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Neurons made from stem cells drive brain activity after transplantation

Neurons made from stem cells drive brain activity after transplantation | Global Insights | Scoop.it
Researchers at Sanford-Burnham Medical Research Institute have found a way to stimulate stem cell-derived neurons to direct cognitive function after transplantation to an existing neural network by using optogenetic stimulation — getting us a step closer to using these cells to treat Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

 

Researchers and patients look forward to the day when stem cells might be used to replace dying brain cells in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative conditions.

 

Lipton and his team — including colleagues at Sanford-Burnham and Stanford University — transplanted human stem cell-derived neurons into a rodent hippocampus, the brain’s information-processing center. Then they specifically activated the transplanted neurons with optogenetic stimulation, a relatively new technique that combines light and genetics to precisely control cellular behavior in living tissues or animals.

 

To determine if the newly transplanted, light-stimulated human neurons were actually working, Lipton and his team measured high-frequency oscillations in existing neurons at a distance from the transplanted ones. They found that the transplanted neurons triggered the existing neurons to fire high-frequency oscillations. Faster neuronal oscillations are usually better — they’re associated with enhanced performance in sensory-motor and cognitive tasks.

 

The transplanted human neurons not only conducted electrical impulses, they also roused neighboring neuronal networks into firing — at roughly the same rate they would in a normal, functioning hippocampus.

 

The therapeutic outlook for this technology looks promising. “Based on these results, we might be able to restore brain activity — and thus restore motor and cognitive function — by transplanting easily manipulated neuronal cells derived from embryonic stem cells,” Lipton said.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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Childhood stimulation is key to brain development, study finds

Childhood stimulation is key to brain development, study finds | Global Insights | Scoop.it

Twenty-year research project shows that most critical aspect of cortex development in late teens was stimulation aged four.

 

An early childhood surrounded by books and educational toys will leave positive fingerprints on a person's brain well into their late teens, a two-decade-long research study has shown.

 

Scientists found that the more mental stimulation a child gets around the age of four, the more developed the parts of their brains dedicated to language and cognition will be in the decades ahead.

 

It is known that childhood experience influences brain development but the only evidence scientists have had for this has usually come from extreme cases such as children who had been abused or suffered trauma. Martha Farah, director of the centre for neuroscience and society at the University of Pennsylvania, who led the latest study, wanted to find out how a normal range of experiences in childhood might influence the development of the brain.

 

Farah took data from surveys of home life and brain scans of 64 participants carried out over the course of 20 years. Her results, presented on Sunday at the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans, showed that cognitive stimulation from parents at the age of four was the key factor in predicting the development of several parts of the cortex – the layer of grey matter on the outside of the brain – 15 years later.


Via Dr. Stefan Gruenwald
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