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Neuroscience

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Nature

Nature reporter Elie Dolgin writes that a new study by MIT researchers explores the role of the gene variant APOE4 in Alzheimer’s, and finds that the gene is linked with faulty cholesterol processing in the brain, impacting the insulation around nerve cells and potentially causing memory and learning deficits. “The work suggests that drugs that restore the brain’s cholesterol processing could treat the disease,” writes Dolgin. 

New York Times

A study by Prof. Emery Brown suggests that the combination of Covid-19 and anesthesia could prompt the human brain into a state of quiet that can last weeks or months, similar to how turtles quiet their neurons to survive winter, reports Carl Zimmer for The New York Times. The findings “might point to new ways to save people from brain damage: by intentionally putting people into this state, rather than doing so by accident.”

National Geographic

Prof. Matthew Wilson speaks with National Geographic reporter Brian Handwerk about his research exploring the science behind whether animals have dreams. “We have this idea of dreams being a confabulatory narrative with kind of crazy, vivid elements to it,” says Wilson. “But when we look into animal models, we’re simply trying to understand what goes on during sleep that might influence learning, memory, and behavior.”

CBS

Scientists at MIT have found that specific neurons in the human brain light up whenever we see images of food, reports Dr. Mallika Marshall for CBS Boston. “The researchers now want to explore how people’s responses to certain foods might differ depending on their personal preferences, likes and dislikes and past experiences,” Marshall.

WHDH 7

MIT researchers have developed a new magnet-based system to monitor muscle movements that could help make prosthetic limbs easier to control, reports Brianna Silva for WHDH.

The Guardian

Researchers at MIT have discovered that pictures of food appear to stimulate strong reactions among specific sets of neurons in the human brain, a trait that could have evolved due to the importance of food for humans, reports Sascha Pare for The Guardian. “The researchers posit these neurons have gone undetected because they are spread across the other specialized cluster for faces, places, bodies and words, rather than concentrated in one region,” writes Pare.

Forbes

Prof. Pattie Maes, and graduate students Valdemar Danry, Joanne Leong and Pat Pataranutaporn speak with Forbes reporter Stephen Ibaraki about their work in the MIT Media Lab Fluid Interfaces research group. “Their highly interdisciplinary work covering decades of MIT Lab pioneering inventions integrates human computer interaction (HCI), sensor technologies, AI / machine learning, nano-tech, brain computer interfaces, design and HCI, psychology, neuroscience and much more,” writes Ibaraki.

Popular Mechanics

Researchers at MIT have found that the brain can send a burst of noradrenaline when it requires you to pay attention to something crucial, reports Juandre for Popular Mechanics. “The MIT team discovered that one important function of noradrenaline, commonly known as norepinephrine, is to assist the brain in learning from unexpected results,” explains Juandre.

The Daily Beast

MIT researchers have developed a new computational model that could be used to help explain differences in how neurotypical adults and adults with autism recognize emotions via facial expressions, reports Tony Ho Tran for The Daily Beast. “For visual behaviors, the study suggests that [the IT cortex] pays a strong role,” says research scientist Kohitij Kar. “But it might not be the only region. Other regions like amygdala have been implicated strongly as well. But these studies illustrate how having good [AI models] of the brain will be key to identifying those regions as well.”

The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe highlights Robert Buderi’s new book, “Where Futures Converge: Kendall Square and the Making of a Global Innovation Hub.” Buderi features the Future Founders Initiative, an effort by Prof. Sangeeta Bhatia, President Emerita Susan Hockfield and Prof. Emerita Nancy Hopkins aimed at increasing female entrepreneurship. 

Smithsonian Magazine

Smithsonian Magazine reporter Margaret Osborne spotlights MIT researchers who have discovered that specific neurons in the brain respond to singing, but not sounds such as road traffic, instrumental music and speaking. “This work suggests there’s a distinction in the brain between instrumental music and vocal music,” says former MIT postdoc Sam Norman-Haignere.

Fast Company

Fast Company reporter Daria Burke spotlights a course by senior lecturer Tara Swart that explores how to create sustainable change in the brain. “New experiences promote neuroplasticity,” says Swart. “Exposing yourself to different kinds of people, new languages, new kinds of food will promote plasticity in your brain because your brain is having to adapt to change.”

USA Today

USA Today reporter Karen Weintraub spotlights Prof. Li-Huei Tsai’s work studying a potential new approach to treating Alzheimer's disease and “whether certain tones of sound and frequencies of light can help regulate brain waves and help clear our cellular trash, including toxic proteins.” Tsai explains that: “The major difference between this approach and all other approaches is that this approach doesn’t just target one molecule or one pathway or one cell type. This is a holistic approach to take care of the whole system.”

Stat

STAT reporter Megan Molteni writes that a new study by MIT researchers finds that senescent cells, which are linked to aging, may potentially be a cause of Down syndrome. “We hope it opens up new avenues for how we look at Down syndrome — that there seems to be this whole other element that plays on a different timeline that we really need to explore more.”

GBH

Graduate student Olumakinde “Makinde” Ogunnaike and Josh Sariñana PhD ’11 join Boston Public Radio to discuss The Poetry of Science, an initiative that brought together artists and scientists of color to help translate complex scientific research through art and poetry. “Science is often a very difficult thing to penetrate,” says Sariñana. “I thought poetry would be a great way to translate the really abstract concepts into more of an emotional complexity of who the scientists actually are.”