Nav: Home

Big data takes aim at a big human problem

March 12, 2019

A James Cook University scientist is part of an international team that's used new 'big data' analysis to achieve a major advance in understanding neurological disorders such as Epilepsy, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.

Dr Ashley Waardenberg, a Theme Leader from JCU's Centre for Tropical Bioinformatics and Molecular Biology, said scientists from JCU, The Children's Medical Research Institute, Sydney, University of Southern Denmark and Bonn University (Germany) looked at how neurons in the brain communicated with each other.

"We studied the synapse - the communication hotspot between neurons - which is a place where neurological disorders and diseases can interfere with the brain's normal functions," said Dr Waardenberg.

"We aimed to use new methods for mapping the protein pathways that neurons use to communicate with each other (neurotransmission) and tried to see if we could identify patterns of activity related to memory."

"A key part of the project that I led was to develop new computational methods to assess the very large amount of data that we collected. This led to the discovery of the major proteins responsible for the changes observed in the neurons," said Dr Waardenberg.

He said the discoveries open up many new avenues for studying the protein pathways underlying neurotransmission and how they might be linked to neurological diseases and disorders.

Dr Waardenberg said the breakthrough demonstrates how new computational methods are needed to develop insights from 'big data'.

He said the team of scientists is releasing the paper detailing the computational methods and the thousands of new proteins sites identified as a resource to the scientific community.

"We hope that this resource will help our future understanding of neuron signaling and memory. The discovery has very important implications for understanding the mechanisms of neurotransmission and neurological disorders," he said.

Dr Waardenberg is now aiming to establish these new methods at JCU and continue to develop new computational methods for tackling tropical diseases such as malaria.
-end-


James Cook University

Related Neurons Articles:

New tool to identify and control neurons
One of the big challenges in the Neuroscience field is to understand how connections and communications trigger our behavior.
Neurons that regenerate, neurons that die
In a new study published in Neuron, investigators report on a transcription factor that they have found that can help certain neurons regenerate, while simultaneously killing others.
How neurons use crowdsourcing to make decisions
When many individual neurons collect data, how do they reach a unanimous decision?
Neurons can learn temporal patterns
Individual neurons can learn not only single responses to a particular signal, but also a series of reactions at precisely timed intervals.
A turbo engine for tracing neurons
Putting a turbo engine into an old car gives it an entirely new life -- suddenly it can go further, faster.
More Neurons News and Neurons Current Events

Best Science Podcasts 2019

We have hand picked the best science podcasts for 2019. Sit back and enjoy new science podcasts updated daily from your favorite science news services and scientists.
Now Playing: TED Radio Hour

Erasing The Stigma
Many of us either cope with mental illness or know someone who does. But we still have a hard time talking about it. This hour, TED speakers explore ways to push past — and even erase — the stigma. Guests include musician and comedian Jordan Raskopoulos, neuroscientist and psychiatrist Thomas Insel, psychiatrist Dixon Chibanda, anxiety and depression researcher Olivia Remes, and entrepreneur Sangu Delle.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#537 Science Journalism, Hold the Hype
Everyone's seen a piece of science getting over-exaggerated in the media. Most people would be quick to blame journalists and big media for getting in wrong. In many cases, you'd be right. But there's other sources of hype in science journalism. and one of them can be found in the humble, and little-known press release. We're talking with Chris Chambers about doing science about science journalism, and where the hype creeps in. Related links: The association between exaggeration in health related science news and academic press releases: retrospective observational study Claims of causality in health news: a randomised trial This...