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Concept: Central nervous system


Whereas a categorical difference in the genitals has always been acknowledged, the question of how far these categories extend into human biology is still not resolved. Documented sex/gender differences in the brain are often taken as support of a sexually dimorphic view of human brains (“female brain” or “male brain”). However, such a distinction would be possible only if sex/gender differences in brain features were highly dimorphic (i.e., little overlap between the forms of these features in males and females) and internally consistent (i.e., a brain has only “male” or only “female” features). Here, analysis of MRIs of more than 1,400 human brains from four datasets reveals extensive overlap between the distributions of females and males for all gray matter, white matter, and connections assessed. Moreover, analyses of internal consistency reveal that brains with features that are consistently at one end of the “maleness-femaleness” continuum are rare. Rather, most brains are comprised of unique “mosaics” of features, some more common in females compared with males, some more common in males compared with females, and some common in both females and males. Our findings are robust across sample, age, type of MRI, and method of analysis. These findings are corroborated by a similar analysis of personality traits, attitudes, interests, and behaviors of more than 5,500 individuals, which reveals that internal consistency is extremely rare. Our study demonstrates that, although there are sex/gender differences in the brain, human brains do not belong to one of two distinct categories: male brain/female brain.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Neuroanatomy, Brain, Male, Gender, Human brain, Sex, Cerebellum


To the Editor: Zika virus (ZIKV) is currently spreading widely, while its clinical spectrum remains a matter of investigation. Evidence of a relationship between ZIKV infection and cerebral birth abnormalities(1),(2) is growing.(3) An increased incidence of some peripheral nervous syndromes among adults was reported during outbreaks in French Polynesia(4),(5) and Brazil,(1),(2) but no formal link with ZIKV infection was shown. We describe a case of central nervous system infection with ZIKV that was associated with meningoencephalitis in an adult. An 81-year-old man was admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) 10 days after he had been on . . .

Concepts: AIDS, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Psychology, Brain, The Canon of Medicine, Intensive care medicine, Peripheral nervous system


Personal social network size exhibits considerable variation in the human population and is associated with both physical and mental health status. Much of this inter-individual variation in human sociality remains unexplained from a biological perspective. According to the brain opioid theory of social attachment, binding of the neuropeptide β-endorphin to μ-opioid receptors in the central nervous system (CNS) is a key neurochemical mechanism involved in social bonding, particularly amongst primates. We hypothesise that a positive association exists between activity of the μ-opioid system and the number of social relationships that an individual maintains. Given the powerful analgesic properties of β-endorphin, we tested this hypothesis using pain tolerance as an assay for activation of the endogenous μ-opioid system. We show that a simple measure of pain tolerance correlates with social network size in humans. Our results are in line with previous studies suggesting that μ-opioid receptor signalling has been elaborated beyond its basic function of pain modulation to play an important role in managing our social encounters. The neuroplasticity of the μ-opioid system is of future research interest, especially with respect to psychiatric disorders associated with symptoms of social withdrawal and anhedonia, both of which are strongly modulated by endogenous opioids.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Psychology, Brain, Sociology, Opioid, Pain, Analgesic


Background Patients with hemophilia A rely on exogenous factor VIII to prevent bleeding in joints, soft tissue, and the central nervous system. Although successful gene transfer has been reported in patients with hemophilia B, the large size of the factor VIII coding region has precluded improved outcomes with gene therapy in patients with hemophilia A. Methods We infused a single intravenous dose of a codon-optimized adeno-associated virus serotype 5 (AAV5) vector encoding a B-domain-deleted human factor VIII (AAV5-hFVIII-SQ) in nine men with severe hemophilia A. Participants were enrolled sequentially into one of three dose cohorts (low dose [one participant], intermediate dose [one participant], and high dose [seven participants]) and were followed through 52 weeks. Results Factor VIII activity levels remained at 3 IU or less per deciliter in the recipients of the low or intermediate dose. In the high-dose cohort, the factor VIII activity level was more than 5 IU per deciliter between weeks 2 and 9 after gene transfer in all seven participants, and the level in six participants increased to a normal value (>50 IU per deciliter) that was maintained at 1 year after receipt of the dose. In the high-dose cohort, the median annualized bleeding rate among participants who had previously received prophylactic therapy decreased from 16 events before the study to 1 event after gene transfer, and factor VIII use for participant-reported bleeding ceased in all the participants in this cohort by week 22. The primary adverse event was an elevation in the serum alanine aminotransferase level to 1.5 times the upper limit of the normal range or less. Progression of preexisting chronic arthropathy in one participant was the only serious adverse event. No neutralizing antibodies to factor VIII were detected. Conclusions The infusion of AAV5-hFVIII-SQ was associated with the sustained normalization of factor VIII activity level over a period of 1 year in six of seven participants who received a high dose, with stabilization of hemostasis and a profound reduction in factor VIII use in all seven participants. In this small study, no safety events were noted, but no safety conclusions can be drawn. (Funded by BioMarin Pharmaceutical; number, NCT02576795 ; EudraCT number, 2014-003880-38 .).

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Gene, Virus, Factor VIII


Direct brain control of overground walking in those with paraplegia due to spinal cord injury (SCI) has not been achieved. Invasive brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) may provide a permanent solution to this problem by directly linking the brain to lower extremity prostheses. To justify the pursuit of such invasive systems, the feasibility of BCI controlled overground walking should first be established in a noninvasive manner. To accomplish this goal, we developed an electroencephalogram (EEG)-based BCI to control a functional electrical stimulation (FES) system for overground walking and assessed its performance in an individual with paraplegia due to SCI.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Brain, Neuroscience, Cerebrospinal fluid, Spinal cord injury, Brain–computer interface, Neuroprosthetics, Brain-computer interfacing


Autism spectrum disorder is a neurodevelopmental disorder of unknown aetiology. It is suggested to involve both genetic susceptibility and environmental factors including in the latter environmental toxins. Human exposure to the environmental toxin aluminium has been linked, if tentatively, to autism spectrum disorder. Herein we have used transversely heated graphite furnace atomic absorption spectrometry to measure, for the first time, the aluminium content of brain tissue from donors with a diagnosis of autism. We have also used an aluminium-selective fluor to identify aluminium in brain tissue using fluorescence microscopy. The aluminium content of brain tissue in autism was consistently high. The mean (standard deviation) aluminium content across all 5 individuals for each lobe were 3.82(5.42), 2.30(2.00), 2.79(4.05) and 3.82(5.17) μg/g dry wt. for the occipital, frontal, temporal and parietal lobes respectively. These are some of the highest values for aluminium in human brain tissue yet recorded and one has to question why, for example, the aluminium content of the occipital lobe of a 15year old boy would be 8.74 (11.59) μg/g dry wt.? Aluminium-selective fluorescence microscopy was used to identify aluminium in brain tissue in 10 donors. While aluminium was imaged associated with neurones it appeared to be present intracellularly in microglia-like cells and other inflammatory non-neuronal cells in the meninges, vasculature, grey and white matter. The pre-eminence of intracellular aluminium associated with non-neuronal cells was a standout observation in autism brain tissue and may offer clues as to both the origin of the brain aluminium as well as a putative role in autism spectrum disorder.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Brain, Human brain, Cerebrum, Skull, Autism, Frontal lobe


Fructose has been implicated in the pathogenesis of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In contrast to glucose, CNS delivery of fructose in rodents promotes feeding behavior. However, because circulating plasma fructose levels are exceedingly low, it remains unclear to what extent fructose crosses the blood-brain barrier to exert CNS effects. To determine whether fructose can be endogenously generated from glucose via the polyol pathway (glucose → sorbitol → fructose) in human brain, 8 healthy subjects (4 women/4 men; age, 28.8 ± 6.2 years; BMI, 23.4 ± 2.6; HbA1C, 4.9% ± 0.2%) underwent (1)H magnetic resonance spectroscopy scanning to measure intracerebral glucose and fructose levels during a 4-hour hyperglycemic clamp (plasma glucose, 220 mg/dl). Using mixed-effects regression model analysis, intracerebral glucose rose significantly over time and differed from baseline at 20 to 230 minutes. Intracerebral fructose levels also rose over time, differing from baseline at 30 to 230 minutes. The changes in intracerebral fructose were related to changes in intracerebral glucose but not to plasma fructose levels. Our findings suggest that the polyol pathway contributes to endogenous CNS production of fructose and that the effects of fructose in the CNS may extend beyond its direct dietary consumption.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Regression analysis, Brain, Nutrition, Diabetes mellitus, Glucose, Diabetes, Human brain


Background Osimertinib is an epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor (EGFR-TKI) that is selective for both EGFR-TKI sensitizing and T790M resistance mutations in patients with non-small-cell lung cancer. The efficacy of osimertinib as compared with platinum-based therapy plus pemetrexed in such patients is unknown. Methods In this randomized, international, open-label, phase 3 trial, we assigned 419 patients with T790M-positive advanced non-small-cell lung cancer, who had disease progression after first-line EGFR-TKI therapy, in a 2:1 ratio to receive either oral osimertinib (at a dose of 80 mg once daily) or intravenous pemetrexed (500 mg per square meter of body-surface area) plus either carboplatin (target area under the curve, 5 [AUC5]) or cisplatin (75 mg per square meter) every 3 weeks for up to six cycles; maintenance pemetrexed was allowed. In all the patients, disease had progressed during receipt of first-line EGFR-TKI therapy. The primary end point was investigator-assessed progression-free survival. Results The median duration of progression-free survival was significantly longer with osimertinib than with platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (10.1 months vs. 4.4 months; hazard ratio; 0.30; 95% confidence interval [CI], 0.23 to 0.41; P<0.001). The objective response rate was significantly better with osimertinib (71%; 95% CI, 65 to 76) than with platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (31%; 95% CI, 24 to 40) (odds ratio for objective response, 5.39; 95% CI, 3.47 to 8.48; P<0.001). Among 144 patients with metastases to the central nervous system (CNS), the median duration of progression-free survival was longer among patients receiving osimertinib than among those receiving platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (8.5 months vs. 4.2 months; hazard ratio, 0.32; 95% CI, 0.21 to 0.49). The proportion of patients with adverse events of grade 3 or higher was lower with osimertinib (23%) than with platinum therapy plus pemetrexed (47%). Conclusions Osimertinib had significantly greater efficacy than platinum therapy plus pemetrexed in patients with T790M-positive advanced non-small-cell lung cancer (including those with CNS metastases) in whom disease had progressed during first-line EGFR-TKI therapy. (Funded by AstraZeneca; AURA3 number, NCT02151981 .).

Concepts: Central nervous system, Epidemiology, Cancer, Signal transduction, Lung cancer, Epidermal growth factor receptor, Epidermal growth factor, Cisplatin


Here, we report the existence of meningeal lymphatic vessels in human and nonhuman primates (common marmoset monkeys) and the feasibility of noninvasively imaging and mapping them in vivo with high-resolution, clinical MRI. On T2-FLAIR and T1-weighted black-blood imaging, lymphatic vessels enhance with gadobutrol, a gadolinium-based contrast agent with high propensity to extravasate across a permeable capillary endothelial barrier, but not with gadofosveset, a blood-pool contrast agent. The topography of these vessels, running alongside dural venous sinuses, recapitulates the meningeal lymphatic system of rodents. In primates, meningeal lymphatics display a typical panel of lymphatic endothelial markers by immunohistochemistry. This discovery holds promise for better understanding the normal physiology of lymphatic drainage from the central nervous system and potential aberrations in neurological diseases.

Concepts: Inflammation, Central nervous system, Nervous system, Brain, Lymphatic system, Cardiovascular system, Primate


Roughly one in three individuals is highly susceptible to motion sickness and yet the underlying causes of this condition are not well understood. Despite high heritability, no associated genetic factors have been discovered. Here, we conducted the first genome-wide association study on motion sickness in 80,494 individuals from the 23andMe database who were surveyed about car sickness. Thirty-five single-nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) were associated with motion sickness at a genome-wide-significant level (p<5×10-8). Many of these SNPs are near genes involved in balance, and eye, ear, and cranial development (e.g., PVRL3, TSHZ1, MUTED, HOXB3, HOXD3). Other SNPs may affect motion sickness through nearby genes with roles in the nervous system, glucose homeostasis, or hypoxia. We show that several of these SNPs display sex-specific effects, with up to three times stronger effects in women. We searched for comorbid phenotypes with motion sickness, confirming associations with known comorbidities including migraines, postoperative nausea and vomiting (PONV), vertigo, and morning sickness, and observing new associations with altitude sickness and many gastrointestinal conditions. We also show that two of these related phenotypes (PONV and migraines) share underlying genetic factors with motion sickness. These results point to the importance of the nervous system in motion sickness and suggest a role for glucose levels in motion-induced nausea and vomiting, a finding that may provide insight into other nausea-related phenotypes like PONV. They also highlight personal characteristics (e.g., being a poor sleeper) that correlate with motion sickness, findings that could help identify risk factors or treatments.

Concepts: Central nervous system, DNA, Genetics, Bioinformatics, Vomiting, Nausea, Metoclopramide, Postoperative nausea and vomiting