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Stem Cell Transplant Restores Memory, Learning in Mice

 For the first time, human embryonic stem cells have been transformed into nerve cells that helped mice regain the ability to learn and remember.A study at the University of Wisconsin-Madison is the first to show that human stem cells can successfully implant themselves in the brain and then heal neurological deficits, says senior author Su-Chun Zhang, a professor of neuroscience and neurology.
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Brain Development Is Guided by Junk DNA That Isn't Really Junk

 Specific DNA once dismissed as junk plays an important role in brain development and might be involved in several devastating neurological diseases, UC San Francisco scientists have found.Their discovery in mice is likely to further fuel a recent scramble by researchers to identify roles for long-neglected bits of DNA within the genomes of mice and humans alike. While researchers have been
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Deep Homology of Arthropod Central Complex and Vertebrate Basal Ganglia

Similarities of brain structure, function, and behavior are usually ascribed to convergent evolution. In their review, Strausfeld and Hirth (p. 157) identify multiple commonalities shared by vertebrate basal ganglia and a system of forebrain centers in arthropods called the central complex. The authors conclude that circuits essential to behavioral choice originated very early across phyla.Nicholas
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See-through brains clarify connections

A chemical treatment that turns whole organs transparent offers a big boost to the field of ‘connectomics’ — the push to map the brain’s fiendishly complicated wiring. Scientists could use the technique to view large networks of neurons with unprecedented ease and accuracy. The technology also opens up new research avenues for old brains that were saved from patients and healthy donors.Helen
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A 'Light Switch' in Brain Illuminates Neural Networks

 There are cells in your brain that recognize very specific places, and have that as one of their main jobs. These cells, called place cells, are found in an area behind your temple called the hippocampus. While these cells must be sent information from nearby cells to do their job, so far no one has been able to determine exactly what kind of nerve cells, or neurons, work with place cells to
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Systematic Analysis of Neural Projections Reveals Clonal Composition of the Drosophila Brain

During development neurons are generated by sequential divisions of neural stem cells, or neuroblasts. In the insect brain progeny of certain stem cells form lineage-specific sets of projections that arborize in distinct brain regions, called clonal units. Though this raises the possibility that the entire neural network in the brain might be organized in a clone-dependent fashion, only a small portion
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Forgetting in C. elegans Is Accelerated by Neuronal Communication via the TIR-1/JNK-1 Pathway

The control of memory retention is important for proper responses to constantly changing environments, but the regulatory mechanisms underlying forgetting have not been fully elucidated. Our genetic analyses in C. elegans revealed that mutants of the TIR-1/JNK-1 pathway exhibited prolonged retention of olfactory adaptation and salt chemotaxis learning. In olfactory adaptation, conditioning induces
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Epigenetic mechanisms in the development and maintenance of dopaminergic neurons

Mesodiencephalic dopaminergic (mdDA) neurons are located in the ventral mesodiencephalon and are involved in psychiatric disorders and severely affected in neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s disease. mdDA neuronal development has received much attention in the last 15 years and many transcription factors involved in mdDA specification have been discovered. More recently however, the impact
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Developmental processes in face perception

Understanding the developmental origins of face recognition has been the goal of many studies of various approaches. Contributions of experience-expectant mechanisms (early component), like perceptual narrowing, and lifetime experience (late component) to face processing remain elusive. By investigating captive chimpanzees of varying age, a rare case of a species with lifelong exposure to non-conspecific
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Action Plan: Making Brain-Controlled Prosthetics That Can Open a Clothespin

Brain-controlled interfaces have advanced dramatically during the past decade. But more work needs to be done before this technology begins to approximate the natural movements of a fully functioning arm or hand. An attempt to replicate the full range of movement—and the cognitive chain of events from thought to action—has now begun as a research collaboration among the California Institute of
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Billion-euro brain simulation and graphene projects win European funds

The European Commission has selected the two research proposals it will fund to the tune of half-a-billion euros each after a two-year, high-profile contest. The Human Brain Project, led by neuroscientist Henry Markram at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne, plans to simulate everything known about the human brain in a supercomputer — a breathtaking ambition that has been
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Grid cells require excitatory drive from the hippocampus

To determine how hippocampal backprojections influence spatially periodic firing in grid cells, the author recorded neural activity in the medial entorhinal cortex (MEC) of rats after temporary inactivation of the hippocampus. They report two major changes in entorhinal grid cells. First, hippocampal inactivation gradually and selectively extinguished the grid pattern. Second, the same grid cells that
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One Form of Neuron Turned Into Another in Brain

 A new finding by Harvard stem cell biologists turns one of the basics of neurobiology on its head -- demonstrating that it is possible to turn one type of already differentiated neuron into another within the brain. The discovery by Paola Arlotta and Caroline Rouaux "tells you that maybe the brain is not as immutable as we always thought, because at least during an early window of time one can
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Recurrent inhibitory circuitry as a mechanism for grid formation

Grid cells in layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex form a principal component of the mammalian neural representation of space. The firing pattern of a single grid cell has been hypothesized to be generated through attractor dynamics in a network with a specific local connectivity including both excitatory and inhibitory connections. However, experimental evidence supporting the presence of such
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Human brain evolution: transcripts, metabolites and their regulators

What evolutionary events led to the emergence of human cognition? Although the genetic differences separating modern humans from both non-human primates (for example, chimpanzees) and archaic hominins (Neanderthals and Denisovans) are known, linking human-specific mutations to the cognitive phenotype remains a challenge.  The new strategy is to focus on human-specific changes at the level of intermediate
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Discrete genetic modules are responsible for complex burrow evolution in Peromyscus mice

The genetics of behavioural differences between closely related species are less well understood than the genetics of morphological differences. Many animals build elaborate structures — such as hives, nests and burrows — that 'evolve' as natural selection acts on the behaviour of their builders. This study uses an example of this phenomenon to tackle the question of whether complex behaviours
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Why Wolves Are Forever Wild, but Dogs Can Be Tamed

Dogs and wolves are genetically so similar, it's been difficult for biologists to understand why wolves remain fiercely wild, while dogs can gladly become "man's best friend." Now, doctoral research by evolutionary biologist Kathryn Lord at the University of Massachusetts Amherst suggests the different behaviors are related to the animals' earliest sensory experiences and the critical period of socialization.
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Light Switch Inside Brain: Laser Controls Individual Nerve Cells in Mouse

Activating and deactivating individual nerve cells in the brain is something many neuroscientists wish they could do, as it would help them to better understand how the brain works.  Scientists in Freiburg and Basel, Switzerland, have developed an implant that is able to genetically modify specific nerve cells, control them with light stimuli, and measure their electrical activity all at the same
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Memory on time

Considerable recent work has shown that the hippocampus is critical for remembering the order of events in distinct experiences, a defining feature of episodic memory. Correspondingly, hippocampal neuronal activity can ‘replay’ sequential events in memories and hippocampal neuronal ensembles represent a gradually changing temporal context signal. Most strikingly, single hippocampal neurons – called
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New Implant Replaces Impaired Middle Ear

Functionally deaf patients can gain normal hearing with a new implant that replaces the middle ear. The unique invention from the Chalmers University of Technology has been approved for a clinical study. The first operation was performed on a patient in December 2012.Jan. 14, 2013 — Science Daily
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Lag normalization in an electrically coupled neural network

Moving objects can cover large distances while they are processed by the eye, usually resulting in a spatially lagged retinal response. The authors identified a network of electrically coupled motion–coding neurons in mouse retina that act collectively to register the leading edges of moving objects at a nearly constant spatial location, regardless of their velocity. These results reveal a previously
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Layer-specific excitatory circuits differentially control recurrent network dynamics in the neocortex

In the absence of external stimuli, the mammalian neocortex shows intrinsic network oscillations. These dynamics are characterized by translaminar assemblies of neurons whose activity synchronizes rhythmically in space and time. How different cortical layers influence the formation of these spontaneous cellular assemblies is poorly understood. The author found that excitatory neurons in supragranular
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Regenerate Sensory Hair Cells, Restore Hearing to Noise-Damaged Ears

Hearing loss is a significant public health problem affecting almost 50 million people in the United States alone. Sensorineural hearing loss is the most common form and is caused by the loss of sensory hair cells in the cochlea. Hair cell loss results from a variety of factors including noise exposure, aging, toxins, infections, and certain antibiotics and anti-cancer drugs. Although hearing aids
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Microglia: New Roles for the Synaptic Stripper

Any pathologic event in the brain leads to the activation of microglia, the immunocompetent cells of the central nervous system. In recent decades diverse molecular pathways have been identified by which microglial activation is controlled and by which the activated microglia affects neurons. In the normal brain microglia were considered “resting,” but it has recently become evident that they constantly
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Feedback Inhibition Enables Theta-Nested Gamma Oscillations and Grid Firing Fields

Cortical circuits are thought to multiplex firing rate codes with temporal codes that rely on oscillatory network activity, but the circuit mechanisms that combine these coding schemes are unclear. The authors establish with optogenetic activation of layer II of the medial entorhinal cortex that theta frequency drive to this circuit is sufficient to generate nested gamma frequency oscillations in synaptic
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Shaping Our Minds: Stem and Progenitor Cell Diversity in the Mammalian Neocortex

The neural circuits of the mammalian neocortex are crucial for perception, complex thought, cognition, and consciousness. This circuitry is assembled from many different neuronal subtypes with divergent properties and functions. Here, we review recent studies that have begun to clarify the mechanisms of cell-type specification in the neocortex, focusing on the lineage relationships between neocortical
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Ion Channels | TRP Channels in Drosophila Auditory Transduction

In this study, Lehnert et al. record spikes and subthreshold activity from a genetically defined population ofDrosophila auditory receptor neurons. These recordings reveal that several TRP family members play distinct roles in converting movement to transduction currents.Lehnert et al.Neuron, Volume 77, Issue 1, 115-128, 9 January 201310.1016/j.neuron.2012.11.030
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Eliminating Useless Information Important to Learning, Making New Memories

As we age, it just may be the ability to filter and eliminate old information -- rather than take in the new stuff -- that makes it harder to learn, scientists report.  "When you are young, your brain is able to strengthen certain connections and weaken certain connections to make new memories," said Dr. Joe Z. Tsien, neuroscientist at Georgia Regents University.  It's that critical weakening
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Cortico-cortical projections in mouse visual cortex are functionally target specific

Neurons in primary sensory cortex have diverse response properties, whereas higher cortical areas are specialized. Specific connectivity may be important for areal specialization, particularly in the mouse, where neighboring neurons are functionally diverse. To examine whether higher visual areas receive functionally specific input from primary visual cortex (V1), the author used two-photon calcium
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In vivo reprogramming of circuit connectivity in postmitotic neocortical neurons

The molecular mechanisms that control how progenitors generate distinct subtypes of neurons, and how undifferentiated neurons acquire their specific identity during corticogenesis, are increasingly understood. However, whether postmitotic neurons can change their identity at late stages of differentiation remains unknown. To study this question, the authors developed an electrochemical in vivo gene
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Dual origins of the mammalian accessory olfactory bulb revealed by an evolutionarily conserved migratory stream

The accessory olfactory bulb (AOB) is a critical olfactory structure that has been implicated in mediating social behavior. It receives input from the vomeronasal organ and projects to targets in the amygdaloid complex. Its anterior and posterior components (aAOB and pAOB) display molecular, connectional and functional segregation in processing reproductive and defensive and aggressive behaviors, respectively.
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New Information on Autism and Genetics

Research out of the George Washington University reveals another piece of the puzzle in a genetic developmental disorder that causes behavioral diseases such as autism. "It tell us that in very early development, those with 22q11.2 deletion syndrome do not make enough cells in one case, and do not put the other cells in the right place. This occurs not because of some degenerative change, but because
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Your Brain On Big Bird: Sesame Street Helps to Reveal Patterns of Neural Development

Using brain scans of children and adults watching Sesame Street, cognitive scientists are learning how children's brains change as they develop intellectual abilities like reading and math,Scientists are just beginning to use brain imaging to understand how humans process thought during real-life experiences. For example, researchers have compared scans of adults watching an entertaining movie to see
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The NaV1.7 sodium channel: from molecule to man

The voltage-gated sodium channel NaV1.7 is preferentially expressed in peripheral somatic and visceral sensory neurons, olfactory sensory neurons and sympathetic ganglion neurons. NaV1.7 accumulates at nerve fibre endings and amplifies small subthreshold depolarizations, poising it to act as a threshold channel that regulates excitability. Genetic and functional studies have added to the evidence that
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All-in-one optogenetics

Scientists reverse engineer fluorescent proteins for light-mediated control.Optogenetics is a young discipline that is coming on strong in fields such as neuroscience and protein signaling. It refers to the use of light-sensitive proteins to control cellular processes in living cells and organisms. Optogenetic tools can also be used to sense biological processes. Each of these applications has been
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A cellular mechanism for cortical associations: an organizing principle for the cerebral cortex

A basic feature of intelligent systems such as the cerebral cortex is the ability to freely associate aspects of perceived experience with an internal representation of the world and make predictions about the future. Here, a hypothesis is presented that the extraordinary performance of the cortex derives from an associative mechanism built in at the cellular level to the basic cortical neuronal unit:
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Neuronal reference frames for social decisions in primate frontal cortex

Steve Chang et. al. studied encoding of the outcomes of social decisions in three frontal cortical areas as monkeys performed a social reward allocation task. Orbitofrontal cortex neurons signaled received rewards, anterior cingulate (ACC) sulcus neurons signaled foregone rewards, and the ACC gyrus was involved in the computation of shared experience and social reward. Nature Neuroscience (2012) doi:10.1038/nn.3287
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Closed-loop optogenetic control of thalamus as a tool for interrupting seizures after cortical injury

Cerebrocortical injuries such as stroke are a major source of disability. Maladaptive consequences can result from post-injury local reorganization of cortical circuits. For example, epilepsy is a common sequela of cortical stroke, but the mechanisms responsible for seizures following cortical injuries remain unknown. In addition to local reorganization, long-range, extra-cortical connections might
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A subpopulation of nociceptors specifically linked to itch

Dorsal root ganglion neurons respond to both painful and itchy stimuli, but are there itch-specific neurons? Here the authors describe a group of MrgprA3-expressing neurons that innervate the superficial layers of the skin and selectively sense itch.Lian Han et al.Nature Neuroscience (2012) doi:10.1038/nn.3289
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Whole-Genome Sequencing in Autism Identifies Hot Spots for De Novo Germline Mutation

An international team, led by researchers from UC San Diego,  has discovered that "random" mutations in the genome are not quite so random after all. Their study, to be published in the journal Cell on December 21, shows that the DNA sequence in some regions of the human genome is quite volatile and can mutate ten times more frequently than the rest of the genome. Genes that are linked to autism
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How do environments talk to genes?

In Nature Neuroscience January 2013 issue, Moshe Szyf explains the environmental interaction onto genes. A report elucidates the widely recognized, but poorly understood, concept of gene-environment interaction, finding a molecular mechanism in the case of post-traumatic stress disorder: demethylation of a glucocorticoid response element in the stress response regulator FKBP5 that depends on both the
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The ventral visual pathway: an expanded neural framework for the processing of object quality

Since the original characterization of the ventral visual pathway, our knowledge of its neuroanatomy, functional properties, and extrinsic targets has grown considerably. Here the authors synthesize this recent evidence and propose that the ventral pathway is best understood as a recurrent occipitotemporal network containing neural representations of object quality both utilized and constrained by
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Retooling spare parts: gene duplication and cognition

Two new studies provide experimental evidence of how ancient genomic duplications of synaptic genes provided the substrate for diversification that ultimately expanded vertebrate cognitive complexity.T Grant Belgard & Daniel H GeschwindNature Neuroscience 16, 6–8 (2013) doi:10.1038/nn.3292Published online 21 December 2012
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Woman With Quadriplegia Feeds Herself Chocolate Using Mind-Controlled Robot Arm

Reaching out to high five someone, grasping and moving objects of different shapes and sizes, feeding herself dark chocolate. For Jan Scheuermann and a team of researchers from the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and UPMC, accomplishing these seemingly ordinary tasks demonstrated for the first time that a person with longstanding quadriplegia can maneuver a mind-controlled, human-like robot
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Evolution of GluN2A/B cytoplasmic domains diversified vertebrate synaptic plasticity and behavior

Understanding the mechanisms underlying the many forms of vertebrate behavior is a central objective of neuroscience and, although studied extensively at the cellular and circuit levels, very little is known about the underlying molecular evolutionary events. How did genome evolution give rise to the many forms of learning, emotional behavior and motor functions and generate the subtlety of synaptic
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Neurogliaform cells dynamically regulate somatosensory integration via synapse-specific modulation

Despite the prevailing idea that neurogliaform cells produce a spatially unrestricted widespread inhibition, the authors demonstrate here that their activity attenuates thalamic-evoked feed-forward inhibition in layer IV barrel cortex but has no effect on feed-forward excitation. The result of this circuit selectivity is a dynamic regulation in the temporal window for integration of excitatory thalamic
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Synaptic scaffold evolution generated components of vertebrate cognitive complexity

The origins and evolution of higher cognitive functions, including complex forms of learning, attention and executive functions, are unknown. A potential mechanism driving the evolution of vertebrate cognition early in the vertebrate lineage (550 million years ago) was genome duplication and subsequent diversification of postsynaptic genes. Here the authors report the first genetic analysis of a vertebrate
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Encoding asymmetry within neural circuits

Genetic and environmental factors control morphological and functional differences between the two sides of the nervous system. Neural asymmetries are proposed to have important roles in circuit physiology, cognition and species-specific behaviours. We propose two fundamentally different mechanisms for encoding left–right asymmetry in neural circuits. In the first, asymmetric circuits share common
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Deciphering the mechanism underlying late-onset Alzheimer disease

Drug development efforts for late-onset Alzheimer disease (AD) have met with disappointing results. Krstic and Knuesel argue for a re-evaluation of pathological mechanisms underlying the disease, with a shift of focus away from amyloid-β as the key therapeutic target. Through integration of their own research with the wider literature, they present a model that places inflammation and impairments
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Long-term modification of cortical synapses improves sensory perception

Synapses and receptive fields of the cerebral cortex are plastic. However, changes to specific inputs must be coordinated within neural networks to ensure that excitability and feature selectivity are appropriately configured for perception of the sensory environment. The authors induced long-lasting enhancements and decrements to excitatory synaptic strength in rat primary auditory cortex by pairing
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Evolution of Human Intellect: Human-Specific Regulation of Neuronal Genes

A new study published November 20 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology has identified hundreds of small regions of the genome that appear to be uniquely regulated in human neurons. These regulatory differences distinguish us from other primates, including monkeys and apes, and as neurons are at the core of our unique cognitive abilities, these features may ultimately hold the key to our intellectual
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The retina as a window to the brain—from eye research to CNS disorders

The eye is an extension of the CNS in terms of its development and anatomy, and in terms of its dialogue with the immune system. Many neurodegenerative disorders of the brain and spinal cord have manifestations in the eye, which are often evident before the emergence of clinical neurological symptoms. London et al. highlight how investigation of the eye represents a noninvasive approach to the detection
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A prefrontal cortex–brainstem neuronal projection that controls response to behavioural challenge

The prefrontal cortex (PFC) is thought to participate in high-level control of the generation of behaviours (including the decision to execute actions); indeed, imaging and lesion studies in human beings have revealed that PFC dysfunction can lead to either impulsive states with increased tendency to initiate action, or to amotivational states characterized by symptoms such as reduced activity, hopelessness
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Newborn cortical neurons: only for neonates?

Despite a century of debate over the existence of adult cortical neurogenesis, a consensus has not yet been reached. Here, we review evidence of the existence, origin, migration, and integration of neurons into the adult and neonatal cerebral cortex. We find that the lack of consensus likely stems from the low rate of postnatal cortical neurogenesis that has been observed, the fact that neurogenesis
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Optimization of a GCaMP Calcium Indicator for Neural Activity Imaging

Genetically encoded calcium indicators (GECIs) are powerful tools for systems neuroscience. Recent efforts in protein engineering have significantly increased the performance of GECIs. The state-of-the art single-wavelength GECI, GCaMP3, has been deployed in a number of model organisms and can reliably detect three or more action potentials in short bursts in several systems in vivo. Akerboom
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Genetically encoded optical indicators for the analysis of neuronal circuits

In a departure from previous top-down or bottom-up strategies used to understand neuronal circuits, many forward-looking research programs now place the circuit itself at their centre. This has led to an emphasis on the dissection and elucidation of neuronal circuit elements and mechanisms, and on studies that ask how these circuits generate behavioural outputs. This movement towards circuit-centric
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In vivo genome editing using a high-efficiency TALEN system

Improvements in artificial transcription activator-like effector nucleases (TALENs) provide a powerful new approach for targeted zebrafish genome editing and functional genomic applications1–5. Using the Goldy TALEN modified scaffold and zebrafish delivery system, it was shown that this enhanced TALEN toolkit has a high efficiency in inducing locus-specific DNA breaks in
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Disorder of Neuronal Circuits in Autism Is Reversible, New Study Suggests

People with autism suffer from a pervasive developmental disorder of the brain that becomes evident in early childhood. Peter Scheiffele and Kaspar Vogt, Professors at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel, have identified a specific dysfunction in neuronal circuits that is caused by autism. In the journal Science, the scientists also report about their success in reversing these neuronal changes.
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Cross-sensory transfer of sensory-motor information: visuomotor learning affects performance on an audiomotor task, using sensory-substitution

Visual-to-auditory sensory-substitution devices allow users to perceive a visual image using sound. Using a motor-learning task, researchers in Israel found that new sensory-motor information was generalized across sensory modalities. They imposed a rotation when participants reached to visual targets, and found that not only seeing, but also hearing the location of targets via a sensory-substitution
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Reversible switching between epigenetic states in honeybee behavioral subcastes

In honeybee societies, distinct caste phenotypes are created from the same genotype, suggesting a role for epigenetics in deriving these behaviorally different phenotypes. The authors found no differences in DNA methylation between irreversible worker and queen castes, but substantial differences between nurses and forager subcastes. Reverting foragers back to nurses reestablished methylation levels
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Stem Cell Revolution: Regenerating the Eye

Research is breaking new ground that promises to change our ability to treat eye disease forever.Although stem cells were discovered in the mid-1800s and the subject of experimentation in the early 1900s, it’s only been in recent decades that they’ve truly caught the imagination of medical researchers and the public. Today, our understanding of these cells is expanding dramatically, and research
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Clue to Cause of Alzheimer's Dementia Found in Brain Samples

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found a key difference in the brains of people with Alzheimer's disease and those who are cognitively normal but still have brain plaques that characterize this type of dementia.The new study, available online inAnnals of Neurology, still implicates amyloid beta in causing Alzheimer's dementia, but not necessarily in the form
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Humans can learn new information during sleep

During sleep, humans can strengthen previously acquired memories, but whether they can acquire entirely new information remains unknown. The nonverbal nature of the olfactory sniff response, in which pleasant odors drive stronger sniffs and unpleasant odors drive weaker sniffs, allowed us to test learning in humans during sleep. Using partial-reinforcement trace conditioning, the authors paired pleasant
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Multisensory brain mechanisms of bodily self-consciousness

Recent research has linked bodily self-consciousness to the processing and integration of multisensory bodily signals in temporoparietal, premotor, posterior parietal and extrastriate cortices. Studies in which subjects receive ambiguous multisensory information about the location and appearance of their own body have shown that these brain areas reflect the conscious experience of identifying with
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Emerging roles of non-coding RNAs in brain evolution, development, plasticity and disease

Novel classes of small and long non-coding RNAs (ncRNAs) are being characterized at a rapid pace, driven by recent paradigm shifts in our understanding of genomic architecture, regulation and transcriptional output, as well as by innovations in sequencing technologies and computational and systems biology. These ncRNAs can interact with DNA, RNA and protein molecules; engage in diverse structural,
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The Attention System of the Human Brain: 20 Years After

Here, the author update their 1990 Annual Review of Neuroscience article, “The Attention System of the Human Brain.” The framework presented in the original article has helped to integrate behavioral, systems, cellular, and molecular approaches to common problems in attention research. Research on orienting and executive functions has supported the addition of new networks of brain regions. Developmental
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Early Events in Axon/Dendrite Polarization

Differentiation of axons and dendrites is a critical step in neuronal development. Here we review the evidence that axon/dendrite formation during neuronal polarization depends on the intrinsic cytoplasmic asymmetry inherited by the postmitotic neuron, the exposure of the neuron to extracellular chemical factors, and the action of anisotropic mechanical forces imposed by the environment. To better
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Evolution of Synapse Complexity and Diversity

Proteomic studies of the composition of mammalian synapses have revealed a high degree of complexity. The postsynaptic and presynaptic terminals are molecular systems with highly organized protein networks producing emergent physiological and behavioral properties. The major classes of synapse proteins and their respective functions in intercellular communication and adaptive responses evolved in prokaryotes
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Motor Circuits in Action: Specification, Connectivity, and Function

Mammalian motor behavior is enabled by a hierarchy of interleaved circuit modules constructed by interneurons in the spinal cord, sensory feedback loops, and bilateral communication with supraspinal centers. Neuronal subpopulations are specified through a process of precisely timed neurogenesis, acquisition of transcriptional programs, and migration to spatially confined domains. Developmental and
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Rats Recall Past to Make Daily Decisions

 UCSF scientists have identified patterns of brain activity in the rat brain that play a role in the formation and recall of memories and decision-making. The discovery, which builds on the team's previous findings, offers a path for studying learning, decision-making and post-traumatic stress syndrome.  In the journal Science this week (online May 3, 2012), the UCSF researchers demonstrated
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Timing to Perfection: The Biology of Central and Peripheral Circadian Clocks

The mammalian circadian system, which is comprised of multiple cellular clocks located in the organs and tissues, orchestrates their regulation in a hierarchical manner throughout the 24 hr of the day. At the top of the hierarchy are the suprachiasmatic nuclei, which synchronize subordinate organ and tissue clocks using electrical, endocrine, and metabolic signaling pathways that impact the molecular
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Rats Match Humans in Decision-Making That Involves Combining Different Sensory Cues

The next time you set a trap for that rat running around in your basement, here's something to consider: you are going up against an opponent whose ability to assess the situation and make decisions is statistically just as good as yours.   A Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) study that compared the ability of humans and rodents to make perceptual decisions based on combining different
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Rethinking the Emotional Brain

The author, LeDoux, proposes a reconceptualization of key phenomena important in the study of emotion—those phenomena that reflect functions and circuits related to survival, and that are shared by humans and other animals. The approach shifts the focus from questions about whether emotions that humans consciously feel are also present in other animals, and toward questions about the extent to which
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Neural development: Epigenetic regulation of asymmetry

The brains of many species demonstrate structural and functional bilateral asymmetry, yet the underlying molecular mechanisms are mostly unknown. In the Caenorhabditis elegans nervous system, the lineages arising from the two daughter cells of a particular blastomere known as ABarap produce a different cell on each side of the body: a motor neuron on the right and an epithelial cell on the left. Here,
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Epigenetic understanding of gene-environment interactions in psychiatric disorders: a new concept of clinical genetics

Epigenetics is a mechanism that regulates gene expression independently of the underlying DNA sequence, relying instead on the chemical modification of DNA and histone proteins. Although environmental and genetic factors were thought to be independently associated with disorders, several recent lines of evidence suggest that epigenetics bridges these two factors. Epigenetic gene regulation is essential
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Interneuron dysfunction in psychiatric disorders

Schizophrenia, autism and intellectual disabilities are best understood as spectrums of diseases that have broad sets of causes. However, it is becoming evident that these conditions also have overlapping phenotypes and genetics, which is suggestive of common deficits. In this context, the idea that the disruption of inhibitory circuits might be responsible for some of the clinical features of these
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Pattern separation in the hippocampus

The ability to discriminate among similar experiences is a crucial feature of episodic memory. This ability has long been hypothesized to require the hippocampus, and computational models suggest that it is dependent on pattern separation. However, empirical data for the role of the hippocampus in pattern separation have not been available until recently. This review summarizes data from electrophysiological
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Epigenetic Mechanisms in Cognition

Although the critical role for epigenetic mechanisms in development and cell differentiation has long been appreciated, recent evidence reveals that these mechanisms are also employed in postmitotic neurons as a means of consolidating and stabilizing cognitive-behavioral memories. In this review, we discuss evidence for an “epigenetic code” in the central nervous system that mediates synaptic plasticity,
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Epigenetic impacts on neurodevelopment: pathophysiological mechanisms and genetic modes of action.

Disruptions of genes that are involved in epigenetic functions are known to be causative for several mental retardation/intellectual disability (MR/ID) syndromes. Recent work has highlighted genes with epigenetic functions as being implicated in autism spectrum disorders (ASDs) and schizophrenia (SCZ). The gene-environment interaction is an important factor of pathogenicity for these complex disorders.
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Experimental and Theoretical Approaches to Conscious Processing

Recent experimental studies and theoretical models have begun to address the challenge of establishing a causal link between subjective conscious experience and measurable neuronal activity. The present review focuses on the well-delimited issue of how an external or internal piece of information goes beyond nonconscious processing and gains access to conscious processing, a transition characterized
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The Extraction of 3D Shape in the Visual System of Human and Nonhuman Primates

Depth structure, the third dimension of object shape, is extracted from disparity, motion, texture, and shading in the optic array. Gradient-selective neurons play a key role in this process. Such neurons occur in CIP, AIP, TEs, and F5 (for first- or second-order disparity gradients), in MT/V5, in FST (for speed gradients), and in CIP and TEs (for texture gradients). Most of these regions are activated
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DNA methylation and memory formation

Memory formation and storage require long-lasting changes in memory-related neuronal circuits. Recent evidence indicates that DNA methylation may serve as a contributing mechanism in memory formation and storage. These emerging findings suggest a role for an epigenetic mechanism in learning and long-term memory maintenance and raise apparent conundrums and questions. For example, it is unclear how
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Hearing Impairment: A Panoply of Genes and Functions

Research in the genetics of hearing and deafness has evolved rapidly over the past years, providing the molecular foundation for different aspects of the mechanism of hearing. Considered to be the most common sensory disorder, hearing impairment is genetically heterogeneous. The multitude of genes affected encode proteins associated with many different functions, encompassing overarching areas of research.
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Human Brain Evolution: Harnessing the Genomics (R)evolution to Link Genes, Cognition, and Behavio

The evolution of the human brain has resulted in numerous specialized features including higher cognitive processes such as language. Knowledge of whole-genome sequence and structural variation via high-throughput sequencing technology provides an unprecedented opportunity to view human evolution at high resolution. However, phenotype discovery is a critical component of these endeavors and the use
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Epigenetic control of neural precursor cell fate during development

The temporally and spatially restricted nature of the differentiation capacity of cells in the neural lineage has been studied extensively in recent years. Epigenetic control of developmental genes, which is heritable through cell divisions, has emerged as a key mechanism defining the differentiation potential of cells. Short-term or reversible repression of developmental genes puts them in a 'poised
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