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Research

See these first-of-a-kind views of living human nerve cells

New database could shed light on how people’s brains tick   The human brain is teeming with diversity. By plucking out delicate, live tissue during neurosurgery and then studying the resident cells, researchers have revealed a partial cast of neural characters that give rise to our thoughts, dreams and memories.   So far, researchers with the Allen Institute for Brain Science in Seattle have described the intricate shapes and electrical properties of about 100 nerve cells, or neurons, taken from the brains of 36 patients as they underwent surgery for conditions such as brain tumors or epilepsy. To reach the right spot, surgeons had to remove a small hunk of brain tissue, which is usually discarded as medical waste. In this case, the brain tissue was promptly packed up and sent — ...

Scientists developing a pharmaceutical that stops convulsions

Scientists from RUDN University took an active part in the development of a chemical compound to stop convulsions during epileptic seizures. The results of the study were published in Chirality.   Epilepsy is a chronic neuralgic disease that causes convulsive seizures in humans and other animals. The pathogenesis of this disease is paroxysmal discharges in the nerve cells of the brain that cause convulsions. Anticonvulsants help to stop the epileptic fit. The drug itself is a powder that is dissolved in water and injected into a person experiencing such a seizure.

Star-shaped brain cells orchestrate neural connections

Brains are made of more than a tangled net of neurons. Star-like cells called astrocytes diligently fill in the gaps between neural nets, each wrapping itself around thousands of neuronal connections called synapses. This arrangement gives each individual astrocyte an intricate, sponge-like structure.   New research from Duke University finds that astrocytes are much more than neurons’ entourage. Their unique architecture is also extremely important for regulating the development and function of synapses in the brain.   When they don’t work right, astrocyte dysfunction may underlie neuronal problems observed in devastating diseases like autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy.

Scientists identify eight new genes involved in epileptic encephalopathy

Approximately 30 per cent of patients with epilepsy do not respond to anti-epileptic drugs. In these cases, all neurologists can do is attempt to find the right combination of medication through trial and error.  A treatment that could target the root cause of epilepsy is a beacon of hope for these patients.  But identifying the cause of the pathology is no easy feat.   “There are many genes involved,” said Jacques Michaud, pediatrician at CHU Sainte-Justine and Professor of Pediatrics and Neuroscience at the Faculty of Medicine of Université de Montreal. “Each child can have different genetic mutations. Often the clinical symptoms do not clearly reflect the cause of epilepsy, which makes choosing the right treatment more difficult.”

New study hopes to shed light on mechanism behind epileptic and non-epileptic seizures

Seizures are a common result of traumatic brain injury, especially in military veterans. A new study funded by the DOD, Congressionally Directed Medical Research Programs, and conducted in Providence RI and Birmingham AL (at the Veterans Affairs Medical Centers in Providence, RI and Birmingham, AL, Rhode Island Hospital, Brown University and the University of Alabama at Birmingham) hopes to shed new light on the mechanism behind seizures associated with post-traumatic epilepsy and psychogenic nonepileptic seizures.   The $3.6 million award, W81XWH-17-1-0619 will examine whether a form of cognitive behavior therapy, a short-term, goal-oriented psychotherapy approach to problem-solving, could be effective in reducing the frequency and/or severity of seizures in those with TBI. Cognitive...

These Neurons are Alive and Firing. And You Can Watch Them In 3-D

For patients with epilepsy, or cancerous brain lesions, sometimes the only way to forward is down. Down past the scalp and into the skull, down through healthy grey matter to get at a tumor or the overactive network causing seizures. At the end of the surgery, all that extra white and grey matter gets tossed in the trash or an incinerator. Well, not all of it. At least, not in Seattle.     For the last few years, doctors at a number of hospitals in the Emerald City have been saving those little bits and blobs of brain, sticking them on ice, and rushing them off in a white van across town to the Allen Institute for Brain Science. Scientists there have been keeping the tissue on life support long enough to tease out how individual neurons look, act, and communicate. And today they’...

Funnel web spiders’ ‘beautiful molecules’ show promise for treating epilepsy, stroke

Several new Australian-developed medicines showing promise treating childhood epilepsy, stroke and autoimmune diseases have emerged from an unusual source: the fangs of venomous creatures. Big pharmaceutical companies are excited by results showing these new venom-drugs are often superior to man-made drugs, and they are starting to pour money into research.

What is the Link Between DNA, Epilepsy and Intellectual Disability?

Researchers used chromosomal microarray analysis to investigate abnormal chromosomal copies and deletions in adults with epilepsy and intellectual disability.   Epilepsy is a chronic disorder marked by unpredictable, recurring seizures caused by an overload of electrical activity in the brain. What a patient with epilepsy experiences during a seizure depends on what part of their brain the epileptic activity activates, and how widely and quickly it spreads from that area. While doctors can’t always determine what causes epilepsy, it has been linked to factors such as genetics, head trauma, strokes, or some infectious diseases such as viral encephalitis.

Mechanism explains how seizures may lead to memory loss

Although it’s been clear that seizures are linked to memory loss and other cognitive deficits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease, how this happens has been puzzling. In a study published in the journal Nature Medicine, a team of researchers reveals a mechanism that can explain how even relatively infrequent seizures can lead to long-lasting cognitive deficits in animal models. A better understanding of this new mechanism may lead to future strategies to reduce cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease and other conditions associated with seizures, such as epilepsy.

A dietary supplement dampens the brain hyperexcitability seen in seizures or epilepsy

Seizure disorders — including epilepsy — are associated with pathological hyperexcitability in brain neurons. Unfortunately, there are limited available treatments that can prevent this hyperexcitability. However, University of Alabama at Birmingham researchers have found that inducing a biochemical alteration in brain proteins via the dietary supplement glucosamine was able to rapidly dampen that pathological hyperexcitability in rat and mouse models. These results, seen in animal models, represent a potentially novel therapeutic target for the treatment of seizure disorders.

Lack of CLOCK protein appears key in severe epilepsy forms

A new study in Neuron focuses on the role that a lack of the protein “CLOCK” plays in several forms of epilepsy. The study provides evidence that excessive excitation of specific brain cells may be due to a lack of CLOCK in the region of the brain that produces the seizures. This effect, researchers found, is stronger during sleep.The finding potentially gives researchers a new way to develop a treatment for some cases of the most severe cases of the disabling disorder, said corresponding author Dr. Judy Liu, a new Assistant Professor of Neurology at Brown University. Because the study directly implicates a specific protein pathway in a specific part of a patient’s brain, Liu said a strategy for further research could be to deliver a drug that compensates for the lack of ...

Better mini brains could help scientists identify treatments for Zika-related brain damage

The team plans to continue using its improved organoids to better understand human brain development and to learn more about autism spectrum disorders, epilepsy and other neurological conditions.   UCLA researchers have developed an improved technique for creating simplified human brain tissue from stem cells. Because these so-called “mini brain organoids” mimic human brains in how they grow and develop, they’re vital to studying complex neurological diseases.   In a study published in the journal Cell Reports, the researchers used the organoids to better understand how Zika infects and damages fetal brain tissue, which enabled them to identify drugs that could prevent the virus’s damaging effects.

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