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February 11, 2009, 6:10 AM CT

Improve memory by increasing brain processing speed

Improve memory by increasing brain processing speed
Mayo Clinic scientists observed that healthy, elderly adults who participated in a computer-based training program to improve the speed and accuracy of brain processing showed twice the improvement in certain aspects of memory, in comparison to a control group.

"What's unique in this study is that brain-processing activities seemed to help aspects of memory that were not directly exercised by the program -- a new finding in memory research," says Glenn Smith, Ph.D., Mayo Clinic neuropsychology expert and lead researcher on the study.

The research, a controlled, multisite, double-blind study, would be reported in the recent issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society A copy is available online Feb. 9, 2009.

For an hour a day, five days a week for eight weeks, study participants worked on computer-based activities in their homes. The participants, from Minnesota and California, were age 65 or older. No one had a diagnosis of cognitive impairment, such as early Alzheimer's disease.

The control group, with 245 adults, watched educational videos on art, history and literature topics. They completed quizzes on the content.

The experimental treatment group, with 242 adults, completed six auditory exercises designed to help the brain improve the speed and accuracy of processing. For example, participants were asked to distinguish between high- and low-pitched sounds. To start, the sounds were slow and distinct. Gradually, the speed increased and separation disappeared.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 10, 2009, 6:07 AM CT

MRI to predict Alzheimer's

MRI to predict Alzheimer's
Using special MRI methods, scientists have identified a pattern of regional brain atrophy in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) that indicates a greater likelihood of progression to Alzheimer's disease. The findings appear in the online edition of Radiology

"Previously, this pattern has been observed only after a diagnosis of probable Alzheimer's disease," said the study's main author, Linda K. McEvoy, Ph.D., assistant project scientist in the Department of Radiology at the University of California San Diego School of Medicine in La Jolla. "Our results show that some individuals with MCI have the atrophy pattern characteristic of mild Alzheimer's disease, and these people are at higher risk of experiencing a faster rate of brain degeneration and a faster decline to dementia than individuals with MCI who do not show that atrophy pattern".

As per the Alzheimer's Association, more than five million Americans currently have Alzheimer's disease. One of the goals of modern neuroimaging is to help in early and accurate diagnosis, which can be challenging. There is no cure for Alzheimer's disease, but when it is diagnosed early, drug therapy may help improve or stabilize patient symptoms.

In Alzheimer's disease, nerve cell death and tissue loss cause areas of the brain to atrophy. Structural MRI allows radiologists to visualize subtle anatomic changes in the brain that signal atrophy. MCI is linked to an increased risk of progression to Alzheimer's disease. Rates of progression vary. Some patients progress rapidly, while others remain stable for relatively long periods of time.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 6, 2009, 6:18 AM CT

Vitamin D and MS related gene

Vitamin D and MS related gene
Vitamin D containing food itmes
Scientists have found evidence that a direct interaction between vitamin D and a common genetic variant alters the risk of developing multiple sclerosis (MS). The research, published on 6 February in the open-access journal PLoS Genetics, suggests that vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy and the early years may increase the risk of the offspring developing MS during the later part of life.

MS is the most common disabling neurological condition affecting young adults. More than 85,000 people in the UK and 2.5 million worldwide are thought to suffer from the condition, which results from the loss of nerve fibres and their protective myelin sheath in the brain and spinal cord, causing neurological damage.

The causes of MS are unclear, but it has become evident that both environmental and genetic factors play a role. Prior studies have shown that populations from Northern Europe have increased MS risk if they live in areas receiving less sunshine. This supports a direct link between deficiency in vitamin D, which is produced in the body through the action of sunlight, and increased risk of developing the disease.

The largest genetic effect by far comes from the region on chromosome six containing the gene variant known as DRB1*1501 and from adjacent DNA sequences. Whilst one in 1,000 people in the UK are likely to develop MS, this number rises to around one in 300 amongst those carrying a single copy of the variant and one in 100 of those carrying two copies.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 4, 2009, 6:01 AM CT

a Novel Gene is Causing Restless Legs Syndrome

a Novel Gene is Causing Restless Legs Syndrome
In 2005, a woman who had trouble sleeping asked Siong-Chi Lin, M.D., for help. Dr. Lin, a sleep disorders specialist at the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida, diagnosed restless legs syndrome. This common neurologic disorder interrupts sleep because of unpleasant sensations in the legs at rest, particularly in the evening, that are temporarily relieved by movement.

Restless legs syndrome affects between 5 and 11 percent of the population in North America and Europe, says Dr. Lin. The cause appears to be many clinical factors, such as iron deficiency, but it has a strong genetic component as well. "In most people, it is likely due to many different causes, but genes are very likely the most important factor in affected families," he says.

Medications, particularly agents that increase transmission of dopamine in brain neurons, are effective in a number of people and worked for his new patient, says Dr. Lin. "The syndrome may appear as a nuisance for most people, however it can also seriously affect some people's quality of life," he says.

Dr. Lin's patient told him that a number of of her relatives also have the same trouble sleeping - difficulties she could trace back through her ancestry.

With the patient's approval, that information was relayed to "gene hunters" in Mayo Clinic's neurosciences department. These researchers have established an international reputation for their ability to find the genetic roots of rare, as well as common, neurological disorders. Dr. Lin accompanied researchers to Indiana, the hub of the extended family, which is thought to beof English descent, to interview dozens of individuals spanning multiple generations. They observed that 30 relatives were affected by restless legs syndrome, and discovered that almost three times as a number of females had the condition in comparison to males.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 4, 2009, 5:59 AM CT

Disproving a 15-year-old Theory

Disproving a 15-year-old Theory
A delay in traffic may cause a headache, but a delay in the nervous system can cause much more. University of Missouri scientists have uncovered clues identifying which proteins are involved in the development of the nervous system and observed that the proteins previously thought to play a significant role, in fact, do not. Understanding how the nervous system develops will give scientists a better understanding of neurological diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and Charcot-Marie-Tooth disorders.

"Speed is the key to the nervous system," said Michael Garcia, investigator in the Christopher S. Bond Life Sciences Center and assistant professor of biological sciences in the MU College of Arts and Science. "The peripheral nervous system 'talks' to muscles through nerve impulses in response to external stimuli. When babies are born, they do not have fully developed nervous systems, and their systems run slower. Eventually, the nervous system matures. Our study tried to understand that maturation process".

The process of nerve cells maturation is called myelination. During myelination, a layer of myelin (electrically insulating material) wraps or forms around the axons (part of the nerve cell that conducts electrical impulses). Nerve impulses travel faster in myelinated nerve cells.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 3, 2009, 6:21 AM CT

How fast will you lose your memory?

How fast will you lose your memory?
While a higher level of education may help lower the risk of Alzheimer's disease, new research shows that once educated people start to become forgetful, a higher level of education does not appear to protect against how fast they will lose their memory. The research is reported in the February 3, 2009, print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

In the study, researchers tested the thinking skills of 6,500 people with an average age of 72 from the Chicago area with different levels of education. The education level of people in the study ranged from eight years of school or fewer to 16 or more years of schooling. Interviews and tests about memory and thinking functions were given every three years for an average of 6.5 years.

At the beginning of the study, those with more education had better memory and thinking skills than those with less education. However, education was not correlation to how rapidly these skills declined during the course of the study.

The study observed that results remained the same regardless of other factors correlation to education such as occupation and race and the effects of practice with the tests.

"This is an interesting and important finding because researchers have long debated whether aging and memory loss tend to have a lesser affect on highly educated people. While education is linked to the memory's ability to function at a higher level, we found no link between higher education and how fast the memory loses that ability," says study author Robert S. Wilson, PhD, with the Alzheimer's Disease Center at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 2, 2009, 6:27 AM CT

Restless syndrome in pregnancy

Restless syndrome in pregnancy
A study in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal Sleep shows that the elevation in estradiol levels that occurs during pregnancy is more pronounced in pregnant women with restless legs syndrome (RLS) than in controls.

During the last trimester of pregnancy, levels of the estrogenic steroid hormone estradiol were 34,211 pg/mL in women with RLS and 25,475 pg/mL in healthy controls. At three months postpartum, estradiol levels had dropped to 30.73 pg/mL in the RLS group and 94.92 pg/mL in controls. Other hormone levels did not differ significantly between the study groups.

As per the authors the data strongly suggest that estrogens play an important role in RLS during pregnancy. The study also supports prior reports of high RLS incidence in the last trimester of pregnancy when estradiol is maximally elevated.

"Our findings strongly support the concept that neuroactive hormones play a relevant pathophysiological role in RLS," said principal investigator Thomas Pollmacher, MD, director of the Center for Medical Health at Klinikum Ingolstadt and professor of psychiatry at Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich, Gera number of. "This information will increase the understanding of RLS in pregnancy and will assist in the development of specific therapeutic approaches".........

Posted by: Emily      Read more         Source


February 2, 2009, 6:16 AM CT

Parkinson's disease genes and manganese poisoning

Parkinson's disease genes and manganese poisoning
The Yeast PARK9 protein (Ypk9) is localized to the vacuole membrane. Shown are yeast cells expressing Ypk9 fused to the green fluorescent protein.

Credit: Alessandra Chesi, Ph.D., and Aaron Gitler, Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania
A correlation between genetic and environmental causes of Parkinson's disease has been discovered by a research team led by Aaron D. Gitler, PhD, Assistant Professor in the Department of Cell and Developmental Biology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Gitler and his colleagues found a genetic interaction between two Parkinson's disease genes (alpha-synuclein and PARK9) and determined that the PARK9 protein can protect cells from manganese poisoning, which is an environmental risk factor for a Parkinson's disease-like syndrome. The findings appear online this week in Nature Genetics

Manganism, or manganese poisoning, is prevalent in such occupations as mining, welding, and steel manufacturing. It is caused by exposure to excessive levels of the metal manganese, which attacks the central nervous system, producing motor and dementia symptoms that resemble Parkinson's disease.

In Parkinson's patients, the alpha-synuclein protein normally found in the brain misfolds, forming clumps. Yeast cells, the model system in which Gitler studies disease proteins, also form clumps and die when this protein is expressed at high levels. These are the same yeast cells that bakers and brewers use to make bread, beer, and wine.

As a postdoctoral fellow at the Whitehead Institute in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Gitler and his colleagues started looking for genes that could prevent the cell death caused by mis-folded alpha-synuclein in yeast. Eventually they found a few genes to test in animal models and some were able to protect neurons from the toxic effects of alpha-synuclein. "One of the genes that we found was a previously uncharacterized yeast gene called YOR291W. No one knew what it did back in 2006," he recalls.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 2, 2009, 6:10 AM CT

Drug improves learning and memory

Drug improves learning and memory
WASHINGTON A team of Arizona psychology experts, geneticists and neuroresearchers has reported that a safe and effective drug used to treat vascular problems in the brain has improved spatial learning and working memory in middle-aged rats. Eventhough far from proving anything about human use of the drug, the finding supports the scientific quest for a substance that could treat progressive cognitive impairment, cushion the cognitive impact of normal aging, or even enhance learning and memory throughout the life span.

The finding appears in the recent issue of Behavioral Neuroscience, which is published by the American Psychological Association. The drug in question, Fasudil, has been used for more than 10 years to treat vascular problems in the brain, often helping with recovery from stroke.

In this study, the scientists injected hydroxyfasudil, the active form of Fasudil, into middle-aged (17-18 months old) male rats daily starting four days before behavioral testing and continuing throughout testing. Injection made it easy to give the drug to rats, but people take it in pill form.

Rats were tested on the water radial-arm maze, which assessed how well they remembered which of the radiating arms had a reward, a sign of accurate spatial learning and working memory. Rats given a high dose (0.3750 mg per kg of weight) of hydroxyfasudil successfully remembered more items of information than those given a low dose (0.1875 mg per kg). Both dosed groups performed significantly better than control-group rats given saline solution. On this same test, the high-dose group showed the best learning (fewest total errors) and best working memory (measured two different ways).........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 30, 2009, 6:29 AM CT

Avoiding hitting the snooze button

Avoiding hitting the snooze button
Researchers from Queen Mary, University of London have discovered a new part of the mechanism which allows our bodyclocks to reset themselves on a molecular level.

Circadian clocks regulate the daily fluctuations of a number of physiological and behavioural aspects in life, and are synchronised with our surrounding environment via light or temperature cycles. Natural changes in the length of the day mean that an animal's circadian clock often has to reset itself on a molecular level, to avoid getting out of sync with the changing calendar.

Professor Ralf Stanewsky and his team from Queen Mary's School of Biological and Chemical Sciences study the circadian clocks of Drosophila, a type of fruit fly. Writing in the journal Current Biology, they report that the resetting process is governed by three factors, called Cryptochrome, Jetlag and Timeless.

The team's findings suggest that the light responses of circadian clocks are fine tuned on a molecular, by small differences in the binding affinities of clock proteins.

Professor Stanewsky explains: "A circadian photoreceptor called Cry is activated by light in the blue spectrum. Once active, Cry then becomes able to bind to a protein called Jetlag. The Jetlag protein then helps to destroy another protein called Timeless, which is used to reset the bodyclock.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
The drug Ativan is better than Valium or Dilantin for controlling severe epileptic seizures, according to a new review of studies.Ativan, or lorazepam, and Valium, or diazepam, are both benzodiazepines, the currently preferred class of drugs for treating severe epileptic seizures. Dilantin, or phenytoin, is an anticonvulsant long used for the treatment of epileptic seizures.

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