Biological and Medical Sciences

Biological and Medical Sciences 27

Abeslam El Khamlichi was born 16 March 1948 in Beni Amart north of Morocco. Professor El Khamlichi is one of the neurosurgery pioneers in Morocco. He started his specialty since1970s. Appointed as head of department at Hospital of Specialties in 1983 and Professor at Medical School of Rabat in 1984 respectively, Prof El Khamlichi will show during all his career that his passion for neurosurgery is only equaled by the his devotion for developing neurosurgery in the public sector which will lead him to create in 1989 the II Hassan Foundation of Prevention and Cure of Diseases System Nervous. He became Director of the WFNS Rabat Reference Center for Training of African Neurosurgeons since2002 and Director of the National Center of Neurosciences and Rehabilitation in Rabat since 2008. Professor El Khamlichi has been invited as Visiting Professor by more than 30 universities from over 5 continents.  He organized the 13th World Congress of Neurological Surgery in Marrakech, June 2005 and has trained generations of Moroccan and African neurosurgeons. He is also a founding member and Past President of the Pan Arab Neurosurgical Society, founding member and Past President of the Maghrebian Federation of Neurosurgical Societies and was the Chairman of the WHO African Working Group in Neurosurgery, 1996. He is an active member of the WFNS (World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies), SNCLF (French-Speaking Society of Neurosurgery), AANS (American Association of Neurological Surgeons), CNS (Congress of Neurological Surgeons), founding member of the WANS (World Academy of Neurological Surgeons) and associate member of the Japanese Society of Neurological Surgeons, member of the WHO Working Group in Neurosurgery. Research publications include 5 books and 105 articles, 82 among them published in international journals.

Awards and Prizes: He received 6 medals, 13 certificates of merit and 3 awards at national, regional and international levels. He became Honorary President of the World Federation of Neurosurgical Societies in September 2011.

Abdelhamid Benazzouz is a Neurophysiologist Researcher employed by the Inserm Institute working in Bordeaux University. He is expert in the field of Neuroscience and especially in Parkinson’s disease. After completing a Master degree in Morocco, he went to Bordeaux to prepare his PhD diploma in the field of Neuroscience and Pharmacology that he obtained in 1993. Dr. Benazzouz was the first to develop high frequency stimulation (HFS), named also deep brain stimulation (DBS), of the subthalamic nucleus (STN) as a therapeutical approach of Parkinson’s disease. The results obtained were spectacular; rigidity disappeared and akinesia was hardly observable. Impressed by these results, he proposed the transfer of this neurosurgical approach to parkinsonian patients. He joined as a Neurophysiologist Research Fellow the Inserm unit of Professor Alim-Louis Benabid in Grenoble to participate in transfering this approach to parkinsonian patients, with a success that has never failed since. In parallel with his hospital activity as a Neurophysiologist performing the electrophysiological mapping during surgery, he was the head of a research team in the Inserm unit investigating the functional mechanisms of this approach in animal models. In 1998 he was appointed to Inserm position as a permanent position researcher. In 2001, he came back to Bordeaux as a Principal Investigator in the CNRS unit of Professor Bernard Bioulac. In 2005 he was promoted to Research Director position. Since 2011, he is the leader of the Team "Neurochemistry, Deep Brain Stimulation & Parkinson’s disease" in the Institute of Neurodegenerative diseases in Bordeaux University, in which he is investigating the respective role of monoamines in the pathophysiology of motor and non-motor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. He has published more than 104 research papers in peer-reviewed journals and 25 chapters in scientific books as well as more than 70 research contributions at international conferences, international Neuroscience Schools and Universities. Internationally ranked among distinguished scholars, his publications are cited more than 15 thousand times and received 53 degrees on the global H-Index (Google Scholar).

Awards and Prizes: He obtained the National Academy of Medicine award in 2003 and the Academy of Science award in 2007. In 2010, He obtained the distinction of Scientific Excellence delivered by INSERM.

Abdeljabbar El Manira is a native of Rabat where he grew up and studied most of his life. Dr. El Manira received his BSc from the Faculté des Science, Rabat, Morocco and Ph.D. from the University of Marseille, France. He joined the Karolinska as a postdoctoral fellow to work on the spinal locomotor networks in the lamprey. He also spent 3 months at the Marine Biological Laboratory in Woods Hole as a Grass fellow. Dr. El Manira is currently a Professor at the Department of Neuroscience, Karolinska Institute where he is studying the organization and plasticity of the spinal networks controlling locomotion. His laboratory is using both the lamprey and zebrafish as model systems in which a range of molecular, imaging and electrophysiological techniques are used to study the locomotor circuitry. Research publications include more than 80 articles.

Awards and Prizes: King Mohammed VI decorated him in 2010 when he became a distinguished professor at Karolinska Institutet. In 2015, professor El Manira was elected member of the prestigious Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences that awards the Nobel Prizes.

Mimoun Azzouz was born in 1967 and graduated in Biology and Neuroscience from the University of Rabat in 1993. He obtained a Master in Neuroscience with 1st Class Honours from the University of Marseille in 1994. In 1997 he was awarded a PhD in Neuropharmacology at the University Louis Pasteur in Strasbourg. He then worked as postdoctoral scientist at the Gene Therapy Center in Lausanne, Switzerland from 1997 to 2000. He was recruited in 2000 by Oxford BioMedica plc as Senior Scientist then appointed as Director of Neurobiology in 2003. He was also a visiting scientist at Oxford University between 2000 and 2005. In 2006, he was invited to join the University of Sheffield and was appointed to the Chair of Translational Neuroscience. Professor Azzouz is currently Deputy Head of Neurology Unit and Director of Research & Innovation. He has several managerial tasks within the department and at the Faculty level. His track record of translational research productivity is characterized by publications in top ranking scientific journals, including Nature, Nature Medicine, Nature Neuroscience, Science Translational Medicine and JCI. One of his major achievements is his involvement in a gene therapy approach designed to achieve dopamine replacement in models of Parkinson’s disease. This strategy has yielded significant translational impact having entered into phase I/II human clinical trials since 2008. His pioneering work, which has already produced major breakthroughs in animal models, has short and medium term potential for real translation into major therapeutic advances for human neurodegenerative disease. He has been successful in attracting an array of scientific awards and funding from prestigious funding bodies.  He is frequently invited as a plenary lecturer at international scientific and clinical meetings where his work generates intense interest from the scientific community. He is/has been advisor for pharmaceutical companies and academic institutions. He is currently a member of the editorial board of various journals and member of scientific Panels/Boards for various funding bodies such as the Medical Research Council (Translational MRC Panel, UK), the French Muscular Dystrophy Association (AFM), The Research Council of Norway, the Health Research Board (HRB) of Ireland and the Neuroscience Board, Germany. He has been elected as Board member of the British Society of Gene and Cell Therapy Society in 2016.

Awards and Prizes: He recently won the prestigious ERC Advanced Investigator Award (2011). This award is a top level EU ad hominem award acknowledging his pre-eminence in European biomedical research. He has been nominated for the prestigious Shaw Price. He has been a key academic partner in the successful fundraising of £18M necessary to build the new Sheffield Institute for Translational Neuroscience (SITraN).

Mohamed Kabbaj was born in 1967 and graduated in Animal physiology in 1991. He obtained a Master in Neuroscience from the University of Bordeaux II Bordeaux, France in 1993.  In 1997 he was awarded a PhD in Behavioral Neuroscience at the University Bordeaux II.  He then worked as postdoctoral scientist at the University of Michigan, from 1997 to 2001. He was recruited in 2001 as Research Investigator at University of Michigan and a FSU Fulbright Student Selection Committee.  Dr. Kabbaj joined the department of biomedical sciences at the College of Medicine as an Assistant Professor of Biomedical Sciences from 2002 to 2008.   Dr. Kabbaj is a Professor conducting research in the area of stress and drug addiction. Dr. Kabbaj teaches a course in Neuropharmacology within the neuroscience program, facilitates small-group sessions with medical students and teach in various courses within the BMS PHD program.  Dr. Kabbaj uses animal models (rats, mice and voles) to examine the neurobiology of sex and individual differences in stress and drug addiction. He is also examining epigenetic mechanisms underlying social behaviors.

Awards and Prizes: He received the outstanding faculty investigator award in 2014, the Faculty Council Award Outstanding Senior Faculty Researcher in 2009 and the Developing Scholar Award, Florida State University in 2011. In 2016, Dr. Kabbaj has received a $1.9 million grant from the National Institute of Mental Health to study how the brain helps us maintain lifelong social bonds through epigenetics.

Maurice Ptito was born June 11, 1946 in Casablanca, Morocco. He obtained his Ph.D. in Experimental Neuropsychology from Université de Montréal and a doctorat in Health Sciences (Doctor Medicinae) from the University of Aarhus (Denmark). He trained as post-doctoral fellow in Neurophysiology at Stanford University Medical School (California). Dr Ptito is Professor of Visual Neuroscience at the School of Optometry (Université de Montréal) He is also an Adjunct Professor of Neurology and Neurosurgery at the Montreal Neurological Institute (McGill University) and Guest Professor at the Danish Research Center for Magnetic Resonance (University of Copenhagen). He currently holds the Harland Sanders Research Chair in Vision Science.  Dr. Ptito has published four books and more than 125 scientific papers.

Awards and Prizes: Dr. Ptito has received Sir John William Dawson Medal of the Royal Society of Canada, the Henry and Karla Hensen Prize (Denmark) and a Knight of the National Order of Quebec. Honors and awards include also Canadian Psychological Association (Fellow), Royal Society of Medicine (London, Fellow), Harland Sanders Research Chair (Laureate), American Academy of Optometry Fellow, Henry and Karla Hensen prize.

Allal Boutajangout has completed his PhD in Neuropathology at Free University of Brussels, School of Medicine (ULB-Erasme Hospital) in 2005 andPostdoctoral training at New York University School of Medicine. He is a Research Associate Professor of Neurology and Neuroscience, Physiology and Psychiatry. He is also the chief of Neurodegeneration and Drug Discovery Program within Center for Cognitive Neurology at NYU.  His research focuses on a new derivative peptide of Amyloid beta for use as immunotherapy or vaccine that trains the immune system to recognize and remove amyloid-beta in the brain as well as on a novel therapy targeting one of the major hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease, Neurofibrillary tangles. He was an integral part of the group at NYU who developed the first vaccines (active and passive immunization) targeting tau pathology in animal models of AD. More recently, he explores the possible therapeutic potential effect of the Stem Cell in AD mouse models. He is now focusing on the development of a new therapy and immunotherapy targeting Alzheimer’s disease and other related disorders such as prion, stroke and brain Injury. He has published more than 30 papers in reputed journals and serves as a reviewer for many scientific journals.

Awards and Prizes: He received prestigious award Margaret M Cahn for his outstanding research in the field of Alzheimer’s and other awards from: Alzheimer association, NIH pilot grant, Toyama Company, Revalesio Company and coinvestigator in 5 RO1 NIH grants.

Wail Benjelloun earned a Ph.D. degree from SUNY Binghamton in Psychology (Neuroscience) in 1976. He has taught since then at the Faculties of Science of Mohammed V University in Rabat at the Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctoral levels, where he also participated in regular evaluation and academic reform projects. During his professional career, Dr. Benjelloun assumed a series of responsibilities, including Biology Department Head (1990-1994), Vice President for Academic Affairs at Al Akhawayn University in Ifrane (1994-1999), Dean of the Faculty of Science at Mohammed V University (2005-2010) and President of the same university (2010-2015). He has also been active in several Executive Boards for new universities in Morocco, as well as in several national and international commissions on higher education. He is also a member of the Moroccan-American Commission for Educational and Cultural Exchange (Fulbright Morocco). He is currently president of the Mediterranean Universities Union UNIMEDDr. Benjelloun is an active researcher, with interests centered on malnutrition and brain chemistry and behavior. He founded the first fundamental research laboratory in neuroscience in Morocco and has supervised the training of many specialists in the field. He publishes regularly in specialized international indexed journals. He was instrumental in founding the Moroccan Association for Neuroscience in 1984 and served as its president for several mandates. He also chaired the Society of Neuroscientists of Africa, and was an active member of the Executive Council of IBRO, the International Brain Research Association. He is currently President of ISP, the International Society of Pathophysiology.

Awards and Prizes: Dr. Benjelloun was decorated in 2002 as an Officer of the Order of the Throne (Morocco).​




10 Strange Phenomena of the Mind

mercredi, 22 mars 2017 20:36 Written by

Déjà Vu

Déjà vu is the experience of being certain that you have experienced or seen a new situation previously – you feel as though the event has already happened or is repeating itself.

The experience is usually accompanied by a strong sense of familiarity and a sense of eeriness, strangeness, or weirdness. The “previous” experience is usually attributed to a dream, but sometimes there is a firm sense that it has truly occurred in the past.

Déjà Vécu

Déjà vécu is what most people are experiencing when they think they are experiencing deja vu.

Déjà vu is the sense of having seen something before, whereas déjà vécu is the experience of having seen an event before, but in great detail – such as recognizing smells and sounds. 

Déjà Visité

Déjà visité is a less common experience and it involves an uncanny knowledge of a new place. For example, you may know your way around a a new town or a landscape despite having never been there, and knowing that it is impossible for you to have this knowledge. 

Déjà Senti

Déjà senti is the phenomenon of having “already felt” something. This is exclusively a mental phenomenon and seldom remains in your memory afterwards.

You could think of it as the feeling of having just spoken, but realizing that you, in fact, didn’t utter a word.

Jamais Vu

Jamais vu (never seen) describes a familiar situation which is not recognized. It is often considered to be the opposite of déjà vu and it involves a sense of eeriness. The observer does not recognize the situation despite knowing rationally that they have been there before.

Chris Moulin, of Leeds University, asked 92 volunteers to write out “door” 30 times in 60 seconds. He reported that 68% of the precipitants showed symptoms of jamais vu, such as beginning to doubt that “door” was a real word. This has lead him to believe that jamais vu may be a symptom of brain fatigue.

Presque Vu

Presque vu is very similar to the “tip of the tongue” sensation – it is the strong feeling that you are about to experience an epiphany – though the epiphany seldom comes. 

L’esprit de l’Escalier

L’esprit de l’escalier (stairway wit) is the sense of thinking of a clever comeback when it is too late. 

Capgras Delusion

Capgras delusion is the phenomenon in which a person believes that a close friend or family member has been replaced by an identical looking impostor. This could be tied in to the old belief that babies were stolen and replaced by changelings in medieval folklore, as well as the modern idea of aliens taking over the bodies of people on earth to live amongst us for reasons unknown. This delusion is most common in people with schizophrenia but it can occur in other disorders.

Fregoli Delusion

Fregoli delusion is a rare brain phenomenon in which a person holds the belief that different people are, in fact, the same person in a variety of disguises. It is often associated with paranoia and the belief that the person in disguise is trying to persecute them.

It was first reported in 1927 in the case study of a 27-year-old woman who believed she was being persecuted by two actors whom she often went to see at the theatre. She believed that these people “pursued her closely, taking the form of people she knows or meets”.


Prosopagnosia is a phenomenon in which a person is unable to recognize faces of people or objects that they should know. People experiencing this disorder are usually able to use their other senses to recognize people – such as a person’s perfume, the shape or style of their hair, the sound of their voice, or even their gait. A classic case of this disorder was presented in the 1998 book (and later Opera by Michael Nyman) called “The man who mistook his wife for a hat”.


Red is good – the brain uses color to help us choose what to eat

Red means “Green light, go for it!” Green means: “hmm, better not!” Like an upside down traffic light in our brain, color helps us decide whether or not to eat something. This, according to a study at the International School for Advanced Studies (SISSA) in Trieste and recently published in the journal Scientific Reports stating that vision is the main sense we use to guide us in food choices. To evaluate calorie intake, we rely on a “color code.”

“According to some theories, our visual system evolved to easily identify particularly nutritious berries, fruits and vegetables from jungle foliage,” says Raffaella Rumiati, SISSA neuroscientist and coordinator of the new study. The human visual system is trichromatic: in the retina, the light-sensitive organ of the eye, there are three classes of photoreceptors (cones) tuned preferentially to three different bands of the visible spectrum. This implies that we can see a large number of colors (more than monochromatic and dichromatic animals, less than those with 4, even 5 types of photoreceptor). “We are particularly efficient at distinguishing red from green,” says Rumiati. This sophistication testifies to the fact that we are “visual animals,” unlike others, dogs, for example, who depend on their sense of smell. “It is mainly the color of food that guides us, and our experiments show how,” explains Rumiati. “To date, only a few studies have been focused on the topic.”

What do we look for in food? Nutrition, of course, or calorie-dense content, and high protein. “In natural foods, color is a good predictor of calories,” explains Francesco Foroni, SISSA researcher and first author of the study. “The redder an unprocessed food is, the more likely it is to be nutritious, while green foods tend to be low in calories.” Our visual system is clearly adapted to this regularity. “The participants in our experiments judged foods whose color tended towards red as higher in calories, while the opposite was true for greens,” continues Giulio Pergola, a researcher at the University of Bari, and one of the authors of the study. “This is also true for processed, or cooked foods, where color loses its effectiveness as an indicator of calories.”

Actually, the scientific literature shows clearly that cooked foods are favored over natural foods and the phenomenon has been observed even in other species besides humans. “Cooked foods are always preferred because, compared to natural foods, there is more nutrition for the same quantity,” explains Rumiati. “With cooked foods, however, the dominance of red over green no longer provides reliable information, which might lead us to believe that the brain would not apply the rule to processed foods. On the contrary, it does, which hints at the presence of ancient evolutionary mechanisms from before the introduction of cooking.”

Another nod in favor of this hypothesis is the fact that the color code in the Rumiati and colleagues experiments does not come into play for items other than food: “The preference for red over green is not observed with non-edible objects,” says Rumiati. “This means that the color code of the visual system activates correctly only with food stimuli.”

Inner traffic light for eating healthier

Our findings, besides increasing our knowledge of the visual system, offer interesting possibilities on many fronts which could have an important impact on the public health: marketing food, for example, and treating eating disorders. “Much is being done today to encourage healthier eating,” notes Rumiati. “For example, trying to convince the people to eat foods lower in calories.” Some countries propose bans on certain types of products, such as carbonated soft drinks and high fat foods. In some cases, there is a disclaimer on the packaging, as with cigarettes. Perhaps food color could be used to produce significant results, even if artificial. “


What can Google tell us about ‘the memory web’ in the brain?

A new study by researchers from the Centre for Systems Neuroscience at the University of Leicester, in collaboration with the University of California Los Angeles, has helped to untangle ‘the memory web’ by shedding light on how neurons in memory-related areas provide a long-term coding of associations between concepts.

The team also used internet search engines such as Google and Bing for exploring a much larger database of associations between concepts and then explored more comprehensively how neurons represent the intricate web of associations and memories.

The research, which was published in the journal Nature Communications, shows that these neurons fire to relatively few concepts, which tend to be largely related.

Senior author Professor Rodrigo Quian Quiroga from the Centre for Systems Neuroscience at the University of Leicester explained: “We have previously proposed that these neurons – the ‘Jennifer Aniston’ neurons - are the building blocks of memory.

“They represent concepts and the links between them. In fact, these concepts and their associations are the skeleton of the memories we store. In line with this view, we tend to remember concepts and forget countless number of details. Not surprisingly, such details are not even encoded by these neurons.”

First author Emanuela De Falco, who is currently finishing her PhD at the University of Leicester, added: ”I am really glad I had the chance to do my PhD in such a fascinating area of research, having the opportunity to record directly from neurons of patients and integrating results obtained with these neural recordings with behavioural and web-based results. I found it incredibly interesting to see how, after thousands of web searches, the web metric was actually able to tell us something about the neurons we recorded.”

The team showed sets of pictures - about 100 per experiment - to patients implanted with clinical electrodes for clinical reasons, which allowed them to study how dozens of simultaneously recorded neurons in awake and behaving human subjects responded to the presented pictures.

The team then asked subjects how much they related a subset - about 10-20 - of these pictures with each other and defined a degree of association for all the pictures presented based on internet searches.

They found that whenever neurons fire to more than one concept, these tend to be related both according to the subjects’ scores and the internet searches.

Professor Quiroga added: “Interestingly, the patients were not performing a memory task, they were just passively watching pictures. So, the coding of associations is not contingent to the performance of a task – in which case, it could be argued that neurons temporarily encode such associations and then do something else – but it rather represents a long-term memory storage.”


A review of worldwide studies has found that add-on treatment with high-dose b-vitamins -- including B6, B8 and B12 -- can significantly reduce symptoms of schizophrenia more than standard treatments alone.

Therecent study -- on the effect of vitamin and mineral supplements on symptoms of schizophrenia -- is funded by The Medical Research Council and University of Manchester, and is published in Psychological Medicine, one of the world's leading psychology journals

Lead author Joseph Firth, based at the University's Division of Psychology and Mental Health, said: "Looking at all of the data from clinical trials of vitamin and mineral supplements for schizophrenia to date, we can see that B vitamins effectively improve outcomes for some patients.

"This could be an important advance, given that new treatments for this condition are so desperately needed."

Schizophrenia affects around 1% of the population and is among the most disabling and costly long term conditions worldwide.

Currently, treatment is based around the administration of antipsychotic drugs.

Although patients typically experience remission of symptoms such as hallucinations and delusions within the first few months of treatment, long-term outcomes are poor; 80% of patients relapse within five years.

The researchers reviewed all randomized clinical trials reporting effects of vitamin or mineral supplements on psychiatric symptoms in people with schizophrenia.

In what is the first meta-analysis carried out on this topic, they identified 18 clinical trials with a combined total of 832 patients receiving antipsychotic treatment for schizophrenia.

B-vitamin interventions which used higher dosages or combined several vitamins were consistently effective for reducing psychiatric symptoms, whereas those which used lower doses were ineffective.

Also, the available evidence also suggests that B-vitamin supplements may be most beneficial when implemented early on, as b-vitamins were most likely to reduce symptoms when used in studies of patients with shorter illness durations.

Firth added: "High-dose B-vitamins may be useful for reducing residual symptoms in people with schizophrenia, although there were significant differences among the findings of the studies we looked at."

"There is also some indication that these overall effects may be driven by larger benefits among subgroups of patients who have relevant genetic or dietary nutritional deficiencies."

Co-author Jerome Sarris, Professor of Integrative Mental Health at Western Sydney University, added: "This builds on existing evidence of other food-derived supplements, such as certain amino-acids, been beneficial for people with schizophrenia.

"These new findings also fit with our latest research examining how multi-nutrient treatments can reduce depression and other disorders."

The research team say more studies are now needed to discover how nutrients act on the brain to improve mental health, and to measure effects of nutrient-based treatments on other outcomes such as brain functioning and metabolic health.



Neuroscience study supports 200-year old art theory

vendredi, 23 décembre 2016 12:22 Written by

A pilot study from a group of Dutch scientists implies that being told that an image is an artwork automatically changes our response, both on a neural and behavioural level. This may mean that our brains automatically up or down-regulate emotional response according to the whether they think something should be understood at face value, or whether it should be interpreted as art. This tends to lends support to an over 200 year old theory of art, first put forward by the philosopher Immanuel Kant in his Critique of Judgement. 

Most people understand that we will show a different conscious emotional response to a work of fiction or art, than we will to an equivalent real-life image. Now a team from Erasmus University in Rotterdam has tested how the unconscious brain responds to art and other types of images. 
In two related experiments, twenty-four student volunteers were asked to evaluate a series of picture while brain activity was measured via an EEG. Half of the pictures were pleasant and the other half unpleasant. They were either told that the pictures were works of art or photographs of real events. At the end of the trial they were asked to rate each image according to likeability and, attractiveness. 

The researchers concentrated on a brain signal called the LPP (Late Positive Potential), which is a measurement of the level of electromagnetic activity of the cortex between 0.6 and 0.9 seconds after the appearance of a stimulus. They were able to show that the amplitude of this stimulus was much greater when participants had been told that the picture was real, as against when they were told it was a work of art. When questioned, works of art were also rated as being more likable than were real pictures. 

“This work suggests that when we expect to be dealing with an artwork, our brain responds differently than when we expect to be dealing with reality” said lead researcher Noah van Dongen (Erasmus University, Rotterdam). “When we think we are not dealing with reality, our emotional response appears to be subdued on a neural level. This may be because of a tendency to ‘distance’ ourselves from the image, to be able to appreciate or scrutinize its shapes, colours, and composition instead of just its content. We know that our brains may have evolved with ‘hard-wired’ mechanisms that allow us to adjust our response to objects depending on the situation. What this work indicates, is that Kant’s two century old theory of aesthetics*, where he proposed that we need to emotionally distance ourselves from the artwork in order to be able to properly appreciate it, might have a neurological basis and that art could useful in our quest to understand our brain, emotions, and maybe our cognition.” 
In a second experiment, the research group added a third condition. Again, twenty-four student volunteers judged pleasant and unpleasant pictures, only this time they were presented as pictures of real events, works of art, and scenes from movies or documentaries. The neurological effect on emotional response vanished with the added third condition. 

Noah van Dongen said “The results of this modified experiment indicate that the effect of context is more complex than it might seem. It might be that too much or too ambiguous information reduces  the neurological effect. We are just beginning to understand our automatic emotion regulation and more research is necessary to bring its nuances to light.” 

(* Kant set out this theory in Critique of Judgement, published in 1790)



Oxytocin Enhances Spirituality

vendredi, 23 décembre 2016 12:19 Written by

Oxytocin has been dubbed the “love hormone” for its role promoting social bonding, altruism and more. Now new research from Duke University suggests the hormone may also support spirituality.

In the study, men reported a greater sense of spirituality shortly after taking oxytocin and a week later. Participants who took oxytocin also experienced more positive emotions during meditation, said lead author Patty Van Cappellen, a social psychologist at Duke.

“Spirituality and meditation have each been linked to health and well-being in previous research,” Van Cappellen said. “We were interested in understanding biological factors that may enhance those spiritual experiences.

“Oxytocin appears to be part of the way our bodies support spiritual beliefs.”

Study participants were all male, and the findings apply only to men, said Van Cappellen, associate director of the Interdisciplinary and Behavioral Research Center at Duke’s Social Science Research Institute. In general, oxytocin operates somewhat differently in men and women, Van Cappellen added. Oxytocin’s effects on women’s spirituality still needs to be investigated.

The results appears online in the journal Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience.

Oxytocin occurs naturally in the body. Produced by the hypothalamus, it acts as a hormone and as a neurotransmitter, affecting many regions of the brain. It is stimulated during sex, childbirth and breastfeeding. Recent research has highlighted oxytocin’s possible role in promoting empathy, trust, social bonding and altruism. 

To test how oxytocin might influence spirituality, researchers administered the hormone to one group and a placebo to another. Those who received oxytocin were more likely to say afterwards that spirituality was important in their lives and that life has meaning and purpose. This was true after taking into account whether the participant reported belonging to an organized religion or not.

Participants who received oxytocin were also more inclined to view themselves as interconnected with other people and living things, giving higher ratings to statements such as “All life is interconnected” and “There is a higher plane of consciousness or spirituality that binds all people.”

Study subjects also participated in a guided meditation. Those who received oxytocin reported experiencing more positive emotions during meditation, including awe, gratitude, hope, inspiration, interest, love and serenity.

Oxytocin did not affect all participants equally, though. Its effect on spirituality was stronger among people with a particular variant of the CD38 gene, a gene that regulates the release of oxytocin from hypothalamic neurons in the brain.

Van Cappellen cautioned that the findings should not be over-generalized. First of all, there are many definitions of spirituality, she noted.

“Spirituality is complex and affected by many factors,” Van Cappellen said. “However, oxytocin does seem to affect how we perceive the world and what we believe.” 


مع تزايد حالات الإصابة بالتهاب الكبد الوبائي C لتصل إلى 150,000 حالة جديدة سنويًا، فإن مصر لديها أعلى معدلانتشار للمرض في العالم يصل إلى 15٪ بين البالغين. مما يكلف نظام الرعاية الصحية في جميع أنحاء البلاد حوالي 3.8 مليار دولار سنويًا، أي ما يقرب من 1.4٪ من الناتج المحلي الإجمالي للبلاد. 

في مبادرة للقيام بأبحاث متعددة التخصصات بقيادة مركز علوم الجينوموبالتعاون مع مركز علوم المواد في مدينة زويل للعلوم والتكنولوجيا، طور الباحثون أداة تشخيص لفيروس التهاب الكبد الوبائي C، وذلك باستخدام بصمة الفيروس الجينية  وجزيئات الذهب المعدلة (AuNPs ) للكشف المباشر والكمي في عينات المرضى.

على الرغم من التطورات السريعة في العلاج، لا يزال التشخيص هو العامل الرئيسي في مكافحة فيروس التهاب الكبد الوبائي C. إن حجر الزاوية في الحرب ضد الفيروس يكمن في ابتكار وسائل للتشخيص تكون في متناول الطبقة الفقيرة من المجتمع المصري. الأساليب الحالية مثل الـ PCR غالية الثمن، وتستغرق وقتا طويلًا وتتطلب مختبرات مجهزة تجهيزًا جيدًا.

ابتكر الفريق العلمي بالمدينة تكنولوجيا تشخيص جديدة أرخص وأسرع، حيث تجني النتائج في 30 دقيقة. يقول أ.د. شريف الخميسي، مدير مركز علوم الجينوم، "قد يساعدنا هذا على الوصول إلى الملايين من المصريين الذين يعيشون في العشوائيات والمناطق الريفية ممن لا يستطيعون الوصول علي التقنيات غالية الثمن الموجودة حاليًا،" وأضاف، "أسلوب التشخيص الجديد لديه حساسية تقارب الطريقة المستخدمة حاليًا بحوالي عُشرالتكلفة."

يعمل فريق المدينة علي سبل طرح تكنولوجيا التشخيص المبتكرة في الأسواق. وقال الخميسي موضحًا،"نحن الآن بحاجة للتحقق من  قدرتنا على إنتاج هذه التكنولوجيا على نطاق واسع. لذا نحن بحاجة للاستثمار في مراقبة وضمان الجودة خلال عملية الإنتاج."

كما أظهرت التكنولوجيا المبتكرة أيضًا قدرة على استخدامها كأداة للكشف الكمي عن العديد من الأحماض النووية، مما يفتح المجال لاستخدامها في اكتشاف العلامات البيولوجية في أمراض أخرى مثل السرطان وأمراض القلب.

نشر الباحثون نتائج دراستهم في الدورية العلمية Biosensors and Bioelectronics ذات عامل تأثير 7,476، في 4 نوفمبر 2016. ويتكون الفريق البحثي من د. شريف شوقي، زميل ما بعد الدكتوراة في مركز علوم الجينوم، أحمد عوض، وولاء علام، طلاب درجة الدكتوراة في المركز نفسه، د. محمد الكردي، مدير مشارك مركز علوم المواد، تحت قيادة أ.د الخميسي، مدير مركز علوم الجينوم.


Amputees’ brains remember missing hands even years later

mercredi, 23 novembre 2016 11:49 Written by

Our brains have a detailed picture of our hands and fingers, and that persists even decades after an amputation, Oxford University researchers have found. The finding could have implications for the control of next generation prosthetics.

Team leader, Dr. Tamar Makin said: ‘It has been thought that the hand 'picture’ in the brain, located in the primary somatosensory cortex, could only be maintained by regular sensory input from the hand. In fact, textbooks teach that the 'picture’ will be 'overwritten’ if its primary input stops. If that was the case, people who have undergone hand amputation would show extremely low or no activity related to its original focus in that brain area- in our case, the hand. However, we also know that people experience phantom sensations from amputated body parts, to the extent that someone asked to move a finger can 'feel’ that movement.

'We wanted to look at the information underlying brain activity in phantom movements, to see how it varied from the brain activity of people moving actual hands and fingers.’

The team, from Oxford’s Hand and Brain Lab, used an ultra-high power (7T) MRI scanner to look at brain activity in two people who had lost their left hand through amputation 25 and 31 years ago but who still experienced vivid phantom sensations, and eleven people who retained both hands and were right handed. Each person was asked to move individual fingers on their left hand.

Study leader, Ms. Sanne Kikkert said: 'We found that while there was less brain activity related to the left hand in the amputees, the specific patterns making up the composition of the hand picture still matched well to the two-handed people in the control group.’

'We confirmed our findings by working with a third amputee, who had also experienced a loss of any communication between the remaining part of their arm and their brain. Even this person had a residual representation of their missing hand’s fingers, 31 years after their amputation.’

One of those involved in the study was Chris Sole. Chris, whose hand was amputated in 1989, has taken part in a number of studies and was chosen for this study specifically because of the strong sense of movement in his amputated hand that he still experiences. He explained: 'You feel like you can move your fingers and you have individual control.

'I am always happy to take part in this team’s studies. Especially if it can help other people, the more they can learn the better.’

The current study provides a new opportunity to unlock one of the most mysterious questions about the brain’s ability to adaptively change to new circumstances - what happens to the brain once a key input is lost? To answer this question, scientists so far resorted to studying representations of the remaining (unaffected) inputs to see if these have changed. This approach leaves unexplored the possibility that the original function of the brain may be preserved, though latent. By studying phantom sensations in amputees these findings overturn established thinking in neuroscience by showing the brain maintains activity despite a drastic change in inputs.

Although these findings provide new insight about the brain’s ability to change, they are compatible with other studies of the brain’s visual cortex that found that degenerative eye disease limiting visual input did not change the brain’s representation of the visual field.

Sanne Kikkert said: 'It seems that even, as previously thought, the brain does carry out reorganisation when sensory inputs are lost, it does not erase the original function of a brain area.’

'This would remove a barrier to neuroprosthetics - prosthetic limbs controlled directly by the brain - the assumption that a person would lose the brain area that could control the prosthetic. If the brain retains a representation of the individual fingers, this could be exploited to provide the fine-grained control needed.’




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