Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Huntington’s gene mutation carriers learn faster

Date:
September 14, 2012
Source:
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum
Summary:
People who bear the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease learn faster than healthy people. The more pronounced the mutation was, the more quickly they learned.

People who bear the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease learn faster than healthy people. The more pronounced the mutation was, the more quickly they learned. This is reported by researchers from the Ruhr-Universitδt Bochum and from Dortmund in the journal Current Biology.

The team has thus demonstrated for the first time that neurodegenerative diseases can go hand in hand with increased learning efficiency. "It is possible that the same mechanisms that lead to the degenerative changes in the central nervous system also cause the considerably better learning efficiency" says Dr. Christian Beste, head of the Emmy Noether Junior Research Group "Neuronal Mechanisms of Action Control" at the RUB.

Passive learning through repeated stimulus presentation

In a previous study, the Bochum psychologists reported that the human sense of vision can be changed in the long term by repeatedly exposing subjects to certain visual stimuli for short periods. The task of the participants was to detect changes in the brightness of stimuli. They performed better if they had viewed the stimuli passively for a while first. In the current study, the researchers presented the same task to 29 subjects with the genetic mutation for Huntington's disease, who, however, did not yet show any symptoms. They also tested 45 control subjects without such mutations in the genome. In both groups, the learning efficiency was better after passive stimulus presentation than without the passive training. Subjects with the Huntington's mutation, however, increased their performance twice as fast as those without the mutation.

Glutamate may have paradoxical effect

Degenerative diseases of the nervous system are based on complex changes. A key mechanism is an increased release of the neurotransmitter glutamate. However, since glutamate is also important for learning, in some cases it could lead to the paradoxical effect: better learning efficiency despite degeneration of the nerve cells.

Detecting differences in brightness under aggravated conditions

In each experimental run, the subjects saw two consecutive small bars on a computer screen that either had the same or different brightness. Sometimes, however, not only the brightness changed from bar one to bar two, but also the orientation of the bar (vertical or horizontal). "Normally, the distraction stimulus, i.e. the change in orientation, draws all the attention" Christian Beste explains. "But after the passive training with the visual stimuli, the distraction stimulus has no effect at all." The shift of attention from the non-relevant to the relevant properties of the stimulus was also visible in the electroencephalogram (EEG) in brain areas for early visual processing.

Better performance with stronger mutation

In Huntington's disease, a short segment of a gene is repeated. The number of repetitions determines when the disease breaks out. In the present study, a greater number of repetitions was, however, also associated with higher learning efficiency. "This shows that neurodegenerative changes can cause paradoxical effects" says Christian Beste. "The everyday view that neurodegenerative changes fundamentally entail deterioration of various functions can no longer be maintained in this dogmatic form."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Christian Beste, Edmund Wascher, Hubert R. Dinse, Carsten Saft. Faster Perceptual Learning through Excitotoxic Neurodegeneration. Current Biology, 2012; DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2012.08.012

Cite This Page:

Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. "Huntington’s gene mutation carriers learn faster." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120914080640.htm>.
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. (2012, September 14). Huntington’s gene mutation carriers learn faster. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 17, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120914080640.htm
Ruhr-Universitaet-Bochum. "Huntington’s gene mutation carriers learn faster." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120914080640.htm (accessed April 17, 2014).

Share This



More Mind & Brain News

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Study On Artists' Brain Shows They're 'Structurally Unique'

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — The brains of artists aren't really left-brain or right-brain, but rather have extra neural matter in visual and motor control areas. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Is Apathy A Sign Of A Shrinking Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 17, 2014) — A recent study links apathetic feelings to a smaller brain. Researchers say the results indicate a need for apathy screening for at-risk seniors. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

Are School Dress Codes Too Strict?

AP (Apr. 16, 2014) — Pushing the limits on style and self-expression is a rite of passage for teens and even younger kids. How far should schools go with their dress codes? The courts have sided with schools in an era when school safety is paramount. (April 16) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Could Even Casual Marijuana Use Alter Your Brain?

Newsy (Apr. 16, 2014) — A new study conducted by researchers at Northwestern and Harvard suggests even casual marijuana use can alter your brain. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins