Sweet research morsels to chew on


What’s the relationship between suicidal behavior and the immune system? Is there a way to distinguish between elevated mania and depression risk? What’s up with that brain map developed by Google and Harvard?

In that single cubic millimeter, which is one millionth the size of the brain, are roughly 57,000 cells (neurons), about 230 millimeters of blood vessels, and nearly 150 million neural synapses.

We’re returning to a feature that was once a regular here.

There’s a whole lot of research going on in the world of the emotional and mental health illnesses. And we needed to find a way to inform readers on occasion.

Our “Chips off the old block” feature worked well. And it felt right to bring it back.

Let’s grab some morsels…

Study Reveals New Details About Relationship Between Suicidal Ideation/Attempt and Alterations in the Immune System

from Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

A study of immune activation and function in patients with major depressive disorder (MDD) and bipolar disorder (BD) revealed that the innate and acquired (adaptive) immune systems are altered in patients who have had even one episode of suicidal ideation or an attempt.

Inflammation is one of the byproducts of immune system activation. The inflammation that generates physical pain is well known and understood. However, that isn’t the case with psychiatric illness.

With support from the Brain & Behavior Research Foundation (BBRF), Federico Manuel Daray M.D., Ph.D., of the University of Buenos Aires, embarked upon research dedicated to a better understanding of the possible roles of the immune system in the development and maintenance of depression.

The work of Dr. Daray and colleagues has yielded many potentially important insights, broadly showing that both the innate and acquired immune systems are altered in patients with a lifetime occurrence of suicidal ideation or attempts.

How ‘bout this from Dr. Daray: “We wondered if what we were seeing in suicidal individuals was due to depression or not,” He continued, “These findings have potential therapeutic implications, suggesting that for patients with suicidal ideation or attempts, addressing inflammation may be necessary in addition to treating previously identified depressive symptoms.”

Give it a read.

Neural Activation Patterns That May Help Distinguish Elevated Mania/Hypomania Risk From Depression Risk in Young People

depression risk in young peopledepression risk in young people

from Brain & Behavior Research Foundation

Researchers have identified several brain activity patterns in young adults that appear to distinguish elevated risk of mania/hypomania from elevated risk of depression.

That’s huge because If validated, the patterns might serve as biomarkers, facilitating earlier diagnosis of bipolar illness.

Keep in mind, the first symptoms experienced by a patient may be those of depression. But is the depression unipolar or bipolar? The only distinguishing factor is having at least one episode of mania or hypomania. But how long will it take for that to happen?

Mary L. Phillips, MD, a member of BBRF’s Scientific Council, and colleagues at the University of Pittsburgh, recently published a paper reporting on several distinguishing brain activity patterns in young adults.

In its analysis, the team was able to determine that certain brain activation and neural network connectivity patterns were specific to elevated risk for mania/hypomania, as well as for depression.

The “robust associations” the team found may not only help distinguish the two conditions, but also provide neural targets to guide and monitor interventions in those at risk for BD and other affective disorders.

Give it a read.

Google helped make an exquisitely detailed map of a tiny piece of the human brain

Google exquisitely detailed mapGoogle exquisitely detailed map

from Google Research

A team led by scientists from Harvard and Google has created a 3D, nanoscale-resolution map of a single cubic millimeter of the human brain. To get a handle on size in volume: one cubic millimeter = .001 milliliters, one milliliter = one thousandth of a liter.

In that single cubic millimeter, which is one millionth the size of the brain, are roughly 57,000 cells (neurons), about 230 millimeters of blood vessels, and nearly 150 million neural synapses.

Interesting: Finding a piece of brain tissue was a challenge. Since it deteriorates quickly after death, cadaver tissue wouldn’t work. Well, they snagged a piece from the brain of a woman who was having surgery to help control her seizures.

Regarding the project, Michael Hawrylycz, a computational neuroscientist at the Allen Institute said, “It’s probably the most computer-intensive work in all of neuroscience.” According to Seth Ament, a neuroscientist at the University of Maryland, “The ability to get this deep a reconstruction of any human brain sample is an important advance.”

The map, which is freely available at a web platform called Neuroglancer, is meant to be a resource other researchers can use to make and publish their own discoveries. How significant is that?

By the way, those are exicitatory neurons in the image. They’re colored by depth from the surface of the brain – blue is closest to the surface, fuchsia is the most distant.

Give it a read.

Bringing great hope

We’re pleased to have “Chips off the old block” rolling again.

There’s so much active research in the world of the emotional and mental health illnesses. And it’s important to share some of what’s going on.

It brings great hope.


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