Research Report: Salk Institute receives grant for aging research

The Salk Institute has received a $5 million gift from the Glenn Foundation for Medical Research, becoming the third institution (with Harvard University and MIT) to receive major Glenn funding to study the molecular basis of aging.

The Glenn Foundation Center for Aging Research will draw from nine Salk laboratories specializing in genetic analysis, stem-cell biology, and metabolism research to address the overarching goal of defining a healthy lifespan (so-called “healthspan”) and answer one of the most elusive questions in biology: Is there a defined biological process of aging that is universal to all organisms?

PTSD and metabolism

Veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are more likely to have “metabolic syndrome,” according to a study out by researchers at the UCSD School of Medicine and Veterans Affairs of San Diego.

Metabolic syndrome is composed of a cluster of clinical signs including obesity, high blood pressure, and insulin resistance and is also associated with cardiovascular disease.

The study involved a group of male and female veterans treated at the Cincinnati VA Medical Center for PTSD. A majority had served in the U.S. Army (71 percent) and close to 70 were Vietnam-era veterans. Over half (55 percent) of these veterans had moderate to severe levels of PTSD. About 40 percent of the veterans met criteria for metabolic syndrome.

Any traumatic event or series of events can cause PTSD and nearly 7.7 million Americans suffer from PTSD in any given year, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Vision and response

It is well known that past rewards influence how humans (and other animals) make decisions but little is known about how rewards affect the way the brain processes incoming sensory information, specifically as it relates to vision.

According to new research from UCSD, areas of the brain responsible for vision respond more strongly to objects of perceived value.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to indirectly measure neural activity, researchers examined the brain activity of subjects as they chose between colored targets that varied in monetary value.

Analysis revealed that rewards altered neural activation in many areas of the human visual system, including the very first visually responsive region of the brain associated with representing basic features such as edge orientations and color.