Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Sleep Helps Protect Your Brain

I love the way I feel after a good night's sleep. My body is rested; my mind feels clear and alert; and I am happy to just linger in bed and relax. Of course, this delightful state is eventually interrupted by an alarm going off or the dog barking for me to feed him.
But I continue to feel good throughout the day if I slept well the night before. It's as if my entire system -- my body and my brain -- have been reset in a healthy way.
This good feeling may be a result of the anti-inflammatory effects of sleep. Chronic brain inflammation appears to contribute to cellular deterioration that can lead to Alzheimer's disease. Getting a good night's sleep has a positive impact on that inflammatory process and may explain why people who sleep well regularly often look younger and have more energy.

When scientists measure a volunteer's blood markers of inflammation, they find that after the volunteer has had a restful night of sleep, those measures improve significantly. These are the same measures that improve when we eat anti-inflammatory foods like omega-3 rich fish or olive oil. Dr. Wendy Troxel and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh have found that people with sleep problems such as difficulty falling asleep, fretful sleep, or loud snoring have a higher risk for metabolic syndrome, another condition linked to chronic inflammation that puts the brain at risk for neurodegeneration.
Scientific evidence tells us that actually sleeping on our problems is an efficient way to solve them. During sleep, our brain's memory centers are busy consolidating recall for more effective memory when we're awake. Sleeping well is an important way to improve your memory ability and may lower risk for cognitive decline.
About 30 percent of adults suffer from insomnia. The following are a few strategies to consider if you're having trouble falling or staying asleep through the night.
  • Stay up during the day. A daytime nap can be invigorating, but if you already suffer from sleeplessness at night, try not to nap so you'll feel more fatigued at bedtime.
  • Avoid evening liquids. After dinner, try not to drink large quantities of water or other drinks. A full bladder can awaken you during the night and you may have trouble getting back to sleep.
  • Stay mellow in the evening. Watching lively nighttime sports or an exciting movie thriller tends to hype some people up, making it harder for them to fall asleep.
  • Avoid caffeine at night. Whether it's from tea, coffee, soda or even a chocolate bar, caffeine can keep us awake, so avoid it in the evenings. Try to skip coffee entirely in the late afternoon and evening.
  • Maintain good sleep habits. It helps to get into bed at the same time each night. Try to skip watching TV, eating or even reading a book. Simply turn out the light and take a few moments to get settled. If you are not asleep after 20 minutes, get out of bed and do something else until you feel tired again. Once you go back to bed, get settled, and give it another 20 minutes. Every time you get into bed to sleep, try remaining still and focus on slow, steady breathing.

The Science Of Sex: 5 Must-Know Facts About Your Brain And Desire

Science Of Sex
The science of sex: How do our brains really influence our hearts?

You'll be hard-pressed to open a magazine or go to a news site without seeing headlines like these. Human relationships, desire, love and sex have been written about and rationalized since time immemorial, it's no wonder that modern scientists continually try to dissect their mysteries. But what can our minds really tell us about matters of the heart?
That's exactly what author Kayt Sukel, who has a background in neuroscience, set out to find out. The result was her new book, "Dirty Minds: How Our Brains Influence Love, Sex and Relationships." Part of her exploratory journey even included being a lab rat for a study on female orgasms -- a study which produced a pretty incredible video of a woman's brain during climax. The experiment involved masturbating to orgasm ... while strapped into an fMRI machine. It may not have been her sexiest moment, but Sukel says she didn't let the circumstances affect her performance.

"My Type-A personality and refusal to accept failure probably helped me along," she said, laughing. "It was kind of a 'Little Engine That Could' moment."

It's hard not to admire that spirit of determination. We had a chance to pick Sukel's brain and find out what women really need to know when it comes to the science of sex. Inrecent years there has been a lot of talk about pheremones -- chemicalsthat have the ability to trigger a social (and potentially sexual) response from members of the same species. Some companies have even begun bottling these chemicals, urging consumers to use them as cologne and "enhance your sex life." According to Sukel, these bottled pheromones are little more than marketing. "As of now there's no good scientific study that shows that these sprays actually work," she said. "But there are plenty of people who use them and claim they're the best thing ever. The placebo effect really works.

" In recent years there has been a lot of talk about pheremones -- chemicals thaIn recent years there has been a lot of talk about pheremones -- chemicals that have the ability to trigger a social (and potentially sexual) response from members of the same species. Some companies have even begun bottling these chemicals, urging consumers to use them as cologne and "enhance your sex life."

According to Sukel, these bottled pheromones are little more than marketing. "As of now there's no good scientific study that shows that these sprays actually work," she said. "But there are plenty of people who use them and claim they're the best thing ever. The placebo effect really works."

Cosmetic chemical hinders brain development in tadpoles

Even small concentrations -- 1.5 parts per million -- of a biocide used in cosmetics interrupted neurological development in tadpole brains. There is no evidence those concentrations are harmful to humans. Credit: Aizenman lab/Brown University

Cosmetic chemical hinders brain development in tadpoles
Scientists, health officials, and manufacturers already know that a chemical preservative found in some products, including cosmetics, is harmful to people and animals in high concentrations, but a new Brown University study in tadpoles reports that it can also interrupt neurological development even in very low concentrations.

In the cosmetics industry, the biocide methylisothiazolinone or MIT, is considered safe at concentrations of less than 100 parts per million. Lab studies, however, have found that lower concentrations affected the growth of animal neurons. Picking up from there, the Brown researchers performed a series of experiments to investigate how 10 days of exposure at concentrations as low as 1.5 ppm would affect whole, living tadpoles as they develop. Their results appear in advance online in the journal Neuroscience.
"The lower concentrations we studied didn't kill the animals or cause any big deformities or affect the behavior you'd see just by looking at them," said Carlos Aizenman, associate professor of neuroscience and the study's senior author. "But then we decided to do a series of functional tests and we found that exposure to this compound during a period of development that's critical for the fine wiring of the nervous system disrupted this period of fine tuning."
Aizenman emphasized that there is no evidence in the study that any products with MIT, such as shampoos or cosmetics, are harmful to consumers.
Neurotoxic effects
When Aizenman and lead author Ariana Spawn explored the consequences of exposing tadpoles to two nonlethal concentrations, 1.5 ppm and 7.6 ppm, they found some deficits both in behavior and in basic brain development.
In one experiment they shined moving patterns of light into one side of the tadpole tanks from below. As they expected, the unexposed tadpoles avoided the light patterns, swimming to the other side. Tadpoles that had been exposed to either concentration of MIT, however, were significantly less likely to avoid the signals.
In another experiment, Aizenman and Spawn, who was an undergraduate at the time and has since graduated, exposed the tadpoles to another chemical known to induce seizures. The tadpoles who were not exposed to MIT and those exposed to the lower concentration each had the same ability to hold off seizures, but the ones who had been exposed to the 7.6 ppm concentration succumbed to the seizures significantly more readily.

In these experiments, seizure susceptibility had nothing to do with epilepsy, Aizenman said, but was instead a measure of more general neural development.
After observing the two significant behavioral effects in the tadpoles, Aizenman and Spawn then sought the underlying physiological difference between exposed and unexposed tadpoles that might cause them. They performed an electrophysiological analysis of each tadpole's optic tectum, a part of the brain responsible for processing visual information. They found evidence that the chemical seems to have stunted the process by which tadpoles prune and refine neural connections, a key developmental step.
"The neural circuits act like the neural circuits of a much more immature tadpole," Aizenman said. "This is consistent with the previous findings in cell cultures."
Aizenman said consumers should know about the study's results and pay attention to the ingredients in the products they use, but should not become worried based on the basic science study.
Aizenman said one area where further studies may be warranted is in cases of repeated exposure in industrial or occupational settings, but the study's broader message may be that chemical manufacturers and independent labs should test more for neurodevelopmental effects of even low concentrations of products. In the specific case of MIT in tadpoles, he noted, "It's resulting in a non-obvious but real deficit in neural function."

Researchers Discover Ormosil Nanoparticles as Potential Drug Delivery Vehicle to Brain

Shermali Gunawerdana, University of Buffalo researcher, discovered that ORMOSIL nanoparticles when injected into the brain of insects, which even after being exposed for a long time, did not affect the flies and cells in any way.

The bright red spots in this confocal microscopy image are clusters of ORMOSIL particles in axons of fruit fly neurons. Photo courtesy of Shermali Gunawardena and PLoS One.
These fluorescent particles just lit up all the neurons in the brain hence showing promise as a potential drug delivery vehicle. This meant that this new class of nanomaterials, ORMOSIL had penetrated the brains of insects.
Each of these nanoparticles is a vessel that has cavities, which scientists can fill with gene therapies or chemical compounds to be transmitted to different parts of the body, in this case, the brain especially to treat diseases like Alzheimer’s. The study on fruit flies indicates that even when the insects are exposed for a long time to ORMOSIL, through feeding and breathing, the animals are not harmed.
The ORMOSIL nanoparticles being studied are of an exclusive type designed by a research group headed by the UB institute’s Executive Director, Paras.N.Prasad.
Gunawardena is a specialist in axonal transport, which involves transmission of motor proteins along thread-like axon neurons. These molecular motors, known as dyneins and kinesins, carry drugs such as essential proteins back and forth from the synapse and cell body of the neurons. It is possible that an axonal obstruction occurs, which probably contributes to disorders like Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.
Gunawardena intends to use ORMOSIL in this context to break up the accumulation of neurons. Though her research is still in the evolutionary stage, the potential advantages will be significant. She is also trying to make ORMOSIL to attach itself to motor proteins.

Using weather forecasting to predict brain tumor growth

The Arizona State approach to tumor forecasting in action.
BrainscanArizona State University researchers believe their research in improving weather forecasting could be applied to brain cancer. Their proof-of-concept study, published by Biology Direct, shows they might be correct.

Brain cancer is chaotic. The most common form, glioblastoma multiforme, is also the most aggressive, said surgeon research team member Mark Preul, the director of neurosurgery research at Phoenix’s Barrow Neurological Institute. Glioblastoma yields a life expectancy only around a year and a half. But it is also chaotic in the sense of chaos theory. Like the weather, the factors involved in the spread of brain cancer are extraordinarily complex and produce increasingly inaccurate as predictions are made for further and further into the future. A forecast of tomorrow’s weather, or tomorrow's spread of a brain tumor, is likely to be nearly accurate. A forecast for six months from now likely is not.

“The amazing thing is since first identified in the early 1900s, survival rates haven’t shown many improvements,” Preul said.

One of the problems with weather prediction is the exponential increases in error as the forecast bases new predictions on old predictions that were created using imperfect data. Mathematician Eric Kostelich, who headed this study, was on a team that developed a formula for combining a prior forecast and new measurements to get better initial data. They called it the Local Ensemble Transform Kalman Filter.

But the filter was not specific to weather. Mathew Hoffman, a graduate students of Kostelich, used it to determine oceanic conditions.

“I thought about applying the filter to cancer because I had a family member who was suffering from cancer,” Kostelich said. Using the existing models and the filter’s more accurate initial measurements, Kostelich was able to better predict the spread of Glioblastoma through the brain.

There is no way to fully remove the cancer, but Preul and Kostelich note that better data can lead to more accurate and more proactive treatments that can improve a patient’s quality of life “The main value would be for the radiation oncologist while they plan the treatment volume,” said Rush University Medical Center neurosurgeon Richard Byrne.

The ASU study was preliminary, based only on a handful of patients. The next step in testing the filter’s applications to brain cancer will be to test on mice, he said. Kostelich is confident their methods could be applied to other biological phenomena including other forms of cancer.

How the Brain Spots Faces

Our brains are made to find faces. In fact, they’re so good at picking out human-like mugs we sometimes see them in a jumble of rocks, a bilious cloud of volcanic ash or some craters on the Moon.
But another amazing thing about our brain is that we’re never actually fooled into thinking it’s a real person looking back at us. We might do a second take, but most normal brains can tell the difference between a man and the Moon.
Neuroscientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology wanted to investigate how the brain decides exactly what is and is not a face. Earlier studies have shown that the fusiform gyrus, located on the brain’s underside, responds to face-like shapes — but how does it sort flesh from rock?

Pawan Sinha, professor of brain and cognitive sciences at MIT, and students created a procession of images ranging from those that look nothing like faces to genuine faces. For the ones in the middle — structures, formations, smudges and shapes that give us a pareidolic reaction that causes us to see a face — they used photographs that machine vision systems had falsely tagged as faces.
By doing a series of one-to-one comparisons, the human observers rated how face-like each of the images were. And while the subjects sorted out the photographs, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) was used to scan their brains and look for activity.
The neuroscientists found different activity patterns on each side of the brain. On the left, the activity patterns changed very gradually as images became more like faces and there was no clear distinction between faces and non-faces. The left side would flare if someone was looking at a human or an eerily face-like formation of rocks.
But on the right side, activation patterns in the fusiform gyrus were completely different between genuine human faces and face-like optical illusions. There was no fooling the right side of the brain, no matter how much they resembled a face.
The researchers could conclude that the left side of the brain ranks images on a scale of how face-like they are.The right side makes the categorical distinction whether or not it’s a human face.
The left side of the fusiform gyrus actually flared up before the right side supporting the hypothesis that the left side does its job first and then passes information on to the right side. (Though because of the sluggishness of fMRI signals, which rely on blood-flow changes, the timing does not yet constitute definitive evidence).
“The left does the initial heavy lifting,” Sinha says. “It tries to determine how face-like is a pattern, without making the final decision on whether I’m going to call it a face.” The right’s job is to make the final call.
This clear distribution of labour is one of the first known examples of the left and right sides of the brain taking on different roles in high-level visual-processing tasks.

Baptist working with post-traumatic stress syndrome

Researchers at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center are collaborating with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs on a one-year study to use imaging technology to better understand post-traumatic stress syndrome and traumatic brain injury. Wake Forest Baptist is one of 35 clinical sites across the nation using the equipment.
Researchers compare the images of brain activity from individuals with PTSD and/or mild traumatic brain injury (TBI) with the images from individuals without the condition to see whether particular parts of the brain function differently.
"If we can find biomarkers of PTSD, there's hope that we'll be able to improve diagnosis and treatment," said Dwayne Godwin, a neuroscientist at Wake Forest Baptist and co-principal investigator on the project.
Researchers are using a high-tech tool for brain activity imaging called magnetoencephalography (MEG) to conduct neurological tests on military veterans with and without a PTSD diagnosis, and with varying levels of impairment.
Participants perform tasks, similar to games, which engage parts of the brain involved in "executive function" — determining what to do, how to do it, and assessing the relative risk of a situation — while sitting in the scanner.
In a sign of the growing focus on the disorders, first lady Michelle Obama will announce today a new physician-training initiative with 105 U.S. academic medical centers in 42 states, including Wake Forest Baptist. It involves the White House's wounded warriors and veterans programs.
Among the goals are embedding PTSD and TBI training into medical-school curriculum, reaching out to physicians and specialists and sharing best practices among the academic medical centers. No new federal funding is associated with the initiative.
Wake Forest Baptist was mentioned specifically by officials involved in the Joining Forces initiative as "having great work going on" and "taking a leadership role with sophisticated lessons to share."
Brad Cooper, executive director of Joining Forces, said PTSD and TBI affects one in five veterans.
About 25 million Americans will deal with PTSD at some point in their lives, according to The National Center for PTSD.
Women are more likely to experience PTSD because of a sexual assault or sexual abuse as a child. Men are more likely to experience it through accidents, physical assault, combat, disaster or witnessing a death or injury.
"A trauma is something horrible and scary that you see or that happens to you," according to the PTSD center's website. "During this type of event, you think that your life or others' lives are in danger. You may feel afraid or think that you have no control over what is happening."
Cooper said the effort carries urgency since more veterans are seeking medical help outside veterans' facilities, with private physicians and public health centers.
"Overall, these doctors need to have better comprehension on the issues," Cooper said. "Some doctors already do, but many don't. It is a long-term issue for our country because many of the people suffering from these disorders are so young."
Although PTSD has been a recognized disorder for decades, traditionally most of the medical focus on military personnel has been on the visible, physical side of coming back from a war zone with debilitating injuries.
As a result, some veterans often don't get the mental-health assistance they need, leaving some to wander homeless or show up in hospital emergency departments.
The study draws participants served by the Salisbury Veteran's Administration hospital, Godwin said. The hospital specializes in post-deployment mental-health issues.
"PTSD and mild TBI are serious problems for our vets coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan," Godwin said. "This challenge provides a unique opportunity to learn more about this disorder from data that exists on a well-defined pool of patients who have been medically evaluated and tested."
In order to develop more effective treatments for PTSD and TBI, researchers need to understand the underlying neurobiology, said Dr. John Krystal, chairman of the psychiatry department at Yale University School of Medicine. Krystal collaborates with the Veteran's Administration on PTSD issues.
"MEG is a technology that enables scientists to study — non-invasively — electrical activity within the brain," Krystal said. "Applying this approach to PTSD may help to characterize dysfunction within brain circuits contributing to both conditions."
Laurie Coker, a local behavioral-health advocate and director of the N.C. Consumer Advocacy, Networking and Support Organization, said two levels of the research "could be exciting."
"If researchers find there are actually physiological changes in the brain after a person experiences trauma, then perhaps returning soldiers who are struggling with mood and other problems will be able to accept the concreteness of the fact that trauma injures the brain," Coker said.
"It would be easier for them to seek support and treatment if they realized that these symptoms reflect nothing about character or courage, but that trauma is simply dangerous.
"Second, we now know that many people who have a mental illness have had specific traumatic events which have triggered their mental reactions," Coker said. "This might help us look at various ways besides or along with medications that people can help themselves heal."
Godwin said having a strong support group often helps people suffering from PTSD to cope with the disorder.
"Many of those affected by PTSD possess a heightened awareness called hyper-vigilance," Godwin said. "These individuals may have a range of symptoms, including difficulty concentrating, exaggerated responses to normal things, irritability, experiencing anger-management issues, having more risky behaviors, disruptions or trouble sleeping."
In addition to assessing functional brain networks, researchers will examine brain pathways to see whether the connections between brain areas may differ between those with and without the disorder.
Another goal is to define biomarkers of PTSD and TBI so that doctors will have a way to very quickly identify patients with PTSD and get them treatment without delay.
"It's not mind reading, because we can't tell what the content of the thought may be," Godwin said. "But with the right kind of test, we can resolve patterns of activation that relate to executive function."

Results of St. Jude Medical's First Controlled Study of Deep Brain Stimulation Confirms Benefit of Constant Current System for Patients with Parkinson's Disease

study on deep brain stimulation (DBS) for Parkinson's disease (PD) were published online today by The Lancet Neurology journal. The aim of the study was to evaluate the Libra(TM) and LibraXP(TM) DBS constant current systems to determine the devices' safety and effectiveness in managing the symptoms of PD.

Conducted at 15 medical centers in the U.S., the study enrolled 136 patients and was designed to compare patients implanted with DBS systems with and without stimulation. The primary endpoint was defined as an increase in the duration of "on time" without bothersome dyskinesia whemeasured after three months. "On time" refers to the amount of hours each day that a patient has good control of his or her symptoms and motor functions with non-bothersome dyskinesia. Dyskinesia is defined as the involuntary movements caused by medications used to manage the disease.

The results of the study were statistically significant, demonstrating that participants in the stimulation group averaged an increase of 4.27 hours of "on time," compared with an increase of 1.77 hours in the group without stimulation. Additionally, patients reported an overall improvement in their quality of life.

"These results are important as they represent the first large,randomized, controlled study of a constant current device for managing the symptoms of Parkinson's disease," said Michael S. Okun, MD, administrative director of the University Of Florida College Of Medicine's Center for Movement Disorders and Neuro restoration, National Medical Director for the National Parkinson Foundation and the primary author of the article. "The data from this study represents the evolution of the approach to deep brain stimulation treatment and provides new evidence supporting the positive benefits this therapy can provide patients."

Additional key findings at three months were as follows:

Patients receiving stimulation had a 73 percent response rate compared to a 38 percent response rate in the group without stimulation (response was defined as at least a two hour increase from baseline in good quality "on time").

Motor scores for those in the stimulation group improved 39 percent compared to the baseline as measured by the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale (UPDRS).

There was a statistically significant decrease in the amount of medications needed to control PD symptoms in the stimulation group compared to the group without stimulation.

"We are committed to furthering the science of neuromodulation in order to provide clinically relevant solutions for physicians and their patients," said Rohan Hoare, president of St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division. "These results confirm the benefit of our constant current deep brain stimulation device platform and lay the foundation for future therapy innovation.

" The study enrolled patients who on average had suffered from PD for at least five years and who had six or more hours each day with diminished motor symptom control and with moderate to severe dyskinesia. All patients were treated with bilateral stimulation in the subthalamic nucleus area of the brain.

The adverse event and safety profile were similar to those in other recent randomized studies of DBS. Participants in the stimulation group saw an increase in the occurrence of slurred speech and fatigue. The most common serious adverse event following DBS implantation was infection, which occurred in five patients.

The Libra and LibraXP neurostimulators evaluated in the study are constant current devices that are currently approved for use in Europe, Latin America and Australia for managing the symptoms of PD. The systems consist of a neurostimulator -- a surgically implanted battery-operated device that generates mild electrical pulses -- and leads, which carry the pulses to a targeted area in the brain.

The National Parkinson Foundation ( estimates that in the United States, more than one million people currently have the disease with 50,000-60,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Worldwide there are approximately six million people who suffer from this condition.

Three Decades of Leading-Edge Neurostimulation Technology

For more than 30 years, St. Jude Medical Neuromodulation Division has developed new technologies to treat chronic pain and other neurological disorders. Today more than 75,000 St. Jude Medical neurostimulation devices have been implanted in patients in 40 countries around the world. Focused on research, St. Jude Medical is currently conducting clinical studies for depression and essential tremor. For more information about these DBS studies, visit and .

About St. Jude Medical St.

Jude Medical develops medical technology and services that focus on putting more control into the hands of those who treat cardiac, neurological and chronic pain patients worldwide. The company is dedicated to advancing the practice of medicine by reducing risk wherever possible and contributing to successful outcomes for every patient. St. Jude Medical is headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., and has four major focus areas that include cardiac rhythm management, atrial fibrillation, cardiovascular and neuromodulation. For more information, please visit

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Brain's Ability To Self-Repair Boosted By Natural Protein

Researchers from the Medical Research Council (MRC) in the UK have found a protein made by blood vessels in the brain that could be a good candidate for regenerative therapies that stimulate the brain to repair itself after injury or disease. They write about their findings in the 9 January online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Although most nerve cells or neurons in the adult brain are made in the womb and soon after birth, they are still produced later on in life, thanks to neural stem cells or NSCs.

NSCs have the potential to specialize into new brain cells, such as in the olfactory bulb, responsible for our sense of smell, and the hippocampus, which plays a key role in forming memories and learning.

NSCs inhabit specialized niches in the adult brain of mammals: these include the subventricular zone and the dentate gyrus, which also control how the stem cells behave.

These niches also contain other cell types, and along with NSCs they are often found next to blood vessels.

The niches generate a range of signals that control how fast the NSCs divide and the types of cell they turn into. Usually these cells become neurons or brain cells that communicate messages, but when the brain suffers an injury like a stroke, more often than not, the NSCs turn into glial cells which become scar tissue.

In this study, the MRC researchers studied the interaction between the cells that line the blood vessels (endothelial cells) and the NSCs, and found that a protein called betacellulin (BTC) boosted brain regeneration in mice by stimulating the NSCs to multiply and form new brain cells.

The researchers found that BTC, which is produced by cells within the blood vessels in the stem cell niches, signals to both the stem cells and to dividing cells called neuroblasts, triggering their proliferation.

When they gave mice more BTC, they noticed a significant increase in both stem cells and neuroblasts, leading to formation of many new neurons in their brains.

But when they gave the mice an antibody that blocks BTC, new neuron production stopped.

Dr Robin Lovell-Badge from the MRC's National Institute for Medical Research (NIMR), led the study. He said in a statement that we don't fully understand the function of these stem cell niches in the brain, but it looks as if lots of things have to work together to control what happens to stem cells in the brain.

"We believe these factors are finely balanced to control precisely the numbers of new neurons that are made to match demand in a variety of normal circumstances," said Lovell-Badge.

"But in trauma or disease, the stem cells either can't cope with the increased demand, or they prioritise damage control at the expense of long-term repair," he explained.

Because BTC leads to the production of new neurons rather than glial cells, the researchers hope their findings could help future therapies that aim to regenerate damaged or diseased parts of the brain, such as following stroke, traumatic brain injury, and possibly even in the case of dementia.

However, the work still has a way to go before the learning in the lab translates to therapy in the clinic: more experiments are needed to explain the normal role of BTC, and to explore, with animal studies, what it does on damaged brains, either on its own or together with transplanted NSCs.

Written by Catharine Paddock PhD