Concept: Basal ganglia
High-level cognitive and emotional experience arises from brain activity, but the specific brain substrates for religious and spiritual euphoria remain unclear. We demonstrate using fMRI scans in 19 devout Mormons that a recognizable feeling central to their devotional practice was reproducibly associated with activation in nucleus accumbens, ventromedial prefrontal cortex, and frontal attentional regions. Nucleus accumbens activation preceded peak spiritual feelings by 1-3 seconds and was replicated in 4 separate tasks. Attentional activation in the anterior cingulate and frontal eye fields was greater in the right hemisphere. The association of abstract ideas and brain reward circuitry may interact with frontal attentional and emotive salience processing, suggesting a mechanism whereby doctrinal concepts may come to be intrinsically rewarding and motivate behavior in religious individuals.
Parkinson’s disease is a chronic progressive neurodegenerative disorder characterized by resting tremor, slowness of movements, rigidity, gait disturbance and postural instability. Most investigations on Parkinson’s disease focused on the basal ganglia, whereas the cerebellum has often been overlooked. However, increasing evidence suggests that the cerebellum may have certain roles in the pathophysiology of Parkinson’s disease. Anatomical studies identified reciprocal connections between the basal ganglia and cerebellum. There are Parkinson’s disease-related pathological changes in the cerebellum. Functional or morphological modulations in the cerebellum were detected related to akinesia/rigidity, tremor, gait disturbance, dyskinesia and some non-motor symptoms. It is likely that the major roles of the cerebellum in Parkinson’s disease include pathological and compensatory effects. Pathological changes in the cerebellum might be induced by dopaminergic degeneration, abnormal drives from the basal ganglia and dopaminergic treatment, and may account for some clinical symptoms in Parkinson’s disease. The compensatory effect may help maintain better motor and non-motor functions. The cerebellum is also a potential target for some parkinsonian symptoms. Our knowledge about the roles of the cerebellum in Parkinson’s disease remains limited, and further attention to the cerebellum is warranted.
Recent investigations suggest that gut microbiota affects the brain activity through the microbiota-gut-brain axis under both physiological and pathological disease conditions like Parkinson’s disease. Further dopamine synthesis in the brain is induced by dopamine producing enzymes that are controlled by gut microbiota via the microbiota-gut-brain axis. Also alpha synuclein deposition and the associated neurodegeneration in the enteric nervous system that increase intestinal permeability, oxidative stress, and local inflammation, accounts for constipation in Parkinson’s disease patients. The trigger that causes blood brain barrier leakage, immune cell activation and inflammation, and ultimately neuroinflammation in the central nervous system is believed to be due to the chronic low-grade inflammation in the gut. The non-motor symptoms that appear years before motor symptoms could be reliable early biomarkers, if they could be correlated with the established and reliable neuroimaging techniques or behavioral indices. The future directions should therefore, focus on the exploration of newer investigational techniques to identify these reliable early biomarkers and define the specific gut microbes that contribute to the development of Parkinson’s disease. This ultimately should pave the way to safer and novel therapeutic approaches that avoid the complications of the drugs delivered today to the brain of Parkinson’s disease patients.
Dystonic storm is a frightening hyperkinetic movement disorder emergency. Marked, rapid exacerbation of dystonia requires prompt intervention and admission to the intensive care unit. Clinical features of dystonic storm include fever, tachycardia, tachypnea, hypertension, sweating and autonomic instability, often progressing to bulbar dysfunction with dysarthria, dysphagia and respiratory failure. It is critical to recognize early and differentiate dystonic storm from other hyperkinetic movement disorder emergencies. Dystonic storm usually occurs in patients with known dystonia, such as DYT1 dystonia, Wilson’s disease and dystonic cerebral palsy. Triggers such as infection or medication adjustment are present in about one-third of all events. Due to the significant morbidity and mortality of this disorder, we propose a management algorithm that divides decision making into two periods: the first 24 h, and the next 2-4 weeks. During the first 24 h, supportive therapy should be initiated, and appropriate patients should be identified early as candidates for pallidal deep brain stimulation or intrathecal baclofen. Management in the next 2-4 weeks aims at symptomatic dystonia control and supportive therapies.
Genetic background and epigenetic modifications in the core of the nucleus accumbens predict addiction-like behavior in a rat model
- Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
- Published over 2 years ago
This study provides a demonstration in the rat of a clear genetic difference in the propensity for addiction-related behaviors following prolonged cocaine self-administration. It relies on the use of selectively bred high-responder (bHR) and low-responder (bLR) rat lines that differ in several characteristics associated with “temperament,” including novelty-induced locomotion and impulsivity. We show that bHR rats exhibit behaviors reminiscent of human addiction, including persistent cocaine-seeking and increased reinstatement of cocaine seeking. To uncover potential underlying mechanisms of this differential vulnerability, we focused on the core of the nucleus accumbens and examined expression and epigenetic regulation of two transcripts previously implicated in bHR/bLR differences: fibroblast growth factor (FGF2) and the dopamine D2 receptor (D2). Relative to bHRs, bLRs had lower FGF2 mRNA levels and increased association of a repressive mark on histones (H3K9me3) at the FGF2 promoter. These differences were apparent under basal conditions and persisted even following prolonged cocaine self-administration. In contrast, bHRs had lower D2 mRNA under basal conditions, with greater association of H3K9me3 at the D2 promoter and these differences were no longer apparent following prolonged cocaine self-administration. Correlational analyses indicate that the association of H3K9me3 at D2 may be a critical substrate underlying the propensity to relapse. These findings suggest that low D2 mRNA levels in the nucleus accumbens core, likely mediated via epigenetic modifications, may render individuals more susceptible to cocaine addiction. In contrast, low FGF2 levels, which appear immutable even following prolonged cocaine exposure, may serve as a protective factor.
Sleep control is ascribed to a two-process model, a widely accepted concept that posits homoeostatic drive and a circadian process as the major sleep-regulating factors. Cognitive and emotional factors also influence sleep-wake behaviour; however, the precise circuit mechanisms underlying their effects on sleep control are unknown. Previous studies suggest that adenosine has a role affecting behavioural arousal in the nucleus accumbens (NAc), a brain area critical for reinforcement and reward. Here, we show that chemogenetic or optogenetic activation of excitatory adenosine A2A receptor-expressing indirect pathway neurons in the core region of the NAc strongly induces slow-wave sleep. Chemogenetic inhibition of the NAc indirect pathway neurons prevents the sleep induction, but does not affect the homoeostatic sleep rebound. In addition, motivational stimuli inhibit the activity of ventral pallidum-projecting NAc indirect pathway neurons and suppress sleep. Our findings reveal a prominent contribution of this indirect pathway to sleep control associated with motivation.In addition to circadian and homoeostatic drives, motivational levels influence sleep-wake cycles. Here the authors demonstrate that adenosine receptor-expressing neurons in the nucleus accumbens core that project to the ventral pallidum are inhibited by motivational stimuli and are causally involved in the control of slow-wave sleep.
The last known Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus cynocephalus)-aka the thylacine-died in 1936. Because its natural behavior was never scientifically documented, we are left to infer aspects of its behavior from museum specimens and historical recollections of bushmen. Recent advances in brain imaging have made it possible to scan postmortem specimens of a wide range of animals, even more than a decade old. Any thylacine brain, however, would be more than 100 years old. Here, we show that it is possible to reconstruct white matter tracts in two thylacine brains. For functional interpretation, we compare to the white matter reconstructions of the brains of two Tasmanian devils (Sarcophilus harrisii). We reconstructed the cortical projection zones of the basal ganglia and major thalamic nuclei. The basal ganglia reconstruction showed a more modularized pattern in the cortex of the thylacine, while the devil cortex was dominated by the putamen. Similarly, the thalamic projections had a more orderly topography in the thylacine than the devil. These results are consistent with theories of brain evolution suggesting that larger brains are more modularized. Functionally, the thylacine’s brain may have had relatively more cortex devoted to planning and decision-making, which would be consistent with a predatory ecological niche versus the scavenging niche of the devil.
Finding creative solutions to difficult problems is a fundamental aspect of human culture and a skill highly needed. However, the exact neural processes underlying creative problem solving remain unclear. Insightful problem solving tasks were shown to be a valid method for investigating one subcomponent of creativity: the Aha!-moment. Finding insightful solutions during a remote associates task (RAT) was found to elicit specific cortical activity changes. Considering the strong affective components of Aha!-moments, as manifested in the subjectively experienced feeling of relief following the sudden emergence of the solution of the problem without any conscious forewarning, we hypothesized the subcortical dopaminergic reward network to be critically engaged during Aha. To investigate those subcortical contributions to insight, we employed ultra-high-field 7 T fMRI during a German Version of the RAT. During this task, subjects were exposed to word triplets and instructed to find a solution word being associated with all the three given words. They were supposed to press a button as soon as they felt confident about their solution without further revision, allowing us to capture the exact event of Aha!-moment. Besides the finding on cortical involvement of the left anterior middle temporal gyrus (aMTG), here we showed for the first time robust subcortical activity changes related to insightful problem solving in the bilateral thalamus, hippocampus, and the dopaminergic midbrain comprising ventral tegmental area (VTA), nucleus accumbens (NAcc), and caudate nucleus. These results shed new light on the affective neural mechanisms underlying insightful problem solving.
Purpose To document the imaging findings associated with congenital Zika virus infection as found in the Instituto de Pesquisa in Campina Grande State Paraiba (IPESQ) in northeastern Brazil, where the congenital infection has been particularly severe. Materials and Methods From June 2015 to May 2016, 438 patients were referred to the IPESQ for rash occurring during pregnancy or for suspected fetal central nervous system abnormality. Patients who underwent imaging at IPESQ were included, as well as those with documented Zika virus infection in fluid or tissue (n = 17, confirmed infection cohort) or those with brain findings suspicious for Zika virus infection, with intracranial calcifications (n = 28, presumed infection cohort). Imaging examinations included 12 fetal magnetic resonance (MR) examinations, 42 postnatal brain computed tomographic examinations, and 11 postnatal brain MR examinations. Images were reviewed by four radiologists, with final opinion achieved by means of consensus. Results Brain abnormalities seen in confirmed (n = 17) and presumed (n = 28) congenital Zika virus infections were similar, with ventriculomegaly in 16 of 17 (94%) and 27 of 28 (96%) infections, respectively; abnormalities of the corpus callosum in 16 of 17 (94%) and 22 of 28 (78%) infections, respectively; and cortical migrational abnormalities in 16 of 17 (94%) and 28 of 28 (100%) infections, respectively. Although most fetuses underwent at least one examination that showed head circumference below the 5th percentile, head circumference could be normal in the presence of severe ventriculomegaly (seen in three fetuses). Intracranial calcifications were most commonly seen at the gray matter-white matter junction, in 15 of 17 (88%) and 28 of 28 (100%) confirmed and presumed infections, respectively. The basal ganglia and/or thalamus were also commonly involved with calcifications in 11 of 17 (65%) and 18 of 28 (64%) infections, respectively. The skull frequently had a collapsed appearance with overlapping sutures and redundant skin folds and, occasionally, intracranial herniation of orbital fat and clot in the confluence of sinuses. Conclusion The spectrum of findings associated with congenital Zika virus infection in the IPESQ in northeastern Brazil is illustrated to aid the radiologist in identifying Zika virus infection at imaging. (©) RSNA, 2016 Online supplemental material is available for this article.
Nearly 30% of the approximately 700,000 military personnel who served in Operation Desert Storm (1990-1991) have developed Gulf War Illness, a condition that presents with symptoms such as cognitive impairment, autonomic dysfunction, debilitating fatigue and chronic widespread pain that implicate the central nervous system. A hallmark complaint of subjects with Gulf War Illness is post-exertional malaise; defined as an exacerbation of symptoms following physical and/or mental effort. To study the causal relationship between exercise, the brain, and changes in symptoms, 28 Gulf War veterans and 10 controls completed an fMRI scan before and after two exercise stress tests to investigate serial changes in pain, autonomic function, and working memory. Exercise induced two clinical Gulf War Illness subgroups. One subgroup presented with orthostatic tachycardia (n = 10). This phenotype correlated with brainstem atrophy, baseline working memory compensation in the cerebellar vermis, and subsequent loss of compensation after exercise. The other subgroup developed exercise induced hyperalgesia (n = 18) that was associated with cortical atrophy and baseline working memory compensation in the basal ganglia. Alterations in cognition, brain structure, and symptoms were absent in controls. Our novel findings may provide an understanding of the relationship between the brain and post-exertional malaise in Gulf War Illness.