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Brain needs sleep to learn new skills

A new study has challenged the theory that sleep strengthens brain connections, while revealing that it is important because it weakens the connections among brain cells to save energy, avoid cellular stress, and maintain the ability of neurons to respond selectively to stimuli.

The synaptic homeostasis hypothesis of sleep or ‘SHY’, which takes into account years of evidence from human and animal studies, was conducted by two leading sleep scientists from the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health.

Dr. Giulio Tononi, of the UW Center for Sleep and Consciousness, said during wake, learning strengthens the synaptic connections throughout the brain, increasing the need for energy and saturating the brain with new information.

Sleep allows the brain to reset, helping integrate, newly learned material with consolidated memories, so the brain can begin anew the next day.

Tononi and his co-author Dr. Chiara Cirelli conducted the laboratory studies sleep and consciousness in animals ranging from fruit flies to humans; SHY takes into account evidence from molecular, electrophysiological and behavioral studies, as well as from computer simulations.

Tononi said sleep helps the brain renormalize synaptic strength based on a comprehensive sampling of its overall knowledge of the environment, rather than being biased by the particular inputs of a particular waking day.

Adults, abused as kids ,find it harder to deal with depression

 A new study has found that the diminution of depression is much slower in people who have suffered physical abuse or experienced parental addictions in their childhood than those who haven’t gone through such hardships.

University of Toronto investigators examined a range of factors associated with remission in a sample of 1,128 depressed Canadian adults, drawn from the National Population Health Survey.

Depressed individuals were followed every other year until remission occurred, for up to 12 years.

“Our findings indicated that most people bounce back. In fact, three-quarters of individuals were no longer depressed after two years,” co-author Emeriti Tahany M. Gadalla reported. However, not everyone recovered at the same rate.

Lead author Esme Fuller-Thomson, Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in the University’s Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work said that early adversities have far-reaching consequences and the average time to recovery from depression was 9 months longer for adults who had been physically abused in their childhood and about 5 months longer for those whose parents had addiction problems.
New breakthrough brings malaria drugs closer to reality

An Indian origin researcher has found that a form of malaria, which is common in India, Southeast Asia and South America, attacks human red blood cells by clamping down on the cells with a pair of proteins.

New study by researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis provides details that will help scientists design better vaccines and drug treatments for the strain, Plasmodium vivax.

“More people live at risk of infection by this strain of malaria than any other," senior author Niraj Tolia, PhD, assistant professor of molecular microbiology and of biochemistry and molecular biophysics, said.

"We now are using what we have learned to create vaccines tailored to stop the infectious process by preventing the parasite from attaching to red blood cells," the researcher said.

Earlier studies had suggested that one P. vivax protein binds to one protein on the surface of red blood cells. Tolia's new study reveals that the binding is a two-step process that involves two copies of a parasite protein coming together like tongs around two copies of a host protein.

Tolia also found evidence that people with immunity to P. vivax have developed naturally occurring antibodies that attach to a key part of the parasite's binding protein, preventing infection.

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