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Science News from 2017

Brain “Relay” Also Key to Holding Thoughts in Mind

Press Release

Long overlooked as a mere “relay,” an egg-like structure in the middle of the brain also turns out to play a pivotal role in tuning-up thinking circuity. A trio of studies in mice are revealing that the thalamus sustains the ability to distinguish categories and hold thoughts in mind. It might even become a target for interventions for psychiatric disorders marked by working memory problems, such as schizophrenia.

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Prescribing Patterns Change Following Direct Marketing Restrictions

Press Release

A study of how policies restricting pharmaceutical promotion to physicians affect medication prescribing found that physicians in academic medical centers (AMCs) prescribed fewer of the promoted drugs, and more non-promoted drugs in the same drug classes, following policy changes to restrict marketing activities at those medical centers.

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Emergency Departments Could Play Significant Role in Reducing Suicide Attempts

Science Update

Research funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) shows hospital emergency departments can play a vital role in lowering the number of suicide attempts among adults by as much as 30 percent.

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Human Forebrain Circuits Under Construction – in a Dish

Press Release

Neuroscientists have created a 3D window into the human brain’s budding executive hub assembling itself during a critical period in prenatal development.

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Estrogen Alters Memory Circuit Function in Women with Gene Variant

Science Update

Brain scans reveal that fluctuations in estrogen can trigger atypical functioning in a key brain memory circuit in women with a common version of a gene. Since working memory function is often disturbed in mental disorders, such gene-hormone interactions are suspect mechanisms that may confer risk.

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Potential Source of HIV Persistence Confirmed

Science Update

Scientists have shown that a class of immune cells not thought to be a primary reservoir for HIV can harbor the virus even following antiretroviral treatment (ART).

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Higher Death Rate Among Youth with First Episode Psychosis

Press Release

A new study shows that young people with first episode psychosis have a much higher death rate than previously thought. Researchers looked at people aged 16-30 and found that the group died at a rate at least 24 times greater than the same age group in the general population.

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Delayed Walking May Signal Spontaneous Gene Anomalies in Autism

Science Update

Researchers have discovered a pattern of genetic glitches and behavioral features, such as delayed walking, in some cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that could ultimately lead to identification of subgroups and improved treatment.

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A Third of Suspect Mutations in ASD Just “Noise”

Science Update

Researchers have narrowed suspected genetic causes of autism and related developmental disabilities by ruling out what they call the “noise of benign variation.”

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Avenevoli Named NIMH Deputy Director

Science Update

Dr. Shelli Avenevoli has been named deputy director of NIMH.

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Sleep May Trim Neural Connections to Restore Learning Ability

Science Update

Sleep may be the price we pay for the ability to learn. It streamlines neural connections for optimal efficiency.

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Revealed: LSD Docked in its Human Brain Target

Science Update

Scientists have discovered the molecular structure of LSD in its human brain receptor.

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Two NIMH Grantees Receive Prestigious Presidential Award

Science Update

The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) congratulates two NIMH grantees, Mary Kay Lobo from the University of Maryland School of Medicine and Eric Morrow from Brown University, who are among the 102 scientists and researchers receiving the 2017 Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE).

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Sex Hormone–Sensitive Gene Complex Linked to Premenstrual Mood Disorder

Press Release

Researchers have discovered molecular mechanisms that may underlie a woman’s susceptibility to disabling irritability, sadness, and anxiety in the days leading up to her menstrual period.

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