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Health Talk Recommends: Electrical stimulation helps paralyzed patients move once again

Neuroscientists may have broken new ground in the fight against paralysis.

In new research published today in the journal Brain, a collaborative team of researchers from the University of Louisville, the University of California-Los Angeles and the Pavlov Institute of Physiology in Russia outline how they used neuromodulation and epidural spinal cord stimulation to coax new signals from the brain to the legs of four patients previously paralyzed below the waist. Each patient’s paralysis was the result of spinal cord injury.

While the neuromodulation device was powered on and sending electrical signals down their spines, each man in the study was able to voluntarily move their limbs and support own weight. Each patient has even regained control of their bladder and bowels while regulating their own body temperature and blood pressure.

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U of M researchers find repeated cocaine use weakens inhibitory signaling in the brain

Repeated cocaine exposure alters inhibitory neurotransmission in the brain in long-lasting manner, which may have an impact on behavior control, shows new research out of the University of Minnesota.

The study, published today in the journal Neuron, highlights a newly discovered way in which repeated cocaine exposure alters neurotransmission in the brain. While many studies have shown cocaine alters excitatory neurotransmission in the brain’s “reward circuitry,” this new paper shows that repeated exposure suppresses inhibitory neurotransmission in the prefrontal cortex, a region of the brain that plays a key role in decision-making and behavioral control.

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Research Snapshot: “Beam” vs. “radial” hypotheses activities examined further in U of M study

The cerebellum is a region of the brain that is important for making smooth, coordinated movements. However, exactly how the cerebellum performs these functions remains unknown.  One of the striking features of the cerebellum is its precise neuronal circuitry, such as one of the main circuit elements: the parallel fibers, which consist of billions of neural axons that run in parallel and activate Purkinje cells.

Purkinje cells are some of the largest neurons in the human brain, and are responsible for the motor coordination in the cerebellar cortex.

The “beam” hypothesis proposes that when a group of parallel fibers are excited they activate a beam of Purkinje cells.  The competing “radial” hypothesis postulates that parallel fibers only activate Purkinje cells locally.

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New book peers deep into the brain to understand how we make decisions

Have you ever wondered why human beings do the things we do? Or why our actions are often at odds with our stated intentions? These questions are the subject of a new book by A. David Redish, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Neuroscience at the University of Minnesota.

In his book, The Mind Within the Brain: How We Make Decisions and How Those Decisions Go Wrong, Redish explores the complexity of how we make decisions and how our brain processes information.

Health Talk sat down with Redish to learn more about his new book.

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Research Snapshot: U of M study finds possible delay of disability progression in multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system which can lead to blurred vision, balance issues, tremors and even paralysis amongst other issues.

An estimated 2.1 million people have MS but it is believed to be much higher because the CDC does not require U.S. physicians to report new cases.

In a study recently published in the Journal of Neuroscience, University of Minnesota neuroscientist Wensheng Lin, M.D., Ph.D., took a closer look at the relationship of myelin and oligodendrocytes (cells responsible for the formation of myelin in the central nervous system) in mice with MS.

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University of Minnesota researchers find new target for Alzheimer’s drug development

Researchers at the University of Minnesota’s Center for Drug Design have developed a synthetic compound that, in a mouse model, successfully prevents the neurodegeneration associated with Alzheimer’s disease.

In the pre-clinical study, researchers Robert Vince, Ph.D.Swati More, Ph.D.; and Ashish Vartak, Ph.D., of the University’s Center for Drug Design, found evidence that a lab-made compound known as psi-GSH enables the brain to use its own protective enzyme system, called glyoxalase, against the Alzheimer’s disease process.

The discovery is published online in the American Chemical Society journal ACS Chemical Neuroscience and presents a new target for the design of anti-Alzheimer’s and related drugs …

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