SciCombinator

Discover the most talked about and latest scientific content & concepts.

Concept: Nervous system

819

Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD) is the prototypical psychedelic drug, but its effects on the human brain have never been studied before with modern neuroimaging. Here, three complementary neuroimaging techniques: arterial spin labeling (ASL), blood oxygen level-dependent (BOLD) measures, and magnetoencephalography (MEG), implemented during resting state conditions, revealed marked changes in brain activity after LSD that correlated strongly with its characteristic psychological effects. Increased visual cortex cerebral blood flow (CBF), decreased visual cortex alpha power, and a greatly expanded primary visual cortex (V1) functional connectivity profile correlated strongly with ratings of visual hallucinations, implying that intrinsic brain activity exerts greater influence on visual processing in the psychedelic state, thereby defining its hallucinatory quality. LSD’s marked effects on the visual cortex did not significantly correlate with the drug’s other characteristic effects on consciousness, however. Rather, decreased connectivity between the parahippocampus and retrosplenial cortex (RSC) correlated strongly with ratings of “ego-dissolution” and “altered meaning,” implying the importance of this particular circuit for the maintenance of “self” or “ego” and its processing of “meaning.” Strong relationships were also found between the different imaging metrics, enabling firmer inferences to be made about their functional significance. This uniquely comprehensive examination of the LSD state represents an important advance in scientific research with psychedelic drugs at a time of growing interest in their scientific and therapeutic value. The present results contribute important new insights into the characteristic hallucinatory and consciousness-altering properties of psychedelics that inform on how they can model certain pathological states and potentially treat others.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex, Lysergic acid diethylamide, Psychedelic drug, Psychedelics, dissociatives and deliriants, Timothy Leary

525

Some birds achieve primate-like levels of cognition, even though their brains tend to be much smaller in absolute size. This poses a fundamental problem in comparative and computational neuroscience, because small brains are expected to have a lower information-processing capacity. Using the isotropic fractionator to determine numbers of neurons in specific brain regions, here we show that the brains of parrots and songbirds contain on average twice as many neurons as primate brains of the same mass, indicating that avian brains have higher neuron packing densities than mammalian brains. Additionally, corvids and parrots have much higher proportions of brain neurons located in the pallial telencephalon compared with primates or other mammals and birds. Thus, large-brained parrots and corvids have forebrain neuron counts equal to or greater than primates with much larger brains. We suggest that the large numbers of neurons concentrated in high densities in the telencephalon substantially contribute to the neural basis of avian intelligence.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Bird, Cerebrum, Mammal, Computational neuroscience

464

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

464

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

455

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

427

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; ClinicalTrials.gov number, NCT02576795 ; EudraCT number, 2014-003880-38 .).

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

416

How does human brain structure mature during adolescence? We used MRI to measure cortical thickness and intracortical myelination in 297 population volunteers aged 14-24 y old. We found and replicated that association cortical areas were thicker and less myelinated than primary cortical areas at 14 y. However, association cortex had faster rates of shrinkage and myelination over the course of adolescence. Age-related increases in cortical myelination were maximized approximately at the internal layer of projection neurons. Adolescent cortical myelination and shrinkage were coupled and specifically associated with a dorsoventrally patterned gene expression profile enriched for synaptic, oligodendroglial- and schizophrenia-related genes. Topologically efficient and biologically expensive hubs of the brain anatomical network had greater rates of shrinkage/myelination and were associated with overexpression of the same transcriptional profile as cortical consolidation. We conclude that normative human brain maturation involves a genetically patterned process of consolidating anatomical network hubs. We argue that developmental variation of this consolidation process may be relevant both to normal cognitive and behavioral changes and the high incidence of schizophrenia during human brain adolescence.

Concepts: Nervous system, Neuron, Gene, Genetics, Gene expression, Brain, Human brain, Cerebral cortex

372

Recently, we proposed that Brainets, i.e. networks formed by multiple animal brains, cooperating and exchanging information in real time through direct brain-to-brain interfaces, could provide the core of a new type of computing device: an organic computer. Here, we describe the first experimental demonstration of such a Brainet, built by interconnecting four adult rat brains. Brainets worked by concurrently recording the extracellular electrical activity generated by populations of cortical neurons distributed across multiple rats chronically implanted with multi-electrode arrays. Cortical neuronal activity was recorded and analyzed in real time, and then delivered to the somatosensory cortices of other animals that participated in the Brainet using intracortical microstimulation (ICMS). Using this approach, different Brainet architectures solved a number of useful computational problems, such as discrete classification, image processing, storage and retrieval of tactile information, and even weather forecasting. Brainets consistently performed at the same or higher levels than single rats in these tasks. Based on these findings, we propose that Brainets could be used to investigate animal social behaviors as well as a test bed for exploring the properties and potential applications of organic computers.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Cerebral cortex, Computer, Computation, Computer science, Electrical engineering, Computing

277

Mammalian sleep consists of distinct rapid eye movement (REM) and non-REM (NREM) states. The midbrain region ventrolateral periaqueductal gray (vlPAG) is known to be important for gating REM sleep, but the underlying neuronal mechanism is not well understood. Here, we show that activating vlPAG GABAergic neurons in mice suppresses the initiation and maintenance of REM sleep while consolidating NREM sleep, partly through their projection to the dorsolateral pons. Cell-type-specific recording and calcium imaging reveal that most vlPAG GABAergic neurons are strongly suppressed at REM sleep onset and activated at its termination. In addition to the rapid changes at brain state transitions, their activity decreases gradually between REM sleep and is reset by each REM episode in a duration-dependent manner, mirroring the accumulation and dissipation of REM sleep pressure. Thus, vlPAG GABAergic neurons powerfully gate REM sleep, and their firing rate modulation may contribute to the ultradian rhythm of REM/NREM alternation.

Concepts: Nervous system, Brain, Sleep, Hippocampus, Rapid eye movement sleep, Non-rapid eye movement sleep, Dream, Sleep physiology

275

Non-thermal microwave/lower frequency electromagnetic fields (EMFs) act via voltage-gated calcium channel (VGCC) activation. Calcium channel blockers block EMF effects and several types of additional evidence confirm this mechanism. Low intensity microwave EMFs have been proposed to produce neuropsychiatric effects, sometimes called microwave syndrome, and the focus of this review is whether these are indeed well documented and consistent with the known mechanism(s) of action of such EMFs. VGCCs occur in very high densities throughout the nervous system and have near universal roles in release of neurotransmitters and neuroendocrine hormones. Soviet and Western literature shows that much of the impact of non-thermal microwave exposures in experimental animals occurs in the brain and peripheral nervous system, such that nervous system histology and function show diverse and substantial changes. These may be generated through roles of VGCC activation, producing excessive neurotransmitter/neuroendocrine release as well as oxidative/nitrosative stress and other responses. Excessive VGCC activity has been shown from genetic polymorphism studies to have roles in producing neuropsychiatric changes in humans. Two U.S. government reports from the 1970’s-80’s provide evidence for many neuropsychiatric effects of non-thermal microwave EMFs, based on occupational exposure studies. 18 more recent epidemiological studies, provide substantial evidence that microwave EMFs from cell/mobile phone base stations, excessive cell/mobile phone usage and from wireless smart meters can each produce similar patterns of neuropsychiatric effects, with several of these studies showing clear dose-response relationships. Lesser evidence from 6 additional studies suggests that short wave, radio station, occupational and digital TV antenna exposures may produce similar neuropsychiatric effects. Among the more commonly reported changes are sleep disturbance/insomnia, headache, depression/depressive symptoms, fatigue/tiredness,dysesthesia, concentration/attention dysfunction, memory changes, dizziness, irritability, loss of appetite/body weight, restlessness/anxiety, nausea, skin burning/tingling/dermographism and EEG changes. In summary, then, the mechanism of action of microwave EMFs, the role of the VGCCs in the brain, the impact of non-thermal EMFs on the brain, extensive epidemiological studies performed over the past 50 years, and five criteria testing for causality, all collectively show that various non-thermal microwave EMF exposures produce diverse neuropsychiatric effects.

Concepts: Central nervous system, Nervous system, Neuron, Brain, Human brain, Neurotransmitter, Calcium channel blocker, Radio