A Road Map – and Dictionary – for the Brain

When you're talking about something as complex as the brain, the task isn't any easier if the vocabulary being used is just as complex. An international collaboration of neuroscientists has not only tripled the number of identified brain structures, but created a simple lexicon to talk about them, which will be enormously helpful for future research on brain function and disease.

In a battle of brains, bigger isn’t always better

It’s one of those ideas that seems to make perfect sense: the bigger the brain, the more intelligent the creature. While it is generally true, exceptions are becoming increasingly common. Yet the belief persists even among scientists. Most biologists, for example, assume that rats, with larger brains, are smarter than mice. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) scientists now challenge this belief. They compared mice and rats and found very similar levels of intelligence, a result that could have powerful implications for researchers studying complex behaviors and learning.

Bioengineers Make Functional 3D Brain-Like Tissue Model

The human brain remains one of the least understood organs in the human body, because of its complexity and the difficulty of studying its physiology in the living body.  Tufts University researchers today announced development of the first reported complex three-dimensional model made of brain-like cortical tissue that exhibits biochemical and electrophysiological responses and can function in the laboratory for months.  The engineered tissue model offers new options for studying brain function, disease and trauma, and treatment.

'Support cells' in brain play important role in Down syndrome

Researchers from UC Davis School of Medicine and Shriners Hospitals for Children – Northern California have identified a group of cells in the brain that they say plays an important role in the abnormal neuron development in Down syndrome. After developing a new model for studying the syndrome using patient-derived stem cells, the scientists also found that applying an inexpensive antibiotic to the cells appears to correct many abnormalities in the interaction between the cells and developing neurons. “We have developed a human cellular model for studying brain development in Down syndrome that allows us to carry out detailed physiological studies and screen possible new therapies,” said Wenbin Deng, associate professor of biochemistry and molecular medicine and principal investigator of the study. “This model is more realistic than traditional animal models because it is derived from a patient’s own cells.”

Breakthrough: Nasal spray may soon replace the pill

When the doctor gives us medicine, it is often in the shape of a pill. But when it comes to brain diseases, pills are actually an extremely ineffecient way to deliver drugs to the brain, and according to researchers from University of Southern Denmark we need to find new and more efficient ways of transporting drugs to the brain. Spraying the patient's nose could be one such way.

Breaking Through the Barrier

Like a bouncer at an exclusive nightclub, the blood-brain barrier allows only select molecules to pass from the bloodstream into the fluid that bathes the brain. Vital nutrients get in; toxins and pathogens are blocked. The barrier also ensures that waste products are filtered out of the brain and whisked away. The blood-brain barrier helps maintain the delicate environment that allows the human brain to thrive. There’s just one problem: The barrier is so discerning, it won’t let medicines pass through. Researchers haven’t been able to coax it to open up because they don’t know enough about how the barrier forms or functions.

Bioethics Commission Plays Early Role in BRAIN Initiative

Calling for the integration of ethics across the life of neuroscientific research endeavors, the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues (Bioethics Commission) released volume one of its two-part response to President Obama’s request related to the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative. The report, Gray Matters: Integrative Approaches for Neuroscience, Ethics, and Society, includes four recommendations for institutions and individuals engaged in neuroscience research including government agencies and other funders.  

Discovery links rare, childhood neurodegenerative diseases to common problem in DNA repair

St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital scientists studying two rare, inherited childhood neurodegenerative disorders have identified a new, possibly common source of DNA damage that may play a role in other neurodegenerative diseases, cancer and aging. The findings appear in the current issue of the scientific journal Nature Neuroscience.

A Critical Window into the Developing Human Brain Profiled in Nature

Researchers at the Allen Institute for Brain Science have generated a high-resolution blueprint for how to build a human brain, with a detailed map of where different genes are turned on and off during mid-pregnancy at unprecedented anatomical resolution. The data provide exceptional insight into diseases like autism that are linked to early brain development, and to the origins of human uniqueness.