Have you ever noticed a tendency to drink some water or other liquid sustenance right before going to bed? It’s a common occurrence although the reason behind this action has not been well understood. This unfortunately has led to a rather large-scale debate regarding the potential health benefits and risks of having a swig before sleep.
Over the years, some researchers have suggested the action is based on a physiological need, such as elevated body temperature or low water concentration in blood. Others have suggested this action is psychological rather than biological in nature as it increases the chances for REM sleep and dreaming. Then there are those who feel this action has no health value at all. After all, drinking immediately before sleep means you will no doubt have to disturb your regular period of rest for a quick bathroom break.
Imagine losing the ability to control your nerve function. You may encounter numbness and weakness in the limbs. Your ability to speak could decline as well as your vision. Tics and tremors might take over certain parts of your body. You even are at risk for depression.
These are just a few of the symptoms of multiple sclerosis, which is better known simply as MS. This condition affects over two million people worldwide and leads to significant reductions in a person’s quality of life. Yet quite possibly the worst aspect of this disease isn’t the range of symptoms, but the culprit causing them.
What convinces a stem cell to determine its fate? It’s one of the most persistent questions in modern biology. Research over the last four decades has revealed there is no easy answer. For example, in the brain, stem cells in the embryo produce all of the different cell types at precise times and amounts. If stem cells are perturbed by altering their ability to make those cell types, this is thought to contribute to neuropsychiatric and developmental disorders.
To produce their progeny, stem cells receive signals from other cell types, blood vessels, and the cerebral spinal fluid, and even produce signals themselves. This in itself raises numerous questions. What are those signals? How many are there? How does a stem cell decide to respond to one signal and not another? More importantly, how can this all happen in a coordinated manner to ensure the proper development of the brain?
3D depth-sensing camera shown to measure walking difficulties
A commonly used device found in living rooms around the world could be a cheap and effective means of evaluating the walking difficulties of multiple sclerosis (MS) patients.
The Microsoft Kinect is a 3D depth-sensing camera used in interactive video activities such as tennis and dancing. It can be hooked up to an Xbox gaming console or a Windows computer.
A team of researchers led by McGill University postdoctoral fellow Farnood Gholami, supervised by Jozsef Kövecses from the Department of Mechanical Engineering and Centre for Intelligent Machines, collaborated with Daria Trojan, a physiatrist in the Department of Neurology and Neurosurgery working at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital, to test whether the Kinect could detect the differences in gait of MS patients compared to healthy individuals.
Study confirms the existence of a molecular transport mechanism involved in fragile X syndrome
A team from the Centre de recherche de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Québec– Université Laval has furthered our understanding of fragile X syndrome, the leading genetic cause of mental retardation in children. The article published by these researchers in a recent issue of PLoS Genetics confirms the model developed over 14 years by the team of Professor Edward Khandjian, and reveals new elements.
Discovery could lead to ways to mitigate effects of jet lag and shift work
The brain’s biological clock stimulates thirst in the hours before sleep, according to a study published in the journalNature by McGill University researchers.
The finding — along with the discovery of the molecular process behind it — provides the first insight into how the clock regulates a physiological function. And while the research was conducted in mice, “the findings could point the way toward drugs that target receptors implicated in problems that people experience from shift work or jet lag,”
Researchers find a mechanism that allows the brain to reconfigure connections between neurons in mere minutes.
A team from the Quebec Mental Health Institute – Université Laval has discovered a mechanism that allows the brain to rapidly reconfigure connections between its neurons. According to the researchers, whose findings were published in a recent issue of the journal Nature Communications, this mechanism plays a central role in brain plasticity.
Chemicals found to improve low-light vision of tadpoles by sensitizing retinal cells
A multidisciplinary team including researchers from the Montreal Neurological Institute has improved our understanding of how cannabinoids, the active agent in marijuana, affect vision in vertebrates.
Scientists used a variety of methods to test how tadpoles react to visual stimuli when they’ve been exposed to increased levels of exogenous or endogenous cannabinoids. Exogenous cannabinoids are artificially introduced drugs, whereas endogenous cannabinoids occur naturally in the body.
Neuron cell death may be caused by overactive immune system
A team of scientists led by Dr. Michel Desjardins from the University of Montreal and Dr. Heidi McBride from the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (MNI) at McGill University have discovered that two genes associated with Parkinson’s disease (PD) are key regulators of the immune system, providing direct evidence linking Parkinson’s to autoimmune disease.
Using both cellular and mouse models, the team has shown that proteins produced by the two genes, known as PINK1 and Parkin, are required to prevent cells from being detected and attacked by the immune system.