Molecular ‘Connector’ Helps Cocaine Latch on to Brain Cells, Even When Drug Is in Low Doses

Scientists have long known that cocaine works by latching on to molecular connectors on the surface of brain cells, allowing dopamine, a chemical that promotes feelings of pleasure and reward, to accumulate in the space between brain cells. Now, Johns Hopkins Medicine scientists say they have found a molecular connector, known as the BASP1 receptor, that binds cocaine, even when the drug is present in very low doses.

Hopkins Med News Update

NEWS STORIES IN THIS ISSUE:

-Study: Race and Ethnicity May Impact Prevalence and Treatment of Heart Valve Dysfunction
-Johns Hopkins Medicine Suggests Eliminating Nerve Cell Protein May Stop ALS, Dementia
-Researchers Tell Doctors to Avoid Routine Urinary Tests for Older Patients with Delirium
-Johns Hopkins Medicine Researchers Show How Air Pollution May Cause Chronic Sinusitis
-Researchers ID Location on Brain Protein Linked to Parkinson’s Disease Development
-COVID-19 News: The Return of Onsite Schooling — and How to Keep Your Kids Safe from COVID

Distinct Parkinson’s Disease Symptoms Tied to Different Brain Pathways

Neurobiologists have found that identifiable brain pathways are linked with specific debilitating symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. The findings could help form the basis for improving therapeutic strategies for precise symptoms of Parkinson’s at various levels of disease progression.

Not a Musician? Your Brain Can Still Tell What’s Music

Article title: Music-selective neural populations arise without musical training Authors: Dana Boebinger, Samuel Norman-Haignere, Josh H. McDermott, Nancy Kanwisher From the authors: “We show that music-selective neural populations are clearly present in people without musical training, demonstrating that they are a fundamental…

Neurons stripped of their identity are hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, study finds

Researchers at the University of California San Diego have identified new mechanisms in neurons that cause Alzheimer’s disease. In particular, they discovered that changes in the structure of chromatin, the tightly coiled form of DNA, trigger neurons to lose their specialized function and revert to an earlier cell state. This results in the loss of synaptic connections, an effect associated with memory loss and dementia.

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.

Finding Right Drug Balance for Parkinson’s Patients

Parkinson’s disease is most commonly treated with levodopa, but the benefits wear off as the disease progresses and high doses can result in dyskinesia, which are involuntary and uncontrollable movements. To better understand the underlying reasons behind these effects, researchers created a model of the interactions between levodopa, dopamine, and the basal ganglia, an area of the brain that plays a crucial role in Parkinson’s disease. They discuss their findings in the journal Chaos.

Mapping Cavefish Brains Leads to Neural Origin of Behavioral Evolution

While studied for nearly a century, little is known about how cavefish brains differ. A study is the first to look inside their brains with millimeter resolution to start to understand how the individual neurons and brain regions that drive complex behaviors, including sleep and feeding have evolved. This work has broad implications for the understanding of how brains evolve in many different animal models and is hoped to be widely used by the scientific community.

Research News Tip Sheet: Story Ideas from Johns Hopkins Medicine

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Johns Hopkins Medicine Media Relations is focused on disseminating current, accurate and useful information to the public via the media. As part of that effort, we are distributing our “COVID-19 Tip Sheet: Story Ideas from Johns Hopkins” every other Tuesday.

Immune from Chronic Stress? Limit Inflammatory Signaling to Specific Brain Circuits

Chronic stress is associated with the pathogenesis of psychological disorders such as depression. A study is the first to identify the role of a neuronal receptor that straddles the intersection between social stress, inflammation, and anxiety in rodent models of stress. Findings suggest the possibility of developing better medications to treat the consequences of chronic stress by limiting inflammatory signaling not just generally, which may not be beneficial in the long run, but to specific brain circuits.

UNH Researchers Find Synchronization of Memory Cells Critical For Learning and Forming Memories

Researchers at the University of New Hampshire found that the neurons involved in Pavlovian learning shift their behavior and become more synchronized when a memory is being formed – a finding that helps better understand memory mechanisms and provides clues for the development of future therapies for memory-related diseases like dementia, autism and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Better Biosensor Technology Created for Stem Cells

A Rutgers-led team has created better biosensor technology that may help lead to safe stem cell therapies for treating Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases and other neurological disorders. The technology, which features a unique graphene and gold-based platform and high-tech imaging, monitors the fate of stem cells by detecting genetic material (RNA) involved in turning such cells into brain cells (neurons), according to a study in the journal Nano Letters.

Single protein plays important dual transport roles in the brain

Edwin Chapman of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute and the University of Wisconsin–Madison reports that halting production of synaptotagmin 17 (syt-17) blocks growth of axons. Equally significant, when cells made more syt-17, axon growth accelerated. A wide range of neurological conditions could benefit from the growth of axons, including spinal cord injuries and some neurodegenerative diseases.