Astrocytes are non-neuronal cells that regulate synapses, neuronal circuits, and behavior. Astrocytes ensheath neuronal synapses to form the tripartite synapse where astrocytes influence synapse formation, function, and plasticity. Beyond the synapse, recent research has revealed that astrocyte influences on the nervous system extend to the modulation of neuronal circuitry and behavior. Here we review recent findings on the active role of astrocytes in behavioral modulation with a focus on in vivo studies, primarily in mice. Using tools to acutely manipulate astrocytes, such as optogenetics or chemogenetics, studies reviewed here have demonstrated a causal role for astrocytes in sleep, memory, sensorimotor behaviors, feeding, fear, anxiety, and cognitive processes like attention and behavioral flexibility. Current tools and future directions for astrocyte-specific manipulation, including methods for probing astrocyte heterogeneity, are discussed. Understanding the contribution of astrocytes to neuronal circuit activity and organismal behavior will be critical toward understanding how nervous system function gives rise to behavior.
Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is an infectious disease caused by beta-coronavirus severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) that has rapidly spread across the globe starting from February 2020. It is well established that during viral infection, extracellular vesicles become delivery/presenting vectors of viral material. However, studies regarding extracellular vesicle function in COVID-19 pathology are still scanty. Here, we performed a comparative study on exosomes recovered from the plasma of either MILD or SEVERE COVID-19 patients. We show that although both types of vesicles efficiently display SARS-CoV-2 spike-derived peptides and carry immunomodulatory molecules, only those of MILD patients are capable of efficiently regulating antigen-specific CD4+ T-cell responses. Accordingly, by mass spectrometry, we show that the proteome of exosomes of MILD patients correlates with a proper functioning of the immune system, while that of SEVERE patients is associated with increased and chronic inflammation. Overall, we show that exosomes recovered from the plasma of COVID-19 patients possess SARS-CoV-2-derived protein material, have an active role in enhancing the immune response, and possess a cargo that reflects the pathological state of patients in the acute phase of the disease.
Colorectal cancer (CRC) is one of the most prevalent and deadly forms of cancer in Western countries. Inflammation is a well-known driver of colonic carcinogenesis; however, its role in CRC extends beyond colitis-associated cancer. Over the last decades, numerous associations between intestinal dysbiosis and CRC have been identified, with more recent studies providing mechanistic evidence of a causative relationship. Nonetheless, much remains to be discovered regarding the precise implications of microbiome alterations in the pathogenesis of CRC. Research confirms the importance of a bidirectional crosstalk between the gut microbiome and the mucosal immune system in which inflammasomes, multiprotein complexes that can sense “danger signals,” serve as conduits by detecting microbial signals and activating innate immune responses, including the induction of microbicidal activities that can alter microbiome composition. Current evidence strongly supports an active role for this “inflammasome–microbiome axis” in the initiation and development of CRC. Furthermore, the gasdermin (GSDM) family of proteins, which are downstream effectors of the inflammasome that are primarily known for their role in pyroptosis, have been recently linked to CRC pathogenesis. These findings, however, do not come without controversy, as pyroptosis is reported to exert both anti- and protumorigenic functions. Furthermore, the multi-faceted interactions between GSDMs and the gut microbiome, as well as their importance in CRC, have only been superficially investigated. In this review, we summarize the existing literature supporting the importance of the inflammasome–microbiota axis, as well as the activation and function of GSDMs, to gain a better mechanistic understanding of CRC pathogenesis.
The Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (SIGN) is the leading national clinical guideline producer in Scotland. Improved design and dissemination of guidelines produced for the public can empower people to take an active role in self-management and shared decision-making. The public version of the guideline examined covered getting assessed and diagnosed with autism, and approaches that can help. The aim of this study was to test a public version of a guideline for the parents of children and young people with autism, implement improvements, and identify what works in making it usable and accessible.
We recruited mothers from across Scotland. User testing involved formal ‘think aloud’ semi-structured interviews that guided users through the booklet. Interviews took place individually and were recorded and transcribed. Key findings were identified and themed using the honeycomb user experience model.
Fourteen user-testing interviews were conducted. Facilitators for usability and desirability of the guideline included the chunking of text, consistent use of colour and boxes to highlight important information. Simple language, written in a tone of partnership, helped to engage mothers. Value arose from the guidelines ability to explain the process of diagnosis and make mothers feel empowered in their relationships with healthcare professionals. There was a lack of consensus on the usefulness of rating the strength of evidence and recommendations.
There was a marked similarity between what was important to the mothers and what has been found to be important to other groups. The involvement of service users and carers in the guidelines development was key to its credibility. One size does not fit all in presenting evidence-based recommendations to the public and it is a challenge to provide sufficient information while avoiding information overload. Recommendations and evidence levels are suitable for use in public versions, but these should be kept as simple as possible.
The left atrium (LA) is emerging as a key element in the pathophysiology of several cardiac diseases due to having an active role in contrasting heart failure (HF) progression. Its morphological and functional remodeling occurs progressively according to pressure or volume overload generated by the underlying disease, and its ability of adaptation contributes to avoid pulmonary circulation congestion and to postpone HF symptoms. Moreover, early signs of LA dysfunction can anticipate and predict the clinical course of HF diseases before the symptom onset which, particularly, also applies to patients with increased risk of HF with still normal cardiac structure (stage A HF). The study of LA mechanics (chamber morphology and function) is moving from a research interest to a clinical application thanks to a great clinical, prognostic, and pathophysiological significance. This process is promoted by the technological progress of cardiac imaging which increases the availability of easy-to-use tools for clinicians and HF specialists. Two-dimensional (2D) speckle tracking echocardiography and feature tracking cardiac magnetic resonance are becoming essential for daily practice. In this context, a deep understanding of LA mechanics, its prognostic significance, and the available approaches are essential to improve clinical practice. The present review will focus on LA mechanics, discussing atrial physiology and pathophysiology of main cardiac diseases across the HF stages with specific attention to the prognostic significance. Imaging techniques for LA mechanics assessment will be discussed with an overlook on the dynamic (under stress) evaluation of the chamber.
Animacy perception—discriminating between animate and inanimate visual stimuli—is the basis for engaging in social cognition and for our survival (e.g. avoiding potential danger). Previous studies indicate that bottom-up factors, such as the features or motion of a target, enhance animacy perception. However, top-down factors such as elements in perceivers have received little attention. Research on judgment, decision-making, and neuroeconomics indicate the active role of visual attention in constructing decisions. This study examined the role of visual attention in the perception of animacy by manipulating the relative visual attention to targets. Among Studies 1a to 1c conducted in this study, participants saw two face illustrations alternately; one of the faces was shown to be longer than the other. The participants chose the face that they considered more animated and rounder. Consequently, longer visual attention towards targets facilitated animacy perception and preference rather than the perception of roundness. Furthermore, pre-registered Study 2 examined the underlying mechanisms. The results suggest that mere exposure, rather than orienting behaviour, might play a key role in the perception of animacy. These results suggest that in the reverse relationship between attention and animacy perception, animate objects capture attention, and attention results in the perception of animacy.
Although many success stories exist of Village Health Workers (VHWs) improving primary health care, critiques remain about the medicalisation of their roles in disease-specific interventions. VHWs are placed at the bottom of the health system hierarchy as cheap and low-skilled volunteers, irrespective of their highly valued social and political status within communities. In this paper, we shed light on the political role VHWs play and investigate how this shapes their social and medical roles, including their influence on community participation.
The study was carried out within the context of a malaria elimination trial implemented in rural villages in the North Bank of The Gambia between 2016 and 2018. The trial aimed to reduce malaria prevalence by treating malaria index cases and their potentially asymptomatic compound members, in which VHWs took an active role advocating their community and the intervention, mobilising the population, and distributing antimalarial drugs. Mixed-methods research was used to collect and analyse data through qualitative interviews, group discussions, observations, and quantitative surveys.
Results and discussion
We explored the emic logic of participation in a malaria elimination trial and found that VHWs played a pivotal role in representing their community and negotiating with the Medical Research Council to bring benefits (e.g. biomedical care service) to the community. We highlight this representative role of VHWs as ‘health diplomats’, valued and appreciated by community members, and potentially increasing community participation in the trial. We argue that VHWs aspire to be politically present and be part of the key decision-makers in the community through their health diplomat role.
It is thus likely that in the context of rural Gambia, supporting VHWs beyond medical roles, in their social and political roles, would contribute to the improved performance of VHWs and to enhanced community participation in activities the community perceive as beneficial.
A growing body of work has demonstrated the importance of ongoing oscillatory neural activity in sensory processing and the generation of sensorimotor behaviors. It has been shown, for several different brain areas, that sensory-evoked neural oscillations are generated from the modulation by sensory inputs of inherent self-sustained neural activity (SSA). This letter contributes to that strand of research by introducing a methodology to investigate how much of the sensory-evoked oscillatory activity is generated by SSA and how much is generated by sensory inputs within the context of sensorimotor behavior in a computational model. We develop an abstract model consisting of a network of three Kuramoto oscillators controlling the behavior of a simulated agent performing a categorical perception task. The effects of sensory inputs and SSAs on sensory-evoked oscillations are quantified by the cross product of velocity vectors in the phase space of the network under different conditions (disconnected without input, connected without input, and connected with input). We found that while the agent is carrying out the task, sensory-evoked activity is predominantly generated by SSA (93.10%) with much less influence from sensory inputs (6.90%). Furthermore, the influence of sensory inputs can be reduced by 10.4% (from 6.90% to 6.18%) with a decay in the agent's performance of only 2%. A dynamical analysis shows how sensory-evoked oscillations are generated from a dynamic coupling between the level of sensitivity of the network and the intensity of the input signals. This work may suggest interesting directions for neurophysiological experiments investigating how self-sustained neural activity influences sensory input processing, and ultimately affects behavior.
This work presents a comparative study of the diffusion (Dchem) and surface exchange coefficients (kchem) of porous La0.6Sr0.4Co0.2Fe0.8O3-δ (LSCF) and Co3O4 nanoparticles decorated LSCF electrodes. The study was carried out using the 3DT-EIS method, which combines Electrochemical Impedance Spectroscopy experiments with FIB-SEM tomography data through an adapted Transmission Line - Adler Lane Steele electrochemical model. A reduction of the polarization resistance of about 60% was measured for the Co3O4 decorated LSCF respect to the reference LSCF cathode, in air at 700 °C. The Co3O4 decoration was found to modify the ORR surface reaction limiting mechanism from O2 dissociation to O-ion incorporation, whereas the diffusion coefficient was not modified by the decoration, which represents a surface diffusion process for both electrodes. After the EIS measurements, the Co3O4 particles were almost no longer visible by Field-Emission SEM on the surface of the decorated sample, but signs that these particles play an active role in Sr Segregation were observed by STEM-EDS, in particular by concentrating the segregated SrO in the surroundings of the decorated particles.