Chapter 3. Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals

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Lesley Mcclurg The first prescription medication extracted from the marijuana plant is poised to land on pharmacists' shelves this fall. Epidiolex, made from purified cannabidiol, or CBD, a compound found in the cannabis plant, is approved for two rare types of epilepsy. Its journey to market was driven forward by one family's quest to find a treatment for their son's epilepsy. Scientific and public interest in CBD had been percolating for several years before the Food and Drug Administration finally approved Epidiolex in June. But CBD — which doesn't cause the mind-altering high that comes from THC, the primary psychoactive component of marijuana — was hard to study, because of tight restrictions on using cannabis in research. Sam Vogelstein's family and his doctors found ways to work around those restrictions in their fight to control his seizures. Sam's seizures started in 2005 when he was four years old. It's a moment his mother, Evelyn Nussenbaum, will never forget. The family was saying goodbye to a dinner guest when Sam's face suddenly slackened and he fell forward at the waist. Article continues after sponsorship "He did something that looked like a judo bow after a match," says Nussenbaum. Two months passed before Sam had another seizure, but then he started having them every week. Eventually he was suffering through 100 seizures a day. © 2018 npr

Keyword: Epilepsy; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25296 - Posted: 08.06.2018

by Lindsey Bever It was a solution no parent wants to hear: To get rid of a brain tumor and stop their young son's seizures, surgeons would need to cut out one-sixth of his brain. But for Tanner Collins, it was the best option. A slow-growing tumor was causing sometimes-daily seizures, and medications commonly used to treat them did not seem to be working, his father said. But removing a portion of his brain was no doubt risky. That region — the right occipital and posterior temporal lobes — is important for facial recognition, and, without it, Tanner's parents wondered if he would recognize them. Tanner, who was 6 at the time, underwent surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Children's Hospital. Although his brain has had to work to adapt since then, he's had no major problems. Other than some visual impairment, Tanner, now 12, said he's “perfectly fine.” “As far as I’m concerned, I’m a perfectly normal 12-year-old boy,” Tanner said. Tanner's case was published Tuesday in the scientific journal Cell Reports, explaining how the 12-year-old's brain learned to adapt after a part largely responsible for visual processing was taken out. Marlene Behrmann, a cognitive neuroscientist and lead author of the paper, said Tanner was one of the first pediatric patients studied over the past several years in her laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University to determine the extent to which a child's brain can reorganize itself after certain sections are surgically removed. In Tanner's case, she said, surgeons took out his right occipital and posterior temporal lobes, which made up about one-third of the right hemisphere of his brain. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Epilepsy
Link ID: 25287 - Posted: 08.03.2018

Jessica Wright When Abigail was 19 months old, she took a ferry with her mother Gillian across the English Channel during a move from Germany to England. On board, she played with a Belgian toddler whose mother, a doctor, took notice of Abigail’s tight muscles and lack of language. (Gillian asked that we omit their last names to protect their privacy.) “What syndrome does she have?” the doctor asked Gillian. Gillian didn’t know. In the coming years, Abigail would receive diagnoses of autism and intellectual disability; she also has recurrent seizures. But it took 20 years to get an answer to the Belgian doctor’s question. In 2013, Abigail’s doctor, Meena Balasubramanian, enrolled Abigail in Deciphering Developmental Disorders (DDD), a study in which researchers sequence an individual’s genes to find the cause of undiagnosed genetic conditions. In Abigail, they found a de novo, or spontaneous, mutation in a known epilepsy gene called HNRNPU. Gillian learned of the result just last year. Over the past year, this gene has emerged as a new autism candidate associated with a neurodevelopmental syndrome. Finding the genetic cause for Abigail’s condition sparked Balasubramanian’s interest in the gene. She has since collected clinical information from six other people with these mutations, five of whom were identified through DDD. These participants share Abigail’s learning difficulties and seizures. © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist.

Keyword: Epilepsy; Autism
Link ID: 25250 - Posted: 07.26.2018

Catherine Offord Researchers at Caltech have designed a noninvasive method to control specific neural circuits in the mouse brain. The technique, published earlier this week (July 9) in Nature Biomedical Engineering, combines ultrasound waves with genetic engineering and the administration of designer compounds to selectively activate or inhibit neurons. Although currently only tested in mice, the approach could offer a novel way to administer therapy to regions of the human brain that are difficult to access using surgery. “By using sound waves and known genetic techniques, we can, for the first time, noninvasively control specific brain regions and cell types as well as the timing of when neurons are switched on or off,” study coauthor Mikhail Shapiro says in a statement. While several emerging methods in neuroscience allow researchers to manipulate brain circuits, most “require invasive techniques such as stereotaxic surgery, which can damage tissue and initiate a long-lasting immune response,” note neuroscientists Caroline Menard and Scott Russo of Quebec City’s Université Laval and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, respectively, in an accompanying News and Views article. “Also, conventional pharmacological approaches lack the spatial, temporal and cell-type specificity required to treat the brain, and can lead to deleterious side effects.” © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist.

Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 25218 - Posted: 07.17.2018

Amy Maxmen Legal hurdles to exploring marijuana’s medicinal properties might soon fall in the wake of the US Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) first approval of a cannabis-derived drug. On 25 June, the FDA announced its approval of Epidiolex — a treatment for epileptic seizures that is based on a cannabis compound called cannabidiol (CBD). The US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) has until 24 September to re-classify Epidiolex so that it’s legal for doctors across the country to prescribe it. Many researchers hope that the agency will re-classify CBD itself, instead of just Epidiolex, so that they can more easily study this non-psychedelic component of marijuana. Now that the FDA has approved Epidiolex, “we have a clear recognition that this plant has more potential than people credited it for, and that has reverberations that are scientific as well as legal”, says Daniele Piomelli, director of a new centre for cannabis research at the University of California, Irvine. At the very least, he says, the DEA ought to grant researchers an exemption permitting them to study CBD — especially now that people consume it and other cannabis compounds, known as cannabinoids, in states where marijuana is legal. At this point, the limits on research seem irrational, he adds. Lessening restrictions on the study of CBD would also be good news for biotech startups that have been producing cannabinoids through genetic engineering. These products could be purer and more affordable than those obtained through older methods of extraction from marijuana plants or chemical synthesis. © 2018 Springer Nature Limited.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Epilepsy
Link ID: 25194 - Posted: 07.11.2018

By Simon Makin The electrical oscillations we call brain waves have intrigued scientists and the public for more than a century. But their function—and even whether they have one, rather than just reflecting brain activity like an engine’s hum—is still debated. Many neuroscientists have assumed that if brain waves do anything, it is by oscillating in synchrony in different locations. Yet a growing body of research suggests many brain waves are actually “traveling waves” that physically move through the brain like waves on the sea. Now a new study from a team at Columbia University led by neuroscientist Joshua Jacobs suggests traveling waves are widespread in the human cortex—the seat of higher cognitive functions—and that they become more organized depending on how well the brain is performing a task. This shows the waves are relevant to behavior, bolstering previous research suggesting they are an important but overlooked brain mechanism that contributes to memory, perception, attention and even consciousness. Brain waves were first discovered using electroencephalogram (EEG) techniques, which involve placing electrodes on the scalp. Researchers have noted activity over a range of different frequencies, from delta (0.5 to 4 hertz) through to gamma (25 to 140 Hz) waves. The slowest occur during deep sleep, with increasing frequency associated with increasing levels of consciousness and concentration. Interpreting EEG data is difficult due to its poor ability to pinpoint the location of activity, and the fact that passage through the head blurs the signals. The new study, published earlier this month in Neuron, used a more recent technique called electrocorticography (ECoG). This involves placing electrode arrays directly on the brain’s surface, minimizing distortions and vastly improving spatial resolution. © 2018 Scientific American

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 25159 - Posted: 06.29.2018

Shawna Williams The US Food and Drug Administration today (June 25) approved for the first time a marijuana-derived drug, Epidiolex, for the treatment of two rare forms of epilepsy. The drug contains cannabidiol, or CBD, and does not make users high while reducing the rate of seizures in patients with Dravet or Lennox-Gastaut syndromes, clinical trials show. “In my practice, I often see patients with these highly treatment-resistant epilepsies who have tried and failed existing therapies and are asking about CBD,” says Orrin Devinsky of NYU Langone Health, a lead investigator in the trials, in a statement released by the company that makes Epidiolex. “I am delighted that my physician colleagues and I will now have the option of a prescription cannabidiol that has undergone the rigor of controlled trials and been approved by the FDA to treat both children and adults.” Both Dravet and Lennox-Gastaut are relatively severe forms of epilepsy that can be fatal, STAT News notes. While there are other drugs approved to treat Lennox-Gastaut, there had previously been none for Dravet. Some parents have used unapproved CBD oils to treat their children. In a statement released today, FDA notes that it “has taken recent actions against companies distributing unapproved CBD products. . . . We’ll continue to take action when we see the illegal marketing of CBD-containing products with unproven medical claims.” © 1986 - 2018 The Scientist Magazine®

Keyword: Epilepsy; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 25148 - Posted: 06.27.2018

By Amanda Svachula Marcos Gardiana, a self-proclaimed Disney fanatic with five tattoos of Disney characters on his body to prove it, was excited to see the company’s latest blockbuster, “Incredibles 2,” on Sunday, and took his girlfriend along with him. He never got to see the end of it. Mr. Gardiana, 27, who has epilepsy as a result of a brain injury from a 2011 car accident, said he started getting lightheaded and dizzy in the theater. He had a “small” seizure at first, he said, and then a “blackout seizure, a full-on shaking seizure.” His girlfriend, Courtney Anderson, 21, led him to a bench outside. “He sat down for a minute, pale as a ghost,” she said. “He had a second, full-on seizure, eyes rolled back. And he lost consciousness.” Mr. Gardiana had apparently suffered seizures triggered by flashing lights during the movie, an unusual but also a well-established peril for some people with epilepsy. It was unclear whether the Walt Disney Company, which did not respond to requests for comment on Monday, had warned theaters about the danger. But beginning on Friday, the first full day of showings for “Incredibles 2,” signs began appearing in movie houses warning that a “sequence of flashing lights” may affect people who are susceptible to “photosensitive epilepsy or other photosensitivities.” But it appears that some epileptic viewers did not get the memo. Mr. Gardiana said he saw no warning signs in the Las Vegas theater he went to. The manager of the theater said that a sign had been posted on Friday but that she could not comment further. In Times Square, where the movie was showing at the Regal Cinemas, a sign did not go up on Monday until this reporter asked where it was; that theater’s manager declined to comment. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Epilepsy
Link ID: 25103 - Posted: 06.19.2018

The Home Office has rejected a County Tyrone mother's plea to legalise cannabis oil for her epileptic son. Charlotte Caldwell accused Home Office minister Nick Hurd of having "likely signed my son's death warrant". Ms Caldwell brought cannabis oil from Canada for her son Billy, but it was confiscated at Heathrow on Monday. In 2017, the 12-year-old became the first person in the UK to be prescribed cannabis oil, but last month his GP was told he could no longer do so. Ms Caldwell, from Castlederg, said she was "absolutely devastated" to have the supply confiscated after she declared it to border officials. Ms Caldwell later met Mr Hurd at the Home Office to plead with him "parent to parent" to get the oil back. "It's Billy's anti-epileptic medication that Nick Hurd has taken away, it's not some sort of joint full of recreational cannabis," she said. "We had an honest and genuine conversation. I have asked him to give Billy back his medicines, but he said no." She also warned of the dangers of Billy missing his first dose of cannabis oil in 19 months. "The reason they don't do it is that it can cause really bad side-effects - they wean them down slowly," she said. "So what Nick Hurd has just done is most likely signed my son's death warrant." A Home Office spokeswoman said it was "sympathetic to the rare situation that Billy and his family are faced with". © 2018 BBC.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Epilepsy
Link ID: 25079 - Posted: 06.12.2018

By Abby Olena The gut-brain axis is line of communication between the two organs, involved in everything from brain development to the progression of neurological diseases, with gut microbiota often pitching in to the conversation. In a study published today (May 16) in Nature, researchers present evidence that multiple sclerosis (MS) may also be influenced by commensal microbes in the gut acting upon cells in the brain. They show in a mouse model of the disease that metabolites from gut bacteria alter the behavior of microglia—immune cells that reside in the brain—which in turn regulate the activity of astrocytes to promote or prevent inflammation. The authors also found evidence in vitro and in patient samples that a similar gut-brain connection exists in people with MS, suggesting that microbes and the cells that receive their signals could be targets for disease treatment. “The beauty of this paper is that it provides a very detailed mechanistic understanding of how things work,” Jonathan Kipnis, a neuroscientist at the University of Virginia who did not participate in the study, tells The Scientist. Previous research linked the microbiome and the development of MS in mice, he says, but “we never understood how the gut communicates with the brain.” In work published in Nature Medicine in 2016, Francisco Quintana of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and colleagues found part of the answer to the question of gut-brain communication. In that study, they showed that mouse and human astrocytes—star-shape glial cells—respond to molecules generated by microbes from the intestine. And because prior work from other groups had demonstrated that microglia can regulate astrocyte behavior, Quintana says, “one of the biggest unanswered questions we had is: what mediates the crosstalk between microglia and astrocytes?” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Glia
Link ID: 24992 - Posted: 05.18.2018

By Shawna Williams Even as patients with Parkinson’s disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and other conditions turn to deep brain stimulation (DBS) to keep their symptoms in check, it’s been unclear to scientists why the therapy works. Now, researchers in Texas report that in mice, the treatment dials the activity of hundreds of genes up or down in brain cells. Their results, published in eLife March 23, hint that DBS’s use could be expanded to include improving learning and memory in people with intellectual disabilities. “The paper is very well done. . . . It’s really a rigorous study,” says Zhaolan “Joe” Zhou, a neuroscientist at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine who reviewed the paper for eLife. Now that the genes and pathways DBS affects are known, researchers can home in on ways to improve the treatment, or perhaps combine the therapy with pharmacological approaches to boost its effect, he says. In DBS, two electrodes are surgically implanted in a patient’s brain (the area depends on the disorder being treated), and connected to generators that are placed in the chest. Gentle pulses of electricity are then passed continuously through the electrodes. The treatment reduces motor symptoms in many people with Parkinson’s, and allows some patients to reduce their use of medications, but it does not eliminate symptoms or slow the disease’s progression. In addition to its use in movement disorders, DBS is being explored as a potential therapy for a range of other brain-related disorders. For instance, as a way to boost learning and memory in people with Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are looking into stimulating the fimbria-fornix, a brain region thought to regulate the activity of the memory-storing hippocampus. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Parkinsons; Epigenetics
Link ID: 24982 - Posted: 05.16.2018

By PAM BELLUCK PORTLAND, Ore. — By the time her mother received the doctor’s email, Yuna Lee was already 2 years old, a child with a frightening medical mystery. Plagued with body-rattling seizures and inconsolable crying, she could not speak, walk or stand. “Why is she suffering so much?” her mother, Soo-Kyung Lee, anguished. Brain scans, genetic tests and neurological exams yielded no answers. But when an email popped up suggesting that Yuna might have a mutation on a gene called FOXG1, Soo-Kyung froze. “I knew,” she said, “what that gene was.” Almost no one else in the world would have had any idea. But Soo-Kyung is a specialist in the genetics of the brain—“a star,” said Robert Riddle, a program director in neurogenetics at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. For years, Soo-Kyung, a developmental biologist at Oregon Health and Science University, had worked with the FOX family of genes. “I knew how critical FOXG1 is for brain development,” she said. She also knew harmful FOXG1 mutations are exceedingly rare and usually not inherited — the gene mutates spontaneously during pregnancy. Only about 300 people worldwide are known to have FOXG1 syndrome, a condition designated a separate disorder relatively recently. The odds her own daughter would have it were infinitesimal. “It is an astounding story,” Dr. Riddle said. “A basic researcher working on something that might help humanity, and it turns out it directly affects her child.” Suddenly, Soo-Kyung, 42, and her husband Jae Lee, 57, another genetics specialist at O.H.S.U., had to transform from dispassionate scientists into parents of a patient, desperate for answers. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 24897 - Posted: 04.24.2018

An epilepsy drug that can damage unborn babies must no longer be prescribed to girls and women of childbearing age in the UK unless they sign a form to say that they understand the risks. Drug regulator the MHRA says the new measures it's introducing will keep future generations of children safe. Those already on valproate medication should see their GP to have their treatment reviewed. No woman or girl should stop taking it without medical advice though. It is thought about 20,000 children in the UK have been left with disabilities caused by valproate since the drug was introduced in the 1970s. Affected families have called for a public inquiry and compensation. Epilepsy charities say one in five women on sodium valproate are unaware that taking it during pregnancy can harm the development and physical health of an unborn baby. Image caption This warning has been on the outside of valproate pill packets since 2016 in Britain And more than one in four have not been given information about risks for their unborn child. The MHRA has changed the licence for valproate, which means any doctor prescribing it will have to ensure female patients are put on a Pregnancy Prevention Programme, © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Epilepsy
Link ID: 24894 - Posted: 04.24.2018

By SHEILA KAPLAN WASHINGTON — A Food and Drug Administration advisory panel on Thursday unanimously recommended approval of an epilepsy medication made with an ingredient found in marijuana. If the agency follows the recommendation, as is expected, the drug would be the first cannabis-derived prescription medicine available in the United States. The drug, called Epidiolex, is made by GW Pharmaceuticals, a British company. Its active ingredient, cannabidiol, also called CBD, is one of the chemical compounds found in the cannabis plant, but it does not contain the properties that make people high. That makes it different from the “medical marijuana” allowed by a growing number of states. In those cases, certain patients are legally authorized to smoke or ingest marijuana to treat severe pain, nausea and other ailments. There are already several drugs on the market that are derived from synthetic versions of THC and other chemicals of the cannabis plant, generally used to ease nausea in cancer patients, and to help AIDS patients avoid weight loss. Advocates for development of marijuana-based treatments, and those pushing for better treatments of epilepsy, were pleased with the panel’s recommendation. “This is a very good development, and it basically underscores that there are medicinal properties to some of the cannabinoids,” said Dr. Igor Grant, director of the Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research at the University of California San Diego. “I think there could well be other cannabinoids that are of therapeutic use, but there is just not enough research on them to say.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Epilepsy; Drug Abuse
Link ID: 24889 - Posted: 04.21.2018

Nicky Phillips Before playing a guitar, musicians tune the strings to particular frequencies to get the pitch they want. Starting this week, a team of neuroscientists in Australia will apply a similar tuning process to human brains as part of a study to recalibrate abnormal neural patterns to a healthy state. The group, at Monash University in Melbourne, is conducting one of the first trials to use electrodes on people’s scalps, both to monitor their brain activity and to provide customized electrical stimulation. By tuning groups of neurons to specific frequencies, the team will attempt to alleviate people’s depression and other mood disorders. The Monash team is one of several around the world experimenting with such ‘closed loop’ systems — where stimulation is directed by the patient’s brain activity, which is in turn altered by the stimulation. “They’re doing something right at the cutting edge,” says Charlotte Stagg, a neurophysiologist at the University of Oxford, UK. “It’ll be pretty cool if they can get it to work.” Researchers hope such techniques will offer a better way than current stimulation techniques to correct abnormal brain patterns. Although at an early stage, the approach is a fundamental shift in the field and seeks to offer more personalization than is possible with brain-stimulation treatments routinely used in the clinic. Other teams, in the United States and Europe, have trialled closed-loop brain stimulation to treat Parkinson’s disease and for cognitive training, but the Melbourne team is among the first to use this approach for mood disorders. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Depression
Link ID: 24829 - Posted: 04.06.2018

By Rachel Aviv Before having her tonsils removed, Jahi McMath, a thirteen-year-old African-American girl from Oakland, California, asked her doctor, Frederick Rosen, about his credentials. “How many times have you done this surgery?” Hundreds of times, Rosen said. “Did you get enough sleep last night?” He’d slept fine, he responded. Jahi’s mother, Nailah Winkfield, encouraged Jahi to keep asking questions. “It’s your body,” she said. “Feel free to ask that man whatever you want.” Jahi had begged not to get the surgery, but her mother promised that it would give her a better life. Jahi had sleep apnea, which left her increasingly fatigued and unable to focus at school. She snored so loudly that she was too embarrassed to go to slumber parties. Nailah had brought up four children on her own, and Jahi, her second, was her most cautious. When she saw news on television about wars in other countries, she would quietly ask, “Is it going to come here?” Her classmates made fun of her for being “chunky,” and she absorbed the insults without protest. A few times, Nailah went to the school and asked the teachers to control the other students. The operation, at Oakland’s Children’s Hospital, took four hours. When Jahi awoke, at around 7 p.m. on December 9, 2013, the nurses gave her a grape Popsicle to soothe her throat. About an hour later, Jahi began spitting up blood. The nurses told her not to worry and gave her a plastic basin to catch it in. A nurse wrote in her medical records that she encouraged Jahi to “relax and not cough if possible.” By nine that night, the bandages packing Jahi’s nose had become bloody, too. Nailah’s husband, Marvin, a truck driver, repeatedly demanded that a doctor help them. A nurse told him that only one family member was allowed in the room at a time. He agreed to leave. © 2018 Condé Nast.

Keyword: Consciousness
Link ID: 24827 - Posted: 04.06.2018

By Daniela Carulli In 1898, Camillo Golgi, an eminent Italian physician and pathologist, published a landmark paper on the structure of “nervous cells.” In addition to the organelle that still bears his name, the Golgi apparatus, he described “a delicate covering” surrounding neurons’ cell bodies and extending along their dendrites. That same year, another Italian researcher, Arturo Donaggio, observed that these coverings, now known as perineuronal nets (PNNs), had openings in them, through which, he correctly surmised, axon terminals from neighboring neurons make synapses. Since then, however, PNNs have been largely neglected by the scientific community—especially after Santiago Ramón y Cajal, a fierce rival of Golgi (who would later share the Nobel Prize with him), dismissed them as a histological artifact. It wasn’t until the 1970s, thanks to the improvement of histological techniques and the development of immunohistochemistry, that researchers confirmed the existence of PNNs around some types of neurons in the brain and spinal cord of many vertebrate species, including humans. Composed of extracellular matrix (ECM) molecules, PNNs form during postnatal development, marking the end of what’s known as the “critical period” of heightened brain plasticity. For a while after birth, the external environment has a profound effect on the wiring of neuronal circuits and, in turn, on the development of an organism’s skills and behaviors, such as language, sensory processing, and emotional traits. But during childhood and adolescence, neuronal networks become more fixed, allowing the individual to retain the acquired functions. Evidence gathered over the past 15 years suggests that PNNs contribute to this fixation in many brain areas, by stabilizing the existing contacts between neurons and repelling incoming axons. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Brain imaging
Link ID: 24815 - Posted: 04.03.2018

Rachel Ehrenberg BOSTON — Getting your groove on solo with headphones on might be your jam, but it can’t compare with a live concert. Just ask your brain. When people watch live music together, their brains waves synchronize, and this brain bonding is linked with having a better time. The new findings, reported March 27 at a Cognitive Neuroscience Society meeting, are a reminder that humans are social creatures. In western cultures, performing music is generally reserved for the tunefully talented, but this hasn’t been true through much of human history. “Music is typically linked with ritual and in most cultures is associated with dance,” said neuroscientist Jessica Grahn of Western University in London, Canada. “It’s a way to have social participation.” Study participants were split into groups of 20 and experienced music in one of three ways. Some watched a live concert with a large audience, some watched a recording of the concert with a large audience, and some watched the recording with only a few other people. Each person wore EEG caps, headwear covered with electrodes that measure the collective behavior of the brain’s nerve cells. The musicians played an original song they wrote for the study. The delta brain waves of audience members who watched the music live were more synchronized than those of people in the other two groups. Delta brain waves fall in a frequency range that roughly corresponds to the beat of the music, suggesting that beat drives the synchronicity, neuroscientist Molly Henry, a member of Grahn’s lab, reported. The more synchronized a particular audience member was with others, the more he or she reported feeling connected to the performers and enjoying the show. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Hearing
Link ID: 24800 - Posted: 03.30.2018

Fergus Walsh Doctors say a stem cell transplant could be a "game changer" for many patients with multiple sclerosis. Results from an international trial show that it was able to stop the disease and improve symptoms. It involves wiping out a patient's immune system using cancer drugs and then rebooting it with a stem cell transplant. Louise Willetts, 36, from Rotherham, is now symptom-free and told me: "It feels like a miracle." A total of 100,000 people in the UK have MS, which attacks nerves in the brain and spinal cord. Just over 100 patients took part in the trial, in hospitals in Chicago, Sheffield, Uppsala in Sweden and Sao Paolo in Brazil. They all had relapsing remitting MS - where attacks or relapses are followed by periods of remission. The interim results were released at the annual meeting of the European Society for Bone and Marrow Transplantation in Lisbon. The patients received either haematopoietic stem cell transplantation (HSCT) or drug treatment. After one year, only one relapse occurred among the stem cell group compared with 39 in the drug group. After an average follow-up of three years, the transplants had failed in three out of 52 patients (6%), compared with 30 of 50 (60%) in the control group. Those in the transplant group experienced a reduction in disability, whereas symptoms worsened in the drug group. Prof Richard Burt, lead investigator, Northwestern University Chicago, told me: "The data is stunningly in favour of transplant against the best available drugs - the neurological community has been sceptical about this treatment, but these results will change that. Prof John Snowden, director of blood and bone marrow transplantation at Sheffield's Royal Hallamshire Hospital, told me: "We are thrilled with the results - they are a game changer for patients with drug resistant and disabling multiple sclerosis". © 2018 BBC

Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis; Neuroimmunology
Link ID: 24767 - Posted: 03.19.2018

Laura Sanders We can’t see it, but brains hum with electrical activity. Brain waves created by the coordinated firing of huge collections of nerve cells pinball around the brain. The waves can ricochet from the front of the brain to the back, or from deep structures all the way to the scalp and then back again. Called neuronal oscillations, these signals are known to accompany certain mental states. Quiet alpha waves ripple soothingly across the brains of meditating monks. Beta waves rise and fall during intense conversational turns. Fast gamma waves accompany sharp insights. Sluggish delta rhythms lull deep sleepers, while dreamers shift into slightly quicker theta rhythms. Researchers have long argued over whether these waves have purpose, and what those purposes might be. Some scientists see waves as inevitable but useless by-products of the signals that really matter — messages sent by individual nerve cells. Waves are simply a consequence of collective neural behavior, and nothing more, that view holds. But a growing body of evidence suggests just the opposite: Instead of by-products of important signals, brain waves are key to how the brain operates, routing information among far-flung brain regions that need to work together. MIT’s Earl Miller is among the neuro­scientists amassing evidence that waves are an essential part of how the brain operates. Brain oscillations deftly route information in a way that allows the brain to choose which signals in the world to pay attention to and which to ignore, his recent studies suggest. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2018

Keyword: Attention
Link ID: 24750 - Posted: 03.14.2018