Cerebrum Winter 2022

People who go through MENOPAUSE experience a range of symptoms, including a decline in the volume of the brain’s gray matter in regions that are also affected by Alzheimer’s disease. A new observational study at Weill Cornell suggests that the more estrogen a person has been exposed to during their life, the more likely it is these volumes will return to pre-menopause levels, which could mean less danger of developing dementias. Some ways to increase estrogen exposure are environmental—bearing more children, taking oral contraceptives, or being on hormone replacement therapy—and some are genetic—having a longer timespan between menarche and menopause and not having an APOE-4 gene variant. Past studies have suggested that hormone replacement therapy was not helpful post- menopause; more research is needed. l and whether there were differences between musicians and non-musicians, researchers scanned the brains of six musicians and eight non-musicians as they listened to music they’d chosen themselves, and to music they’d heard for the first time, one hour before the scanning. In all the listeners, the “long-known” music fired up areas involved in autobiographical memory, which can fade with dementia, but also subcortical, emotion-regulating regions, which do not so quickly fade. They did find subtle but distinct structural differences in response between the musicians and non-musicians but need a larger sample A dose of familiar, beloved MUSIC can help people with mild cognitive impairment and early dementia score better on tests of cognition. To see how, to verify those differences. “Music is an access key to your memory, your prefrontal cortex,” says lead researcher Michael Thaut at University of Toronto. “Keep listening to the music that you’ve loved all your life.” l Scientists from Purdue University and Jinan University have developed a way to use GENE EDITING to transform glia—cells in the brain that usually support neurons— into neurons themselves. In studies using mice, the researchers damaged neurons in the visual system and then used their editing technique to convert some nearby glia into functional neurons. These new neurons remade

Most BRAIN-COMPUTER INTERFACES (BCIs) depend on a few sensors implanted on the cortex, reading—and sometimes transmitting— signals among a few hundred nearby neurons. Researchers at Brown University have developed a network using independent, wireless microscopic neural sensors, which they call “ neurograins ,” that can be distributed all around the cortex, recording and transmitting information from far more neurons. They have successfully tested it with a rat, placing 48 grains on the animal’s cerebral cortex, the maximum they thought a rat brain could handle. Theoretically, they say, the system could support up to 770 grains in a human. Now, they are trying to make the grains even smaller and trying to find ways to avoid problems with the body rejecting foreign material and the surgical scar tissue that causes implants to fail after a few years. l

connections in a way that seems to mimic regular circuit development, and three weeks later, the mice started to see again. Should this technique prove stable, another possible use would be restoring connections in motor system areas. l

IMAGE: SOFIA LANDI

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