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By Jon Cohen Until now, researchers wanting to understand the Neanderthal brain and how it differed from our own had to study a void. The best insights into the neurology of our mysterious, extinct relatives came from analyzing the shape and volume of the spaces inside their fossilized skulls. But a recent marriage of three hot fields—ancient DNA, the genome editor CRISPR, and "organoids" built from stem cells—offers a provocative, if very preliminary, new option. At least two research teams are engineering stem cells to include Neanderthal genes and growing them into "minibrains" that reflect the influence of that ancient DNA. None of this work has been published, but Alysson Muotri, a geneticist at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, described his group's Neanderthal organoids for the first time this month at a UCSD conference called Imagination and Human Evolution. His team has coaxed stem cells endowed with Neanderthal DNA into pea-size masses that mimic the cortex, the outer layer of real brains. Compared with cortical minibrains made with typical human cells, the Neanderthal organoids have a different shape and differences in their neuronal networks, including some that may have influenced the species's ability to socialize. "We're trying to recreate Neanderthal minds," Muotri says. Muotri focused on one of approximately 200 protein-coding genes that differ between Neanderthals and modern humans. Known as NOVA1, it plays a role in early brain development in modern humans and also is linked to autism and schizophrenia. Because it controls splicing of RNA from other genes, it likely helped produce more than 100 novel brain proteins in Neanderthals. Conveniently, just one DNA base pair differs between the Neanderthal gene and the modern human one. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 25116 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Sara Goudarzi The presidents of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a statement Wednesday advocating for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to stop separating migrant families. The statement cites research that indicates endangerment of those involved. Last week the American Psychological Association released a letter opposing the Trump administration’s policy of taking immigrant children from their parents at the border. Under the zero-tolerance immigration policy, since May more than 2,300 immigrant children—some of them babies—have been forcibly separated from their parents attempting to enter the U.S. from Mexico. Also Wednesday, as the backlash and public outcry continue to grow, Pres. Donald Trump said he would sign an executive order to stop separating families at the order. It was unclear when children already separated might be reunited with their families. But even if reunited soon, medical experts say the effects of separation can potentially last a lifetime. Scientific American spoke with Alan Shapiro, assistant clinical professor in pediatrics at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, about the effects of separation trauma and other health and mental consequences of breaking up families. Shapiro is also senior medical director for Community Pediatric Programs (CPP), a collaboration between the Children’s Hospital at Montefiore in New York City and the Children’s Health Fund, and medical director and co-founder of Terra Firma, a partnership that provides medical and legal services to immigrant children. © 2018 Scientific American

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25115 - Posted: 06.21.2018

By Jan Hoffman One in seven high school students reported misusing prescription opioids, one of several disturbing results in a nationwide survey of teenagers that revealed a growing sense of fear and despair among youth in the United States. The numbers of teenagers reporting “feelings of sadness or hopelessness,” suicidal thoughts, and days absent from school out of fear of violence or bullying have all risen since 2007. The increases were particularly pointed among lesbian, gay and bisexual high school students. Nationally, 1 in 5 students reported being bullied at school; 1 in 10 female students and 1 in 28 male students reported having been physically forced to have sex. “An adolescent’s world can be bleak,” said Dr. Jonathan Mermin, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which conducted the survey and analyzed the data. “But having a high proportion of students report they had persistent feelings of hopelessness and 17 percent considering suicide is deeply disturbing.” In 2017, 31 percent of students surveyed said they had such feelings, while 28 percent said so in 2007. In 2017, nearly 14 percent of students had actually made a suicide plan, up from 11 percent in 2007. The Youth Risk Behavior Survey is given every two years to nearly 15,000 students in high schools in 39 states, and poses questions about a wide array of attitudes and activities. The report did offer some encouraging trends, suggesting that the overall picture for adolescents is a nuanced one. Compared to a decade ago, fewer students reported having had sex, drinking alcohol or using drugs like cocaine, heroin or marijuana. © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Lateralization
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 15: Brain Asymmetry, Spatial Cognition, and Language
Link ID: 25098 - Posted: 06.18.2018

By Clyde Haberman For nine frustrating years, Lesley and John Brown tried to conceive a child but failed because of her blocked fallopian tubes. Then in late 1977, this English couple put their hopes in the hands of two men of science. Thus began their leap into the unknown, and into history. On July 25, 1978, the Browns got what they had long wished for with the arrival of a daughter, Louise, a baby like no other the world had seen. She came into being through a process of in vitro fertilization developed by Robert G. Edwards and Patrick Steptoe. Her father’s sperm was mixed with her mother’s egg in a petri dish, and the resulting embryo was then implanted into the womb for normal development. Louise was widely, glibly and incorrectly called a “test-tube baby.” The label was enough to throw millions of people into a moral panic, for it filled them with visions of Dr. Frankenstein playing God and throwing the natural order of the universe out of kilter. The reality proved far more benign, maybe best captured by Grace MacDonald, a Scottish woman who in January 1979 gave birth to the second in vitro baby, a boy named Alastair. Nothing unethical was at work, she told the BBC in 2003. “It’s just nature being given a helping hand.” In this installment of its video documentaries, Retro Report explores how major news stories of the past shape current events by harking back to Louise Brown’s birth. If anything, more modern developments in genetics have raised the moral, ethical and political stakes. But the fundamental questions are essentially what they were in the 1970s with the advent of in vitro fertilization: Are these welcome advances that can only benefit civilization? Or are they incursions into an unholy realm, one of “designer babies,” with potentially frightening consequences? In vitro fertilization, or I.V.F., is by now broadly accepted, though it still has objectors, including the Roman Catholic Church. Worldwide, the procedure has produced an estimated six million babies, and is believed to account for 3 percent of all live births in some developed countries. Designer-baby fears have proved in the main to be “overblown,” said Dr. Paula Amato, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. “We have not seen it with I.V.F. in general,” she told Retro Report. “We have not seen it with P.G.D.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25077 - Posted: 06.11.2018

Mark Brown Arts correspondent Teenagers are being damaged by the British school system because of early start times and exams at 16 when their brains are going through enormous change, a leading neuroscientist has said. Sarah-Jayne Blakemore said it was only in recent years that the full scale of the changes that take place in the adolescent brain has been discovered. “That work has completely revolutionised what we think about this period of life,” she said. Blakemore, a professor in cognitive neuroscience at University College London, told the Hay festival that teenagers were unfairly mocked and demonised for behaviour they had no control over, whether that was moodiness, excessive risk-taking, bad decision making or sleeping late. The changes in the brain were enormous, she said, with substantial rises in white matter and a 17% fall in grey matter, which affects decision making, planning and self-awareness. All parents know that teenagers would sleep late if they could but it is all to do with brain changes, she said. “It is not because they are lazy, it is because they go through a period of biological change where melatonin, which is the hormone humans produce in the evenings and makes us feel sleepy, is produced a couple of hours later than it is in childhood or adulthood.” They are then forced to go to school when their brain says they should still be sleeping. That is then exacerbated at weekends when teenagers try to catch up by sleeping until lunchtime – what Blakemore called “social jetlag”. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 14: Biological Rhythms, Sleep, and Dreaming
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 10: Biological Rhythms and Sleep
Link ID: 25035 - Posted: 05.30.2018

By Jim Daley The organizer, a group of cells in the embryo that directs the developmental fates and morphogenesis of other embryonic cells, has been identified in human tissue for the first time, according to a study published today (May 23) in Nature. The discovery demonstrates that the organizer is evolutionarily conserved from amphibians to humans. “For many of us this was always the Holy Grail” of developmental biology, says Guillermo Oliver, the director of the Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine’s Center for Vascular and Developmental Biology, who was not involved in the study. “The fact that now you can take stem cells and recapitulate those properties with the combination of actors reported here . . . is quite remarkable.” Rockefeller University embryologist Ali Brivanlou and colleagues report that when they grafted human stem cells that they’d treated with Wnt and Activin, two signaling proteins previously shown to be involved in organizer gene expression in other animals, into chick embryos, the grafted cells set off the developmental progress of the cells around them. The experiment establishes for the first time that the organizer exists in humans and that Wnt and Activin work in concert to make it possible for cells to direct embryonic development. S The search for the organizer, and with it the field of modern embryology, began nearly a century ago. Hilde Mangold, a PhD candidate in the lab of German zoologist Hans Spemann, wrote a dissertation in 1924 that described the organizer for the first time. Mangold and Spemann observed a distinct shape and morphology in some of the cells along the neural axis—the portion of the embryo that will become the central nervous system and one of the first structures to form during development—in a salamander embryo. When they grafted these cells from one embryo to another, the transplanted cells induced the formation of a second developmental axis in that embryo. Spemann would go on to receive the 1935 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the discovery; Mangold died before then in an accident. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25021 - Posted: 05.25.2018

By Ashley Yeager Twenty years ago, Ilyce Randell and her husband received devastating news: their son Maxie, who was a little over four months old at the time, had Canavan disease. Maxie would never walk or talk, and he likely wouldn’t live past age 10. Not much could be done to help their son, the couple was told, though a geneticist offhandedly remarked that researchers were developing a gene therapy that might lessen Maxie’s symptoms or extend his life. But the Randells also learned that there was no funding available for a clinical trial on the gene therapy. Recently married, the couple contacted the same people they had invited to their wedding. Randell wrote a letter describing her son’s illness and included a photo of Maxie grinning. “That was my first fundraising campaign,” she says. It was also the start of Canavan Research Illinois, the Randell family’s foundation. Canavan disease is caused by mutations to the ASPA gene, which encodes an enzyme, aspartoacylase, that breaks down N-acetyl-L-aspartic acid. Without aspartoacylase, the acid builds up in the brain’s neurons and prevents their axons from being coated in fatty myelin sheaths. As a result, electrical signals don’t travel as efficiently from nerve cell to nerve cell. Neurons in the brain break down, leaving the organ spongy and leading to intellectual disabilities, loss of movement, abnormal muscle tone, and seizures, among other symptoms. In the first US trial of a gene therapy for Canavan, researchers tried encasing healthy copies of ASPA in liposomes and injecting them into the brain through an intraventricular catheter attached to a small, plastic, dome-shaped reservoir placed just beneath the scalp. The researchers injected the gene therapy into the reservoir, and it then diffused into the cerebrospinal fluid. In 1999, Maxie became one of 16 patients to receive the treatment. Maxie and his cohort showed some improvements in vision and movement, but the children weren’t cured. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 25008 - Posted: 05.23.2018

By Diana Kwon When Eliza O’Neill was 3 years old, her parents, Glenn and Cara, noted that her development began to diverge from that of her peers. Their once fast-learning, gregarious child faced difficulties in school, and her improvements in areas such as social communication and speech began to slow. It took about six months and multiple visits to the doctor for Eliza to be diagnosed with Sanfilippo syndrome, a rare lysosomal storage disease in which sugar molecules called glycosaminoglycans build up in the central nervous system, destroying cells and eventually causing severe dementia, seizures, and a loss of mobility. The disease strikes between 1 and 9 out of 1,000,000 people, and most children affected do not survive beyond their teens. The diagnosis, which Eliza’s doctors made in July 2013, was like “a lightning bolt out of the sky,” Glenn recalls. “I didn’t even know that a disease as terrible as this could even exist.” In the weeks following Eliza’s diagnosis, the O’Neills combed the scientific literature looking for a way to save their daughter. Their research led them to a potential gene therapy for Sanfilippo under investigation at Nationwide Children’s Hospital (NCH) in Columbus, Ohio. At the time, the work was still in the preclinical stage, but “the data were amazing,” says Cara, a pediatrician. Once she found this study, she contacted Haiyan Fu, a scientist at NCH’s Center for Gene Therapy working on the experiments, who walked her through the research. “That was the first moment that I had a real solid hope in the science,” Cara recalls. © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24990 - Posted: 05.18.2018

by Erin Blakemore Teenagers! They chew Tide Pods and have unprotected sex. They use social media we haven’t even heard of and are walking hormone machines. It’s easy to mock their outsize sense of self and their seemingly dumb decisions. But not so fast, says cognitive neuroscientist Sarah-Jayne Blakemore: The adolescent brain is nothing to laugh at. In “Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain,” Blake­more (no relation to the writer of this article) challenges adults to take teenagers and their growing brains seriously. Her book explains what’s happening inside those brains during the teen years — a complex period of neurological change that is fundamental to maturity. Blakemore breaks down the most up-to-date science on adolescent brain development. It turns out that much of what makes teenagers seem so, well, teenage is due not to their hormones but to their rapidly changing brain circuitry. The malleable mind continues to develop during adolescence, consolidating personality, preferences and behaviors. Some of those behaviors, including risk-taking and a tendency toward self-consciousness, may seem connected to peer pressure. But, Blakemore writes, they’re actually signs of brain development. With the help of data from studies that show the teenage brain in action, she connects brain development to all sorts of things, including self-control and depression. © 1996-2018 The Washington Post

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24975 - Posted: 05.15.2018

Hannah Devlin Scientists are preparing to create “miniature brains” that have been genetically engineered to contain Neanderthal DNA, in an unprecedented attempt to understand how humans differ from our closest relatives. In the next few months the small blobs of tissue, known as brain organoids, will be grown from human stem cells that have been edited to contain “Neanderthalised” versions of several genes. The lentil-sized organoids, which are incapable of thoughts or feelings, replicate some of the basic structures of an adult brain. They could demonstrate for the first time if there were meaningful differences between human and Neanderthal brain biology. “Neanderthals are the closest relatives to everyday humans, so if we should define ourselves as a group or a species it is really them that we should compare ourselves to,” said Prof Svante Pääbo, director of the genetics department at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, where the experiments are being performed. Pääbo previously led the successful international effort to crack the Neanderthal genome, and his lab is now focused on bringing Neanderthal traits back to life in the laboratory through sophisticated gene-editing techniques. The lab has already inserted Neanderthal genes for craniofacial development into mice (heavy-browed rodents are not anticipated), and Neanderthal pain perception genes into frogs’ eggs, which could hint at whether they had a different pain threshold to humans. Now the lab is turning its attention to the brain.

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 24971 - Posted: 05.13.2018

By Nicholas Bakalar Some earlier observational studies have suggested that children who are exclusively breast-fed have higher I.Q.s through adolescence, and even higher incomes at age 30. But a randomized trial, a more rigorous type of study that better controls for socioeconomic and family variables, found that breast-feeding in infancy had no discernible effect on cognitive function by the time children reached age 16. Researchers studied 13,557 children in Belarus, assigning them as newborns either to a program that promoted exclusive and prolonged breast-feeding or to usual care. Mothers and children were followed with six pediatrician visits during the first year of life to assess breast-feeding habits. The study is in PLOS Medicine. At age 16, the children took tests measuring verbal and nonverbal memory, word recognition, executive function, visual-spatial orientation, information processing speed and fine motor skills. There was no difference in scores between the two groups, except that breast-feeders had slightly higher scores in verbal function. “If you want to breast-feed in hope of increasing cognitive functioning scores, you may find some benefits in the early years,” said the lead author, Seungmi Yang, an assistant professor of epidemiology at McGill University in Montreal. “But the effect is going to be reduced substantially at adolescence. Other factors, such as birth order and parental education, are more influential.” © 2018 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 24955 - Posted: 05.10.2018

Greg Chapman, research scientist, Boston University Twin Project Humans have succeeded as a species in large part because of our ability to cooperate and coordinate with each other. These skills are driven by a range of “moral emotions” such as guilt and empathy, which help us to navigate the nuance of social interactions appropriately. Those who lack moral emotions are classed as having “callous-unemotional” traits: persistent personality characteristics that make negotiating social situations difficult. The combination of callous-unemotional traits and antisocial behaviour in adolescents and adults is typically diagnosed as psychopathy. Moral emotions can be measured in children as young as three. Persistent personality traits aren’t measured in children this young, but recent research has begun to explore whether repeated callous-unemotional behaviours might be evident even in preschoolers. Such behaviours include parental observations that punishment doesn’t change behaviour, that the child shows little affection toward people and seems unresponsive to affection from others. At least half of children who exhibit callous-unemotional behaviours will naturally grow out of them. Only if they persist into adolescence do they become classified by psychiatrists as persistent personality traits. However, callous-unemotional behaviours in a young child in combination with other risk factors can be a warning sign for later social difficulties and behaviour disorders. For instance, callous-unemotional behaviours in early childhood have been shown to predict aggressive behaviours, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and oppositional defiant disorder and are a risk factor for later psychopathy.

Related chapters from BN8e: 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: 24939 - Posted: 05.05.2018

By Elizabeth Pennisi One of biology's great mysteries is how a single fertilized egg gives rise to the multitude of cell types, tissues, and organs that fit together to make a body. Now, a combination of single-cell sequencing technologies and computational tools is providing the most detailed picture yet of this process. In three papers online in Science this week, researchers report taking multiple snapshots of gene activity in most of the cells in developing zebrafish or frog embryos. They then assembled those data, taken at intervals of just minutes to hours, into coherent, cell-by-cell histories of how those embryos take shape. "My first reaction was, ‘Wow!’" says developmental biologist Robert Zinzen of the Berlin Institute for Medical Systems Biology. Just last week, two other papers online in Science traced cell-by-cell gene activity in planaria, simple flatworms, as they regenerated after being cut into pieces. In vertebrates, "the complexity is much higher," Zinzen notes. Yet the researchers managed to track the emerging identities of thousands of cells and their progeny. "I think the future of development will be to routinely single-cell sequence embryos," says Detlev Arendt, an evolutionary developmental biologist at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory in Heidelberg, Germany. All these studies started by gently dissolving embryos of different stages in special solutions, then shaking or stirring them to free individual cells. For each cell, the researchers then determined the sequences of all the strands of messenger RNA (mRNA), which reflect the genes being transcribed. © 2018 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24912 - Posted: 04.27.2018

Nita A. Farahany, Henry T. Greely and 15 colleagues. If researchers could create brain tissue in the laboratory that might appear to have conscious experiences or subjective phenomenal states, would that tissue deserve any of the protections routinely given to human or animal research subjects? This question might seem outlandish. Certainly, today’s experimental models are far from having such capabilities. But various models are now being developed to better understand the human brain, including miniaturized, simplified versions of brain tissue grown in a dish from stem cells — brain organoids1,2. And advances keep being made. These models could provide a much more accurate representation of normal and abnormal human brain function and development than animal models can (although animal models will remain useful for many goals). In fact, the promise of brain surrogates is such that abandoning them seems itself unethical, given the vast amount of human suffering caused by neurological and psychiatric disorders, and given that most therapies for these diseases developed in animal models fail to work in people. Yet the closer the proxy gets to a functioning human brain, the more ethically problematic it becomes. “We believe it would be unethical to stop the research at this point.” There is now a need for clear guidelines for research, albeit ones that can be adapted to new discoveries. This is the conclusion of many neuroscientists, stem-cell biologists, ethicists and philosophers — ourselves included — who gathered in the past year to explore the ethical dilemmas raised by brain organoids and related neuroscience tools. A workshop was held in May 2017 at the Duke Initiative for Science & Society at Duke University in Durham, North Carolina, with limited support from the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) BRAIN Initiative. A similar US meeting was held last month on related topics. Here we lay out some of the issues that we think researchers, funders, review boards and the public should discuss as a first step to guiding research on brain surrogates. © 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24907 - Posted: 04.26.2018

Ian Sample Science editor “I have never seen so many brains out of their heads before!” declares Dr Michael Hfuhruhurr, the world-renowned neurosurgeon played by Steve Martin who has a love affair with a brain in a jar in the 1983 movie, The Man with Two Brains. Thirty five years on, the prospect of falling for a disembodied brain is still looking slim, but researchers have made such progress in growing and maintaining human brain tissue in the lab that a group of scientists, lawyers, ethicists and philosophers have called for an ethical debate about the work. Writing in the journal Nature on Wednesday, 17 experts argue that it is time to consider what guidelines might be needed for dealing with lumps of human brain tissue, because the more complex they become the greater the chance that they gain consciousness, feel pleasure, pain and distress, and deserve rights of their own. “It’s not an imminent issue, but the closer these models come to being like human brains, the more we potentially edge towards the ethical problems of human experimentation,” said Prof Hank Greely, director of the Center for Law and the Biosciences at Stanford University in California. “Right now, I see no reason to be worried about consciousness in a six million neuron, half-a-centimetre-wide, hollow ball of cells, but we do need to be thinking about this,” he said. © 2018 Guardian News and Media Limited

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 1: Biological Psychology: Scope and Outlook; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 1: An Introduction to Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24906 - Posted: 04.26.2018

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

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
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

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 3: Neurophysiology: The Generation, Transmission, and Integration of Neural Signals
Link ID: 24894 - Posted: 04.24.2018

Allison Aubrey As more states legalize marijuana, there's growing interest in a cannabis extract — cannabidiol, also known as CBD. It's marketed as a compound that can help relieve anxiety — and, perhaps, help ease aches and pains, too. Part of the appeal, at least for people who don't want to get high, is that CBD doesn't have the same mind-altering effects as marijuana, since it does not contain THC, the psychoactive component of the plant. "My customers are buying CBD [for] stress relief," says Richard Ferry, the retail manager of Home Grown Apothecary in Portland, Ore., where recreational marijuana use is legal under state law, with some restrictions. Another rationale Ferry's heard from clients about their CBD use: "Their mother-in-law is in town, and they just want to chill out!" "CBD has gotten a lot of buzz," Ferry says, as he displays an array of CBD products, including capsules and bottles of liquid CBD oil that users dispense under the tongue with a dropper. By one estimate, the CBD industry has doubled in size over the last two years, and is now worth $200 million. But with this popularity the hype may have gotten ahead of the science. © 2018 npr

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 16: Psychopathology: Biological Basis of Behavior Disorders
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 12: Psychopathology: The Biology of Behavioral Disorders
Link ID: 24892 - Posted: 04.24.2018

BREANNE SEARING, Evergreen reporter As more states have legalized recreational cannabis, it has grown more popular among pregnant women. A WSU undergraduate researcher thinks the scientific community needs to take a closer look at the behavior of adults who were exposed to cannabis while in the womb. Neuroscience senior Collin Warrick has conducted research on the effects of prenatal cannabis vapor on the cognitive flexibility of rats. Warrick said cannabis is the most common illicit drug among pregnant women. Despite this, little to no research has been done on its effects on offspring cognition as they mature. Warrick said the lack of medical warnings on legal cannabis products comes from this lack of research. “I have not come across anything that has been black labeled,” Warrick said, “there is no Surgeon General’s warning against cannabis, I think primarily because there hasn’t been enough studies looking at the negative effects.” Ryan McLaughlin, an assistant professor of integrative physiology and neuroscience who worked with Warrick, said long-term ramifications of cannabis vapor on developing offspring are unknown. “Now that cannabis is legal for the next generation of mothers,” McLaughlin said, “they may see less of a stigma and less of a perceived harm associated with smoking a joint during pregnancy, as they would maybe from having a drink of wine or smoking cigarettes.” © 2018

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24888 - Posted: 04.21.2018

By Ashley Yeager Brain organoids, also known as mini-brains, are tiny clumps of brain cells grown from stem cells that researchers are using to investigate the neural underpinnings of autism and other neurological disorders. But the organoids typically grow in culture for only a few months before they die, limiting their usefulness as models of real brains. Transplanting the three-dimensional clumps of human brain tissue into the brains of mice allows the organoids to continue to develop, sprouting life-sustaining blood vessels as well as new neuronal connections, the new study reports. The work takes a step toward using brain organoids to study complexities of human brain development and disease that can’t be investigated with current techniques. Brain organoid transplantation may even one day offer a treatment option for traumatic brain injury or stroke. “Although organoids are a great advance in human neuroscience, they are not perfect. They are missing blood vessels, immune cells and functional connections to other areas of the nervous system,” Jürgen Knoblich, a molecular biologist at the Institute of Molecular Biotechnology in Vienna who was not involved in the study, tells The Scientist by email. “The goal of the transplantation experiments is to show that integration with those other tissues is possible.” Study coauthor Fred “Rusty” Gage, a neuroscientist at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, and his colleagues first started thinking about the health of brain organoids a few years ago when they began working with the structures. Many cells in the center of the 3-D clump of tissue would die, Gage tells The Scientist. “Those cells weren’t getting the blood and nutrients they needed to survive.” © 1986-2018 The Scientist

Related chapters from BN8e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 24876 - Posted: 04.18.2018