Tag Archives: MIT

Brain imaging predicts psychotherapy success in patients with social anxiety disorder

Brain imaging predicts psychotherapy success in patients with social anxiety disorder.

Treatment for social anxiety disorder or social phobia has entered the personalized medicine arena – brain imaging can provide neuromarkers to predict whether traditional options such as cognitive behavioral therapy will work for a particular patient.

Social anxiety disorder (SAD) – the fear of being judged by others and humiliated – is the third most prevalent psychiatric disorder in Americans, after depression and alcohol dependence, according to the National Comorbidity Survey, a U.S. poll on mental health. This fear can be so strong that it interferes with daily life activities like going to work or school. If left untreated, some sufferers use alcohol, food, or drugs to reduce the fear at social events, which often leads to other disorders such as alcoholism, eating disorders, and depression.

The National Institute of Mental Health claims that 6.8 percent of U.S. adults and 5.5 percent of 13- to 15-year-olds, the age of onset for this chronic disorder, are annually afflicted. Although psychotherapy and drugs, such as antidepressants and benzodiazepines, exist as treatments for SAD, current behavioral measures poorly predict which would work better for individual patients.

Huntington’s gene disrupts brain cells via changes to other genes

Huntington’s gene disrupts brain cells via changes to other genes.

Biological engineers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US have discovered that the gene that causes Huntington’s disease, a fatal neurodegenerative disorder, damages brain cell function by disrupting the on-off switching patterns of other genes. They hope the discovery will lead to ways of restoring normal gene expression that can be used in treatments to slow or stop the progression of the disease in its early stages.

MIT brain scans show that entrepreneurs really do think differently

Entrepreneurs really do think differently

MIT brain scans show that entrepreneurs really do think differently.

A brain scan study at MIT suggests that entrepreneurs are more likely to use both sides of their brains when making decisions.

Successful decision-making isn’t necessarily about doing more exploration than exploitation. It’s in the timing – knowing when to shift between the two forms of thinking. A question for further research is whether entrepreneurs’ brains function this way because of the kind of decisions they’re used to making, or whether people with these more coherent brains are more likely to end up as entrepreneurs.

Precisely engineering 3-D brain tissues

Precisely engineering 3-D brain tissues.

Borrowing from microfabrication techniques used in the semiconductor industry, MIT and Harvard Medical School (HMS) engineers have developed a simple and inexpensive way to create three-dimensional brain tissues in a lab dish. The new technique yields tissue constructs that closely mimic the cellular composition of those in the living brain, allowing scientists to study how neurons form connections and to predict how cells from individual patients might respond to different drugs. The work also paves the way for developing bioengineered implants to replace damaged tissue for organ systems, according to the researchers.

Switching off a specific brain region can alter ingrained habits in rats

Switching off a specific brain region can alter ingrained habits in rats.

Ingrained habits in rats can be quickly broken—and reestablished—by targeting and switching off a specific site in the brain’s prefrontal cortex using a technique known as optogenetics, according to an NIMH-funded study published November 13, 2012, in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

In brain, competing thoughts come in waves and rhythms

In brain, competing thoughts come in waves and rhythms.

Emerging evidence suggests that a group of neurons can represent each unique piece of information, but no one knows just what these ensembles look like, or how they form.

In a new study, researchers at MIT and Boston University gained insight into how neural ensembles form thoughts and support the flexibility to change one’s mind. Researchers identified groups of neurons that encode specific behavioral rules by oscillating in synchrony with each other. The results suggest that the nature of conscious thought may be rhythmic.

Electrical impulses in the brain encode protocols for behaviors

Electrical impulses in the brain encode protocols for behaviors.

Neuroscientists have long been perplexed by how our brains encode thoughts, including memory loss and awareness, on the cellular level. Findings have revealed that groups of neurons symbolize every distinct segment of information, however, it is unknown what these groups of neurons look like or how they develop.

A 3-D light switch for the brain

A 3-D light switch for the brain.

A new tool for neuroscience delivers a thousand pinpricks of light to a chunk of gray matter smaller than a sugar cube. The new fiber-optic device, created by biologists and engineers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, is the first tool that can deliver precise points of light to a 3-D section of living brain tissue. The work is a step forward for a relatively new but promising technique that uses gene therapy to turn individual brain cells on and off with light.