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JNeurosci: Highlights from the Aug. 24 issue

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Tone Deafness After Stroke Linked to Damage to Right Side of the Brain

Stroke patients with tone deafness and other forms of amusia exhibit damage to the right temporal lobe of the brain. Using an advanced method for analyzing relationships between brain damage and behavior, researchers studied the brains of 77 stroke survivors and found impaired music ability was linked to lesions in areas of the right temporal lobe. Patients whose musical deficits persisted six months later showed greater atrophy in these brain areas compared with patients who recovered musical ability.

Corresponding author: Aleksi Sihvonen, [email protected]

Working Memory Training Enhances Coordination Between Brain Networks

Working memory — the ability to hold pieces of information in mind and manipulate them — is a strong predictor of children's academic success. Previous studies have shown training can improve working memory. In this study, researchers scanned children's brains using magnetoencephalography (MEG) and measured oscillations in brain activity. They found children who completed an intensive working memory training program had enhanced coordination of oscillations between the brain's frontoparietal and inferior temporal networks compared with children who received a placebo intervention.

Corresponding author: Duncan Astle, [email protected]

Nerve Growth Factor Receptor Mediates Pathology of Diabetic Retinopathy

Diabetes can damage the blood vessels in the retina, killing neurons and leading to impaired vision, but the pathological mechanism of these events in diabetic retinopathy isn't well understood. This study shows diabetic mice had more receptors for a nerve growth factor on the glial cells near neurons and vessels affected in diabetes. The receptor triggered an increase in inflammatory markers and lead to many of the pathological events seen in diabetic retinopathy. Blocking the receptor's activity stalled the sequence of pathological events, suggesting drugs targeting the receptor may be beneficial.

Corresponding author: H. Uri Saragovi, [email protected]

Newly Born Neurons Reconstruct Song-Learning Circuit in Songbirds

During the breeding season, male songbirds sing more frequently and tend to stick with a few tried-and-true tunes to attract a mate. Previous research has shown they also grow new neurons in the neural circuit governing song behavior, but it wasn't clear whether and how these new neurons integrated into existing brain circuits and contributed to song behavior. In this study of white-crowned sparrows, researchers found these new neurons linked up with others in the song circuit, and the more neurons that were added to the circuit, the less variation the sparrow showed from one song to the next.

Corresponding author: Rachel Cohen, [email protected]

Specific Enzyme in Brain Targets Signaling for Learning and Memory

The messenger molecule cAMP plays an important role in learning and memory in the hippocampus, and alterations in its signaling could play a role in cognitive disorders. Previous research found that blocking the family of enzymes tasked with breaking down cAMP can improve memory and the ability of brain cells to alter the strength of connections with each other in cases of sleep deprivation and traumatic brain injury, but it also produces undesirable side effects. In this study, researchers identify a specific enzyme from this family that targets cAMP-dependent signaling for learning and memory. Drugs targeting this specific enzyme could be a novel way to treat cognitive deficits.

Corresponding author: Ted Abel, [email protected]

The Journal of Neuroscience is published by the Society for Neuroscience, an organization of nearly 38,000 basic scientists and clinicians who study the brain and nervous system.

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Check out these newsworthy studies from the August 24, 2016, issue of JNeurosci. Media interested in obtaining the full text of the studies should contact [email protected]

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