JNeurosci: Highlights from the Nov. 16 issue

November 16, 2016

Amount of Specific Neurotransmitter in Brain May Predict Working Memory Ability

When you recite a phone number over and over while you search for a pen and paper to write it down, you're relying on your working memory. Activity in an area of the brain's prefrontal cortex is thought to contribute to working memory ability, but the exact neural mechanisms are still a mystery. In a new study, researchers find the amount of a specific neurotransmitter in the prefrontal cortex may predict one aspect of working memory ability. Working memory ability naturally declines when more pieces of information need to be remembered, but people with less of the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA in the prefrontal cortex show the sharpest declines in performance. The results shed light on a fundamental feature of human cognitive ability and could inform new strategies to treat working memory deficits seen in neuropsychiatric disorders like schizophrenia and age-related cognitive decline.

Corresponding author: Jong Yoon

Protein Regulates Brain's Supply of DHA and Cognitive Function in Mice

Docosahexaenoic acid, or DHA, is the most abundant omega-3 fatty acid in the brain and is essential for cognitive function. People with Alzheimer's disease may have less DHA in their brains, and DHA supplementation can be beneficial in early stages of the disease. In a new study, researchers find mice lacking a protein that transports DHA from the blood to the brain have less DHA in their brains and have impaired memory. The results shed light on the protein's important role in maintaining levels of DHA in the brain and may offer a new therapeutic target for restoring cognitive function in Alzheimer's disease.

Corresponding author: Joseph Nicolazzo

People With Parkinson's Disease Use Alternate Brain Network to Move During REM Sleep

Parkinson's disease kills neurons in a region of the brain important for motor control, resulting in slower movements and sometimes an inability to move altogether. But some patients also have REM sleep behavior disorder (RBD), which causes people to act out vivid dreams. During the dream-filled stage of REM sleep, Parkinson's patients with RBD seem to move unencumbered. In a new study, researchers recorded the brain activity of Parkinson's patients with RBD while they slept and found that different brain networks control sleep-related movements. The results suggest patients may be able to execute movements by bypassing the brain network targeted in Parkinson's disease.

Corresponding author: Lukas Imbach
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The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 38,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.

Society for Neuroscience

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