Grafted brain organoids provide insight into neurological disorders
LA JOLLA—Many neurological disorders—Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, autism, even depression—have lagged behind in new therapies. Because the brain is so complex, it can be difficult to discover new drugs and even when a drug is promising in animal models, it often doesn’t work for humans. Read more »
Early developmental experiences influence DNA in the adult brain
LA JOLLA—In the perennial question of nature versus nurture, a new study suggests an intriguing connection between the two. Salk Institute scientists report in the journal Science that the type of mothering a female mouse provides her pups actually changes their DNA. The work lends support to studies about how childhood environments affect brain development in humans and could provide insights into neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression and schizophrenia. Read more »
Decoding the chemistry of fear
Ask a dozen people about their greatest fears, and you’ll likely get a dozen different responses. That, along with the complexity of the human brain, makes fear—and its close cousin, anxiety—difficult to study. For this reason, clinical anti-anxiety medicines have mixed results, even though they are broadly prescribed. In fact, one in six Americans takes a psychiatric drug.
A team of investigators from the Salk Institute uncovered new clues about the mechanisms of fear and anxiety through an unlikely creature: the tiny nematode worm. By analyzing the responses of worms exposed to chemicals secreted by its natural predator and studying the underlying molecular pathways, the team uncovered a rudimentary fear-like response that has parallels to human anxiety. Such insights may eventually help refine prescriptions for current anti-anxiety drugs and enable the development of new drugs to treat conditions like PTSD and panic disorder. Read more »
Fruit fly brains inform search engines of the future
Salk scientists, Saket Navlakha and Charles Stevens have a paper that shows that the way fruit flies identify smells that are most similar to ones they’ve encountered previously could improve computer search algorithms. That’s because identifying similar images or music or documents in a database is the same kind of problem (known as a “similarity search”), which the fly brain solves in a novel way that can be applied to computers. Read more»
Can you hear me now? Ensuring good cellular connections in the brain
To have a good phone conversation, you need a good cellular connection. What’s true for mobile phones also turns out to be true for neurons.
Salk Institute scientists have discovered that brain cells called astrocytes initiate communication between pairs of neurons early in development by inducing specific changes in both members of the pair. The work, published in Neuron on October 11, 2017, has important implications for neurodevelopmental disorders such as autism, ADHD and schizophrenia that are thought to result at least partly from faulty communication between neurons. Read more »