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  • January 27, 2015
  • 01:55 PM
  • 31 views

Your brain is hardening your arteries, but not on purpose!

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Your brain might just be killing you slowly. Atherosclerosis — or hardening and narrowing of the arteries — can be caused by fat buildup that causes plaque deposits, and is one of the main causes of cardiovascular disease. What does that have to do with the brain? Well new research has shown a link between how the brain regulates fat metabolism, which has the potential of stopping the development of this disease risk factor in obesity and diabetes.... Read more »

  • January 26, 2015
  • 05:36 PM
  • 49 views

You can’t unboil an egg? Well… now you can

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

There is a saying, “you can’t unboil an egg.” Usually this is just illustrating cause and effect; you can’t turn back time, or what’s done is done. Well now scientists have successfully unboiled an egg, so suck it thermodynamics. An international team of chemists have accomplished this feat – an innovation that could dramatically reduce costs for cancer treatments, food production and other segments of the $160 billion global biotechnology industry, according to the findings.... Read more »

Yuan, T., Ormonde, C., Kudlacek, S., Kunche, S., Smith, J., Brown, W., Pugliese, K., Olsen, T., Iftikhar, M., Raston, C.... (2015) Shear-Stress-Mediated Refolding of Proteins from Aggregates and Inclusion Bodies. ChemBioChem. DOI: 10.1002/cbic.201402427  

  • January 25, 2015
  • 03:36 PM
  • 42 views

Will the ocean follow the land? Marine ecosystems at a tipping point to follow terrestrial defaunation

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

Data suggests that marine life may soon follow the mass extinctions seen in terrestrial ecosystems - similarities and differences discussed here!... Read more »

McCauley, D., Pinsky, M., Palumbi, S., Estes, J., Joyce, F., & Warner, R. (2015) Marine defaunation: Animal loss in the global ocean. Science, 347(6219), 1255641-1255641. DOI: 10.1126/science.1255641  

  • January 24, 2015
  • 01:39 PM
  • 80 views

Lucid dreaming: The similarities between dreaming and wakefulness

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

To control one’s dreams and to live out there what is impossible in real life — a truly tempting idea. Some people — so-called lucid dreamers — can do this. Researchers have discovered that the brain area which enables self-reflection is larger in lucid dreamers. Thus, lucid dreamers are possibly also more self-reflecting when they are awake.... Read more »

Filevich E, Dresler M, Brick TR, & Kühn S. (2015) Metacognitive mechanisms underlying lucid dreaming. The Journal of neuroscience : the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 35(3), 1082-8. PMID: 25609624  

  • January 24, 2015
  • 05:34 AM
  • 59 views

Hartnup disease in coeliac disease: lessons for 'some' autism?

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

The paper by Thomas Ciecierega and colleagues [1] (open-access) talking about 'refractory' coeliac disease (CD) - a lack of, or diminished response to a gluten-free diet (the primary management option for CD) - and the subsequent diagnosis of Hartnup disease in a young girl is fodder for today's brief post.I already had a big bowl of curly-toed weirdo for breakfast.Describing how authors first diagnosed her with CD but witnessed "only mild clinical and laboratory improvement" following a regime of implementing a gluten-free diet and supplementation with various other nutrients via Total Parental Nutrition among other things, further examinations led to a suspicion of a niacin deficiency. The quite remarkable turn-around in clinical fortunes witnessed following the use of "oral niacin (50 mg three times daily)" led to the final diagnosis of Hartnup disease. This was confirmed by some bog-standard chromatography of a urine specimen which "showed increased levels of excreted neutral amino acids (glutamine, valine, phenylalanine, leucine, asparagine, citrulline, isoleucine, threonine, alanine, serine, histidine, tyrosine, tryptophan)." The authors conclude: "Co-occurrence of Hartnup disease and CD is extremely rare." I'd be minded to say, rare yes, but not unheard of in the peer-reviewed domain [2].This case report stuck out to me for a few reasons. Coeliac disease and the broader spectrum of non-coeliac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) or non-coeliac wheat sensitivity if you wish, are quite a regular feature on this blog; even more so with the news that rates of CD are increasing [3]. Treatment of said 'gluten spectrum conditions' involves the use of a diet devoid of gluten which is found in various cereal products. Said diet also seemingly overlapping with other areas/conditions outside of CD including autism (see here). This is not however, the first time that a gluten-free diet has been talked about as not cutting the mustard in cases of something that initially looked like typical CD (see here).Hartnup disease is something I came across quite early on in my autism research career. One of the compounds that I had some interest in called trans-indolyl-acryloylglycine (IAG) (see here) was thought to be derived from that ever so versatile aromatic amino acid called tryptophan. Whilst IAG turned out not to be the 'autism biomarker' that we initially thought it might be, one of the other clinical occasions that this compound cropped up in was, yes you guessed it, Hartnup disease. Hartnup disease and tryptophan have an interesting association [4].Although not wishing to make connections where none may exist, the presentation of Hartnup disease might also manifest in behaviour as well as the more typical skin symptoms which can present [5]. I stumbled across an interesting BBC news article on the condition that mentions Hartnup disease in the same breath as 'the symptoms of autism' which, although rare, is something I've often thought merits further research attention. I'm not necessarily saying that autism = refractory coeliac disease = Hartnup disease - don't be silly - but it strikes me that there may be more to see in connecting some individual cases based on some biological overlap...So: Paolo Nutini with Candy.----------[1] Ciecierega T. et al. Severe persistent unremitting dermatitis, chronic diarrhea and hypoalbuminemia in a child; Hartnup disease in setting of celiac disease. BMC Pediatrics 2014, 14:311 .[2] Coudray-Lucas C. et al. Association of celiac disease and Hartnup's disease? Value of the tryptophan loading test. Gastroenterol Clin Biol. 1986 Feb;10(2):187-8.[3] Zingone F. et al. Socioeconomic variation in the incidence of childhood coeliac disease in the UK. Arch Dis Child. 2015. 22 Jan.[4] Milovanović DD. A clinicobiochemical study of tryptophan and other plasma and urinary amino acids in the family with Hartnup disease. Adv Exp Med Biol. 2003;527:325-35.[5] Patel AB. & Prabhu AS. Hartnup disease. Indian J Dermatol. 2008 Jan;53(1):31-2.----------Ciecierega, T., Dweikat, I., Awar, M., Shahrour, M., Libdeh, B., & Sultan, M. (2014). Severe persistent unremitting dermatitis, chronic diarrhea and hypoalbuminemia in a child; Hartnup disease in setting of celiac disease BMC Pediatrics, 14 (1) DOI: 10.1186/s12887-014-0311-6... Read more »

  • January 23, 2015
  • 07:16 PM
  • 103 views

Mothers don’t speak clearly to their babies

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

People have a distinctive way of talking to babies and small children: We speak more slowly, using a sing-song voice, and tend to use cutesy words like "tummy". While we might be inclined to think that we talk this way because it is easier for children to understand, new research suggests that, surprisingly, mothers may actually speak less clearly to their infants than they do to adults.... Read more »

Andrew Martin, Thomas Schatz, Maarten Versteegh, Kouki Miyazawa, Reiko Mazuka, Emmanuel Dupoux, and Alejandrina Cristia. (2015) Kouki Miyazawa, Reiko Mazuka, Emmanuel Dupoux, and Alejandrina Cristia. Mothers Speak Less Clearly to Infants Than to Adults: A Comprehensive Test of the Hyperarticulation Hypothesis. Psychological Science. info:/10.1177/0956797614562453

  • January 22, 2015
  • 05:50 PM
  • 161 views

Belief’s effect on biochemistry in cases of addiction

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Ever wonder what makes people susceptible to addiction? Think about it, some people can stop addictive painkillers without a problem and others, well others are not so lucky. So the big question is are there more than biophysical factors at play in addiction? A new study shows that cognitive beliefs play a significant role in a person’s neurological response to an addictive substance and that belief can diminish the neurological effects of an addictive drug.... Read more »

Gu, X., Lohrenz, T., Salas, R., Baldwin, P., Soltani, A., Kirk, U., Cinciripini, P., & Montague, P. (2015) Belief about nicotine selectively modulates value and reward prediction error signals in smokers. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 201416639. DOI: 10.1073/pnas.1416639112  

  • January 21, 2015
  • 03:56 PM
  • 75 views

Fish, mercury, and pregnancy: Good news for seafood lovers

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

People freak out when they hear mercury is in something and sometimes for good reasons. In vaccinations for example a very small amount of ethyl-mercury WAS used as a preservative in vaccines, people got scared so now it is not used in most vaccines. Methylmercury* however is found in seafood and larger fish in particular (in much, much higher concentrations than in vaccines mind you). They may sound the same, but the methylmercury in fish is far more toxic. That said, it turns out that fish isn’t as toxic as we thought, so all you pregnant women who love fish will be happy to hear this.... Read more »

Gutiérrez, F., & Leon, L. (2000) Elemental Mercury Embolism to the Lung. New England Journal of Medicine, 342(24), 1791-1791. DOI: 10.1056/NEJM200006153422405  

JJ Strain,, Alison J Yeates,, Edwin van Wijngaarden,, Sally W Thurston,, Maria S Mulhern,, Emeir M McSorley,, Gene E Watson,, Tanzy M Love,, Tristram H Smith,, Kelley Yost,.... (2015) Prenatal exposure to methyl mercury from fish consumption and polyunsaturated fatty acids: associations with child development at 20 mo of age in an observational study in the Republic of Seychelles. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition . info:/10.3945/​ajcn.114.100503

  • January 21, 2015
  • 07:24 AM
  • 64 views

Space Exploration 2.0

by Viputheshwar Sitaraman in Draw Science

Redefining space exploration: SpaceX's crazy week in the private space race. [Infographic]... Read more »

  • January 21, 2015
  • 05:34 AM
  • 69 views

Features of autism in childhood epilepsy

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

"In conclusion, features of ASD [autism spectrum disorder] were common in children with epilepsy regardless of cognitive ability."Whoa, whoa, whoa! Sorry, Blondie. I don't do backstorySo said Colin Reily and colleagues [1] in their paper examining facets of autism in cases of childhood epilepsy. Suggesting also that the Autism Spectrum Screening Questionnaire (ASSQ) might be "a useful screening instrument in this population, and combining parent and teacher forms was optimal in terms of screening properties", this work adds to other research voices suggesting a possible connection between autism/autistic traits and adult epilepsy too (see here).I don't want to over-analyse the Reilly results beyond what they found and importantly, their limitations (as in the emphasis on 'features of autism' over and above an actual diagnosis of autism). One might see this research as further evidence of the intimate link between autism and epilepsy / seizure-type disorder(s) potentially intersecting with other issues such as sleep for example [2]. That also various other areas of biological functioning might also be related [3] makes for a potentially interesting future research agenda. Oh and then there is a possible connection with ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) to consider [4] too.One of the other important issues potentially implied from the Reilly results is whether the possibility of an overlap between autistic traits and epilepsy might also have repercussions in relation to intervention and management. I say this on the basis for example, of the case report (stress: case report) recently described by Philip Bird [5] on the use of low-dose phenytoin - an anticonvulsant medicine - with a man diagnosed with ASD and the implications for various facets of functioning. Appreciating that certain anti-epileptic medications seem to have a rather less positive relationship with autism (see here), it strikes me that there may be more to see and do in this area for certain people...Music then. I Am The Walrus. Not literally, but The Beatles song.----------[1] Reilly C. et al. Features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in childhood epilepsy: A population-based study. Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Dec 16;42C:86-92.[2] Accardo JA. & Malow BA. Sleep, epilepsy, and autism. Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Dec 9. pii: S1525-5050(14)00533-2.[3] Frye RE. Metabolic and mitochondrial disorders associated with epilepsy in children with autism spectrum disorder. Epilepsy Behav. 2014 Nov 4. pii: S1525-5050(14)00412-0.[4] Ettinger AB. et al. Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder symptoms in adults with self-reported epilepsy: Results from a national epidemiologic survey of epilepsy. Epilepsia. 2015. 15 Jan.[5] Bird P. The treatment of autism with low-dose phenytoin: a case report. Journal of Medical Case Reports 2015, 9:8 ----------Reilly C, Atkinson P, Das KB, Chin RF, Aylett SE, Burch V, Gillberg C, Scott RC, & Neville BG (2014). Features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in childhood epilepsy: A population-based study. Epilepsy & behavior : E&B, 42C, 86-92 PMID: 25529303... Read more »

Reilly C, Atkinson P, Das KB, Chin RF, Aylett SE, Burch V, Gillberg C, Scott RC, & Neville BG. (2014) Features of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in childhood epilepsy: A population-based study. Epilepsy , 86-92. PMID: 25529303  

  • January 20, 2015
  • 03:01 PM
  • 85 views

You can live longer, but not healthier

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

We all want to live longer and thanks to medical technologies our life expectancies have dramatically increased. Which would be handy if we could actually enjoy the extra years. Unfortunately a study of long-lived mutant C. elegans by scientists shows that the genetically altered worms spend a greater portion of their life in a frail state and exhibit less activity as they age than typical nematodes. These findings suggest that genes that increase longevity may not significantly increase healthy lifespan and point to the need to measure health as part of aging studies going forward.... Read more »

Bansal A, Zhu LJ, Yen K, & Tissenbaum HA. (2015) Uncoupling lifespan and healthspan in Caenorhabditis elegans longevity mutants. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 25561524  

  • January 19, 2015
  • 07:33 PM
  • 117 views

Menage-a-trois no more: new design removes need for conductive additives and polymers in battery electrodes

by Jonathan Trinastic in Goodnight Earth

An ingenious new battery design removes the need for conductive additives and polymers required in conventional designs. This reduces material use, increasing energy density and has the potential to decreases costs!... Read more »

Kirshenbaum, K., Bock, D., Lee, C., Zhong, Z., Takeuchi, K., Marschilok, A., & Takeuchi, E. (2015) In situ visualization of Li/Ag2VP2O8 batteries revealing rate-dependent discharge mechanism. Science, 347(6218), 149-154. DOI: 10.1126/science.1257289  

Dudney, N., & Li, J. (2015) Using all energy in a battery. Science, 347(6218), 131-132. DOI: 10.1126/science.aaa2870  

  • January 19, 2015
  • 03:05 PM
  • 103 views

Fear, PTSD, and newly found neural circuits in the brain

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

People with anxiety disorders, such as post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), often experience prolonged and exaggerated fearfulness. Now, an animal study suggests that this might involve disruption of a gradual shifting of brain circuitry for retrieving fear memories. Researchers have discovered in rats that an old fear memory is recalled by a separate brain pathway from the one originally used to recall it when it was fresh.... Read more »

Penzo MA, Robert V, Tucciarone J, De Bundel D, Wang M, Van Aeist L, Varvas M, Parada LF, Palmiter R, He M, Huang ZJ, Li B. . (2015) The paraventricular thalamus controls a central amygdala fear circuit. Nature. DOI: 10.1038/nature13978  

  • January 18, 2015
  • 03:06 PM
  • 80 views

Stem cells derived from amniotic tissues have immunosuppressive properties

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Stem cells derived from human amnion have for some time been considered promising for cell therapies because of their ease of access, ability to differentiate, and absence of ethical issues. Now, a research team has found that stem cells derived from human female amnion also have immunosuppressive activity and that the addition of antibodies to specific factors can enhance their immunosuppressive potential.... Read more »

  • January 18, 2015
  • 08:29 AM
  • 96 views

Machine Learning: Exceeding Chance Level By Chance

by Neuroskeptic in Neuroskeptic_Discover

A simple statistical misunderstanding is leading many neuroscientists astray in their use of machine learning tools, according to a new paper in the Journal of Neuroscience Methods: Exceeding chance level by chance.



As the authors, French neuroscientists Etienne Combrisson and Karim Jerbi, describe the issue:
Machine learning techniques are increasingly used in neuroscience to classify brain signals. Decoding performance is reflected by how much the classification results depart from the... Read more »

  • January 17, 2015
  • 04:00 PM
  • 21 views

On the Seven Sins of Memory with Daniel Schacter

by Waseem Akhtar in Bridging the Gaps,

What exactly is a memory? How much do we know about the processes that a human brain executes to store and retrieve a memory? An individual memory may contain different elements such as explicit information, one or many contexts, relevant emotions; does the brain pre-process all individual elements of a memory and then stores this processed memory as one single entity? Or, are different elements of an individual memory stored at different locations in the form of a connected structure or network, and are post-processed at the time of retrieval? In this case what are the chances that during this post processing of different elements of a memory, the retrieved memory gets contaminated resulting in a false memory that reshapes the past? How do non-conscious memories affect and shape our behavior? ... Read more »

  • January 17, 2015
  • 02:18 PM
  • 97 views

Pythagoras theorem could improve patient care

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Triangles, few of us have ever thought of a relationship between health care and triangles. Most of us will remember Pythagoras theorem from our school days, but rarely have a reason to use it in day-to-day life. Well for Doctors that might change, a team of medical researchers has found the 2,500-year-old Pythagoras theorem could be the most effective way to identify the point at which a patient’s health begins to improve.... Read more »

  • January 16, 2015
  • 03:41 PM
  • 95 views

New genetic clues in fragile x syndrome

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Scientists have gained new insight into fragile X syndrome — the most common cause of inherited intellectual disability — by studying the case of a person without the disorder, but with two of its classic symptoms.... Read more »

Myrick LK, Deng PY, Hashimoto H, Oh YM, Cho Y, Poidevin MJ, Suhl JA, Visootsak J, Cavalli V, Jin P.... (2015) Independent role for presynaptic FMRP revealed by an FMR1 missense mutation associated with intellectual disability and seizures. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 25561520  

  • January 15, 2015
  • 02:25 PM
  • 122 views

Scientists use the brain to direct fat burning

by Dr. Jekyll in Lunatic Laboratories

Does it seem like no matter what you do, you still can’t shed the pounds? You know what to eat, how to eat and workout regularly, but the weight just won’t go away, well you may not be alone. There are many different medical conditions that limit your ability to lose weight, but thankfully science has now found how to use your brain to shed the weight.... Read more »

Dodd, G., Decherf, S., Loh, K., Simonds, S., Wiede, F., Balland, E., Merry, T., Münzberg, H., Zhang, Z., Kahn, B.... (2015) Leptin and Insulin Act on POMC Neurons to Promote the Browning of White Fat. Cell, 160(1-2), 88-104. DOI: 10.1016/j.cell.2014.12.022  

  • January 15, 2015
  • 05:10 AM
  • 101 views

Maternal thyroid autoantibody and offspring autism risk

by Paul Whiteley in Questioning Answers

I have, on this blog, previously mentioned the paper by Alan Brown and colleagues [1] suggesting that: "The prevalence of maternal TPO-Ab+ [thyroid peroxidase antibody] was significantly increased in pregnancies giving rise to autism cases (6.15%) compared to controls (3.54%)." It was during some discussion on the suggested diagnosis of Down syndrome disintegrative disorder (see here) and the idea that some signs and symptoms of regressive autism (?) might overlap with TPO antibodies in some cases of Down syndrome.You've got a playdate with destiny!I've had a few weeks to further reflect on the Brown paper and decided that their suggestion of: "the first biomarker-based evidence that a class of known maternal autoimmune disorders is related to autism in offspring" is worthy of a post all of its own.A quick recap first: thyroid peroxidase antibodies translates as the body mounting an immune response against thyroid peroxidase, an important enzyme in the production of the thyroid hormones. As per another mention of TPO based on research suggestive of a tentative link between anti-TPO antibodies and [some] depressive disorder (see here), the more usual clinical occasion regarding detection of such antibodies is in relation to something like Hashimoto's thyroiditis, an autoimmune condition.Brown and colleagues drew upon collected data from the Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism (FiPS-A) [2], an initiative which had at its disposal "archived maternal serum specimens from virtually the entire pregnant population of Finland beginning in 1983". Alongside quite a bit of other registry based information on things like an ICD-10 diagnosis of autism in offspring, Brown et al set to work analysing those archived serum specimens for some "967 matched case-control pairs" (autism cases matched 1:1 with sex and date of birth linked asymptomatic controls) for the presence of thyroid peroxidase antibody (TPO-Ab).As per the previous sentence, serum samples from mums who went on to have a child with autism were significantly more likely to present with TPO-Ab; indeed: "The odds of autism were increased by nearly 80% among offspring of mothers who were TPO-Ab+ during pregnancy" compared with those antibody negative. Perhaps just as important, authors also reported that: "Measures of maternal thyroid hormones did not differ between groups" suggesting that the actual antibodies might be the more important factor over and above a thyroid hormone link (see here for discussion on other work in this area).For those who follow this blog, the idea that [some] autism and [some] autoimmunity / autoimmune conditions might show [some] linkage is not a new one. If one delves deeper into the peer-reviewed research arena one finds other hints that other maternal antibodies might also show a connection to offspring autism risk as per the idea of MAR autism (see here), that is, maternal autoantibody-related autism. Granted, the research road has not run entirely smoothly when it comes to any possible connection (see here) and there are still questions to be answered, not least when it comes to the effects of comorbidity common to autism and how they may likewise have an autoimmune connection too (see here for example). The Brown results however cannot be readily brushed under the scientific carpet given their origin and pretty powerful participant numbers used in the current study alongside some prior research 'form in the inflammatory area (see here). I for one, am keenly awaiting further investigations perhaps including a study or two on offspring autism risk among mothers with autoimmune thyroiditis [3]...?To close: California Über Alles. Let moshing commence...----------[1] Brown AS. et al. Maternal thyroid autoantibody and elevated risk of autism in a national birth cohort. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2015 Mar 3;57:86-92.[2] Lampi KM. et al. Finnish Prenatal Study of Autism and Autism Spectrum Disorders (FIPS-A): overview and design. J Autism Dev Disord. 2011 Aug;41(8):1090-6.[3] Molloy CA. et al. Familial autoimmune thyroid disease as a risk factor for regression in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder: a CPEA Study. J Autism Dev Disord. 2006 Apr;36(3):317-24.----------Brown, A., Surcel, H., Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki, S., Cheslack-Postava, K., Bao, Y., & Sourander, A. (2015). Maternal thyroid autoantibody and elevated risk of autism in a national birth cohort Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 57, 86-92 DOI: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2014.10.010... Read more »

Brown, A., Surcel, H., Hinkka-Yli-Salomäki, S., Cheslack-Postava, K., Bao, Y., & Sourander, A. (2015) Maternal thyroid autoantibody and elevated risk of autism in a national birth cohort. Progress in Neuro-Psychopharmacology and Biological Psychiatry, 86-92. DOI: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2014.10.010  

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