To Ditch Dessert, Feed the Brain

If the brain goes hungry, Twinkies look a lot better, a study led by researchers at Yale University and the University of Southern California has found.

Brain imaging scans show that when glucose levels drop, an area of the brain known to regulate emotions and impulses loses the ability to dampen desire for high-calorie food, according to the study published online September 19 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Our prefrontal cortex is a sucker for glucose,” said Rajita Sinha, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry, and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and the Yale Child Study Center, one of the senior authors of the research.

The Yale team manipulated glucose levels intravenously and monitored changes in blood sugar levels while subjects were shown pictures of high-calorie food, low-calorie food and non-food as they underwent fMRI scans.

When glucose levels drop, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus senses the change. Other regions Continue reading

New Imaging Technique Evaluates Nerve Damage

A new imaging technique could help doctors and researchers more accurately assess the extent of nerve damage and healing in a live patient. Researchers at Laval University in Québec and Harvard Medical School in Boston aimed lasers at rats’ damaged sciatic nerves to create images of the individual neurons’ insulating sheath called myelin. Physical trauma, repetitive stress, bacterial infections, genetic mutations, and neurodegenerative disorders such as multiple sclerosis can all cause neurons to lose myelin. The loss slows or halts the nerve’s transmission of electrical impulses and can result in symptoms such as numbness, pain, or poor muscle control.

Using their images of neurons, the researchers measured the thickness of the myelin at different locations Continue reading