In the news / Brain

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As we get older, we tend to forget things – where we left our keys, our neighbor’s name or the word for a common household item. While forgetfulness is a normal sign of age, declining memory function can accelerate and lead to irreversible brain damage. 

 
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UArizona Center for Integrative Medicine Research Director and BIO5 member Dr. Esther Sternberg writes about her tips for coping with the stresses and anxieties that come with living through a global pandemic. Chronic stress, which worsens the severity and frequency of viral infections, can be lowered by using various integrative and mind-body techniques; cultivate social support, eat healthy, move, get some sleep, keep a routine.
 
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New research led by researchers from the BIO5 Institute’s Center for Insect Science shows that crustaceans such as shrimps, lobsters, and crabs, have more in common with their insect relatives than previously thought when it comes to the structure of their brains. Both insects and crustaceans possess mushroom-shaped brain structures known in insects to be required for learning, memory and possibly negotiating complex, three-dimensional environments.
 
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A team of researchers, including UArizona Biomedical Engineering professor and BIO5 member Dr. Philipp Gutruf, have developed a device that could provide unique insight into the mechanisms of pain, depression, addiction and certain diseases. The ultra-small, wireless, battery-free device uses light to record individual neurons so neuroscientists can see how the brain is working.
 
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Early studies show that infection with Toxoplasma gondii may have unexpectedly protective effects in mouse models of Alzheimer's disease. Dr. Anita Koshy, UArizona associate professor of Neurology and BIO5 member, studies how the self-defense mechanisms the infection uses to survive in its host could one day be used to treat human illness.
 
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Dr. Gene Alexander, UArizona psychology professor and BIO5 member, discusses his findings about how exercise impacts brain functioning and health. Along with his colleagues, he has found that exercise has positive effects on the brain and cognitively challenging exercise may benefit the brain more than physical activity that makes fewer cognitive demands.
 
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The UArizona found itself at the center of many of the world's most captivating news stories in 2019. From its leadership role in capturing mankind's first image of a black hole to discovering a protein that prevents mosquitoes from hatching, opening the possibility of developing new drugs that could act as birth control for mosquito populations, UArizona led research generated international headlines this year.
 
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The fifteen-year old daughter of UArizona researcher and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Hammer, had a disability of unknown origin in which she presented with epileptic seizures. It’s been over a decade since Shay has passed and Dr. Hammer spends every day in a lab at the University of Arizona studying the inner workings of the brain, trying to solve the mystery of her illness.
 
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UArizona researcher and BIO5 associate director Dr. Michael Hammer spends every day in a lab studying the gene mutation behind the rare form of epilepsy that afflicted his late daughter Shay. Dr. Hammer studies different models with similar gene variants to understand the genetics and cell formations behind this mutation. His lab uses their findings to assess the effectiveness and reliability of different treatment options to help other children living with this disease.
 
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Dr. Roberta Diaz Brinton, the director of the UA Center for Innovation in Brain Science whose work, alongside many other researchers, shows an association between menopause and an earlier emergence of Alzheimer’s in the female brain compared with the male brain.
 
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With the support of a new $3.8 million grant from the National Institute on Aging, a team of researchers, led by UA Department of Psychology professor and BIO5 member Dr. Gene Alexander, will investigate whether near-infrared light could help enhance cognition and reduce Alzheimer's disease risk in older adults. Dr. Ted Trouard, a BIO5 member and UA Biomedical Engineering professor, will serve as a co-investigator on the project.
 
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A team led by The BIO5 Institute's Roberta Diaz Brinton, PhD, director of the Center for Innovation in Brain Science, received the multi-million dollar grant from the National Institute on Aging. The five-year grant will fund a national multi-site Phase 2 clinical trial to determine the effectiveness of allopregnanalone, or allo, as a treatment for individuals with early-stage Alzheimer’s who carry the genetic risk factor for the disease. This award supports the goals of the National Alzheimer’s Project Act.
 
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Dr. Kaveh Laksari, UA Assistant Professor of Aerospace-Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering and BIO5 member, along with researchers from Stevens Institute of Technology and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, look at the vulnerabilities of different brain regions and how this can impact the severity of damage from traumatic brain injuries.
 
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UA Neuroscience assistant professor and BIO5 member Dr. Haijiang Cai, lead a team of UA researchers to discover neurons within the brain that control one’s urge to eat in response to inflammation. Members of the Cai lab recently published an article in Nature describing their investigation of the cluster of neurons in the region of the brain connected to feeding behavior, with the aim of providing a new target for treating anorexia and other eating disorders.
 
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BIO5 Faculty Dr. Haijiang Cai, lead a team of UA neuroscientists in a new study which shows that multiple neurons within the brain come together to regulate the need to eat and feeling of fullness, or satiety.
 
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A new study led by scientists at the UA has uncovered a potential new way to treat patients with ALS, a debilitating neurodegenerative disease. “The fact that we uncovered a compensatory mechanism surprised me,” says UA Molecular and Cellular Biology professor and BIO5 researcher Dr. Daniela Zarnescu. “These desperate, degenerating neurons showed incredible resilience. It is an example of how amazing cells are at dealing with stress.”
 
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A team of UA researchers including Director of the Evelyn F Mcknight Brain Institute Dr. Carol Barnes, and UA Physiology professor Dr. Meredith Hay, both BIO5 faculty, have proposed a precision aging model designed to help researchers better understand and treat age-related cognitive decline on an individual level.
 
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Every 65 seconds, someone in the United States develops Alzheimer's. "And once it begins, it's something that unfortunately we can't stop," said Dr. Matt Grilli, director at University of Arizona's Human Memory Lab. Now scientists are starting to get a clearer picture of the disease.