Abstract: The neurophysiological changes that occur during pregnancy in the female mammal have led to the coining of the phrases “expectant brain” and “maternal brain”. Although much is known of the hormonal changes during pregnancy, alterations in neurotransmitter gene expression have not been well-studied. We examined gene expression in the ventromedial nucleus of the hypothalamus (VMH) during pregnancy based on the fact that this nucleus not only modulates the physiological changes that occur during pregnancy but is also involved in the development of maternal behavior. This study was designed to identify genes that are differentially expressed between mid- and late-pregnancy in order to determine which genes may be associated with the onset and display of maternal behavior and the development of the maternal brain. A commercially available PCR array containing 84 neurotransmitter receptor and regulator genes (RT2 Profiler PCR array) was used. Brains were harvested from rats on days 12 and 21 of gestation, frozen, and micropunched to obtain the VMH. Total RNA was extracted, cDNA prepared, and SYBR Green qPCR was performed. In the VMH, expression of five genes were reduced on day 21 of gestation compared to day 12 (Chrna6, Drd5, Gabrr2, Prokr2, and Ppyr1) whereas Chat, Chrm5, Drd4, Gabra5, Gabrg2, LOC289606, Nmu5r2, and Npy5r expression was elevated. Five genes were chosen to be validated in an additional experiment based on their known involvement in maternal behavior onset. This experiment confirmed that gene expression for both the CCK-A receptor and the GABAAR γ2 receptor increases at the end of pregnancy. In general, these results identify genes possibly involved in the establishment of the maternal brain in rats and indicate possible new genes to be investigated.
Abstract: Huntington disease and other diseases of polyglutamine expansion are each caused by a different protein bearing an excessively long polyglutamine sequence and are associated with neuronal death. Although these diseases affect largely different brain regions, they all share a number of characteristics, and, therefore, are likely to possess a common mechanism. In all of the diseases, the causative protein is proteolyzed, becomes abnormally folded and accumulates in oligomers and larger aggregates. The aggregated and possibly the monomeric expanded polyglutamine are likely to play a critical role in the pathogenesis and there is increasing evidence that the secondary structure of the protein influences its toxicity. We describe here, with special attention to huntingtin, the mechanisms of polyglutamine aggregation and the modulation of aggregation by the sequences flanking the polyglutamine. We give a comprehensive picture of the characteristics of monomeric and aggregated polyglutamine, including morphology, composition, seeding ability, secondary structure, and toxicity. The structural heterogeneity of aggregated polyglutamine may explain why polyglutamine-containing aggregates could paradoxically be either toxic or neuroprotective.
Abstract: Nitrous oxide is a widely used analgesic agent, used also in combination with anaesthetics during surgery. Recent research has raised concerns about possible neurotoxicity of nitrous oxide, particularly in the developing brain. Nitrous oxide is an N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA)-antagonist drug, similar in nature to ketamine, another anaesthetic agent. It has been linked to post-operative cardiovascular problems in clinical studies. It is also widely known that exposure to nitrous oxide during surgery results in elevated homocysteine levels in many patients, but very little work has investigated the long term effect of these increased homocysteine levels. Now research in rodent models has found that homocysteine can be linked to neuronal death and possibly even cognitive deficits. This review aims to examine the current knowledge of mechanisms of action of nitrous oxide, and to describe some pathways by which it may have neurotoxic effects.
Abstract: Brain-computer interfaces (BCIs) mostly rely on electrophysiological brain signals. Methodological and technical progress has largely solved the challenge of processing these signals online. The main issue that remains, however, is the identification of a reliable mapping between electrophysiological measures and relevant states of mind. This is why BCIs are highly dependent upon advances in cognitive neuroscience and neuroimaging research. Recently, psychological theories became more biologically plausible, leading to more realistic generative models of psychophysiological observations. Such complex interpretations of empirical data call for efficient and robust computational approaches that can deal with statistical model comparison, such as approximate Bayesian inference schemes. Importantly, the latter enable the optimization of a model selection error rate with respect to experimental control variables, yielding maximally powerful designs. In this paper, we use a Bayesian decision theoretic approach to cast model comparison in an online adaptive design optimization procedure. We show how to maximize design efficiency for individual healthy subjects or patients. Using simulated data, we demonstrate the face- and construct-validity of this approach and illustrate its extension to electrophysiology and multiple hypothesis testing based on recent psychophysiological models of perception. Finally, we discuss its implications for basic neuroscience and BCI itself.
Abstract: In the last few years, significant progress has been made in the field of walk rehabilitation. Motor cortex signals in bipedal monkeys have been interpreted to predict walk kinematics. Epidural electrical stimulation in rats and in one young paraplegic has been realized to partially restore motor control after spinal cord injury. However, these experimental trials are far from being applicable to all patients suffering from motor impairments. Therefore, it is thought that more simple rehabilitation systems are desirable in the meanwhile. The goal of this review is to describe and summarize the progress made in the development of non-invasive brain-computer interfaces dedicated to motor rehabilitation systems. In the first part, the main principles of human locomotion control are presented. The paper then focuses on the mechanisms of supra-spinal centers active during gait, including results from electroencephalography, functional brain imaging technologies [near-infrared spectroscopy (NIRS), functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), positron-emission tomography (PET), single-photon emission-computed tomography (SPECT)] and invasive studies. The first brain-computer interface (BCI) applications to gait rehabilitation are then presented, with a discussion about the different strategies developed in the field. The challenges to raise for future systems are identified and discussed. Finally, we present some proposals to address these challenges, in order to contribute to the improvement of BCI for gait rehabilitation.