Study Identifies Itch-specific Nerves

Scientists have been looking for itch-specific nerves for decades. New research from investigators at Johns Hopkins University and Yale University in the United States and several universities in China has identified sensory neurons in mice that are dedicated to relaying itchy sensations from the top layers of skin to the spinal cord [1].

Woman itching her back

NIH Researchers Implicate Unique Cell Type in Multiple Sclerosis

Researchers at the National Institutes of Health have found evidence that a unique type of immune cell contributes to multiple sclerosis (MS). Their discovery helps define the effects of one of the newest drugs under investigation for treating MS — daclizumab — and could lead to a new class of drugs for treating MS and other autoimmune disorders.


Qualcomm is Building a Digital Human Brain

During the President’s Lecture Series at San Diego State University two weeks ago, Qualcomm CEO Paul Jacobs said that the company is building a digital human brain. Stating that the brain isn’t programmed but rather taught, Jacobs emphasized that the company’s work was meant to help humanity through the “digital sixth sense” — the merging of the cyber and real worlds.

He described the process of discovery this way:

The team actually started out by building a retina and they came to me and said: ‘Look, it responds to these optical illusions the same way a human does.’ They put another layer of cells behind that [and] it started to find features. They put another layer, it started to find corners or oriented lines or something. Another layer, it started to find patterns.

Jacobs is talking about Brain Corporation, a small research company that is developing novel algorithms based on the functionality of the nervous system, with applications in visual perception, motor control, and autonomous navigation. The intention is to equip consumer devices, such as mobile phones or household robots, with artificial nervous systems. Qualcomm funds Brain Corporation research and hosts the company on its campus in San Diego, California.

Scientists at Brain Corporation are re-creating in the computer the shapes of every one of the billions of nerve cells that make up our brains, the component parts of intricate neural circuits that allow us to move, see and hear, to feel and to think. With this new tool, researchers are beginning to decipher the secrets of the brain’s architecture, which may one day enable us to build smart technologies that surpass the capabilities of anything we have today.

This video is based on a paper published by neuroscientist Hermann Cuntz, and colleagues in the online journal PLoS Computational Biology.

Study: One Rule to Grow Them All: A General Theory of Neuronal Branching and Its Practical Application


MIA is a Potential Biomarker for NF1 Tumor Load

Neurofibromatosis type 1 is a genetic condition that can cause tumors to form on nerves under the skin. Since these tumors can become malignant, it is important to monitor their growth closely and detect signs of malignant transformation as early as possible. However, the only way to currently detect them is with an MRI scan. New research published in BioMed Central’s open access journal BMC Medicine shows that a simple blood test for the protein melanoma-inhibitory activity (MIA) may be used to indicate the presence of neurofibromas even if they cannot be seen [1].

Blood test