2017 has been an amazing year for neuroscience research. Increased public increst coupled with new technologies has given science the keys to fully delve into the brain’s mysteries. In order to commemorate all these excellent discoveries, I compiled a list of 7 major neuroscience breakthroughs for 2017.
Introducing… the top 7 pieces of research published in 2017
 Optogenetics – F.L.A.R.E technology
What if scientists could turn on and off neurons in the brain? This concept is called optogenetics, a technique in which neuroscientists use light to control neurons. An example of optogenetic technology is F.L.A.R.E, a neuroimaging device that takes a snapshot of the brain and defines neuron populations. F.L.A.R.E is groundbreaking as it labels neurons within minutes versus traditional neuro-imaging devices that take anywhere between hours to days to function. We may finally have the key to study the quick decisions we made, our habits, the ones we make seamlessly.
Read more here: https://www.nature.com/articles/nbt.3909
 The Dementia Causing Tau Protein – a better understanding
Using the tissue of a 74-year old Alztimers patient, Medical Research Council’s Laboratory of Molecular Biology, Cambridge, UK, have reached a much clearer understanding of how exactly the tau protein gathers together to create filaments. The tau protein stabilizes microtubules and is most commonly found in nerve cells. When taus build up too much, caused by an increase in enzyme activity, they clump forming neurofibrillary tangles that lead to Alztimers. This tau build-up is a key competent of Alztimers and a better understanding of it brings us one step closer to finding a drug that clears away the clumps.
Read more here: https://www.nature.com/articles/nature23002
 Huntings Disease Finds a New Cure
In late 2015, a scientific journey began led by Professor Sarah Tabrizi from the UCL Institute of Neurology. There goal? To find a better drug for Huntings Disease that would lower the levels of Huntington proteins in the nervous system. After years of diligent work, they have been successful in their first human trial in 2017! 46 patients with Huntington’s were given four doses of IONIS-HTTRx or Placebo via injection. As the experiment continued, more IONIS-HTTRx was given to the patients. The IONIS-HTTRx worked miracles, lowering the levels of mutant Huntington. This is groundbreaking as it is the first time the Huntington proteins have been lowered in the nervous systems of sufferers. I am sure in 2018 with this research, we have the tools to reach a cure for Huntington’s disease.
Read more here: http://www.ucl.ac.uk/ion/articles/news/hd-gene-silencing
 Sleep and Dreams
Sleeping and dreaming appear to be the next frontier of neuroscience, as a result, 2017 has witnessed great leaps in the understanding of these subjects. For example, researchers from M.I.T have identified brain circuits that cause the brain to fall asleep, become less alter, or more alter. This circuit is found in the thalamic reticular nucleus (TRN). With enough TRN activity, waves can take over the entire rain leading to sleep. In addition, we are understanding the extent to which sleep is critical. We always knew sleep was important, but why exactly? Studies emerging from 2017 show that synapses decreased 18% after a few hours of sleep. Wait, how can this be good? Synapses that are bigger and stronger translate to better learning and memory. Well, similar to human muscles, they need rest before they can grow stronger. Therefore, resting our synapses actually increase the likelihood they will grow bigger and stronger during the day. So, the best form of studying for your math quiz might not be studying at all, but sleeping!
Read more here: http://www.medicaldaily.com/sleep-research-2017-brain-scans-show-how-good-sleep-heals-mind-410068
 The Role of Glial Cells in Mental Illness
Tradamotally, mental illness has been linked to environmental factories or genetics, however, 2017 has shown that Glial Cells may be responsible. Glial cells surround neurons and provide support and protection for neurons. They are known as the “supporting cells” of the nervous system.” They form during infancy from progenitor cells- a type of stem cell. Alternations within genes cause changes to progenitor cells, the precursor to glial cells in infancy which result in the incomplete development of glial cells and ultimately lead to a mental illness. This research is groundbreaking as if we are fully able to understand why progenitor cells do not develop fully, we could develop a drug that aids their development and prevents from mental illness.
Read more here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4432872/
 The Pomodoro Technique
While the Pomodoro Technique was developed in the 1980s, only now is gaining the recognition it deserves. Developed by Francesco Cirillo, the technique breaks down work into 25-minute intervals separated by short 5 minutes breaks. Companies such as Google are now integrating this style into their workplaces for its ability to increase productivity, prevent burn out, and increase happiness for employees.
 The future
I would like the leave the 7th research empty for a purpose. Science is not linear. Every piece of research, big or small advances our understanding of the world. I am certain there have thousands of fascinating and intriguing discoveries made in 2017 that were not heavily publicised. That does not make them “bad” or “unimportant”, it just makes the research unknown to the public. As a result, I would like to commemorate all the amazing scientists out there doing great work, contributing to a better world, finding cures, treatments, and a better understanding of science, regardless of if their research is well known or not.
I am excited where science takes 2018. I know it will be another year full of excitement.
Will we find the cure for cancer? Maybe.
Will we move forward in the treatment of disease, understanding of the brain, and find treatments? Yes, I am certain we will.
To 2018 and beyond…