One of the most commonly reported injuries in children who participate in sports is concussion or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI)1. Children and youth involved in organized sports such as competitive hockey are nearly six times more likely to suffer a severe concussion compared to children involved in other leisure physical activities2. While the most common cognitive sequelae of mTBI appear similar for children and adults, the recovery profile and breadth of consequences in children remains largely unknown2, as does the influence of pre-injury characteristics (e.g. gender) and injury details (e.g. magnitude and direction of impact) on long-term outcomes. Competitive sports, such as hockey, allow the rare opportunity to utilize a pre-post design to obtain pre-injury data before concussion occurs on youth characteristics and functioning and to relate this to outcome following injury. Our primary goals are to refine pediatric concussion diagnosis and management based on research evidence that is specific to children and youth. To do this we use new, multi-modal and integrative approaches that will:
1.Evaluate the immediate effects of head trauma in youth
2.Monitor the resolution of post-concussion symptoms (PCS) and cognitive performance during recovery
3.Utilize new methods to verify brain injury and recovery
To achieve our goals, we have implemented the Head Impact Telemetry (HIT) System. (Simbex; Lebanon, NH, USA). This system equips commercially available Easton S9 hockey helmets (Easton-Bell Sports; Van Nuys, CA, USA) with single-axis accelerometers designed to measure real-time head accelerations during contact sport participation 3 - 5. By using telemetric technology, the magnitude of acceleration and location of all head impacts during sport participation can be objectively detected and recorded. We also use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to localize and assess changes in neural activity specifically in the medial temporal and frontal lobes during the performance of cognitive tasks, since those are the cerebral regions most sensitive to concussive head injury 6. Finally, we are acquiring structural imaging data sensitive to damage in brain white matter.
17 Related JoVE Articles!
A Neuroscientific Approach to the Examination of Concussions in Student-Athletes
Institutions: Elon University, Elon University, Duquesne University, Elon University.
Concussions are occurring at alarming rates in the United States and have become a serious public health concern. The CDC estimates that 1.6 to 3.8 million concussions occur in sports and recreational activities annually. Concussion as defined by the 2013 Concussion Consensus Statement “may be caused either by a direct blow to the head, face, neck or elsewhere on the body with an ‘impulsive’ force transmitted to the head.” Concussions leave the individual with both short- and long-term effects. The short-term effects of sport related concussions may include changes in playing ability, confusion, memory disturbance, the loss of consciousness, slowing of reaction time, loss of coordination, headaches, dizziness, vomiting, changes in sleep patterns and mood changes. These symptoms typically resolve in a matter of days. However, while some individuals recover from a single concussion rather quickly, many experience lingering effects that can last for weeks or months. The factors related to concussion susceptibility and the subsequent recovery times are not well known or understood at this time. Several factors have been suggested and they include the individual’s concussion history, the severity of the initial injury, history of migraines, history of learning disabilities, history of psychiatric comorbidities, and possibly, genetic factors. Many studies have individually investigated certain factors both the short-term and long-term effects of concussions, recovery time course, susceptibility and recovery. What has not been clearly established is an effective multifaceted approach to concussion evaluation that would yield valuable information related to the etiology, functional changes, and recovery. The purpose of this manuscript is to show one such multifaceted approached which examines concussions using computerized neurocognitive testing, event related potentials, somatosensory perceptual responses, balance assessment, gait assessment and genetic testing.
Medicine, Issue 94, Concussions, Student-Athletes, Mild Traumatic Brain Injury, Genetics, Cognitive Function, Balance, Gait, Somatosensory
Measuring Neural and Behavioral Activity During Ongoing Computerized Social Interactions: An Examination of Event-Related Brain Potentials
Institutions: Illinois Wesleyan University.
Social exclusion is a complex social phenomenon with powerful negative consequences. Given the impact of social exclusion on mental and emotional health, an understanding of how perceptions of social exclusion develop over the course of a social interaction is important for advancing treatments aimed at lessening the harmful costs of being excluded. To date, most scientific examinations of social exclusion have looked at exclusion after a social interaction has been completed. While this has been very helpful in developing an understanding of what happens to a person following exclusion, it has not helped to clarify the moment-to-moment dynamics of the process of social exclusion. Accordingly, the current protocol was developed to obtain an improved understanding of social exclusion by examining the patterns of event-related brain activation that are present during social interactions. This protocol allows greater precision and sensitivity in detailing the social processes that lead people to feel as though they have been excluded from a social interaction. Importantly, the current protocol can be adapted to include research projects that vary the nature of exclusionary social interactions by altering how frequently participants are included, how long the periods of exclusion will last in each interaction, and when exclusion will take place during the social interactions. Further, the current protocol can be used to examine variables and constructs beyond those related to social exclusion. This capability to address a variety of applications across psychology by obtaining both neural and behavioral data during ongoing social interactions suggests the present protocol could be at the core of a developing area of scientific inquiry related to social interactions.
Behavior, Issue 93, Event-related brain potentials (ERPs), Social Exclusion, Neuroscience, N2, P3, Cognitive Control
Improved Method for the Preparation of a Human Cell-based, Contact Model of the Blood-Brain Barrier
Institutions: Monash University.
The blood-brain barrier (BBB) comprises impermeable but adaptable brain capillaries which tightly control the brain environment. Failure of the BBB has been implied in the etiology of many brain pathologies, creating a need for development of human in vitro
BBB models to assist in clinically-relevant research. Among the numerous BBB models thus far described, a static (without flow), contact BBB model, where astrocytes and brain endothelial cells (BECs) are cocultured on the opposite sides of a porous membrane, emerged as a simplified yet authentic system to simulate the BBB with high throughput screening capacity. Nevertheless the generation of such model presents few technical challenges. Here, we describe a protocol for preparation of a contact human BBB model utilizing a novel combination of primary human BECs and immortalized human astrocytes. Specifically, we detail an innovative method for cell-seeding on inverted inserts as well as specify insert staining techniques and exemplify how we use our model for BBB-related research.
Bioengineering, Issue 81, Blood-brain barrier, model, cell culture, astrocytes, brain endothelial cells, insert, membranes
Functional Neuroimaging Using Ultrasonic Blood-brain Barrier Disruption and Manganese-enhanced MRI
Institutions: Stanford University , Duke University Medical Center, Duke University .
Although mice are the dominant model system for studying the genetic and molecular underpinnings of neuroscience, functional neuroimaging in mice remains technically challenging. One approach, Activation-Induced Manganese-enhanced MRI (AIM MRI), has been used successfully to map neuronal activity in rodents 1-5
. In AIM MRI, Mn2+
acts a calcium analog and accumulates in depolarized neurons 6,7
. Because Mn2+
shortens the T1
tissue property, regions of elevated neuronal activity will enhance in MRI. Furthermore, Mn2+
clears slowly from the activated regions; therefore, stimulation can be performed outside the magnet prior to imaging, enabling greater experimental flexibility. However, because Mn2+
does not readily cross the blood-brain barrier (BBB), the need to open the BBB has limited the use of AIM MRI, especially in mice.
One tool for opening the BBB is ultrasound. Though potentially damaging, if ultrasound is administered in combination with gas-filled microbubbles (i.e., ultrasound contrast agents), the acoustic pressure required for BBB opening is considerably lower. This combination of ultrasound and microbubbles can be used to reliably open the BBB without causing tissue damage 8-11
Here, a method is presented for performing AIM MRI by using microbubbles and ultrasound to open the BBB. After an intravenous injection of perflutren microbubbles, an unfocused pulsed ultrasound beam is applied to the shaved mouse head for 3 minutes. For simplicity, we refer to this technique of BBB Opening with Microbubbles and UltraSound as BOMUS 12
. Using BOMUS to open the BBB throughout both cerebral hemispheres, manganese is administered to the whole mouse brain. After experimental stimulation of the lightly sedated mice, AIM MRI is used to map the neuronal response.
To demonstrate this approach, herein BOMUS and AIM MRI are used to map unilateral mechanical stimulation of the vibrissae in lightly sedated mice 13
. Because BOMUS can open the BBB throughout both hemispheres, the unstimulated side of the brain is used to control for nonspecific background stimulation. The resultant 3D activation map agrees well with published representations of the vibrissae regions of the barrel field cortex 14
. The ultrasonic opening of the BBB is fast, noninvasive, and reversible; and thus this approach is suitable for high-throughput and/or longitudinal studies in awake mice.
Neuroscience, Issue 65, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, mouse, ultrasound, blood-brain barrier, functional MRI, fMRI, manganese-enhanced MRI, MEMRI
Models and Methods to Evaluate Transport of Drug Delivery Systems Across Cellular Barriers
Institutions: University of Maryland, University of Maryland.
Sub-micrometer carriers (nanocarriers; NCs) enhance efficacy of drugs by improving solubility, stability, circulation time, targeting, and release. Additionally, traversing cellular barriers in the body is crucial for both oral delivery of therapeutic NCs into the circulation and transport from the blood into tissues, where intervention is needed. NC transport across cellular barriers is achieved by: (i) the paracellular route, via transient disruption of the junctions that interlock adjacent cells, or (ii) the transcellular route, where materials are internalized by endocytosis, transported across the cell body, and secreted at the opposite cell surface (transyctosis). Delivery across cellular barriers can be facilitated by coupling therapeutics or their carriers with targeting agents that bind specifically to cell-surface markers involved in transport. Here, we provide methods to measure the extent and mechanism of NC transport across a model cell barrier, which consists of a monolayer of gastrointestinal (GI) epithelial cells grown on a porous membrane located in a transwell insert. Formation of a permeability barrier is confirmed by measuring transepithelial electrical resistance (TEER), transepithelial transport of a control substance, and immunostaining of tight junctions. As an example, ~200 nm polymer NCs are used, which carry a therapeutic cargo and are coated with an antibody that targets a cell-surface determinant. The antibody or therapeutic cargo is labeled with 125
I for radioisotope tracing and labeled NCs are added to the upper chamber over the cell monolayer for varying periods of time. NCs associated to the cells and/or transported to the underlying chamber can be detected. Measurement of free 125
I allows subtraction of the degraded fraction. The paracellular route is assessed by determining potential changes caused by NC transport to the barrier parameters described above. Transcellular transport is determined by addressing the effect of modulating endocytosis and transcytosis pathways.
Bioengineering, Issue 80, Antigens, Enzymes, Biological Therapy, bioengineering (general), Pharmaceutical Preparations, Macromolecular Substances, Therapeutics, Digestive System and Oral Physiological Phenomena, Biological Phenomena, Cell Physiological Phenomena, drug delivery systems, targeted nanocarriers, transcellular transport, epithelial cells, tight junctions, transepithelial electrical resistance, endocytosis, transcytosis, radioisotope tracing, immunostaining
Generation of Neural Stem Cells from Discarded Human Fetal Cortical Tissue
Institutions: Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital, Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, Brigham and Women's Hospital.
Neural stem cells (NSCs) reside along the ventricular zone neuroepithelium during the development of the cortical plate. These early progenitors ultimately give rise to intermediate progenitors and later, the various neuronal and glial cell subtypes that form the cerebral cortex. The capacity to generate and expand human NSCs (so called neurospheres) from discarded normal fetal tissue provides a means with which to directly study the functional aspects of normal human NSC development 1-5
. This approach can also be directed toward the generation of NSCs from known neurological disorders, thereby affording the opportunity to identify disease processes that alter progenitor proliferation, migration and differentiation 6-9
. We have focused on identifying pathological mechanisms in human Down syndrome NSCs that might contribute to the accelerated Alzheimer's disease phenotype 10,11
. Neither in vivo
nor in vitro
mouse models can replicate the identical repertoire of genes located on human chromosome 21.
Here we use a simple and reliable method to isolate Down syndrome NSCs from aborted human fetal cortices and grow them in culture. The methodology provides specific aspects of harvesting the tissue, dissection with limited anatomical landmarks, cell sorting, plating and passaging of human NSCs. We also provide some basic protocols for inducing differentiation of human NSCs into more selective cell subtypes.
Neuroscience, Issue 51, neural stem cell, human, brain, cortex, fetus, cell culture
Perceptual and Category Processing of the Uncanny Valley Hypothesis' Dimension of Human Likeness: Some Methodological Issues
Institutions: University of Zurich.
Mori's Uncanny Valley Hypothesis1,2
proposes that the perception of humanlike characters such as robots and, by extension, avatars (computer-generated characters) can evoke negative or positive affect (valence) depending on the object's degree of visual and behavioral realism along a dimension of human likeness
) (Figure 1
). But studies of affective valence of subjective responses to variously realistic non-human characters have produced inconsistent findings 3, 4, 5, 6
. One of a number of reasons for this is that human likeness is not perceived as the hypothesis assumes. While the DHL can be defined following Mori's description as a smooth linear change in the degree of physical humanlike similarity, subjective perception of objects along the DHL can be understood in terms of the psychological effects of categorical perception (CP) 7
. Further behavioral and neuroimaging investigations of category processing and CP along the DHL and of the potential influence of the dimension's underlying category structure on affective experience are needed. This protocol therefore focuses on the DHL and allows examination of CP. Based on the protocol presented in the video as an example, issues surrounding the methodology in the protocol and the use in "uncanny" research of stimuli drawn from morph continua to represent the DHL are discussed in the article that accompanies the video. The use of neuroimaging and morph stimuli to represent the DHL in order to disentangle brain regions neurally responsive to physical human-like similarity from those responsive to category change and category processing is briefly illustrated.
Behavior, Issue 76, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Psychology, Neuropsychology, uncanny valley, functional magnetic resonance imaging, fMRI, categorical perception, virtual reality, avatar, human likeness, Mori, uncanny valley hypothesis, perception, magnetic resonance imaging, MRI, imaging, clinical techniques
Developing Neuroimaging Phenotypes of the Default Mode Network in PTSD: Integrating the Resting State, Working Memory, and Structural Connectivity
Institutions: Alpert Medical School, Brown University, University of Georgia.
Complementary structural and functional neuroimaging techniques used to examine the Default Mode Network (DMN) could potentially improve assessments of psychiatric illness severity and provide added validity to the clinical diagnostic process. Recent neuroimaging research suggests that DMN processes may be disrupted in a number of stress-related psychiatric illnesses, such as posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Although specific DMN functions remain under investigation, it is generally thought to be involved in introspection and self-processing. In healthy individuals it exhibits greatest activity during periods of rest, with less activity, observed as deactivation, during cognitive tasks, e.g.
, working memory. This network consists of the medial prefrontal cortex, posterior cingulate cortex/precuneus, lateral parietal cortices and medial temporal regions.
Multiple functional and structural imaging approaches have been developed to study the DMN. These have unprecedented potential to further the understanding of the function and dysfunction of this network. Functional approaches, such as the evaluation of resting state connectivity and task-induced deactivation, have excellent potential to identify targeted neurocognitive and neuroaffective (functional) diagnostic markers and may indicate illness severity and prognosis with increased accuracy or specificity. Structural approaches, such as evaluation of morphometry and connectivity, may provide unique markers of etiology and long-term outcomes. Combined, functional and structural methods provide strong multimodal, complementary and synergistic approaches to develop valid DMN-based imaging phenotypes in stress-related psychiatric conditions. This protocol aims to integrate these methods to investigate DMN structure and function in PTSD, relating findings to illness severity and relevant clinical factors.
Medicine, Issue 89, default mode network, neuroimaging, functional magnetic resonance imaging, diffusion tensor imaging, structural connectivity, functional connectivity, posttraumatic stress disorder
Diffusion Tensor Magnetic Resonance Imaging in the Analysis of Neurodegenerative Diseases
Institutions: University of Ulm.
Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) techniques provide information on the microstructural processes of the cerebral white matter (WM) in vivo
. The present applications are designed to investigate differences of WM involvement patterns in different brain diseases, especially neurodegenerative disorders, by use of different DTI analyses in comparison with matched controls.
DTI data analysis is performed in a variate fashion, i.e.
voxelwise comparison of regional diffusion direction-based metrics such as fractional anisotropy (FA), together with fiber tracking (FT) accompanied by tractwise fractional anisotropy statistics (TFAS) at the group level in order to identify differences in FA along WM structures, aiming at the definition of regional patterns of WM alterations at the group level. Transformation into a stereotaxic standard space is a prerequisite for group studies and requires thorough data processing to preserve directional inter-dependencies. The present applications show optimized technical approaches for this preservation of quantitative and directional information during spatial normalization in data analyses at the group level. On this basis, FT techniques can be applied to group averaged data in order to quantify metrics information as defined by FT. Additionally, application of DTI methods, i.e.
differences in FA-maps after stereotaxic alignment, in a longitudinal analysis at an individual subject basis reveal information about the progression of neurological disorders. Further quality improvement of DTI based results can be obtained during preprocessing by application of a controlled elimination of gradient directions with high noise levels.
In summary, DTI is used to define a distinct WM pathoanatomy of different brain diseases by the combination of whole brain-based and tract-based DTI analysis.
Medicine, Issue 77, Neuroscience, Neurobiology, Molecular Biology, Biomedical Engineering, Anatomy, Physiology, Neurodegenerative Diseases, nuclear magnetic resonance, NMR, MR, MRI, diffusion tensor imaging, fiber tracking, group level comparison, neurodegenerative diseases, brain, imaging, clinical techniques
MRI-guided Disruption of the Blood-brain Barrier using Transcranial Focused Ultrasound in a Rat Model
Institutions: Sunnybrook Research Institute, University of Toronto, University of Toronto.
Focused ultrasound (FUS) disruption of the blood-brain barrier (BBB) is an increasingly investigated technique for circumventing the BBB1-5
. The BBB is a significant obstacle to pharmaceutical treatments of brain disorders as it limits the passage of molecules from the vasculature into the brain tissue to molecules less than approximately 500 Da in size6
. FUS induced BBB disruption (BBBD) is temporary and reversible4
and has an advantage over chemical means of inducing BBBD by being highly localized. FUS induced BBBD provides a means for investigating the effects of a wide range of therapeutic agents on the brain, which would not otherwise be deliverable to the tissue in sufficient concentration. While a wide range of ultrasound parameters have proven successful at disrupting the BBB2,5,7
, there are several critical steps in the experimental procedure to ensure successful disruption with accurate targeting. This protocol outlines how to achieve MRI-guided FUS induced BBBD in a rat model, with a focus on the critical animal preparation and microbubble handling steps of the experiment.
Medicine, Issue 61, Blood-Brain Barrier, Focused Ultrasound, Therapeutic Ultrasound, Ultrasound Bioeffects, Microbubbles, Drug Delivery
Rat Model of Blood-brain Barrier Disruption to Allow Targeted Neurovascular Therapeutics
Institutions: Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.
Endothelial cells with tight junctions along with the basement membrane and astrocyte end feet surround cerebral blood vessels to form the blood-brain barrier1
. The barrier selectively excludes molecules from crossing between the blood and the brain based upon their size and charge. This function can impede the delivery of therapeutics for neurological disorders. A number of chemotherapeutic drugs, for example, will not effectively cross the blood-brain barrier to reach tumor cells2
. Thus, improving the delivery of drugs across the blood-brain barrier is an area of interest.
The most prevalent methods for enhancing the delivery of drugs to the brain are direct cerebral infusion and blood-brain barrier disruption3
. Direct intracerebral infusion guarantees that therapies reach the brain; however, this method has a limited ability to disperse the drug4
. Blood-brain barrier disruption (BBBD) allows drugs to flow directly from the circulatory system
into the brain and thus more effectively reach dispersed tumor cells. Three methods of barrier disruption include osmotic barrier disruption, pharmacological barrier disruption, and focused ultrasound with microbubbles. Osmotic disruption, pioneered by Neuwelt, uses a hypertonic solution of 25% mannitol that dehydrates the cells of the blood-brain barrier causing them to shrink and disrupt their tight junctions. Barrier disruption can also be accomplished pharmacologically with vasoactive compounds such as histamine5
. This method, however, is selective primarily for the brain-tumor barrier7
. Additionally, RMP-7, an analog of the peptide bradykinin, was found to be inferior when compared head-to-head with osmotic BBBD with 25% mannitol8
. Another method, focused ultrasound (FUS) in conjunction with microbubble ultrasound contrast agents, has also been shown to reversibly open the blood-brain barrier9
. In comparison to FUS, though, 25% mannitol has a longer history of safety in human patients that makes it a proven tool for translational research10-12
In order to accomplish BBBD, mannitol must be delivered at a high rate directly into the brain's arterial circulation. In humans, an endovascular catheter is guided to the brain where rapid, direct flow can be accomplished. This protocol models human BBBD as closely as possible. Following a cut-down to the bifurcation of the common carotid artery, a catheter is inserted retrograde into the ECA and used to deliver mannitol directly into the internal carotid artery (ICA) circulation. Propofol and N2
O anesthesia are used for their ability to maximize the effectiveness of barrier disruption13
. If executed properly, this procedure has the ability to safely, effectively, and reversibly open the blood-brain barrier and improve the delivery of drugs that do not ordinarily reach the brain 8,13,14
Medicine, Issue 69, Neuroscience, Immunology, Cancer Biology, Blood-brain barrier disruption, neurovascular, endovascular, intra-arterial, neurosurgery, oncology, neuro-oncology, animal model, rat
Setting-up an In Vitro Model of Rat Blood-brain Barrier (BBB): A Focus on BBB Impermeability and Receptor-mediated Transport
Institutions: VECT-HORUS SAS, CNRS, NICN UMR 7259.
The blood brain barrier (BBB) specifically regulates molecular and cellular flux between the blood and the nervous tissue. Our aim was to develop and characterize a highly reproducible rat syngeneic in vitro
model of the BBB using co-cultures of primary rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC) and astrocytes to study receptors involved in transcytosis across the endothelial cell monolayer. Astrocytes were isolated by mechanical dissection following trypsin digestion and were frozen for later co-culture. RBEC were isolated from 5-week-old rat cortices. The brains were cleaned of meninges and white matter, and mechanically dissociated following enzymatic digestion. Thereafter, the tissue homogenate was centrifuged in bovine serum albumin to separate vessel fragments from nervous tissue. The vessel fragments underwent a second enzymatic digestion to free endothelial cells from their extracellular matrix. The remaining contaminating cells such as pericytes were further eliminated by plating the microvessel fragments in puromycin-containing medium. They were then passaged onto filters for co-culture with astrocytes grown on the bottom of the wells. RBEC expressed high levels of tight junction (TJ) proteins such as occludin, claudin-5 and ZO-1 with a typical localization at the cell borders. The transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER) of brain endothelial monolayers, indicating the tightness of TJs reached 300 ohm·cm2
on average. The endothelial permeability coefficients (Pe) for lucifer yellow (LY) was highly reproducible with an average of 0.26 ± 0.11 x 10-3
cm/min. Brain endothelial cells organized in monolayers expressed the efflux transporter P-glycoprotein (P-gp), showed a polarized transport of rhodamine 123, a ligand for P-gp, and showed specific transport of transferrin-Cy3 and DiILDL across the endothelial cell monolayer. In conclusion, we provide a protocol for setting up an in vitro
BBB model that is highly reproducible due to the quality assurance methods, and that is suitable for research on BBB transporters and receptors.
Medicine, Issue 88, rat brain endothelial cells (RBEC), mouse, spinal cord, tight junction (TJ), receptor-mediated transport (RMT), low density lipoprotein (LDL), LDLR, transferrin, TfR, P-glycoprotein (P-gp), transendothelial electrical resistance (TEER),
Combining Computer Game-Based Behavioural Experiments With High-Density EEG and Infrared Gaze Tracking
Institutions: Cornell University, University of Chicago, Manesar, India.
Experimental paradigms are valuable insofar as the timing and other parameters of their stimuli are well specified and controlled, and insofar as they yield data relevant to the cognitive processing that occurs under ecologically valid conditions. These two goals often are at odds, since well controlled stimuli often are too repetitive to sustain subjects' motivation. Studies employing electroencephalography (EEG) are often especially sensitive to this dilemma between ecological validity and experimental control: attaining sufficient signal-to-noise in physiological averages demands large numbers of repeated trials within lengthy recording sessions, limiting the subject pool to individuals with the ability and patience to perform a set task over and over again. This constraint severely limits researchers' ability to investigate younger populations as well as clinical populations associated with heightened anxiety or attentional abnormalities. Even adult, non-clinical subjects may not be able to achieve their typical levels of performance or cognitive engagement: an unmotivated subject for whom an experimental task is little more than a chore is not the same, behaviourally, cognitively, or neurally, as a subject who is intrinsically motivated and engaged with the task. A growing body of literature demonstrates that embedding experiments within video games may provide a way between the horns of this dilemma between experimental control and ecological validity. The narrative of a game provides a more realistic context in which tasks occur, enhancing their ecological validity (Chaytor & Schmitter-Edgecombe, 2003). Moreover, this context provides motivation to complete tasks. In our game, subjects perform various missions to collect resources, fend off pirates, intercept communications or facilitate diplomatic relations. In so doing, they also perform an array of cognitive tasks, including a Posner attention-shifting paradigm (Posner, 1980), a go/no-go test of motor inhibition, a psychophysical motion coherence threshold task, the Embedded Figures Test (Witkin, 1950, 1954) and a theory-of-mind (Wimmer & Perner, 1983) task. The game software automatically registers game stimuli and subjects' actions and responses in a log file, and sends event codes to synchronise with physiological data recorders. Thus the game can be combined with physiological measures such as EEG or fMRI, and with moment-to-moment tracking of gaze. Gaze tracking can verify subjects' compliance with behavioural tasks (e.g. fixation) and overt attention to experimental stimuli, and also physiological arousal as reflected in pupil dilation (Bradley et al.
, 2008). At great enough sampling frequencies, gaze tracking may also help assess covert attention as reflected in microsaccades - eye movements that are too small to foveate a new object, but are as rapid in onset and have the same relationship between angular distance and peak velocity as do saccades that traverse greater distances. The distribution of directions of microsaccades correlates with the (otherwise) covert direction of attention (Hafed & Clark, 2002).
Neuroscience, Issue 46, High-density EEG, ERP, ICA, gaze tracking, computer game, ecological validity
Primer-Free Aptamer Selection Using A Random DNA Library
Institutions: Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University, Pennsylvania State University.
Aptamers are highly structured oligonucleotides (DNA or RNA) that can bind to targets with affinities comparable to antibodies 1
. They are identified through an in vitro selection process called Systematic Evolution of Ligands by EXponential enrichment (SELEX) to recognize a wide variety of targets, from small molecules to proteins and other macromolecules 2-4
. Aptamers have properties that are well suited for in vivo diagnostic and/or therapeutic applications: Besides good specificity and affinity, they are easily synthesized, survive more rigorous processing conditions, they are poorly immunogenic, and their relatively small size can result in facile penetration of tissues.
Aptamers that are identified through the standard SELEX process usually comprise ~80 nucleotides (nt), since they are typically selected from nucleic acid libraries with ~40 nt long randomized regions plus fixed primer sites of ~20 nt on each side. The fixed primer sequences thus can comprise nearly ~50% of the library sequences, and therefore may positively or negatively compromise identification of aptamers in the selection process 3
, although bioinformatics approaches suggest that the fixed sequences do not contribute significantly to aptamer structure after selection 5
. To address these potential problems, primer sequences have been blocked by complementary oligonucleotides or switched to different sequences midway during the rounds of SELEX 6
, or they have been trimmed to 6-9 nt 7, 8
. Wen and Gray 9
designed a primer-free genomic SELEX method, in which the primer sequences were completely removed from the library before selection and were then regenerated to allow amplification of the selected genomic fragments. However, to employ the technique, a unique genomic library has to be constructed, which possesses limited diversity, and regeneration after rounds of selection relies on a linear reamplification step. Alternatively, efforts to circumvent problems caused by fixed primer sequences using high efficiency partitioning are met with problems regarding PCR amplification 10
We have developed a primer-free (PF) selection method that significantly simplifies SELEX procedures and effectively eliminates primer-interference problems 11, 12
. The protocols work in a straightforward manner. The central random region of the library is purified without extraneous flanking sequences and is bound to a suitable target (for example to a purified protein or complex mixtures such as cell lines). Then the bound sequences are obtained, reunited with flanking sequences, and re-amplified to generate selected sub-libraries. As an example, here we selected aptamers to S100B, a protein marker for melanoma. Binding assays showed Kd s in the 10-7
M range after a few rounds of selection, and we demonstrate that the aptamers function effectively in a sandwich binding format.
Cellular Biology, Issue 41, aptamer, selection, S100B, sandwich
A Multi-Modal Approach to Assessing Recovery in Youth Athletes Following Concussion
Institutions: Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, University of Toronto, University of Toronto.
Concussion is one of the most commonly reported injuries amongst children and youth involved in sport participation. Following a concussion, youth can experience a range of short and long term neurobehavioral symptoms (somatic, cognitive and emotional/behavioral) that can have a significant impact on one’s participation in daily activities and pursuits of interest (e.g.,
school, sports, work, family/social life, etc.
). Despite this, there remains a paucity in clinically driven research aimed specifically at exploring concussion within the youth sport population, and more specifically, multi-modal approaches to measuring recovery. This article provides an overview of a novel and multi-modal approach to measuring recovery amongst youth athletes following concussion. The presented approach involves the use of both pre-injury/baseline testing and post-injury/follow-up testing to assess performance across a wide variety of domains (post-concussion symptoms, cognition, balance, strength, agility/motor skills and resting state heart rate variability). The goal of this research is to gain a more objective and accurate understanding of recovery following concussion in youth athletes (ages 10-18 years). Findings from this research can help to inform the development and use of improved approaches to concussion management and rehabilitation specific to the youth sport community.
Medicine, Issue 91, concussion, children, youth, athletes, assessment, management, rehabilitation
Stretch in Brain Microvascular Endothelial Cells (cEND) as an In Vitro Traumatic Brain Injury Model of the Blood Brain Barrier
Institutions: Zentrum für operative Medizin der Universität Würzburg, University of Vienna.
Due to the high mortality incident brought about by traumatic brain injury (TBI), methods that would enable one to better understand the underlying mechanisms involved in it are useful for treatment. There are both in vivo
and in vitro
methods available for this purpose. In vivo
models can mimic actual head injury as it occurs during TBI. However, in vivo
techniques may not be exploited for studies at the cell physiology level. Hence, in vitro
methods are more advantageous for this purpose since they provide easier access to the cells and the extracellular environment for manipulation.
Our protocol presents an in vitro
model of TBI using stretch injury in brain microvascular endothelial cells. It utilizes pressure applied to the cells cultured in flexible-bottomed wells. The pressure applied may easily be controlled and can produce injury that ranges from low to severe. The murine brain microvascular endothelial cells (cEND) generated in our laboratory is a well-suited model for the blood brain barrier (BBB) thus providing an advantage to other systems that employ a similar technique. In addition, due to the simplicity of the method, experimental set-ups are easily duplicated. Thus, this model can be used in studying the cellular and molecular mechanisms involved in TBI at the BBB.
Medicine, Issue 80, stretch injury, traumatic brain injury, blood-brain barrier, brain microvascular endothelial cells (cEND)
Probing the Brain in Autism Using fMRI and Diffusion Tensor Imaging
Institutions: University of Alabama at Birmingham.
Newly emerging theories suggest that the brain does not function as a cohesive unit in autism, and this discordance is reflected in the behavioral symptoms displayed by individuals with autism. While structural neuroimaging findings have provided some insights into brain abnormalities in autism, the consistency of such findings is questionable. Functional neuroimaging, on the other hand, has been more fruitful in this regard because autism is a disorder of dynamic processing and allows examination of communication between cortical networks, which appears to be where the underlying problem occurs in autism. Functional connectivity is defined as the temporal correlation of spatially separate neurological events1. Findings from a number of recent fMRI studies have supported the idea that there is weaker coordination between different parts of the brain that should be working together to accomplish complex social or language problems2,3,4,5,6
. One of the mysteries of autism is the coexistence of deficits in several domains along with relatively intact, sometimes enhanced, abilities. Such complex manifestation of autism calls for a global and comprehensive examination of the disorder at the neural level. A compelling recent account of the brain functioning in autism, the cortical underconnectivity theory,2,7
provides an integrating framework for the neurobiological bases of autism. The cortical underconnectivity theory of autism suggests that any language, social, or psychological function that is dependent on the integration of multiple brain regions is susceptible to disruption as the processing demand increases. In autism, the underfunctioning of integrative circuitry in the brain may cause widespread underconnectivity. In other words, people with autism may interpret information in a piecemeal fashion at the expense of the whole. Since cortical underconnectivity among brain regions, especially the frontal cortex and more posterior areas 3,6
, has now been relatively well established, we can begin to further understand brain connectivity as a critical component of autism symptomatology.
A logical next step in this direction is to examine the anatomical connections that may mediate the functional connections mentioned above. Diffusion Tensor Imaging (DTI) is a relatively novel neuroimaging technique that helps probe the diffusion of water in the brain to infer the integrity of white matter fibers. In this technique, water diffusion in the brain is examined in several directions using diffusion gradients. While functional connectivity provides information about the synchronization of brain activation across different brain areas during a task or during rest, DTI helps in understanding the underlying axonal organization which may facilitate the cross-talk among brain areas. This paper will describe these techniques as valuable tools in understanding the brain in autism and the challenges involved in this line of research.
Medicine, Issue 55, Functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), MRI, Diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), Functional Connectivity, Neuroscience, Developmental disorders, Autism, Fractional Anisotropy