Archive for the ‘Genetics’ Category

5-hydroxy-methyl CpGs (5-hmCs) were first discovered in 2009 and shown to be enriched in the brain, but remain a mysterious epigenetic mark, despite intriguing functional findings such as: environmental enrichment’s reduction of it, MeCP2’s preference for 5mc over 5hmc, and it’s possible role as an intermediate in demethylation. This new technique will aid their characterization […]

You may have seen my tweet about the upcoming documentary Mars Project, which tackles complex issues such as mental illness, drug use, psychiatry, race, and stigma. When director Jonathan Balazs contacted me about his film, I got really excited about it. If you liked the teaser but want to learn more about the project, check out Balazs’s Indie-Go-Go page […]

COMT, Catechol-O-methyl transferase, is an enzyme that degrades catecholamines–such as dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine (or adrenaline and noradrenaline as they are called in the UK). It was first discovered in the ’50s by Nobel laureate and pirate Julius Axelrod. More recently, scientists discovered an evolutionarily recent nonsynonomous single-nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) in the protein-coding portion of […]

First, experimental economists and psychologists like nobel laureates Vernon L. Smith and Daniel Kahneman taught us that we aren’t economically rational–we’re influenced by biases and we use flawed heuristics (though often in very testable, repeatable ways).(1) Then, Neuroeconomists showed that biology affects economic decisions–internasal oxytocin raises trust in risky exchanges, serum serotonin levels predict whether […]

Scientists reported a new connection between autism and fragile x syndrome in the latest issue of neuron. They sequenced the exomes–the parts of DNA that code proteins–of 343 families that had a single child with autism and at least one unaffected sibling. Looking at de novo mutations (ones that occurred in the sperm or egg […]

Imagine cold fingers creeping up someone’s calf. Now imagine that whenever you saw someone else being touched, you would feel the sensation on your own body. That is mirror-touch synesthesia. Psychologists at UCL verified mirror-touch synesthesia and further showed its linked with heightened empathy in their report in Nature Neuroscience.

Whenever I hear a friend talk about how they only sleep 6 hours a night—I feel a combination of pity (that must be rough) and annoyance (how can they do that to themselves), but reading up on the genetics of sleep maybe I should be feeling jealousy (since I need at least 8 solid hours). […] This two-day symposium, hosted by Drs. Ed Scolnick of the Broad Institute’s Stanley Center for Psychiatric Research, Li-Huei Tsai of MIT’s Picower Institute and Guoping Feng of MIT’s McGovern Institute, brought together leading scientists who work on the emerging genetics and biology of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, autism and other mental illnesses. These illnesses cause […]

Detecting 5-hmCs 5-hydroxymethylcytosines (5-hmC) went undiscovered because they showed up like other 5-methoxycytosines through bisulfide sequencing. The neuroscientists behind a new study in Nature Neuroscience profiles 5-hmC across development using T4 bacteriophage B-glucosyltransferase to transfer an engineered glucose-azide moiety onto the the hydroxyl of 5-hmC. This moiety was then detected and used to map 5-hmCs […]

There is a belief in the drug community that the war on drugs prevents good research from being done on drug use. While I agree there is a scarcity of research on the potential uses of many abused drugs or how they alter states of consciousness we really do know an amazing amount about what […]