Sunday, February 27, 2011

Harvard Researchers Illuminate Connections Among Brain Cells in Technicolor

Fly Brainbow HHMI via Technology Review
In 2007, Harvard scientists figured out how to combine fluorescent proteins to create an entire color palette, and then used it to make mouse neurons glow so they could be traced through the brain. The “Brainbow” technique has helped scientists follow neurons’ connections, which had been almost impossible to untangle.
Fruit fly researchers have now done the same thing, producing a dual Brainbow of methods for making Drosophila neurons glow. It is much simpler and faster than staining individual neurons, another method for mapping brain connections.
Many neurons are visible in the above cross-section of a fly brain, which was published in the journal Nature Methods last week.
The image below was made with the dBrainbow method, which involves six colors that help indicate which neurons arose from which progenitor cells. This is useful for studying how connections form between neurons, as Technology Review explains. The red and blue groups are both olfactory neurons, but they arose from different progenitor cells.
Olfactory Neurons:  Phuong Chung, Stefanie Hampel, and Julie H. Simpson/HHMI via Technology Review
The Flybow method, which involves four colors, allows cells to change color at any point during their development by applying heat.
Scientists have plenty of techniques to manipulate fruit fly genes, which means they will be able to exert even more precise control over the colors, only illuminating certain neurons or subsets of neurons. Tech Review says. The following dBrainbow image shows a group of about 2,000 neurons that are thought to underlie male courtship behavior.
Male Courtship Neurons:  Phuong Chung, Stefanie Hampel, and Julie H. Simpson/HHMI via Technology Review

Take time for tea and give your brain a lift as well as reduce tiredness

More benefits: A cup of tea can improve brain power, a new study has claimed

Having a cuppa could help you solve the crossword faster, according to the latest study.

Natural ingredients found in a cup of tea can improve brain power and increase alertness, it is claimed.

Researchers looked at the effect of key chemicals found in tea on the mental performance of 44 young volunteers.

The effects of these ingredients, an amino acid called L-theanine – which is also found in green tea – and caffeine at levels typically found in a cup of tea, were compared with a dummy treatment.

The active ingredients significantly improved accuracy across a number of switching tasks for those who drank the tea after 20 and 70 minutes, compared with the placebo.

The tea drinkers’ alertness was also heightened, the study found.

Tea was also found to reduced tiredness among the volunteers, who were aged under 40, according to the Dutch researchers reporting on their findings in the journal Nutritional Neuroscience.

‘The results suggest the combination helps to focus attention during a demanding cognitive task,’ they said. Previous trials have shown that adding milk to a cup of tea does not affect the drinker’s absorption of flavonoids – or antioxidants – or disrupt the health benefits from these.



Sunday, February 13, 2011

Professors offering free seminars for Healthy Aging Series

Professors offering free seminars for Healthy Aging Series

Misericordia University professors Jim Siberski, M.S., C.M.C., CRmT, assistant professor and coordinator of gerontology education, and Hunter Manasco, Ph.D., C.C.C.-S.L.P., assistant professor of speech-language pathology, are participating in the free Masonic Village at Dallas Spring 2011 Healthy Aging Series at the Irem Country Club beginning in February.

Dr. Manasco is presenting the seminar, “Normal Changes in Cognition with Aging,’’ on Wednesday, Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. Dr. Manasco earned his undergraduate degree in English literature with a minor in economics from Birmingham-Southern College in Alabama. He also received a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Science degree in communications disorders at the University of Montevallo in Alabama. He completed his doctorate in speech-language pathology at the University of South Alabama.

His areas of specialization include neuroanatomy, aphasia, motor speech disorders, dysphagia, traumatic brain injury, dementia and autism. His primary research interests center on stroke and traumatic brain injury rehabilitation. Dr. Manasco’s current research project concentrates on poetry as language therapy and as a coping mechanism in aphasia. He has also presented numerous papers in his areas of specialty at state and national conferences.