Nav: Home

JNeurosci: Highlights from the March 22 issue

March 22, 2017

Breast Cancer Drug Could Be Repurposed to Treat Eye Diseases

Diseases of the retina (the thin sheet of cells at the back of the eye), such as age-related macular degeneration, involve the breakdown of light-sensitive neurons called photoreceptors. The mechanisms responsible for the deterioration of these cells are unclear and many patients go untreated as their vision declines. In a new study, researchers found an established drug approved to treat breast cancer, tamoxifen, protected against photoreceptor degeneration in two different mouse models: a light-induced injury model and another model involving a genetic mutation that causes retinal disease in both mice and humans. This finding was unexpected because tamoxifen has been previously linked to retinal toxicity. The researchers found that tamoxifen works by reducing activation of microglia -- the central nervous system's immune cells -- and diminishing the production of inflammatory molecules. Based on these results, the researchers suggest tamoxifen may be a candidate for clinical study as a potential treatment for retinal diseases.

Corresponding author: Wai T. Wong,

A Potential Reason Why Morphine Is Less Effective for Women

The powerful pain reliever morphine is known to be less effective for women compared to men, and a new study in rats reveals a possible explanation. Researchers showed that, compared to male rats, female rats display an increased activation of microglia in the periaqueductal gray, a brain region where opioids like morphine act to alter our experience of pain. They also find that, in females, blocking one of the receptors to which morphine binds, TLR4, renders females similarly responsive to morphine as males. The research suggests that, if this finding translates to humans, TLR4 could be targeted to reduce the dose needed for women to achieve similar levels of pain relief from morphine as men. Lower doses would reduce the risk of the pain medication's negative side effects, such as dependency.

Corresponding author: Anne Z. Murphy,

Alzheimer's-Related Proteins May Underlie Memory Decline in Healthy Older Adults

Forming new memories becomes increasingly difficult as we get older, which may be due in part to the degeneration, or atrophy, of brain structures crucial for memory formation. Accumulation of the beta amyloid (Aß) and tau proteins, which has been implicated in the progression of Alzheimer's disease, is also common in healthy older adults. However, the relationships between these changes in the aging brain and their influence on memory ability are not well understood. Researchers recruited healthy older (aged 64-93 years) and younger (aged 18-30 years) adults to participate in a new neuroimaging study designed to test age-related changes in the brain's memory network. While their brain activity was recorded, participants were shown a series of objects and asked to report whether the object was novel, a repeat, or similar to one they had seen before. The researchers found that Aß and tau impacted distinct components of memory encoding and, consistent with previous findings, they observed unusually high levels of neural activity during these tasks in the older adults compared to the younger adults. This activity was associated with worse memory performance and atrophy of important structures in the medial temporal lobe of the older adults. Together, these findings suggest a role for Alzheimer's pathology in the memory impairment of normal aging.

Corresponding author: Shawn M. Marks,

Tracing Structural Changes of the Adolescent Brain

The cerebral cortex -- the grooved sheet of brain tissue also known as gray matter -- undergoes dramatic structural changes throughout our lives, but our understanding of these changes from childhood to adulthood remains incomplete. In a new study, researchers analyzed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) data that documented changes in brain structure in four independent groups of typically developing individuals from the United States, Norway, and the Netherlands, as they matured from age 7 to 29. The authors found that the volume, thickness, and surface area of the cortex decreased as the participants got older, and that decreases in volume were strongly related to thinning of the cortex. The results of the study also showed complex relationships between the developmental changes in cortical thickness and surface area.

Corresponding author: Christian K. Tamnes,
The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 37,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.

Society for Neuroscience

Related Brain Activity Articles:

More brain activity is not always better when it comes to memory and attention
Potential new ways of understanding the cause of cognitive impairments, such as problems with memory and attention, in brain disorders including schizophrenia and Alzheimer's are under the spotlight in a new research review.
Researchers to predict cognitive dissonance according to brain activity
A new study by HSE researchers has uncovered a new brain mechanism that generates cognitive dissonance -- a mental discomfort experienced by a person who simultaneously holds two or more contradictory beliefs or values, or experiences difficulties in making decisions.
Brain activity can be used to predict reading success up to 2 years in advance
By measuring brainwaves, it is possible to predict what a child's reading level will be years in advance, according to research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.
There's a close association between magnetic systems and certain states of brain activity
Scientists from the University of Granada (UGR) have proven for the first time that there is a close relationship between several emerging phenomena in magnetic systems (greatly studied by condensed matter physicists) and certain states of brain activity.
Hormone can enhance brain activity associated with love and sex
The hormone kisspeptin can enhance activity in brain regions associated with sexual arousal and romantic love, according to new research.
Manipulating brain activity to boost confidence
Is it possible to directly boost one's own confidence by directly training the brain?
Brain activity may predict risk of falls in older people
Measuring the brain activity of healthy, older adults while they walk and talk at the same time may help predict their risk of falls later, according to a study published in the Dec.
Neuro chip records brain cell activity
In order to understand how the brain controls functions, such as simple reflexes or learning and memory, we must be able to record the activity of large networks and groups of neurons.
Too much activity in certain areas of the brain is bad for memory and attention
Researchers led by Dr Tobias Bast in the School of Psychology at The University of Nottingham have found that faulty inhibitory neurotransmission and abnormally increased activity in the hippocampus impairs our memory and attention.
Brain changes after menopause may lead to lack of physical activity
Researchers from the University of Missouri have found a connection between lack of ovarian hormones and changes in the brain's pleasure center, a hotspot in the brain that processes and reinforces messages related to reward, pleasure, activity and motivation for physical exercise.

Related Brain Activity Reading:

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

Do animals grieve? Do they have language or consciousness? For a long time, scientists resisted the urge to look for human qualities in animals. This hour, TED speakers explore how that is changing. Guests include biological anthropologist Barbara King, dolphin researcher Denise Herzing, primatologist Frans de Waal, and ecologist Carl Safina.
Now Playing: Science for the People

#SB2 2019 Science Birthday Minisode: Mary Golda Ross
Our second annual Science Birthday is here, and this year we celebrate the wonderful Mary Golda Ross, born 9 August 1908. She died in 2008 at age 99, but left a lasting mark on the science of rocketry and space exploration as an early woman in engineering, and one of the first Native Americans in engineering. Join Rachelle and Bethany for this very special birthday minisode celebrating Mary and her achievements. Thanks to our Patreons who make this show possible! Read more about Mary G. Ross: Interview with Mary Ross on Lash Publications International, by Laurel Sheppard Meet Mary Golda...