Tufts University Researchers Discover New Function Performed by Nearly Half of Brain Cells

Researchers at Tufts University School of Medicine have discovered a previously unknown function performed by a type of cell that comprises nearly half of all cells in the brain.

The scientists say this discovery in mice of a new function by cells known as astrocytes opens a whole new direction for neuroscience research that might one day lead to treatments for many disorders ranging from epilepsy to Alzheimer’s to traumatic brain injury.

Teaching Robots to Think Like Us

In Applied Physics Letters, researchers outline how a robot could be taught to navigate through a maze by electrically stimulating a culture of brain nerve cells connected to the machine. These nerve cells were grown from living cells and acted as the physical reservoir for the computer to construct coherent signals. These findings suggest goal-directed behavior can be generated without any additional learning by sending disturbance signals to an embodied system.

Old Habit-Controlling Neurons May Also Help the Brain Learn New Tricks

In a study of rodents, scientists at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai discovered that a part of the brain traditionally thought to control typing the old habits may also play a critical role in learning the new actions. The results, published on August 25th in Nature Communications, suggest that this process involves a delicate balance in the activity of two neighboring neural circuits: one dedicated to new actions and the other to old habits

Virginia Tech researchers uncover mechanisms that wire the brain’s cerebral cortex

A research team at the Fralin Biomedical Research Institute at VTC has identified the type of brain cell that produces a protein that is crucial for the formation of inhibitory circuits in the brain. This insight could one day help scientists establish the basis for developing new drugs that mature or repair cellular networks.

Potential New Therapies for Alzheimer’s Disease are Revealed through Network Modeling of Its Complex Molecular Interactions

Researchers from Mount Sinai and the National Center for Geriatrics and Gerontology in Japan have identified new molecular mechanisms driving late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease.

Recycling Happens In Brain Cells Too, Not Just With Paper And Plastic

We use recycled products every day. Money, for example, goes on a circular journey from our hands to banks and back again. Once paper money is too worn to be used, banks send it to be destroyed. A similar microscopic waste system is present in our brains, in which nervous system cells called neurons trade chemical messengers and remove the carriers they travel in when they become defective.

Biologists Create “Atlas” of Gene Expression in Neurons, Documenting the Diversity of Brain Cells

New York University researchers have created a “developmental atlas” of gene expression in neurons, using gene sequencing and machine learning to categorize more than 250,000 neurons in the brains of fruit flies. Their study, published in Nature, finds that neurons exhibit the most molecular diversity during development and reveals a previously unknown type of neurons only present before flies hatch.

Hengen awarded $1.8M to study sleep’s contribution to brain function

Sleep is vitally important for brain function and survival. Yet sleep remains one of the most poorly understood features of life. Keith Hengen, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, received a three-year $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of sleep and waking behavior in shaping the brain’s neural dynamics.

Designing a new class of drugs to treat chronic pain

A UC Davis research team, led by Vladimir Yarov-Yarovoy and Heike Wulff, will receive a $1.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to develop a novel class of peptides that are better at treating pain and don’t have the side effects of opioids. The grant is part of the NIH initiative Helping to End Addiction Long-Term (HEAL Initiative).