Showing results 1-10 of 32 for 'mental-health'
In Issue No. 47 of Weizmann Views, serendipity leads Dr. Ofer Yizhar to his life’s work: pioneering the remarkable new field of optogenetics. Optogenetics combines optics – the branch of physics concerned with light – and genetics to offer previously unimaginable new ways of studying the brain. Dr. Yizhar's work has particular import for the understanding of autism.
Dr. Ofer Yizhar, optogenetics pioneer, has used the tools of that field to successfully shut down a neuronal mechanism that helps form fearful memories in the mouse brain. After the procedure, the mice “forgot” that they had been previously frightened. This research, conducted with Prof. Rony Paz, may someday help extinguish traumatic memories in people.
The lab of Prof. Alon Chen has found that, besides our classic stress response – an acute reaction that gradually abates when the threat passes – we appear to have a separate mechanism that deals only with chronic stress. The team found a new mechanism that apparently regulates the stress response. These findings may lead to better diagnosis of and treatment for anxiety and depression.
In Issue No. 44 of WeizmannViews, we share the stress-response-related research of Prof. Rony Paz. He investigates how the brain processes stress - for example, how is a traumatic event encoded in such a way as to trigger PTSD? His work could lead to new and better treatments for mental illnesses.
McLean Hospital – a psychiatric affiliate of Harvard Medical School – and the Weizmann Institute “are launching an alliance that will lead to further understanding of neuropsychiatric disorders” and, accordingly, new treatments. Prof. Rony Paz leads the effort from Israel. Initial focus will be on depression, anxiety, and trauma-related disorders.
What makes us reluctant or willing to leave our social comfort zones? Prof. Alon Chen and his team in the Department of Neurobiology found that a molecule that helps the brain cope with stress appeared to act as a “social switch” in mice, causing them to either increase interactions with “friends” or seek to meet “strangers.” Since a similar system exists in the human brain, the findings may help explain why some people are better at making new friends, and shed light on the social difficulties experienced by those with autism, schizophrenia, and more.
New research from the Institute demonstrates that, in mice, disrupted immunity in the fetal brain is linked to neurodevelopmental disorders. The multi-department study revealed that when a pregnant female is attacked by external factors such as viruses, the brain of the fetus does not develop as it should, resulting in autistic and schizophrenic behavior.
Prof. Alon Chen’s lab discovered that a receptor, CRFR1, plays a surprising role in the body’s stress response. In mice without CRFR1, females had trouble regulating temperature and blood sugar, while males were barely affected. The results could help develop treatments for regulating hunger or stress responses, including anxiety and depression.
Dr. Ofer Yizhar is a pioneer in optogenetics, which employs light to manipulate the living brain. He is using it to study long-range communication across the brain, and since mental and neurological diseases may result from changes in such extended connectivity, his work could result in better understanding of mental illness – and better treatments.