In order to function properly, the human brain requires the ability not only to store but also to forget: Through memory loss, unnecessary information is deleted and the nervous system retains its plasticity. A disruption of this process can lead to serious mental disorders. Basel scientists have now discovered a molecular mechanism that actively regulates the process of forgetting.
First on top of the world and then in the depths of despair – this is what the extreme mood changes for people with bipolar disorder are like. Under the direction of scientists from Bonn, Mannheim and Basel, an international collaboration of researchers discovered two new gene regions that are connected to the prevalent disease. In addition, they were able to confirm three additional suspect genes. In this unparalleled worldwide study, the scientists are utilizing unprecedented numbers of patients.
In collaboration with colleagues from Berlin and Madrid, researchers at the Department of Physics at the University of Basel have pulled up isolated molecular chains from a gold surface, using the tip of an atomic force microscope (AFM). The observed signal provides insight into the detachment force and binding energy of molecules.
Many psychiatric disorders are accompanied by memory deficits. Basel scientists have now identified a network of genes that controls fundamental properties of neurons and is important for human brain activity, memory and the development of schizophrenia.
Physicists at the University of Basel have observed a spontaneous magnetic order of electron and nuclear spins in a quantum wire at temperatures of 0.1 kelvin. In the past, this was possible only at much lower temperatures, typically in the microkelvin range. The coupling of nuclei and electrons creates a new state of matter whereby a nuclear spin order arises at a much higher temperature. The results are consistent with a theoretical model developed in Basel a few years ago.
Motor commands issued by the brain to activate arm muscles take two different routes. As a research group at the University of Basel's Biozentrum and the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research has now discovered, many neurons in the spinal cord send their instructions not only towards the musculature, but at the same time also back to the brain via an exquisitely organized network.
A research group at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel has discovered an amino acid signal essential for error-free cell division. This signal regulates the number of centrosomes in the cell, and its absence results in the development of pathologically altered cells. Remarkably, such altered cells are found in people with a neurodevelopmental disorder, called autosomal recessive primary microcephaly.
Neurons transmit information with the help of special channels that allow the passage of potassium ions. Defective potassium channels play a role in epilepsy and depression. The scientists working with Prof. Henning Stahlberg at the Biozentrum of the University of Basel have now identified the complete 3D structure of a particular potassium channel, a HCN channel. This enabled them to draw conclusions about its mechanism of action.