Here’s How The New Moon On August 8 Will Affect You If You’re An Aquarius

There’s a new moon on August 8, 2021, and it’s the perfect time for setting goals, planning for the future, and manifesting the things you want most out of life (via The Aligned Life). This particular moon also happens to fall on the same day as the “lion’s gate portal,” which is said to be one of the luckiest events of the entire year. “The lion’s gate portal is an opening for high-frequency, high-vibrational energies — infused completely with Sirian energy — to flood down upon the Earth,” ascension guide and intuitive healer Laura Brown revealed to Bustle. “The lion’s gate portal occurs when the Earth and the Sirius star system are aligned,” Brown continued. “Astrologically, this portal is called the lion’s gate portal due to the sun being in the sign of Leo.”

The new moon falls under the sign of Leo in August, which brings with it potential for wealth, passion, confidence, and self-expression. “Leo is a raging fire sign, and its energy can attract all it desires like a moth to a flame,” Brown said, encouraging those willing to use the number eight in their manifesting and intention setting for the month. For Aquarius, August could prove to be a month full of love.

Aquarius should share their feelings during the new moon on August 8

According to Bustle, those born under the sign of Aquarius (January 20 to February 18) may find their romantic relationships heating up with the new moon. The Leo passion vibes will be working overtime for Aquarius as they find themselves connecting with people on a spiritual level. Even though Aquarius isn’t known for sharing their feelings freely, they may find that they’re being pulled to open up a bit during the new moon on August 8, 2021. “Although you may not express it to others, you desire love and partnership on a deep, soulful level,” astrologer Ellen Bowles told the outlet. “Speak from the heart and be transparent about your feelings.”

Vogue noted that if Aquarius isn’t in a romantic relationship, their connections could be forged with friends or co-workers. It could be the right time to add a partner to your business, or even work on manifesting your perfect partner. Perhaps it’s time to also let go of negative feelings towards an old enemy, which will open you up to making important new relationships in the future. It seems that Aquarius will have some soul searching to do during the new moon, but their spiritual journey will help lead them to inner peace.

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A new mathematical model assesses ICU patients mortality risk

hospital patient

A research team has developed a new machine learning-based model that predicts the risk of mortality of intensive care unit patients according to their characteristics. The research was published in the latest edition of the journal Artificial Intelligence in Medicine.

Under the framework of artificial intelligence, machine learning allows a model to gain knowledge based on the information provided by available historical data, and automatically modifies its information when new information appears. One of the current challenges is the creation of models with which to make personalized medical predictions, and one of the areas in which artificial intelligence can be of great help is in deciding how to proceed with intensive care unit (ICU) patients. This process is complex and comes at a high cost, and depends on the inherent variability of the opinion of specialists, based on their experience and instinct. Therefore, to improve the quality of care in the ICUs, it is important to set down protocols based on objective data and on an accurate prediction of a patient’s risk of mortality according to their characteristics. In this sense, machine learning tools may be of great help to medical experts.

The researchers, led by Dr. Rosario Delgado from the Department of Mathematics of the UAB, in collaboration with Head of the ICU at Hospital de Mataró Dr. Juan Carlos Yébenes, UAB associate lecturer Àngel Lavado from the Information Management Unit of the Maresme Health Consortium, and José David Núñez-González, Ph.D. student of the UAB Department of Mathematics, used machine learning tools to create a model capable of predicting the risk of mortality of ICU patients, based on a real database which also served to validate the model. The model will aid in the decision-making process of healthcare workers by improving the prediction of premature deaths, making medical decisions about high-risk patients more efficient, evaluating the effectiveness of new treatments and detecting changes in clinical practices.

The use of this model represents a clear improvement in traditional approaches, consistent with predicting the risk of mortality based on the Acute Physiology And Chronic Health Evaluation (APACHE) score—a questionnaire widely used to assess a person’s state of health with the help of different indicators. The new model makes use of an estimated logistical regression that was validated in previous groups of patients. Researchers were able to demonstrate experimentally that the new model they created overcomes the weak points of traditional approaches, offering good results and presenting itself as a better alternative.

The predictive self-learning prognosis model created by researchers consists in a set of Bayesian classifiers used by assigning a life prognosis label (live or die) to each individual, according to traits such as demography, gender and age; the Charlson comorbidity index; their place of origin; the cause of admission; the presence or lack of sepsis; severity reached in the first 24 hours after aadmission; and the APACHE II score.

Researchers improved the model’s prediction through a combination of individual predictions of each classifier designed in a way that the faults of some predictions could be compensated with other correct predictions, and taking into account the imbalance represented by a low proportion of patients dying in the ICUs. The model predicts the cause of death of patients at a high risk, as well as the outcome of patients at a low risk of dying. This type of model is known as a hierarchical predictive model, given that there are two stages of prediction.

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Does new Alzheimer’s drug work? Answers may miss 2030 target

Does new Alzheimer's drug work? Answers may miss 2030 target

When a controversial Alzheimer’s drug won U.S. approval, surprise over the decision quickly turned to shock at how long it might take to find out if it really works—nine years.

Drugmaker Biogen has until 2030 to complete a study confirming whether its new drug Aduhelm truly slows the brain-destroying disease. That’s under the terms of the Food and Drug Administration’s conditional approva l of the drug, a decision that has been praised by patients as overdue and condemned by the agency’s own outside experts.

But both camps agree: 2030 is far too long to wait for answers on the $56,000-a-year drug.

“We think nine years is unacceptable and our expectation is that it will happen in a much shorter time frame,” said Maria Carrillo of the Alzheimer’s Association, an advocacy group that pushed for approval but now wants the FDA to set a quicker deadline.

Other experts warn that the 2030 timeline could slip if patients balk at enrolling in a new study for a drug that’s already available. And the focus on Aduhelm—the first new Alzheimer’s drug in 18 years—could steer volunteers away from testing of other promising treatments.

“If someone can go to their physician and get the FDA-approved drug, why would they go into a trial where they risk getting a placebo?” said Donna Wilcock, an Alzheimer’s researcher at the University of Kentucky.

To establish a new drug’s safety and effectiveness, researchers compare results in people who get the treatment to a similar group of people who don’t. That generally means half of the volunteers are randomly assigned to get a fake treatment instead of the real thing.

Biogen already conducted two such large studies of its drug, which requires monthly IVs. The studies took about four years to run and followed participants for about 1 1/2 years. Both were stopped early when it seemed the drug wasn’t working, and the results were so mired by flaws and inconsistencies that the FDA deemed them too weak to support approval on the basis of slowing the disease.

Instead, the agency took another approach and gave the drug conditional approval based on a promising sign: its success in getting rid of a buildup of sticky plaque in the brain that is thought to play a role in Alzheimer’s disease.

Under its so-called accelerated approval program, the FDA is requiring Biogen to conduct a new study definitively answering whether Aduhelm’s effect on plaque truly slows mental decline in patients. Other Alzheimer’s drugs on the market only temporarily ease symptoms.

The FDA has not detailed how the 2030 target came about, or why such a distant deadline was granted for a drug that could be given to millions of patients in the coming years, adding billions to the nation’s health care bill.

“Alzheimer’s trials take time to complete,” the FDA said in a statement responding to questions about the study. The agency added that it might be possible to answer key questions about Aduhelm before the study’s completion and that Biogen is expected to submit results “as soon as feasible.”

But the agency’s critics point out that nine years is among the longest follow-up periods the agency grants drugmakers. Drugs approved under similar circumstances typically get six years. And, if anything, those studies tend to run behind schedule, not finish early. If follow-up studies don’t have positive results, the FDA can withdraw approval, though it rarely does so.

“Just because it says nine years doesn’t mean the evidence will be available in nine years,” said Joshua Wallach, a medical researcher at Yale’s School of Public Health. “There’s all of this back and forth discussion that can happen with FDA that can delay completion.”

Biogen isn’t scheduled to submit its initial proposal for the study to FDA until October. The Massachusetts-based company said in a statement that large Alzheimer’s trials often take six or seven years and that FDA-mandated studies can take even longer.

“We are working with urgency and putting resources and plans in place,” to complete the trial ahead of schedule, the company stated.

Meanwhile, Alzheimer’s specialists like Dr. Samuel Gandy are seeing patients in other drug studies ask about dropping out so they can get Aduhelm.

“They’ve all said, ‘You know, I can’t stand the idea of being on placebo,'” said Gandy, who has heard from more than 20 families interested in the drug at New York’s Mount Sinai hospital.

After he explained the drug’s unknown benefits and potential side effects—including brain swelling and bleeding—several decided against it. But other patients remain interested.

Post-approval studies have become an increasingly common FDA requirement since the 1990s, as regulators have accelerated their reviews of drugs for HIV, cancer and other deadly diseases. But the agency’s mixed record of tracking those requirements and penalizing companies that don’t meet them has been chronicled in government and academic studies.

The case of a widely debated drug for muscular dystrophy illustrates how the system can go awry.

In 2016, the FDA approved the first-of-a-kind drug from Sarepta Therapeutics based on preliminary results that it might help treat the degenerative disease by boosting a muscle-building protein.

As with Aduhelm, the approval was opposed by FDA’s outside advisers who said there was scant evidence the drug actually improved patient health or quality of life. But the FDA granted approval on the condition that Sarepta complete a confirmatory study by May 2021.

The trial, though, is still getting underway after “multiple challenges in the overall planning and startup,” according to the FDA’s website. The new target date is 2026, a decade after the drug was allowed on the market.

A Sarepta spokeswoman said the company spent years negotiating study details with the FDA, which required testing a higher dose.

In the meantime, Sarepta has won approval for two other dystrophy drugs based on similar results that also require follow-up trials, which the company says are already well underway.

“The FDA took a risk with Sarepta and I think they’re being burned by it now,” said Dr. Joseph Ross of Yale.

Ross and his colleagues have shown that at least a quarter of follow-up results never get published, leaving questions for physicians and patients.

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US COVID cases hit new plateau as Delta variant rises


After declining fast for two months, the rate of COVID infections in the United States has leveled off since mid-June thanks to localized spikes in under-vaccinated regions of the country, data showed Monday.

It comes as the highly contagious Delta variant continues to gain traction, now accounting for 35.6 percent of sequenced cases in the past two weeks, according to the covSpectrum tracker. Authorities have said it is poised to soon become the country’s dominant strain.

The seven-day-average of new daily cases has hovered at around 11,500 since June 16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or about 3.5 per 100,000 people.

A clear divide has emerged across the country, with cases rising rapidly in communities that have low rates of vaccination.

For example, the city of Springfield in the midwestern state of Missouri is experiencing a surge of 36.8 new cases per 100,000, and has just 35 percent of its population vaccinated with one or more doses, a dashboard maintained by COVID ActNow showed.

On the other hand, Burlington in the northeastern state of Vermont is seeing just 0.9 new cases per 100,000, and has 71 percent of its population vaccinated with one or more doses.

Nationally, 54 percent of the United States’ 332 million people have received one or more doses while 46.1 percent have had two doses, according to the CDC.

The national immunization drive peaked in mid-April but has been declining since, with vaccine hesitancy much higher in states that lean Republican than those that predominantly vote for Democrats.

Cases dropped steeply across the country from mid-April to the beginning of June, a period that coincided with spring weather and increased socialization outdoors.

The summer heat however has brought more people indoors, where the primarily airborne respiratory illness mostly spreads. Air conditioning contributes by drying out the air and making conditions more favorable for the virus to remain viable.

All of this spells danger for unvaccinated people, who are more exposed than ever in the face of the highly contagious Delta variant.

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New snack foods nurture healthy gut microbiome

snack food

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have identified ingredients for snack food prototypes that have been formulated to deliberately change the gut microbiome in ways that can be linked to health.

Translating results from animal models, the scientists have shown in two pilot human studies of overweight participants that snacks containing combinations of specifically selected fiber types affect elements of the microbiome involved in metabolizing fiber components. This shift in the microbiome was linked to changes in groups of blood proteins that are biomarkers and regulators of many facets of physiology and metabolism. These blood proteins shifted in ways that could improve health in the long term.

The study is published June 24 in the journal Nature.

“Poor nutrition is a pressing and complex problem worldwide that is driven by many factors, including an overabundance of high-fat and low-fiber foods in typical Western diets,” said the study’s senior author Jeffrey I. Gordon, MD, the Dr. Robert J. Glaser Distinguished University Professor and director of the Edison Family Center for Genome Sciences & Systems Biology at Washington University School of Medicine. “Since snacks are a popular part of Western diets, we are working to help develop a new generation of snack food formulations that people will like to eat and that will support a healthy gut microbiome that affects many aspects of wellness.”

The human intestine is home to a microbiome composed of tens of trillions of microbes containing millions of different genes that perform functions that are not provided by the approximately 20,000 protein-coding genes in the human genome. According to the researchers, the nutritional value of foods is determined in part by the products of the foods’ unique metabolism by the gut microbiome.

Gordon and his colleagues are focused on characterizing which food components interact with which components of the gut microbiome and how this interaction shapes different features of human biology. The goal is to herald a new era of nutritional science that yields affordable, more nutritious foods from sustainable sources that can be used to treat or prevent various forms of malnutrition—whether it be undernutrition or obesity in children or adults.

The high-fat, low-fiber diets consumed in the U.S. and other Western countries fail to support a diverse and healthy gut microbiome. Moreover, diets with high fiber content are associated with lower risks of chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and obesity. However, dietary fibers are composed of complex and diverse mixtures of biomolecules, many of which the human body can’t break down on its own. The nature of these mixtures varies depending upon the source of the fibers and how they are processed when incorporated into foods.

Past work by Gordon’s team identified specific plant fibers that were affordable and available in large quantities from sustainable sources—such as from peels, rinds and husks that would otherwise be discarded—and that increased the performance of certain beneficial gut microbes that are underrepresented in many obese adults consuming Western diets.

In this new report, the researchers analyzed data from subjects enrolled in two studies who were overweight or obese and who were provided with meals that mimicked a typical Western diet. These diets were supplemented with one of three fiber-containing snack food prototypes. One contained only fiber recovered from peas. Another contained a combination of pea fiber and inulin (a fiber found in a number of fruits and vegetables, including wheat, onions, bananas, asparagus, artichokes and chicory root). A third snack contained pea fiber and inulin as well as fibers from the pulp of oranges and barley bran. The snacks were developed in collaboration with Mondelēz International, a global snack food company.

In the first study, participants consumed the high-fat, low-fiber meals for 10 days, before adding a pea fiber-containing snack to their diets for two weeks, followed by two weeks in which the participants continued to eat the high-fat, low-fiber diet without the fiber snack. In the second study, a similar design was used, but supplementation was with the snack containing both pea fiber and inulin, and after a washout period, the snack containing four fiber components: pea, inulin, orange and barley bran.

The researchers analyzed the patients’ gut microbiomes during the various phases of the study as well as the levels of more than 1,300 proteins in their blood. Gordon and his colleagues found that many of the components of the microbiome that responded to and processed the different snack fiber prototypes in the trial participants were the same as those that responded to the same fibers in their earlier experiments using gnotobiotic mice colonized with human gut microbes. Gnotobiotic mice are born and raised under sterile conditions, so the nature of the gut microbes can be strictly controlled for scientific studies.

Furthermore, they found that compared with the single-fiber or two-fiber snacks, the snack with the combination of four different fibers had a broader effect on microbiome genes encoding the metabolic machinery needed to extract nutrients from the fibers. These findings validated the use of their preclinical models as a way to accelerate screening and selection of fibers for incorporation into food prototypes.

The researchers developed data mining approaches that allowed them to identify statistically significant changes in specific groups of microbiome genes and to associate them with changes in the levels of groups of blood proteins involved in a remarkably broad range of physiologic processes, ranging from energy metabolism—including the metabolism of glucose—to immune responses, blood coagulation and blood vessel function, as well as bone and nerve cell biology.

“We were encouraged to see the impact of these fiber snacks on the gut microbiome and human physiology even in these relatively short studies,” said first author Omar Delannoy-Bruno, Ph.D., a member of the interdisciplinary team that conducted this work.

Co-author Michael J. Barratt, Ph.D., associate professor of pathology and immunology and executive director of the Center for Gut Microbiome and Nutrition Research at Washington University, said: “These pilot studies were not designed to test whether the fiber snacks could produce significant long-term alterations in body weight or commonly measured biomarkers of cardiometabolic health. Therefore, the benefits of these interventions will have to be investigated in larger, longer clinical trials. Moreover, these small studies were conducted under strictly controlled diet conditions. An important next step will be to investigate the effects of the fiber snacks in participants who are free to eat as they normally would.”

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New real-time monitoring method accurately reflects hotspots in epidemic


A new method to monitor epidemics like COVID-19 gives an accurate real-time estimate of the growth rate of an epidemic by carefully evaluating the relationship between the amount of viruses in infected people’s bodies, called the viral load, and how fast the number of cases is increasing or decreasing.

“This new method, which effectively links what we know about how the virus grows within the body to the dynamics of how the virus spreads across a population, provides a brand new metric that public health officials, policy makers, and epidemiologists will be able to use to get up-to-date real-time information on the epidemic,” said Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and a core member of the Center for Communicable Disease Dynamics.

Mina is the senior author of a paper that describes the method, published June 3, 2021 in the journal Science.

Monitoring epidemics is essential for public health response to understand how well interventions like masks, lockdowns, or vaccines are working, and to know where to distribute extra resources when cases are rising.

The current approaches to monitoring epidemics rely almost entirely on following case counts or hospitalization rates over time, and looking at test positivity rates and deaths. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, daily case data like that published by The New York Times has been crucial for public health officials and researchers to evaluate how well states and countries are controlling the spread of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19. However, these types of data can often be of only limited use because of variable testing practices or poor reporting. For example, a growing epidemic might look like it is leveling off if testing capacity is maxed out or if reporting is delayed because resources are being focused elsewhere. These pitfalls of monitoring case reports over time can adversely impact appropriate public health responses.

Because outbreaks grow or fall exponentially, when cases are growing, most people who are positive at any moment in time will have been recently infected and will thus have higher viral loads—as measured in PCR (polymerase chain reaction) tests—at the time that they are tested. This is because the virus is at its peak amount in the body early after infection and then falls to very low but still detectable levels in PCR tests over weeks or even months after infection. When the outbreak is slowing down and cases are falling, the average person who is detected as positive in surveillance testing will have been infected potentially weeks before testing and thus will have lower viral loads at the time of testing.

To better track pandemic hotspots, researchers at Harvard Chan School developed a mathematical tool that carefully evaluates the relationship between viral load—measured from the PCR test in a value called the cycle threshold (Ct value)—and how fast cases are increasing or decreasing. Using even the relatively small number of 30 SARS-CoV-2 positive samples taken from surveillance testing on a single day can give an accurate real-time estimate of the growth rate of the epidemic. When Ct values are available from multiple time points, the researchers discovered that they can use even a very limited amount of positive results to reconstruct the epidemic curve and estimate how many people have been infected over time.

Even viral amounts detected in positive PCR test samples collected from one location at just a single point in time can help estimate the growth or decay rate of an outbreak across a population, the researchers found.

In the U.S. and in much of the world, the PCR Ct values—the values that show how much virus is collected on the swab from someone’s nose—are often discarded and the results of the PCR test returned with a simple “positive” or “negative” result.

“Our work demonstrates just how valuable the Ct values are and why we should not only stop our current practice of throwing them away, but why we should instead make them a key piece of data to collect for our pandemic response,” said Mina, who has previously published on the use of PCR Ct values to aid in clinical decision making and who has been a leader in developing new approaches for using COVID-19 tests to limit the disease’s spread.

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New Alzheimer’s treatment idea targets tau

New Alzheimer'sTreatment idea targets tau

A new idea for treating Alzheimer’s disease could eradicate the toxic proteins most closely linked to cognitive decline in the places where they do the most damage, a study from researchers at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons suggests.

The study was published online in Science Translational Medicine on May 26.

Early in Alzheimer’s disease, toxic tau proteins accumulate inside the brain’s synapses, compromising the transmission of signals from one neuron to another. Cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s is closely linked to tau: the more tau that accrues, the faster cognition deteriorates.

Eradicating toxic tau could improve cognition in Alzheimer’s patients, and in a previous study, the Columbia team discovered that tau levels can be reduced by enhancing the activity of proteasomes, cell structures that degrade old or unwanted proteins.

“Enhancing proteasome activity improves cognition in mice that make a lot of mutant tau, but we don’t want to boost protein degradation throughout the cell where too much might cause unwanted effects,” says the study’s senior author Natura Myeku, Ph.D., assistant professor of pathology & cell biology at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons.

The new study reveals a potential solution. The most toxic tau proteins, the researchers found, accumulate predominantly on one side of the synapse. And the activity of proteasomes on that side of the synapse can be amplified without affecting proteasomes in other parts of the brain.

Myeku’s team found that a peptide that stimulates PAC1 receptors, which are largely found on the same side of the synapse as tau, reduced toxic tau levels and improved cognitive performance in mice with early-stage tau accumulation. The peptide had little effect on the other side of the synapse.

“Although the peptide is quickly degraded in the body and not a good candidate for therapy in humans,” Myeku says, “we are currently testing another drug, prucalopride, for the same purpose.” Prucalopride, which stimulates a receptor with similar action as PAC1, was recently approved by the FDA for the treatment of gastrointestinal disease.

“By targeting a certain family of receptors that are present mainly on the surface of synapses, our study raises the possibility of a whole new approach to remove toxic proteins in Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s and Huntington’s.” Myeku says.

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New research reveals that a low-calorie ketogenic diet can help testosterone levels in overweight men


A very low-calorie ketogenic diet can help testosterone and sex hormone (SHBG) levels in overweight men, according to a study being presented at the 23rd European Congress of Endocrinology (e-ECE 2021), on Monday 24 May 2021. The study found that after following a recommended low-calorie ketogenic diet for four weeks, body weight, fat mass and body mass index (BMI) significantly decreased and a substantial increase of total testosterone and SHBG levels were also found. Testosterone is responsible for sexual and reproductive functions. However, it plays a significant role in calorie utilisation and metabolism as well.

This study was the first of its kind to examine the effect of a very low-calorie ketogenic diet on testosterone and SHBG levels and therefore highlighted the tight relation between insulin action, energy balance, and testicular function. As men who are overweight or obese can also suffer from low levels of testosterone and SHBG levels, the data suggests that further research into a low-calorie ketogenic diet and its effect on male testosterone and SHBG levels may be a promising area for additional research.

The worldwide prevalence of obesity nearly doubled between 1980 and 2008. According to country estimates for 2008, over 50% of men in the WHO European Region were overweight, and roughly 20% were obese. Obesity can lead to diabetes and heart disease, as well as psychological problems.

To tackle this, various lifestyle changes, activities and treatments are widely recommended, and a ketogenic diet is becoming increasingly recognised as one of them. The diet consists of little protein and very little carbohydrates, and when done as very-low calorie a daily intake of less than 800 calories is advised. A very low-calorie ketogenic diet has previously been found to reduce body weight, glycaemia and insulinemia, but its effects on total testosterone and SHBG levels were less clear, until now.

Dr. Angelo Cignarelli and a team of colleagues from the University of Bari in Italy investigated whether this controlled diet would have the same, positive effect that it does on overall bodyweight on total testosterone and SHBG levels. The 17 male subjects in the study underwent a low-calorie ketogenic diet for four weeks, and various tests were carried out before and after one (1) and four (4) weeks.

“We aimed to evaluate the response of total testosterone and sex hormone levels to a very low-calorie ketogenic diet in a cohort of overweight or obese non-diabetic male subjects and what we found was that there is a noticeable relation between a specific, controlled diet and insulin action, energy balance, and testicular function,” says Dr. Cignarelli.

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New study reveals where memories of familiar places are stored in the brain

New study reveals where memories of familiar places are stored in the brain

As we move through the world, what we see is seamlessly integrated with our memory of the broader spatial environment. How does the brain accomplish this feat? A new study from Dartmouth College reveals that three regions of the brain in the posterior cerebral cortex, which the researchers call “place-memory areas,” form a link between the brain’s perceptual and memory systems. The findings are published in Nature Communications.

“As we navigate our surroundings, information enters the visual cortex and somehow ends up as knowledge of where we are—the question is where this transformation into spatial knowledge occurs. We think that the place-memory areas might be where this happens,” explains lead author Adam Steel, a Neukom Fellow with the department of psychology and brain sciences in the Robertson Lab at Dartmouth. “When you look at the location of the brain areas that process visual scenes and those that process spatial memories, these place-memory areas literally form a bridge between the two systems. Each of the brain areas involved in visual processing are paired with a place-memory counterpart.”

For the study, an innovative methodology was employed. Participants were asked to perceive and recall places that they had been to in the real world during functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), which produced high-resolution, subject specific maps of brain activity. Past studies on scene perception and memory have often used stimuli that participants knew of but had never visited, like famous landmarks, and have pooled data across many subjects. By mapping the brain activity of individual participants using real-world places that they had been to, researchers were able to untangle the brain’s fine-grained organization.

In one experiment, 14 participants provided a list of people that they knew personally and places that they have visited in real-life (e.g., their father or their childhood home). Then, while in the fMRI scanner, the participants imagined that they were seeing those people or visiting those places. Comparing the brain activity between people and places revealed the place-memory areas. Importantly, when the researchers compared these newly identified regions to the brain areas that process visual scenes, the new regions were overlapping but distinct.

“We were surprised,” says Steel, “because the classic understanding is that the brain areas that perceive should be the same areas that are engaged during memory recall.”

In another experiment, the team investigated whether the place-memory areas were involved in recognition of familiar places. During fMRI scanning, participants were presented with panning images of familiar and unfamiliar real-world locations downloaded from Google Street View. When the researchers looked at the neural activity, they found that the place-memory areas were more active when images of familiar places were shown. The scene-perception areas did not show the same enhancement when viewing familiar places. This suggests that the place-memory areas play an important role in recognizing familiar locations.

“Our findings help explain how a generic image of a clock tower becomes one that we recognize, such as Baker-Berry Library’s tower here on Dartmouth’s campus,” says Steel.

“It’s thrilling to discover a new set of brain areas,” says senior author Caroline Robertson, an assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences at Dartmouth. “Learning how the mind is organized is at the heart of the quest of understanding what makes us human.”

“The place-memory network provides a new framework for understanding the neural processes that drive memory-guided visual behaviors, including navigation,” explains Robertson.

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New theory may revolutionize treatment of endometriosis


Endometriosis, a disease found in up to 10 percent of women, has been enigmatic since it was first described. A new theory developed by researchers at Simon Fraser University suggests a previously overlooked hormone—testosterone—has a critical role in its development. The research could have direct impacts on diagnosis and treatment of the disease, signaling hope for women with endometriosis worldwide.

The disease is caused by endometrial tissue growing outside of the uterus, usually in the pelvic area, where it contributes to pain, inflammation, and infertility. But why some women get it, and others do not, has remained unclear.

The new research is based on recent findings that women with endometriosis developed, as fetuses in their mother’s wombs, under conditions of relatively low testosterone, compared to women without endometriosis.

According to the researchers’ theory, this low testosterone “programs” the developing reproductive system of women to exhibit the unique suite of traits that is linked with endometriosis, including early menarche, short menstrual cycles, high pain sensitivity, high inflammation, and altered levels of the hormones that control ovulation and the menstrual cycle.

The researchers found their theory to be supported by a remarkable range of data in the literature, from genetics and development to endocrinology, morphology, life history, and evolutionary biology, thus providing the first comprehensive explanation for the traits associated with endometriosis.

The theory can explain almost all symptoms of endometriosis as downstream effects of low early-life testosterone. The findings are presented in two recent papers published in Evolution, Medicine and Public Health, and Evolutionary Applications.

“Low testosterone in early development is the strongest known correlate of endometriosis, and its effects can explain the majority of endometriosis symptoms,” says SFU biological sciences professor Bernard Crespi, a Canada Research Chair and co-author of the work with graduate student Natalie Dinsdale. “What’s more, the new theory has direct implications for endometriosis diagnosis and treatment.”

Crespi notes that testosterone has apparently been overlooked in studies of endometriosis because it is usually regarded as a “male” hormone, even though it is known to have key effects in females as well.

“It is very common for researchers to focus on estrogen as a female hormone, and testosterone as a male hormone, but in reality, these are both critically important hormones in all humans,” says Ben Trumble, an assistant professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University, who was not associated with these studies. “I applaud the authors for moving beyond this binary hormonal blind spot, and studying the full range of steroids that can impact women’s health.”

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