in part, by the National Institutes of Health.

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Rare Gene Glitch May Hold Clues for Schizophrenia – NIH-funded Study

Press Release

Pic alt tag: inheritance of VIPR2 mutation

Scientists are eyeing a rare genetic glitch for clues to improved treatments for some people with schizophrenia – even though they found the mutation in only one third of 1 percent of patients.

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Same Behavior, Different Brain in Adolescent and Adult Rats

Science Update

low neuron

A study that measured the activity of single cells in the brains of rats found striking differences between adolescents and adults even when both behaved identically on a task motivated by a reward. The finding offers clues to the neurological underpinnings of adolescent behavior and this age group’s vulnerability to mental illness.

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Little-known Growth Factor Enhances Memory, Prevents Forgetting in Rats

Press Release

Profile of head showing gears superimposed on brain outline.

A naturally occurring growth factor significantly boosted retention and prevented forgetting of a fear memory when injected into rats' memory circuitry during time-limited windows when memories become fragile and changeable. In the study funded by the National Institutes of Health, animals treated with insulin-like growth factor (IGF-II) excelled at remembering to avoid a location where they had previously experienced a mild shock.

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