Friday, February 29, 2008

Reverse-engineer the brain

Neurobiologists at UC San Diego have discovered that altering electrical activity in nerve cells can change the chemical messengers the cells generate to communicate with other cells, a finding that may one day lead to new treatments for mood and learning disorders. In a study published in Nature, the UCSD team showed that manipulating the electrical activity of developing nerve cells can alter the type of neurotransmitter they produce.
Media Contact: Sherry Seethaler, (858) 534-4656,
The Kavli Institute for Brain and Mind has awarded grants to 12 investigative teams at UCSD:
--Neurotransmitter Changes in Patients Awake during Brain Surgery.
--How a Neuron Becomes a Mirror in the Developing Brain.
--The Role of the Amygdala in Social Cognition Across Animals.
--Phenotypic Markers for Autism Spectrum Disorders.
--Molecular Genetic Characterization of the Lesch Nyhan Disease.
--Neurogenesis in Dentate Gyrus: A Computational Exploration.
--Exploring the Role of GABAergic Activity in the Brain.
--Relating Functional and Physical Long-Distance Connectivity in Development.
--Brain Dynamics and Motor Control.
--Consciousness in Blindsight and Hypnosis.
--Human Brain Responses to Humanoid Robots.
--Cortical Models of Fluid Intelligence.
Media contact: Barry Jagoda, (858)534-8567,

Ketamine, also known as “Special K,” can induce schizophrenia-like symptoms in drug abusers. Ketamine is also used as an anesthetic and an antidepressant, leading to impairments in brain circuitry that are observed in drug abusers and schizophrenic patients. Increased production of a toxic free radicals is the molecular culprit, and findings reported in Science by UC San Diego researchers could point the way to novel treatments for schizophrenia.
Media Contact: Debra Kain, 619-543-6163,

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