Adonis Diaries

Archive for March 4th, 2013

What are the Brain’s Survival Skills? And Fear beyond the Amygdala

Can scientists use the brain’s inherent survival mechanisms to develop better stroke treatment?

Strokes are a major cause of death and disability worldwide, with 150,000 people affected in the UK every year.

Most strokes happen when a blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain is blocked due to blood clots or fat deposits. Once blood is cut off from an area of the brain, brain cells are starved for oxygen and nutrients and start to die within minutes.

A new study in Nature Medicine, scientists at the University of Oxford reveal a novel way in which the brain protects itself in response to stroke.

Ranya Bechara posted on Feb. 27, 2013 “Stroke Vs Brain: Harnessing the Brain’s Survival Skills”

Current treatments for stroke are focussed on breaking up the clots, improving blood flow to the affected area, and ultimately reducing the brain damage caused by the stroke. However, the so called ‘clot-busters’ are only effective if given within one to two hours of the stroke.

Other ways of protecting the brain against stroke damage are in high demand.

In this study, the research team from Oxford University (in collaboration with other researchers from Greece, Germany, and Canada, and the UK) decided to try a new approach. They investigated a phenomenon that has been known for years: some brain cells have an inherent defence mechanism that allows them to survive when deprived of oxygen.

These cells are located in the part of the brain responsible for forming memories: a pretty sea-horse shaped structure called the hippocampus.

The scientists analysed the proteins produced by these cells and found that the key to their survival is a protein called hamartin. This protein is released by the cells in response to oxygen deprivation, and when its production was supressed, the cells became more vulnerable to the effects of stroke.

Photo credit: http://www.vascularinfo.co.uk

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Original article is available here

Fear beyond the Amygdala
Ranya Bechara posted on Feb. 6, 2013

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For decades now, scientists have thought that fear could not be experienced without the amygdala. This almond-shaped structure located deep in the brain (pictured on the left).
The amygdala has been shown to play an important role in fear-related behaviours, emotions, and memories, and patients with damage to the amygdala on both sides of the brain were thought to be incapable of feeling afraid.
However, a recent study in Nature Neuroscience reports that these ‘fearless’ patients do experience fear if made to inhale carbon dioxide- a procedure that induces feelings of suffocation and panic.
The patients reported being quite surprised at their own fear, and that it was a novel experience for them!
Scientists behind the study have suggested that the way the brain processes fear information depends on the type of stimulus.
The results of this study could have important implications for people who suffer from anxiety disorders such as panic attacks and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
More details can be found here


adonis49

adonis49

adonis49

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