Tapping into the electrical chatter between different regions of the brain may provide a new way to predict and prevent depression, according to new research by Duke University neuroscientists and electrical engineers.
The researchers found different networks of electrical brain activity in mice that were more susceptible to developing depression-like symptoms following stressful events than in more resilient mice.
If replicated in humans, these results could be the first step toward a test to predict a person’s vulnerabilty to developing mental illnesses like depression.
Women with a history of suicide attempts exhibit different levels of a specific protein in their bloodstream than those with no history of suicide attempts, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
Graduate student Anastacia Kudinova and Brandon E. Gibb, professor of psychology and director of clinical training at Binghamton University, recruited 73 women as part of a larger study focused on risk for depression and anxiety in families. They put the women into two groups — 34 women had a lifetime history of suicide attempts and 39 women had no lifetime history of suicide attempts. The researchers tested plasma levels in both groups for BDNF, or brain-derived neurotropic factor, a protein found in the brain and periphery that is critical to the creation and functioning of neurons and the ability of synapses to strengthen or weaken over time. They found that women with a history of suicide attempts displayed lower circulating levels of BDNF than women with no history of suicide attempts.
This evidence suggests that the level of BDNF found within a woman’s circulatory system serves as a promising biomarker for suicidal behavior.
NIH-funded scientists revealed the types of neurons supporting alertness, using a molecular method called MultiMAP in transparent larval zebrafish. Multiple types of neurons communicate by secreting the same major chemical messengers: serotonin (red), dopamine and noradrenaline (yellow) and acetylcholine (cyan).
Source: Karl Deisseroth, M.D., Ph.D., Stanford University
Using a molecular method likely to become widely adopted by the field, researchers supported by the National Institutes of Health have discovered brain circuitry essential for alertness, or vigilance – and for brain states more generally. Strikingly, the same cell types and circuits are engaged during alertness in zebra fish and mice, species whose evolutionary forebears parted ways hundreds of millions of years ago. This suggests that the human brain is likely similarly wired for this state critical to survival.
“Vigilance gone awry marks states such as mania and those seen in post-traumatic stress disorder and depression,” explained Joshua Gordon, M.D., Ph.D., director of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), which along with the National Institute on Drug Abuse, co-funded the study. “Gaining familiarity with the molecular players in a behavior – as this new tool promises – may someday lead to clinical interventions targeting dysfunctional brain states.”
Scientists at Rutgers University-New Brunswick used a genetic engineering technique for the first time to create brain cells from the blood cells of individuals in a three-generation family with Tourette syndrome to help determine what causes the disease.
“This is so important to the future research of Tourette’s and other neuropsychiatric disorders because before this technique was discovered we were unable to study brain-type nerve cells of living patients,” said Jay Tischfield, senior author of the study published in Molecular Psychology and MacMillan Distinguished Professor of Genetics. “I think this technique will give us a better understanding of what sorts of genes cause this disease. Also, these cells could be used to screen drugs that might be effective for treatment.”
While the technique — which led to a Nobel Prize in 2012 for the Japanese and British scientists who discovered it — has been used to investigate the genetic link of other psychiatric or neurological diseases like schizophrenia and Lou Gehrig’s disease, this is the first time the procedure was used in researching a cause of Tourette syndrome, which has no precise treatment and cannot yet be diagnosed by genetic testing.
The brain may have a distinctive activity pattern during stressful events that predicts bodily reactions, such as rises in blood pressure that increase risk for cardiovascular disease, according to new proof-of-concept research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.
The new research, the largest brain-imaging study of cardiovascular stress physiology to date, introduced a brain-based explanation of why stress might influence a person’s heart health.
“Psychological stress can influence physical health and risk for heart disease, and there may be biological and brain-based explanations for this influence,” said Peter Gianaros, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and psychology professor at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania.
Millions of people suffer from the constant sensation of ringing or buzzing in the ears known as tinnitus, creating constant irritation for some and severe anxiety for others. Research by scientists at OHSU shows why a common antidepressant medication may worsen the condition.
The study, to be published Aug. 22 in the journal Cell Reports, focused on the action of serotonin, an important neuromodulator in the brain. Researchers examined brain tissue in mice, specifically the dorsal cochlear nucleus where sensory integration and tinnitus occurs. Researchers discovered that neurons known as fusiform cells within this portion of the brain become hyperactive and hypersensitive to stimuli when exposed to serotonin.
Despite the fact that more than four percent of the world’s population suffer from depression, and even though approximately 1,500 individuals commit suicide each year in Sweden, the understanding of the pathophysiology of depression remains unclear and only a few new discoveries of mechanisms behind it have been made in recent years. New approved pharmacological interventions are mainly absent, despite intensive research on the subject.
Researchers at Karolinska Institutet have characterized the role of the enzyme CYP2C19 in depression and functional and morphological changes in the brain. The enzyme is responsible for the metabolism of many neuroactive compounds, including antidepressants, and is located in the fetal brain and adult liver.
Young mice that grow up in stressful circumstances go on to have fewer cognitive-impairments and memory problems as adults if they are given enriched breast milk. This has been revealed by research conducted by neuroscientists and biomedical scientists at UvA, AMC and UMCG. They have published their findings in the FASEB Journal.
In both humans and other animals, severe stress in early childhood (human examples are abuse and neglect or war trauma) results in impaired brain development and health issues later in life. For example, people exposed to early-life stress have a higher risk of developing depression, anxiety disorders and other diseases such as obesity, and on average have a lower IQ and a less effective memory.
Understanding of the physical root of depression has been advanced, thanks to research by the University of Warwick, UK, and Fudan University, China.
The study shows that depression affects the part of the brain which is implicated in non-reward — the lateral orbitofrontal cortex — so that sufferers of the disease feel a sense of loss and disappointment associated with not receiving rewards.
This area of the brain, which becomes active when rewards are not received, is also connected with the part of the brain which is involved in one’s sense of self, thus potentially leading to thoughts of personal loss and low self-esteem.