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There is a new approach to diagnosing Epilepsy which can identify evidence of seizure activity after the seizure has happened. This approach has been developed by a team at the University of Minnesota and the Mayo Clinic. Amongst the innovations is the use of 76 electrodes compared to the routine 32 allowing the researchers to use more data points in their analysis. There is also a press release by the University of Minnesota here and a link to the original advance publication here. The researchers included 28 people with Temporal Lobe Epilepsy and found that compared to simple partial seizures, both complex-partial seizures and seizures with secondary generalisation involved more subsequent slow wave activity in the Frontal Lobe. The researchers could use these changes to identify the laterality of the seizure.
Professor He Bin explains the new approach to investigating Epilepsy
Researchers found evidence that older fathers may be passing on more mutations in DNA to their offspring and that this is more likely to be associated with Autism and Schizophrenia. Another write-up focuses on how the mutations are more likely to come from the fathers than the mothers. The researchers looked at people from Iceland which has a well characterised population with a geneological database. The researchers followed trios of mohter, father and baby. They looked at sequences of DNA in the babies that were not present in the parents. This implied that there had been a de novo mutation.
The researchers found more of these mutations in the offspring of older fathers and this difference was statistically significant. Furthermore some of these mutations were associated with Schizophrenia and Autism from previous studies. Many cases of Schizophrenia develop when a person is in their twenties or thirties so the information about prevalence was not available. However the study does provide several lines of evidence to support the hypothesis that older age at fatherhood can lead to disease associated de novo mutations. However many genes associated with Autism and Schizophrenia have small effect sizes suggesting a multifactorial aetiology. The study has started a useful debate.
A private genetics company 23&me is looking for new genes associated with Parkinson’s Disease and using social media to recruit new subjects for the study.
This study suggests that more hours of sleep at night and increased slow wave sleep are associated with improved performance in working memory tasks in people with Parkinson’s Disease. However this is a small study with 54 subjects although these findings are supported by other studies showing an association between disrupted sleep and impaired cognitive performance.
An interesting synthetic nanoparticle has been found to influence cerebral blood flow and scavenge free-radicals which are commonly thought to damage cells.
In a widely reported study researchers have identified an important part of the brain’s clearing system in a Murine model. The researchers found that near to the venous drainage, the Glial cells were facilitating the removal of material from the brain when they used radiolabelled tracers. This has potential implications for diseases such as Alzheimer’s Disease (see the discussion below) but further studies will be needed to investigate these questions after these initial and encouraging results.
The Newly Discovered Glymphatic System
There is a list of the 20 most watched TED episodes here. This includes a look at ‘why are we happy‘, ‘brain magic‘ and ‘why we do what we do‘. The ‘why are we happy’ video below is extremely entertaining as well as instructive.
Could Neanderthals speak? This PLOS One study which includes an analysis of the upper limb and of a Neanderthal specimen suggests right-handedness and is consistent with the asymmetrical handedness associated with language. This follows a previous study looking at asymmetrical markings on teeth which may have resulted from preparing materials.
There is a brief and effective write-up of 3 studies that tell us about recent brain evolution in relation to genetics, epigenetics and wiring. This includes the DUF1220 protein, differences in gene expression in the frontal lobe between humans and Chimpanzees and gene methylation differences between humans and Chimpanzees.
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