New research at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai sheds light for the first time on how depression and emotional resilience operate on a molecular level. The findings, published in the December 4, 2014, issue of Nature, bring fresh perspective to an area that has eluded researchers for decades by outlining the mechanisms within cells that activate depression and laying the groundwork for new treatments. Current drugs for depression focus on neurotransmitters, or communication between cells, but identification of this novel biochemical pathway could pave the way for more effective drugs with very different mechanisms. Read more
Ketamine, a drug approved for use as a general anesthetic and sedative, also appears to provide significant relief to patients with major depressive disorder, and those with chronic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), according to two separate studies conducted by researchers at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai.
Research in Mark Baxter’s laboratory, the Glickenhaus Laboratory of Neuropsychology, focuses on the neural systems underlying memory and other higher cognitive functions, and understanding how disturbances in these systems impair cognitive function in brain disorders. Our general approach is to study the effects on behavior of specific manipulations of neural circuits in animal models, to gain insight into how similar disruptions in human disease may be responsible for cognitive impairment.
In recent years there have been major breakthroughs in the identification of novel molecular and cellular mechanisms underlying the pathophysiology of brain disorders. For instance, thanks to state-of-the-art molecular techniques, current stem cell research not only allows in-vitro recapitulation of disease expression, but also for the discovery of novel disease-associated cellular mechanisms.
We all know that it is easier to learn a new language or musical instrument as a child rather than in adulthood. At no other time in life does the surrounding environment so potently shape brain function – from basic motor skills and sensation to higher cognitive processes like language – than it does during childhood. This experience-dependent process occurs at distinct time windows called “critical periods”, which are times of great opportunity but also of great vulnerability for the developing brain. Early disruption of proper sensory or social experiences will result in mis-wired circuits that will respond sub-optimally to normal experiences in the future. Comparable effects are also seen for the development of vision, where if a child’s binocular vision is compromised and not corrected before the age of eight, amblyopia (‘lazy eye’) is permanent and irreversible.
For most of us the word brain is synonymous with nerve cells or neurons. All of us are well familiar with the notion of the brain as a mega-computer where billions of neurons govern our life, from simplest tasks to the rare moments of discoveries. It may appear surprising to hear that the function of brain and neurons would not be possible without cells that do not participate in our thinking directly. Instead, these cells, that are called microglia, function as watchdogs of neuron’s functionality and health and remove neurons that stop acting properly.
What is the future of stem cell research? Embryonic cells were once so controversial that President George W. Bush limited federal funding in 2001 (a policy that was overturned by President Obama in 2009). Now there is a new type of stem cell, similar to embryonic stem cells, called induced pluripotent stem cells. We’ve all heard the claims concerning the extraordinary potential of stem cells (be they embryonic or induced) in the treatment of human disease. What will be the first commonly used stem cell therapy?
Multiple Sclerosis is an inflammatory demyelinating disorder of the Central Nervous System of debated etiology. While there is general consensus regarding the role of an active immune system in myelin destruction, the questions related to the initial events triggering immune system involvement remain unanswered and the identity of disease course modifiers is only partially understood. Epidemiological studies have suggested the possibility that disease onset and course are the result of an interaction between genetic susceptibility and environmental factors, though much remains to be learned about the identity of the environmental factors and whether they can be modified. Among the proposed variables affecting MS are geographic location, smoking, vitamin D levels and the much debated diet and infections.
Mount Sinai’s Neuroscience Training Program offers predoctoral students an exciting and distinctive curriculum taught by a nationally and internationally recognized faculty, and a laboratory experience that builds on groundbreaking, cutting edge expertise in basic and translational neuroscience across a wide range of psychiatric and neurological disorders. A student’s training experience uniquely interfaces basic research within a clinical context by virtue of the close apposition of basic and clinical research and clinical treatment programs at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai and the Mount Sinai Hospital. Indeed, all graduate students take a class in clinical neuroscience where they meet patients with brain diseases.
Have you ever had fun getting dizzy by spinning around? Ever thought of what ears have to do with getting dizzy? Ears are for hearing, right?
When you have a stuffy nose, whatever you eat seems bland and tasteless. What does your nose have to do with taste? We taste food with our tongues and our noses are for smelling, right?
These are just a few of the many complex concepts of how the brain and other parts of our bodies coordinate to keep functioning. Through easy-to-understand demonstrations and activities, these and several other complexities of the brain were adeptly simplified and communicated to our young visitors at Mount Sinai by members of Sinai Neuroscience Outreach Program (SNOP) and their volunteers during the first “Brain Awareness Fair” on March 12th, 2013.