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Science News About Brain Anatomy and Physiology

Molecular Tool Parses Social Fear Circuit Intertwined with Aggression Hub

Science Update

A genetic engineering tool has disentangled seemingly hopelessly intertwined brain circuits for social fear and aggression in mice.

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Worldwide Study Seeks to Unlock the Brain’s Genetic Code

Science Update

Big data pinpoints genetic variation linked to brain volume and risk for disorders.

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Recruitment Begins for Landmark Study of Adolescent Brain Development

Press Release

The study will follow the biological and behavioral development of more than 10,000 children through adolescence into early adulthood.

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Designer Agent Blocks Pain in Mice Without Morphine’s Side Effects

Science Update

Scientists have synthesized a molecule with a unique profile of highly specific pain-relieving properties and demonstrated its efficacy in mice.

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Schizophrenia, Autism Risk Gene Trajectories Point to Shared Causes

Science Update

Schizophrenia, autism risk gene trajectories point to shared causes

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Secrets to Our Smarts Hidden in the Folds of Our Cortex

Science Update

The more folding in the thinking parts of our brain, the smarter we are – to a degree.

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NIH-supported NeuroBioBank Joins Autism BrainNet in Brain Donation Initiative

Press Release

Two of the world’s largest brain tissue banks unify efforts to collect and distribute a critical number of brain donations for important autism research.

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Rapid Agent Restores Pleasure-seeking Ahead of Other Antidepressant Action

Press Release

A drug being studied as a fast-acting mood-lifter restored pleasure-seeking behavior independent of – and ahead of – its other antidepressant effects.

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Genes Impact Suspect Cortex Areas More as Youth Mature

Science Update

Later evolving and maturing brain areas, which also are those most implicated in mental illness, showed gradually increasing heritability, peaking by late adolescence – the age-of-onset for most mental disorders. New findings hold promise for understanding how age plays an important role in gene-environment interactions that underlie the disorders.

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NIH-funded Brain Atlas Offers Clues to Psychiatric Disorders

Press Release

A brain blueprint maps where genes are tuned on and off during mid-pregnancy—when most brain disorders such as autism and schizophrenia occur.

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Brain Region Singled Out for Social Memory, Possible Therapeutic Target for Select Brain Disorders

Science Update

The hippocampus houses learning and memory—specifically the storage of knowledge of who, what, where, and when. Using a special transgenic mouse, researchers have now pinpointed a hippocampal region called CA2 that is important for social memory, the ability of animal to recognize another of the same species. Understanding this region could be useful in understanding and treating disorders characterized by altered social behaviors such as schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and autism.

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NICHD/NIMH Podcast on Youth Violence

Science Update

NIMH/NICHD experts explain what sparks and halts youth violence.

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Transgenic Mice Lines Aid in Brain Circuit Imaging

Science Update

Neuroscientists have generated over 250 genetically engineered mice lines that will help further our understanding of the human brain.

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Jay Giedd on PBS Documentary “Brains on Trial”

Science Update

NIMH’s Jay Giedd discusses brain scan research with Alan Alda in the two-episode PBS documentary “Brains on Trial.”

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The More Hemispheric Lateralization, the Better Thinking Performance

Science Update

Scans of resting human brain activity reveal a secret to how it enhances our thinking prowess. It turns out that the left brain’s forte (e.g., language and fine motor skill) and the right brain’s (e.g., visual spatial attention) operate differently.

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Mapping Brain Circuits Provides Clues to Schizophrenia, Earlier Detection of Psychosis

Science Update

A newly identified brain circuit could lead to earlier detection of psychosis in patients with schizophrenia.

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Brain Imaging Predicts Psychotherapy Success in Patients with Social Anxiety Disorder

Science Update

Brain imaging might soon predict which treatment options would work best for patients with social phobia.

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NIH Common Fund Announces Awards for Single Cell Analysis

Press Release

NIH plans to invest more than $90 million over five years to accelerate the development and application of single cell analysis across a variety of fields. The goal is to understand what makes individual cells unique and to pave the way for medical treatments.

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NIH Researchers Use Brain Imaging to Understand Genetic Link between Parkinson’s and a Rare Disease

Science Update

A rare metabolic disorder is helping researchers at the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) and the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) uncover new clues about the biology underlying Parkinson’s disease.

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Pattern Recognition Technology May Help Predict Future Mental Illness in Teens

Science Update

Computer programs that automatically spot patterns in data may help predict a person’s risk for future mental disorders.

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Brain Wiring a No-Brainer?

Press Release

Researcher Van Wedeen MD and colleagues report new evidence of the brain’s elegant simplicity March 30, 2012 in the journal Science. New high resolution scans reveal an astonishingly simple 3D grid structure.

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$40 Million Awarded to Trace Human Brain’s Connections

Press Release

The National Institutes of Health today awarded grants totaling $40 million to map the human brain’s connections in high resolution. Better understanding of such connectivity promises improved diagnosis and treatment of brain disorders.

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Study Shows Possibilities for Predicting How Patients Will Respond to Antidepressants

Science Update

In a study of an experimental treatment for major depression, pretreatment testing to probe the function of a specific brain center predicted how patients would respond to ketamine, a medication that can lift depression rapidly in some people.

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Imaging Reveals Abnormal Brain Growth in Toddlers with Fragile X

Science Update

Differences in brain growth patterns between preschool-aged boys with Fragile X syndrome (FXS), the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability, and their healthy peers suggest that the disorder may affect brain development both before and after birth, according to NIMH-funded researchers. In addition, their findings indicate ages 1–5 are an important window for better understanding the effects of FXS on brain development. The study was published May 18, 2010, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Imaging Studies Help Pinpoint Child Bipolar Circuitry

Science Update

A series of imaging studies are revealing that the brain works differently in youth with bipolar disorder (BD) than in chronically irritable children who are often diagnosed with pediatric BD.

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Family History of Depression Alters Brain’s Response to Reward and Risk

Science Update

Girls at high risk for depression but without current or past clinically significant symptoms showed abnormal brain function related to anticipating and receiving either a reward or loss, according to a study funded by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH).

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Behavioral Training Improves Connectivity and Function in the Brain

Press Release

Children with poor reading skills who underwent an intensive, six-month training program to improve their reading ability showed increased connectivity in a particular brain region, in addition to making significant gains in reading, according to a study funded in part by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). The study was published in the Dec. 10, 2009, issue of Neuron.

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Kids’ Brain Development Charted as They Grow Up

Science Update

A landmark, multisite NIH-funded neuroimaging study of brain development in healthy, normally-developing children has posted its third release of data. This is the first release from the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) study to include data from very young children – birth to 4 years old – and snapshots of brain chemistry at key developmental milestones. The data is accessible to qualified researchers via the NIH Pediatric MRI Data Repository website.

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Brain Emotion Circuit Sparks as Teen Girls Size Up Peers

Press Release

What is going on in teenagers’ brains as their drive for peer approval begins to eclipse their family affiliations? Brain scans of teens sizing each other up reveal an emotion circuit activating more in girls as they grow older, but not in boys. The study by Daniel Pine, M.D., of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), part of National Institutes of Health, and colleagues, shows how emotion circuitry diverges in the male and female brain during a developmental stage in which girls are at increased risk for developing mood and anxiety disorders.

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Thinning Tissue in Right Half of Brain Signals Increased Risk of Inherited Depression

Science Update

In cases of familial depression, changes in tissue thickness in key brain structures in the right half of the brain may increase a person’s risk for developing depression, according to NIMH-funded researchers. Similar changes in the left half of the brain were linked to the severity of a person’s existing depression or anxiety symptoms. Based on their findings, the researchers proposed a possible mechanism for how these brain changes affect depression risk in the April 14, 2009, issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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Flow of Potassium Into Cells Implicated in Schizophrenia

Press Release

A study on schizophrenia has implicated machinery that maintains the flow of potassium in cells and revealed a potential molecular target for new treatments. Expression of a previously unknown form of a key such potassium channel was found to be 2.5 fold higher than normal in the brain memory hub of people with the chronic mental illness and linked to a hotspot of genetic variation.

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Brain Scanning Gives Clues to How Genes Shape Behavior, Disease Risk

Science Update

In an experiment in which people viewed changing images of slot machines, inherited differences in brain chemistry predicted the magnitude of responses in the brain to the prospect and receipt of reward.

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Impaired Brain Activity Underlies Impulsive Behaviors in Women with Bulimia

Science Update

Women with bulimia nervosa (BN), when compared with healthy women, showed different patterns of brain activity while doing a task that required self-regulation. This abnormality may underlie binge eating and other impulsive behaviors that occur with the eating disorder, according to an article published in the January 2009 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Anxious and Depressed Teens and Adults: Same Version of Mood Gene, Different Brain Reactions

Science Update

An NIMH study using brain imaging shows that some anxious and depressed adolescents react differently from adult patients when looking at frightening faces.

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Anxious and Healthy Adolescents Respond Differently to an Anxiety-provoking Situation

Science Update

Brain scans show heightened activity among anxious adolescents exposed to an anxiety-provoking situation when compared with normal controls, according to an NIMH study published in the November 2008 issue of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

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Brain’s Response to Scary Faces Imaged Faster Than You Can Say “Boo!”

Science Update

Scientists have captured the split-second workings of the brain’s fear circuitry in people viewing frightful faces.

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Brain’s Wiring Stunted, Lopsided in Childhood Onset Schizophrenia

Science Update

Growth of the brain’s long distance connections, called white matter, is stunted and lopsided in children who develop psychosis before puberty, NIMH researchers have discovered.

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Social Phobia Patients Have Heightened Reactions to Negative Comments

Science Update

In a study using functional brain imaging, NIMH scientists found that when people with generalized social phobia were presented with a variety of verbal comments about themselves and others (you are ugly, or hes a genius, for example) they had heightened brain responses only to negative comments about themselves.

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Millisecond Brain Signals Predict Response to Fast-Acting Antidepressant

Press Release

Images of the brains fastest signals reveal an electromagnetic marker that predicts a patients response to a fast-acting antidepressant, researchers have discovered.

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Emotion-Regulating Circuit Weakened in Borderline Personality Disorder

Science Update

Differences in the working tissue of the brain, called grey matter, have been linked to impaired functioning of an emotion-regulating circuit in patients with borderline personality disorder (BPD).

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Why “My Get Up and Go Has Got Up and Went”

Science Update

If, as the song laments, our get up and go fades as we get older, it may stem from aging-related changes in a brain reward circuit.

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Borderline Personality Disorder: Brain Differences Related to Disruptions in Cooperation in Relationships

Science Update

Different patterns of brain activity in people with borderline personality disorder were associated with disruptions in the ability to recognize social norms or modify behaviors that likely result in distrust and broken relationships, according to an NIMH-funded study published online in the August 8, 2008 issue of Science.

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Depression Patients’ Brain Circuitry Makes Them Vulnerable to Relapse

Science Update

Using brain imaging, NIMH researchers have produced direct evidence that people prone to depression -- even when theyre feeling well -- have abnormal mood-regulating brain circuitry.

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Abnormal Surge in Brain Development Occurs in Teens and Young Adults with Schizophrenia

Science Update

Schizophrenia may occur, in part, because brain development goes awry during adolescence and young adulthood, when the brain is eliminating some connections between cells as a normal part of maturation, results of a study suggest. The new report appears online July 8, 2008 in Molecular Psychiatry.

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Anxious Youth Have Disturbed Brain Responses When Looking at Angry Faces

Science Update

When looking at angry faces so quickly that they are hardly aware of seeing them, youth with generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) have unchecked activity in the brain’s fear center, say NIMH researchers.

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The Maturing Brain Parallels its Evolution

Science Update

Evolutionarily older areas of the human brain that mature earliest follow a simple, straight-line growth pattern.

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Imaging Identifies Brain Regions and Chemicals Underlying Mood Disorders; May Lead to Better Treatments

Science Update

WASHINGTON, DC, May 6 — Recently developed imaging techniques allow the mapping of the brain circuits and chemical systems believed responsible for a range of mood abnormalities including depression and bipolar disorder, and hold promise for improved treatments, scientists say.

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Human Brain Appears “Hard-Wired” for Hierarchy

Press Release

Human imaging studies have for the first time identified brain circuitry associated with social status, according to researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) of the National Institutes of Health. They found that different brain areas are activated when a person moves up or down in a pecking order – or simply views perceived social superiors or inferiors. Circuitry activated by important events responded to a potential change in hierarchical status as much as it did to winning money.

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Bipolar Youths’ Misreading of Faces May be Risk Marker for Illness

Science Update

Youngsters with pediatric bipolar disorder and healthy peers who have first-degree relatives with bipolar disorder share the same difficulty labeling facial emotions, NIMH researchers have discovered. Reporting in the February 2008 online edition of the American Journal of Psychiatry, the scientists suggest that the facial emotion recognition impairment might be part of an inherited predisposition to the illness.

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Scans Reveal Faulty Brain Wiring Caused by Missing Genes

Science Update

An NIMH study using an emerging imaging technology has discovered faulty wiring in the brains of people with Williams Syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects some aspects of thinking.

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Depression’s Flip Side Shares its Circuitry

Science Update

Humans tend to be overly optimistic about the future, sometimes underestimating risks and making unrealistic plans, notes NIMH grantee Elizabeth Phelps, Ph.D., New York University.

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Brain Matures a Few Years Late in ADHD, But Follows Normal Pattern

Press Release

In youth with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), the brain matures in a normal pattern but is delayed three years in some regions, on average, compared to youth without the disorder.

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Bipolar Youth Show Distinct Pattern of Brain Development

Science Update

The first picturess of the brain changing before-and-after the onset of pediatric bipolar disorder reveal a distinct pattern of development, when compared to that seen in healthy youth or in childhood onset schizophrenia.

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New Technique Pinpoints Crossroads of Depression in Rat Brain

Science Update

NIMH-funded scientists have developed a new high-speed technique for imaging brain activity and used it to pinpoint a circuit signal in rats that may be at the crossroads of depression — a possible “final common pathway” where different causes of, and treatments for, the disorder appear to converge.

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Cortex Area Thinner in Youth with Alzheimer’s-Related Gene

Press Release

A part of the brain first affected by Alzheimer’s disease is thinner in youth with a risk gene for the disorder, a brain imaging study by researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), one of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), has found.

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Adolescent Brains Show Lower Activity in Areas That Control Risky Choices

Science Update

A new NIMH study could help explain why adolescents are so prone to make risky choices. When contemplating risky decisions, they show less activity in regions of the brain that regulate processes involved in decision-making, compared with adults.

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Brain’s Reward Circuit Activity Ebbs and Flows with a Woman’s Hormonal Cycle

Press Release

Fluctuations in sex hormone levels during women’s menstrual cycles affect the responsiveness of their brains’ reward circuitry, an imaging study at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) has revealed.

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