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Xjenza Online Vol. 5 Iss. 1 - September 2017
Xjenza Online Vol. 5 Iss. 1 - September 2017 ISSUE: Xjenza Online Vol. 5 Iss. 1 - September 2017



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Editorial
Editorial
Giuseppe Di Giovanni
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Article
Targeting the Serotonin (5-HT) System to Control Seizures
Vincenzo Crunelli, Magor L. Lörincz, Szabina Furdan, Gergely Orban, Roberto Colangeli, Francis Delicata, Gabriele Deidda, Adrian Attard Trevisan, Massimo Pierucci, Giuseppe Di Giovanni
Pages: 3 - 14
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Abstract:
Compelling animal and human evidence suggests that serotonin plays an important role in the pathophysiology of epilepsy as it is involved in iperexcitability, epileptogenesis, seizure generation, depression and psychiatric disorders comorbid with epilepsy. Serotonin involvement in epilepsy is complex; the reasons are twofold i) epilepsy is in reality a spectrum disorder, and ii) serotonin effects vary from one form of epilepsy to another, due also to the different serotonin receptors involved. Here, we will focus on the role of serotonin and its 5-HT2 receptors in absence epilepsy. Our recent pharmacological experimental evidence in GAERS will be reviewed together with our preliminary optogenetic results. 5-HT2C receptor agonists may represent a new approach to interfere with seizure generation and seizure management. Our optogenetic experiments also indicate that by modulating rhythmic cortical activity, optogenetic stimulation of the serotonergic system may provide seizure control without the adverse effects induced by pharmacological activation of 5-HT2C receptors. Thus, targeting the serotonergic system could provide novel insights into the pathophysiological mechanisms of seizure generation and lead to potentially novel treatments.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2017.1.01
Article
Legislative Entrenchment and Enforcement of Medical and Surgical Practice in Malta, 1801–1901
Raymond Mangion
Pages: 15 - 20
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Abstract:
The late Maltese medical historian Dr Paul Cassar published his magnum opus on Malta’s Medical History first in 1964, and is now well over 50 years old but still very valid for elaborations and re-evaluations on the subject-matter. This article is meant to re-visit Dr Cassar’s research on medical and surgical practice in Malta (or the Maltese Islands, including Gozo) under the first century of British rule by way of an amplification of the relevant legal sources and literature, and by focusing on the role and function which legislation played as a means of entrenchment and enforcement of the system. It is intended to show that legislation as a social science is more than a document that enjoins principles and concepts, and has been an instrument of application and coercion in relation to vital human interest. This contribution will cover the first 100 years of British rule because in their course the foundations of the present-day medical and surgical system were prepared and laid.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2017.1.02
Article
Matching Biological Motion Across Viewpoints
Nicola Ballarini, Ian M. Thornton
Pages: 21 - 29
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Abstract:
There has been much debate as to how objects can be recognized across viewpoint changes. Here we ask whether viewpoint changes affect performance when participants make judgements about human actions depicted as point-light stimuli. Previous research has suggested that bodies may be “special” objects and may thus be immune to such viewpoint costs. We used a concurrent matching task in which three dynamic pointlight figures performed familiar actions taken from a standard biological motion database. On each trial the action performed by the central “target” figure was also performed by one of the two flanking figures. The task was to make a speeded left/right response to indicate which flanker was copying the target. Separate, random depth orientations were assigned to the two flanking figures and the target could either have the same orientation or appear with an offset of 45 or 90 relative to the matching flanker. The starting animation frame was randomly chosen for each of the three figures. We found that viewpoint differences between the target and matching flanker affected both speed and accuracy. This indicates that the recognition of human bodies depicted as biological motion stimuli is viewpoint-dependent, as with many other types of object. We also suggest that concurrent matching is a flexible tool for exploring biological motion as decisions can be made on a variety of actions without the need for explicit action-naming or training.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2017.1.03
Article
Tourette Syndrome: Do Reduced Histamine Levels Induce an Increase in Spontaneous Repetitive Behaviour?
Beppe Aquilina, Ruben J. Cauchi
Pages: 30 - 35
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
Gilles de la Tourette syndrome (TS) is a disabling neuropsychiatric disorder characterised by persistent motor and vocal tics. Comorbidity of TS with other neuropsychiatric conditions such as obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism is frequent. TS has a significant genetic contribution and, in this regard, several susceptibility loci have been identified including the histidine decarboxylase (HDC) gene, which encodes an enzyme that is essential for histamine synthesis. Animal models of human disease are key to identify genetic and, importantly, pharmacological modifiers of phenotypes that mimic those present in the human condition. HDC is highly conserved throughout different species including the fruit fly Drosophila melanogaster. Aiming at uncovering TS-like phenotypes, in the present study we investigated repetitive grooming behaviour in flies that have reduced histamine levels as a result of a mutation in the hdc-encoding gene. We find that histamine deficiency in Drosophila is not associated with an increase in spontaneous repetitive grooming behaviour but rather a decrease. We speculate that the grooming behaviour in Drosophila hdc knockouts is not a translationally relevant TS phenotype. Future work should investigate whether stereotypy can be induced in the same mutants after pharmacological challenge or stress induction.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2017.1.04
Article
A Preliminary Survey and Taxonomy of Wild Roses (Rosa Spp.) Occurring on the Maltese Islands
Stephen Mifsud
Pages: 36 - 56
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Abstract:
Rosa spp. are neglected and understudied for the Maltese flora, where only three species have been reported. R. sempervirens L. is the only native rose established in at least 12 locations in Malta. R. gallica L. s. l. (including hybrids) and R. canina L. s. l. are only mentioned in historical literature with doubtful occurrences. However, there are several other roses occurring naturally in Malta, which are probably not studied due to the difficulties in identification. A study carried out between May and July 2016 has resulted in the examination of 27 populations of wild or naturally occurring roses, of which twelve species, hybrids or cultivars have been recorded, eight of which are new for the Maltese flora. In addition, new locations or rediscoveries of R. canina and R. gallica s. l. have been found and, hence, are still extant in the Maltese Islands.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2017.1.05
Article
A Concurrent Engineering Approach to Develop BioMEMS Employed in a Deep Brain Stimulator Integrated with a Drug Delivery System
Abigail Cutajar, Philip Farrugia, Owen Casha, Pierre Vella
Pages: 57 - 68
Abstract | View full article | PDF
Abstract:
This paper presents an Integrated Product Development (IPD) based model to specifically develop bio-medical micro-electro-mechanical-systems (BioMEMS). The concurrent engineering model is based on the IPD model phases, which are presented and formulated by the Integration DEFinition (IDEF) modelling language. To evaluate the IPD model, a case study concerning the development of a BioMEMS device for a deep brain stimulation (DBS) system was investigated. By following the relevant mechanisms and controls in the model, a design concept of a wireless headmounted DBS implant integrated with a drug delivery system (DDS) was conceived. The contribution of this paper is the IDEF model, which provides a road map to the product development team members in order to take a concurrent engineering approach to develop Bio- MEMS. The qualitative feedback received from the identified stakeholders, together with the quality of the case study employed, namely, an integrated DBS and DDS solution, indicate a degree of evidence that the model provides a sound basis in this direction.

Doi: 10.7423/XJENZA.2017.1.06
Article
Opening Speech by President of Malta Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca at the 6th Mediterranean Neuroscience Society Conference, Organized by the Mediterranean Neuroscience Society
H.E. Marie-Louise Coleiro Preca
Pages: 69 - 71
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Article
The Endocannabinoid System – A Look Back and Ahead
Raphael Mechoulam
Pages: 72 - 73
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Article
Autism, Schizophrenia and Alzheimer’s Disease: A Common Thread from Neuropeptides to Brain Regulating Genes
Illana Gozes
Pages: 74 - 76
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Article
Native Language (L1) Transfer in Second Language Learning: From Form to Concept, the Implications
Samantha Austen
Pages: 77 - 80
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Article
Science in the Citadel
Colleen Bower
Pages: 81 - 82
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Article
Xjenza Online at MNS2017 Malta
Giuseppe Di Giovanni, David C. Magri
Pages: 83 - 85
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