Scientists identify brain cells that help drive bodily reaction to fear, anxiety — ScienceDaily

Strong emotions such as fear and anxiety tend to be accompanied and reinforced by measurable bodily changes including increased blood pressure, heart rate and respiration, and dilation of the eyes’ pupils. These so-called “physiological arousal responses” are often abnormally high or low in psychiatric illnesses such as anxiety disorders and depression. Now scientists at the UNC School of Medicine have identified a population of brain cells whose activity appears to drive such arousal responses.

The scientists, whose study is published in Cell Reports, found that artificially forcing the activity of these brain cells in mice produced an arousal response in the form of dilated pupils and faster heart rate, and worsened anxiety-like behaviors.

The finding helps illuminate the neural roots of emotions, and point to the possibility that the human-brain counterpart of the newly identified population of arousal-related neurons might be a target of future treatments for anxiety disorders and other illnesses involving abnormal arousal responses.

“Focusing on arousal responses might offer a new way to intervene in psychiatric disorders,” said first author Jose Rodríguez-Romaguera, PhD, assistant professor in the UNC Department of Psychiatry and member of the UNC Neuroscience Center, and co-director of the Carolina Stress Initiative at the UNC School of Medicine.

Rodríguez-Romaguera and co-first author Randall Ung, PhD, an MD-PhD student and adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry, led this study when they were members of the UNC laboratory of Garret Stuber, PhD, who is now at the University of Washington.

“This work not only identifies a new population of neurons implicated in arousal and anxiety, but also opens the door for future experiments to systematically examine how molecularly defined cell types contribute to complex emotional and physiological states,” Stuber said. “This will be critical going forward for developing new treatments for neuropsychiatric disorders.”

Anxiety disorders, depression, and other disorders featuring abnormally high or low arousal responses affect a large fraction of the human population, including tens of millions of adults in the United States alone. Treatments may alleviate symptoms, but many have adverse side effects, and the root causes of these disorders generally remain obscure.

Untangling these roots amid the complexity of the brain has been an enormous challenge, one that laboratory technology has only recently begun to surmount.

Rodríguez-Romaguera, Ung, Stuber and colleagues examined a brain region within the amygdala called the BNST (bed nucleus of the stria terminalis), which has been linked in prior research to fear and anxiety-like behaviors in mice.

Increasingly, scientists view this region as a promising target for future psychiatric drugs. In this case, the researchers zeroed in on a set of BNST neurons that express a neurotransmitter gene, Pnoc, known to be linked to pain sensitivity and more recently to motivation.

The team used a relatively new technique called two-photon microscopy to directly image BNST Pnoc neurons in the brains of mice while the mice were presented with noxious or appealing odors — stimuli that reliably induce fear/anxiety and reward behaviors, respectively, along with the appropriate

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Lakers, Dodgers fans helping drive uptick in LA virus cases

The success of the Los Angeles Lakers and Dodgers are bringing fans together in the LA area and that may be helping drive an uptick in coronavirus cases, Los Angeles County’s top health official said Monday,

The Lakers won the NBA championship two weeks ago and the Dodgers are one game away from winning the World Series. Their run through the playoffs has prompted watch parties and celebrations.

Los Angeles County is the nation’s largest, with 10 million residents, and positive cases there increased this month from an average of 940 per day to nearly 1,200 last week, Public Health Director Barbara Ferrer said.


She praised fans’ “incredible spirit,” but “the downside of this is that during a pandemic some of the things we’ve done in the past just don’t make sense.”

Health officials have warned of a second wave of virus cases and Ferrer said LA County’s increase wasn’t immediately apparent because of a backlog of cases due to technical issues with data collection systems.

“We’ve been seeing, first, very low case numbers a couple weeks ago and then in the last few days very high case numbers,” she said. “Now that we’ve processed the backlog of cases from the state, and analyzed the numbers by episode date, it is clear that our cases increased. This increase is not as steep as what we saw in July, but this is a cause of concern.”

Health officials rely on having accurate data to forecast surges in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations, intensive care needs and deaths. California overall has reported steady numbers even as there have been surges in many other states.

State officials also use the data to determine whether counties can advance to less restrictive tiers in the state’s four-stage, color-coded system. Los Angeles County remains in the most restrictive tier while most San Francisco Bay Area counties have moved to fewer restrictions and San Francisco itself is in the most permissive category.

As a result of problems from the backlog, statewide reported cases jumped from 2,940 on Wednesday to 6,141 on Thursday and remained above 5,000 newly reported cases on Friday and Saturday before dipping back to 2,981 on Monday.

The state Department of Public Health, in a note on its tracking web page, said that the daily number of new cases included an estimated 2,000 backlog cases from Los Angeles County. State officials on Monday did not immediately provide more details, or explain what the county said were “processing issues in the state’s reporting system that resulted in a large volume of duplicate records being sent to LA County.”

Neighboring Orange and Riverside counties said they did not have a backlog, and none was reported by other major counties.

A much larger backlog problem involving up to 300,000 records overwhelmed California’s infectious diseases reporting system in August and forced it to hasten the creation of a new dedicated data collection system. The state’s public health director abruptly resigned days later.

The LA County backlog that resulted in the

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An Unexpected Finding on What Might Drive Joint Disease | Health News

By Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter

(HealthDay)

FRIDAY, Oct. 23, 2020 (HealthDay News) — High levels of a protein that lubricates the knee joint may actually be a harbinger of impending joint disease, a surprising animal study suggests.

The researchers looked at the role of the protein, known as lubricin, in anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) injuries in dogs because it may also be involved in similar injuries in humans.

“Lubricin is crucial for normal joint function and the lubrication of cartilage,” said researcher Heidi Reesink, an assistant professor in equine health at the College of Veterinary Medicine at Cornell University. “We know that if a person or animal doesn’t make that protein, they will develop devastating joint disease affecting all the major weight-bearing joints.”

But Reesink found that in dogs that suffered a ligament tear in the knee, lubricin levels increased within the joint, which is the opposite of the conventional assumptions. “The dogma in this field has been that lubricin decreases in joint disease,” Reesink said in a university news release.

The researchers found that in three dogs, lubricin increased in the time between the initial injury but before any signs of arthritis.

“This indicates that the presence of increased lubricin might actually be a biomarker for predicting future osteoarthritis,” Reesink said. “We also saw increased lubricin in dogs months to years after they injured their ACLs, suggesting that lubricin might be an indicator of ongoing joint instability.

“In looking at horses and dogs, we’re seeing the same pattern,” Reesink said. “The strongest piece of data would be to show it in humans as well.” However, findings in animal studies don’t always translate to humans.

Increased lubricin could become a signal for doctors to intervene or try a different treatment, she added.

The study was published recently in the journal Scientific Reports.

Copyright © 2020 HealthDay. All rights reserved.

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US Coronavirus: Covid-19 cases are climbing in more than half of US states and these factors helped drive the surge

Among them are college and school reopenings, Dr. Tom Inglesby, the director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, told CNN Monday night. But that’s not all.

“I think there’s some, what people might say, pandemic fatigue, in some places people not really following the advice, the public health guidance that’s out there — masking, or distancing, or telecommuting. There’s more people going back to large gatherings, family gatherings.”

And those gatherings will likely multiply as the holidays approach and more people transition indoors, where the virus can spread more easily.

Across the country, more than 8.2 million people have been infected with the virus since the start of the pandemic.
At least 18 West Virginia Covid-19 outbreaks linked to church services, governor says
At least 12 states reported their highest seven-day average of daily cases Sunday, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. Meanwhile, the nation’s seven-day average climbed to more than 56,000 cases — a level not seen in the past 12 weeks. And on Friday, the US reported the most new infections in a day since late July.
Hospitalizations are also on the rise, with at least 14 states reporting peak hospitalization numbers in the last week. And the country has now topped 220,000 Covid-19 deaths, a number some experts worry may also begin to climb faster.

“The numbers are moving in the wrong direction,” Inglesby said. “We see that happening as the weather gets colder, and it’s likely … to get worse.”

Only Hawaii is trending in the right direction

Across the US, at least 31 states are reporting more new cases than the previous week, according to Johns Hopkins data. Only one state — Hawaii — is trending in the right direction.
In a grim prediction for the country, Michael Osterholm, the director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, told NBC on Sunday that the “the next six to 12 weeks are going to be the darkest of the entire pandemic.”

In Illinois, the governor said that while the state remains better off than others across the Midwest, every region of the state “has started to move in the wrong direction.”

Covid-19 travel restrictions state by state

“We can’t wall off Illinois from the surge, but we can take extra precautions and do better than others at following the mitigations that slow the spread,” Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Monday. “Let me reiterate what I have been saying for months, ours will not be one of the states that takes no action in response to rising cases, hospitalizations, and deaths.”

In New Mexico, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham said Saturday the state was experiencing a 101% increase in Covid-19 hospitalizations this month so far.
On Monday, she tweeted if the virus “continues to exponentially spread like last week, New Mexico will not have health care and hospital capacity for every New Mexican who needs care.”

And Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves on Monday announced additional measures, including requiring hospitals to reserve capacity for Covid-19 patients as well as more targeted measures for several counties with a higher number

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Contractor At Lillian Drive School Tests Positive For COVID-19

HAZLET, NJ – A service contractor associated with Lillian Drive Elementary School has tested positive for COVID-19, according to district officials.

In a message posted to the district website over the weekend, no student or staff member has tested positive thus far. Hazlet Township Public Schools is currently coordinating closely with public health officials.

“Contact tracing is being completed at this time, and all close contacts will be notified and, if necessary, quarantined. Cleaning and disinfecting of all exposed areas and equipment is being carried out. All protocols have been followed and the safety of both staff and students has been prioritized,” the notice reads.

District families are encouraged to continue following recommended safeguards, such as:

  • Staying home when you are sick

  • Washing hands often with soap for at least 20 seconds

  • Covering coughs and sneezes and properly disposing of tissues

  • Limiting close contact with people who are sick and not sharing food, drinks and utensils

  • Practicing social distancing (staying at least 6 feet apart)

  • Wearing a face covering while in school

  • Continuing to monitor your health for symptoms

If students exhibit any signs and symptoms of COVID-19, parents are asked to contact their child’s physician and the school nurse. Families should also notify the school nurse if a child tests positive for COVID-19.

Earlier this month, Raritan Valley School in Hazlet shut its doors to in-person learning after two separate COVID-19 cases were reported at the elementary school. Students followed a remote learning schedule from Monday, Oct. 5 through Friday, Oct. 16. Read more: 2 COVID-19 Cases Shut Down In-Person Classes At Hazlet School

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This article originally appeared on the Holmdel-Hazlet Patch

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