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Beth Mole The insertion of one gene can muzzle the extra copy of chromosome 21 that causes Down’s syndrome, according to a study published today in Nature1. The method could help researchers to identify the cellular pathways behind the disorder's symptoms, and to design targeted treatments. “It’s a strategy that can be applied in multiple ways, and I think can be useful right now,” says Jeanne Lawrence, a cell biologist at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, and the lead author of the study. Lawrence and her team devised an approach to mimic the natural process that silences one of the two X chromosomes carried by all female mammals. Both chromosomes contain a gene called XIST (the X-inactivation gene), which, when activated, produces an RNA molecule that coats the surface of a chromosome like a blanket, blocking other genes from being expressed. In female mammals, one copy of the XIST gene is activated — silencing the X chromosome on which it resides. Lawrence’s team spliced the XIST gene into one of the three copies of chromosome 21 in cells from a person with Down’s syndrome. The team also inserted a genetic 'switch' that allowed them to turn on XIST by dosing the cells with the antibiotic doxycycline. Doing so dampened expression of individual genes along chromosome 21 that are thought to contribute to the pervasive developmental problems that comprise Down's syndrome. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group,

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18390 - Posted: 07.18.2013

Heidi Ledford The growth of new nerves in and around prostate cancers spurs tumours to grow and invade other tissues, studies in mice have shown. The results, published today in Science1, could steer researchers towards novel approaches to treating cancer. Although it is not yet clear whether the mechanism occurs in humans — or in cancers affecting other organs — an analysis of samples from 43 patients with prostate cancer found that nerve density was high in patients who fared poorly in the clinic. “It’s a catalytic paper,” says John Isaacs, a cancer researcher at the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland, who was not affiliated with the study. “People may now focus on trying to tackle these unanswered questions.” Previous work had shown that cancer cells sometimes migrate along nerves, and that this process can be associated with poor responses to therapy2. To learn more, Claire Magnon and Paul Frenette of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York and their colleagues studied tumour development in mice injected with human prostate cancer cells. The resulting tumours, they saw, were infiltrated with certain types of nerve fibres. Chemically destroying those nerves prevented the development of tumours in the prostate. Furthermore, the team found that another class of nerves was associated with tumour spread, and that blocking certain receptors on those nerves prevented the cancer from invading nearby lymph nodes. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18369 - Posted: 07.13.2013

by Sara Reardon As a baby's brain rewires itself to face the world ahead, its DNA is rewiring itself at the same time. New maps of chemical modifications to brain DNA have revealed massive epigenetic changes during the first few years of life. Environmental stressors that disrupt the process during this crucial period could lead to mental disorders. During development in mammals, chemical tags called methyl groups are added to certain cytosine nucleotides in the DNA, which affects how nearby genes are expressed. Later, environmental stressors such as stress, diet and disease can alter these patterns and change the genes' expression. These epigenetic modifications appear to play a role in some neurological disorders. For instance, one recent study found that in genetically identical twin pairs in which only one twin has autism, genes involved in brain development have different epigenetic patterns. Because epigenetic patterns can differ between tissues in the body, Ryan Lister of the University of Western Australia in Crawley and colleagues decided to zero in on the brain's methylation. They collected nine human brains including examples from fetuses, two-month-old babies, toddlers, teenagers and older adults, and the same from mice at equivalent stages of development. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18352 - Posted: 07.06.2013

By Elizabeth Landau, CNN Philadelphia (CNN) -- Martha Farah is leaning forward, furiously typing on her thin laptop in her spacious office at the University of Pennsylvania. Awards, paintings and posters lean against the walls on the floor as she puts the final touches on a grant proposal. "I hate it, but I love it!" she exclaims, in a voice that often rises melodically to stress words with enthusiasm. "The adrenaline!" Farah, 57, built a career that has taken many exciting turns. The scope of her work in the field is impressive: She has studied vision, brain-enhancing drugs and socioeconomic influences on the brain, among other topics. Currently, she is the founding director for Penn's Center for Neuroscience and Society. "One of the things that really drew me to her was her interest in applying the tools and insights of cognitive neuroscience to socially relevant questions," said Andrea Heberlein, a former postdoctoral fellow in Farah's lab and current lecturer at Boston College. "How can we make the world better, using these tools?" After completing her undergraduate education at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Farah studied experimental psychology in the 1970s and '80s at Harvard University, where she earned her Ph.D. The prevailing idea among scientists at the time was that the mind is like computer software and the brain is like the hardware; software would explain "cognitive" phenomena such as memory, problem-solving and information processing. CNN© 2013 Cable News Network

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18271 - Posted: 06.15.2013

Brain cells have been grown from skin cells of adults with Down's syndrome in research that could shed new light on the condition. US scientists found a reduction in connections among the brain cells and possible faults in genes that protect the body from ageing. The research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences gives an insight into early brain development. Down's syndrome results from an extra copy of one chromosome. This generally causes some level of learning disability and a range of distinctive physical features. A team led by Anita Bhattacharyya, a neuroscientist at the Waisman Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, grew brain cells from skin cells of two individuals with Down's syndrome. This involved reprogramming skin cells to transform them into a type of stem cell that could be turned into any cell in the body. Brain cells were then grown in the lab, providing a way to look at early brain development in Down's syndrome. One significant finding was a reduction in connections among the neurons, said Dr Bhattacharyya. "They communicate less, are quieter. This is new, but it fits with what little we know about the Down syndrome brain." Brain cells communicate through connections known as synapses. The brain cells in Down's syndrome individuals had only about 60% of the usual number of synapses and synaptic activity. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18199 - Posted: 05.28.2013

By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD Modern mothers love to debate how long to breast-feed, a topic that stirs both guilt and pride. Now — in a very preliminary finding — the Neanderthals are weighing in. By looking at barium levels in the fossilized molar of a Neanderthal child, researchers concluded that the child had been breast-fed exclusively for the first seven months, followed by seven months of mother’s milk supplemented by other food. Then the barium pattern in the tooth enamel “returned to baseline prenatal levels, indicating an abrupt cessation of breast-feeding at 1.2 years of age,” the scientists reported on Wednesday in the journal Nature. While that timetable conforms with the current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics — which suggests that mothers exclusively breast-feed babies for six months and continue for 12 months if possible — it represents a much shorter span of breast-feeding than practiced by apes or a vast majority of modern humans. The average age of weaning in nonindustrial populations is about 2.5 years; in chimpanzees in the wild, it is about 5.3 years. Of course, living conditions were much different for our evolutionary cousins, the Neanderthals, extinct for the last 30,000 years. The findings, which drew strong skepticism from some scientists, were meant to highlight a method of linking barium levels in teeth to dietary changes. In the Nature report, researchers from the United States and Australia described tests among human infants and captive macaques showing that traces of the element barium in tooth enamel appeared to accurately reflect transitions from mother’s milk through weaning. The barium levels rose during breast-feeding and fell off sharply on weaning. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 6: Evolution of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18187 - Posted: 05.23.2013

By Scicurious Aging happens. As you get older, your body slows down, eventually your brain slows down, too. Some things go gradually, and some go suddenly. To many people, this might seem like a pretty random process. We used to think of aging this way, as just…well cells get old, which means we get old, too. DNA replication after a while starts making errors in repair, the errors build up, and on the whole body scale the whole thing just kind of goes downhill. It seems random. But in fact, it’s not. There are specific proteins which can help control this process. And one of these, NF-kB, in one particular brain region, may have a very important role indeed. NF-kB (which stands for nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer of activated B cells, which is why we use NF-kB) is a protein complex that has a lot of roles to play. It’s an important starting player in the immune system, where it helps to stimulate antibodies. It’s important in memory and stress responses. NF-kB is something called a transcription factor, which helps to control what DNA is transcribed to RNA, and therefore what proteins will eventually be produced. Transcription factors, as you can see, can have a very large number of functions. But in the hypothalamus, NF-kB may have the added function of helping to control aging. The hypothalamus is an area of many small nuclei (further sub areas of neurons) located at the base of the brain. It’s been coming more and more into vogue lately among neuroscientists. In the past, we were interested in the hypothalamus mostly for its role in controlling hormone release from the dangling pituitary gland before it, but now we are learning that the hypothalamus can play roles in fear, mood, food intake, reproduction, and now…aging. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 5: Hormones and the Brain
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 18152 - Posted: 05.14.2013

Chris Palmer NF-kB activation in neurons in the hypothalamus increases with age (left column), while the total number of neurons (middle column) and the total number of all cell types in the hypothalamus (right column) is maintained at a relatively steady rate across age groups. The area of the brain that controls growth, reproduction and metabolism also kick-starts ageing, according to a study published today in Nature1. The finding could lead to new treatments for age-related illnesses, helping people to live longer. Dongsheng Cai, a physiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and his colleagues tracked the activity of NF-κB — a molecule that controls DNA transcription and is involved in inflammation and the body's response to stress — in the brains of mice. They found that the molecule becomes more active in the brain area called the hypothalamus as a mouse grows older. Further tests suggested that NF-κB activity helps to determine when mice display signs of ageing. Animals lived longer than normal when they were injected with a substance that inhibited the activity of NF-κB in immune cells called microglia in the hypothalamus. Mice that received a substance to stimulate the activity of NF-κB died earlier. “We have provided scientific evidence for the concept that systemic ageing is influenced by a particular tissue in the body,” says Cai. Health and well-being © 2013 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18108 - Posted: 05.02.2013

by Emily Underwood In the cartoon series named after them, Pinky and the Brain, two laboratory mice genetically enhanced to increase their intelligence plot to take over the world—and fail each time. Perhaps their creators hadn't tweaked the correct gene. Researchers have now found a genetic mutation that causes mammalian neural tissue to expand and fold. The discovery may help explain why humans evolved more elaborate brains than mice, and it could suggest ways to treat disorders such as autism and epilepsy that arise from abnormal neural development. In mice and humans alike, the cerebral cortex—the outermost layer of brain tissue associated with high-level functions such as memory and decision-making—starts out as a spherical sheet of tissue made up of only neural stem cells. As these stem cells divide, the cortex increases its surface area, expanding like an inflating balloon, says neuroscientist Victor Borrell of the Institute of Neurosciences of Alicante in Spain. Unlike the small, smooth mouse brain, however, the uppermost layers of tissue in the human brain cram millions of neurons into specialized folds and furrows responsible for complex tasks such as language and thought. Because the human cerebral cortex is generally considered "special," some scientists have hypothesized that the genes that govern its development of cortical folds and furrows are also unique to humans, Borrell says. In studies of neural development in mice, Stahl found that TRNP1 produces a protein that determines whether neural stem cells self-replicate, leading to a balloonlike expansion of cortical surface area, or whether they differentiate into a plethora of intermediate stem cell types and neurons, thickening the cortex and forming more complex brain structures. Based on that discovery, the team hypothesized that varying levels of the gene's expression in mice and humans might account for the varying levels of cortical thickness and different shapes between the two species. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18082 - Posted: 04.27.2013

By ABBY ELLIN Marvin Tolkin was 83 when he decided that the unexamined life wasn’t worth living. Until then, it had never occurred to him that there might be emotional “issues” he wanted to explore with a counselor. “I don’t think I ever needed therapy,” said Mr. Tolkin, a retired manufacturer of women’s undergarments who lives in Manhattan and Hewlett Harbor, N.Y. Though he wasn’t clinically depressed, Mr. Tolkin did suffer from migraines and “struggled through a lot of things in my life” — the demise of a long-term business partnership, the sudden death of his first wife 18 years ago. He worried about his children and grandchildren, and his relationship with his current wife, Carole. “When I hit my 80s I thought, ‘The hell with this.’ I don’t know how long I’m going to live, I want to make it easier,” said Mr. Tolkin, now 86. “Everybody needs help, and everybody makes mistakes. I needed to reach outside my own capabilities.” So Mr. Tolkin began seeing Dr. Robert C. Abrams, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Weill Cornell Medical College in Manhattan. They meet once a month for 45 minutes, exploring the problems that were weighing on Mr. Tolkin. “Dr. Abrams is giving me a perspective that I didn’t think about,” he said. “It’s been making the transition of living at this age in relation to my family very doable and very livable.” Mr. Tolkin is one of many seniors who are seeking psychological help late in life. Most never set foot near an analyst’s couch in their younger years. But now, as people are living longer, and the stigma of psychological counseling has diminished, they are recognizing that their golden years might be easier if they alleviate the problems they have been carrying around for decades. It also helps that Medicare pays for psychiatric assessments and therapy. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 18061 - Posted: 04.23.2013

by Dennis Normile A human mother rocking a baby in her arms and a cat carrying her kitten by the scruff of its neck have the same physiological effect on both young animals and probably stem from the same maternal instinct to protect their young. That's the conclusion of a new study, which for the first time has compared the physiological impact of maternal carrying behaviors across species. The findings may lead to better parenting techniques for people and possibly to new ways to detect developmental disorders early in life. It's "really fascinating" work, says Oliver Bosch, a neurobiologist at the University of Regensburg in Germany, who was not involved in the research. "No one has looked at [this aspect] of maternal behavior in such detail." Japanese neuroscientist Kumi Kuroda began the study in her own home. She noticed that carrying her newborn baby boy while walking had a rapid calming effect on him. Back in her lab at the RIKEN Brain Science Institute, near Tokyo, she found that picking up mouse pups by the scruff of the neck makes them passive and easy to handle. Kuroda wondered if the same physiological processes were driving both behaviors. She and colleagues recorded pulse rates and observed the crying and squirming behavior of 12 infants, 1 to 6 months old, as each was left alone in a crib, held by its mother sitting in a chair, and carried as the mother walked around. In various durations and combinations of the three conditions, they found that the carried babies cried and squirmed the least and had the lowest pulse rates. Those left in the crib were the fussiest; holding the baby while sitting produced in-between results. What was particularly surprising, Kuroda says, was that when a mother started walking, the infant's pulse dropped, and the crying and squirming stopped within 2 to 3 seconds, not over several minutes. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 18048 - Posted: 04.20.2013

by Douglas Heaven A glimpse of consciousness emerging in the brains of babies has been recorded for the first time. Insights gleaned from the work may aid the monitoring of babies under anaesthesia, and give a better understanding of awareness in people in vegetative states – and possibly even in animals. The human brain develops dramatically in a baby's first year, transforming the baby from being unaware to being fully engaged with its surroundings. To capture this change, Sid Kouider at the Ecole Normale Supérieure in Paris, France, and colleagues used electroencephalography (EEG) to record electrical activity in the brains of 80 infants while they were briefly shown pictures of faces. In adults, awareness of a stimulus is known to be linked to a two-stage pattern of brain activity. Immediately after a visual stimulus is presented, areas of the visual cortex fire. About 300 milliseconds later other areas light up, including the prefrontal cortex, which deals with higher-level cognition. Conscious awareness kicks in only after the second stage of neural activity reaches a specific threshold. "It's an all-or-nothing response," says Kouider. Adults can verbally describe being aware of a stimulus, but a baby is a closed book. "We have learned a lot about consciousness in people who can talk about it, but very little in those who cannot," says Tristan Bekinschtein at the University of Cambridge, who was not involved in the work. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 18047 - Posted: 04.20.2013

by Elizabeth Norton A loving gaze helps firm up the bond between parent and child, building social skills that last a lifetime. But what happens when mom is blind? A new study shows that the children of sightless mothers develop healthy communication skills and can even outstrip the children of parents with normal vision. Eye contact is one of the most important aspects of communication, according to Atsushi Senju, a developmental cognitive neuroscientist at Birkbeck, University of London. Autistic people don't naturally make eye contact, however, and they can become anxious when urged to do so. Children for whom face-to-face contact is drastically reduced—babies severely neglected in orphanages or children who are born blind—are more likely to have traits of autism, such as the inability to form attachments, hyperactivity, and cognitive impairment. To determine whether eye contact is essential for developing normal communication skills, Senju and colleagues chose a less extreme example: babies whose primary caregivers (their mothers) were blind. These children had other forms of loving interaction, such as touching and talking. But the mothers were unable to follow the babies' gaze or teach the babies to follow theirs, which normally helps children learn the importance of the eyes in communication. Apparently, the children don't need the help. Senju and colleagues studied five babies born to blind mothers, checking the children's proficiency at 6 to 10 months, 12 to 15 months, and 24 to 47 months on several measures of age-appropriate communications skills. At the first two visits, babies watched videos in which a woman shifted her gaze or moved different parts of her face while corresponding changes in the baby's face were recorded. Babies also followed the gaze of a woman sitting at a table and looking at various objects. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 18023 - Posted: 04.11.2013

By DOUGLAS QUENQUA The French geneticist Jérôme Lejeune discovered more than 50 years ago that Down syndrome is caused by the presence of an extra copy of chromosome 21. But to this day it has remained a mystery why that results in impaired physical and cognitive development. Now researchers at the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute think they have found a clue. The scientists, who were investigating Alzheimer’s disease, found that mice that lacked a protein known as SNX27 had many of the same learning and memory defects as mice with Down syndrome. Looking at the brains of people with the syndrome, the researchers discovered that they, too, lacked SNX27. While chromosome 21 is not directly involved in SNX27 production, it does encode a regulator — miR-155 — that inhibits production. According to the study, published in the journal Nature Medicine, levels of miR-155 in the brains of people with Down syndrome correlate almost exactly with the decrease in SNX27. “In the brain, SNX27 keeps certain receptors on the cell surface — receptors that are necessary for neurons to fire properly,” said the study’s senior author, Huaxi Xu, in a statement released by the institute. “So in Down syndrome, we believe lack of SNX27 is at least partly to blame for developmental and cognitive defects.” To test their findings, Dr. Xu’s team introduced more SNX27 to mice with Down syndrome. As they expected, the mice showed immediate improvements in cognitive function and behavior. Now the researchers are investigating molecules that might increase production of SNX27 in the human brain. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18002 - Posted: 04.09.2013

by Dennis Normile Puberty has always been a time of stress and emotional turmoil for adolescents and for their parents. And scientists have long recognized that kids who start puberty ahead of their peers are particularly likely to have trouble getting along with other children and with adults. New research suggests that those difficulties can be traced back to even earlier ages, indicating that early puberty may not be the root cause. Australian researchers drew on data for 3491 children, roughly half boys and half girls, who were recruited at ages 4 or 5 and then followed until they reached ages 10 or 11. Every 2 years, a researcher visited each subject's home, evaluated the child, and interviewed the primary caregiver, which in most cases was a parent, who later completed and returned a questionnaire about their child's behavior. The primary caregiver was also asked to judge the child's pubertal status, based on indicators for an early phase of puberty such as breast growth in girls, adult-type body odor, and body hair; and growth spurts, deepening voices in boys, and menstruation in girls for a later stage. Girls typically enter puberty at age 10 or 11 and boys at 11 or 12. The researchers found that 16% of the girls and 6% of the boys in the study had entered puberty early, at age 8 or 9. Previously, researchers thought that any negative effects of early puberty showed up only after puberty's onset. But by tracking a cohort of children from age 4 to 5 to age 10 to 11, they found that problems thought restricted to postpuberty children actually appeared well before puberty. Retrospectively, they were able to show that children who later had early onset puberty had difficulty playing with other children and participating in normal school activities, even when they were 4 or 5 years old. Boys, though not girls, in this group had also showed behavior problems, such as being overactive, losing their tempers, and preferring to play alone from a young age. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 12: Sex: Evolutionary, Hormonal, and Neural Bases
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 8: Hormones and Sex
Link ID: 17987 - Posted: 04.03.2013

A lack of a protein in Down's syndrome brains could be the cause of learning and memory problems, says a US study. Writing in Nature Medicine, Californian researchers found that the extra copy of chromosome 21 in people with the condition triggered the protein loss. Their study found restoring the protein in Down's syndrome mice improved cognitive function and behaviour. The Down's Syndrome Association said the study was interesting but the causes of Down's were very complex. Prof Huaxi Xu, senior author of the study from the Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute, said that in experiments on mice they discovered that the SNX27 protein was important for brain function and memory formation. Mice with less SNX27 had fewer active glutamate receptors and therefore had impaired learning and memory. The SNX27-deficient mice shared some characteristics with Down's syndrome, so the researchers looked at human brains with the condition. This confirmed their findings in the lab - that people with Down's syndrome also have significantly lower levels of SNX27. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17945 - Posted: 03.25.2013

By Bruce Bower Malnutrition in the first year life, even when followed by a good diet and restored physical health, predisposes people to a troubled personality at age 40, new research suggests. The study of 77 formerly malnourished people represents the first evidence linking malnutrition shortly after birth to adult personality traits. The traits in some cases may foretell psychiatric problems, says a team led by psychiatrist Janina Galler of Harvard Medical School in Boston and psychologist Paul Costa of Duke University Medical Center in Durham. Compared with peers who were well-fed throughout their lives, formerly malnourished men and women reported markedly more anxiety, vulnerability to stress, hostility, mistrust of others, anger and depression, Galler’s team reports March 12 in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry. Survivors of early malnutrition also cited relatively little intellectual curiosity, social warmth, cooperativeness and willingness to try new experiences and to work hard at achieving goals. Previous studies of people exposed prenatally to famine have reported increased rates of certain personality disorders and schizophrenia. Another investigation found that malnutrition at age 3 predisposed youngsters on the Indian Ocean island of Mauritius to delinquent and aggressive behavior at ages 8, 11 and 17. As is true in the new study, distrust of others, anxiety and depression often accompany high levels of anger, says psychologist Adrian Raine of the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, who directed the Mauritius research. “Poor nutrition early in life seems to predispose individuals to a suspicious personality, which may then fuel a hostile attitude toward others,” Raine proposes. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 15: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 11: Emotions, Aggression, and Stress
Link ID: 17930 - Posted: 03.23.2013

By Janet Raloff Hospitals rush newborns into a neonatal intensive care unit when those babies are struggling to survive. Although NICUs offer tender and vigilant care, many of the devices they rely on can expose their tiny patients to a relatively large dose of a hormone-mimicking pollutant, bisphenol A. Newborns in intensive care excrete BPA, on average, at levels of around 17.8 micrograms per liter — well above the 0.45 µg/l typical of healthy infants, researchers report in the March Pediatrics. One of the most reliable indicators of BPA exposure was the level of care that a baby received, reflected by the number of devices used to deliver that care, notes nurse and exposure-science researcher Susan Duty of Simmons College in Boston. Breathing tubes, intravenous drug delivery lines and enclosed incubators are plastic, and several types of plastic can contain BPA. Although researchers have not figured out what doses of BPA cause toxicity in people, several studies have linked elevated prenatal exposures to later behavioral problems (SN Online: 7/16/12) and moodiness (SN: 11/7/09, p. 12) in young children. Animal studies have also linked BPA exposure during development to feminization in males and risks of later hypertension and diabetes. Duty’s team studied 55 infants, each of whom spent at least three days in a NICU in the Boston area, and most of whom had been born prematurely or were for other reasons very small. The researchers measured BPA in the breast milk and formula that these tiny babies consumed. Both nutritional sources had small, comparable amounts of BPA. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 17835 - Posted: 02.23.2013

Sandrine Ceurstemont, editor, New Scientist TV It's the sequel to fertilisation: the brains of unborn babies have now been imaged in action, showing how connections form. This fMRI movie, produced by Moriah Thomason from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, shows a fly-through of several fetuses in their third trimester. By comparing the scans at slightly different stages of development, Thomason was able to pinpoint when different parts of the brain wire up. "The connection strength increases with fetal age," writes Thomason. By identifying how brain connectivity normally develops, the scans could help diagnose and treat conditions like schizophrenia and autism before birth. For more on this research, read our full-length news story, "First snaps made of fetal brains wiring themselves up". © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 2: Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 2: Cells and Structures: The Anatomy of the Nervous System; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17834 - Posted: 02.23.2013

By Emily Chung, CBC News Among musicians who learned to play an instrument before the age of seven, earlier training was linked to more connections in the area of the brain that co-ordinates both hands.Among musicians who learned to play an instrument before the age of seven, earlier training was linked to more connections in the area of the brain that co-ordinates both hands. (Jorge Silva/Reuters) Starting piano or violin lessons before the age of seven appears to cause permanent changes to the brain that are linked to better motor skills. Those changes in brain development don't occur in people who learn to play an instrument when they are older, a new study has found. "What we think is that it doesn't mean you can't be an amazing musician if you start later — just that if you start earlier it may give you some of these specific abilities that are helpful," said Virginia Penhune, a Concordia University psychologist who co-authored the research with two of her doctoral students and McGill University neuropsychologist Robert Zatorre. The Montreal researchers gave a test of motor skills to and scanned the brains of 36 musicians who were either enrolled in a university music program or performed professionally, and who had an average of 16 years experience playing musical instruments. Half of them began their musical training between age three and seven, while the other half started between the ages of eight and 18, but both groups had a comparable level of experience. The study also tested 17 non-musicians. © CBC 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 9: Hearing, Vestibular Perception, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 6: Hearing, Balance, Taste, and Smell; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 17804 - Posted: 02.14.2013