All Articles in the Category ‘Neurosciences’

Out of Breath? Braking Neurons Play Surprising Role in Rapid Breathing

New research from Seattle Children’s offers fresh insight into how the brain sets the pace of breathing.

Next time a workout has you winded, the inhibitory neurons in your brain may be to blame. This is according to new research from Seattle Children’s Research Institute that offers fresh insight into how the brain sets the pace of breathing.

In a study published in the journal Nature Communications, researchers used laser light to manipulate very specific classes of neurons responsible for breathing. The technique, known as optogenetics, helps scientists isolate neurons in the brain to study their function.

When stimulated in the lab, the researchers found excitatory neurons – the brain’s go signal – actually slow breathing, while inhibitory neurons – the brain’s stop signal – intervene to make breathing more rapid. In addition to explaining how the brain adapts breathing in response to everyday cues, the finding could lead to more precise treatments for neurological conditions that frequently involve breathing abnormalities. Read full post »

Study Finds Neuron Inhibition May be Key in New Treatments for Addiction

New research suggests inhibiting one group of neurons’ activity may prove to be a highly effective treatment for reducing relapse in recovering addicts.

A new study published by researchers from Seattle Children’s Research Institute reveals how neurons in the brain fuel drug-seeking behavior following compulsive drug use. Their findings, published online in Addiction Biology, suggest inhibiting one group of neurons’ activity may prove to be a highly effective treatment for reducing relapse in recovering addicts.

While the science of addiction is beginning to show how pathological drug use causes the brain’s “go” pathway to become overactive, little is known about what renders some individuals vulnerable to developing addiction and what protects others against it. There are also few effective treatments available to people who develop a drug addiction, or the approximately 90% of individuals who relapse following addiction treatment.

Dr. Susan Ferguson, a principal investigator in the Center for Integrative Brain Research at Seattle Children’s and senior author on the study, describes how her team used an experimental approach called chemogenetic inhibition to probe the relationship between brain activity and behavior in drug addiction. Read full post »

A New Approach to Caring for Kids with Tuberous Sclerosis Complex

Luke Avansino, now 8, was diagnosed with tuberous sclerosis complex, a rare genetic disorder, as an infant.

Eight years ago, Dr. Jeff Avansino, a surgeon at Seattle Children’s, and his wife, Dr. Amy Criniti, welcomed their third child – a boy named Luke.

For the first few months of Luke’s life, he developed as expected. At about 6 months old, he started having spells of irritability. Avansino and Criniti, both physicians, thought it was likely due to a virus. But Luke’s spells continued.

“My wife has good intuition and knew something was wrong,” Avansino said. “She started looking into his symptoms and thought he might be having infantile spasms, or seizures.”

They took Luke in for tests and Criniti was right – Luke was having seizures. Doctors also found light colored patches on his skin. Further testing confirmed that Luke has a rare genetic disorder called tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC). Read full post »

Discover the Seattle Children’s Stories You Might Have Missed in 2017

With 2018 in full effect, On the Pulse is taking a moment to hit rewind to share five stories that might have floated beneath the flurry of headlines in 2017.

We invite you to take a look back at some of last year’s stories that inspired us and gave us hope.

1. A Mother’s Intuition Leads to Picture-Perfect Treatment of Eye Cancer

Courtesy of Amanda De Vos Photography

Amanda De Vos, a professional photographer, was reviewing shots she took of her 15-month-old identical twin daughters, Julia and Jemma, when a photo of Julia caught her attention.

De Vos would learn that the photo she took of Julia would help to identify a rare eye cancer, retinoblastoma, that was stopped in its tracks with an innovative treatment at Seattle Children’s.

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With a Genetic Answer, Parents Find Comfort in Son’s Rare Epilepsy

Genetic testing helped diagnose Nolan Wood, 3, with KCNQ3 epilepsy.

Even though Nolan Wood hadn’t experienced a seizure in more than two years, his parents still had questions about their son’s future.

“We wondered if there were others out there that have what Nolan has,” said Emily Wood, Nolan’s mom. “If so, what does their life look like?”

The Woods’ search for answers began when Nolan, 3, was diagnosed with infantile spasms and regression of his motor skills when he was 6 months old. Before receiving seizure medications, Nolan had hundreds of daily subtle, reflex-like seizures. Due to the regression of his motor skills, he had stopped rolling over, smiling and crying. A condition known as cortical visual impairment had also rendered him legally blind. Read full post »

Surgery Frees Lillee from Seizures Medication Couldn’t Stop

Lillee Haynes, 4, surrounded by her three older brothers.

When 4-year-old Lillee Haynes runs through the doors of Seattle Children’s South Clinic for her speech therapy appointment and heads straight for a table covered in crayons, it’s hard to imagine that nearly two years ago she faced hundreds of epileptic seizures each day.

“Her seizures happened so often that I installed a camera above her bed to record any she had at night,” said Aimee Haynes, Lillee’s mom. “One night the camera recorded 200 movements. I was shocked to see how many seizures disrupted her sleep.”

Lillee’s brain didn’t rest until she underwent not one, but two neurosurgeries at Seattle Children’s to remove the diseased area of her left brain, allowing her healthy brain to grow and develop.

“You could say Lillee is most definitely right-brain dominant,” laughed Haynes. “That might explain why she has such a spicy personality.” Read full post »

Researchers Put Youth Sports Safety and Concussion Awareness Ahead of the Game With Novel Program

Seattle Children’s researchers consulted with the Northwest Junior Football League before moving ahead with a CDC-funded program addressing safety and concussion awareness in youth sports. Photo courtesy of Brian Bodine Photography/NJFL

Seattle Children’s researchers will launch an innovative program in early 2018 aimed at shifting the culture of safety in youth sports and building concussion awareness during competitive play.

The program, called One Team, emphasizes community engagement in conducting brief pre-game safety huddles involving coaches, officials, parents and athletes, with a goal of addressing both sportsmanship and the importance of removing an athlete from play if they potentially have a concussion.

Dr. Sara Chrisman and Dr. Emily Kroshus, both members of the Seattle Pediatric Concussion Research Collaborative and Seattle Children’s Center for Childhood Health, Behavior and Development, designed the program.

“We want to change how children, parents and coaches relate to injuries, and reinforce a line in athlete safety that shouldn’t be crossed, even in a competitive atmosphere,” Chrisman said.

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Surgery and Rehab Help Arabelle Lasso Life in Junior Rodeos

On Thursday nights this summer, 7-year-old Arabelle Laddusaw is saddling up alongside other children and teens to compete in the Tomorrow’s Rodeo Champions’ summer rodeo series in her hometown of Billings, Montana. As she sits up straight and grips the reins of her horse in anticipation of the chute opening, her cerebral palsy is the last thing slowing down the thrill of events such as barrel racing, pole bending and the crowd favorite, goat tail tying.

However, the prospect of being able to sit naturally on a horse wasn’t always a future possibility for Arabelle who was diagnosed at birth with cerebral palsy, a neurological condition that affects muscle movement and limits mobility.

As a toddler, the muscles in Arabelle’s legs were so tightly wound they would scissor – one leg twisting over the other – making it difficult for her to stand upright or simply straighten her legs out in front of her when sitting.

“With her, it was challenging because she required constant assistance,” said Arabelle’s mother, Christine Laddusaw. “She wasn’t just a normal child that you could put down and let play.” Read full post »

Driven Mother Confronts Son’s Rare Diagnosis

Hamilton McNamee enjoys a snack.

From his appearance alone, 3-year-old Hamilton McNamee looks like a typical kid. He is rambunctious and playful with strawberry blonde hair and a mischievous smile.

As he climbs on the tables and chairs in Starbucks at Seattle Children’s Hospital, his mother Claire casually states, “He’s going to wander around a little. It’s fine.”

What’s different about Hammie, as his family affectionately refers to him, is that he has a condition known as tuberous sclerosis complex (TSC), a rare genetic disease that causes tumors to grow in various parts of the body, including the brain and other vital organs. Though the tumors are benign (which means they aren’t cancerous), they impact a child’s development in a variety of ways depending on where they grow and how big they get.

At age 2, Hammie experienced some seizure-like behavior after a bout with hand, foot and mouth disease. His primary care provider referred Hammie to Seattle Children’s First Seizure Clinic where tests revealed that he had growths in his brain and he was diagnosed with TSC.

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New Drug Helps Twins Harper and Hendrix Regain the Strength to Experience Childhood

Twins Hendrix (left) and Harper were diagnosed with SMA Type II in summer 2015. They have made tremendous progress since beginning a breakthrough treatment in February 2017 at Seattle Children’s.

Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) had progressively taken away the strength of 3-year-old twin brothers Harper and Hendrix to lift a cup of water, crawl or even take a deep breath on their own. Without access to a breakthrough treatment for the incurable genetic condition, the regression of their motor skills was certain to continue, potentially to the point that it was life-threatening.

So moments like the one that unfolded between Harper and Hendrix in a Seattle Children’s recovery room shortly after their fourth infusion of the new SMA drug, Spinraza, represented much more than brotherly play to their parents, Crystal and Noe Ramos.

Harper raised his right arm high above his head and paused briefly before snapping it down in front of him as he released a makeshift ball of medical tape and paper. The object bounced and then skidded on the floor before it came to rest near Hendrix, who gave it a casual glance before returning his attention to the iPad in his lap he gripped firmly with his fingers.

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