Speech bubble formed by a network of communication
Illustration by Laurène Boglio

Community Newsletter: Registered reports; cerebellum genome; octopus brain waves

The research community was abuzz this week with chatter about Nature’s new policy on registered reports, a 3D genome atlas of the cerebellum, and a study that measured brain activity in freely moving octopuses.

This week, researchers on Twitter discussed the announcement that Nature plans to consider registered reports, a type of research article that a journal commits to publishing — before the results are known — so long as the research questions and methods pass peer review.

The journal started accepting the new format “for confirmatory research in cognitive neuroscience and the behavioral/social sciences” as of 22 February, tweeted Mary Elizabeth Sutherland, senior editor at Nature.

The policy is intended to address the tendency journals have to publish predominantly positive research results. “An elegant and robust study should be appreciated as much for its methodology as for its results,” Nature stated in an editorial. (Spectrum publishes a monthly newsletter dedicated to replications and null results.)

Chris Chambers, professor of psychology at Cardiff University in Wales, who was involved in the creation of registered reports, applauded the “leadership and professional courage” it took for the editors at Nature to embrace the format. “The gauntlet is now down” for other journals to follow suit, he tweeted.

Registered reports “offer a solution to publication bias, ending the scourge of the skewed evidence base,” tweeted Hamid Khan, open research manager at Imperial College London in England.

Aki Nikolaidis, a research scientist in the Center for the Developing Brain at the Child Mind Institute in New York City, applauded the move as a way to “increase the visibility of high quality research in human neuroscience.”

“Why would anyone want to risk doing science without registered reports when you can get your ideas and protocol peer reviewed (and improved) before data collection and analyst?” tweeted Enrico Glerean, staff scientist and data agent at Aalto Unversity in Espoo, Finland.

Elsewhere on Twitter, scientists discussed a new 3D genome atlas of cerebellar neurons in humans and mice over time. “The 3D architecture of our genome has long been implicated in development & aging,” but until now, it has never been measured across the lifespan, tweeted Longzhi Tan, assistant professor of neurobiology at Stanford University in California, in a Twitter thread describing he and his colleagues’ preprint, posted on bioRxiv in February.

Tan and his team found that the genome’s architecture changes gradually throughout life, which could help reveal how neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism alter neuronal function.

Spectrum previously covered this research when it was presented at Neuroscience 2022.

One surprising finding of the study is that cerebellar granule cells mirror “a truly bizarre phenomenon that we previously observed only in neurons of the nose,” Tan tweeted —namely, neurons in the nose establish specific inter-chromosomal contact over the lifespan.

“Happy to see that what was once thought a peculiarity of the bizarre olfactory neurons is used by many neuronal types!” tweeted Stavros Lomvardas, professor of biochemistry, molecular biophysics and neuroscience at Columbia University, who made the initial observation.

Histone RNA expression increased significantly in two specific brain areas even during prenatal cerebellar development, tweeted Kimberly Aldinger, assistant professor of genetic medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, referring to a study published June 21 in Nature Neuroscience.

“Very exciting findings about 3D genome changes in the aging cerebellum,” tweeted Li Wang, a postdoctoral researcher in Arnold Kriegstein’s lab at the University of California, San Francisco.

Lastly, researchers on twitter praised new results in Current Biology that featured the first recordings of brain activity in freely moving octopuses. To do this, the researchers implanted electrodes into the learning and memory centers of the octopuses’ brains.

“Octopus’ cognitive abilities are fascinating: not unlike those of vertebrates, yet the evolutionary lines diverged ~550 million years ago,” tweeted the University of Göttingen in Germany.

“First I need to know how they got their octopus to behave. Mine is an unruly nightmare,” tweeted Michael Feigin, associate professor of oncology at Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in Buffalo, New York, in reference to the title of the paper.

That’s it for this week’s Community Newsletter! If you have any suggestions for interesting social posts you saw in the autism research sphere, feel free to send an email to [email protected].

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter (@Spectrum), Instagram and LinkedIn.