How do cells take out the trash?

Unfolded proteins are unhealthy proteins. When found inside of cells, they are rounded up, identified, and destroyed. This is an important quality-control process, especially in the brain and the heart. How these unfolded proteins are identified, however, has been a mystery. Now, research led by Kiersten Ruff, a senior research scientist in the lab of […]

Personalized prediction of depression treatment outcomes with wearables

Over the past several years, managing one’s mental health has become more of a priority with an increased emphasis on self-care. Depression alone affects more than 300 million people worldwide annually. Recognizing this, there is significant interest to leverage popular wearable devices to monitor an individual’s mental health by measuring markers such as activity levels, […]

Problems persist for kids exposed to cannabis in the womb

Children who were exposed to cannabis in the womb continue to show elevated rates of symptoms of psychopathology — depression, anxiety and other psychiatric conditions — even as, at ages 11 and 12, they head toward adolescence, according to research from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences’ BRAIN Lab, led by Ryan Bogdan, PhD, associate […]

Restoring movement after spinal cord injury focus of new research

People with spinal cord injuries often experience lifelong movement impairment or paralysis, for which there is no cure. When coupled with rehabilitative exercise, electrical spinal cord stimulation can help restore some movement, though the mechanisms of how the nerves in the spinal cord recover are unknown. Ismael Seáñez, PhD, assistant professor of biomedical engineering at […]

Distress leads to higher COVID vaccine rates, less adherence to distancing guidelines

People who were more distressed — showing signs of anxiety or depression — during the COVID-19 pandemic were less likely to follow some best practice recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, according to a new study by Washington University in St. Louis researchers.  They found, however, that those same people were more […]

Sugar metabolism is surprisingly conventional in cancer

For over a century, cancer cell metabolism has been viewed as something of a paradox. New work from researchers at Washington University in St. Louis shows that it might not be such an anomaly after all. The study is published Aug. 15 in Molecular Cell. Glucose, a common sugar in food, is one of the most […]

Social interactions tied to sense of purpose

Having positive social interactions is associated with older adults’ sense of purposefulness, which can fluctuate from day to day, according to research from the Department of Psychological & Brain Sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. And although these findings, published in the July 2022 issue of the American Journal of Geriatric […]

New structure found in cells

Every cell contains millions of protein molecules. Some of them have the ability to phase-separate to form non-membrane-bound compartments, called biomolecular condensates, inside a cell. It has long been assumed that there was no further structure underlying these condensates, only solution-soluble proteins. A research group led by Rohit Pappu, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor […]

SSRI use during pregnancy not related to childhood depression

In one of the first studies to look at the association between selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRI) medications and brain development in young children, research from the Behavioral Research and Imaging Neurogenetics (BRAIN)Lab at Washington University in St. Louis found no association between children’s exposure to the drugs in the womb and later childhood depression.  The study […]

Lew lab sheds new light on cell membranes

Research from the lab of Matthew Lew, PhD at Washington University in St. Louis offers entirely new ways to see the very small. The research — two papers by PhD students at the McKelvey School of Engineering — was published in the journals Optica and Nano Letters. They have developed novel hardware and algorithms that allow them to visualize the […]

Brains and brawn helped crows and ravens take over the world

Crows and ravens are well known for their black color and the harsh “caw” sound they make. They are intelligent birds that use tools, solve complex abstract problems and speak a volume of words. But what is less well appreciated is how diverse they are. Their diversity is accompanied by their ability to live all […]

Juvenile justice: ‘We are coming up short’

Does being sentenced to juvenile detention or community service truly serve as a means to rehabilitation? One mechanism to rehabilitate a young person deemed by the justice system to be on the path to a life of crime is to change behaviors associated with crime. A research team at Washington University in St. Louis tested […]

Predicting the chaos in Tourette syndrome tics

During the pandemic, news reports surfaced of a surge of young adults showing up at doctors’ offices with unexplainable movement disorders that looked, perhaps to a nonspecialist, a little bit like Tourette syndrome. But when those patients were sent to see a specialist, “They’d say, ‘that doesn’t look at all like any of my first […]

Brainy birds may fare better under climate change

Many North American migratory birds are shrinking in size as temperatures have warmed over the past 40 years. But those with very big brains, relative to their body size, did not shrink as much as smaller-brained birds, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis. The study is the first to identify a […]

Herzog to test how cortical neurons, hormones regulate daily patterns of behavior

Circadian rhythms are physical, mental and behavioral changes that follow a 24-hour cycle. Research from Washington University in St. Louis will test how these daily patterns are set and maintained through the coordinated activity of certain neurons and hormones. The five-year $1.98 million project relies on new high-throughput machine learning techniques to determine the roles […]

The ‘surprisingly simple’ arithmetic of smell

Smell a cup of coffee. Smell it inside or outside; summer or winter; in a coffee shop with a scone; in a pizza parlor with pepperoni — even at a pizza parlor with a scone! — coffee smells like coffee. Why don’t other smells or different environmental factors “get in the way,” so to speak, […]

Understanding features that help cells stay organized

The labs of Tanja Mittag, PhD at St. Jude and Rohit Pappu, PhD, the Gene K. Beare Distinguished Professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering, created a stickers-and-spacers model to discern the rules underlying the driving forces for phase separation. The “stickers” and “spacers” are different types of amino acids along the […]

International team finds new mechanism critical for formation of membrane vesicles

Researchers from the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, Université de Montréal and McGill University have discovered a new mechanism by which membrane vesicles are made. The roles played by these self-contained nanoparticles are essential to the normal function of our cells. Their dysfunction is implicated in diseases ranging from cancers […]

How do others help us regulate emotions?

When COVID-19 hit, many people were suddenly cut off from their social support systems, the people with whom we often share our emotional lives. They who listen to our grievances, share in our happiness, or just sit there, being bored with us. Is that a problem? How much do we depend on others to help […]

Covey, Milbrandt, Moran named to National Academy of Inventors

The National Academy of Inventors has elected three faculty members from Washington University in St. Louis to its 2021 cohort of fellows: Psychiatry professor Douglas F. Covey, PhD, geneticist Jeffrey Milbrandt, MD, PhD, both at the School of Medicine; and bioengineer Daniel Moran, PhD, at the McKelvey School of Engineering. The NAI fellowship is the highest professional distinction reserved solely […]

Which mask is easier on the ears?

To assess how different styles of face masks affected speech intelligibility in normal hearing listeners, researchers from Washington University in St. Louis put some of the most popular mask designs to the test. Their research was published in the journal Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications. The team, from the labs of Kristin Van Engen, PhD, assistant professor […]

It’s complicated: Social media and well-being during COVID-19

When students were told to stay home after COVID-19 began to spread stateside, it’s not surprising that their social media use increased — there wasn’t much else to do. But was it all doom scrolling and catastrophizing or was social media living up to its promise to keep people connected and strengthen our ties to […]

Persistent, distressing psychotic-like experiences associated with impairment in youth

In a new study from the lab of Deanna Barch, PhD, professor and chair of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and the Gregory B. Couch Professor of Psychiatry and of radiology at the School of Medicine, all at Washington University in St. Louis, researchers examined the association between distressing and persistent psychotic-like experiences […]

Less energy, better quality PAM images with machine learning

Photoacoustic microscopy (PAM) allows researchers to see the smallest vessels inside a body, but it can generate some unwanted signals or noise. A team of researchers at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis found a way to significantly reduce the noise and maintain image quality while reducing the laser energy […]

Noninvasive brain biopsy shows improved sensitivity in tumor detection

Glioblastomas are aggressive brain tumors that are commonly diagnosed through a risky and invasive surgical biopsy. A team of researchers led by Hong Chen, PhD at Washington University in St. Louis has developed a noninvasive diagnostic method that may one day replace the tissue biopsy with a simple blood test. Chen, associate professor of biomedical engineering at […]

WashU Expert: Time to retire daylight saving time

Change is upon us once again. Come the first Sunday of November, we will gain an hour of morning sunlight. The one-hour adjustment to the clock on the wall may not sound dramatic. But our biological clock begs to differ. Take, for example, the members of society blissfully unaware of social time: our youngest children […]

Neurons in visual cortex of the brain ‘drift’ over time

Although other studies have documented “representational drift” in neurons in the parts of the brain associated with odor and spatial memory, this result is surprising because neural activity in the primary visual cortex is thought to be relatively stable. The study published Aug. 27 in Nature Communications was led by Ji Xia, PhD, a recent PhD graduate of […]

Connective issue: AI learns by doing more with less

Brains have evolved to do more with less. Take a tiny insect brain, which has less than a million neurons but shows a diversity of behaviors and is more energy efficient than current AI systems. These tiny brains serve as models for computing systems that are becoming more sophisticated as billions of silicon neurons can […]

Nanoparticles create heat from light to manipulate electrical activity in neurons

Nanomaterials have been used in a variety of emerging applications, such as in targeted pharmaceuticals or to bolster other materials and products such as sensors and energy harvesting and storage devices. A team in the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis is using nanoparticles as heaters to manipulate the electrical activity […]

Washington University collaborates with Agilent, Merck to expand metabolomics research

A collaborative effort between Washington University in St. Louis, Agilent Technologies and the biopharmaceutical company Merck aims to expand research in the field of metabolomics, the comprehensive study of small molecules within a biological system. Using top-of-the-line research instrumentation from Agilent, scientists in the Department of Chemistry in Arts & Sciences will develop new metabolomics […]

Electric fish — and humans — pause before communicating key points

American writer and humorist Mark Twain, a master of language and noted lecturer, once offered, “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” Electric fish and today’s TED talk speakers take a page from Twain’s playbook. They pause before sharing something particularly meaningful. Pauses also […]

Sum of incentives dictate efforts

When there’s a difficult task at hand, intuition tells us that the more motivated we are to complete it — the stronger the incentives — the harder we’ll work. And the assumption has been that the relationship is linear — the better the incentives, the harder people will work. Rarely, however, do people have just […]

Washington University researchers to design detectors of airborne SARS-CoV-2

As the COVID-19 pandemic surged last summer and contact tracers struggled to identify sources of infections, John Cirrito, PhD, an associate professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, and Carla Yuede, PhD, an associate professor of psychiatry, began to kick around an idea. Could a biosensor they’d developed years ago for Alzheimer’s disease […]

Reagh named APS ‘Rising Star’

The Association for Psychological Sciences (APS) has named Zachariah Reagh, PhD a “Rising Star.” Reagh is assistant professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis. His research focuses on representation and remembrance of experiences and how they change as we age. The Rising Star designation is given to […]

Seeing exponential growth for what it is

Understanding the spread of SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, requires understanding nonlinear growth, according to Jeffrey M. Zacks, PhD, associate chair and professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and of radiology at the School of Medicine, at Washington University in St. Louis. Whereas linear growth is intuitive, nonlinear growth is […]

Mirror, mirror on the monitor

Most people wouldn’t sit in front of a mirror for hours a day, checking themselves out, but the COVID-19 pandemic has found many doing just that. Video chatting services such as Zoom have become a common way to keep in touch with friends, family and co-workers. But it’s also forced people to sit face-to-face with […]

No more needles?

Blood draws are no fun. They hurt. Veins can burst, or even roll — like they’re trying to avoid the needle, too. Oftentimes, doctors use blood samples to check for biomarkers of disease: antibodies that signal a viral or bacterial infection, such as SARS-CoV-2, the virus responsible for COVID-19, or cytokines indicative of inflammation seen […]

Psychonomic Society recognizes Zacks with Mid-career Award

Jeffrey Zacks, PhD, associate chair and professor of psychological and brain sciences in Arts & Sciences, and of radiology at the School of Medicine, received the Mid-career Award from the Psychonomic Society. Zacks studies perception and cognition at Washington University in St. Louis using behavioral experiments, functional MRI, computational modeling and testing of neurological patients. The Psychonomic Society is […]

Colored light investigated to control irregular heartbeat noninvasively

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has awarded a $2.1 million four-year grant for cardiac optogenetics research led by Chao Zhou, PhD, associate professor of biomedical engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering. Cardiac optogenetics allows researchers to control the opening and closing of ion channels, simulating different kinds of heart conditions, all the way […]

Seeking to avoid ‘full lockdown,’ cells monitor ribosome collisions

Ribosomes are the machines in the cell that use instructions from mRNA to synthesize functional proteins. There are hundreds of thousands of ribosomes in each cell, and they mostly process their instructions faithfully. But sometimes ribosomes get stuck or stall on roadblocks along defective mRNA molecules. New research from Washington University in St. Louis shows […]

New computational method validates images without ‘ground truth’

A realtor sends a prospective homebuyer a blurry photograph of a house taken from across the street. The homebuyer can compare it to the real thing — look at the picture, then look at the real house — and see that the bay window is actually two windows close together, the flowers out front are […]

Chan Zuckerberg Initiative names two WashU groups Frontiers of Imaging grantees

The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) on Dec. 2 announced two research groups led by Washington University in St. Louis faculty were named Frontiers of Imaging grantees. Both groups will focus on the brain — where current imaging techniques can penetrate just about the depth of a couple of human hairs — with $1 million each […]

Pappu, collaborators awarded $7.5 million MURI award

Rohit Pappu, the Edwin H. Murty Professor of Engineering at the McKelvey School of Engineering at Washington University in St. Louis, is part of multi-institution team to receive a highly competitive 2020 Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative (MURI) award from the Department of Defense. The five-year $7.5 million grant is shared with three other universities and is aimed […]

‘Honey bee, it’s me’

For a honey bee, few things are more important than recognizing your nestmates. Being able to tell a nestmate from an invader could mean the difference between a honey-stocked hive and a long, lean winter. New research from Washington University in St. Louis shows that honey bees rely on chemical cues related to their shared […]

Hengen awarded $1.8M to study sleep’s contribution to brain function

Sleep is vitally important for brain function and survival. Yet sleep remains one of the most poorly understood features of life. Keith Hengen, assistant professor of biology in Arts & Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis, received a three-year $1.8 million grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to study the role of […]

Prenatal cannabis exposure associated with adverse outcomes during middle childhood

While cannabis use during pregnancy is on the rise, researchers at Washington University in St. Louis have found evidence that the resulting children are more likely to have psychopathology in middle childhood. The team’s analysis are the first steps in studying the effects of cannabis on children as attitudes surrounding its use change rapidly — […]

Female faculty in psychological sciences survey present, chart future

Psychology has made some impressive gains in gender parity in recent years. In the United States, women comprise the vast majority of undergraduate students in psychology classrooms, and women earn 71% of psychology PhDs. But these gains don’t tell the entire story. To fill in the gaps, a group of nearly 60 women faculty members […]

Using light’s properties to indirectly see inside a cell membrane

For those not involved in chemistry or biology, picturing a cell likely brings to mind several discrete, blob-shaped objects; maybe the nucleus, mitochondria, ribosomes and the like. There’s one part that’s often overlooked, save perhaps a squiggly line indicating the cell’s border: the membrane. But its role as gatekeeper is an essential one, and a […]

Researchers one step closer to bomb-sniffing cyborg locusts

If you want to enhance a locust to be used as a bomb-sniffing bug, there are a few technical challenges that need solving before sending it into the field. Is there some way to direct the locust — to tell it where to go to do its sniffing? And because the locusts can’t speak (yet), […]

Zeroing out their own zap

Electric fish generate electric pulses to communicate with other fish and sense their surroundings. Some species broadcast shorter electric pulses, while others send out long ones. But all that zip-zapping in the water can get confusing. The fish need to filter out their own pulses so they can identify external messages and only respond to […]