The Lonely Brain: Consequences of Social Isolation
Humans need social interaction, similar to how they need food, water, and sleep. Not meeting this need, like many of us experienced during the lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, can have disastrous consequences on the brain, particularly during early life. Periods of social isolation have been linked to later drug and alcohol abuse, anxiety and depression, and impaired social skills. Researchers discuss how social isolation harms the brain and ways to combat its effects.
Alexa Veenema, Michigan State University
Lisa A. Briand, Temple University
Enrique U. Pérez-Cardona, University of Puerto Rico at Carolina
Reesha Patel, Salk Institute for Biological Studies
Adam S. Smith, University of Kansas
Yong-Seok Lee, Seoul National University College of Medicine
New Research from SfN Journals
Topics include recordings from face-selective neurons in humans, a new treatment route for cognitive decline in healthy aging adults, and how bilingual people comprehend mixed-language sentences. All three papers feature unpublished, cutting-edge research from JNeurosci and eNeuro, the two Society for Neuroscience journals.
Christophe Bernard, eNeuro editor-in-chief
Peter Janssen, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Thomas Decramer, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Thad Polk, The University of Michigan
Poortata Shirish Lalwani, The University of Michigan
Liina Pylkkänen, New York University
Sarah Frances Phillips, New York University
How the Brain’s Immune Cells Contribute to Alzheimer’s Disease
Neurons receive much of the focus in Alzheimer’s disease research, yet they are not the only cell type involved. When microglia — the brain’s resident immune cells — malfunction, they amplify the trajectory of the disease. However, they also have the potential to serve as a biomarker and therapeutic target. Researchers explore how microglia change during healthy aging, the Alzheimer’s disease genes they express, and how they interact with the hallmark features of the disease.
Li Gan, Weill Cornell Medicine
Bahareh Ajami, Oregon Health and Science University
Beth A. Stevens, Boston Children's Hospital; Broad Institute
Ryan Shahidehpour, University of Kentucky
Tuesday, November 02
Clearing the (Brain) Fog: Neurological Aspects of COVID-19
While the effects of SARS-CoV-2 virus on the respiratory system — cough, shortness of breath — are well documented, the virus also affects the nervous system. Data suggests roughly 80% of COVID-19 patients experience neurological and psychiatric symptoms, including loss of smell and taste, brain fog, and, less frequently, stroke. Research offers new insights into how the coronavirus enters the brain and peripheral nervous system, and how the virus impacts brain function over time.
Rita J. Balice-Gordon, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania
Ashutosh Kumar, All India Institute of Medical Sciences-Patna
John Morrison, University of California, Davis
Jonathan D. Joyce, Virginia Tech
Allison B. Sekuler, Rotman Research Institute
Perception: The Brain’s Lens on Reality
For the human brain, sensing the world around us is not a passive process. Our perception of the world relies on a combination of fine-tuned senses, attention, and predictions about what comes next. Unraveling the intricacies of perception reveals how different parts of the brain collaborate to accomplish complex functions. Researchers will unpack ways our imagination and attention shape the way we perceive our environment, plus how to improve it.
Sabine Kastner, Princeton University
Kamal K. Sen, Boston University
David L. Sheinberg, Brown University
Heather Iriye, Karolinska Institute
Nitzan Censor, Tel-Aviv University
Uncovering the Biological Blueprint of Stress Resilience
Experiencing a traumatic event can lead to the development of posttraumatic stress disorder, anxiety, or depression — but not always. Some people possess an innate resilience and can weather stress or trauma without adverse mental health consequences. Examining the biological factors contributing to stress resilience could offer targeted interventions and treatments for susceptible people. Researchers discuss the contributions of social touch neurons, gender, and the gut microbiome.
Martha Farah, University of Pennsylvania
Melanie Schaffler, University of Pennsylvania
Esther Sabban, New York Medical College
Eva E. Redei, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University
Wednesday, November 03
The NIH COVID-19 Research Response and the Neurological Implications of COVID-19
Leaders from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), the National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH), the National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA), the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child and Human Development (NICHD), and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) will brief reporters about their Institutes’ research efforts related to COVID-19 and SARS-CoV-2. Topics will include Long COVID, effects of SARS-CoV-2 infection on the brain, mental health during the pandemic, and COVID-19 and the opioid epidemic.