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September 3, 2009, 7:34 AM CT

Regenerating brain tissue in traumatic injuries

Regenerating brain tissue in traumatic injuries
Four weeks after a TBI lesion on a rat's brain with hydrogel treatment. This is a mosaic image reconstruction of the lesion. A well-structured vasculature network was rebuilt at the lesion filled with the hydrogel. Green is neurofilament staining for neurites, and red is Reca-1 staining for blood vessels.

Credit: Clemson University

An injectable biomaterial gel may help brain tissue grow at the site of a traumatic brain injury, as per findings by a Clemson.

University bioengineer.

Research by assistant professor of bioengineering Ning Zhang shows that the.

biomaterial gel made up of both synthetic and natural sources has the potential to spur the growth of a patient's own neural stem cells in the body, structurally repairing the brain injury site. In prior lab studies, Zhang has demonstrated the reconstruction of a complete vascular network at the injury site as an initial step toward brain tissue regeneration.

Zhang presented her findings Wednesday, Sept. 2, at the Military Research Forum in Kansas City. The conference is geared toward improving the overall health and welfare of the U.S. armed forces, their families, veterans and the American public.

"We have seen an increase in brain injuries due to combat, but our strategy can also potentially be applied to head injuries caused by car accidents, falls and gunshot wounds," said Zhang. "These results that we are seeing in.

adult lab rats are the first of its kind and show a sustained functional recovery in the animal model of TBI (traumatic brain injury). It also.

represents one of very few in the traumatic brain injury field that attempts structural repair of the lesion cavity using a tissue-engineering approach".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 28, 2009, 6:43 AM CT

Feelings of hopelessness linked to stroke risk in healthy women

Feelings of hopelessness linked to stroke risk in healthy women
Healthy middle-aged women with feelings of hopelessness appear to experience thickening of the neck arteries, which can be a precursor to stroke, as per new research out of the University of Minnesota Medical School.

The study, published online today in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association, observed that hopelessness negative thinking and feelings of uselessness affects arteries independent of clinical depression and before women develop clinically relevant cardiovascular disease.

Scientists looked at 559 women (average age 50, 62 percent white, 38 percent African American) who were generally healthy and did not show signs of clinical cardiovascular disease.

They measured hopelessness with a two-item questionnaire assessing expectancies regarding future and personal goals. Depressive symptoms were measured with a 20-item Center for Epidemiologic Studies Depression Scale. Thickness of neck arteries was assessed using ultrasound.

The study found a consistent, progressive, and linear association between increasing neck artery thickness and rising levels of hopelessness. The overall difference in arterial thickening between women with higher versus lower hopelessness scores, about.02 millimeters (mm), was equal to about one year of thickening. Those with the highest hopelessness scores had an average.06 mm greater thickening than those in the lowest group a clinically significant difference. This correlation remained after adjusting for any influence of age, race, income, cardiovascular risk factors, and depression.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 26, 2009, 11:13 PM CT

Getting wired: how the brain does it

Getting wired: how the brain does it
In a newly released study, scientists at the Montreal Neurological Institute and Hospital (The Neuro), McGill University have found an important mechanism involved in setting up the vast communications network of connections in the brain.

A signaling pathway involving interactions between a schizophrenia-linked gene product, Calcineurin, and a transcription factor known as Nuclear Factor in Activated T-cells (NFAT) contributes to the connectivity at nerve cell (neuron) junctions or synapses and affects the extent of nerve cell projections or dendritic branches, in the visual system. The results of this study, reported in the journal Neuron, may bring hope to adults suffering from brain injuries and offer the possibility of early diagnosis, therapys and therapies for schizophrenia, autism or other developmental disorders where abnormal neurological wiring is thought to occur early in life.

In early brain development, there is an overabundance of unspecified connections between neurons. During development (and learning), these connections are pruned, leaving the stronger and more specific ones. This refinement occurs in response to a set of inputs from the environment, and is traditionally believed to be mediated through changes at synapses - the specialized junctions through which neurons communicate with each other.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 26, 2009, 7:14 AM CT

Adolescent risky behavior may signal mature brain

Adolescent risky behavior may signal mature brain
A newly released study using brain imaging to study teen behavior indicates that adolescents who engage in dangerous activities have frontal white matter tracts that are more adult in form than their more conservative peers.

The brain goes through a course of maturation during adolescence and does not reach its adult form until the mid-twenties. A long-standing theory of adolescent behavior has assumed that this delayed brain maturation is the cause of impulsive and dangerous decisions in adolescence. The newly released study, using a new form of brain imaging, calls into question this theory.

In order to better understand the relationship between high risk-taking and the brain's development, Emory University and Emory School of Medicine neuroresearchers used a form of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) called diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to measure structural changes in white matter in the brain. The study's findings appear in the Aug. 26, 2009 PLoS ONE

"In the past, studies have focused on the pattern of gray matter density from childhood to early adulthood, says Gregory Berns, MD, PhD, principal investigator and professor of Psychiatry and Neuroeconomics at Emory University and director of the Center for Neuropolicy. "With new technology, we were able to develop the first study looking at how development of white matter relates to activities in the real world".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 26, 2009, 7:11 AM CT

New technology helps Parkinson's patients speak louder

New technology helps Parkinson's patients speak louder
Jessica Huber, at left, an associate professor in Purdue's Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, and graduate student Meghan Moran demonstrate a new technology developed in Huber's lab that helps Parkinson's patients overcome the tendency to speak too quietly. The system works by playing a recording of ambient sound, which resembles the noisy chatter of a restaurant full of patrons. A sensor placed on the neck detects that the person has begun to speak and tells the device to play the babble through an earpiece worn by the patient. Patients also wear a mask and sensors in elastic bands placed around the rib cage to precisely record respiratory, laryngeal and articulatory data.

Credit: Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock

Scientists have developed a new technology that helps Parkinson's patients overcome the tendency to speak too quietly by playing a recording of ambient sound, which resembles the noisy chatter of a restaurant full of patrons.

"People with Parkinson's disease usually have voice and speech problems," said Jessica Huber, an associate professor in Purdue's Department of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences. "At some point in their disease they will have some form of voice or speech disorder that generally occurs a little later in the disease".

Parkinson's affects 1.5 million people in the United States and is one of the most common degenerative neurological diseases. About 89 percent of those with Parkinson's have voice-related change, which is correlation to how loudly they speak, and about 45 percent have speech-related change, or how clearly they speak.

"A major treatment is to get people to speak louder, which also may cause them to articulate more clearly," Huber said.

The most common treatment, the Lee Silverman voice therapy program, trains patients to speak louder in one-hour sessions four days a week for a month.

"Some Parkinson's patients do great with this approach, but others do not," Huber said. "They forget to keep speaking louder the minute they have left the treatment room. Lee Silverman tends to work less for people with later stages of disease or those who have some cognitive decline. So I wanted to know whether there was an easier way to cue people during treatment, rather than telling them, 'Try to be twice as loud,' or 'Try to focus on this sound meter and achieve this loudness.'".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 21, 2009, 7:16 AM CT

Why sleep?

Why sleep?
Bats, birds, box turtles, humans and a number of other animals share at least one thing in common: They sleep. Humans, in fact, spend roughly one-third of their lives asleep, but sleep scientists still don't know why.

As per the journal Science, the function of sleep is one of the 125 greatest unsolved mysteries in science. Theories range from brain "maintenance" including memory consolidation and pruning to reversing damage from oxidative stress suffered while awake, to promoting longevity. None of these theories are well established, and a number of are mutually exclusive.

Now, a new analysis by Jerome Siegel, UCLA professor of psychiatry and director of the Center for Sleep Research at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and the Sepulveda Veterans Affairs Medical Center, has concluded that sleep's primary function is to increase animals' efficiency and minimize their risk by regulating the duration and timing of their behavior.

The research appears in the current online edition of the journal Nature Reviews Neuroscience

"Sleep has normally been viewed as something negative for survival because sleeping animals appears to be vulnerable to predation and they can't perform the behaviors that ensure survival," Siegel said. These behaviors include eating, procreating, caring for family members, monitoring the environment for danger and scouting for prey.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 14, 2009, 7:19 AM CT

Brain innately separates living and non-living objects

Brain innately separates living and non-living objects
For unknown reasons, the human brain distinctly separates the handling of images of living things from images of non-living things, processing each image type in a different area of the brain. For years, a number of researchers have assumed the brain segregated visual information in this manner to optimize processing the images themselves, but new research shows that even in people who have been blind since birth the brain still separates the concepts of living and non-living objects.

The research, published in today's issue of Neuron, implies that the brain categorizes objects based on the different types of subsequent consideration they demandsuch as whether an object is edible, or is a landmark on the way home, or is a predator to run from. They are not categorized entirely by their appearance.

"If both sighted people and people with blindness process the same ideas in the same parts of the brain, then it follows that visual experience is not necessary in order for those aspects of brain organization to develop," says Bradford Mahon, postdoctoral fellow in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, and main author of the study. "We think this means significant parts of the brain are innately structured around a few domains of knowledge that were critical in humans' evolutionary history".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 11, 2009, 11:22 PM CT

Successfully reverse multiple sclerosis in mice

Successfully  reverse multiple sclerosis in mice
A new experimental therapy for multiple sclerosis (MS) completely reverses the devastating autoimmune disorder in mice, and might work exactly the same way in humans, say scientists at the Jewish General Hospital Lady Davis Institute for Medical Research and McGill University in Montreal.

MS is an autoimmune disease in which the body's own immune response attacks the central nervous system, almost as if the body had become allergic to itself, leading to progressive physical and cognitive disability.

The new therapy, appropriately named GIFT15, puts MS into remission by suppressing the immune response. This means it might also be effective against other autoimmune disorders like Crohn's disease, lupus and arthritis, the scientists said, and could theoretically also control immune responses in organ transplant patients. Moreover, unlike earlier immune-supppressing therapies which rely on chemical pharamaceuticals, this approach is a personalized form of cellular treatment which utilizes the body's own cells to suppress immunity in a much more targeted way.

GIFT15 was discovered by a team led by Dr. Jacques Galipeau of the JGH Lady Davis Institute and McGill's Faculty of Medicine. The results were published August 9 in the prestigious journal Nature Medicine........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 11, 2009, 11:17 PM CT

Toxic levels of Alzheimer's clusters in brain

Toxic levels of Alzheimer's clusters in brain
Researchers have long suspected that Alzheimer's disease (AD) is caused by a small protein called the amyloid β-protein (Aβ). This protein clumps or binds to itself, eventually changing chemically to create brain protein deposits (plaques) that are characteristic of AD. However, recent studies have suggested that it is not the plaques that cause AD but rather these small, grape-like clusters of Aβ. These clusters vary in size, and the relationship between cluster size and their ability to kill nerve cells (toxicity) has never been determined accurately.

Until now. By creating various sizes of Aβ clusters in the lab that exactly match what forms in brains of those afflicted with AD, neurologists at UCLA have determined that toxicity increases dramatically as clusters increase in size from two to three to four Aβs. The scientists also report that eventhough the larger clusters are more toxic than smaller ones, the larger formations are relatively rare; smaller versions are numerous and thus are an inviting target for the development of new therapeutic drugs.

In addition, said David Teplow, senior author and a professor of neurology, developing the ability to make Aβ clusters in a very pure and precise way that duplicates what forms in AD brains will enable researchers to make detailed studies of their structures. This too will make development of future therapeutic drugs much easier and likely more successful. The research appears in the early on line edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source

August 11, 2009, 11:16 PM CT

Mystery behind long-lasting memories

Mystery behind long-lasting memories
A newly released study by scientists at Wake Forest University School of Medicine may reveal how long-lasting memories form in the brain.

The scientists hope that the findings, now available online and scheduled to appear in an upcoming issue of Neuroscience, may one day help researchers develop therapys to prevent and treat conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

"Eventhough a number of things are known about memories that form from repeat experiences, not much is known with regard to how some memories form with just one exposure," said Ashok Hegde, Ph.D., an associate professor of neurobiology and anatomy and the lead investigator on the study.

Researchers do know that people tend to remember extremely happy or sad occasions vividly because of the emotional connection, Hegde said. Extreme emotions trigger the release of a chemical in the brain called norepinephrine, which is correlation to adrenaline. That norepinephrine somehow helps memories last a long time some even a lifetime.

For example, he said, when a person asks, "Where were you when the 9/11 attacks happened?" most people can recall immediately where they were and what they were doing when they heard the news. They remember the moment as if it just happened because a national tragedy arouses emotion and emotion somehow makes memories last for a long time, Hegde explained.........

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. Archives of neurology news blog

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