Follow us on:

Posts Tagged ‘Neuroscience’

Medicine & Health,Neuroscience

Oxygen therapy could help symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease

A new treatment has potential to correct behavioral and physical deficits associated with the disease, Tel Aviv University researchers say

A  new Tel Aviv University study reveals that hyperbaric oxygen treatments may ameliorate symptoms experienced by patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

“This revolutionary treatment for Alzheimer’s disease uses a hyperbaric oxygen chamber, which has been shown in the past to be extremely effective in treating wounds that were slow to heal,” says Prof. Uri Ashery of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and the George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences, who led the research for the study. “We have now shown for the first time that hyperbaric oxygen therapy can actually improve the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and correct behavioral deficits associated with the disease.

“This research is extremely exciting as it explores a new therapy that holds promise as a treatment of Alzheimer’s disease,” Prof. Ashery says.

The research was conducted by PhD student Ronit Shapira of TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences; Prof. Beka Solomon and Dan Frenkel of TAU’s Sagol School of Neuroscience and George S. Wise  Faculty of Life Sciences; and Prof. Shai Efrati of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine, Sagol School of Neuroscience and Assaf-Harofeh Medical Center. It was published in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

100% oxygen

Patients who undergo hyperbaric oxygen therapy for different conditions breathe in pure oxygen in a pressurized room or chamber. In this chamber, the air pressure is increased to twice that of normal air. Under these conditions, oxygen solubility in the blood increases and is transported by blood vessels throughout the body. The added oxygen stimulates the release of growth factors and stem cells, which themselves promote healing.

The TAU scientists used a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease and built a custom-made hyperbaric oxygen chamber suitable for small animals. Then, over the course of 14 days, the team administered hyperbaric oxygen treatment to the mice for one hour per day. After 14 days, the mice underwent a series of behavioral tests as well as tissue biochemical tests to understand how hyperbaric oxygen treatment affects the pathological hallmarks associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

The treatment reduced behavioral deficiencies compared to the non-transgenic control mice, reduced plaque pathology by 40%, and reduced neuroinflammation by about 40%.

A new avenue for treatment

“There are serious clinical implications to this research,” says Shapira, principal investigator of the study. “Hyperbaric oxygen treatment is a well-tolerated and safe therapy used in clinics around the world for various medical conditions, including neurological disorders. Although further research is needed to elucidate the underlying beneficial mechanisms of the therapy and to evaluate its beneficial effects in various Alzheimer patient populations, it holds great potential for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease.”

“In this hallmark study, the beneficial physiological effects of hyperbaric oxygen therapy were directly demonstrated on Alzheimer-affected brain tissue,” says Prof. Efrati. “We assume that the main challenge in human use will be to initiate the treatment at early stages before significant amount of brain tissue is lost..

 The researchers are currently testing the effectiveness of hyperbaric oxygen treatment on an additional mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease to investigate the mechanisms underlying its impact on the disease.

Continue Reading

Medicine & Health,Neuroscience

TAU study: tiredness makes your brain cells slow down

Sleep rhythms can disrupt normal activity in specific regions of the brain, a new study shows

It has been established that sleep deprivation slows down our reaction time, but it has been unclear exactly how the lack of sleep affects brain activity and subsequent behavior.

A new Tel Aviv University study published in Nature Medicine finds that individual neurons themselves slow down when we are sleep deprived, leading to delayed behavioral responses to events taking place around us. The neural lapse, or slowdown, affects the brain’s visual perception and memory associations.

The study was an international collaboration led by Dr. Yuval Nir of TAU’s Sackler Faculty of Medicine and Sagol School of NeuroscienceProf. Itzhak Fried of UCLA, TAU and Tel Aviv Medical Center; and sleep experts Profs. Chiara Cirelli and Giulio Tononi at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“When a cat jumps into the path of our car at night, the very process of seeing the cat slows us down. We’re therefore slow to hit the brakes, even when we’re wide awake,” says Dr. Nir. “When we’re sleep-deprived, a local intrusion of sleep-like waves disrupts normal brain activity while we’re performing tasks.”

Sleepy neurons

Investigators recorded the brain activity of 12 epilepsy patients who had previously shown no or little response to drug interventions at UCLA. The patients were hospitalized for a week and implanted with electrodes to pinpoint the place in the brain where their seizures originated. During their hospitalization, their neuron activity was continuously recorded.

After being kept awake all night to accelerate their medical diagnosis, the patients were presented with images of famous people and places, which they were asked to identify as quickly as possible.

“Performing this task is difficult when we’re tired and especially after pulling an all-nighter,” says Dr. Nir. “The data gleaned from the experiment afforded us a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the human brain. It revealed that sleepiness slows down the responses of individual neurons, leading to behavioral lapses.”

In over 30 image experiments, the research team recorded the electrical activity of nearly 1,500 neurons, 150 of which clearly responded to the images. The scientists examined how the responses of individual neurons in the temporal lobe — the region associated with visual perception and memory — changed when sleep-deprived subjects were slow to respond to a task.

“During such behavioral lapses, the neurons gave way to neuronal lapses — slow, weak and sluggish responses,” says Prof. Fried. “These lapses were occurring when the patients were staring at the images before them, and while neurons in other regions of the brain were functioning as usual.”

Sleeping by sections

Investigators then examined the dominant brain rhythms in the same circuits by studying the local electrical fields measured during lapses. “We found that neuronal lapses co-occurred with slow brain waves in the same regions,” Dr. Nir says. “As the pressure for sleep mounted, specific regions ‘caught some sleep’ locally. Most of the brain was up and running, but temporal lobe neurons happened to be in slumber, and lapses subsequently followed.

“Since drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving, we hope to one day translate these results into a practical way of measuring drowsiness in tired individuals before they pose a threat to anyone or anything,” Dr. Nir concludes.

The paper other co-authors were Thomas Andrillon of the Ecole Normale Superieure in Paris, Amit Marmelshtein of Tel Aviv University, and Nanthia Suthana of UCLA.

Continue Reading

Neuroscience,Zoology

Language school for bats

New study proves language acquisition is not limited to human beings

A new Tel Aviv University study finds that young bats adopt a specific “dialect” spoken by their own colonies, even when this dialect differs from the bat “mother tongue.”

Researchers Dr. Yossi Yovel of the School of Zoology and the Sagol School of Neuroscience at TAU’s George S. Wise Faculty of Life Sciences and his students Yosef Prat and Lindsay Azoulay say that the study offers insight into the evolutionary origins of language acquisition skills, calling into question the uniqueness of this skill in humans. The study was published today in PLoS Biology.

“The ability to learn vocalizations from others is extremely important for speech acquisition in humans, but it’s believed to be rare among animals,” Dr. Yovel says. Reseachers had believed that this is what makes human language unique.

“The most common animal models for this ‘vocal learning’ are songbirds, which learn songs from specific tutors. Bird researchers usually emphasize that a bird learns to sing from one parent, but we have shown that bats listen and learn from an entire colony of several hundred bats, not just from their parents.

“In other words, young bats pick up the dialect vocalized by their surrounding roost-mates.”

The music of childhood

For the research, the team raised 14 pups with their mothers in three different colonies. In these artificial colonies, the scientists used speakers to play three specific subsets from a collection of recordings of natural bat vocalizations. The researchers exposed the bats to the recordings over a period of one year, until the young bats reached adulthood.

“The pups were raised with their mothers and could communicate with them. But even though they were exposed to their mothers’ ‘normal’ dialect, each group instead developed a dialect resembling the one of the crowd it was exposed to through our recordings,” Dr. Prat says.

“The difference between the vocalizations of the mother bat and those of the colony are akin to a London accent and, say, a Scottish accent,” Dr. Yovel explains. “The pups heard their mothers’ ‘London’ dialect, but also heard the ‘Scottish’ dialect mimicked by many dozens of ‘Scottish’ bats. The pups eventually adopted a dialect that was more similar to the local ‘Scottish’ dialect than to the ‘London’ accent of their mothers.”

Next, the researchers will examine how the acquisition of a new dialect influences the ability of bats to integrate into foreign colonies. “Will they adopt the local dialect or will they be rejected by the group? Or maybe the local colony will change its dialect to adopt that of our bats,” Dr. Yovel says. “There are many interesting avenues yet to explore.”

Continue Reading

Neuroscience,Psychology

Binge Drinking in College May Lower Chances of Landing a Job After College

Drinking habits, not drinking itself, may impact future careers, say Tel Aviv University, Cornell University researchers

Tel Aviv — Heavy drinking six times a month reduces the probability that a new college graduate will land a job by 10 percent, according to Tel Aviv University and Cornell University research published in the Journal of Applied Psychology.

Previous studies were unable to determine the precise effect of alcohol consumption on first-time employment. But according to the new study, each individual episode of student binge-drinking during a month-long period lowers the odds of attaining full-time employment upon graduation by 1.4 percent.

“The manner in which students drink appears to be more influential than how much they drink when it comes to predicting the likelihood of getting a job upon graduation,” says Prof. Peter Bamberger of TAU’s Coller School of Business Management and Cornell University, who co-authored the study with Prof. Samuel Bacharach of Cornell University; Prof. Mary Larimer and Prof. Irene Geisner, both of the University of Washington; Jacklyn Koopmann of Auburn University; Prof. Inbal Nahum-Shani of the University of Michigan; and Prof. Mo Wang of the University of Florida.

“Binge-drinking” is defined as ingesting four or more alcoholic drinks within two hours by a woman and five or more alcoholic drinks within two hours by a man, according to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

How often, not how much

The research found that a non-binge pattern of drinking does not adversely impact job search results unless and until their drinking reaches binge levels.

Data for the study was provided by 827 individuals who graduated in 2014, 2015, and 2016 from Cornell, the University of Washington, the University of Florida, and the University of Michigan.

“A student who binge-drinks four times a month has a 6 percent lower probability of finding a job than a student who does not engage in similar drinking habits. Those students who drank heavily six times a month increased their unemployment probability to 10 percent,” says Prof. Bamberger.

Funded by a $2.2 million grant from the National Institute on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, the research is the first installment of a longitudinal study on how alcohol misuse affects the college-to-work transition. More than 16,000 individuals have been contacted as part of the five-year study.

“This paper is consistent with the recent emphasis on the impact of drinking behavior on career transition from Cornell’s Smithers Institute,” said Prof. Bacharach. “It is in concert with the previous work we’ve done on retirement, and on-boarding [the entry and socialization of newcomers into an organization]. Most importantly, it is also consistent with the Smithers Institute’s continued programmatic interest in substance abuse not only in the workplace, but in the college community as well.”

 

Continue Reading

Neuroscience,Psychology

Less work for a better memory

TAU researchers find brief reactivations of visual memories are enough to complete the learning process

A  new Tel Aviv University study finds that brief memory reactivations can replace repeated extensive practice and training — commonly known as “practice makes perfect” — as a basis of procedural learning.

“Instead of bombarding our brain with repeated practice and training, people can utilize our new framework and improve learning with only several brief but highly efficient reactivations of a learned memory,” said Dr. Nitzan Censor of TAU’s School of Psychological Sciences. “In our study, instead of repeating a computer-based visual recognition task hundreds of times, participants were briefly exposed to just five trials — each lasting only a few milliseconds.

“Our results can facilitate the development of strategies geared to substantially reduce the amount of practice needed for efficient learning, both in the healthy brain and in the case of neurological damage or disease.”

The research was spearheaded by Dr. Censor’s students Rony Laor-Maayany and Rotem Amar-Halpert, and published in Nature Neuroscience.

Only a few milliseconds

In procedural learning, individuals repeat a complex activity over and over again until all relevant neural systems work together to automatically produce the activity. It is essential for the development of any motor skill or cognitive activity.

The researchers hypothesized that brief periods of memory reactivation would be sufficient to improve basic visual perception and yield a full normal learning curve, supporting a new paradigm of human learning dynamics. They based their hypothesis on knowledge accumulated from studies in animal models.

For the study, 70 participants performed a visual discrimination computer-based task, in which visual stimuli flashed on a screen for several milliseconds. Afterwards, participants were required to learn to discriminate between features within a visual stimulus (for example to report whether the orientation of lines was vertical or horizontal). Such discrimination performance constitutes a common measure of human visual perception. The results revealed that subjects who underwent exposure of several seconds to a learned task later demonstrated the completion of an entire learning curve.

“After we conducted this basic and common visual discrimination task, participants returned for a session in which the visual memory was briefly reactivated and the task performed for only several seconds,” said Dr. Censor. “A memory of the task was created and encoded in the participants’ brains as they performed the task.”

The subjects then participated in three additional sessions spread over three days, in which the memory of the initial visual task was briefly reactivated five times, the visual stimuli flashing for several milliseconds. On a separate day, the participants’ performance rate was measured and compared to that of control subjects who had undergone a standard training protocol.

“Additional control experiments were carried out,” said Dr. Censor. “These all suggested that we can leverage a new form of learning — reactivation-induced learning. Accordingly, brief ‘ignitions’ of the memory are sufficient to activate and improve the memory network encoded in our brains. This efficiently yields a full typical learning curve and challenges the ‘practice-makes-perfect’ basis of procedural learning.”

 The researchers are currently studying the neural mechanisms underlying this novel reactivation-induced learning.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to our newsletter!

(You agree that Canadian Friends of Tel Aviv University may collect, use and disclose your personal data which you have provided in this form, for providing marketing material that you have agreed to receive, in accordance with our data protection policy.)

CFTAU Ontario & Western Canada
3130 Bathurst Street, Suite, 214, Toronto, ON | M6A 2A1 | Phone: 416.787.9930
Email: toronto@cftau.ca

CFTAU Ottawa, Quebec and Atlantic Canada
6900 Boulevard Décarie, Suite 3480, Montreal, QC | H3X 2T8 | Phone: 514.344.3417
Email: montreal@cftau.ca

Terms and ConditionsPrivacy • © 2017 CFTAU