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November 18, 2010, 7:09 AM CT

Insight into the Cause of Common Dementia

Insight into the Cause of Common Dementia
Scientists at the Mayo Clinic campus in Florida have found a clue as to how some people develop a form of dementia that affects the brain areas linked to personality, behavior, and language.

In the Nov. 17 online issue of the American Journal of Human Genetics, the researchers write that they discovered a link between two proteins - progranulin and sortilin - they say might open new avenues for the therapy of frontotemporal lobar degeneration (FTLD), which occurs in the frontal lobe and temporal lobe of the brain. This form of dementia, which is currently untreatable, generally occurs in younger people, in comparison to other common neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer's disease.

"We now can look for a direct link between these two proteins and the development of FTLD," says the study's main author, neuroscientist Rosa Rademakers, Ph.D. "The hope is that if we do find a strong association, it might be possible to manipulate levels of one or both of these proteins therapeutically."

Coincidentally, a research group from Yale University led by Stephen Strittmatter, M.D., Ph.D., has also pinpointed sortilin's association with progranulin - thus confirming Mayo's results. Their study is being published in Neuron, also on Nov. 17.

FTLD is a family of brain diseases that are believed to share some common molecular features. One is the presence of mutations in the gene that produces tau protein in neurons. The other is mutations in the progranulin gene that Mayo Clinic scientists and their colleagues discovered in 2006. They observed that 5 to 10 percent of patients with FTLD have a mutation in this gene, and that these mutations lead to a substantial loss of normal progranulin protein production, and development of FTLD.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 17, 2010, 7:51 AM CT

Progress in Alzheimer's disease

Progress in Alzheimer's disease
New studies identify brain changes in people with Alzheimer's disease. The results give scientists a greater understanding of the disease and may help at-risk individuals by improving early detection. New animal research also shows a novel approach to Alzheimer's vaccine design that may avoid dangerous side effects. These new results were reported at Neuroscience 2010, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience and the world's largest source of emerging news on brain science and health.

About 5.3 million people have Alzheimer's disease, as per the Alzheimer's Association. With the aging baby boomer population, Alzheimer's will continue to affect more people worldwide. Better diagnostic techniques may help identify the disease at earlier, potentially more treatable stages.

Today's new findings show that:.
  • People with Alzheimer's disease show structural changes in the caudate nucleus, a brain structure typically linked to movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease, suggesting that the disease produces broader damage in the brain than previously thought (Sarah Madsen, abstract 348.4, see attached summary).
  • People who are at risk for Alzheimer's disease exhibit a structural change in portions of the cerebral cortex, which is largely responsible for reasoning, memory and other "higher function" tasks. The findings may help identify those who would most benefit from early intervention (Sarah George, abstract 756.9, see attached summary).........

    Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 12, 2010, 7:47 AM CT

Circuitry of fear

Circuitry of fear
Neurobiologists at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research have identified, for the first time, clearly defined neural circuits responsible for the processing of fear states. These findings could ultimately help people suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder or anxiety disorders. The scientists' results have been reported in the latest issue of Nature.

Fear arises in the almond-shaped brain structure known as the amygdala. It is the amygdala which processes the strange noise, shadowy figure or scary face and not only triggers palpitations or nausea but can also cause us to flee or freeze. That much has long been known about the function of this part of the brain. What remains largely unclear, however, is precisely how fear develops, and which of the countless neurons in the amygdaloid region are involved in this process. But finding answers to these questions is vital for those who wish to improve the quality of life for people suffering as a result of traumatic experiences. In particular, patients with post-traumatic stress or anxiety disorders could benefit from the elucidation of neural processes in the amygdala.

Neurobiologists at the Friedrich Miescher Institute for Biomedical Research (FMI, part of the Novartis Research Foundation) have become the first to identify neural pathways and types of neurons in the amygdala which play a key role in the behavioral expression of fear. In two studies reported in the latest issue of Nature, they show that there are clearly defined types of neurons in the amygdala which fulfill specific functions in the processing of fear inputs and subsequent fear responses. These cell types are organized in circuits, connecting neurons and various areas within the amygdala.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 9, 2010, 10:36 PM CT

Clot-busting drug in stroke patients

Clot-busting drug in stroke patients
The clot-busting drug rt-PA remains the most beneficial proven emergency therapy for strokes caused by blood clots, as per an editorial in the recent issue of Archives of Neurology by Dr. Jos Biller.

"The benefits of therapy outweigh the risks in patients treated with intravenous rt-PA within 4.5 hours of symptom onset," Biller wrote. Biller is chairman of the Department of Neurology at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine and an internationally recognized expert on stroke care.

Most strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by blood clots that block blood flow in the brain. Brain cells begin dying when they are starved of blood supply. But if administered soon enough, an IV drug known as recombinant tissue plasminogen activator (rt-PA) can dissolve clots, restore blood flow and limit damage.

Biller's editorial is about a study, reported in the same issue, by Dr. Ioan-Paul Muresan and his colleagues at Assistance Publique -- Hopitaux de Paris. The study observed that stroke patients who show improvement within one hour of receiving rt-PA were more likely to do well three months later,.

Scientists followed 120 patients who received rt-PA and observed that 22 (18.3 percent) showed significant improvement within one hour of therapy. After three months, 15 of these patients (68.2 percent) had a favorable outcome. By comparison, only 29.6 percent of patients who did not show early improvement had a favorable outcome at three months.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 3, 2010, 7:51 AM CT

Brain's ability to selectively focus

Brain's ability to selectively focus
A University of Toronto study shows that visual attention - the brain's ability to selectively filter unattended or unwanted information from reaching awareness - diminishes with age, leaving elderly adults less capable of filtering out distracting or irrelevant information.

Further, this age-related "leaky" attentional filter fundamentally impacts the way visual information is encoded into memory. Elderly adults with impaired visual attention have better memory for "irrelevant" information. This research, which was conducted by members of U of T's Department of Psychology, will be published Wednesday, November 3 in the Journal of Neuroscience.

In the study, the research team examined brain images using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) on a group of young (mean age = 22 years) and elderly adults (mean age = 77 years) while they looked at pictures of overlapping faces and places (houses and buildings). Participants were asked to only pay attention to the faces and to identify the gender of the person. Even though they could see the place in the image, it was not relevant to the task at hand.

"In young adults, the brain region for processing faces was active while the brain region for processing places was not," says Taylor Schmitz, main author of the research paper. "However, both the face and place regions were active in older people. This means that even at early stages of perception, elderly adults were less capable of filtering out the distracting information. Moreover, on a surprise memory test 10 minutes after the scan, elderly adults were more likely to recognize what face was originally paired with what house".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 28, 2010, 7:27 AM CT

Sex Differences in the Brain Are Overblown

Sex Differences in the Brain Are Overblown
People love to speculate about differences between the sexes, and neuroscience has brought a new technology to this pastime. Brain imaging studies are published at a great rate, and some report sex differences in brain structure or patterns of neural activity. But we should be skeptical about reports of brain differences between the sexes, writes psychological scientist Cordelia Fine in Current Directions in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science. The results from these studies may not necessarily withstand the tests of larger sample sizes or improved analysis techniques-and it's too soon to know for sure what such results, even if they prove to be reliable, might mean for differences in male and female minds.

Bookstores are full of popular books on the differences between men's and women's brains. Fine, who works at Macquarie University in Australia, first got interested in the issue as a parent. She was reading a book about how the differences between boys' and girls' brains mean they should be taught differently. But as an academic, she was curious about the research on which these claims were based, and looked up the original studies.

"There were huge discrepancies between what the neuroimaging studies showed and the conclusions and claims that were being drawn from them," she says. In the article and her new book, Delusions of Gender, Fine dissects the ways that research goes astray between the scanning machine and the sound bite.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 18, 2010, 7:32 AM CT

Blood pressure, glaucoma links in migraine

Blood pressure, glaucoma links in migraine
Data on glaucoma risk in people with migraine and on innovative uses of mobile, digital technology are featured in today's Scientific Program, to be presented at the 2010 American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) Middle East-Africa Council of Ophthalmology (MEACO) Joint Meeting. The AAO-MEACO meeting is in session October 16 through 19 at McCormick Place, Chicago. It is the largest, most comprehensive ophthalmic education conference in the world.



The Blood Pressure-Glaucoma Connection in People with Migraine


Yury S Astakhov, MD, PhD, of Pavlov Medical University, St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, studied how day- and at night-time blood pressure levels appears to be correlation to the development of glaucoma in people with migraine. Understanding such effects is important for doctors in determining how to treat patients with multiple diseases.

Migraine is a known risk factor for open-angle glaucoma, a disease that can cause blindness due to damage to the optic nerve. The association between the two is stronger for people with "normal tension" glaucoma (NTG), in which the pressure within the eye is normal but optic nerve damage occurs nonetheless. It is also known that glaucoma patients who have low blood pressure at night are more likely to develop visual field loss (reduction of the full range of vision, which occurs first in the peripheral vision).........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 14, 2010, 8:01 AM CT

Celery, peppers may reduce age-related memory deficits

Celery, peppers may reduce age-related memory deficits
Animal sciences professor and Division of Nutritional Sciences director Rodney Johnson and his colleagues found that the plant compound luteolin can reduce brain inflammation and reverse age-related memory deficits in mice.

A diet rich in the plant compound luteolin reduces age-related inflammation in the brain and related memory deficits by directly inhibiting the release of inflammatory molecules in the brain, scientists report.

Luteolin (LOOT-ee-oh-lin) is found in a number of plants, including carrots, peppers, celery, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and chamomile.

The newly released study, which examined the effects of dietary luteolin in a mouse model of aging, appears in the Journal of Nutrition.

The scientists focused on microglial cells, specialized immune cells that reside in the brain and spinal cord. Infections stimulate microglia to produce signaling molecules, called cytokines, which spur a cascade of chemical changes in the brain. Some of these signaling molecules, the inflammatory cytokines, induce "sickness behavior": the sleepiness, loss of appetite, memory deficits and depressive behaviors that often accompany illness.

Inflammation in the brain also may be a key contributor to age-related memory problems, said University of Illinois animal sciences professor Rodney Johnson, who led the newly released study. Johnson directs the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Illinois.

"We found previously that during normal aging, microglial cells become dysregulated and begin producing excessive levels of inflammatory cytokines," he said.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 12, 2010, 7:31 AM CT

Carotid stents vs endarterectomy surgery

Carotid stents vs endarterectomy surgery
For patients with blockages in the carotid artery that supplies blood to the brain, carotid artery stenting (a non-surgical therapy) may be linked to an increased risk of both short- and long-term adverse outcomes when compared with surgical therapy (carotid endarterectomy), as per a meta-analysis of previously published studies that was posted online today and will appear in the February 2011 print issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

"Carotid artery stenting has emerged as an alternative to carotid endarterectomy for the therapy of carotid artery occlusive disease," the authors write as background information in the article. The treatmentwhich involves threading a catheter through the femoral (groin) artery to the carotid artery, inflating an angioplasty balloon to compress plaque and inserting a stent to keep the artery openis endorsed by the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association guidelines as a reasonable strategy and recommended by the European Society of Vascular Surgery in certain circumstances. However, its safety and efficacy as compared with carotid endarterectomy (surgery to remove the inner lining of the diseased blood vessel) is controversial.

Sripal Bangalore, M.D., M.H.A., of New York University School of Medicine, New York, and Harvard Clinical Research Institute, Boston, and his colleagues conducted a meta-analysis of 13 randomized clinical trials comparing the two therapys conducted through June 2010 and involving 7,477 patients with carotid artery disease. They assessed the risk of death, heart attack (myocardial infarction) and stroke within the periprocedural period (within 30 days of the procedure) as well as intermediate and long-term outcomes.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 12, 2010, 7:30 AM CT

Insulin resistance and stroke risk

Insulin resistance and stroke risk
Insulin resistance, a condition in which insulin produced by the body becomes less effective in reducing blood glucose levels, may be linked to an increased risk of stroke in individuals without diabetes, as per a report in the recent issue of Archives of Neurology, one of the JAMA/Archives journals.

Insulin resistance originates from several factors, including genetics, a sedentary lifestyle and obesity, as per background information in the article. The condition contributes significantly to the risk of cardiovascular disease, but whether it predicts ischemic stroke (interruption in blood flow to the brain due to a blood clot or another artery blockage) is still a matter of debate.

One widely used tool to estimate insulin sensitivity is the homeostasis model evaluation (HOMA), calculated using fasting blood glucose and fasting insulin levels. Tatjana Rundek, M.D., Ph.D., of Miller School of Medicine, University of Miami, and his colleagues assessed insulin resistance using HOMA for 1,509 non-diabetic participants in the Northern Manhattan Study, a study assessing stroke risk, incidence and prognosis in a multi-ethnic urban community. Participants were followed for an average of 8.5 years.

During the follow-up period, vascular events occurred in 180 participants, including 46 who had fatal or non-fatal ischemic strokes, 45 who had fatal or non-fatal heart attacks and 121 who died of vascular causes. Individuals in the top one-fourth (quartile) of HOMA index had an increased risk of stroke in comparison to those in the other three quartiles of the HOMA index. Adjusting for established cardiovascular risk factorsincluding glucose level, obesity and metabolic syndromedid not diminish the association. The relationship between insulin resistance and the risk of first stroke was stronger in men than women but did not vary by racial or ethnic group.........

Posted by: JoAnn      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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