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December 22, 2008, 5:33 AM CT

Role of cardiovascular proteins in Alzheimer's

Role of cardiovascular proteins in Alzheimer's
Scientists have observed that two proteins which work in tandem in the brain's blood vessels present a double whammy in Alzheimer's disease. Not only do the proteins lessen blood flow in the brain, but they also reduce the rate at which the brain is able to remove amyloid beta, the protein that builds up in toxic quantities in the brains of patients with the disease.

The work, described in a paper published online Dec. 21 in the journal Nature Cell Biology, provides hard evidence directly linking two processes believed to be at play in Alzheimer's disease: reduction in blood flow and the buildup of toxic amyloid beta. The research makes the interaction between the two proteins a seductive target for scientists seeking to address both issues.

Researchers were surprised at the finding, which puts two proteins known for their role in the cardiovascular system front and center in the development of Alzheimer's disease.

"This is quite unexpected," said Berislav Zlokovic, M.D., Ph.D., a neuroscientist and a senior author of the study. "Conversely, both of these processes are mediated by the smooth muscle cells along blood vessel walls, and we know that those are seriously compromised in patients with Alzheimer's disease, so perhaps we shouldn't be completely surprised".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 16, 2008, 8:17 PM CT

Girls have superior sense of taste to boys

Girls have superior sense of taste to boys
How many taste buds have you got? As part of the large-scale experiment, pupils from all over Denmark had to colour their tongue bright blue with fruit dye and count the number of taste buds in a certain section of the tongue. Pupils from Amager Fælled School in Copenhagen. Photo: Peter Willersted
Girls have a better sense of taste than boys. Every third child of school age prefers soft drinks which are not sweet. Children and young people love fish and do not think of themselves as being fussy eaters. Boys have a sweeter tooth than girls. Teenagers taste differently. And finally, schoolchildren in northern Denmark have the best taste buds.

The findings of the world's largest study so far on the ability of children and young people to taste and what they like have now been published. The study was conducted jointly by Danish Science Communication, food researchers from The Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE) at University of Copenhagen and 8,900 Danish schoolchildren.

In September, 8,900 schoolchildren from all over Denmark took part in a large-scale experiment conducted by Danish Science Communication and The Faculty of Life Sciences (LIFE) at University of Copenhagen. It is the first time that such a large-scale study has been done on the sense of taste of children and young people and what they like to eat.

Danish schoolchildren help scientists

One of the reasons why it was possible to include so a number of children and young people in the study was that the experiment itself was conducted in quite an unorthodox way: It was planned as a 'mass experiment' in conjunction with this year' s natural science festival at Danish primary and secondary schools.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


December 11, 2008, 10:26 PM CT

A fading sense of smell may signal Parkinson's disease

A fading sense of smell may signal Parkinson's disease
A number of individuals with Parkinson's disease are able to recall losing their sense of smell well before the onset of more usually recognized symptoms such as tremors, impaired dexterity, speech problems, memory loss and decreased cognitive ability. To determine if a fading sense of smell may signal Parkinson's, scientists at Northwestern Memorial Hospital and Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine are participating in a national study to examine the correlation and ascertain whether smell loss presents a tool for early detection of the disease and an opportunity to delay or ultimately prevent more troublesome symptoms.

Nearly one million people in the United States are affected by Parkinson's disease, which stems from premature aging of dopamine-producing cells in the brain, and the number is likely to grow as the population ages. By the time Parkinson's disease is detected, most individuals have already experienced a 60 to 70 percent loss of dopamine-producing cells in the brain.

"Very little is known about the early stages of this disease," says Tanya Simuni, MD, director of Northwestern's Parkinson's Disease and Movement Disorders Center and Associate Professor of Neurology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "By utilizing smell testing in conjunction with other tests, we hope to develop a system that identifies the presence of Parkinson's before it develops into problematic symptoms."........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 11, 2008, 5:28 AM CT

If MRI shows signs of MS, will the disease develop?

If MRI shows signs of MS, will the disease develop?
With more and more people having brain MRIs for various reasons, doctors are finding people whose scans show signs of multiple sclerosis (MS) even though they have no symptoms of the disease. A new study reported in the December 10, 2008, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, observed that a third of these people developed MS within an average of about five years.

The study involved 44 people who had brain scans for various reasons, such as migraine headaches or head trauma, that showed abnormalities similar to those that occur in MS. The scientists confirmed that the abnormalities were the same as in MS and ruled out other possible causes. Then the scientists monitored the participants to determine whether they developed the disease.

Within an average of 5.4 years, 30 percent of the participants had developed MS symptoms. The brain scans of an additional 29 percent of the people showed further abnormalities, but they continued to have no symptoms of the disease.

"More studies are needed to fully understand the risk of developing MS for people with these brain abnormalities, but it appears that this condition may be a precursor to MS," said study author Darin T. Okuda, MD, of the University of California, San Francisco, the UCSF Multiple Sclerosis Center and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 11, 2008, 5:09 AM CT

Strategic video game improves critical cognitive skills

Strategic video game improves critical cognitive skills
Illinois psychology professor Arthur Kramer and postdoctoral research Chandramallika Basak found that several important cognitive skills improved in older adults who were trained in a strategic video game.
A desire to rule the world may be a good thing if you're over 60 and worried about losing your mental faculties. A new study observed that adults in their 60s and 70s can improve many cognitive functions by playing a strategic video game that rewards nation-building and territorial expansion.

This is the first such study of elderly adults, and it is the first to find such pronounced effects on cognitive skills not directly correlation to the skills learned in the video game, said University of Illinois psychology professor Arthur Kramer, an author on the study.

The research appears this month in the journal Psychology & Aging

Decades of laboratory studies designed to improve specific cognitive skills, such as short-term memory, have found again and again that trainees improve almost exclusively on the tasks they perform in the lab and only under laboratory conditions, Kramer said.

"When you train somebody on a task they tend to improve in that task, whatever it is, but it commonly doesn't transfer much beyond that skill or beyond the particular situation in which they learned it," he said. "And there are virtually no studies that examine whether there's any transfer outside the lab to things people care about".

Kramer and colleagues wanted to know whether a more integrated training approach could go beyond the training environment to enhance the cognitive skills used in every day life. Specifically, the scientists wondered whether interactive video games might benefit those cognitive functions that decline most with age.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 6, 2008, 3:53 PM CT

Maintaining the brain's wiring in aging and disease

Maintaining the brain's wiring in aging and disease
Scientists at the Babraham Institute near Cambridge, supported by the Alzheimer's Research Trust and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), have discovered that the brain's circuitry survives longer than previously thought in diseases of ageing such as Alzheimer's disease. The findings were published recently in the journal Brain

Alzheimer's disease causes nerve cells in the brain to die, resulting in problems with memory, speech and understanding. Little is known about how the nerve cells die, but this new research has revealed how they first lose the ability to communicate with each other, before deteriorating further.

"We've all experienced how useless a computer is without broadband. The same is true for a nerve cell (neuron) in the brain whose wiring (axons and dendrites) has been lost or damaged," explained Dr Michael Coleman the project's lead researcher. "Once the routes of communication are permanently down, the neuron will never again contribute to learning and memory, because these 'wires' do not re-grow in the human brain." .

But axons and dendrites are much more than inert fibre-optic wires. They are homes to the world's smallest transport tracks. Every one of our hundred billion nerve cells continuously shuttles hundreds of proteins and intracellular packages out along its axons and dendrites, and back again, during every minute of every day. Without this process, the wires cannot be maintained and the nervous system will cease to function within a few hours.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 3, 2008, 5:28 AM CT

Surgery to treat medication-resistant epilepsy

Surgery to treat medication-resistant epilepsy
Persons with temporal lobe epilepsy who do not respond to medicine could receive a substantial gain in life expectancy and quality of life by undergoing surgery of the temporal lobe part of the brain, as per an analysis published in the December 3 issue of JAMA.

Despite currently available anti-epileptic drugs, 20 percent to 40 percent of all patients with epilepsy do not respond to medical management. Temporal lobe epilepsy is the most common form of epilepsy and the most likely to be medically non-responsive, and these patients are at increased risk of premature death, as per background information in the article. An alternative form of therapy is temporal lobe resection (procedure in which brain tissue in the temporal lobe is cut away). Patients becoming seizure free after anterior (toward the front) temporal lobe resection have reduced death rates relative to patients continuing to have seizures.

"Studies have reported the effectiveness of temporal lobe resection since the 1950s, yet a minority of patients are being referred to surgery and those only after an average of 20 years of illness. For adolescents and young adults, this delay may be especially significant during a critical period in their psychosocial development," the authors write.

Hyunmi Choi, M.D., M.S., of the Columbia University Medical Center, New York, and his colleagues conducted an analysis using a simulation model to estimate the effect of anterior temporal lobe resection vs. continued medical management on life expectancy and quality-adjusted life expectancy among patients with medication-resistant temporal lobe epilepsy. The model incorporated possible surgical complications and seizure status and was populated with health-related quality-of-life data obtained directly from patients and data from the medical literature.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 1, 2008, 5:55 PM CT

Exercise helps prevent age-related brain changes

Exercise helps prevent age-related brain changes
Elderly adults who exercise regularly show increased cerebral blood flow and a greater number of small blood vessels in the brain, as per findings presented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

The study, conducted at the University of North Carolina (UNC) Chapel Hill, is the first to compare brain scans of elderly adults who exercise to brain scans of those who do not.

"Our results show that exercise may reduce age-related changes in brain vasculature and blood flow," said presenter Feraz Rahman, M.S., currently a medical student at Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. "Other studies have shown that exercise prevents cognitive decline in the elderly. The blood vessel and flow differences may be one reason".

The scientists recruited 12 healthy adults, age 60 to 76. Six of the adults had participated in aerobic exercise for three or more hours per week over the last 10 years, and six exercised less than one hour per week. All of the volunteers underwent MRI to determine cerebral blood flow and MR angiography to depict blood vessels in the brain.

Using a novel method of three-dimensional (3-D) computer reconstruction developed in their lab, the scientists were able to make 3-D models of the blood vessels and examine them for shape and size. They then compared the blood vessel characteristics and how they correlation to blood flow in both the active and inactive groups.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


November 25, 2008, 10:34 PM CT

Pain is in the eyes of the beholder

Pain is in the eyes of the beholder
By manipulating the appearance of a chronically achy hand, scientists have found they could increase or decrease the pain and swelling in patients moving their symptomatic limbs. The findingspublished in the November 25th issue of Current Biology, a Cell Press publicationreveal a profound top-down effect of body image on body tissues, as per the researchers.

"The brain is capable of a number of wonderful things based on its perception of how the body is doing and the risks to which the body seems to be exposed," said G. Lorimer Moseley, who is now at the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute in Australia. (The work was done at the University of Oxford.).

In the study, the scientists asked ten right-handed patients with chronic pain and dysfunction in one arm to watch their own arm while they performed a standardized set of ten hand movements. The participants repeated the movements under four conditions: with no visual manipulation, while looking through binoculars with no magnification, while looking through binoculars that doubled the apparent size of their arm, and while looking through inverted binoculars that reduced the apparent size of their arm.

While the patients' pain was always worse after movement than it was before, the extent to which the pain worsened depended on what people saw. Specifically, the pain increased more when participants viewed a magnified image of their arm during the movements, andperhaps more surprisinglythe pain became less when their arm was seen through inverted binoculars that minimized its size.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 25, 2008, 9:50 PM CT

Do you know you're having a stroke?

Do you know you're having a stroke?
A Mayo Clinic study shows a majority of stroke patients don't think they're having a stroke -- and as a result -- delay seeking therapy until their condition worsens. The findings are reported in the current issue of Emergency Medicine Journal at http://emj.bmj.com/.

Scientists studied 400 patients who were diagnosed at Mayo Clinic's emergency department with either acute ischemic stroke or a transient ischemic attack (TIA), a temporary interruption of blood flow to part of the brain.

Less than half of the patients -- 42 percent -- thought they were having a stroke. In fact, most in the study did not go to the emergency room when symptoms appeared. The median time from onset of symptoms to arrival at the hospital was over three and a half hours. Most said they thought the symptoms would simply go away. The delay in seeking medical help was the same among men and women.

When asked how they knew about stroke symptoms, nearly one-fifth said they thought a stroke always came on gradually. Just over half (51.9 percent) said they thought that seeking medical care immediately was important.



Significance of the findings


"Time is crucial in treating stroke," says Latha Stead, M.D., emergency medicine specialist and lead author of the study. "Each individual's medical background differs and affects recovery, but in general the sooner a patient experiencing a stroke reaches emergency care, the more likely the stroke can be limited and the condition managed to prevent further damage and improve recovery." The scientists say their findings clearly indicate that better public understanding of stroke symptoms will lead to a faster response and better outcomes.........

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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