Kay Tye Receives Young Investigator Award

WASHINGTON, DC — The Society for Neuroscience (SfN) will present the Young Investigator Award to Kay Tye, Ph.D., of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Established in 1983, the $15,000 award recognizes the outstanding achievements and contributions of a young neuroscientist who has recently received an advanced professional degree. The award will be presented during Neuroscience 2016, SfN’s annual meeting and the world’s largest source of emerging news about brain science and health.

“Dr. Tye’s work has already led to new and fundamental understanding of how neural circuitry that interprets pleasure and pain can feed into affective disorders and addiction,” SfN President Hollis Cline said. “Dr. Tye is poised to lead her field for years to come.”  Original Article »

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Researchers Confront an Epidemic of Loneliness

BLACKPOOL, England — The woman on the other end of the phone spoke lightheartedly of spring and of her 81st birthday the previous week.

“Who did you celebrate with, Beryl?” asked Alison, whose job was to offer a kind ear.

“No one, I…”

And with that, Beryl’s cheer turned to despair.

Her voice began to quaver as she acknowledged that she had been alone at home not just on her birthday, but for days and days. The telephone conversation was the first time she had spoken in more than a week.

About 10,000 similar calls come in weekly to an unassuming office building in this seaside town at the northwest reaches of England, which houses The Silver Line Helpline, a 24-hour call center for older adults seeking to fill a basic need: contact with other people. Original Article »

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New Evidence for the Necessity of Loneliness

A specific set of neurons deep in the brain may motivate us to seek company, holding social species together.

As social animals, we depend on others for survival. Our communities provide mutual aid and protection, helping humanity to endure and thrive. “We have survived as a species not because we’re fast or strong or have natural weapons in our fingertips, but because of social protection,” saidJohn Cacioppo, the director of the Center for Cognitive and Social Neuroscience at the University of Chicago. Early humans, for example, could take down large mammals only by hunting in groups. “Our strength is our ability to communicate and work together,” he said.

But how did these powerful communities come to exist in the first place? Cacioppo proposes that the root of social ties lies in their opposite — loneliness. According to his theory, the pain of being alone motivates us to seek the safety of companionship, which in turn benefits the species by encouraging group cooperation and protection. Loneliness persists because it provides an essential evolutionary benefit for social animals. Like thirst, hunger or pain, loneliness is an aversive state that animals seek to resolve, improving their long-term survival. Original Article »

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Questions for Kay Tye: How loneliness drives social behavior

Most people are wired to seek pleasure in the company of others, but individuals with autism appear to lack this drive. The chemical messenger dopamine may rouse the brain’s reward center differently in autism, dulling the pleasure from social interaction.

A new study suggests that social contact is more than just a reward — it may also serve to block bad feelings.

The findings raise the intriguing possibility that people with autism don’t recognize loneliness as a bad feeling. As a result, they are less driven to seek out social interaction as a remedy. Original Article »

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Neuroscientists pinpoint brain cells that represent loneliness

Contact with other humans isn’t just psychologically beneficial: it also provides us with evolutionary advantages. Historically, it was easier to find food and shelter as a group than it was alone, and so an instinct to seek comfort in groups has been deeply ingrained. When we’re deprived of this contact, we often become lonely, distressed and miserable.

Now, a team of MIT neuroscientists has identified the region of the brain that represents these feelings of loneliness — the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN). The DRN, near the back of the brain, hosts a cluster of cells that the team say is responsible for generating increased sociability after periods of isolation. Original Article »

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Pinpointing loneliness in the brain

Scientists identify cells that represent feelings of isolation.

Humans, like all social animals, have a fundamental need for contact with others. This deeply ingrained instinct helps us to survive; it’s much easier to find food, shelter, and other necessities with a group than alone. Deprived of human contact, most people become lonely and emotionally distressed.

In a study appearing on Feb 11, 2016, issue of Cell, MIT neuroscientists have identified a brain region that represents these feelings of loneliness. This cluster of cells, located near the back of the brain in an area called the dorsal raphe nucleus (DRN), is necessary for generating the increased sociability that normally occurs after a period of social isolation, the researchers found in a study of mice. Original Article »

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Brain circuitry of positive vs negative memories discovered in mice

Prior to the new study, scientists suspected involvement of the circuits ultimately implicated, but were stumped by a seeming paradox. A crossroads of convergent circuits in an emotion hub deep in the brain, the basolateral amygdala, seem to be involved in both fear and reward learning, but how one brain region could orchestrate such opposing behaviors – approach and avoidance – remained an enigma. How might signals find the appropriate path to follow at this fork in the road? Original Article »

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Neurons that tell good from bad identified

MIT scientists, including one of Indian-origin, have identified two populations of neurons in the amygdala that process positive and negative emotions.

These neurons relay the information to other brain regions that initiate the appropriate behavioral response, said neuroscientists from Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory.

“How do we tell if something is good or bad? Even though that seems like a very simple question, we really don’t know how that process works,” said senior study author Kay Tye, the Whitehead Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Original Article »

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How the brain tells good from bad

Eating a slice of chocolate cake or spending time with a friend usually stimulates positive feelings, while getting in a car accident or anticipating a difficult exam is more likely to generate a fearful or anxious response.

An almond-shaped brain structure called the amygdala is believed to be responsible for assigning these emotional reactions. Neuroscientists from MIT’s Picower Institute for Learning and Memory have now identified two populations of neurons in the amygdala that process positive and negative emotions. These neurons then relay the information to other brain regions that initiate the appropriate behavioral response.

The study represents a significant step in understanding how the brain assigns emotions to different experiences, says senior study author Kay Tye, the Whitehead Career Development Assistant Professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. Original Article »

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Study Reveals Brain Activities Related To Positive And Negative Perception

Brain circuit mechanisms that can explain how positive and negative perceptions occur have been discovered by neuroscientists. The two brain activities found by experts showed the opposing events that happen following fear and reward-anticipation.

The researchers used advanced optical-gentical devices that can specify the brain activities in mice after a given situation. The study was funded by the National Institutes of HealthOriginal Article »

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Brain circuitry for positive vs. negative memories discovered in mice

Neuroscientists have discovered brain circuitry for encoding positive and negative learned associations in mice. After finding that two circuits showed opposite activity following fear and reward learning, the researchers proved that this divergent activity causes either avoidance or reward-driven behaviors. Funded by the National Institutes of Health, they used cutting-edge optical-genetic tools to pinpoint these mechanisms critical to survival, which are also implicated in mental illness. Original Article »

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Getting cravings out of your head

Kay Tye is Skyping from a hotel in Turks and Caicos, a sultry escape from her hometown of frigid Cambridge, Massachusetts. She speaks with a breathless, wide-eyed giddiness, and with her sunburned face and ponytail, she looks the part of stoked college student. You might see Tye with her 18-month-old daughter and think new mom, or maybe yoga teacher, and you’d be right on both counts.

We’ll forgive you for not guessing she’s an award-winning breakdancer — as well as a groundbreaking neuroscientist whose work could have major implications for human health. Original Article »

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Researchers Discover Brain Circuit that Controls Compulsive Overeating and Sugar Addiction

Compulsive overeating and sugar addiction are major threats to human health, but potential treatments face the risk of impairing normal feeding behaviors that are crucial for survival. A study published January 29th in the journal Cell reveals a reward-related neural circuit that specifically controls compulsive sugar consumption in mice without preventing feeding necessary for survival, providing a novel target for the safe and effective treatment of compulsive overeating in humans.

“Although obesity and Type 2 diabetes are major problems in our society, many treatments do not tackle the primary cause: unhealthy eating habits,” says senior study author Kay Tye of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Our findings are exciting because they raise the possibility that we could develop a treatment that selectively curbs compulsive overeating without altering healthy eating behavior.” Original Article »

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Why Your Brain Makes It So Hard To Stop Eating

Being overweight or obese usually isn’t really about the body – it’s about the brain. Overeating and compulsive eating are often about how the brain resorts back to ancient eating habits that are no longer relevant in today’s food-rich world. A new study now confirms that the brain circuits responsible for overeating are quite distinct from those that govern normal eating. And understanding where one network begins and the other ends may lead to targeted drugs or non-invasive therapies that will be able to stop food craving in the brain almost before it begins.

The problem in overeating is that our brains are still set up to do something they evolved to do eons ago: Crave food like crazy and gobble it up as a matter of survival during times of scarcity. Even though food is no longer scarce in the U.S. – in fact, it’s everywhere we look – we still behave as if we had to eat everything in sight to stay alive. And that overeating behavior isn’t going anywhere any time soon: As study author Kay Tye, researcher at MIT, says, “we haven’t yet adapted to this new environment where there is an overabundance of sugar everywhere we look, and we probably never will, at least not with natural selection alone.” Original Article »

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Newly identified brain circuit could be target for treating obesity

Nerve cells that control overeating are distinct from those active in normal feeding, study shows manipulating specific sets of brain cells can quash a mouse’s overindulgence of sugar.

The cells are part of a previously unknown brain circuit that controls compulsive sugar consumption in mice, researchers report in the Jan. 29 Cell. This circuit appears to be distinct from the one that controls normal eating, suggesting that it could be a target for treating obesity caused by overeating in humans.

“One of the biggest challenges with treating obesity that comes with compulsive overeating disorder is that most treatments are just a Band-Aid, treating the symptoms instead of the core problems,” says MIT neuroscientist Kay Tye. “The real underlying problems are the cravings that lead to compulsive eating and the behavior of compulsive overeating itself.” Original Article »

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