Preventing memory loss and restoring it once it’s gone is the holy grail of brain science. In the United States alone, an estimated 5 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease. But recently, unexpected and disappointing findings have underlined just how difficult it is to develop therapies for cognitive decline.
An old drug gets a new price to fight a rare disease: $89,000 a year
An old steroid treatment, long available outside the United States, received approval this week for a rare disease that afflicts about 15,000 Americans. Though not previously approved in the United States, the drug, deflazacort, has for years been available to patients suffering from the devastating and fatal disease Duchenne muscular dystrophy; families can import it from abroad for about $1,200 per year on average.
The new list price for the drug? $89,000 a year.
What Do Genetic Links Between Cancer And Autism Mean For Treatment?
In 1997 a Cleveland-based researcher studying a rare, sometimes-cancerous condition noticed that an unusually high percentage of her patients also had a particular type of autism. She eventually discovered that both conditions shared the same genetic mutation.
Since then, a number of other cancer genes have been found in some types of autism, and a recent report out of the University of California Davis says 43 genes thought to be involved in autism are also associated with cancer.
Forget Me Not: The Harrowing Tale of H. M.'s Brain (Excerpt)
Michael D. Lemonick explains how a postmortem study of the most celebrated amnesic in history went awry
I pulled the New York Times out of its plastic delivery bag on the morning of December 5, 2008, unfolded the paper, and read this headline on the front page: “H.M., an Unforgettable Amnesiac, Dies at 82.”
He was certainly unforgettable to me. I’d first read about H.M. in my freshman psychology textbook at college, in the fall of 1971, less than twenty years after the experimental surgery that robbed him of most of his existing memories and also of ability to form new ones. The idea of living in a perpetual “now” seemed appalling, and, along with the two hundred or so other students in the class, I tried to imagine what such an existence might be like. Naturally, I failed.
Why Scientists Are Still Flummoxed by Alzheimer's
The brain is amazing and complicated
Heavy Screen Time Rewires Young Brains, For Better And Worse
There's new evidence that excessive screen time early in life can change the circuits in a growing brain.
Scientists disagree, though, about whether those changes are helpful, or just cause problems. Both views emerged during the Society for Neuroscience meeting in San Diego this week.
Maternal immune activation: Implications for neuropsychiatric disorders
The Zika virus and its accompanying risk of microcephaly (1) have finally turned public attention to the detrimental effects of maternal infection. Although images of microcephalic newborns evoke outcry and require government action, the direct effects of Zika are only one part of a much larger global health hazard.
A pregnant woman’s immune response could lead to brain disorders in her kids
Pregnant women, like everyone, get sick. And like everyone else, their bodies try to fight infection and, importantly, keep it from reaching the growing fetus.
If the mother’s immune system successfully defeats the virus before the developing baby is exposed or if the virus never crosses the placenta, is harm averted?
NSF funds new integrative approaches to study the brain
$17 million for fundamental research in neural and cognitive systems as part of the BRAIN Initiative
The National Science Foundation (NSF) has awarded 18 grants to multidisciplinary teams from across the United States to conduct frontier research focused on neural and cognitive systems. Each award provides a research team with up to $1 million over two to four years.
The awards fall within four research themes:
- Neuroengineering and brain-inspired concepts and designs.
- Individuality and variation.
- Cognitive and neural processes in realistic, complex environments.
- Data-intensive neuroscience and cognitive science.
Researchers Temporarily Turn off Brain Area to Better Understand Function
Capitalizing on experimental genetic techniques, researchers at the California National Primate Research Center, or CNPRC, at the University of California, Davis, have demonstrated that temporarily turning off an area of the brain changes patterns of activity across much of the remaining brain.
The research suggests that alterations in the functional connectivity of the brain in humans may be used to determine the sites of pathology in complex disorders such as schizophrenia and autism.
The Worst Part Of Schizophrenia Isn’t What You Think It Is
Even after the voices go quiet, people with schizophrenia struggle to focus and think clearly. Can computerized brain training solve a problem that drugs have not?
Hellman Fellows: Early-career faculty members get a boost
Vice Provost Maureen Stanton, who leads Academic Affairs, has named UC Davis’ newest class of Hellman Fellows — early-career faculty members chosen to receive financial support for their research and to assist them in making progress toward tenure. Center for Neuroscience faculty, Dr. Diasynou Fioravante is named one of 12 Hellman Fellows.
Exercise is really, really good for your brain
Physical exercise is good for your brain. And I mean really good for it. The brain burns a ton of energy during exercise, much more, even, than if you were thinking really hard about something really complicated. New research has discovered just what the brain does with all that extra energy.
"From a metabolic standpoint, vigorous exercise is the most demanding activity the brain encounters, much more intense than calculus or chess, but nobody knows what happens with all that energy," says the paper’s lead author Richard Maddock, UC Davis research professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences and affiliated faculty of the Center for Neuroscience.
Beam me up, Scotty? Turns out your brain is ready for teleportation
Given recent advances in teleportation, it's reassuring to know that the human brain's navigation system appears to work just fine when we're beamed from place to place.
People who experienced virtual teleportation in a video game were able to mentally navigate to known destinations without relying on visual information or perceived motion, according to a study published Thursday by the journal Neuron. And during "teleportation," their brains produced a distinctive electrical signal that's associated with navigation.
Memory reply prioritizes high-reward experiences
Why do we remember some events, places and things, but not others? Our brains prioritize rewarding memories over others, and reinforce them by replaying them when we are at rest, according to new research from the University of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience, published Feb. 11 in the journal Neuron.
“Rewards help you remember things, because you want future rewards,” said Professor Charan Ranganath, a UC Davis neuroscientist and senior author on the paper. “The brain prioritizes memories that are going to be useful for future decisions.”
Fioravante, Nord and Gray received NARSAD Young Investigator Awards
The UC Davis Center for Neuroscience continues to attract the brightest, most innovative young investigators. All three of its new junior faculty, Drs. Fioravante, Nord and Gray were recognized with a NARSAD Young Investigator Award, a Brain & Behavior Research Foundation grant providing two-year awards of up to $70,000 to support the most promising young scientists conducting mental health research in the world.
Ranganath, Wiltgen and Antzoulatos authored three of top 10 Neuron publications of 2014-2015
Each year, Neuron celebrates the top 10 groundbreaking research papers selected by its high-achieving scientific editors and readers communities. In the latest Best of Neuron, 2014-2015, UC Davis Center for Neuroscience research projects by Drs. Wiltgen, Ranaganath and Antzoulatos were named among the top 10.
High impact and prestigious scientific journal of neuroscience, Neuron is a biweekly peer-reviewed publication of Cell Press. Check out its “Best of…” collection and request a PDF version.
Zito and Ekstrom named Chancellor's Fellows
Imaging studies reveal affected brain regions in schizophrenia
In a study published online in JAMA Psychiatry, John Daniel Ragland, Ph.D. and Cameron Carter, M.D. combined previously established tests for cognitive function with fMRI to pinpoint how memory and brain function change in patients with schizophrenia.
Dr. Fioravante receives Society for Neuroscience Next Generation Award
Dr. Diasynou Fioravante receives the Society for Neuroscience Next Generation Award, presented during the national conference in Chicago, for her outstanding contributions to public communication, outreach, and education about neuroscience.
Brain games: Do we ever remember what really happened?
Dr. Ranganath and his team are featured in this Sacramento News & Review article on why our memories are so inaccurate.
UC Davis Announces $1 Million in Awards in Response to the President's BRAIN Initiative
In 2013, the Obama administration announced the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, unveiling plans to make a bold investment to understand the human mind with the intent to uncover ways to prevent, treat and cure brain disorders like Alzheimer’s, autism, and epilepsy.
UC Davis answered the call with the BRAIN-STIM: Grand Challenge Initiative in Brain Science to identify and support innovative interdisciplinary projects with the potential for high-impact discoveries in brain science. Five teams will receive up to $200,000 each over a two-year period.
UC Davis receives $10 million grant to establish center to study schizophrenia
UC Davis will establish a prestigious, leading-edge center to advance innovative research into the origins of schizophrenia: A Silvio O. Conte Center for Basic or Translational Mental-Health Research, one of only 15 such centers in the United States.
The center will be funded through a $10 million grant from the National Institutes of Mental Health, which will allow UC Davis’ Conte Center to investigate the novel hypothesis that an origin of schizophrenia may be dysregulation of immune molecules that play a key role in the normal development and functioning of connections in the brain.
Manipulating memory with light
Just look into the light: not quite, but researchers at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology have used light to erase specific memories in mice, and proved a basic theory of how different parts of the brain work together to retrieve episodic memories. The work was published Oct. 9 in the journal Neuron.
Curiosity prepares the brain for better learning
A new study from the University of California, Davis, suggests that when our curiosity is piqued, changes in the brain ready us to learn not only about the subject at hand, but incidental information, too.
UC Davis neuroscientists receive prestigious NIH BRAIN Initiative Awards
Two UC Davis research teams developing transformational technologies to understand the dynamics of the neural circuitry underlying behavior and cognition have received awards from the federal Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative, a presidential grand challenge enterprise.
Zito and Usrey receive NSF's EAGER award, under the NIH BRAIN Initiative
Center for Neuroscience scientists, Karen Zito and W. Martin Usrey, receive the National Science Foundation's Early Concept Grants for Exploratory Research (EAGER) awards, enabling new technologies to better understand how complex behaviors emerge from the activity of brain circuits. Each award totals approximately $300,000 over two years for a combined total of $600,000.
Multiple interacting brain areas underlie successful spatiotemporal memory retrievals in humans
Emerging evidence suggests that our memories for recent events depend on a dynamic interplay between multiple cortical brain regions, although previous research has also emphasized a primary role for the hippocampus in episodic memory. In this Nature Scientific Reports article, Center for Neuroscience faculty, Arne Ekstrom and graduate students identify and describe network interactions that mediate spatiotemporal memory retrieval.
Protein is key to forming short-term memories
Short-term memory is essential for everyday life — whether remembering a phone number while dialing, carrying on a conversation, or forming the basis of long-term memories. Neuroscientists think that short-term memory is based on changes in both the properties of brain cells and the connections, called synapses, between them.
Memory researcher wins Pentagon grant
Congratulations to Professor Charan Ranganath of the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience and Department of Psychology on his selection as a National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellow by the U.S. Department of Defense. The five-year, $2.6 million fellowship will support new work on learning and memory in Ranganath’s Dynamic Memory Laboratory at UC Davis.
Mark Goldman Named Howard Hughes Medical Institute Professor
Dr. Mark Goldman has been named a 2014 Howard Hughes Medical Institute professor, an award that comes with a $1 million grant for teaching and research to create activities that integrate his research with student learning in ways that enhance undergraduate students' understanding of science.
A Choice to Heal Documentary…Mental Health in California
The Mental Health Services Oversight & Accountability Commission features Dr. Cameron Carter, Center for Neuroscience Director and Director of the Early Diagnosis and Preventive Treatment Clinic, in a video documentary. Please contact us if you are interested in receiving a DVD copy (limited availability).
What happened when? How the brain stores memories by time
Before I left the house this morning, I let the cat out and started the dishwasher. Or was that yesterday? Very often, our memories must distinguish not just what happened and where, but when an event occurred — and what came before and after. New research from the University of California, Davis, Center for Neuroscience shows that a part of the brain called the hippocampus stores memories by their "temporal context" — what happened before, and what came after.
How viral infection disrupts neural development in offspring, increasing risk of autism
Activating a mother's immune system during her pregnancy disrupts the development of neural cells in the brain of her offspring and damages the cells' ability to transmit signals and communicate with one another, an animal study suggests. They said the finding suggests how maternal viral infection might increase the risk of having a child with autism spectrum disorder or schizophrenia.
Negative feedback stabilizes memories
Memories may be maintained in the brain through a mechanism familiar to any engineer—negative and positive feedback loops, according to researchers Sukbin Lim and Mark Goldman at the UC Davis Center for Neuroscience.
Guggenheim Fellowship for memory researcher
Charan Ranganath got into memory research to help people with brain damage due to Alzheimer's disease, trauma or other causes. That work has now earned Ranganath, a professor in the Department of Psychology and Center for Neuroscience at the University of California, Davis, a $40,000 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, one of 175 awarded to scientists, artists and scholars by the foundation this year.