Many neurological diseases are malfunctions of synapses, or the points of contact between neurons that allow senses and other information to pass from finger to brain. In the brain, there is a careful balance between the excitatory synapses that allow messages to pass, and the inhibitory synapses that dampen the signal. When that balance is off, the brain becomes unable to process information normally, leading to conditions like epilepsy.
Researchers at the Max Planck Florida Institute for Neuroscience identify the wiring process of a unique type of inhibitory cells implicated in several diseases. A basic tenet of neural development is that young neurons make far more connections than they will actually use, with very little specificity. They selectively maintain only the ones that they end up needing. Once many of these connections are made, the brain employs a use-it or lose-it strategy; if the organism’s subsequent experiences stimulate the synapse, it will strengthen and survive. If not, the synapse will weaken and eventually disappear.
An evolutionary tree of more than 161 dog breeds has been mapped out by geneticists, showing which types are closely related to each other. The research will be of obvious interest to dog owners but it is hoped it will shed light on the causes of diseases that affect both dogs and humans, including epilepsy.
Tiny, 3-D clusters of human brain cells grown in a petri dish are providing hints about the origins of disorders like autism and epilepsy. An experiment using these cell clusters — which are only about the size of the head of a pin — found that a genetic mutation associated with both autism and epilepsy kept developing cells from migrating normally from one cluster of brain cells to another, researchers report in the journal Nature.
When Yuan Yingjin turned 54 on March 10, he had two unusual presents: some yeast chromosomes and acclaim in China’s national news. That day, research into assembling four synthetic yeast chromosomes, completed by his Tianjin University research team and scientists at Tsinghua University and BGI-Shenzhen, was published in the famous journal Science. The achievement made China the second country after the US capable of designing and building eukaryotic genomes.
New King’s College London research reveals how genetic defects can lead to epilepsy in children. In their new study, published in Scientific Reports and funded by Eli Lilly and Co., the researchers set out to understand how genetic defects affect electrical transmission in the brain. Understanding exactly how nerve cells are misfiring and creating seizures in children with epilepsy will allow researchers to design better, more personalised treatments for epilepsy.
A particular structure in the brain is a “choke point” for a type of epileptic seizure that affects mostly children, Stanford University School of Medicine investigators have found. The researchers used an advanced technology called optogenetics to show, in rodent models of one of the most common forms of childhood epilepsy, that inducing synchronized, rhythmic activity in a specific nerve tract within this structure is sufficient to cause seizures, while disrupting that activity is sufficient to terminate them.
SUDEP is the most common “direct epilepsy-related” cause of death in persons with epilepsy. While the risk for is still relatively low for all patients, our understanding of SUDEP is also relatively low. Researchers in Korea recently conducted and published a study that investigates clinical variables in correlation with SUDEP in order to identify risk factors. Twenty-six SUDEP cases and 78 controls were included in the study.
A team of researchers at UC San Francisco has uncovered the neurological basis of speech motor control, the complex coordinated activity of tiny brain regions that controls our lips, jaw, tongue and larynx as we speak. Described this week in the journal Nature, the work has potential implications for developing computer-brain interfaces for artificial speech communication and for the treatment of speech disorders. It also sheds light on an ability that is unique to humans among living creatures but poorly understood. “Speaking is so fundamental to who we are as humans – nearly all of us learn to speak,” said senior author Edward Chang, MD, a neurosurgeon at the UCSF EpilepsyCenter and a faculty member in the UCSF Center for Integrative Neuroscience. “But it’s ...