Brain Awareness Week 2022

March 14 marks the start of Brain Awareness Week! Since 1995, the Dana Foundation has raised awareness of how beneficial brain research is through a week-long global celebration of ‘the little grey cells’. Cerebral successes in research are showcased this year between 14th–20th March 2022. Research into the brain uncovers treatments for illnesses and reveals the processes underlying our everyday functions. Here at Research Features, we’re excited to share with you a special blog about all things brain-related. Delve deeper into the recesses of our thought-provoking curation of brainy articles from the last year, and read on to discover how diet and COVID-19 affect the ageing brain.


The power of diet in protecting the ageing brain


The relationship between nutrition and brain health is well established and even more poignant in our ageing population, where there is an increased risk of neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease. Professor John Nolan and Dr Rebecca Power at the Nutrition Research Centre Ireland (NRCI) are leading several projects that aim to explore the relationship between nutrition and cognition, as well as how we can fortify the diet with specific nutrients known to have positive impacts on brain health and cognitive performance. Understanding more about nutrition and cognition will allow the development of novel preventative pathways to help reduce the risk of neurodegenerative conditions.


3D measurement of brain arteries: What can we learn?


Professor Tetsuya Takahashi of the Hiroshima University, and his colleagues Dr Naoyuki Kitamura and Mr Hiroki Yoshimura, are investigating the possibility that arteries elongate and kink with age. They are particularly interested in understanding whether this finding could explain some neurological disorders. To get more accurate measurements, the team have developed an innovative artery measuring tool that can trace arteries on images obtained by magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) in three dimensions. Their novel tool provides new insights on vessel structure and function.


Modelling synchronisation in the brain and in nature


Many systems in both nature and technology are governed by intricate webs of interactions between oscillating objects. In some cases, these oscillations can become synchronised, giving rise to a wide variety of intriguing behaviours. Until now, however, these processes have widely been viewed as too complex to study using conventional models. In his research, Dr Jakub Sawicki at the Technical University of Berlin and the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research has introduced novel approaches to analyse synchronisation in complex systems. His approach has led to new explanations of characteristic effects in two entirely different scenarios: neurons in the brain, and pipes in an organ.


Detrimental effects of COVID-19 on ageing brains: Clinical, pathological, and psychosocial consequences


COVID-19 has significantly affected the elderly population, particularly those with cognitive impairment, who frequently presented with acute behavioural changes (namely delirium) as a symptom of disease onset. To understand how, Dr Tino Emanuele Poloni and his colleagues at the Istituto Geriatrico Camillo Golgi, Abbiategrasso, Milan, Italy, studied inflammatory processes in the brain to verify the impact of SARS-CoV-2 on dementia and delirium. They found biological and psychosocial detrimental effects. They observed excessive innate immune response with severe brain inflammatory changes, especially in the brainstem. On the other hand, they noted the inability of elderly people affected by neurocognitive disorders to adapt to COVID-19 and lockdown, leading to depression and cognitive worsening. Nevertheless, they did not find neuropathological evidence for a direct SARS-CoV-2 brain invasion.


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