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June 25, 2009, 7:26 PM CT

Remembering what to remember and what to forget

Remembering what to remember and what to forget
People in very early stages of Alzheimer's disease already have trouble focusing on what is important to remember, a UCLA psychology expert and his colleagues report.

"One of the first telltale signs of Alzheimer's disease appears to be not memory problems, but failure to control attention," said Alan Castel, UCLA assistant professor of psychology and main author of the study.

The study consisted of three groups: 109 healthy elderly adults (68 of them female), with an average age of just under 75; 54 elderly adults (22 of them female) with very mild Alzheimer's disease, who were functioning fine in their daily lives, with an average age of just under 76; and 35 young adults, with an average age of 19.

They were presented with eight lists of 12 words, one word at a time, each paired with a point value from 1 to 12. A new word with its value was presented on a screen every second. The words were common, like "table," "wallet" and "apple." They were given 30 seconds to recall the words, and were told to maximize their scores, by focusing on remembering the high-value words.

The young adults were selective, remembering more of the high-value words than the low-value words. They recalled an average of 5.7 words out of 12. The healthy elderly adults remembered fewer words, an average of 3.5, but were equally selective in recalling the high-value words.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 23, 2009, 5:08 PM CT

Morning people and night owls

Morning people and night owls
Are you a "morning person" or a "night owl?".

Researchers at the University of Alberta have observed that there are significant differences in the way our brains function depending on whether we're early risers or night owls.

Neuroresearchers in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation looked at two groups of people: those who wake up early and feel most productive in the morning, and those who were identified as evening people, those who typically felt livelier at night. Study participants were initially grouped after completing a standardized questionnaire about their habits.

Using magnetic resonance imaging-guided brain stimulation, researchers tested muscle torque and the excitability of pathways through the spinal cord and brain. They observed that morning people's brains were most excitable at 9 a.m. This slowly decreased through the day. It was the polar opposite for evening people, whose brains were most excitable at 9 p.m.

Other major findings:
  • Evening people became physically stronger throughout the day, but the maximum amount of force morning people could produce remained the same.
  • The excitability of reflex pathways that travel through the spinal cord increased over the day for each of these two groups.
........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 12, 2009, 5:24 AM CT

Why smoking increases the risk of heart disease and strokes?

Why smoking increases the risk of heart disease and strokes?
Scientists at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science in Los Angeles and Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona have discovered a reason why smoking increases the risk of heart disease and strokes.

The study, which will be presented Thursday, June 11 at The Endocrine Society's 91st annual meeting in Washington, D.C., observed that nicotine in cigarettes promotes insulin resistance, a pre-diabetic condition that raises blood sugar levels higher than normal. People with pre-diabetes are at greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease.

Theodore Friedman, MD, Ph.D., chief of the endocrinology division at Charles Drew University, said the findings help explain a "paradox" that links smoking to heart disease.

Smokers experience a high degree of cardiovascular deaths, Friedman said. "This is surprising considering both smoking and nicotine may cause weight loss and weight loss should protect against cardiovascular disease".

The scientists studied the effects of twice-daily injections of nicotine on 24 adult mice over two weeks. The nicotine-injected mice ate less food, lost weight and had less fat than control mice that received injections without nicotine.

"Our results in mice show that nicotine administration leads to both weight loss and decreased food intake," Friedman said. "Mice exposed to nicotine have less fat. In spite of this, mice have abnormal glucose tolerance and are insulin resistant (pre-diabetes)."........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 11, 2009, 5:15 AM CT

What causes multiple sclerosis?

What causes multiple sclerosis?
Multiple sclerosis is a very complex disease of the nervous system. Thanks to the development of the new animal model, significantly improved insights into its emergence and progress are now possible.

Credit: Image: Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology
Over 100,000 people suffer from multiple sclerosis in Gera number of alone. Despite intensive research, the factors that trigger the disease and influence its progress remain unclear. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute of Neurobiology in Martinsried and an international research team have succeeded in attaining three important new insights into the disease. It would appear that B cells play an unexpected role in the spontaneous development of multiple sclerosis and that especially aggressive T cells are activated by different proteins. Furthermore, a new animal model is helping the researchers to understand the emergence of the most common form of the disease in Gera number of. (Nature Medicine, May 31, 2009 & Journal of Experimental Medicine, June 1, 2009).

Multiple Sclerosis (MS) poses enormous problems for both patients and doctors: it is the most common inflammatory disease of the central nervous system in our part of the world and often strikes patients at a relatively young age. In some patients it leads to severe disability. Moreover, despite decades of research on MS, the causes and course of the disease are still largely unclear.

There is much evidence to support the fact that MS is triggered by an autoimmune reaction: immune cells that should actually protect the body against threats like viruses, bacteria and tumours, attack the body's own brain tissue. New therapys now available can attenuate the harmful immune reaction and thus delay the progress of the disease. However, the more effective the therapy, the more serious its side effects. Therefore, it is a matter of extreme urgency that new forms of therapy be developed which can differentiate in a targeted way between the immune cells that cause the disease and those that should be protected. A better understanding of the disease is mandatory in order to achieve this.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 8, 2009, 10:10 PM CT

Fatal brain disease at work

Fatal brain disease at work
University of Florida scientists David Borchelt and Mercedes Prudencio have discovered why a paralyzing brain disorder speeds along more rapidly in some patients than others -- a finding that may finally give researchers an entry point toward an effective treatment for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Credit: Sarah Kiewel/University of Florida

University of Florida researchers have discovered why a paralyzing brain disorder speeds along more rapidly in some patients than others a finding that may finally give scientists an entry point toward an effective therapy for amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, often referred to as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease.

Of more than 100 possible mutations of a single gene inherited by people with familial ALS, the mutations most inclined to produce clumps of problematic cellular debris known as "protein aggregates" appear to be linked to quicker progress of the disease, as per scientists with the University of Florida's McKnight Brain Institute writing online this week in Human Molecular Genetics

Meanwhile, in a separate study recently online in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers describe how these protein clumps long considered a defining characteristic of ALS do not cause the disease, but appear later on, increasing in number between onset of weakness and paralysis in patients.

Together, these findings suggest that the deadly course of the disease is associated with the formation of these protein clumps, even though the sickness may have been well under way.

"Blocking aggregation of these proteins could be a therapeutic target for individuals with this genetic mutation," said David Borchelt, Ph.D., a professor of neuroscience and director of the SantaFe HealthCare Alzheimer's Disease Research Center at UF's McKnight Brain Institute. "Right now, there is little that can be done to help these patients".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 5, 2009, 5:03 AM CT

Pesticide Exposure and Parkinson's Disease

Pesticide Exposure and Parkinson's Disease
The cause of Parkinson's disease (PD), the second most frequent neurodegenerative disease after Alzheimer's disease, is unknown, but in most cases it is believed to involve a combination of environmental risk factors and genetic susceptibility. Laboratory studies in rats have shown that injecting the insecticide rotenone leads to an animal model of PD and several epidemiological studies have shown an association between pesticides and PD, but most have not identified specific pesticides or studied the amount of exposure relating to the association.

A new epidemiological study involving the exposure of French farm workers to pesticides observed that professional exposure is linked to PD, particularly for organochlorine insecticides. The study is published in Annals of Neurology, the official journal of the American Neurological Association.

Led by Alexis Elbaz M.D., Ph.D., of Inserm, the national French institute for health research in Paris, and University Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC, Paris 6), the study involved individuals affiliated with the French health insurance organization for agricultural workers who were frequently exposed to pesticides in the course of their work. Occupational health physicians constructed a detailed lifetime exposure history to pesticides by interviewing participants, visiting farms, and collecting a large amount of data on pesticide exposure. These included farm size, type of crops, animal breeding, which pesticides were used, time period of use, frequency and duration of exposure per year, and spraying method.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


June 3, 2009, 5:13 AM CT

How the Brain Processes What the Eye Sees

How the Brain Processes What the Eye Sees
Scientists at the Center for Molecular and Behavioral Neuroscience (CMBN) at Rutgers University in Newark have identified the need to develop a new framework for understanding "perceptual stability" and how we see the world with their discovery that visual input obtained during eye movements is being processed by the brain but blocked from awareness.

The process of seeing requires the eyes to move so light can hit the photoreceptors at the center of each retina, which then pass that information to the brain. If we were cognizant of the stimulus that passes before the eyes during the two to three times they move every second, however, vision would consist of a series of sensations of rapid motion rather than a stable perception of the world. To achieve perceptual stability, current theory has held that visual information gained during an eye movement is eliminated, as if cut off by a camera's shutter, and removed from processing.

As published in Current Biology (http://www.cell.com/current-biology), significant new research conducted by assistant professor Bart Krekelberg and post-doctoral researcher Tamara L. Watson now shows that theory of saccadic suppression is incorrect and what the brain is doing instead is processing information gained during eye movement but blocking it from being reported.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


May 26, 2009, 6:34 PM CT

The evolution of migraine

The evolution of migraine
Patients living with migraine have strong reason for new optimism concerning a positive future. Two review articles and an accompanying editorial, "The Future of Migraine: Beyond Just Another Pill," in the current issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings, are the basis for an ironic premise.

"Migraine is a potentially chronic, progressive disease that substantially affects patients, families, workplaces, and society," as per the editorial written by Roger Cady, M.D., of the Headache Care Center in Springfield, Mo. "Ironically, this is the springboard for renewed optimism of a more positive future for patients living with migraine."

Traditionally, Dr. Cady explains, migraine has been considered a pain disorder involving separate or even sporadic episodes. Now, the condition is defined as an all-encompassing and progressive disease that negatively affects all aspects of an individual's life. Migraine can erode quality of life during what should be a person's most productive years, as per Dr. Cady. Because migraine patients' quality of life has not improved at a pace with medical advances, research is addressing the overall severity and potential progressive nature of migraine, particularly migraine episodes as a forerunner of chronic migraine.

As per the three articles, these new insights and understandings are requiring professionals to explore well beyond traditional migraine management. "Understanding migraine as a potentially chronic disease mandates a collaborative health care model with patients and health care professionals working in a partnership toward common therapeutic goals," writes Dr. Cady, specifically intervention and prevention. Physicians and patients must be encouraged to be partners, he says, and assessment must go far beyond the doctor just asking, "How are your migraines?" The models must include an invitation to comprehend and address all migraine-related health issues facing patients, Dr. Cady writes. In addition, understanding the evolutionary "stages" of migraine from sporadic to persistent offers an opportunity to develop new therapies that individualize and personalize care.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


May 26, 2009, 6:30 PM CT

pioglitazone against multiple sclerosis

pioglitazone against multiple sclerosis
A drug currently FDA-approved for use in diabetes shows some protective effects in the brains of patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis, scientists at the University of Illinois at Chicago College of Medicine report in a study currently available online in the Journal of Neuroimmunology

In a small, double-blinded clinical trial, patients with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis were assigned to take pioglitazone (a drug commercially known as Actos used to treat type-2 diabetes) or a placebo. Patients continued their normal course of treatment during the trial.

Standard neurological tests were done initially, as were MRI scans to provide baseline values for lesions typically seen in MS patients. The patients were reviewed every two months, and blood samples were taken. Repeat MRI scans were done after five months and again after one year.

Patients taking pioglitazone showed significantly less loss of gray matter over the course of the one-year trial than patients taking placebo. Of the 21 patients who finished the study, patients taking pioglitazone had no adverse reactions and, further, found taking pioglitazone, which is administered in an oral tablet, easy.

"This is very encouraging," said Douglas Feinstein, research professor of anesthesiology at UIC. "Gray matter in the brain is the part that is rich in neurons. These preliminary results suggest that the drug has important effects on neuronal survival".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


May 22, 2009, 5:13 AM CT

Identifying Alzheimers disease early

Identifying Alzheimers disease early
Analyzing MRI studies of the brain with software developed at the Martinos Center for Biomedical Imaging at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) may allow diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease and of mild cognitive impairment, a lesser form of dementia that precedes the development of Alzheimer's by several years. In their report that will appear in the journal Brain and has been released online, the MGH/Martinos team show how their software program can accurately differentiate patients with mild cognitive impairment or Alzheimer's disease from normal elderly individuals based on anatomic differences in brain structures known to be affected by the disease.

"Traditionally Alzheimer's has been diagnosed based on a combination of factors such as a neurologic exam, detailed medical history and written tests of cognitive functioning with neuroimaging used primarily to rule out other diseases such as stroke or a brain tumor," says Rahul Desikan MD, PhD, of the Martinos Center and Boston University School of Medicine, main author of the Brain paper. "Our findings show the feasibility and importance of using automated, MRI-based neuroanatomic measures as a diagnostic marker for Alzheimer's disease."

The scientists note that mild cognitive impairment occurs in about 20 percent of elderly individuals as a number of as 40 percent of those over 85 80 percent of whom develop Alzheimer's within five or six years. Since drugs that may slow the progression of Alzheimer's are in development, the ability to treat patients in the earliest stages of the disease may significantly delay progression to dementia. To investigate whether MR imaging can produce diagnostic markers for mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease, the research team used FreeSurfer an openly available imaging software package developed at the Martinos Center and the University of California at San Diego to examine many neuroanatomic regions across a range of normal individuals and patients with mild cognitive impairment and Alzheimer's disease.........

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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