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Speak Easy: FOXP2 'Language Gene' Has a Partner

Speak Easy: FOXP2 'Language Gene' Has a Partner | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Few genes have made the headlines as much as FOXP2. The first gene associated with language disorders, it was later implicated in the evolution of human speech. Girls make more of the FOXP2 protein, which may help explain their precociousness in learning to talk. Now, neuroscientists have figured out how one of its molecular partners helps Foxp2 exert its effects.

 

The findings may eventually lead to new therapies for inherited speech disorders, says Richard Huganir, the neurobiologist at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland, who led the work. Foxp2 controls the activity of a gene called Srpx2, he notes, which helps some of the brain's nerve cells beef up their connections to other nerve cells. By establishing what SRPX2 does, researchers can look for defective copies of it in people suffering from problems talking or learning to talk.

 

Until 2001, scientists were not sure how genes influenced language. Then Simon Fisher, a neurogeneticist now at the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, and his colleagues fingered FOXP2 as the culprit in a family with several members who had trouble with pronunciation, putting words together, and understanding speech. These people cannot move their tongue and lips precisely enough to talk clearly, so even family members often can’t figure out what they are saying. It “opened a molecular window on the neural basis of speech and language,” Fisher says.

 

A few years later, other researchers showed that the FOXP2 gene in humans differed from the chimp version by only two bases, the "letters" that make up DNA. That small difference may have affected Foxp2 performance such that animal calls could eventually transform into the human gift of gab. In 2009, a team put the human version of the gene in mice and observed that the rodents produced more frequent and complex alarm calls, suggesting these mutations may have been involved in the evolution of more complex speech. But how Foxp2 works has largely remained a mystery.

 

Huganir didn't start out trying to solve this mystery. He was testing 400 proteins to see if they helped or hindered the development of specialized junctions between nerve cells, called synapses, which allow nerve cells to communicate with one another. A single neuron can have up to 10,000 synapses, or connections to other neurons, Huganir says. Of the 10 proteins he identified, one that strongly promoted synapse formation was Srpx2, a gene other researchers had linked to epilepsy and language problems.

 

Huganir and his colleagues examined Srpx2 activity in isolated nerve cells, determining that it stimulated the formation of "excitatory" connections, ones where a "turn on" message was conveyed to the receiving nerve cell. Srpx2 also enhanced the number of excitatory connections in the part of the brain in developing mice that is the equivalent of the human language center, the researchers report online today in Science. Because Foxp2 regulates the activity of several genes, including Srpx2, Huganir and his team took a closer look at howFoxp2 affected this gene. When Foxp2 is around, Srpx2 makes fewer excitatory synapses, they report. It may be that the right balance of excitatory synapses and other connections may be necessary for complex vocalizations, Huganir suggests.

 

As a final test, the researchers looked to see how changing the activity of the Srpx2 gene affected alarm calls of baby mice. Mice pups separated from their moms call for help with squeals too high-pitched for humans to hear. When the researchers artificially inhibited Srpx2's activity, the mice squealed less. But the pups squealed normally again when gene activity was restored, Huganir and his colleagues report.

 

The work "shows that Foxp2 affects synapse formation through Srpx2," says Svante Pääbo, a paleogeneticist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany, who has studied Foxp2 in primates and in mice. "It is the first target gene of Foxp2 that has a clear function with respect to neuronal function."


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Neural stem cells in the adult human brain

For decades, it was believed that the adult brain was a quiescent organ unable to produce new neurons. At the beginning of the1960's, this dogma was challenged by a small group of neuroscientists. To date, it is well-known that new neurons are generated in the adult brain throughout life. Adult neurogenesis is primary confined to the subventricular zone (SVZ) of the forebrain and the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus within the hippocampus. In both the human and the rodent brain, the primary progenitor of adult SVZ is a subpopulation of astrocytes that have stem-cell-like features. The human SVZ possesses a peculiar cell composition and displays important organizational differences when compared to the SVZ of other mammals. Some evidence suggests that the human SVZ may be not only an endogenous source of neural precursor cells for brain repair, but also a source of brain tumors. In this review, we described the cytoarchitecture and cellular composition of the SVZ in the adult human brain. We also discussed some clinical implications of SVZ, such as: stem-cell-based therapies against neurodegenerative diseases and its potential as a source of malignant cells. Understanding the biology of human SVZ and its neural progenitors is one of the crucial steps to develop novel therapies against neurological diseases in humans.

Via Miloš Bajčetić
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Pills for anxiety and sleep problems not linked to increased dementia risk

Pills for anxiety and sleep problems not linked to increased dementia risk | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Taking benzodiazepines (widely used drugs to treat anxiety and insomnia) is not associated with an increased dementia risk in older adults, finds a study published by The BMJ today.

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10 Myths About Traumatic Brain Injury

10 Myths About Traumatic Brain Injury | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Traumatic brain injury and its causes, symptoms, and treatment are often misunderstood and can lead to mishandling of the issues surrounding it.

Via Gerald Carey
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Gerald Carey's curator insight, February 6, 11:22 PM

Although the author doesn't use a lot of references or links, she is an expert on combat trauma and this makes this list worth reading.

Gage Tarrant's curator insight, March 5, 1:53 AM

Although the author doesn't use a lot of references or links, she is an expert on combat trauma and this makes this list worth reading.

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How the GyroGlove Steadies Hands of Parkinson’s Patients

How the GyroGlove Steadies Hands of Parkinson’s Patients | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A wearable device promises to help steady hand tremors by using an old technology—gyroscopes.


When he was a 24-year-old medical student living in London, Faii Ong was assigned to care for a 103-year-old patient who suffered from Parkinson’s, the progressive neurological condition that affects a person’s ease of movement. After watching her struggle to eat a bowl of soup, Ong asked another nurse what more could be done to help the woman. “There’s nothing,” he was grimly told.


Ong, now 26, didn’t accept the answer. He began to search for a solution that might offset the tremulous symptoms of Parkinson’s, a disease that affects one in 500 people, not through drugs but physics. After evaluating the use of elastic bands, weights, springs, hydraulics, and even soft robotics, Ong settled on a simpler solution, one that he recognized from childhood toys. “Mechanical gyroscopes are like spinning tops: they always try to stay upright by conserving angular momentum,” he explains. “My idea was to use gyroscopes to instantaneously and proportionally resist a person’s hand movement, thereby dampening any tremors in the wearer’s hand.”


Together with a number of other students from Imperial College London, Ong worked in the university’s prototyping laboratory to run numerous tests. An early prototype of a device, called GyroGlove, proved his instinct correct. Patients report that wearing the GyroGlove, which Ong believes to be the first wearable treatment solution for hand tremors, is like plunging your hand into thick syrup, where movement is free but simultaneously slowed. In benchtop tests, the team found the glove reduces tremors by up to 90 percent.


GyroGlove’s design is simple. It uses a miniature, dynamically adjustable gyroscope, which sits on the back of the hand, within a plastic casing attached to the glove’s material. When the device is switched on, the battery-powered gyroscope whirs to life. Its orientation is adjusted by a precession hinge and turntable, both controlled by a small circuit board, thereby pushing back against the wearer’s movements as the gyroscope tries to right itself.


While the initial prototypes of the device still require refinements to size and noise, Alison McGregor, professor of musculoskeletal biodynamics at Imperial College, who has been a mentor to the team, says the device “holds great promise and could have a significant impact on users’ quality of life.” Helen Matthews of the Cure Parkinson’s Trust agrees: “GyroGlove will make everyday tasks such as using a computer, writing, cooking, and driving possible for sufferers,” she says.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Mike Oehme's curator insight, January 26, 7:47 AM

Interesting idea, unfortunately I don't have a gyro trainer at home anymore

 

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Viral Tool Maps Brain Activity in Real Time

Viral Tool Maps Brain Activity in Real Time | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Neuroscience News has recent neuroscience research articles, brain research news, neurology studies and neuroscience resources for neuroscientists, students, and science fans and is always free to join. Our neuroscience social network has science groups, discussion forums, free books, resources, science videos and more.
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Testosterone Influences Emotional Regulation in Psychopathic Brain

Testosterone Influences Emotional Regulation in Psychopathic Brain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Neuroscience News has recent neuroscience research articles, brain research news, neurology studies and neuroscience resources for neuroscientists, students, and science fans and is always free to join. Our neuroscience social network has science groups, discussion forums, free books, resources, science videos and more.
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Capacity For Memory is Ten Times Greater Than Previously Thought

Capacity For Memory is Ten Times Greater Than Previously Thought | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Neuroscience News has recent neuroscience research articles, brain research news, neurology studies and neuroscience resources for neuroscientists, students, and science fans and is always free to join. Our neuroscience social network has science groups, discussion forums, free books, resources, science videos and more.

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Predicting Who May Develop Alzheimer’s, and Who May Not

Predicting Who May Develop Alzheimer’s, and Who May Not | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Investigators have wondered why the brains of some cognitively-intact elderly individuals have abundant pathology on autopsy or significant amyloid deposition on neuroimaging that are characteristic of Alzheimer disease (AD). Researchers reporting in the American Journal of Pathology investigated biochemical factors and identified differences in proteins from parietal cortex synapses between patients with and those without manifestation of dementia. Specifically, early-stage AD patients had elevated concentrations of synaptic soluble amyloid-β (Aβ) oligomers compared to controls who were not demented but displayed signs of AD pathology. Synapse-associated hyperphosphorylated tau (p-tau) levels did not increase until late-stage AD.

 

"Investigators examined whether synaptic Aβ levels were associated with neuritic plaque levels in the parietal cortex. They found little or no evidence of Aβ immunolabeling in either of the control groups but observed a rise in synaptic Aβ concentration associated with increasing neuropathologic disease stages. Synaptic Aβ levels highly correlated with the occurrence of plaque. Image is for illustrative purposes only."


Via iPamba, Miloš Bajčetić
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Eat Less and Be Happy

Eat Less and Be Happy | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Neuroscience News has recent neuroscience research articles, brain research news, neurology studies and neuroscience resources for neuroscientists, students, and science fans and is always free to join.

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How The Brain Distinguishes Safety From Danger

How The Brain Distinguishes Safety From Danger | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

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What Are The Odds of That? Risky Gambling Choices Influenced by Single Brain Connection

What Are The Odds of That? Risky Gambling Choices Influenced by Single Brain Connection | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

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SumaLateral Whole Brain Image

SumaLateral Whole Brain Image | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Multi-color image of whole brain for brain imaging research. This image was created using a computer image processing program (called SUMA), which is used to make sense of data generated by functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging (fMRI).

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Revolutionary Neuroscience Technique Slated for Human Clinical Trials

Revolutionary Neuroscience Technique Slated for Human Clinical Trials | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Optogenetics may treat chronic pain and other neurological disorders

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'Schizophrenia' does not exist, argues expert

'Schizophrenia' does not exist, argues expert | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

The term "schizophrenia," with its connotation of hopeless chronic brain disease, should be dropped and replaced with something like "psychosis spectrum syndrome," argues a professor of psychiatry in The BMJ today.

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Receptors inside nerve cells may be a key to controlling pain

Receptors inside nerve cells may be a key to controlling pain | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

In real estate, location is key. It now seems the same concept holds true when it comes to stopping pain.

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Modelling how the brain makes complex decisions

Modelling how the brain makes complex decisions | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Researchers have constructed the first comprehensive model of how neurons in the brain behave when faced with a complex decision-making process, and how they adapt and learn from mistakes.

The mathematical model, developed by researchers from the University of Cambridge, is the first biologically realistic account of the process, and is able to predict not only behaviour, but also neural activity. The results, reported in The Journal of Neuroscience, could aid in the understanding of conditions from obsessive compulsive disorder and addiction to Parkinson’s disease.

The model was compared to experimental data for a wide-ranging set of tasks, from simple binary choices to multistep sequential decision making. It accurately captures behavioural choice probabilities and predicts choice reversal in an experiment, a hallmark of complex decision making.

Via Miloš Bajčetić
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Carlos Rodrigues Cadre's curator insight, February 7, 12:54 PM

adicionar sua visão ...

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Transition to Chaos in Random Neuronal Networks

Transition to Chaos in Random Neuronal Networks | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Cortical neural circuits have been hypothesized to operate in a regime termed the “edge of chaos.” A new theoretical study puts this regime in a more biologically plausible perspective.

 

Transition to Chaos in Random Neuronal Networks
Jonathan Kadmon and Haim Sompolinsky
Phys. Rev. X 5, 041030 (2015)

http://dx.doi.org/10.1103/PhysRevX.5.041030


Via Complexity Digest, Miloš Bajčetić
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Anxiety and Chronic Stress May Increase Depression and Alzheimer’s Risk

Anxiety and Chronic Stress May Increase Depression and Alzheimer’s Risk | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
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How Our Memories Guide Attention

How Our Memories Guide Attention | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
A team of researchers has discovered that differences in the types of memories we have influence the nature of our future encounters. Their findings show how distinct parts of the brain, underlying different kinds of memories, also influence our attention in new situations.

“We’ve long understood there are different types of memories, but what these findings reveal are how different kinds of memories can drive our attention in the future,” explains Elizabeth Goldfarb, the study’s lead author and a doctoral candidate in NYU’s Department of Psychology.

It’s been established that the types of memories we have include episodic memories—characterized by our recollections of the contextual details of life events, such as remembering the layout and location of objects in a familiar room —as well as “habitual” or “rigid” memories. The latter are frequently invoked in our daily lives and are reflexive in nature—for instance, if you take a right turn at a stop sign you pass on your way to work everyday, and you then habitually take a right instead of a left even when you are not going to work.

Previous research has shown that these different types of memories depend on different brain systems, with the hippocampus important for episodic memories and the striatum mediating habitual memories. Less understood, however, are the neurological processes by which these different kinds of memories can function as guides of attention to novel situations.

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Consoling Voles Hint at Animal Empathy

Consoling Voles Hint at Animal Empathy | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it
Larry Young from Emory University, who studies prairie voles, has seen this behavior again and again. To him, it's a sign that the rodents are showing empathy.

Such claims have proven controversial in the past. For example, in 2012, scientists at the University of Chicago showed that rats will free trapped cage-mates, even if they have to sacrifice a bit of chocolate to do so. The researchers billed these rescues as evidence of empathy—that “rats free their cagemate in order to end distress.”


ED YONG


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I Wonder What It’s Like To Have Empathy

I Wonder What It’s Like To Have Empathy | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

There is a bit of a coldness to many of us on the spectrum. That’s not to say we’re mean. Not at all. In my experience individuals with autism tend to be more patient, loyal, and tolerant of differences than other people. But we do tend to look at things in a more utilitarian light.


Empathy means you feel what other people feel, right? That’s affective empathy. Cognitive empathy is knowing why someone feels the way they do. I read a study somewhere that said autistics have affective empathy and not cognitive. But, personally speaking, most autistics I know are much better at predicting someone’s feelings than connecting with them.


We can learn social skills with time.


By Gwendolyn Kansen 


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Retinal Implants Improve Image Sharpness For Those With Vision Loss

Retinal Implants Improve Image Sharpness For Those With Vision Loss | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

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Questioning Our Morality: Zoning Out or Deep Thinking?

Questioning Our Morality: Zoning Out or Deep Thinking? | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

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The Five Myths of Self-Compassion

The Five Myths of Self-Compassion | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Kristin Neff tackles the misconceptions that stop us from being kinder to ourselves.

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Blocking brain inflammation 'halts Alzheimer's disease' - BBC News

Blocking brain inflammation 'halts Alzheimer's disease' - BBC News | Social Neuroscience Advances | Scoop.it

Blocking the production of new immune cells in the brain could reduce memory problems seen in Alzheimer's disease, a study suggests.


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