Chapter 7. Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior

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By Esther Landhuis On the heels of one failed drug trial after another, a recent study suggests people with early Alzheimer’s disease could reap modest benefits from a device that uses magnetic fields to produce small electric currents in the brain. Alzheimer’s is a degenerative brain disorder that afflicts more than 46 million people worldwide. At present there are no treatments that stop or slow its progression, although several approved drugs offer temporary relief from memory loss and other cognitive symptoms by preventing the breakdown of chemical messengers among nerve cells. The new study tested a regimen that combines computerized cognitive training with a procedure known as repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has cleared rTMS devices for some migraine sufferers as well as for people with depression who have not responded to antidepressant medications. Last month at the 13th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Diseases in Vienna, Israel-based Neuronix reported results of a phase III clinical trial of its therapy system, known as neuroAD, in Alzheimer’s patients. More than 99 percent of Alzheimer’s drug trials have failed. The last time a phase III trial for a wholly new treatment succeeded (not just a combination of two already approved drugs) was about 15 years ago. The recent study did not test a drug but rather a device, which usually has an easier time gaining FDA clearance. NeuroAD has been approved for use in Europe and the U.K., where six weeks of therapy costs about $6,700. The system is not commercially available in the U.S., but based on the latest results the company submitted an application for FDA clearance last fall. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 23635 - Posted: 05.19.2017

Susan Milius The supermoms of the mammal world are big, shy redheads. Studying growth layers in orangutan teeth shows that mothers can nurse their youngsters for eight-plus years, a record for wild mammals. Teeth from a museum specimen of a young Bornean orangutan (Pongo pygmaeus) don’t show signs of weaning until 8.1 years of age. And a Sumatran orangutan (P. abelii) was still nursing during the few months before it was killed at 8.8 years, researchers report May 17 in Science Advances. Tests also show that youngsters periodically start to taper off their dependence on their mother’s milk and then, perhaps if solid food grows scarce, go back to what looks like an all-mom diet. Such on-again, off-again nursing cycles aren’t known in other wild mammals, says study coauthor Tanya Smith, an evolutionary anthropologist at Griffith University in Nathan, Australia. Marks of milk drinking Two images of a cross section of a first molar from a 4.5-year-old Bornean orangutan are shown. At left, numbers indicate days from birth (dotted line, starting with 0) when particular spots formed. At right, colors indicate concentrations of barium, which increase (shading toward red) when the youngster depended more on mother’s milk. A greenish swath at the top indicates nursing as an infant that gave way to blue as solid food became part of the diet. Yellow and red streaks indicate repeated times when the youngster again depended mostly on milk for nutrition. oragutan molar |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017.

Keyword: Sexual Behavior; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23632 - Posted: 05.18.2017

Tina Hesman Saey Face-to-face, a human and a chimpanzee are easy to tell apart. The two species share a common primate ancestor, but over millions of years, their characteristics have morphed into easily distinguishable features. Chimps developed prominent brow ridges, flat noses, low-crowned heads and protruding muzzles. Human noses jut from relatively flat faces under high-domed crowns. Those facial features diverged with the help of genetic parasites, mobile bits of genetic material that insert themselves into their hosts’ DNA. These parasites go by many names, including “jumping genes,” “transposable elements” and “transposons.” Some are relics of former viruses assimilated into a host’s genome, or genetic instruction book. Others are self-perpetuating pieces of genetic material whose origins are shrouded in the mists of time. “Transposable elements have been with us since the beginning of evolution. Bacteria have transposable elements,” says evolutionary biologist Josefa González. She doesn’t think of transposons as foreign DNA. They are parts of our genomes — like genes. “You cannot understand the genome without understanding what transposable elements are doing,” says González, of the Institute of Evolutionary Biology in Barcelona. She studies how jumping genes have influenced fruit fly evolution. Genomes of most organisms are littered with the carcasses of transposons, says Cédric Feschotte, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City. Fossils of the DNA parasites build up like the remains of ancient algae that formed the white cliffs of Dover. One strain of maize, the organism in which Nobel laureate Barbara McClintock first discovered transposable elements in the 1940s, is nearly 85 percent transposable elements (SN: 12/19/09, p. 9). Corn is an extreme example, but humans have plenty, too: Transposable elements make up nearly half of the human genome. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23627 - Posted: 05.17.2017

By TAMAR LEWIN Nearly 40 years after the world was jolted by the birth of the first test-tube baby, a new revolution in reproductive technology is on the horizon — and it promises to be far more controversial than in vitro fertilization ever was. Within a decade or two, researchers say, scientists will likely be able to create a baby from human skin cells that have been coaxed to grow into eggs and sperm and used to create embryos to implant in a womb. The process, in vitro gametogenesis, or I.V.G., so far has been used only in mice. But stem cell biologists say it is only a matter of time before it could be used in human reproduction — opening up mind-boggling possibilities. With I.V.G., two men could have a baby that was biologically related to both of them, by using skin cells from one to make an egg that would be fertilized by sperm from the other. Women with fertility problems could have eggs made from their skin cells, rather than go through the lengthy and expensive process of stimulating their ovaries to retrieve their eggs. “It gives me an unsettled feeling because we don’t know what this could lead to,” said Paul Knoepfler, a stem cell researcher at the University of California, Davis. “You can imagine one man providing both the eggs and the sperm, almost like cloning himself. You can imagine that eggs becoming so easily available would lead to designer babies.” © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Stem Cells; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23622 - Posted: 05.17.2017

Katherine Hobson American Indian and Alaska Native families are much more likely to have an infant die suddenly and unexpectedly, and that risk has remained higher than in other ethnic groups since public health efforts were launched to prevent sudden infant death syndrome in the 1990s. African-American babies also face a higher risk, a study finds. American Indians and Alaska Natives had a rate of 177.6 sudden unexplained infant deaths per 100,000 live births in 2013 (down from 237.5 per 100,000 in 1995) compared with 172.4 for non-Hispanic blacks (down from 203), 84.5 for non-Hispanic whites (down from 93), 49.3 for Hispanics (down from 62.7) and 28.3 for Asians and Pacific Islanders (down from 59.3). The declines were statistically significant only among non-Hispanic blacks, Hispanics and Asians/Pacific Islanders. "There are still significant gaps and disparities between races and ethnicities," says Lori Feldman-Winter, a professor of pediatrics at Cooper University Health Care in Camden, N.J., who wasn't involved with this study but was a co-author of the most recent sleep guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, released in the fall. Overall rates of sudden unexpected infant death, which includes sudden infant death syndrome as well as accidental suffocation or strangulation in bed and other unexplained deaths, declined sharply in the five or so years after a national campaign was launched in 1994 to encourage caregivers to put babies to sleep on their backs. But the rates have not declined since 2000. Researchers at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention wanted to know whether those changes were uniform across racial and ethnic groups. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Sleep
Link ID: 23616 - Posted: 05.16.2017

By Hannah Furfaro, Children whose fathers are highly intelligent are at a 31 percent higher risk of autism than those whose fathers are of average intelligence, according to unpublished results presented today at the 2017 International Meeting for Autism Research in San Francisco, California. The work supports observations that date back to the 1940s, when Leo Kanner and Hans Asperger noted in separate reports that the fathers of children with autism tended to be highly intelligent and in several cases worked in technical fields. A 2012 study also showed that children from regions in the Netherlands where high-tech jobs are prevalent are more likely to have autism than those who live in other regions. In the new study, lead investigator Renee Gardner, assistant professor at Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, set out to investigate whether the historical lore has validity. She and her colleagues matched medical records for 309,803 children whose fathers were conscripted into the Swedish military with their father’s scores on the technical portion of the Swedish intelligence quotient (IQ) test. They found a one-third higher risk of autism in children whose fathers’ IQ scores are 111 or higher than in those whose fathers’ scores cluster around 100. The researchers controlled for possible confounding factors such as families’ socioeconomic status and parental age, education level and history of inpatient psychiatric treatment. IQ indicators: They found the opposite relationship between a father’s IQ and his child’s chances of having intellectual disability or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). In particular, children of men with an IQ of 75 or below had a four-and-a-half times higher risk of intellectual disability. The chance of ADHD was 65 percent higher than average for children whose fathers had an IQ in that low range. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Intelligence
Link ID: 23614 - Posted: 05.15.2017

by Laura Sanders One of the most pressing and perplexing questions parents have to answer is what to do about screen time for little ones. Even scientists and doctors are stumped. That’s because no one knows how digital media such as smartphones, iPads and other screens affect children. The American Academy of Pediatrics recently put out guidelines, but that advice was based on a frustratingly slim body of scientific evidence, as I’ve covered. Scientists are just scratching the surface of how screen time might influence growing bodies and minds. Two recent studies point out how hard these answers are to get. But the studies also hint that the answers might be important. In the first study, Julia Ma at the University of Toronto and colleagues found that, in children younger than 2, the more time spent with a handheld screen, such as a smartphone or tablet, the more likely the child was to show signs of a speech delay. Ma presented the work May 6 at the 2017 Pediatric Academic Societies Meeting in San Francisco. The team used information gleaned from nearly 900 children’s 18-month checkups. Parents answered a questionnaire about their child’s mobile media use and then filled out a checklist designed to identify heightened risk of speech problems. This checklist is a screening tool that picks up potential signs of trouble; it doesn’t offer a diagnosis of a language delay, points out study coauthor Catherine Birken, a pediatrician at The Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. Going into the study, the researchers didn’t have expectations about how many of these toddlers were using handheld screens. “We had very little clues, because there is almost no literature on the topic,” Birken says. “There’s just really not a lot there.” |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Sleep
Link ID: 23608 - Posted: 05.13.2017

By Andy Coghlan Combining multiple tests could help doctors distinguish between two leading causes of cognitive decline at an earlier stage. Being able to separate the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s from another degenerative brain condition called dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB) could be crucial to finding treatments for both kinds of dementia. When someone starts to exhibit mild cognitive impairments, it is often difficult to tell whether these might be the earliest signs of Alzheimer’s or DLB, or just normal age-related declines in cognition. Yet this distinction is vital: so far, despite billions of dollars spent on research, progress towards drugs that stabilise or cure dementia has stalled. Many blame the failure on treating people too late and argue that the same drugs might work better if given a decade or two before symptoms fully develop. Now, Dilman Sadiq at University College London and her colleagues have attempted to rectify this problem by analysing clinical histories, the results of cognitive tests and psychiatric interviews with 429 people originally diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, who were monitored for up to 14 years. Each person was diagnosed at one UK hospital between 1994 and 2015. Of this group, 107 progressed to Alzheimer’s, 21 to DLB and 164 remained stable with mild cognitive impairment. The rest developed a mixture of other conditions. Sadiq’s team used their findings to identify a variety of tests and symptom profiles that appear to predict which condition a person might get at the earliest stage of the disease. © Copyright New Scientist Ltd.

Keyword: Alzheimers
Link ID: 23607 - Posted: 05.13.2017

Amy Maxmen Cells that prune connections between neurons in babies’ brains as they grow are thought to have a role in autism spectrum disorder. Now, a study suggests that the number and behaviour of these cells — called microglia — vary in boys and girls, a finding that could help to explain why many more boys are diagnosed with autism and related disorders. Donna Werling, a neurogeneticist at the University of California, San Francisco, and her colleagues found that genes associated with microglia are more active in male brains than in female brains in the months before birth. “This suggests there is something fundamentally different about male and female brain development,” she says. The research, to be presented on 13 May at the International Meeting for Autism Research in San Francisco, California, is still preliminary. Very little is known about how microglial trimming behaviour affects brain development. But the study by Werling’s team “is the kind of work that makes you say ‘Wow, this is really interesting, and we should take it seriously’”, says Kevin Pelphrey, a neuroscientist at Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Connecticut. There are two to five times many males with autism as females. Although the disorder — whose cause remains elusive — is widely acknowledged to be underdiagnosed in girls, psychiatrists agree that there is a significant disparity between the numbers of male and female cases. It suggests that biological differences between the sexes are involved. © 2017 Macmillan Publishers Limited,

Keyword: Autism; Glia
Link ID: 23605 - Posted: 05.12.2017

Ian Sample Science editor A landmark project to map the wiring of the human brain from womb to birth has released thousands of images that will help scientists unravel how conditions such as autism, cerebral palsy and attention deficit disorders arise in the brain. The first tranche of images come from 40 newborn babies who were scanned in their sleep to produce stunning high-resolution pictures of early brain anatomy and the intricate neural wiring that ferries some of the earliest signals around the organ. The initial batch of brain scans are intended to give researchers a first chance to analyse the data and provide feedback to the senior scientists at King’s College London, Oxford University and Imperial College London who are leading the Developing Human Connectome Project, which is funded by €15m (£12.5m) from the EU. The images show the intricate neural wiring that ferries some of the earliest signals around the brain. Hundreds of thousands more images will be released in the coming months and years. Most will come from a thousand sleeping babies, but another 500 have had their brains scanned while still in the womb. “The challenge is that you are imaging one person inside another person and both of them move,” said Jo Hajnal, professor of imaging science at King’s College London, who developed new MRI technology for the project. Taking brain scans of sleeping babies is hard enough. At the start of the project in 2013, more than 10% of the scans failed when babies woke up in the middle of the two to three hour procedure. Now the babies are fed and prepared for their scans at their mother’s side before they are carried to the scanner. To cut the odds of the babies waking, scientists tweaked the scanner software to stop it making sudden noises.

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Brain imaging
Link ID: 23599 - Posted: 05.10.2017

By Jane C. Hu New evidence suggests that the earliest traces of a language can stay with us into adulthood, even if we no longer speak or understand the language itself. And early exposure also seems to speed the process of relearning it later in life. In the new study, recently published in Royal Society Open Science, Dutch adults were trained to listen for sound contrasts in Korean. Some participants reported no prior exposure to the language; others were born in Korea and adopted by Dutch families before the age of six. All participants said they could not speak Korean, but the adoptees from Korea were better at distinguishing between the contrasts and more accurate in pronouncing Korean sounds. “Language learning can be retained subconsciously, even if conscious memories of the language do not exist,” says Jiyoun Choi, postdoctoral fellow at Hanyang University in Seoul and lead author of the study. And it appears that just a brief period of early exposure benefits learning efforts later; when Choi and her collaborators compared the results of people adopted before they were six months old with results of others adopted after 17 months, there were no differences in their hearing or speaking abilities. “It's exciting that these effects are seen even among adults who were exposed to Korean only up to six months of age—an age before which babbling emerges,” says Janet Werker, a professor of psychology at the University of British Columbia, who was not involved with the research. Remarkably, what we learn before we can even speak stays with us for decades. © 2017 Scientific American,

Keyword: Language; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23598 - Posted: 05.10.2017

By Michael Price Unless you’re colorblind, you probably have a pretty good idea of what red, green, and blue are. Yet those labels are arbitrary divisions of the color spectrum; there’s no definitive point where the wavelengths of light we call orange turn into red. So cognitive scientists have long wondered whether we learn our labels from our culture or inherit them from our biology. Now, a study finds that infants see red, yellow, green, blue, and purple as different color categories, suggesting that at least some distinctions may be hardwired. “I find it really compelling,” says Michael Webster, a psychologist who studies visual perception at the University of Nevada in Reno, who wasn’t involved in the study. “This isn’t going to immediately change anyone’s mind. But it’s another piece in the puzzle, and it’s a very nice piece.” Scientists can’t just ask a newborn what it knows, so they use a trick known as “infant looking time” to figure out what’s in babies’ brains. The idea is that an infant’s gaze will linger on something unfamiliar for longer than something familiar, giving researchers a window into what babies expect—and what surprises them. Applying this to color research, scientists led by Anna Franklin, a perception and cognition researcher at the University of Sussex in the United Kingdom, showed 179 infants aged 46 months 14 different swaths of color, each from a different part of the color wheel. Researchers showed one swath several times before displaying a hue from the next range over. If the infants looked at the new hue longer than the previous one, experimenters concluded that the babies considered it a different color. © 2017 American Association for the Advancement of Science

Keyword: Vision; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23596 - Posted: 05.09.2017

By Michael Le Page In some cultures, it’s traditional for elders to smoke grass, a practice said to help them pass on tribal knowledge. It turns out that they might just be onto something. Teenagers who toke perform less well on memory and attention tasks while under the influence. But low doses of the active ingredient in cannabis, THC, might have the opposite effect on the elderly, reversing brain ageing and restoring learning and memory – at least according to studies of mice. “We repeated these experiments many times,” says team leader Andreas Zimmer at the University of Bonn, Germany. “It’s a very robust and profound effect.” Zimmer’s team has been studying the mammalian endocannabinoid system, which is involved in balancing out our bodies’ response to stress. THC affects us by mimicking similar molecules in this system, calming us down. The researchers discovered that mice with genetic mutations that stop this endocannabinoid system from working properly age faster than normal mice, and show more cognitive decline. This made Zimmer wonder if stimulating the endocannabinoid system in elderly mice might have the opposite effect. To find out, the team gave young (2-month-old), middle-aged (12-month-old) and elderly (18-month-old) mice a steady dose of THC. The amount they received was too small to give them psychoactive effects. After a month, the team tested the mice’s ability to perform cognitive tasks, such as finding their way around mazes, or recognising other individuals. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Keyword: Drug Abuse; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23593 - Posted: 05.09.2017

By Ann Griswold, Much of what Stephen Shore knows about romance he learned in the self-help aisle of a bookstore near the Amherst campus of the University of Massachusetts. In college, Shore, who has autism, began to wonder if women spoke a language he didn’t understand. Maybe that would explain the perplexing behavior of a former massage student with whom he traded shiatsu sessions, who eventually told him she had been hoping for more than a back rub. Or the woman he met in class one summer, who had assumed she was his girlfriend because they spent most nights cooking, and often shared a bed. Looking back, other people’s signs of romantic interest seemed to almost always get lost in translation. Shore turned to the self-help shelves to learn the unspoken language of love: He pored over chapters on body language, facial expression and nonverbal communication. By the time he met Yi Liu, a woman in his graduate-level music theory class at Boston University, he was better prepared. On a summer day in 1989, as they sat side by side on the beach, Liu leaned over and kissed Shore on the lips. She embraced him, then held his hand as they looked out at the sea. “Based on my research,” he says, “I knew that if a woman hugs you, kisses you and holds your hand all at the same time, she wants to be your girlfriend; you better have an answer right away.” The couple married a year later, on a sunny afternoon in June 1990. Shore was diagnosed with autism around age 3, about a year after he lost his few words and began throwing tantrums. Doctors advised his parents to place him in an institution. Instead, they immersed him in music and movement activities, and imitated his sounds and behavior to help him become aware of himself and others. He began speaking again at 4 and eventually recovered some of the social skills he had lost. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Autism; Sexual Behavior
Link ID: 23586 - Posted: 05.06.2017

By SHIVANI VORA Forget that he’s 87. Eric R. Kandel, who specializes in the biology of memory and is a professor in the neuroscience and psychiatry departments at Columbia University, works more than he ever has before, he said. Dr. Kandel, who won a Nobel Prize in 2000, continues to write books and is co-director of the Mortimer B. Zuckerman Mind Brain Behavior Institute at Columbia and a senior investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md. He lives with his wife of 60 years, Denise Kandel, 84, an epidemiology professor at Columbia, in Harlem. AN EXTRA HOUR Denise and I usually get up at 6:30, but on Sundays we’re out of bed between 7:30 and 8, so instead of sleeping eight hours, we sleep nine. I wake refreshed and ready to go. CREATURES OF HABIT We eat breakfast first thing and have had the same meal for the last five years: a half a grapefruit each, a cup of coffee and oatmeal. We eat at our kitchen table while we read The New York Times. We compete for the National section, but I also like the Book Review. JOG THE MEMORY I’ve been an exerciser my whole life. I think that activity is good for your memory, your body and your mental state. Plus, it’s fun. During the week I swim, and on Saturdays I play tennis, but on Sundays I work out at home. I start with shoulder stretches on the floor, do 15 push-ups and then walk for 15 minutes on our treadmill. Then, our trainer, Chris, comes over and takes us through an hourlong routine of weight lifting and more stretching. THE JOY OF SEPARATE BATHROOMS Right after Chris leaves, we get dressed for the day. Denise and I each have our own bathrooms, which means two things: I don’t have to deal with her nudging me to put away my toiletries I leave on the counter. Also, we can shower and get ready at the same time. LIGHT LUNCH It may be a banana and a yogurt or a vegetable soup. New York has so many great restaurants, but we like eating at home. Denise is a great cook, we have a nice collection of wine that we like to drink, and we have more control over what we eat. © 2017 The New York Times Company

Keyword: Learning & Memory; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23582 - Posted: 05.06.2017

Natalie Jacewicz Sometimes people develop strange eating habits as they age. For example, Amy Hunt, a stay-at-home mom in Austin, Texas, says her grandfather cultivated some unusual taste preferences in his 80s. "I remember teasing him because he literally put ketchup or Tabasco sauce on everything," says Hunt. "When we would tease him, he would shrug his shoulders and just say he liked it." But Hunt's father, a retired registered nurse, had a theory: Her grandfather liked strong flavors because of his old age and its effects on taste. When people think about growing older, they may worry about worsening vision and hearing. But they probably don't think to add taste and smell to the list. "You lose all your senses as you get older, except hopefully not your sense of humor," says Steven Parnes, an ENT-otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat doctor) working in Albany, N.Y. To understand how aging changes taste, a paean to the young tongue might be appropriate. The average person is born with roughly 9,000 taste buds, according to Parnes. Each taste bud is a bundle of sensory cells, grouped together like the tightly clumped petals of a flower bud. These taste buds cover the tongue and send taste signals to the brain through nerves. Taste buds vary in their sensitivity to different kinds of tastes. Some will be especially good at sensing sweetness, while others will be especially attune to bitter flavors, and so on. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Chemical Senses (Smell & Taste); Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23577 - Posted: 05.05.2017

By Moheb Costandi Pain in infants is heartbreaking for new parents, and extremely difficult to treat effectively—if at all. Every year an estimated 15 million babies are born prematurely, most of whom will then undergo numerous lifesaving but painful procedures, such as heel pricking or insertion of a thin tube known as a cannula to deliver fluids or medicine. Preterm babies in the intensive care unit are subjected to an average of 11 such “skin-breaking” procedures per day, but analgesia is only used just over one third of the time. We know that repetitive, painful procedures in early infancy can impact brain development negatively—so why is pain in infants so undertreated? One reason is the lack of standard guidelines for administering the drugs. Some analgesics given to adults are unsuitable for infants, and those that can be used often have different effects in children, making dosing a problem. What is more, newborn babies are incapable of telling us how they feel, making it impossible to determine how effective any painkiller might be. Researchers at the University of Oxford may now have overcome this latter challenge, however. They report May 3 in Science Translational Medicine having identified a pain-related brain wave signal that responds to analgesics, and could be used to measure the drugs’ efficacy. Until as recently as the 1980s, it was assumed that newborn babies do not feel pain, and that giving them analgesics would do more harm than good. Although these misconceptions have been cleared up, we still have very little understanding of infant pain, and so treating it is a huge challenge for clinicians. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 23576 - Posted: 05.05.2017

Mark Zdechlik Health officials in Minnesota have been scrambling to contain a measles outbreak that has sickened primarily Somali-American children in the state. So far health officials have identified 34 cases, still mostly in Hennepin County, and they're worried there will be more. In Minnesota, the vast majority of kids under two get vaccinated against measles. But state health officials say most Somali-American 2-year-olds have not had the vaccine — about six out of ten. As the outbreak spreads, that statistic worries health officials, including Michael Osterholm, who directs the University of Minnesota's Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy. Understanding The History Behind Communities' Vaccine Fears Shots - Health News Understanding The History Behind Communities' Vaccine Fears "It is a highly concentrated number of unvaccinated people," he says. "It is a potential kind of gas-and-match situation." Measles is a highly contagious respiratory disease that causes a rash and fever. It can be deadly, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says two doses of vaccination are about 97 percent effective in heading off the disease. The Minnesota Department of Health says the outbreak began in Hennepin County, home to Minneapolis and the heart of the nation's Somali-American community. © 2017 npr

Keyword: Autism
Link ID: 23574 - Posted: 05.05.2017

Laura Sanders An electrode on top of a newborn’s scalp, near the soft spot, can measure when the baby feels pain. The method, described online May 3 in Science Translational Medicine, isn’t foolproof, but it brings scientists closer to being able to tell when infants are in distress. Pain assessment in babies is both difficult and extremely important for the same reason: Babies don’t talk. That makes it hard to tell when they are in pain, and it also means that their pain can be more easily overlooked, says Carlo Bellieni, a pediatric pain researcher at the University Hospital Siena in Italy. Doctors rely on a combination of clues such as crying, wiggling and facial grimacing to guess whether a baby is hurting. But these clues can mislead. “Similar behaviors occur when infants are not in pain, for example if they are hungry or want a cuddle,” says study coauthor Rebeccah Slater of the University of Oxford. By relying on brain activity, the new method promises to be a more objective measurement. Slater and colleagues measured brain activity in 18 newborns between 2 and 5 days old. Electroencephalography (EEG) recordings from electrodes on the scalp picked up collective nerve cell activity as babies received a heel lance to draw blood or a low-intensity bop on the foot, a touch that’s a bit like being gently poked with a blunt pencil. One electrode in particular, called the Cz electrode and perched on the top of the head, detected a telltale neural spike between 400 and 700 milliseconds after the painful event. This brain response wasn’t observed when these same babies received a sham heel lance or an innocuous touch on the heel. |© Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2017

Keyword: Pain & Touch; Development of the Brain
Link ID: 23566 - Posted: 05.04.2017

By Simon Makin The past few decades have seen intensive efforts to find the genetic roots of neurological disorders, from schizophrenia to autism. But the genes singled out so far have provided only sketchy clues. Even the most important genetic risk factors identified for autism, for example, may only account for a few percent of all cases. Much frustration stems from the realization that the key mutations elevating disease risk tend to be rare, because they are less likely to be passed on to offspring. More common mutations confer only small risks (although those risks become more significant when calculated across an entire population). There are several other places to look for the missing burden of risk, and one surprising possible source has recently emerged—an idea that overturns a fundamental tenet of biology and has many researchers excited about a completely new avenue of inquiry. Accepted dogma holds that—although every cell in the body contains its own DNA—the genetic instructions in each cell nucleus are identical. But new research has now proved this assumption wrong. There are actually several sources of spontaneous mutation in somatic (nonsex) cells, resulting in every individual containing a multitude of genomes—a situation researchers term somatic mosaicism. “The idea is something that 10 years ago would have been science fiction,” says biochemist James Eberwine of the University of Pennsylvania. “We were taught that every cell has the same DNA, but that's not true.” There are reasons to think somatic mosaicism may be particularly important in the brain, not least because neural genes are very active. © 2017 Scientific American

Keyword: Development of the Brain; Genes & Behavior
Link ID: 23565 - Posted: 05.04.2017