Tag Archives: brain

Modelling brain circuitry

With the help of a revolutionary robot, Professor David Adams and Associate Professor Mirella Dottori are studying neurons, testing drug candidates for chronic pain, and working towards precise, personalised neurological treatment.

David has been studying the neurology of chronic pain, while Mirella is a neural stem cell expert. Based at the University of Wollongong, their collaboration focusses on cells called dorsal root ganglia sensory neurons. These cells sense pressure, temperature, position, touch and pain, and the duo believe they could hold the key to many neurological disorders including chronic pain.

“Many diseases and disorders are caused by altered firing of signals along sensory nerves. Growing human sensory neurons [from stem cells] means we can study their development and function in both health and disease,” says Mirella. Continue reading Modelling brain circuitry

Warming oceans will affect sharks’ brains

By Macquarie University

Rising ocean temperatures due to climate change will not only be felt by smaller organisms like coral, but will also impact apex predators, according to new research.

The study from the Macquarie University Fish Lab found that increasing water temperature by just 3ºC altered the behaviour of hatchling sharks.

Baby sharks incubated at temperatures predicted by the end of the century had very different turn preferences compared to sharks reared in present day water temperatures.

Continue reading Warming oceans will affect sharks’ brains

Could magnets stop us falling over?

Non-invasive brain stimulation using an applied magnetic field can strengthen brain connections that weaken as we age.

Perth researchers hope to use this technique to improve the quality of life and reduce the risk of falls and injuries in older people.

Past the age of about 60, there’s a weakening of the structural connections between the three different areas of the brain that control our decision-making processes, our ‘planning’ centres, and our fine-motor control.

It’s the connections between those areas that ultimately allow us to successfully interact with our environment, for example adjusting our foot placement when we step on uneven paving.

Continue reading Could magnets stop us falling over?

The ageing brain can repair itself

Professor Perry Bartlett is putting people with dementia on treadmills.

Mapping the vast networks of the brain; 10,000 million neurons, each with 10,000 connections. Credit: Queensland Brain Institute
Mapping the vast networks of the brain; 10,000 million neurons, each with 10,000 connections. Credit: Queensland Brain Institute

He has already reversed dementia and recovered spatial memories in mice through exercise. And in 2016 he and colleagues at The University of Queensland will begin clinical trials to see if exercise will have the same impact in people with dementia. Then he’ll look at depression.

Underpinning these projects is the idea that the brain is constantly changing; and that learning, memory, mood, and many other brain functions are in part regulated by the production of new neurons.

Continue reading The ageing brain can repair itself

Predicting change, brains, trains and mental health

State Awards

“Trait-based ecology” enables Macquarie University’s Mark Westoby to explain patterns of species occurrence and abundance and to understand the impacts of climate change and changing patterns of land use. He received the $55,000 NSW Scientist of the Year.

Nanocapsules for drugs delivery: Frank Caruso is making miniature capsules that could better deliver drugs for cancer, AIDS and cardiovascular diseases. He won one of the 2014 Victoria Prizes for Science & Innovation worth $50,000.

Continue reading Predicting change, brains, trains and mental health

Why are cells different?

Genes are not enough to explain the difference between a skin cell and a stem cell, a leaf cell and a root cell, or the complexity of the human brain. Genes don’t explain the subtle ways in which your parents’ environment before you were conceived might affect your offspring.

Ryan Lister’s work transcends plants, animals and humans. Credit: The University of Western Australia
Ryan Lister’s work transcends plants, animals and humans. Credit: The University of Western Australia

Another layer of complexity—the epigenome— is at work determining when and where genes are turned on and off.

Ryan Lister is unravelling this complexity. He’s created ways of mapping the millions of molecular markers of where genes have been switched on or off, has made the first maps of these markers in plants and humans, and has revealed key differences between the markers in cells with different fates.

Continue reading Why are cells different?

Preterm birth linked to teen school angst

Large numbers of premature-born children may be slipping under the radar, say researchers who have found brain development problems in teenagers deemed clinically normal after a late preterm birth.

Children born even one to five weeks premature can show reduced skills later in life.

Julia Pitcher and Michael Ridding, of the Robinson Research Institute, University of Adelaide, found that children born even one to five weeks premature showed reduced ‘neuroplasticity’ as teenagers. Their study provides the first physiological evidence of the link between late preterm birth and reduced motor, learning and social skills in later life.

Continue reading Preterm birth linked to teen school angst

Axolotls out on limb for future human hope

An axolotl’s ability to regrow limbs and repair brain and heart tissue could shed light on how humans might one day do the same, after Melbourne scientists discovered the key role played by macrophages, immune system cells, in the animal’s regenerative process.

Axolotls are known for their ability to regrow limbs.

James Godwin and his colleagues at the Australian Regenerative Medicine Institute (ARMI) have identified the critical role of macrophages in axolotl tissue regeneration, raising the hope of future treatments for human spinal cord and brain injuries, as well as heart and liver disease.

Continue reading Axolotls out on limb for future human hope