Alzheimer’s disease is growing in Canada at an unprecedented rate. At the moment, over half a million people suffer from this debilitating condition but that number is expected to nearly double over the next generation. The effects of this illness are tragic, such as memory loss as well as changes in behaviour, judgement, and normal daily function. For this reason, understanding this disease and finding meaningful treatments are considered a priority.
As Alzheimer’s progresses, a protein, known as amyloid-β, begins to clump together, forming what is officially called a plaque. As this happens, the neurological landscape changes as neurons begin to die off. Despite decades of research, the mechanism behind this loss remains, for the most part, a mystery.
If you happen to watch any survival-based reality series, such as the Canadian Survivorman series, you’ll come to realize starvation has a dire effect on the body. A person becomes weak, disoriented, and begins to crave protein. In humans, this is considered to be normal as we are considered omnivores. Yet, this effect also can be seen in other species, including one usually considered to be herbivorous.
The common fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, primarily feeds, as the name implies, on decaying fruit and the microorganisms inhabiting it Yet, when this insect undergoes starvation, its tastes change. After several days with no food, they turn carnivorous and even cannibalistic. This dramatic change in food choice, while observed, still has yet to be fully understood.
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.
It is known that neurodegenerative diseases such as Parkinson’s cause the gradual death of brain neurons. But what exactly are the mechanisms that go awry to cause degeneration of nerve cells? A team of researchers from Université Laval and the Quebec Mental Health Research Institute investigated the matter and show, in an article in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), the role played by two key regulatory proteins in the cascade of reactions leading to the death of neurons in Parkinson’s disease.
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.