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New insights into how brain stores memories

In a key study that may give insights into disorders such as schizophrenia and depression, scientists have studied our ability to store memories in brain during childhood.


New research from University of California, Davis is exploring how these brain regions develop at this crucial time. Located deep in the middle of the brain, the hippocampus plays a key role in forming memories.


“For a long time it was assumed that the hippocampus did not develop at all after the first couple of years of life,” said Joshua Lee, a graduate student at University of California.
Earlier, improvements in memory were thought to be owing to changes in the brain’s outer layers, or cortex, that manage attention and strategies. Lee and colleagues used magnetic resonance imaging to map the hippocampus in 39 children aged eight to 14 years. While subfields of the hippocampus have been mapped in adult humans and animal studies, it was the first time that they have been measured in children.

“This is really important to us, because it allows us to understand the heterogeneity along the hippocampus, which has been examined in human adults and other species,” added professor Simona Ghetti from the Centre for Mind and Brain.

Girls’ mental health suffers when romances play out differently

Researchers have revealed that adolescent girls’ risk of severe depression, thoughts of suicide, and suicide attempt increase after their relationships unfold differently than what they imagined.

The study used data on more than 5,300 high school students from the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health and examined the mental health consequences of mismatches between adolescents’ ideal and actual relationships.

In the initial interview, researchers provided adolescents with a number of cards describing events that often occur within relationships, including everything from hand holding and kissing to sex, Study author Brian Soller, an assistant professor of sociology and a senior fellow of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy at the University of New Mexico said. Respondents kept cards describing events they would engage in within an ideal relationship, and then indicated the order in which the events would occur.

Roughly a year later, the respondents repeated the exercise, only this time they indicated which events took place within their relationship, and then provided the order in which the events transpired. During both interviews, researchers asked participants about their mental health.

As for why relationship inauthenticity increased the risk of mental health problems for girls, but not for boys, Soller said, “Romantic relationships are particularly important components of girls’ identities and are, therefore, strongly related to how they feel about themselves — good or bad. As a result, relationships that diverge from what girls envision for themselves are especially damaging to their emotional well-being.”

Now, faster, cheaper blood test to accurately diagnose asthma


Researchers have developed a faster, cheaper and more accurate tool for diagnosing even mild cases of asthma using just a single drop of blood.
The researchers used neutrophil cell function in a clinical study to show accurate asthma diagnosis.

To directly diagnose asthma, David Beebe, a UW-Madison professor of biomedical engineering and co-author on the paper, and his team focused on the cell function of neutrophils. Neutrophils are the most abundant white blood cell in the body and generally are the first cells to migrate toward inflammation.


In other words, the human body emits chemical signals in response to inflammation or wounds and the neutrophils detect those chemical signals and migrate to the site of the wound to aid in the healing process. Researchers can track the velocity at which the neutrophil cells migrate — the chemotaxis velocity — to differentiate nonasthmatic samples from the significantly reduced chemotaxis velocity of asthmatic patients.

UW-Madison students have developed the kit-on-a-lid-assay (KOALA) microfluidic technology, which allows them to detect neutrophils using just a single drop of blood. The KOALA diagnostic procedure uses simple lids and bases (small, cheap piece of plastic), diagnosticians place a KOALA lid containing a chemical mixture onto the base containing the blood sample. That chemical mixture triggers neutrophil migration — and researchers can automatically track and analyse the neutrophil chemotaxis velocity using custom software.

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