Olfactory receptor cells may provide clues to psychiatric disease

Nose cells provide a window into the brain. “In the first study to examine living nerve cells from patients with psychiatric disease, scientists from the Monell Chemical Senses Center, the University of Pennsylvania, and collaborating institutions report altered nerve cell function in olfactory receptor neurons from patients with bipolar disorder.

Like other psychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders, bipolar disorder affects nerve cells in the brain, making it difficult to study underlying neurobiological causes of the disease during its actual course.

According to senior author Nancy Rawson, PhD, a Monell cellular biologist, “Previous studies have used non-nerve cells, such as fibroblasts or red blood cells, to examine how cells function in patients with bipolar disorder. But since this is a psychiatric disorder, we need to understand what’s going on in nerve cells.”

Olfactory receptor neurons (ORNs), located in a small patch of epithelium inside the nose, are nerve cells that contain receptors for the thousands of odorant molecules detected by humans. Easily obtained using a simple 5-minute biopsy procedure, ORNs share many characteristics with nerve cells in the brain. These features make ORNs a useful model to study the neural effects of psychiatric disease.” (Eurekalerts)

It wasn’t me, it was my mind

“The law distinguishes between madness and badness but, asks Steve Rose, why should that absolve criminals of responsibility for their actions?

Evil is in the air. It seems that a US psychiatrist, Michael Stone, has been studying serial murderers, such as Ian Brady and Fred West, and has decided that their actions defy psychiatric diagnosis: they are sane, but evil, as they killed for enjoyment.

Like Dr Stone, the Home Office has been interested in trying to determine what makes serial killers kill. David Blunkett was intrigued by the idea that one might be able to use brain imaging to identify “psychopaths” before they had committed a crime, with the aim of preventive incarceration. And thanks to the new anti-terrorist legislation, that power, which flies in the face of natural justice and indeed the Magna Carta, could soon be available to home secretaries. ” (Guardian.UK)