“On a high-sugar diet, we find that the fruit flies’ dopaminergic neurons are less active, because the high sugar intake decreases the intensity of the sweetness signal that comes from the mouth,” Dus said. “Animals use this feedback from dopamine to make predictions about how rewarding or filling a food will be. In the high-sugar diet flies, this process is broken—they get less dopamine neuron activation and so end up eating more than they need, which over time makes them gain weight.”
It is well known that consuming food and drink high in sugar is not great for us, but scientists are continuing to unravel the intricacies of how the sweet stuff drives negative health outcomes. The latest finding comes from researchers at the University of Michigan, who through studies in fruit flies have found that excess amounts of sugar can shut down crucial neural circuits linked to regulating satiety, possibly leading to overeating in humans.
“We took an unbiased approach and searched throughout the body for indicators of damage from sleep deprivation. We were surprised to find it was the gut that plays a key role in causing death,” said senior study author Dragana Rogulja, assistant professor of neurobiology in the Blavatnik Institute at HMS.
The first signs of insufficient sleep are universally familiar. There’s tiredness and fatigue, difficulty concentrating, perhaps irritability or even tired giggles. Far fewer people have experienced the effects of prolonged sleep deprivation, including disorientation, paranoia, and hallucinations.
Total, prolonged sleep deprivation, however, can be fatal. While it has been reported in humans only anecdotally, a widely cited study in rats conducted by Chicago-based researchers in 1989 showed that a total lack of sleep inevitably leads to death. Yet, despite decades of study, a central question has remained unsolved: Why do animals die when they don’t sleep?
Now, Harvard Medical School (HMS) neuroscientists have identified an unexpected, causal link between sleep deprivation and premature death.
Although it might seem to be a story of ever-increasing knowledge of biology, Cobb shows how our ideas about the brain have been shaped by each era’s most significant technologies. Today we might think the brain is like a supercomputer. In the past, it has been compared to a telegraph, a telephone exchange, or some kind of hydraulic system. What will we think the brain is like tomorrow, when new technology arises?
For thousands of years, thinkers and scientists have tried to understand what the brain does. Yet, despite the astonishing discoveries of science, we still have only the vaguest idea of how the brain works. In The Idea of the Brain, scientist and historian Matthew Cobb traces how our conception of the brain has evolved over the centuries.
The result is an essential read for anyone interested in the complex processes that drive science and the forces that have shaped our marvelous brains.
Matthew Cobb is Professor of Zoology at the University of Manchester. His previous books include Life’s Greatest Secret:The Race to Discover the Genetic Code, which was shortlisted for the the Royal Society Winton Book Prize, and the acclaimed histories The Resistance and Eleven Days in August. He is also the award-winning translator of books on the history of molecular biology, on Darwin’s ideas and on the nature of life.
An estimated 80 million people live with a neurodegenerative disease, with this number expected to double by 2050. Despite decades of research and billions in funding, there are no medications that can slow, much less stop, the progress of these diseases. The time to rethink degenerative brain disorders has come. With no biological boundaries between neurodegenerative diseases, illnesses such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s result from a large spectrum of biological abnormalities, hampering effective treatment.
Acclaimed neurologist Dr Alberto Espay and Parkinson’s advocate Benjamin Stecher present compelling evidence that these diseases should be targeted according to genetic and molecular signatures rather than clinical diagnoses. There is no Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s, simply people with Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s. An incredibly important story never before told, Brain Fables is a wakeup call to the scientific community and society, explaining why we have no effective disease-modifying treatments, and how we can get back on track.
Can you imagine if each word had its own colour, or you could ‘see’ different types of music?
Synesthetes can experience the ordinary world in some pretty extraordinary ways. In this video Jamie Ward explains the variety of different ways in synesthesia can manifest itself, and what is happening in the brains of those who experience it.
Jamie Ward is Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Sussex. He has written books a number of books about neuroscience and synesthesia.
Synesthesia is a perceptual phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. People who report a lifelong history of such experiences are known as synesthetes. Awareness of synesthetic perceptions varies from person to person. In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme–color synesthesia or color–graphemic synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored. In spatial-sequence, or number form synesthesia, numbers, months of the year, or days of the week elicit precise locations in space (for example, 1980 may be “farther away” than 1990), or may appear as a three-dimensional map (clockwise or counterclockwise). Synesthetic associations can occur in any combination and any number of senses or cognitive pathways.
From a New York Times article by Jane E. Brody (Feb 17, 2020):
“It takes 10 to 12 hours to use up the calories in the liver before a metabolic shift occurs to using stored fat,” Dr. Mattson told me. After meals, glucose is used for energy and fat is stored in fat tissue, but during fasts, once glucose is depleted, fat is broken down and used for energy.
I was skeptical, but it turns out there is something to be said for practicing a rather prolonged diurnal fast, preferably one lasting at least 16 hours. Mark P. Mattson, neuroscientist at the National Institute on Aging and Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, explained that the liver stores glucose, which the body uses preferentially for energy before it turns to burning body fat.
For example, human studies of intermittent fasting found that it improved such disease indicators as insulin resistance, blood fat abnormalities, high blood pressure and inflammation, even independently of weight loss. In patients with multiple sclerosis, intermittent fasting reduced symptoms in just two months, a research team in Baltimore reported in 2018.
On this week’s show, senior correspondent Jeffrey Mervis joins host Sarah Crespi to discuss a new National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant program that aims to encourage diversity at the level of university faculty with the long-range goal of increasing the diversity of NIH grant recipients.
Challenging widely held assumptions about the diminishing abilities of an ageing brain, leading neuroscientist Daniel Levitin argues that we should view getting older as a beneficial experience rather than a form of cognitive entropy. Persuasively argued and consistently surprising, The Changing Mind will alter your perception of the relationship between age and intellect.
We have long been encouraged to think of old age as synonymous with deterioration. Yet, recent studies show that our decision-making skills improve as we age and our happiness levels peak in our eighties. What really happens to our brains as we get older?
More of us are living into our eighties than ever before. In The Changing Mind, neuroscientist, psychologist and internationally-bestselling author Daniel Levitin invites us to dramatically shift our understanding of growing older, demonstrating its many cognitive benefits. He draws on cutting-edge research to challenge common and flawed beliefs, including assumptions around memory loss and the focus on lifespan instead of ‘healthspan’.
Levitin reveals the evolving power of the human brain from infancy to late adulthood. Distilling the findings from over 4000 papers, he explains the importance of personality traits, lifestyle, memory and community on ageing, offering actionable tips that we can all start now, at any age.
Featuring compelling insights from individuals who have thrived far beyond the conventional age of retirement, this book offers realistic guidelines and practical cognition-enhancing tricks for everyone to follow during every decade of their life. This is a radical exploration of what we all can learn from those who age joyously.
As a neuroscientist, professor emeritus of psychology, musician and best-selling author, Daniel Levitin has extensively studied the brain and its impact on aging. His latest book, “Successful Aging,” explores the questions: what happens in the brain as we age and what are the keys to aging well? NewsHour Weekend’s Christopher Booker recently spoke to Levitin to learn more.