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January 21, 2011, 10:34 PM CT

Meditation changes brain structure

Meditation changes brain structure
Participating in an 8-week mindfulness meditation program appears to make measurable changes in brain regions linked to memory, sense of self, empathy and stress. In a study that will appear in the January 30 issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, a team led by Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) scientists report the results of their study, the first to document meditation-produced changes over time in the brain's grey matter.

"Eventhough the practice of meditation is linked to a sense of peacefulness and physical relaxation, practitioners have long claimed that meditation also provides cognitive and psychological benefits that persist throughout the day," says Sara Lazar, PhD, of the MGH Psychiatric Neuroimaging Research Program, the study's senior author. "This study demonstrates that changes in brain structure may underlie some of these reported improvements and that people are not just feeling better because they are spending time relaxing".

Prior studies from Lazar's group and others found structural differences between the brains of experienced mediation practitioners and individuals with no history of meditation, observing thickening of the cerebral cortex in areas linked to attention and emotional integration. But those investigations could not document that those differences were actually produced by meditation.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 18, 2011, 7:54 AM CT

Plasma exchange in severe MS relapses

Plasma exchange in severe MS relapses
A new guideline from the American Academy of Neurology recommends using plasma exchange to treat people with severe relapses in multiple sclerosis (MS) and related diseases, as well as those with certain kinds of nerve disorders known as neuropathies. The guideline is reported in the January 18, 2011, print issue of Neurology�, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Plasma exchange, formally known as plasmapheresis, is the process of taking blood out of the body, removing constituents in the blood's plasma believed to be harmful, and then transfusing the rest of the blood (mainly red blood cells) mixed with replacement plasma back into the body.

The guideline recommends doctors consider using plasma exchange as a secondary therapy for severe flares in relapsing forms of MS and related diseases. The therapy was not found to be effective for secondary progressive and chronic progressive forms of MS.

As per the guideline, doctors should offer plasma exchange for therapy of severe forms of Guillain-Barr� syndrome and for temporary therapy of chronic inflammatory demyelinating polyneuropathy. Plasma exchange may also be considered for therapy of some other kinds of inflammatory neuropathies.

"These types of neurologic disorders occur when the body's immune system mistakenly causes damage to the nervous system. Plasma exchange helps because it removes factors in the plasma thought to play a role in these disorders," said guideline main author Irene Cortese, MD, a neurologist with the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md., and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 16, 2011, 9:59 PM CT

Small details attached to big memories

Small details attached to big memories
Neuroresearchers at MIT's Picower Institute of Learning and Memory have uncovered why relatively minor details of an episode are sometimes inexplicably associated with long-term memories. The work is slated to appear in the Jan. 13 issue of Neuron

"Our finding explains, at least partially, why seemingly irrelevant information like the color of the shirt of an important person is remembered as vividly as more significant information such as the person's impressive remark when you recall an episode of meeting this person," said co-author Susumu Tonegawa, Picower Professor of Biology and Neuroscience and director of the RIKEN-MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics.

The data also showed that irrelevant information that follows the relevant event rather than precedes it is more likely to be integrated into long-term memory.

Shaping a memory

One theory holds that memory traces or fragments are distributed throughout the brain as biophysical or biochemical changes called engrams. The exact mechanism underlying engrams is not well understood.

MIT neuroresearchers Arvind Govindarajan, assistant director of the RIKEN/MIT Center for Neural Circuit Genetics; Picower Institute postdoctoral associate Inbal Israely; and technical associate Shu-Ying Huang; and Tonegawa looked at single neurons to explore how memories are created and stored in the brain.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 16, 2011, 8:46 PM CT

Neurons of the deep brain

Neurons of the deep brain
This is a diagram of the experimental setup. (left) Tiny optical instruments called microendoscopes are inserted into glass imaging guide tubes, which maintain a precise position in the brain. This allows researchers to view the exact same neuron with a microscope (right) again and again, a new technique for brain researchers. Scientists can also compare diseased tissue, such as a tumor, to healthy tissue in the same animal.

Credit: Modified image courtesy Mark Schnitzer and Nature Medicine.

Travel just one millimeter inside the brain and you'll be stepping into the dark.

Standard light microscopes don't allow scientists to look into the interior of the living brain, where memories are formed and diseases such as dementia and cancer can take their toll.

But Stanford researchers have devised a new method that not only lets them peer deep inside the brain to examine its neurons but also allows them to continue monitoring for months.

The technique promises to improve understanding of both the normal biology and diseased states of this hidden tissue.

Other recent advances in micro-optics had enabled researchers to take a peek at cells of the deep brain, but their observations captured only a momentary snapshot of the microscopic changes that occur over months and years with aging and illness.

The Stanford development appears online Jan. 16 in the journal Nature Medicine It also will appear in the February 2011 print edition.

Researchers study a number of diseases of the deep brain using mouse models, mice that have been bred or genetically engineered to have diseases similar to human afflictions.

"Scientists will now be able to study mouse models in these deep areas in a way that wasn't available before," said senior author Mark Schnitzer, associate professor of biology and of applied physics.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 11, 2011, 6:24 AM CT

Does it hurt?

Does it hurt?
Pain pathway
It is well known that pain is a highly subjective experience. We each have a pain threshold, but this can vary depending on distractions and mood. A paper in the International Journal of Behavioural and Healthcare Research offers a cautionary note on measuring perceived pain in research.

There are a number of chronic illnesses and injuries that have no well-defined symptoms other than pain, but because of the subjectivity in a patient's reporting of their experience of the illness or injury, healthcare workers have difficulty in addressing the patient's needs. Moreover, when subjective reporting of pain is a critical component of a clinical trial, scientists involved in the trial often find it difficult to determine efficacy from patient to patient based on the subject's own assessment of painful symptoms. Commonly, patients are asked to rate their pain on a zero to ten scale, where zero represents no pain whatsoever and a value of ten indicates excruciating pain. Unfortunately, one person's "8" appears to be another's "10" on the same scale.

When seeking to assess the effectiveness of an intervention it is common practice that patients whose post-treatment pain scores are lower than their pre-treatment scores are categorized as having undergone effective therapy. This all but ignores the subjectivity of their experience of pain, where the simple act of being "treated" may lower their perception of their pain without the underlying cause of the pain having been physically reduced.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


January 8, 2011, 11:38 PM CT

What causes brain cell death in Parkinson's patients

What causes brain cell death in Parkinson's patients
Just 5 percent of Parkinson's disease cases can be explained by genetic mutation, while the rest have no known cause. But a new discovery by scientists at The University of Texas Health Science Center appears to begin to explain why the vast majority of Parkinson's patients develop the progressive neurodegenerative disease.

This week in The Journal of Neuroscience, the scientists demystified a process that leads to the death of brain cells - or neurons - in Parkinson's patients. When scientists blocked the process, the neurons survived.

The findings could lead to an effective therapy to slow the progression of Parkinson's disease, rather than simply address symptoms that include tremors, slowed movement, muscle stiffness and impaired balance. Further studies could lead to a diagnostic test that could screen for Parkinson's years before symptoms develop, said Syed Z. Imam, Ph.D., adjunct assistant professor at the UT Health Science Center.

Parkinson's disease, which commonly is not diagnosed until age 60 or later, affects an estimated half-million people in the United States.

Dr. Imam joined the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) after the research was conducted. Co-authors are from the Health Science Center's Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies; the South Texas Veterans Health Care System; and the Hertie Institute for Clinical Brain Research in Tübingen, Gera number of.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


January 3, 2011, 6:39 AM CT

CPAP therapy reduces fatigue

 CPAP therapy reduces fatigue
Patients with obstructive sleep apnea often report that they feel like "a new person" after beginning therapy with continuous positive airway pressure treatment. A newly released study in the Jan. 1 issue of the journal SLEEP provides objective evidence to support these anecdotal reports, showing that three weeks of CPAP treatment significantly reduced fatigue and increased energy in patients with OSA.

Results of the randomized controlled trial show that CPAP treatment significantly reduced self-reported, mean fatigue scores on two independent measures: from 8.76 at baseline to -0.10 post-treatment on the Multidimensional Fatigue Symptom Inventory � Short Form; and from 7.17 at baseline to 4.03 post-treatment on the fatigue-inertia subscale of the Profile of Mood States � Short Form. These results indicate that participants were no longer suffering from clinically significant levels of fatigue after the three-week intervention period.

Self-reported energy levels also increased after three weeks of CPAP treatment, with the mean score on the vigor-activity subscale of the Profile of Mood States � Short Form increasing significantly from 14.28 at baseline to 16.52 post-treatment. Significant changes in fatigue and energy were not observed in participants who received placebo CPAP.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


December 16, 2010, 7:54 AM CT

Compound with potent effects on biological clock

Compound with potent effects on biological clock
Using an automated screening technique developed by pharmaceutical companies to find new drugs, a team of scientists from UC San Diego and three other research institutions has discovered a molecule with the most potent effects ever seen on the biological clock.

Dubbed by the researchers "longdaysin," for its ability to dramatically slow down the biological clock, the new compound and the application of their screening method to the discovery of other clock-shifting chemicals could pave the way for a host of new drugs to treat severe sleep disorders or quickly reset the biological clocks of jet-lagged travelers who regularly travel across multiple time zones.

Typically typically typically "theoretically, longdaysin or a compound like it could be used to correct sleep disorders such as the genetic disorder familial advanced sleep syndrome, which is characterized by a clock that's running too fast," said Steve Kay, dean of UCSD's Division of Biological Sciences, who headed the research team, which published its findings in the December 14 issue of the journal PLoS Biology "A compound that makes the clock slow down or speed up can also be used to phase-shift the clockin other words, to bump or reset the hands of the clock. This would help your body catch up when it is jet lagged or reset it to a normal day-night cycle when it has been thrown out of phase by shift work".........

Posted by: Scott      Read more         Source


December 16, 2010, 7:31 AM CT

Where unconscious memories form

Where unconscious memories form
A small area deep in the brain called the perirhinal cortex is critical for forming unconscious conceptual memories, scientists at the UC Davis Center for Mind and Brain have found.

The perirhinal cortex was believed to be involved, like the neighboring hippocampus, in "declarative" or conscious memories, but the new results show that the picture is more complex, said main author Wei-chun Wang, a graduate student at UC Davis.

The results were published Dec. 9 in the journal Neuron.

We're all familiar with memories that rise from the unconscious mind. Imagine looking at a beach scene, said Wang. A little later, someone mentions surfing, and the beach scene pops back into your head.

Declarative memories, in contrast, are those where we recall being on that beach and watching that surf competition: "I remember being there".

Damage to a structure called the hippocampus affects such declarative "I remember" memories, but not conceptual memories, Wang said. Neuroresearchers had previously thought the same was true for the perirhinal cortex, which is located immediately next to the hippocampus.

Wang and his colleagues carried out memory tests on people diagnosed with amnesia, who had known damage to the perirhinal cortex or other brain areas. They also carried out functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans of healthy volunteers while they performed memory tests.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


November 30, 2010, 7:55 AM CT

Sleep apnea and heart disease

Sleep apnea and heart disease
People with obstructive sleep apnea (OSA), a sleep disorder linked to obesity, have more non-calcified or "bad" plaque in their coronary arteries, as per a research studypresented today at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).

"Our study reveals that individuals with obstructive sleep apnea are prone to developing an aggressive form of atherosclerosis that puts them at risk for impaired blood flow and cardiovascular events," said U. Joseph Schoepf, M.D., professor of radiology and medicine and director of cardiovascular imaging at the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston, S.C.

Typically osa is caused by obstruction of the upper airway during sleep and is characterized by periodic pauses in breathing, which last for 10 or more seconds. OSA is also usually linked to snoring.

As per the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, millions of Americans have OSA, and approximately half of them are overweight.

In the study, 49 obese patients, mean age 61, with OSA and a mean body mass index (BMI) of 33, and 46 obese patients without the disorder (mean age of 60 and mean BMI of 30) underwent coronary CT angiography (cCTA), which provides detailed pictures and information on plaque buildup and narrowing in the vessels. The OSA group included 26 men and 23 women, and the matched control group included 22 men and 24 women.........

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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