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February 1, 2010, 8:02 AM CT

brain protein for synapse development

brain protein for synapse development
A newly released study from UC Davis Health System identifies for the first time a brain protein called SynDIG1 that plays a critical role in creating and sustaining synapses, the complex chemical signaling system responsible for communication between neurons. The research, reported in the Jan.14 issue of the journal Neuron, fills a major gap in understanding the molecular foundations of higher cognitive abilities as well as some brain disorders.

"We know that synapses are essential for learning, memory and perception and suspect that imbalances in synapse formation impact disorders of the brain such as autism and schizophrenia," said Elva Diaz, assistant professor of pharmacology and senior author of the study. "Our study is the first to identify SynDIG1 as a critical regulator of these important brain connections".

The majority of synapses in the brain use glutamate as a neurotransmitter. While past research revealed that regulation of a certain class of glutamate receptor -- AMPA receptors -- are critical to communication between neurons, Diaz set out to discover novel molecular mechanisms of AMPA receptors that could support the formation and vitality of synapses.

She began by evaluating a gene (tmem90b) predicted to encode a novel transmembrane protein that is expressed exclusively in the central nervous system and highly similar across vertebrates, but otherwise not well-described. Microarray analyses revealed that this gene was expressed during synapse formation.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


February 1, 2010, 7:36 AM CT

May need less sleep as you age

May need less sleep as you age
A study in the Feb. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP suggests that healthy elderly adults without sleep disorders can expect to have a reduced "sleep need" and to be less sleepy during the day than healthy young adults.

Results show that during a night of eight hours in bed, total sleep time decreased significantly and progressively with age. Elderly adults slept about 20 minutes less than middle-aged adults, who slept 23 minutes less than young adults. The number of awakenings and the amount of time spent awake after initial sleep onset increased significantly with age, and the amount of time spent in deep, slow-wave sleep decreased across age groups. Yet even with these decreases in sleep time, intensity and continuity, elderly adults displayed less subjective and objective daytime sleep propensity than younger adults.

Furthermore, two additional nights involving experimental disruption of slow-wave sleep led to a similar response in all age groups. Daytime sleep propensity increased, and slow-wave sleep rebounded during a night of recovery sleep. As per the authors, this suggests that the lack of increased daytime sleepiness in the presence of an age-related deterioration in sleep quality cannot be attributed to unresponsiveness to variations in homeostatic sleep pressure. Instead, healthy aging may be linked to reductions in the sleep duration and depth mandatory to maintain daytime alertness.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 29, 2010, 8:24 AM CT

Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?

Stopping Schizophrenia Before It Starts?
Adult "schizophrenic" rats (middle) have larger lateral ventricles than those of normal rats (left), but become smaller after preventive treatment with clozapine in adolescence (right).
The onset of schizophrenia is not easy to predict. Eventhough it is linked to as a number of as 14 genes in the human genome, the previous presence of schizophrenia in the family is not enough to determine whether one will succumb to the mind-altering condition. The disease also has a significant environmental link.

As per Prof. Ina Weiner of Tel Aviv University's Department of Psychology, the developmental disorder, which commonly manifests in early adulthood, can be triggered in the womb by an infection. But unlike developmental disorders such as autism, it takes a number of years for the symptoms of schizophrenia to develop.

"Pharmacological therapys for schizophrenia remain unsatisfactory, so clinicians and scientists like myself have started to dig in another direction," says Prof. Weiner. "The big question asked in recent years is if schizophrenia can be prevented".

Revolutionizing the therapy

In their study, recently reported in Biological Psychiatry, Prof. Weiner and her colleagues Dr. Yael Piontkewiz and Dr. Yaniv Assaf sought to discover biological cues that would help trace the progression of the disease before symptoms manifested. "If progressive brain changes occur as schizophrenia is emerging, it is possible that these changes could be prevented by early intervention," she says. "That would revolutionize the therapy of the disorder.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 28, 2010, 7:45 AM CT

Parkinsonism trends in US

Parkinsonism trends in US
Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have conducted the largest epidemiological study of Parkinson's disease. Red areas on the map indicate a prevalence of 13,800 or more Parkinson's patients per 100,000 Medicare recipients.

Credit: Neuroepidemiology/S. Karger AG

The largest epidemiological study of Parkinson's disease in the United States has observed that the disease is more common in the Midwest and the Northeast and is twice as likely to strike whites and Hispanics as blacks and Asians.

The study, based on data from 36 million Medicare recipients, is both the first to produce any significant information on patterns of Parkinson's disease in minorities and to show geographic clusters for the condition.

"Finding clusters in the Midwest and the Northeast is especially exciting," says main author Allison Wright Willis, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. "These are the two regions of the country most involved in metal processing and agriculture, and chemicals used in these fields are the strongest potential environmental risk factors for Parkinson's disease that we've identified so far".

The results appear online in the journal Neuroepidemiology

Parkinson's disease is a common neurodegenerative condition that causes tremor, stiffness, slowness, mood and behavioral disorders, sleep problems and other symptoms. Typically typically typically typically typically the disease is characterized by loss of dopamine, a compound involved in communication between brain cells.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 27, 2010, 8:20 AM CT

Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease

Deep brain stimulation for Parkinson's disease
At Scott & White Memorial Hospital, a multi-disciplinary team of neurosurgeons, neurologists, neurophysiologist, neuropsychology experts and a movement disorders specialist are offering hope to some Parkinson's patients with a therapy called Deep Brain Stimulation (DBS). DBS involves placing a thin wire that carries electrical currents deep within the brain on Parkinson's patients who are no longer benefitting from medications, and have significant uncontrollable body movements called dyskinesia. Scott & White is also performing research into the effects of DBS on the non-motor symptoms of Parkinson's disease including "drenching sweats," bladder dysfunction, depression, hallucination, anxiety, and dementia as well as intestinal disorders, loss of sense of smell, and sleep disturbances.

"We've observed that some Parkinson's patients experienced non-motor symptoms up to 20 to 30 years before their Parkinson's diagnosis, which leads us to believe the presence of these symptoms could be used as predictors of the onset of Parkinson's," said Manjit K Sanghera Ph.D. neurophysiologist at Scott & White and associate professor and director of the Human Electrophysiology Lab, Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Medicine. "If we're better able to identify individuals who are at high risk for Parkinson's, we can engage these patients in neuro-protective therapies, including exercise and medication." Dr. Sanghera's research is funded by the Plummer Foundation.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 21, 2010, 8:22 AM CT

Older brains make good use of 'useless' information

Older brains make good use of 'useless' information
Toronto A newly released study has observed promising evidence that the older brain's weakened ability to filter out irrelevant information may actually give aging adults a memory advantage over their younger counterparts.

A long line of research has already shown that aging is linked to a decreased ability to tune out irrelevant information. Now researchers at Baycrest's world-renowned Rotman Research Institute have demonstrated that when elderly adults "hyper-encode" extraneous information and they typically do this without even knowing they're doing it they have the unique ability to "hyper-bind" the information; essentially tie it to other information that is appearing at the same time.

The study, which appears online this week in the journal Psychological Science, was led by Karen Campbell, a PhD student in psychology at the University of Toronto, with supervision from Rotman senior scientist Dr. Lynn Hasher, a leading authority in attention and inhibitory functioning in younger and elderly adults.

"We observed that older brains are not only less likely to suppress irrelevant information than younger brains, but they can link the relevant and irrelevant pieces of information together and implicitly transfer this knowledge to subsequent memory tasks," said Campbell.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 21, 2010, 8:19 AM CT

Dopamine Medications Affect Learning and Attention

Dopamine Medications Affect Learning and Attention
A new brain-based computational model is helping to understand how Parkinson's disease and dopamine medications-used to treat motor symptoms caused by the disease- can affect learning and attention.

As reported in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/jocn.2010.21420, a new computational model, developed by Drs. Ahmed Moustafa and Mark Gluck, at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience at Rutgers University, Newark, has shown how Parkinson's disease affects attentional performance during learning.

The same model also shows that dopamine medications enhance attentional performance in Parkinson's patients in agreement with past observations. Future lab experiments with Parkinson's patients will be conducted by Moustafa and Mark Gluck to test further model predictions.

Parkinson's is a disease that mainly affects dopamine levels in a brain area known as the basal ganglia, which is important for motor control. Hence, damage to this area leads to movement disorders, including shaking and difficulty moving--key symptoms of Parkinson's disease.

Over the past two decades, it became known to neurologists and experimental neuroresearchers that Parkinson's disease also affects non-motor functions, including memory, learning, and attention. Impairment in these processes affect the quality of life of the patients, thus, understanding the neural basis of motor and non-motor dysfunction in Parkinson's disease is equally important.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 19, 2010, 8:24 AM CT

Staring, sleepiness, other mental lapses

Staring, sleepiness, other mental lapses
Cognitive fluctuations, or episodes when train of thought temporarily is lost, are more likely to occur in older persons who are in the process of developing Alzheimer's disease than in their healthy peers, as per researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Cognitive fluctuations include excessive daytime sleepiness, staring into space and disorganized or illogical thinking.

"If you have these lapses, they don't by themselves mean that you have Alzheimer's," says senior author James Galvin, M.D., a Washington University neurologist at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. "Such lapses do occur in healthy elderly adults. But our results suggest that they are something your doctor needs to consider if he or she is evaluating you for problems with thinking and memory".

The study appears in the Jan. 19 issue of Neurology

Earlier research had associated cognitive fluctuations with another form of dementia called dementia with Lewy bodies, but little information existed on the potential for links between Alzheimer's and such lapses.

Data for the newly released study came from Alzheimer's disease assessments of 511 elderly adults with memory problems. Average age of the participants was 78. Scientists gave participants standard tests of thinking and memory skills. They also interviewed participants and a family member, checking for prolonged daytime sleepiness, drowsiness or lethargy in spite of sufficient sleep the night before, periods of disorganized or illogical thinking, or instances of staring into space for long periods of time.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 18, 2010, 8:20 AM CT

Genetic Risk Factor for Parkinson's Disease

Genetic Risk Factor for Parkinson's Disease
Scientists have identified a new genetic risk factor for Parkinson's disease. Photo: ABDA
An international team of doctors and human geneticists has identified a new genetic risk factor for Parkinson's disease. The institutions involved in the study were the Institute of Human Genetics of Helmholtz Zentrum München and Technische Universität München, the Neurological Clinic of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich (LMU) and the Mitochondrial Research Group of Newcastle University, Newcastle upon Tyne, UK.

"Our study reveals the interaction of genetic and environmental factors such as dietary habits in the pathogenesis of Parkinson's disease," explained Dr. Matthias Elstner of the Neurological Clinic of LMU and Helmholtz Zentrum München, main author of the study. In addition, this genome-wide expression and association study confirms that vitamin B6 status and metabolism significantly influence both disease risk and treatment response (Annals of Neurology, January, 2010).

Researchers of the two Munich universities and Helmholtz Zentrum München investigated neurons in the brain to determine which genes modify their activity in Parkinson's disease. Among other findings, the research group detected increased activity of the pyridoxal kinase gene. In a subsequent international cooperation project, the scientists compared this gene in over 1,200 Parkinson patients with the genetic data of more than 2,800 healthy test subjects. In doing so, they discovered a gene variant which increases the risk for Parkinson's disease and which may lead to a modified quantity or activity of the enzyme pyridoxal kinase (PDXK) in the brain. In combination with genetic association analysis, the innovative method used here - single cell expression profiling of dopaminergic neurons - opens up new possibilities for analyzing genetic risk factors.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 18, 2010, 8:08 AM CT

Concussions not taken seriously enough

Concussions not taken seriously enough
Despite growing public interest in concussions because of serious hockey injuries or skiing deaths, a researcher from McMaster University has observed that we may not be taking the common head injury seriously enough.

In a study to be reported in the recent issue of the journal Pediatrics, Carol DeMatteo, an associate clinical professor in the School of Rehabilitation Science, observed that children who receive the concussion label spend fewer days in hospital and return to school sooner than their counterparts with head injuries not diagnosed as concussion.

"Even children with quite serious injuries can be labelled as having a concussion," said DeMatteo, an occupational therapist and associate member of the CanChild Centre for Childhood Disability Research at McMaster. "Concussion seems to be less alarming than 'mild brain injury' so it appears to be used to convey an injury that should have a good outcome, does not have structural brain damage and symptoms that will pass".

But despite the non-malignant terminology, a concussion is actually a mild traumatic brain injury which could have serious repercussions.

DeMatteo and her research team at McMaster University, funded by the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation (ONF) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), analyzed medical records for 434 children who were admitted over two years to the McMaster Children's Hospital in Hamilton with the diagnosis of acquired brain injury. Of the 341 children with traumatic brain injury, 300 children had a severity score recorded and, of that group, 32 per cent received a concussion diagnosis.........

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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