neurosciencestuff
ucsdhealthsciences:

Scientists Discover “Dimmer Switch” For Mood Disorders
Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a control mechanism for an area of the brain that processes sensory and emotive information that humans experience as “disappointment.”
The discovery of what may effectively be a neurochemical antidote for feeling let-down is reported Sept. 18 in the online edition of Science.
“The idea that some people see the world as a glass half empty has a chemical basis in the brain,” said senior author Roberto Malinow, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurosciences and neurobiology section of the Division of Biological Sciences. “What we have found is a process that may dampen the brain’s sensitivity to negative life events.”
Because people struggling with depression are believed to register negative experiences more strongly than others, the study’s findings have implications for understanding not just why some people have a brain chemistry that predisposes them to depression but also how to treat it.
Specifically, in experiments with rodents, UC San Diego researchers discovered that neurons feeding into a small region above the thalamus known as the lateral habenula (LHb) secrete both a common excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, and its opposite, the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.
Excitatory neurotransmitters promote neuronal firing while inhibitory ones suppress it, and although glutamate and GABA are among two of the most common neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain, neurons are usually specialists, producing one but not both kinds of chemical messengers.
Indeed, prior to the study, there were only two other systems in the brain where neurons had been observed to co-release excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters – in a particular connection in the hippocampus and in the brainstem during development of the brain’s auditory map.
“Our study is one of the first to rigorously document that inhibition can co-exist with excitation in a brain pathway,” said lead author Steven Shabel, a postdoctoral researcher with Department of Neurosciences and neurobiology section of the Division of Biological Sciences. “In our case, that pathway is believed to signal disappointment.”
The LHb is a small node-like structure in the epithalamus region of the brain that is critical for processing a variety of inputs from the basal ganglia, hypothalamus and cerebral cortex and transmitting encoded responses (output) to the brainstem, an ancient part of the brain that mammals share with reptiles.
Experiments with primates have shown that activity in the LHb increases markedly when monkeys are expecting but don’t get a sip of fruit juice or other reward, hence the idea that this region is part of a so-called disappointment pathway.
Proper functioning of the LHb, however, is believed to be important in much more than just disappointment and has been implicated in regulating pain responses and a variety of motivational behaviors. It has also been linked to psychosis.
Depression, in particular, has been linked to hyperactivity of the LHb, but until this study, researchers had little empirical evidence as to how this overstimulation is prevented in healthy individuals given the apparent lack of inhibitory neurons in this region of the brain.
"The take-home of this study is that inhibition in this pathway is coming from an unusual co-release of neurotransmitters into the habenula," Shabel said. Researchers do not know why this region of the brain is controlled in this manner, but one hypothesis is that it allows for a more subtle control of signaling than having two neurons directly counter-acting each other.
Researchers were also able to show that neurons of rodents with aspects of human depression produced less GABA, relative to glutamate. When these animals were given an antidepressant to raise their brain’s serotonin levels, their relative GABA levels increased.
"Our study suggests that one of the ways in which serotonin alleviates depression is by rebalancing the brain’s processing of negative life events vis-à-vis the balance of glutamate and GABA in the habenula," Shabel said. "We may now have a precise neurochemical explanation for why antidepressants make some people more resilient to negative experiences."
Pictured: Basal ganglia neurons (green) feed into the brain and release glutamate (red) and GABA (blue) and sometimes a mix of both neurotransmitters (white).

ucsdhealthsciences:

Scientists Discover “Dimmer Switch” For Mood Disorders

Researchers at University of California, San Diego School of Medicine have identified a control mechanism for an area of the brain that processes sensory and emotive information that humans experience as “disappointment.”

The discovery of what may effectively be a neurochemical antidote for feeling let-down is reported Sept. 18 in the online edition of Science.

“The idea that some people see the world as a glass half empty has a chemical basis in the brain,” said senior author Roberto Malinow, MD, PhD, professor in the Department of Neurosciences and neurobiology section of the Division of Biological Sciences. “What we have found is a process that may dampen the brain’s sensitivity to negative life events.”

Because people struggling with depression are believed to register negative experiences more strongly than others, the study’s findings have implications for understanding not just why some people have a brain chemistry that predisposes them to depression but also how to treat it.

Specifically, in experiments with rodents, UC San Diego researchers discovered that neurons feeding into a small region above the thalamus known as the lateral habenula (LHb) secrete both a common excitatory neurotransmitter, glutamate, and its opposite, the inhibitory neurotransmitter GABA.

Excitatory neurotransmitters promote neuronal firing while inhibitory ones suppress it, and although glutamate and GABA are among two of the most common neurotransmitters in the mammalian brain, neurons are usually specialists, producing one but not both kinds of chemical messengers.

Indeed, prior to the study, there were only two other systems in the brain where neurons had been observed to co-release excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters – in a particular connection in the hippocampus and in the brainstem during development of the brain’s auditory map.

“Our study is one of the first to rigorously document that inhibition can co-exist with excitation in a brain pathway,” said lead author Steven Shabel, a postdoctoral researcher with Department of Neurosciences and neurobiology section of the Division of Biological Sciences. “In our case, that pathway is believed to signal disappointment.”

The LHb is a small node-like structure in the epithalamus region of the brain that is critical for processing a variety of inputs from the basal ganglia, hypothalamus and cerebral cortex and transmitting encoded responses (output) to the brainstem, an ancient part of the brain that mammals share with reptiles.

Experiments with primates have shown that activity in the LHb increases markedly when monkeys are expecting but don’t get a sip of fruit juice or other reward, hence the idea that this region is part of a so-called disappointment pathway.

Proper functioning of the LHb, however, is believed to be important in much more than just disappointment and has been implicated in regulating pain responses and a variety of motivational behaviors. It has also been linked to psychosis.

Depression, in particular, has been linked to hyperactivity of the LHb, but until this study, researchers had little empirical evidence as to how this overstimulation is prevented in healthy individuals given the apparent lack of inhibitory neurons in this region of the brain.

"The take-home of this study is that inhibition in this pathway is coming from an unusual co-release of neurotransmitters into the habenula," Shabel said. Researchers do not know why this region of the brain is controlled in this manner, but one hypothesis is that it allows for a more subtle control of signaling than having two neurons directly counter-acting each other.

Researchers were also able to show that neurons of rodents with aspects of human depression produced less GABA, relative to glutamate. When these animals were given an antidepressant to raise their brain’s serotonin levels, their relative GABA levels increased.

"Our study suggests that one of the ways in which serotonin alleviates depression is by rebalancing the brain’s processing of negative life events vis-à-vis the balance of glutamate and GABA in the habenula," Shabel said. "We may now have a precise neurochemical explanation for why antidepressants make some people more resilient to negative experiences."

Pictured: Basal ganglia neurons (green) feed into the brain and release glutamate (red) and GABA (blue) and sometimes a mix of both neurotransmitters (white).

And my soul woke up…

image

Tomorrow is my birthday.

I have no plans..

No one around to share a slice of birthday cake with…

No one to tease me about turning another year older..

No half-burnt dinner, lovingly prepared by my kids.

For the first time EVER, I will be completely alone.

Considering where I am in my life, this seemingly somber moment is very appropriate.

With the upcoming finalization of my divorce, this will be the last birthday I have using my married name. Everyone who was part of my world has moved on and created their own. My role as mother, a companion, a necessity, has come to an end. Once upon a time, I was spreading myself thin, I was everywhere, I belonged to everyone. Today, like an old toy that lost its novelty, I belong nowhere, and to no one.

But I am not sad…

I have moved into many houses over the years. It seemed that we outgrew one home within minutes after inhabiting it. There is an exhaustion associated with the thought of packing and transferring one life into another. On the other hand, there is a positively-charged nervous energy about the idea of moving into a new home - picking out window coverings, paint selections, carpet, etc, occupying a new space, filling it with yourself and making it your own…

That.

That is what it feels like right now.

In my solitude, I can imagine myself doing a final walk-through of my life, making sure that I gathered all of my belongings and that nothing is left behind. In this vacant “house,” I am wandering through each room, recalling with a sad smile, how each space was occupied. In this vision, I am almost ready to head on over to the new place. I know that once I leave, I will be saying goodbye to this house forever.

I am ready to take my leave from this home, this space, the world that had been my life all these years. I am ready, and excited to see what my new dwelling will look like.

A few months ago, while in deep meditation, I envisioned myself wistfully strolling through a field of lavender. I was resolute, balanced, moving with grace and ease. This was a very powerful image. One that I appreciated but put aside, not quite understanding its’ significance…

Lavender is known for spiritual healing, tranquility, and purification. Lavender is used in the blessing of a new home.

Tomorrow doesn’t just commemorate the day I was born into this world, it is also significant as a day that my soul chose to wake up and get ready for the big move…

scienceisbeauty

scienceisbeauty:

Light Printing

We are exploring new modalities of creative photography through robotics and long-exposure photography. Using a robotic arm, a light source is carried through precise movements in front of a camera. Photographic compositions are recorded as images of volumetric light. Robotic light “painting” can also be inverted: the camera is moved via the arm to create an image “painted” with environmental light. Finally, adding real-time sensor input to the moving arm and programming it to explore the physical space around objects can reveal immaterial fields like radio waves, magnetic fields, and heat flows.

Via Mediated Matter (MIT)

teded

teded:

View the TED-Ed Lesson Feedback loops: How nature gets its rhythms 

While feedback loops are a bummer at band practice, they are essential in nature. What does nature’s feedback look like, and how does it build the resilience of our world? Anje-Margriet Neutel describes some common positive and negative feedback loops, examining how an ecosystem’s many loops come together to make its ‘trademark sound.’

teded

teded:

View the TED-Ed Lesson Music and math: The genius of Beethoven

How is it that Beethoven, who is celebrated as one of the most significant composers of all time, wrote many of his most beloved songs while going deaf? The answer lies in the math behind his music. Natalya St. Clair employs the “Moonlight Sonata” to illustrate the way Beethoven was able to convey emotion and creativity using the certainty of mathematics.