Dana News Email Blast: December

Below is last week’s Dana news email blast. You can sign up to receive this (and other Dana email alerts and/or print publications) by going here.

Optogenetics: Using Light to Control the Brain

by Edward S. Boyden, Ph.D.

In 2004, scientists, including author Edward S. Boyden, Ph.D., found that the neural expression of a protein, channelrhodopsin-2 (ChR2), allowed light to activate or silence brain cells. This technology, now known as optogenetics, is helping scientists determine the functions of specific neurons in the brain, and could play a significant role in treating medical issues as diverse as sleep disorders and vision impairment. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

For First Time, Researchers Describe Molecular Mechanism for a ‘Gateway Drug’ — Nicotine

Epidemiologists have been searching for decades for scientific evidence that tobacco and other substances really are “gateways” to harder drugs. Now neuroscientist Eric Kandel and colleagues, in partnership with his wife, epidemiologist Denise Kandel, have described a molecular mechanism by which nicotine enhances cocaine cravings in mice.

Do-It-Yourself Neuroscience

Using off-the-shelf electronics and a little ingenuity, teachers and scientists are helping kids do basic brain science — and even high-tech optogenetics.

Finding the Key to Open the Blood-Brain Barrier

The tightly knit cellular fence protecting the brain from foreign invaders in the bloodstream also blocks the entry of helpful drugs. Researchers are trying a variety of approaches to temporarily pry open a safe portal.

Q&A: Tracking the Tracts

The current treatment for a baby diagnosed with Krabbe disease, a rare and often fatal movement disorder, can be very effective, but it also carries a 30 percent chance of death. Dana grantee Maria Escolar’s research may provide a better way to diagnose and treat infants with this disease and other movement disorders before the onset of visible symptoms, when treatment works best.

Punched Out: The Life and Death of a Hockey Enforcer

Over six months, The New York Times examined the life and death of the professional hockey player Derek Boogaard, who rose to fame as one of the sport’s most feared fighters before dying at age 28 on May 13. Find links to the three-part series below:

A Boy Learns to Brawl

Blood on the Ice

A Brain ‘Going Bad’

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