Continuing with this issue’s theme of high-tech neurological research, we have delved deep into the journals,
exploring breakthroughs made by researchers around the globe. From a new computational model of the
human brain that could lead to artificial consciousness, to an implantable device with the potential to provide
pain relief, the future is very much here.
(Please note the Neurological Foundation doesn’t contribute funding to any of these projects):
- Researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai have been using novel artificial intelligence (AI) methods to help determine causes of Alzheimer’s disease and other related conditions. Using deep learning techniques, a branch of AI, the team examined the structural and cellular features of human brain tissues. This unbiased AI-method revealed unexpected microscopic abnormalities that can predict the presence of cognitive impairment.
- Parkinson's disease is notoriously difficult to diagnose as it relies primarily on the appearance of motor symptoms such as tremors, stiffness, and slowness, but these symptoms often appear several years after the disease onset. Researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed an artificial intelligence model that can detect Parkinson’s just from reading a person’s breathing patterns while they sleep.
- Researchers from the University of Montreal and Institut Pasteur in France have developed a new neurocomputational model of the human brain which could shed light on how we develop complex cognitive abilities. “Our model demonstrates how the neuro-AI convergence highlights biological mechanisms and cognitive architectures that can fuel the development of the next generation of artificial intelligence," said Guillaume Dumas, study co-author.
- A new tool designed by researchers from the University of Exeter and the University of East Anglia can calculate which medicines are more likely to have adverse side-effects on the body and brain. Many prescription and over-the-counter drugs can cause cognitive side-effects by blocking a key neurotransmitter called acetylcholine. Dr Saber Sami, study co-author, says "Our tool is the first to use innovative artificial intelligence technology. Once further research has been conducted the tool should support pharmacists and prescribing health professionals in finding the best treatment for patients."
- Researchers from the Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience, one of 40 international sites involved in a clinical trial, have made an important discovery in patients with a faulty SOD1 gene – responsible for 2% of motor neurone disease (MND) cases. They noticed that the progression of their symptoms slowed down 12 months after taking the drug tofersen. Professor Chris McDermott, co-author of the study, says "This is the first time I have been involved in a clinical trial for people living with MND where I have seen real benefits to participants.”
- A team at Tel Aviv University has discovered a way to kill cancer cells in a mouse model of glioblastoma, a highly lethal type of brain cancer. The researchers achieved the outcome using a method they developed based on their discovery of two critical mechanisms in the brain that support tumour growth and survival: one protects cancer cells from the immune system, while the other supplies the energy required for rapid tumour growth. The work found that both mechanisms are controlled by brain cells called astrocytes, and in their absence, the tumour cells die, and the animals survive.
- Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is a neurodegenerative condition characterised by the aggregation of α-synuclein in the brain. Now, researchers from the National Institutes for Quantum Science and Technology, in collaboration with three pharmaceutical companies, have developed a radioligand (a radioactive biochemical substance used for diagnosis and research) that facilitates the imaging of α-synuclein aggregates in patients with MSA. Their findings have the potential to completely change the scenario of diagnosing neurodegenerative conditions.