Neurolucida Helps Scientists Discover that Gorillas are Relevant in the Study of Alzheimer’s Disease

Cortical neurons containing tau termed neurofibrillary tangle seen in the human brain with Alzheimer's disease. The researchers used Neurolucida to count and chart similar neurons in the gorilla brain. 

Cortical neurons containing tau, termed neurofibrillary tangle, seen in the human brain with Alzheimer’s disease. The researchers used Neurolucida to chart similar lesions in the gorilla brain.

Humans and gorillas are approximately 98% identical on a genetic level, however there is little published research exploring Alzheimer’s disease pathology in gorillas. A new paper reports that gorillas display similarities in advanced age to humans  ̶  including the presence of Alzheimer’s disease precursors like amyloid-beta (Aβ) plaques and tau lesions.

The study, published in the Journal of Comparative Neurology, provides evidence of Alzheimer’s disease precursors in the western lowland gorilla. Their findings broaden the scientific community’s understanding of the aging brain of some our closest living relatives and offer new insights for Alzheimer’s disease research.

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Drug for Treating Asthma Improves Cognitive Function in Down Syndrome Mouse Model

Down Syndrome Chromosome 21 image

Down syndrome is a genetic disorder caused by all or part of an extra copy of chromosome 21. Image from wikigenetics.org.

Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found that formoterol ̶  an FDA-approved drug for treating asthma and similar respiratory disorders ̶  improves cognitive function in mice genetically altered to exhibit symptoms of Down syndrome including cognitive disability.

Formoterol was chosen for the study because it activates β2 adrenergic receptors (β2ARs) on neurons, a task also carried out by norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter with a critical role in contextual learning. β2AR receptors play a key role in learning and memory, and are prevalent on dentate granule cells (DGCs) in the hippocampus. To limit the effects of the drug to the CNS, the authors used a βAR antagonist with no ability to cross the blood brain barrier.

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Neurolucida Helps Ohio State Scientists Study Melatonin’s Effects on Brain Plasticity in Mice

CA1_to_subiculum4

An acrylic painting by Don Cooper and Leah Leverich shows the transition zone between densely packed pyramidal neurons in the CA1 region.

In spring, days grow long, and the white-footed mouse looks for a mate. For some mammals, day length prompts behaviors like breeding or camouflaging, and scientists say it’s not just the arc of the sun that kicks off these seasonal events; substances in the brain also play a part.

One important element is melatonin, a hormone that the mammalian brain secretes at night. According to a study conducted at Ohio State University, changes in the duration of melatonin secretion not only affect the behavior of white-footed mice, they also induce changes in their brains.

The group’s previous research showed that white-footed mice held in short winter-like days showed changes in the mechanism behind how memories are formed and stored in the brain, which they say is associated with impaired spatial learning and memory.

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Multiple Sclerosis and Schizophrenia Research May Benefit From New Findings

Myelin, which insulates axons in the central nervous system is produced by oligodendrocytes. But not all oligodendrocytes are equal.

Led by Dr. Jonathan Vinet of the Université Laval in Quebec, scientists have identified three different types of oligodendrocytes in the mouse hippocampus: “ramified,” “stellar,” and “smooth.”

Each type displayed varying morphological characteristics, mainly in shape, volume, and branching behavior, which led the researchers to believe that the three types represent different stages of maturation.

As described in the paper, “Subclasses of oligodendrocytes populate the mouse hippocampus,” published in the European Journal of Neuroscience, the “smooth,” or most simple type possibly morphs into the “stellar,” which eventually develops into the most complex of the three, the “ramified” oligodendrocyte.

The identification of these morphologically distinct oligodendrocyte populations in the hippocampus may help researchers determine which specific types of oligodendrocytes are affected in diseases such as schizophrenia and multiple sclerosis.

Using a Neurolucida system with an Olympus AX-50 microscope, the scientists formed 3D reconstructions of the hippocampal oligodendrocytes integral to their study. They then analyzed their tracings with Neurolucida Explorer.

“Without Neurolucida we couldn’t have carried out this study,” said Dr. Attila Sik, “it was an essential component. Nice piece of equipment, for sure.”

Read the free abstract, or access the full article (by subscription), at the European Journal of Neuroscience.

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