The ways we move
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by Julie Pryor
11h ago
This story originally appeared in the Winter 2023 issue of BrainScan. __ Many people barely consider how their bodies move — at least not until movement becomes more difficult due to injury or disease. But the McGovern scientists who are working to understand human movement and restore it after it has been lost know that the way we move is an engineering marvel. Muscles, bones, brain, and nerves work together to navigate and interact with an ever-changing environment, making constant but often imperceptible adjustments to carry out our goals. It’s an efficient and highly adaptable system ..read more
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Silent synapses are abundant in the adult brain
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by MIT News
6d ago
MIT neuroscientists have discovered that the adult brain contains millions of “silent synapses” — immature connections between neurons that remain inactive until they’re recruited to help form new memories. McGovern Institute Investigator Mark Harnett. Photo: Justin Knight Until now, it was believed that silent synapses were present only during early development, when they help the brain learn the new information that it’s exposed to early in life. However, the new MIT study revealed that in adult mice, about 30 percent of all synapses in the brain’s cortex are silent. The existence of these s ..read more
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New CRISPR-based tool inserts large DNA sequences at desired sites in cells
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by MIT News
1w ago
Building on the CRISPR gene-editing system, MIT researchers have designed a new tool that can snip out faulty genes and replace them with new ones, in a safer and more efficient way. Using this system, the researchers showed that they could deliver genes as long as 36,000 DNA base pairs to several types of human cells, as well as to liver cells in mice. The new technique, known as PASTE, could hold promise for treating diseases that are caused by defective genes with a large number of mutations, such as cystic fibrosis. “It’s a new genetic way of potentially targeting these really hard to trea ..read more
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Ila Fiete wins Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by MIT News
2w ago
The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) has awarded the Swartz Prize for Theoretical and Computational Neuroscience to Ila Fiete, professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, associate member of the McGovern Institute for Brain Research, and director of the K. Lisa Yang Integrative Computational Neuroscience Center. The SfN, the world’s largest neuroscience organization, announced that Fiete received the prize for her breakthrough research modeling hippocampal grid cells, a component of the navigational system of the mammalian brain. “Fiete’s body of work has already significantly s ..read more
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How touch dampens the brain’s response to painful stimuli
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by Julie Pryor
2w ago
McGovern Investigator Fan Wang. Photo: Caitliin Cunningham When we press our temples to soothe an aching head or rub an elbow after an unexpected blow, it often brings some relief. It is believed that pain-responsive cells in the brain quiet down when these neurons also receive touch inputs, say scientists at MIT’s McGovern Institute, who for the first time have watched this phenomenon play out in the brains of mice. The team’s discovery, reported November 16, 2022, in the journal Science Advances, offers researchers a deeper understanding of the complicated relationship between pain and touch ..read more
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Not every reader’s struggle is the same
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by MIT News
2w ago
Many children struggle to learn to read, and studies have shown that students from a lower socioeconomic status (SES) background are more likely to have difficulty than those from a higher SES background. MIT neuroscientists have now discovered that the types of difficulties that lower-SES students have with reading, and the underlying brain signatures, are, on average, different from those of higher-SES students who struggle with reading. In a new study, which included brain scans of more than 150 children as they performed tasks related to reading, researchers found that when students from h ..read more
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RNA-activated protein cutter protects bacteria from infection
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by Julie Pryor
1M ago
Our growing understanding of the ways bacteria defend themselves against viruses continues to change the way scientists work and offer new opportunities to improve human health. Ancient immune systems known as CRISPR systems have already been widely adopted as powerful genome editing tools, and the CRISPR toolkit is continuing to expand. Now, scientists at MIT’s McGovern Institute have uncovered an unexpected and potentially useful tool that some bacteria use to respond to infection: an RNA-activated protein-cutting enzyme. McGovern Fellows Jonathan Gootenberg and Omar Abudayyeh in their lab ..read more
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Study urges caution when comparing neural networks to the brain
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by MIT News
1M ago
Neural networks, a type of computing system loosely modeled on the organization of the human brain, form the basis of many artificial intelligence systems for applications such speech recognition, computer vision, and medical image analysis. In the field of neuroscience, researchers often use neural networks to try to model the same kind of tasks that the brain performs, in hopes that the models could suggest new hypotheses regarding how the brain itself performs those tasks. However, a group of researchers at MIT is urging that more caution should be taken when interpreting these models. In a ..read more
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RNA-sensing system controls protein expression in cells based on specific cell states
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by Julie Pryor
1M ago
Press Mentions A new suite of RNA-sensing tools could help scientists... STAT News Broad and MIT scientists repurpose hot RNA editing tech... Endpoints Researchers at the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard and the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT have developed a system that can detect a particular RNA sequence in live cells and produce a protein of interest in response. Using the technology, the team showed how they could identify specific cell types, detect and measure changes in the expression of individual genes, track transcriptional states, and control the production of ..read more
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Magnetic sensors track muscle length
McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT
by MIT News
1M ago
Using a simple set of magnets, MIT researchers have come up with a sophisticated way to monitor muscle movements, which they hope will make it easier for people with amputations to control their prosthetic limbs. In a new pair of papers, the researchers demonstrated the accuracy and safety of their magnet-based system, which can track the length of muscles during movement. The studies, performed in animals, offer hope that this strategy could be used to help people with prosthetic devices control them in a way that more closely mimics natural limb movement. “These recent results demonstrate th ..read more
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