Breaking News
December 13, 2018 - New study reveals yin-yang personality of dopamine
December 13, 2018 - Long-term Benefit of Steroid Injections for Knee Osteoarthritis Challenged
December 13, 2018 - Adding new channels to the brain remote control
December 13, 2018 - In the Spotlight: A different side of neuroscience
December 13, 2018 - Medical Marvels: Using immunotherapy for melanoma that spread to the brain
December 13, 2018 - Puzzles do not keep dementia away finds study
December 13, 2018 - New mouse model shows potential for rapid identification of promising muscular dystrophy therapies
December 13, 2018 - Study reveals urban and rural differences in prenatal exposure to essential and toxic elements
December 13, 2018 - New collaborative partnership in quest of novel antibiotics
December 13, 2018 - Single tau molecule holds clues to help diagnose neurodegeneration in its earliest stages
December 13, 2018 - AHA Scientific Statement: Low Risk of Side Effects for Statins
December 13, 2018 - What Is Acute Flaccid Myelitis?
December 13, 2018 - How bereaved people control their thoughts without knowing it
December 13, 2018 - Health care democratization underway, according to 2nd annual Stanford Medicine Health Trends Report | News Center
December 13, 2018 - Going Beyond a Single Color
December 13, 2018 - London-based startup launches ‘thedrug.store’ aiming to clean up CBD industry
December 13, 2018 - Loss of tight junction barrier protein results in gastric cancer development
December 13, 2018 - Novel way to efficiently deliver anti-parasitic medicines
December 13, 2018 - RKI publishes new data on disease prevention and utilization of medical services
December 13, 2018 - High-tech, flexible patches sewn into clothes could help to stay warm
December 13, 2018 - Restoring Hair Growth on Scarred Skin? Mouse Study Could Show the Way
December 13, 2018 - Probiotic use may reduce antibiotic prescriptions, researchers say
December 13, 2018 - Drug repositioning strategy identifies potential new treatments for epilepsy
December 13, 2018 - Chronic rhinitis associated with hospital readmissions for asthma and COPD patients
December 13, 2018 - Food poisoning discovery could save lives
December 13, 2018 - Cloned antibodies show potential to treat, diagnose life-threatening fungal infections
December 13, 2018 - Exercise may reduce colorectal cancer risk after weight loss
December 13, 2018 - Russian scientists create hardware-information system for brain disorders treatment
December 13, 2018 - Moderate alcohol consumption linked with lower risk of hospitalization
December 13, 2018 - Nurturing Healthy Neighborhoods | NIH News in Health
December 13, 2018 - Rise in meth and opioid use during pregnancy
December 13, 2018 - Researchers gain new insights into pediatric tumors
December 13, 2018 - FSU study finds racial disparity among adolescents receiving flu vaccine
December 13, 2018 - Study investigates attitudes toward implementation of ‘sex as a biological variable’ policy
December 13, 2018 - Drug cocktail induces cancer cell death by switching off energy supply
December 13, 2018 - Baculovirus virion completely eliminates liver-stage parasites in mouse model
December 13, 2018 - Researchers create noninvasive technology that detects when nerve cells fire
December 13, 2018 - Allen Institute for Immunology to partner with CU Anschutz to understand dynamics of human immune system
December 13, 2018 - Inability to do daily living tasks delays discharge of mental health patients
December 13, 2018 - Treating patients with hypertension induced albuminuria
December 13, 2018 - New substance could improve efficacy of established breast cancer treatments
December 13, 2018 - Scientists develop new stem cell line to study conversion of stem cells into muscle
December 13, 2018 - Re-programming the body’s energy pathway boosts kidney self-repair
December 13, 2018 - Research findings could help improve treatment of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorders
December 13, 2018 - The Microbiome Movement announce Microbiotica as official industry partner
December 13, 2018 - New study reveals potential benefits of cEEG monitoring for infant ICU patients
December 13, 2018 - Whole-body imaging PET/MRI offers information to guide treatment options for prostate cancer
December 13, 2018 - International investigators fight against the negative campaign on benzodiazepines
December 13, 2018 - Targeting biochemical pathway may lead to new therapies for alleviating symptoms of anxiety disorders
December 13, 2018 - FDA Approves Tolsura (SUBA®-itraconazole capsules) for the Treatment of Certain Fungal Infections
December 13, 2018 - Are scientists studying the wrong kind of mice?
December 13, 2018 - Computer memory: A scientific team builds a virtual model of a key brain region
December 13, 2018 - Visual inspection alone is insufficient to diagnose skin cancer
December 13, 2018 - Paternal grandfather’s access to food associated with grandson’s mortality risk
December 13, 2018 - Our brain senses angry voices in a flash, study shows
December 13, 2018 - PM2.5 Exposure Linked to Asthma Rescue Medication Use
December 13, 2018 - Can’t exercise? A hot bath may help improve inflammation, metabolism, study suggests
December 13, 2018 - Can artificial intelligence help doctors with the human side of medicine?
December 13, 2018 - Virginia Tech and UC San Diego researchers team up to develop nonopioid drug for chronic pain
December 13, 2018 - NIH offers support for HIV care and prevention research in the southern United States
December 12, 2018 - Activating brain region could revive the urge to socialize among opioid addicts
December 12, 2018 - Relationship impairment appears to interfere with seeking mental health treatment in men
December 12, 2018 - Sleep, Don’t Cram, Before Finals for Better Grades
December 12, 2018 - Effective treatments for urticarial vasculitis
December 12, 2018 - Gun violence is a public health issue: One physician’s story
December 12, 2018 - The Science of Healthy Aging
December 12, 2018 - Yes to yoghurt and cheese: New improved Mediterranean diet
December 12, 2018 - Researchers uncover a number of previously unknown insecticide resistance mechanisms
December 12, 2018 - Regulating the immune system’s ‘regulator’
December 12, 2018 - In breaking bad news, the comfort of silence
December 12, 2018 - Study finds upward link between alcohol consumption and physical activity in college students
December 12, 2018 - FDA issues warning letter to Zhejiang Huahai Pharmaceutical involved in valsartan recall
December 12, 2018 - Weight history at ages 20 and 40 could help predict patients’ future risk of heart failure
December 12, 2018 - Presence of antiphospholipid antibodies tied to first-time MI
December 12, 2018 - DNA analysis finds that stethoscopes are teaming with bacteria
December 12, 2018 - New study could help inform research on preventing falls
December 12, 2018 - Women and men with heart attack symptoms receive different care from EMS
December 12, 2018 - Disrupted biological clock can contribute to onset of diseases, USC study shows
December 12, 2018 - New publications generate controversy over the value of reducing salt consumption in populations
December 12, 2018 - New data from TAILORx trial confirms lack of chemo benefit regardless of race or ethnicity
Stanford scientists identify on/off sociability switch in brain

Stanford scientists identify on/off sociability switch in brain

image_pdfDownload PDFimage_print

The release of a single signaling chemical from a specific nerve-cell tract in a particular part of the brain, like an on/off switch, may spell the difference between sociability and social awkwardness.

New drugs that can boost that chemical release’s strength or effectiveness could someday mitigate the the profound uneasiness during social interactions experienced commonly by people with autism spectrum disorder (and, occasionally, by all the rest of us).

The chemical, serotonin, is involved in other neuropsychiatric disorders such as depression. A new study in Nature conducted by Stanford neuroscientist Rob Malenka, MD, PhD, and his colleagues has shown that cranking up serotonin release from nerve cells terminating in a midbrain structure called the nucleus accumbens reliably boosts sociability in normal mice as well as other mouse mimics of the social deficits that characterize autism in humans. (Putting a lid on serotonin release has exactly the opposite effect, the study showed.)

Malenka explains in my news release on the study:

Mice aren’t little human beings. We can’t ask them how they’re feeling about their social lives. But they provide insights into the human brain. They can be very useful for studying relatively primitive mechanisms governing social behavior. For example, if something makes a mouse want to spend more time with its buddies, that something is likely to be fun for the mouse.

Malenka is world-renowned for his decades of meticulous research in, among other things, unraveling the workings of our brain’s so-called reward circuitry: a collection of brain areas whose networked activity makes us feel good about something we’ve done or are doing. This, in turn, instructs us to do more of it.

The nucleus accumbens, found in all mammals, is a crucial hub of that circuitry.

“Evolution has ensured that certain behaviors important for survival — eating, finding a mate, procreating, successfully escaping from predators or captivity — feel great,” Malenka told me in a recent interview. In most mammals, social interaction sets off the reward circuitry, too. From the release:

‘Hanging out with your buddies makes sense from an evolutionary survival standpoint,’ Malenka said. ‘You’re more likely to find a mate and less likely to be attacked.’ But people with autism spectrum disorder don’t appear to experience the same rewarding sensation that people without these illnesses do.

The new findings give researchers added clarity in their efforts to pinpoint ways of easing the discomfort of people with autism spectrum disease when faced with the need to socialize, without causing all kinds of side effects such as addictive behaviors.

There are drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, that increase overall serotonin levels in the brain. But SSRIs, which are in wide use as antidepressants, haven’t shown an ability to counter the autism spectrum disorder’s social deficits.

“SSRIs increase serotonin levels about as much as a moderately leaky faucet,” Malenka said. “What we did in this series of experiments in mice was more like turning on that faucet to maximum flow.”

Photo by Derek Gavey

Tagged with:

About author

Related Articles