Connecting the Dots

Our brain contains over 100 trillion connections. To analyse how its structure makes it function in certain ways involves building a connectome – a complete map of all the nerves in a typical brain and their connections. This huge job involves imaging large areas of brain with enough resolution to identify the individual nerve cells, and their tangled extensions – dendrites and axons. A new system for producing images like this has recently been developed. Called the brain-wide positioning system, it simultaneously takes pictures of the cell nuclei (shown in red) and whole neurons labelled with fluorescent protein (green). Comparing these two sets of images can help to identify neurons and establish which connections are which. Although this picture was taken in a mouse’s brain, this technology will help us to accurately image individual human brains, which we can use to build up the picture of the human connectome.

Written by Esther Redhouse White

You can also follow BPoD on Twitter and Facebook

I’m very excited for the results, yet scared. I’ve seen enough neurologists and shrinks over the years to know what chronic, long term marijuana use can do to the brain. From shit brick weed to beautiful blue dream, and everything between, I’ve had it. It provides a beautiful release from the painful everyday side effects of prescription drugs and neuromuscular dysfunction. But enjoying it is still a maladaptive coping skill with possible, negative, long term consequences.

I still firmly believe it should be rescheduled, Federally, for fucks sake, it’s weed, not heroin.

Are Changes in Your Brain Telling You to Stop at McDonalds?

New research from Michigan State University shows that obese mice are much more likely than lean mice to overeat in the presence of environmental cues, a behavior that could be related to changes in the brain.

While examining the response to auditory cues in terms of eating by lean and obese mice, Alexander Johnson, MSU assistant professor of psychology Johnson also examined the mice’s lateral hypothalamus, which is known as a key brain area in appetite and feeding behavior. Using a procedure called immunofluorescence to label neurons in this area of the brain, he found that neurons releasing a certain hormone – melanin-concentrating hormone, or MCH – were more abundant in obese mice. But importantly, these MCH-releasing neurons were more active when the obese mice encountered environmental reminders of sugar. 

“From a psychological perspective, this tells us that the obese mice are more vulnerable to the effects of food cues on evoking overeating behavior,” Johnson said . “Looking at it through a human lens, this suggests that obese individuals may be more sensitive to, say, the McDonald’s Golden Arches.” 

Obesity is an epidemic domestically – more than a third of Americans are considered to be obese – and a growing health problem in other parts of the world. 

Read more

Funding: The study was funded by the Michigan Diabetes Research Center and the National Institutes of Health.

Raise your voice in support of expanding federal funding for life-saving medical research by joining the AAMC’s advocacy community.