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September 9, 2010, 6:33 AM CT

Using medication for insomnia or anxiety?

Using medication for insomnia or anxiety?
Taking medications to treat insomnia and anxiety increases mortality risk by 36%, as per a research studyconducted by Genevive Belleville, a professor at Universit Laval's School of Psychology. The details of this study are reported in the latest edition of the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry

Dr. Belleville arrived at these results through analysis of 12 years of data on over 14,000 Canadians in Statistics Canada's National Population Health Survey. The data includes information on the social demographics, lifestyle, and health of Canadians age 18 to 102, surveyed every two years between 1994 and 2007.

During this period, respondents who reported having used medicine to treat insomnia or anxiety at least once in the month preceding the survey had a mortality rate of 15.7%. Respondents who reported not having used such medications had a rate of 10.5%. After controlling for personal factors that might affect mortality risk, notably alcohol and tobacco consumption, physical health, physical activity level, and the presence or absence of depressive symptoms among participants, Dr. Belleville established that the consumption of sleeping pills or anxiety-relieving medications was linked to a 36% increase in the risk of death.

Many hypotheses have been put forward to explain the link between use of these medications and increased mortality. Sleeping pills and anxiolytics affect reaction time, alertness, and coordination and are thus conducive to falls and other accidents. They may also have an inhibiting effect on the respiratory system, which could aggravate certain breathing problems that may occur during sleep. These medications are also central nervous system inhibitors that may affect judgment and thus increase the risk of suicide.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


September 8, 2010, 7:15 AM CT

Mapping a Brain Atlas

Mapping a Brain Atlas
Uncovering the secrets of the brain requires an intense network of collaborative research. Building on a tool that was co-developed in his laboratory and described in a recent issue of Brain, Dr. Yaniv Assaf of Tel Aviv University's Department of Neurobiology is collaborating with an international team of researchers to understand how different parts of the human brain "connect" - and to turn this information into a "brain atlas".

Brain scientists already know that autism and schizophrenia are not localized disorders - there is no one place in the brain they can be found. That's why a brain atlas will be an invaluable resource for understanding how parts of our brain connect to other parts within, leading to a deeper understanding of these diseases.

"It's currently impossible for clinicians to 'see' subtle disorders in the brain that might cause a life-threatening, devastating disability," says Dr. Assaf, whose most recent research was done in collaboration with the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Developmental disorders like autism are thought to bea function of abnormal connections among different regions within the brain - like wires between telephone poles. In his research, Dr. Assaf looks at clusters of brain wiring, or axons, to help researchers produce a better working map of the brain for future research.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


September 7, 2010, 7:41 AM CT

The brain speaks

The brain speaks
In an early step toward letting severely paralyzed people speak with their thoughts, University of Utah scientists translated brain signals into words using two grids of 16 microelectrodes implanted beneath the skull but atop the brain.

"We have been able to decode spoken words using only signals from the brain with a device that has promise for long-term use in paralyzed patients who cannot now speak," says Bradley Greger, an assistant professor of bioengineering.

Because the method needs much more improvement and involves placing electrodes on the brain, he expects it will be a few years before clinical trials on paralyzed people who cannot speak due to so-called "locked-in syndrome".

The Journal of Neural Engineering's September issue is publishing Greger's study showing the feasibility of translating brain signals into computer-spoken words.

The University of Utah research team placed grids of tiny microelectrodes over speech centers in the brain of a volunteer with severe epileptic seizures. The man already had a craniotomy temporary partial skull removal so doctors could place larger, conventional electrodes to locate the source of his seizures and surgically stop them.

Using the experimental microelectrodes, the researchers recorded brain signals as the patient repeatedly read each of 10 words that might be useful to a paralyzed person: yes, no, hot, cold, hungry, thirsty, hello, goodbye, more and less.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


September 1, 2010, 7:03 AM CT

Insomnia and a short sleep duration

Insomnia and a short sleep duration
A study in the Sept. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP found an elevated risk of death in men with a complaint of chronic insomnia and an objectively measured short sleep duration. The results suggest that public health policy should emphasize the diagnosis and appropriate therapy of chronic insomnia.

In comparison to men without insomnia who slept for six hours or more, men with chronic insomnia who slept for less than six hours were four times more likely to die during the 14-year follow-up period (odds ratio = 4.33). Results were adjusted for potential confounders such as body mass index, smoking status, alcohol use, depression and obstructive sleep apnea. Further adjustments for high blood pressure and diabetes had little effect on the elevated mortality risk (OR = 4.00). No significant mortality risk was found in women with insomnia and a short sleep duration of less than six hours (OR = 0.36).

"The primary finding of our study is that insomnia, the most common sleep disorder, is linked to significant mortality in men," said principal investigator Alexandros N. Vgontzas, MD, professor of psychiatry in the Department of Psychiatry at Penn State College of Medicine and Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa. "Until now no study has demonstrated that insomnia is linked to mortality. Our different results are based on our novel approach to define insomnia both on a subjective complaint and the objective physiological marker of short sleep duration measured in the sleep lab".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 31, 2010, 6:54 AM CT

Apixaban for prevention of stroke

Apixaban for prevention of stroke
The data monitoring committee of the AVERROES study, seeing overwhelming evidence of the success of apixaban in the prevention of stroke in patients with atrial fibrillation who are unsuitable for the conventional therapy of warfarin, has recommended early termination of this study. The decision came after repeated review and careful consideration of all efficacy and safety data.

The study leaders, principal investigator Dr. Stuart J. Connolly, chairman of the steering committee Dr. Salim Yusuf, and project officer Dr. John Eikelboom, have accepted this recommendation, as have the study sponsors, Bristol-Myers Squibb and Pfizer.

Results of the study were presented by Connolly at the annual European Society of Cardiology Congress in Stockholm, Sweden, on August 31.

The AVERROES study enrolled 5,600 patients with atrial fibrillation at risk for stroke who were unsuitable for treatment with a Vitamin K antagonist such as warfarin. These patients were randomized, double-blind, to receive either apixaban or the standard treatment which is Aspirin. The primary efficacy outcome of the AVERROES study was a composite of stroke or systemic embolism and the major safety outcome was major bleeding.

The data monitoring committee observed a relative risk reduction for stroke and systemic embolism of more than 50 per cent, which was highly statistically significant and which met the highly conservative monitoring boundaries of the AVERROES study. There was only a modest increase in major hemorrhage that was not statistically significant.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 26, 2010, 7:28 AM CT

New mechanism of memory formation

New mechanism of memory formation
Researchers from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute have discovered a mechanism that plays a critical role in the formation of long-term memory. The findings shed substantial new light on aspects of how memory is formed, and could lead to novel therapys for memory disorders.

The study was published as the cover story of the journal Neuron on August 26, 2010.

In the study, the researchers observed that one of the major driver of memory formation is myosin II, a motor protein critical to cell movement and growth.

"By showing for the first time that myosin II acts as the principal organizer of memory formation, we are that much closer to identifying the signaling pathways that activate this motor protein in the brain," said Gavin Rumbaugh, an assistant professor in the Department of Neuroscience at Scripps Florida who led the study. "Once we're able to do that, we can begin to develop potential therapys that could restore memory in people who suffer from cognitive disorders like Alzheimer's disease".

In the study, Rumbaugh and colleagues showed that myosin II mediates a mechanical process that is part of the complex process of memory formation.

Specifically, myosin II links together the initiation of long-term potentiation, a process that enhances signal transmission between two neurons in the creation of memory; the stabilization of synaptic plasticity (the ability of synapses to maintain this enhanced transmission); and the reorganization of neurons' F-actin, a cellular polymer that enables growth of synapses.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 19, 2010, 7:10 AM CT

Brain connections break down as we age

Brain connections break down as we age
The circled portion of the older adult' brain on the left indicates the cross-talk
between the two hemispheres that is not apparent in the younger brain on the right.
Provided by Rachael Seidler
It's unavoidable: breakdowns in brain connections slow down our physical response times as we age, a newly released study suggests.

This slower reactivity is linked to an age-related breakdown in the corpus callosum, a part of the brain that acts as a dam during one-sided motor activities to prevent unwanted connectivity, or cross-talk, between the two halves of the brain, said Rachael Seidler, associate professor in the University of Michigan School of Kinesiology and Department of Psychology, and lead study author.

At other times the corpus callosum acts at a bridge and cross-talk is helpful, such as in certain cognitive functions or two-sided motor skills.

The U-M study is the first known to show that this cross-talk happens even while elderly adults are at rest, said Seidler, who also has appointments in the Institute of Gerontology and the Neuroscience Graduate Program. This resting cross-talk suggests that it is not helpful or compensatory for the two halves of the brain to communicate during one-sided motor movements because the opposite side of the brain controls the part of the body that is moving. So, when both sides of the brain talk simultaneously while one side of the body tries to move, confusion and slower responses result, Seidler said.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 10, 2010, 7:01 AM CT

Exploring the brain wiring

Exploring the brain wiring
The circuit tracing method allows the study of incoming and outgoing signals from any two brain centers.
The brain has been mapped to the smallest fold for at least a century, but still no one knows how all the parts talk to each other.

A study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences answers that question for a small area of the rat brain and in so doing takes a big step toward revealing the brain's wiring.

The network of brain connections was thought too complex to describe, but molecular biology and computing methods have improved to the point that the National Institutes of Health have announced a $30 million plan to map the human "connectome".

The study shows the power of a new method for tracing brain circuits.

USC College neuroresearchers Richard H. Thompson and Larry W. Swanson used the method to trace circuits running through a "hedonic hot spot" correlation to food enjoyment.

The circuits showed up as patterns of circular loops, suggesting that at least in this part of the rat brain, the wiring diagram looks like a distributed network.

Neuroresearchers are split between a traditional view that the brain is organized as a hierarchy, with most regions feeding into the "higher" centers of conscious thought, and a more recent model of the brain as a flat network similar to the Internet.

"We started in one place and looked at the connections. It led into a very complicated series of loops and circuits. It's not an organizational chart. There's no top and bottom to it," said Swanson, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the Milo Don and Lucille Appleman Professor of Biological Sciences at USC College.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


August 8, 2010, 11:24 PM CT

Nerve connections are regenerated

Nerve connections are regenerated
Scientists for the first time have induced robust regeneration of nerve connections that control voluntary movement after spinal cord injury, showing the potential for new therapeutic approaches to paralysis and other motor function impairments.

In a study on rodents, the UC Irvine, UC San Diego and Harvard University team achieved this breakthrough by turning back the developmental clock in a molecular pathway critical for the growth of corticospinal tract nerve connections.

They did this by deleting an enzyme called PTEN (a phosphatase and tensin homolog), which controls a molecular pathway called mTOR that is a key regulator of cell growth. PTEN activity is low early during development, allowing cell proliferation. PTEN then turns on when growth is completed, inhibiting mTOR and precluding any ability to regenerate.

Trying to find a way to restore early-developmental-stage cell growth in injured tissue, Zhigang He, a senior neurology researcher at Children's Hospital Boston and Harvard Medical School, first showed in a 2008 study that blocking PTEN in mice enabled the regeneration of connections from the eye to the brain after optic nerve damage.

He then partnered with Oswald Steward of UCI and Binhai Zheng of UCSD to see if the same approach could promote nerve regeneration in injured spinal cord sites. Results of their study appear online in Nature Neuroscience........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 14, 2010, 7:46 AM CT

Common medications may cause cognitive impairment

Common medications may cause cognitive impairment
Drugs commonly taken for a variety of common medical conditions including insomnia, allergies, or incontinence negatively affect the brain causing long term cognitive impairment in older African-Americans, according to a study appearing in the July 13, 2010 print issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

These drugs, called anticholinergics, block acetylcholine, a nervous system neurotransmitter, and are widely-used medical therapies. They are sold over the counter under various brand names such as Benadryl, Dramamine, Excedrin PM, Nytol, Sominex, Tylenol PM, and Unisom. Other anticholinergic drugs, such as Paxil, Detrol, Demerol and Elavil are available only by prescription. Older adults most commonly use drugs with anticholinergic effects as sleep aids and to relieve bladder leakage problems.

Researchers from Indiana University School of Medicine, the Regenstrief Institute and Wishard Health Services conducted a six-year observational study, evaluating 1,652 Indianapolis area African-Americans over the age of 70 who had normal cognitive function when the study began. In addition to monitoring cognition, the scientists tracked all over-the-counter and prescription medications taken by study participants.

"We found that taking one anticholinergic significantly increased an individual's risk of developing mild cognitive impairment and taking two of these drugs doubled this risk. This is very significant in a population African-Americans already known to be at high risk for developing cognitive impairment," said Noll Campbell, PharmD, first author of the study. Dr. Campbell is a clinical pharmacist with Wishard Health Services.........

Posted by: Janet      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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