We are gaining deeper insight into the mechanisms through which neurons make connections that produce a functioning nervous system, as well as the dysfunction that arises from miswiring of connections

In an embryo, a neuron’s branches, or axons, have special structures on their tips that sense chemical cues telling them where to grow. The new findings, by researchers at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center and The Rockefeller University, reveal the structural details of how one such cue, Netrin-1, interacts with two sensing molecules on the axons, DCC and a previously less well characterized player known as neogenin, as a part of this process.

The ultimate goal is to develop new therapies for humans suffering from various forms of epilepsies, especially those for whom drugs do not work

New research from North Carolina State University pinpoints the areas of the cerebral cortex that are affected in mice with absence epilepsy and shows that transplanting embryonic neural cells into these areas can alleviate symptoms of the disease by reducing seizure activity. The work may help identify the areas of the human brain affected in absence epilepsy and lead to new therapies for sufferers.

Research by scientists at Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University may help explain how some cases of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) can result from environmental influences rather than gene mutations.

Media reports on the causes of ASD have focused on the fact that older fathers (40 and over) are more likely than younger fathers to have children with an ASD, probably because of gene mutations that accumulate over the years in sperm-making cells. Yet older mothers (35 and over) face a similar risk that is entirely independent of their partners' age. But for older mothers, scientists know very little about why this risk exists. The Einstein researchers looked for genetic as well as environmental influences that might account for older mothers' increased risk for having children with ASD.

Findings should help narrow the search for genetic contributions of autism and suggest new routes for therapy

“Aha” moments are rare in medical research, scientists say. As rare, they add, as finding mice with Mohawk-like hairstyles.

But both events happened in a lab at NYU Langone Medical Center, months after an international team of neuroscientists bred hundreds of mice with a suspect genetic mutation tied to autism spectrum disorders.

Almost all the grown mice, the NYU Langone team observed, had sideways,“overgroomed” hair with a highly stylized center hairline between their ears and hardly a tuft elsewhere. Mice typically groom each other’s hair.

University of Adelaide research has for the first time confirmed that women who eat a poor diet before they become pregnant are around 50% more likely to have a preterm birth than those on a healthy diet.

The results show that women who consistently ate a diet high in protein and fruit prior to becoming pregnant were less likely to have a preterm birth, while those who consistently ate high fat and sugar foods and takeaway were about 50% more likely to have a preterm birth.