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January 30, 2009, 6:15 AM CT

Bone marrow transplant for multiple sclerosis

Bone marrow transplant for multiple sclerosis
Scientists from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine appear to have reversed the neurological dysfunction of early-stage multiple sclerosis patients by transplanting their own immune stem cells into their bodies and thereby "resetting" their immune systems.

"This is the first time we have turned the tide on this disease," said principal investigator Richard Burt, M.D. chief of immunotherapy for autoimmune diseases at the Feinberg School. The clinical trial waccording toformed at Northwestern Memorial Hospital where Burt holds the same title.

The patients in the small phase I/II trial continued to improve for up to 24 months after the transplantation procedure and then stabilized. They experienced improvements in areas in which they had been affected by multiple sclerosis including walking, ataxia, limb strength, vision and incontinence. The study will be published online January 30 and in the recent issue of The Lancet Neurology

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is an autoimmune disease in which the immune system attacks the central nervous system. Typically in its early stages, the disease is characterized by intermittent neurological symptoms, called relapsing-remitting MS. During this time, the person will either fully or partially recover from the symptoms experienced during the attacks. Common symptoms are visual problems, fatigue, sensory changes, weakness or paralysis of limbs, tremors, lack of coordination, poor balance, bladder or bowel changes and psychological changes.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 30, 2009, 6:06 AM CT

Genes linked to Parkinson's side effects

Genes linked to Parkinson's side effects
People with Parkinson's disease usually suffer a slowing or freezing of movement caused by the death of neurons that make dopamine, a key chemical that allows brain cells to send and receive messages essential to voluntary movements. Patients regain the ability to move, seemingly miraculously, by taking L-DOPA or related drugs that mimic the missing dopamine. After a few years on L-DOPA, however, most patients again lose motor control but in an opposite way. Instead of too little, there is too much movement, like involuntary nodding and rocking side effects known as L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias.

"L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias are a major problem for patients, and there is a great need to help with these drug side effects," said MIT Institute Professor Ann Graybiel, a prominent Parkinson's researcher at the McGovern Institute for Brain Research at MIT.

Graybiel and her colleagues have identified two molecules whose expression in the brain is altered in the brains of animals with L-DOPA-induced dyskinesias. The results may lead to new approaches to the therapy of dyskinesias in Parkinson's patients, of which there are more than 1 million in the United States alone.

"We're very excited because these genes are concentrated in precisely the places that lose dopamine in Parkinson's disease, so they might be reasonable targets to go after therapeutically," Graybiel said. This research was published Jan. 26 in the advance online issue of Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 30, 2009, 6:02 AM CT

How vision sends its message to the brain

How vision sends its message to the brain
Researchers have known for more than 200 years that vision begins with a series of chemical reactions when light strikes the retina, but the specific chemical processes have largely been a mystery. A team of scientists from the United States and Switzerland, have she new light on this process by "capturing" this chemical communication for future study. This research, reported in the February 2009 issue of The FASEB Journal (http://www.fasebj.org), may lead to the development of new therapys for some forms of blindness and vision disorders.

At the center of the discovery is the signaling of rhodopsin to transducin. Rhodopsin is a pigment in the eye that helps detect light. Transducin is a protein (sometimes called "GPCR") which ultimately signals the brain that light is present. The scientists were able to "freeze frame" the chemical communication between rhodopsin and transducin to study how this takes place and what goes wrong at the molecular level in certain disorders.

As per Krzysztof Palczewski, a senior scientist involved in the research, "The results may have important implications for discovery and development of more specific medicines to treat GPCR-linked dysfunction and disease." Examples of health problems involving GPCR dysfunction include blindness, diabetes, allergies, depression, cardiovascular defects and some forms of cancer.........

Posted by: Mike      Read more         Source


January 29, 2009, 6:18 AM CT

Stunning findings at memory research

Stunning findings at memory research
Like countless neuroresearchers around the world, Northwestern University Professor Nelson Spruston knew H. M. well -- his personal story and the sound of his voice. But it wasn't until H. M. died last month that Spruston learned H. M.'s full name -- Henry Gustav Molaison.

In 1953, Molaison, aged 27, had brain surgery to control his severe epilepsy. Both medial temporal lobes were removed, the first and only surgery of its kind. His seizures improved, but he became frozen in time, unable to form new and lasting memories. When Molaison died, his body was 82, but his mind and personality were in a number of ways still 27.

Molaison's experience has pointed Spruston and other researchers interested in understanding learning and memory to the temporal lobe, especially the hippocampus. In a newly released study would be reported in the Jan. 29 issue of the journal Neuron, Spruston and his research team report discovering a new cellular mechanism that could be critical to the formation of memories in the hippocampus.

Something in the brain must change in response to experience in order for individuals to learn. Spruston and colleagues studied the electrical output of neurons and discovered that two different types of neuronal metabotropic receptors together produce biochemical changes that change the way a neuron fires, increasing the neuron's electrical output and strengthening the signals it sends to other brain regions, including those involved in reward and decision making.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 28, 2009, 6:13 AM CT

How memories change in the brain over time

How memories change in the brain over time
A new brain imaging study illustrates what happens to memories as time goes by. The study, in the January 28 issue of The Journal of Neuroscience, shows that distinct brain structures are involved in recalling recent and older events.

The findings support earlier studies of memory-impaired patients with damage limited to the hippocampus. These patients show deficits in learning new information and in recalling events that occurred just previous to their injuries. However, they are able to recall older events, which are thought to involve other regions of the brain, especially the cortex.

"It has long been known that older memories are more resistant to hippocampal damage than newer memories, and this was thought to reflect the fact that the hippocampus becomes less involved in remembering as a memory gets older," said Russell Poldrack, PhD, an expert on the cognitive and neural mechanisms of memory at the University of California, Los Angeles, who was not involved in the study. "However, there has been a recent debate over whether the hippocampus ever really stops being involved, even for older memories," Poldrack said.

To address this debate, Christine Smith, PhD, and Larry Squire, PhD, at the University of California, San Diego and the San Diego VA Medical Center, imaged study participants as they answered 160 questions about news events that occurred over the past 30 years. The hippocampus and related brain structures were most active when recalling recent events. Hippocampal activity gradually declined as participants recalled events that were 1-12 years old and remained low when they recalled events that were 13-30 years old.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 28, 2009, 6:09 AM CT

Will acupuncture relieve your pain?

Will acupuncture relieve your pain?
The pain relieving effects of acupuncture compared with placebo are small and seem to lack clinical relevance, as per a research studypublished on bmj.com today.

Scientists at the Nordic Cochrane Centre in Copenhagen analysed evidence from thirteen acupuncture pain trials involving over 3,000 patients. The trials compared three arms of therapy (real acupuncture, placebo or 'pretend' acupuncture or no acupuncture) for a broad range of common conditions such as knee osteoarthritis, migraine, low back pain and post-operative pain.

Before the analysis, differences in study design and quality were taken into account to minimise bias.

They found a small analgesic effect of real acupuncture in comparison to placebo acupuncture. This corresponded to a reduction in pain levels of about 4mm on a 100mm pain scoring scale. A 10mm reduction on this scale is classed as 'minimal' or 'little change' so the apparent analgesic effect of acupuncture seems to be below a clinically relevant pain improvement, say the authors.

They found a moderate difference between placebo acupuncture and no acupuncture (10mm on a 100mm pain scoring scale), but the effect of placebo acupuncture varied considerably. Some large trials reported effects of placebo that were of clear clinical relevance (24mm), whereas other large trials found effects that seemed clinically irrelevant (5mm).........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


January 28, 2009, 6:06 AM CT

Neural mechanisms of empathy

Neural mechanisms of empathy
Is it possible to share a pain that you observe in another but have never actually experienced yourself? A newly released study uses a sophisticated brain-imaging technique to try and answer this question. The research, published by Cell Press in the January 29th issue of the journal Neuron, provides insight into brain mechanisms involved in empathy.

Brain-imaging studies have shown similar patterns of brain activity when subjects feel their own emotions or observe the same emotions in others. It has been suggested that a person who has never experienced a specific feeling would have a difficult time directly empathizing with a person through a "mirror matching" mechanism that requires prior experience and would instead have to rely on a higher inferential processes called "perspective taking."

"Patients with congenital insensitivity to pain (CIP) offer a unique opportunity to test this model of empathy by exploring how the lack of self-pain representation might influence the perception of others' pain," explains main author Dr. Nicolas Danziger from the Department of Clinical Neurophysiology and Pain Center at the Pitie-Salpetriere in Paris, France.

Dr. Danziger and his colleagues had previously shown that CIP patients underestimated the pain of others when emotional cues were lacking and, in contrast with control subjects, the ability to fully acknowledge others' pain depended on a capacity for empathy. In this study, the scientists used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to compare brain activation patterns in CIP patients and controls who were asked to imagine the feelings of a person in a photo that showed body parts in painful situations or facial expressions of pain.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 26, 2009, 6:21 AM CT

Brain's memory 'buffer' in single cells

Brain's memory 'buffer' in single cells
Dr. Don Cooper and colleagues have reported that individual nerve cells in the front part of the brain can hold traces of memories on their own for as long as a minute and possibly longer. The finding has implications for addiction, attention disorders and stress-related memory loss.

Credit: UT Southwestern Medical Center
Individual nerve cells in the front part of the brain can hold traces of memories on their own for as long as a minute and possibly longer, scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

The study, available online and appearing in the recent issue of Nature Neuroscience, is the first to identify the specific signal that establishes nonpermanent cellular memory and reveals how the brain holds temporary information. It has implications for addiction, attention disorders and stress-related memory loss, said Dr. Don Cooper, assistant professor of psychiatry at UT Southwestern and senior author of the study conducted in mice.

Scientists have known that permanent memories are stored when the excitatory amino acid glutamate activates ion channels on nerve cells in the brain to reorganize and strengthen the cells' connections with one another. But this process takes minutes to hours to turn on and off and is too slow to buffer, or temporarily hold, rapidly incoming information.

The scientists observed that rapid-fire inputs less than a second long initiate a cellular memory process in single cells lasting as long as minute, a process called metabotropic glutamate transmission. This transmission in the most highly evolved brain region holds moment-to-moment information.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 19, 2009, 11:45 PM CT

Stimulating the brain to improve motor skills

Stimulating the brain to improve motor skills
People who received a mild electrical current to a motor control area of the brain were significantly better able to learn and perform a complex motor task than those in control groups. The findings could hold promise for enhancing rehabilitation for people with traumatic brain injury, stroke and other conditions.

The study is presented in the January 20, 2009 early online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and was conducted by scientists at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research team from NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) worked in collaboration with researchers at Columbia University in New York City and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Motor skills, which are used for activities from typing and driving, to sports, require practice and learning over a prolonged period of time. During practice, the brain encodes information about how to perform the task, but even during periods of rest, the brain is still at work strengthening the memory of doing the task. This process is known as consolidation.

Subjects in this study were presented with a novel and challenging motor task, which involved squeezing a "joy stick" to play a targeting game on a computer monitor, which they practiced over five consecutive days. During practice, one group received 20 minutes of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) and the other group received only a 30 second "sham" stimulation. tDCS involves mild electrical stimulation applied through surface electrodes on the head, and works by modulating the excitability, or activity, of cells in the brain's outermost layers. In this study, Dr. Cohen and his team directed tDCS to the primary motor cortex, the part of the brain that controls movement.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 15, 2009, 6:45 PM CT

Dementia in the environment of universal health care

Dementia in the environment of universal health care
A newly released study has observed that in spite of their universal health care system which facilitates access to free dementia care, elderly adults in the United Kingdom are less willing to undergo dementia screening than their counterparts in the U.S. because the Britons perceive greater societal stigma from diagnosis of the disease than do Americans.

Scientists surveyed 125 elderly adults in Indianapolis and 120 elderly adults in Kent, England, on their opinions on the perceived harms and benefits of dementia screening. None of those surveyed had been diagnosed with dementia, however significantly more of the U.K. participants (48 percent) had close friends or relatives who have or had Alzheimer's disease in comparison to U.S. participants (27 percent).

The study of public attitudes toward early detection of dementia across different health-care systems was conducted by scientists from Indiana University in the United States and the universities of Kent and London in the United Kingdom. The research was funded in part by the U.S. National Institute on Aging, and appears in an advance online publication of the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry

"From my prospective, it was a genuine surprise that having a universal health care system, which provides services and support to all those who need it, didn't protect from perceived stigma and negativity," said the study's corresponding author, Malaz Boustani, M.D., assistant professor of medicine at the IU School of Medicine and a Regenstrief Institute research scientist.........

Posted by: JoAnn      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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