Aggressive behavior is typically adaptive for most species in the animal kingdom. Examples of this can be seen in maternal aggression to protect one’s young, and defense of a home territory; both of these contribute to the survival of an individual, and the species as a whole. But how is aggressive behavior mediated in the brain? Recent work indicates that the hippocampus in general, and the CA2 region in particular, is a crucial neural component in mediating social recognition and aggression. What CA2-specific mechanisms allow for such regulation?
Myelination, the ‘ensheathment’ of neurons, is essential to the functioning of the central and peripheral nervous systems. So it is not surprising that problems with myelination can lead to a number of crippling diseases. Known examples include multiple sclerosis and other neurodegenerative autoimmune diseases.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is a huge public health issue as it affects a large part of the aging population. By 2050, experts estimate this number will exceed 100 million worldwide. Those of you that are a familiar with the underlying pathological hallmarks of AD will recognize the terms plaques and tangles. These protein built-ups in the brain are well-researched; however, this neuropathology is studied primarily in the end stages of the disease.
Tomorrow the 12th International Conference on Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases (ADPD) in Nice, France starts. Last week I blogged about a study on Ginkgo biloba and Alzheimer's, and I thought this would be a great opportunity to highlight some more studies and get you in the mood for the conference. This blog post features 10 interesting studies that use innovative techniques to study models of AD and PD and important underlying neuronal mechanisms.
Topics: EthoVision XT, mice, Alzheimer's disease, Video tracking, zebrafish, Danio rerio, DanioVision, Parkinson's Disease, learning and memory, rats, CatWalk XT, gait analysis, locomotion, top 10, ErasmusLadder, reflexive motor learning, motor performance
Ginkgo biloba. Some of you might recognize it as a dietary supplement that is supposed to enhance cognitive function, but studies investigating these claims have mixed results. Xu Liu and colleagues recently investigated the effects of Ginkgo biloba extract on a mouse model for Alzheimer’s disease (AD). Interestingly, they were able to confirm positive effects on AD pathology, such as improved memory, but only after long-term treatment.
Craving a certain snack, getting it from the fridge or at the store, then the joy of eating it. It’s a familiar ritual for most of us. Scientist say we are performing appetitive and consummatory behavior, and the part of our brain that regulates these behaviors is the lateral hypothalamus (LH). You can imagine that this is an important element in the investigation of, for example, addiction and eating disorders. The problem is that the LH seems to be a mosaic of different neurons with different functions, making it difficult to specifically target them.
Fragile X syndrome (FXS), formerly known as mental retardation, is a common developmental disorder with a prevalence of 1 in 3600 to 4000 males and 1 in 4000 to 6000 females (www.fragilex.org). Besides the intellectual challenges, patients often show behavioral abnormalities, which in a large part of the male patients strongly resembles autism-like behavior. Unfortunately, treatment of FXS is limited to the symptoms – think of behavioral therapy or pharmaceuticals to treat attentional deficits, anxiety, and impulse control problems.
Women and Venus, men and Mars, right? Men and women are fundamentally, biologically, and emotionally different. We also act differently in social situations. Wouter van den Berg and his colleagues at the Erasmus University Medical Center (Rotterdam, The Netherlands) recently published an interesting study that, using mice, shows the establishment of social hierarchies as being sex-dependent.
We cannot stay behind when it comes to the end-of-year lists, so here is a top 14 of 2014’s most popular animal behavior posts on our Noldus behavioral research blog. (For a top 3 on human behavior research, see this post) As expected, the list is dominated by zebrafish research, but it’s not the topic of our most read post!
Guest post by Jan-Willem Potters
Successful locomotion and the maintenance of balance is the result of an intricate collaboration of the sensory system, sensorimotor integration and the motor system. Needless to say, there are many parts of the brain that work together to carry out this type of behavior. Locomotion is affected in many different neurological diseases, and is an interesting candidate to study symptoms in detail and the effect of possible therapies of these diseases.