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Functional MRI resting state and connectivity studies of brain focus on neural fluctuations at low frequencies which share power with physiological fluctuations originating from lung and heart. Due to the lack of automated software to process physiological signals collected at high magnetic fields, a gap exists in the processing pathway between the acquisition of physiological data and its use in fMRI software for both physiological noise correction and functional analyses of brain activation and connectivity. To fill this gap, we developed an open source, physiological signal processing program, called PhysioNoise, in the python language. We tested its automated processing algorithms and dynamic signal visualization on resting monkey cardiac and respiratory waveforms. PhysioNoise consistently identifies physiological fluctuations for fMRI noise correction and also generates covariates for subsequent analyses of brain activation and connectivity.
The human brain and skull are three dimensional (3D) anatomical structures with complex surfaces. However, medical images are often two dimensional (2D) and provide incomplete visualization of structural morphology. To overcome this loss in dimension, we developed and validated a freely available, semi-automated pathway to build 3D virtual reality (VR) and hand-held, stereolithograph models. To evaluate whether surface visualization in 3D was more informative than in 2D, undergraduate students (n = 50) used the Gillespie scale to rate 3D VR and physical models of both a living patient-volunteer's brain and the skull of Phineas Gage, a historically famous railroad worker whose misfortune with a projectile tamping iron provided the first evidence of a structure-function relationship in brain. Using our processing pathway, we successfully fabricated human brain and skull replicas and validated that the stereolithograph model preserved the scale of the VR model. Based on the Gillespie ratings, students indicated that the biological utility and quality of visual information at the surface of VR and stereolithograph models were greater than the 2D images from which they were derived. The method we developed is useful to create VR and stereolithograph 3D models from medical images and can be used to model hard or soft tissue in living or preserved specimens. Compared to 2D images, VR and stereolithograph models provide an extra dimension that enhances both the quality of visual information and utility of surface visualization in neuroscience and medicine.
Fragile X syndrome (FX), the most common heritable cause of mental retardation and autism, is a developmental disorder characterized by physical, cognitive, and behavioral deficits. FX results from a trinucleotide expansion mutation in the fmr1 gene that reduces levels of fragile X mental retardation protein (FMRP). Although research efforts have focused on FMRP's impact on mGluR signaling, how the loss of FMRP leads to the individual symptoms of FX is not known. Previous studies on human FX blood cells revealed alterations in the cyclic adenosine 3′, 5′-monophosphate (cAMP) cascade. We tested the hypothesis that cAMP signaling is altered in the FX nervous system using three different model systems. Induced levels of cAMP in platelets and in brains of fmr1 knockout mice are substantially reduced. Cyclic AMP induction is also significantly reduced in human FX neural cells. Furthermore, cAMP production is decreased in the heads of FX Drosophila and this defect can be rescued by reintroduction of the dfmr gene. Our results indicate that a robust defect in cAMP production in FX is conserved across species and suggest that cAMP metabolism may serve as a useful biomarker in the human disease population. Reduced cAMP induction has implications for the underlying causes of FX and autism spectrum disorders. Pharmacological agents known to modulate the cAMP cascade may be therapeutic in FX patients and can be tested in these models, thus supplementing current efforts centered on mGluR signaling.
Cyclic AMP (cAMP) is a second messenger involved in many processes including mnemonic processing and anxiety. Memory deficits and anxiety are noted in the phenotype of fragile X (FX), the most common heritable cause of mental retardation and autism. Here we review reported observations of altered cAMP cascade function in FX and autism. Cyclic AMP is a potentially useful biochemical marker to distinguish autism comorbid with FX from autism per se and the cAMP cascade may be a viable therapeutic target for both FX and autism.
Imaging techniques provide ways of knowing structure and function in biology at different scales. The multidisciplinary nature and rapid advancement of imaging sciences requires imaging education to begin early in the biology curriculum. Guided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Roadmap initiatives, we incorporated a nanoimaging, molecular imaging, and medical imaging teaching unit into three 1-h class periods of an introductory course on ways of knowing biology. Activities were derived from NIH Roadmap initiatives in nanomedicine, regenerative medicine, and nuclear medicine. The course materials we describe contributed positively to student learning gains in quantifying and interpreting images, in characterizing imaging methods that provide ways of knowing biological structure and function, and in understanding scale in biology and imaging. The NIH Roadmap provides a useful context to educate students about the multidisciplinary imaging continuum.