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Science News from 2017

Scientists Give Star Treatment to Lesser-Known Cells Crucial for Brain Development

Press Release

Star-shaped support brain cells, astrocytes, growing in 3-D “organoids” in a dish develop similarly as those in human brain tissue.

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Breakthrough Method Yields Trove of Neuron Subtypes, Gene Regulators

Science Update

Scientists have discovered a trove of neuronal subtypes by identifying their unique epigenomic signatures.

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Mood Stabilizing Medications an Effective Option for Older Adults with Bipolar Disorder

Science Update

Two standard medications for bipolar disorder were effective in controlling symptoms at doses tailored to older people in a clinical trial of treatment in adults over age 60.

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Patient-Derived Support Cells Stunt Mouse Brain Development

Science Update

Support cells generated from patients with childhood onset schizophrenia stunted neural circuit development when grafted into developing mouse brains.

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Our Brains Harbor “Residual Echo” of Neanderthal Genes

Science Update

Researchers have produced the first direct evidence that parts of our brains implicated in mental disorders may be shaped by a “residual echo” from our ancient past. The more a person’s genome carries genetic vestiges of Neanderthals, the more certain parts of his or her brain and skull resemble those of humans’ evolutionary cousins that went extinct 40,000 years ago.

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Guidelines published for treating PANS/PANDAS

Science Update

An expert panel has published guidelines for treatment of Pediatric Acute Onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome (PANS) and a subset of patients diagnosed with PAN Disorder Associated with Streptococcal Infection (PANDAS).

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Webinar: RDoC - Fear & Anxiety: From Mechanisms to Implementation

Institute Update

This November 2016 RDoC webinar highlights the role of fear and anxiety in disorders such as phobias and depression.

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Imaging Pinpoints Brain Circuits Changed by PTSD Therapy

Science Update

Using brain imaging to track the effects of treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), scientists have identified a brain circuit on which a frequently used and effective psychotherapy (prolonged exposure) acts to quell symptoms. The findings help explain why the neural circuit identified is a promising target for additional treatment development, including brain stimulation therapies.

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Scientists Replay Movie Encoded in DNA

Press Release

For the first time, a primitive movie has been encoded in – and then played back from – DNA in living cells. It’s a major step toward a “molecular recorder” that may someday reveal secrets of the developing brain.

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The NIH NeuroBioBank: Addressing the Urgent Need for Brain Donation

Science Update

The directors of the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the National Institute of Mental Health, and the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke discuss the importance of post-mortem brain donation in a joint message.

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NIH Names Winners of “Follow that Cell” Phase 2 Competition

Press Release

Two biological engineering researchers are winners in Phase 2 of NIH’s Follow that Cell Challenge. The winners will share $400,000 in prizes awarded for development of new tools and methods for predicting the behavior and function of a single cell in complex tissue over time – and how that reflects the health of the tissue.

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Neuroimaging Technique May Help Predict Autism among High-Risk Infants

Press Release

Functional connectivity magnetic resonance imaging (fcMRI) may predict which high-risk, 6-month old infants will develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD) by age 2 years.

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Brain Circuit Tweak Wins Her Affection (if she’s a vole)

Science Update

For the first time, neuroscientists have boosted a female rodent’s partnering with a male by stimulating connectivity of a brain reward circuit. Understanding the circuitry of such affiliative behaviors may lead to improved treatments for social impairment in severe mental disorders, such as autism spectrum disorder.

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Connections Strengthen Within Specialized Networks as Brain’s Executive Function Matures

Science Update

As we grow up, our brain’s specialized networks become more structurally segregated, contributing to improved executive functioning. These densely interconnected “modules” process information for key functions that underlie development of mental control and self-regulation.

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Pediatrics-based Brief Therapy Outdoes Referral for Youths with Anxiety and Depression

Science Update

A streamlined behavioral therapy delivered in a pediatrics practice offered much greater benefit to youth with anxiety and depression than a more standard referral to mental health care with follow-up in a clinical trial comparing the two approaches.

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NIMH Grantee Wins One of Science’s Most Coveted Prizes

Science Update

NIMH grantee Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., of Stanford University, has been awarded one of science’s most generous prizes. A German foundation presented the inventor of technologies that are transforming neuroscience with its 4 million euros Fresenius Prize.

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NIMH to Host Multimodal Brain Stimulation Speaker Series

Science Update

Beginning May 31, 2017, the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) will launch a speaker series intended to bring together leaders in the field conducting research using non-invasive brain stimulation and functional imaging including EEG, fMRI, and transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS).

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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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