Primitive Fish Fossils Reveal Developmental Origins of Teeth (Paleontology)

High-resolution X-ray imaging of primitive bony fish fossils reveal the developmental and evolutionary relationship between teeth and dermal odontodes.

Teeth and hard structures called dermal odontodes are evolutionarily related, arising from the same developmental system, a new study published today in eLife shows.

Part of a jawbone of the 422-million-year-old fossil bony fish Lophosteus, visualised with a high-resolution X-ray technique. On the right, the surface of the jawbone is shown in grey. In the middle, exposed teeth are highlighted in gold and dermal odontodes in shades of purple, pink and red. On the left, the bone itself is made transparent, revealing internal blood vessels and pulp cavities, shown in blue and green, as well as the embedded teeth and dermal odontodes. ©Chen et al. (CC BY 4.0)

These findings in ancient fish fossils contradict established claims about the difference between the two structures based on modern sharks, and provide potential new insights into the origins and development of teeth.

Odontodes are hard structures made of dentine, the main substance in ivory, and are found on the outside surfaces of animals with backbones (vertebrates). Teeth are an example of odontodes but some animals also have them on their skin, such as the tooth-like ‘scales’ of sharks. These are known as dermal odontodes.

“Teeth and dermal odontodes are thought to have evolved separately because they seem to develop in different ways,” says lead author Donglei Chen, a researcher at the Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University, Sweden. “However, most of what we know is limited to modern sharks in which the difference between these structures has become very distinct. To understand the relationship between the two more clearly, we needed to turn to the fossil record.”

The team looked at fossils of one of the earliest bony fishes called Lophosteus which lived more than 400 million years ago. They chose this fish because it represents an early stage of tooth evolution, bringing them closer to the time when teeth and dermal odontodes could have separated in the hopes that any developmental similarities between the two would be more obvious.

The researchers used high-resolution X-ray imaging to look at the three-dimensional structure of odontodes in Lophosteus at different stages of development. They found that the appearance of odontodes were similar at the early stages of development but would change depending on whether they grew into the mouth or the face. This suggests there were different chemical signals in each area directing their development. At the later stages, some dermal odontodes would move from the face to the mouth and begin to look like teeth.

These findings suggest that both types of odontodes are able to respond to the same signals controlling each other’s development and are made by the same developmental system – not separate systems as previously thought.

“In addition to casting light on the early evolution of our own teeth, our results point to a previously unrecognised evolutionary-developmental relationship between teeth and dermal odontodes,” says senior author Per Ahlberg, PhD, Professor at the Department of Organismal Biology, Uppsala University. “This has potential implications for understanding the signalling that occurs during development and could inspire new lines of developmental research in other organisms.”

References: Donglei Chen , Henning Blom, Sophie Sanchez, Paul Tafforeau, Tiiu Märss, Per E Ahlberg, “The developmental relationship between teeth and dermal odontodes in the most primitive bony fish Lophosteus”, Evolutionary Biology, 2020. https://elifesciences.org/articles/60985

Provided by Elife

Device Mimics Life’s First Steps in Outer Space (Astronomy)

Called VENUS, the device will give scientists an unprecedented ability to study how molecules form in the icy clouds of space.

A device developed by scientists at the CY Cergy Paris University and Paris Observatory promises insight into how the building blocks of life form in outer space.

Abdellahi Sow uses the VENUS apparatus, which offers researchers insight into how life can form in space. ©Emanuele Congiu

In an article published in Review of Scientific Instruments, by AIP Publishing, the scientists detail how VENUS — an acronym of the French phrase “Vers de Nouvelles Syntheses,” which means “toward new syntheses” — mimics how molecules come together in the freezing darkness of interstellar space.

“We try to simulate how complex organic molecules are formed in such a harsh environment,” said Emanuele Congiu, one of the authors and an astrophysicist at the observatory. “Observatories can see a lot of molecules in space. What we do not understand yet, or fully, is how they formed in this harsh environment.”

VENUS has a chamber designed to replicate the strong vacuum of space, while holding a frigid temperature that is set lower than minus 400 degrees Fahrenheit (10 kelvins). It uses up to five beams to deliver atoms or molecules onto a tiny sliver of ice without disturbing that environment.

That process, Congiu said, replicates how molecules form on the ice that sits atop tiny dust particles found inside interstellar clouds. VENUS is the first device to do the replication with more than three beams, which lets researchers simulate more complicated interactions.

Over the past 50 years, nearly 200 different molecular species have been discovered in the star-forming regions of space. Some of them, the so-called “prebiotic species,” are believed by scientists to be involved in the processes that lead to the early forms of life.

A key use of the VENUS device will be working in concert with scientists who discover molecular reactions in space but need a fuller understanding of what they have observed. It specifically mentions NASA’s launch of the James Webb Space Telescope, which is scheduled for 2021. The largest and most powerful space telescope ever launched, it is expected to dramatically expand scientists’ knowledge of the universe.

“What we can do in the lab in one day takes thousands of years in space,” Congiu said. “Our work in the lab can complement the wealth of data that comes from the space observatories. Otherwise, astronomers would not be able to interpret all of their observations. Researchers who make observations can ask us to simulate a certain reaction, to see if what they think they see is real or not.”

References: Emanuele Congiu, Abdellahi Sow, Thanh Nguyen, Saoud Baouche, and Francois Dulieu, “A new multi-beam apparatus for the study of surface chemistry routes to formation of complex organic molecules in space,” Review of Scientific Instruments on Dec. 15, 2020 (DOI: 10.1063/5.0018926) and can be accessed at https://aip.scitation.org/doi/10.1063/5.0018926.

Provided by American Institute of Physics

UMBC Researchers Identify Where Giant Jets From Black Holes Discharge Their Energy (Astronomy)

New study determines that black holes discharge the energy in their plasma jets much farther away from the black hole’s center than previously thought, resolving long-standing debate and offering clues to jet formation and structure.

The supermassive black holes at the centers of galaxies are the most massive objects in the universe. They range from about 1 million to upwards of 10 billion times the mass of the Sun. Some of these black holes also blast out gigantic, super-heated jets of plasma at nearly the speed of light. The primary way that the jets discharge this powerful motion energy is by converting it into extremely high-energy gamma rays. However, UMBC physics Ph.D. candidate Adam Leah Harvey says, “How exactly this radiation is created is an open question.”

In this artist’s rendering courtesy of NASA, the remnants of a star torn apart by a black hole form a disk around the black hole’s center, while jets eject from either side. The jets can travel at nearly the speed of light, and they discharge their high energy along the way. New research from UMBC in Nature Communications shows that the energy dissipation happens much farther away from the black hole’s center than previously thought. The methods for the study, standard statistical techniques and minimal reliance on assumptions from any particular jet model, make the findings difficult to dispute. The results offer clues about jet formation and structure. ©NASA

The jet has to discharge its energy somewhere, and previous work doesn’t agree where. The prime candidates are two regions made of gas and light that encircle black holes, called the broad-line region and the molecular torus.

A black hole’s jet has the potential to convert visible and infrared light in either region to high-energy gamma rays by giving away some of its energy. Harvey’s new NASA-funded research sheds light on this controversy by offering strong evidence that the jets mostly release energy in the molecular torus, and not in the broad-line region. The study was published in Nature Communications and co-authored by UMBC physicists Markos Georganopoulos and Eileen Meyer.

Far out

The broad-line region is closer to the center of a black hole, at a distance of about 0.3 light-years. The molecular torus is much farther out–more than 3 light-years. While all of these distances seem huge to a non-astronomer, the new work “tells us that we’re getting energy dissipation far away from the black hole at the relevant scales,” Harvey explains.

“The implications are extremely important for our understanding of jets launched by black holes,” Harvey says. Which region primarily absorbs the jet’s energy offers clues to how the jets initially form, pick up speed, and become column-shaped. For example, “It indicates that the jet is not accelerated enough at smaller scales to start to dissipate energy,” Harvey says.

Other researchers have proposed contradictory ideas about the jets’ structure and behavior. Because of the trusted methods Harvey used in their new work, however, they expect the results to be broadly accepted in the scientific community. “The results basically help to constrain those possibilities–those different models–of jet formation.”

On solid footing

To come to their conclusions, Harvey applied a standard statistical technique called “bootstrapping” to data from 62 observations of black hole jets. “A lot of what came before this paper has been very model-dependent. Other papers have made a lot of very specific assumptions, whereas our method is extremely general,” Harvey explains. “There isn’t much to undermine the analysis. It’s well-understood methods, and just using observational data. So the result should be correct.”

A quantity called the seed factor was central to the analysis. The seed factor indicates where the light waves that the jet converts to gamma rays come from. If the conversion happens at the molecular torus, one seed factor is expected. If it happens at the broad-line region, the seed factor will be different.

Georganopolous, associate professor of physics and one of Harvey’s advisors, originally developed the seed factor concept, but “applying the idea of the seed factor had to wait for someone with a lot of perseverance, and this someone was Adam Leah,” Georganopolous says.

Harvey calculated the seed factors for all 62 observations. They found that the seed factors fell in a normal distribution aligned almost perfectly around the expected value for the molecular torus. That result strongly suggests that the energy from the jet is discharging into light waves in the molecular torus, and not in the broad-line region.

Tangents and searches

Harvey shares that the support of their mentors, Georganopoulos and Meyer, assistant professor of physics, was instrumental to the project’s success. “I think that without them letting me go off on a lot of tangents and searches of how to do things, this would have never gotten to the level that it’s at,” Harvey says. “Because they allowed me to really dig into it, I was able to pull out a lot more from this project.”

Harvey identifies as an “observational astronomer,” but adds, “I’m really more of a data scientist and a statistician than I am a physicist.” And the statistics has been the most exciting part of this work, they say.

“I just think it’s really cool that I was able to figure out methods to create such a strong study of such a weird system that is so removed from my own personal reality.” Harvey says. “It’s going to be fun to see what people do with it.”

References: Harvey, A.L.W., Georganopoulos, M. & Meyer, E.T. Powerful extragalactic jets dissipate their kinetic energy far from the central black hole. Nat Commun 11, 5475 (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41467-020-19296-6 https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-19296-6

Provided by University of Maryland Baltimore County

World’s First Gas Sample From Deep Space Confirmed (Astronomy)

The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) has confirmed that the gas collected from the sample container inside the re-entry capsule of the asteroid explorer, Hayabusa2, is a gas sample originating from asteroid Ryugu.

Figure 1: Sample container structure Credit: JAXA

The result of the mass spectrometry of the collected gas within the sample container performed at the QLF (Quick Look Facility) established at the Woomera Local Headquarters in Australia on December 7, 2020, suggested that the gas differed from the atmospheric composition of the Earth. For additional confirmation, a similar analysis was performed on December 10-11 at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center on the JAXA Sagamihara Campus. This has led to the conclusion that the gas in the sample container is derived from asteroid Ryugu.

The grounds for making this decision are due to the following three points.

i) Gas analysis at the Extraterrestrial Sample Curation Center and at the Woomera Local Headquarters in Australia gave the same result.
ii) The sample container is sealed with an aluminum metal seal and the condition of the container is as designed, such that the inclusion of the Earth’s atmosphere was kept well below the permissible level during the mission. (iii) Since it was confirmed on the Sagamihara campus that gas of the same composition had been generated even after the removal of the container gas in Australia, it is considered that the collected gas must be due to the degassing from the sample.

Figure 2: Equipment for gas analysis brought to the Woomera Local Headquarters in Australia. Credit: JAXA

This is the world’s first sample return of a material in the gas state from deep space.

The initial analysis team will continue with opening the sample container and performing a detailed analysis of the molecular and isotopic composition of the collected gas.

Provided by JAXA

Powerful Electrical Events Quickly Alter Surface Chemistry on Mars and Other Planetary Bodies (Planetary Science)

Thinking like Earthlings may have caused scientists to overlook the electrochemical effects of Martian dust storms.

On Earth, dust particles are viewed mainly in terms of their physical effects, like erosion. But, in exotic locales from Mars to Venus to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, electrical effects can affect the chemical composition of a planetary body’s surface and atmosphere in a relatively short time, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

Curiosity took this selfie on Martian Sol 2082 (June 15, 2018 Earth time). Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

“This direction of scientific investigation has been largely overlooked in the past,” said Alian Wang, research professor in the Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences in Arts & Sciences. “Researchers are used to thinking ‘inside the box’ based on terrestrial experience.”

Wang’s study in the Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets focuses on amorphous sulfur and chlorine salts found by the Curiosity rover at Gale crater on Mars. The chemical signature of these materials could have been induced by electrochemical processes during Martian dust activities in a relatively short geologic time frame: years to hundreds of years.

Low-strength electrostatic discharge causes electrochemical reactions that transform materials on the Martian surface, Wang explained, causing loss of crystallinity, removal of structural water and oxidation of certain elements like sulfur, chlorine and iron.

“The collective chemical effect of electrostatic discharge can be significant,” Wang said. “This is the core idea of our new study.”

The findings could inform science priorities for the next phase of Mars exploration missions, including NASA’s Perseverance rover, China National Space Administration’s Tianwen-1 lander and rover, and the European Space Agency’s ExoMars lander and rover.

“‘Explore the subsurface’ is the suggestion that we would give to the next phase of Mars exploration missions,” said Bradley Jolliff, the Scott Rudolph Professor of Earth and Planetary Sciences and a co-author on the paper.

“These missions are all seeking evidence for geological and hydrological evolution at their selected landing sites, and they are especially looking for and hoping to collect samples that contain traces of past biological activity,” Jolliff said. “Exploring the subsurface would enable sampling of ancient materials—some of which might still be safekeeping precious biomarkers.”

References: Alian Wang, Yuanchao Yan, Darby M. Dyar, Jen L. Houghton, William M. Farrell, Bradley L. Jolliff, Scott M. McLennan, Erbin Shi, Hongkun Qu. Amorphization of S, Cl‐salts induced by Martian Dust Activities. Journal of Geophysical Research: Planets, 2020; DOI: 10.1029/2020JE006701 https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1029/2020JE006701

Provided by Washington University in St. Louis

The Farthest Galaxy In The Universe (Astronomy)

A team of astronomers used the Keck I telescope to measure the distance to an ancient galaxy. They deduced the target galaxy GN-z11 is not only the oldest galaxy but also the most distant. It’s so distant it defines the very boundary of the observable universe itself. The team hopes this study can shed light on a period of cosmological history when the universe was only a few hundred million years old.

(Upper) The arrow points to the most distant galaxy in the universe. (Lower) Carbon emission lines observed in infrared. When it left the galaxy, the signal was ultraviolet light in the region of 0.2 micrometer, but it was redshifted and stretched to over 10 times that to about 2.28 micrometers. Credit: Kashikawa et al.

We’ve all asked ourselves the big questions at times: “How big is the universe?” or “How and when did galaxies form?” Astronomers take these questions very seriously, and use fantastic tools that push the boundaries of technology to try and answer them. Professor Nobunari Kashikawa from the Department of Astronomy at the University of Tokyo is driven by his curiosity about galaxies. In particular, he sought the most distant one we can observe in order to find out how and when it came to be.

“From previous studies, the galaxy GN-z11 seems to be the farthest detectable galaxy from us, at 13.4 billion light years, or 134 nonillion kilometers (that’s 134 followed by 30 zeros),” said Kashikawa. “But measuring and verifying such a distance is not an easy task.”

Kashikawa and his team measured what’s known as the redshift of GN-z11; this refers to the way light stretches out, becomes redder, the farther it travels. Certain chemical signatures, called emission lines, imprint distinct patterns in the light from distant objects. By measuring how stretched these telltale signatures are, astronomers can deduce how far the light must have traveled, thus giving away the distance from the target galaxy.

“We looked at ultraviolet light specifically, as that is the area of the electromagnetic spectrum we expected to find the redshifted chemical signatures,” said Kashikawa. “The Hubble Space Telescope detected the signature multiple times in the spectrum of GN-z11. However, even the Hubble cannot resolve ultraviolet emission lines to the degree we needed. So we turned to a more up-to-date ground-based spectrograph, an instrument to measure emission lines, called MOSFIRE, which is mounted to the Keck I telescope in Hawaii.”

The MOSFIRE captured the emission lines from GN-z11 in detail, which allowed the team to make a much better estimation on its distance than was possible from previous data. When working with distances at these scales, it is not sensible to use our familiar units of kilometers or even multiples of them; instead, astronomers use a value known as the redshift number denoted by z. Kashikawa and his team improved the accuracy of the galaxy’s z value by a factor of 100. If subsequent observations can confirm this, then the astronomers can confidently say GN-z11 is the farthest galaxy ever detected in the universe.

References: Jiang, L., Kashikawa, N., Wang, S. et al. Evidence for GN-z11 as a luminous galaxy at redshift 10.957. Nat Astron (2020). https://www.nature.com/articles/s41550-020-01275-y https://doi.org/10.1038/s41550-020-01275-y

Provided by University of Tokyo

Researchers Create Gene Expression Database to Gain New Insights Into Pneumococcal Infections (Medicine)

Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine published one of the most comprehensive analyses of how genes get expressed during infection (known as a transcriptome). The analyses include three different strains of the bacteria Streptococcus pneumoniae, which causes pneumonia, meningitis and middle-ear infections. It also includes analyses of the lungs and four other organs in an animal model where the bacteria resides, multiplies and takes hold in the body. Their findings were published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Pneumococcal infections © National Foundation for Infectious Diseases

“Our new analysis provides valuable new information about the animal host and pathogen interactions that take place during pneumococcal infections,” said study principal investigator Hervé Tettelin, Ph.D., a Professor of Microbiology and Immunology, and scientist at the Institute for Genome Sciences in the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It could ultimately help researchers develop new treatments for this bacterial infection.”

Symptoms of pneumococcal infection can include fever, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain, stiff neck, confusion, increased sensitivity to light, joint pain, chills, ear pain, sleeplessness, and irritability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. With the introduction of the first pneumococcal vaccine in 2000, deaths attributable to these infections have declined. However, increasing antibiotic resistance have made some of these infections more difficult to treat.

The University of Maryland School of Medicine researchers collaborated with researchers at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Yale University School of Medicine to analyze gene expression in various infection sites including the nose and throat passages, the heart, bloodstream, lungs, and kidneys. They created an atlas from this gene expression data and found that the bacteria behaves differently depending on which site it infects within the mouse model, and the mouse organs, in turn, also respond differently. They also found certain S. pneumoniae genes were always highly expressed at all anatomical sites, which makes them ideal targets for new vaccines or therapies. In an animal challenge experiment, the researchers found that an anti-inflammatory treatment called interferon beta worked to prevent the bacteria from invading vital organs.

“This promoted host survival and provided us with important insights into potentially new avenues for treatment,” said study co-author Adonis D’Mello, a graduate student in molecular medicine at the Institute for Genome Sciences. “We were able to build upon analytical pipelines to provide a more comprehensive way of studying diverse systemic pathogens.”

Funding was provided through the Merck Investigator Studies Program that supports hypothesis-generating clinical and pre-clinical research that is initiated, designed and implemented by external investigators. This project was also supported with funds from the National Institutes of Health, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

“This is a very exciting basic research finding that could have widespread implications in our understanding of a widespread and potentially dangerous infectious disease,” said E. Albert Reece, MD, Ph.D., MBA, Executive Vice President for Medical Affairs, UM Baltimore, and the John Z. and Akiko K. Bowers Distinguished Professor and Dean, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “It also has broader applicability for the field of transcriptome research to identify potential new treatments for diseases.”

References: Adonis D’Mello et al. An in vivo atlas of host–pathogen transcriptomes during Streptococcus pneumoniae colonization and disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci USA first published December 14, 2020. doi.org/10.1073/pnas.2010428117

Provided by University of Maryland School of Medicine

Climate Change Caused The Demise of Central Asia’s River Civilizations, Not Genghis Khan (Earth Science)

A new study challenges the long-held view that the destruction of Central Asia’s medieval river civilizations was a direct result of the Mongol invasion in the early 13th century CE.

Researchers investigate an abandoned medieval canal, Otrar oasis, Kazakhstan. ©University of Lincoln

The Aral Sea basin in Central Asia and the major rivers flowing through the region were once home to advanced river civilizations which used floodwater irrigation to farm.

The region’s decline is often attributed to the devastating Mongol invasion of the early 13th century, but new research of long-term river dynamics and ancient irrigation networks shows the changing climate and dryer conditions may have been the real cause.

Research led by the University of Lincoln, UK, reconstructed the effects of climate change on floodwater farming in the region and found that decreasing river flow was equally, if not more, important for the abandonment of these previously flourishing city states.

Mark Macklin, author and Distinguished Professor of River Systems and Global Change, and Director of the Lincoln Centre for Water and Planetary Health at the University of Lincoln said: “Our research shows that it was climate change, not Genghis Khan, that was the ultimate cause for the demise of Central Asia’s forgotten river civilizations.

“We found that Central Asia recovered quickly following Arab invasions in the 7th and 8th centuries CE because of favourable wet conditions. But prolonged drought during and following the later Mongol destruction reduced the resilience of local population and prevented the re-establishment of large-scale irrigation-based agriculture.”

The research focused on the archaeological sites and irrigation canals of the Otrar oasis, a UNESCO World Heritage site that was once a Silk Road trade hub located at the meeting point of the Syr Darya and Arys rivers in present southern Kazakhstan.

The researchers investigated the region to determine when the irrigation canals were abandoned and studied the past dynamics of the Arys river, whose waters fed the canals. The abandonment of irrigation systems matches a phase of riverbed erosion between the 10th and 14th century CE, that coincided with a dry period with low river flows, rather than corresponding with the Mongol invasion.

The research was led by the University of Lincoln in collaboration with VU University Amsterdam, University College London, the University of Oxford and JSC Institute of Geography and Water Safety, Almaty, Republic of Kazakhstan. It is published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America and highlights the critical role that rivers can have in shaping world history.

References: Willem H. J. Toonen, Mark G. Macklin, Giles Dawkes, Julie A. Durcan, Max Leman, Yevgeniy Nikolayev, Alexandr Yegorov, “A hydromorphic reevaluation of the forgotten river civilizations of Central Asia”, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Dec 2020, 202009553; DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2009553117 https://www.pnas.org/content/early/2020/12/09/2009553117

Provided by University of Lincoln

Transforming Treatments For Parkinson’s Disease (Psychiatry)

A revolutionary approach to targeting and treating walking problems in people with Parkinson’s disease is being developed at Northumbria University, Newcastle.

Immunohistochemistry for alpha-synuclein showing positive staining (brown) of an intraneural Lewy-body in the Substantia nigra in Parkinson’s disease. Credit: Wikipedia

Problems, such as slow and short steps, are very common in Parkinson’s disease and lead to increased risks of falling, as well as reduced mobility and quality of life. However, there is no medication that can completely restore walking ability in people with Parkinson’s, therefore physiotherapy is required to intervene.

Dr. Sam Stuart, a senior researcher in the Department of Sport, Exercise and Rehabilitation at Northumbria University, acknowledges that while existing physiotherapy strategies do help improve walking among Parkinson’s patients, research needs to establish why these therapies work because not all patients are benefitting from this ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach.

His study, funded by a prestigious Clinical Research Award from the Parkinson’s Foundation, will use state-of-the-art digital technology to measure walking and brain activity changes among patients when they are given various internal and external prompts.

Dr. Stuart said: “Numerous physiotherapy strategies have been used, such as stepping over lines on the floor or stepping in time to a metronome beat, to improve walking in Parkinson’s. However, these interventions haven’t changed in decades and we don’t know why walking improves with these physiotherapy techniques. This has led to not all patients benefiting and only short-term walking improvements being seen.”

“It is unclear if these strategies are effective with the progression of Parkinson’s disease, and we don’t know which type of strategy is most effective at different stages of the disease or with more severe walking impairment, such as freezing, which is the inability to keep walking for short periods despite wanting to do so.”

“By activating specific brain regions, and analyzing brain activity in response to these physiotherapy strategies using the latest digital technology, our aim in this study is to see a change in patients’ response at different stages of Parkinson’s disease.”

Parkinson’s is the largest growing neurological disorder in the world, with one in 37 people at risk of developing the disease in their lifetime.

Being able to use specific brain regions to pay attention to different physiotherapy strategies has often been suggested to be the reason why people with Parkinson’s can overcome their walking problems, but this has never been tested.

According to Dr. Stuart, finally understanding the reasons why people benefit from these physiotherapy strategies and who benefits most from specific interventions, will enable healthcare professionals to provide more timely and efficient treatment for people with Parkinson’s.

“The physiotherapy strategies we currently provide for patients with Parkinson’s don’t work for everybody,” he said. “It’s a bit trial and error so we need more targeted and personalized interventions if we’re going to see a real improvement in walking ability among patients. By developing a better understanding of why these strategies work, we can also develop more effective interventions in the future to further improve walking.”

Provided by Northumbria University