Brain’s immune cells hyperactive in schizophrenia

The brain’s immune cells are hyperactive in people who are at risk of developing schizophrenia, as well as during the earliest stages of the disease, according to a new study by researchers at the MRC Clinical Sciences Centre in London. The findings, published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry, suggest that inflammatory processes play an important role in the development of the disease, and raise the possibility that it could be treated with drugs that block or reduce this cellular response.

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A bigger role for the little brain?

In the early 19th century, neuroanatomist Franz Joseph Gall believed that the cerebellum, the little attachment to the brain that packs half of the neurons in our head, is the “organ of the instinct of reproduction.” The bigger it is the stronger our libido.

But if you’ve ever lost your balance, or staggered home from a party after a few too many drinks, you’ll know what happens when it isn’t working properly.

The cerebellum (meaning little brain in Latin) has critical roles in controlling and co-ordinating movement. Without a cerebellum, you would have a hard time walking in a straight line or learning to ride a bike – functions that it performs automatically and unthinkingly.

But some researchers now believe that the humble little brain has roles beyond just fine-tuning movement: It may also contribute to higher mental functions such as thought and emotions.

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