November 2011 Archives

Holy Holoprosencephaly!

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Holoprosencephaly (HPE) has a range of disorders from cycloptic eye to cleft palate. There are many genetic and environmental influences in the development of HPE. The sonic hedgehog (Shh) pathway has been deeply explored and has relation so HPE. The regulation of Shh and other genes involved are important for proper mid line separation. This separation is what allows two eyes to develop. When Shh is not produced, there is no mid line separation and cyclopia develops, but when Shh has reduced production there is some mid line separation. The partail mid line separation causes the eye to be not spaced correctly and be close together resulting in hypotelorism. Other factors such as prechordal plate (PCP) axial midline, and Six 3 are also needed for proper mid line separation. PCP is a source of Shh ligans, when PCP is surgically removed cyclopia forms. The same goes for loss of axial mid line. Organisms lacking Six3 cause WNTs to not be inhibited this causes the anterior structures to disappear resulting in atelencephaly.This is described in the illustration below.
It is obvious that there are many ways that proper mid line separation can be disrupted and that a multitude of genes act together to prevent HPE. HPE is not a common human disease, which makes it difficult to research and when HPE is present in other organisms, such as mice, frogs and fish, the learning do not always apply to the human population. I believe the key to understand HPE is in the Shh pathway and the different molecules that are effects and act on that pathway.

Craving Circuit

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I have been doing some interesting reading on the craving circuit and how further experiments can lead to the understanding of drug addictions and relapses. So far my reading is limited on the subject but I find it really neat. Recent studies are pointing to the fact that cravings can activate parts of the cerebral cortex and limbic system which is involved in emotion. TMS(transcranial magnetic stimulation) techniques are starting to be used to either stimulate or depress brain activity and that stimulation can increase the cravings for things such as cigarettes. There was no report that reduced stimulation can decrease craving, but knowing the parts of the brain that lead to the craving can be helpful in future studies. The future studies could be used as a way to help drug addicts from slipping into a relapse. TMS treatment for cigarette addiction will help pave the way for future research of the craving circuit.

Neuron see Neuron do

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A few days ago, I read a very interesting paper on mirror neurons and watched a youtube video barbie doll illusion. After watching the video and reading the article I was intrigued as to how we seem to copy the other people during a virtual simulation. The article was about mirror neurons. Mirror neurons are neurons that fire when we act and when the same act is observed by another. The article focus on how these mirror neurons acted when a person under virtual stimulation was placed in different social events. When the subject was simply observing the act of others throwing a ball there was little "neuron fire" as to say, but when the subject was watching the people throw a ball and randomly had the ball thrown towards their screen(as if they were participating) there were firing of the neurons. This study provided that there is social relevance when considering the mirror neuron system. It also helps provided a link between the social complex observations such as empathy. I thought this article was very interesting and the first thing that came to find was monkey see money do. Except in this case were talking about neurons.


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