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October 15, 2008, 5:52 PM CT

Brain-nourishing molecule may predict schizophrenia relapse

Brain-nourishing molecule may predict schizophrenia relapse
A factor that helps optimize brain formation and function may also provide clues about whether patients suffering with schizophrenia are headed toward relapse, scientists say.

Over the next two- and one-half years, they are regularly measuring levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, in the blood of patients with schizophrenia to see if the pattern of their rise and fall is a good indicator that patients are headed for trouble, say Medical College of Georgia researchers.

"If you had something that would give you a better inkling that somebody is going to get ill, that would be extraordinarily helpful," says Dr. Peter S. Buckley, schizophrenia specialist who chairs the Department of Psychiatry and Health Behavior in the MCG School of Medicine. "It's a little bit of a shot in the dark, but the payoff would be huge," he says of the study that piggybacks on another federally-funded study looking at whether injectable medicine, rather than tablets, can help deter relapses.

Not taking their medicines as prescribed is a big reason patients relapse but science has already shown that BDNF levels can start dropping even when they do, says Dr. Anilkumar R. Pillai, MCG neuroscientist who studies BDNF and other cell-nourishing trophic factors. That drop likely indicates the drug is becoming less effective and a relapse is imminent, the scientists say.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 15, 2008, 5:45 PM CT

Genetic analysis predicts whether liver cancer likely to recur

Genetic analysis predicts whether liver cancer likely to recur
Scientists are poised to unlock the genetic secrets stored in hundreds of thousands of cancer biopsy samples locked in long-term storage and previously believed to be useless for modern genetic research. With the aid of a new technique developed by Howard Hughes Medical Institute researchers, researchers can now reconstruct thousands of genes that are "shredded" into tiny pieces when tissue samples are treated with a chemical fixative and stored in wax a protocol that is usually used to preserve the samples.

The researchers tested their new technique on liver tissue samples from 307 patients enrolled in clinical studies in four different countries. Using sophisticated microarray technology, the researchers studied RNA from stored liver tissue samples and identified a tell-tale genetic profile that indicates whether liver cancer will recur. Since the testing was done on tissue samples of patients whose clinical outcome was known, the scientists were able to associate specific "gene expression signatures" with particular outcomes.

The scientists are optimistic that oncologists will be able to use this information to determine which liver cancer patients would likely suffer recurrence and treat them to help prevent it.

"It is now possible to scan the entire genome for gene expression profiles in tissues that have been fixed for a very long timein our study as long as twenty-four years," said Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator Todd R. Golub, who led the study. "There are lots of those tissues available compared with frozen ones, and tissue availability has been a real bottleneck in cancer genomic research".........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


October 15, 2008, 5:42 PM CT

A walk in the park improves attention in children with ADHD

A walk in the park improves attention in children with ADHD
For children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) tasks that require concentration such as doing homework or taking a test can be very difficult. A simple, inexpensive remedy may be a "dose of nature".

A study conducted at the University of Illinois shows that children with ADHD demonstrate greater attention after a 20-minute walk in a park than after a similar walk in a downtown area or a residential neighborhood.

The study, conducted by child environment and behavior scientists Andrea Faber Taylor and Frances E. Kuo was published in a recent issue of the Journal of Attention Disorders

"From our prior research, we knew there might be a link between spending time in nature and reduced ADHD symptoms," said Faber Taylor. "So to confirm that link we conducted a study in which we took children on walks in three different settings one particularly "green" and two less "green" and kept everything about the walks as similar as possible".

Some children took the "green" walk first; others took it second or last. After each walk, an experimenter who didn't know which walk the child had been on tested their attention using a standard neurocognitive test called Digit Span Backwards, in which a series of numbers are said aloud and the child recites them backwards. It's a test in which practice doesn't improve your score.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 15, 2008, 5:39 PM CT

High-school social skills predict better earnings than test scores

High-school social skills predict better earnings than test scores
Ten years after graduation, high-school students who had been rated as conscientious and cooperative by their teachers were earning more than classmates who had similar test scores but fewer social skills, said a new University of Illinois study.

The study's findings challenge the idea that racial, ethnic, and socioeconomic gaps in educational attainment and earnings can be narrowed solely by emphasizing cognitive skills, said Christy Lleras, a University of Illinois assistant professor of human and community development.

"It's important to note that good schools do more than teach reading, writing, and math. They socialize students and provide the kinds of learning opportunities that help them to become good citizens and to be successful in the labor market," she said.

"Unless we address the differences in school climates and curriculum that foster good work habits and other social skills, we're doing a huge disservice to low-income kids who may be entering the labor market right after high school, particularly in our increasingly service-oriented economy," Lleras added.

She cited responses to employer surveys that stress the need for workers who can get along well with each other and get along well with the public.

The U of I study analyzed data from the National Educational Longitudinal Study, which followed a diverse group of 11,000 tenth graders for 10 years, tracking not only their scores on standard achievement tests but teacher appraisals of such qualities as the students' work habits, their ability to relate well to peers, and their participation in extracurricular activities, a proxy for the ability to interact well with both students and adults.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


October 14, 2008, 10:17 PM CT

Searching the Internet increases brain function

Searching the Internet increases brain function
UCLA researchers have observed that for computer-savvy middle-aged and elderly adults, searching the Internet triggers key centers in the brain that control decision-making and complex reasoning. The findings demonstrate that Web search activity may help stimulate and possibly improve brain function.

The study, the first of its kind to assess the impact of Internet searching on brain performance, is currently in press at the American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry and will appear in an upcoming issue.

"The study results are encouraging, that emerging computerized technologies may have physiological effects and potential benefits for middle-aged and elderly adults," said principal investigator Dr. Gary Small, a professor at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA who holds UCLA's Parlow-Solomon Chair on Aging. "Internet searching engages complicated brain activity, which may help exercise and improve brain function." .

As the brain ages, many structural and functional changes occur, including atrophy, reductions in cell activity, and increases in deposits of amyloid plaques and tau tangles, which can impact cognitive function.

Small noted that pursuing activities that keep the mind engaged may help preserve brain health and cognitive ability. Traditionally, these include games such as crossword puzzles, but with the advent of technology, researchers are beginning to assess the influence of computer use including the Internet.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 14, 2008, 10:04 PM CT

Why do women get more cavities than men?

Why do women get more cavities than men?
John Lukacs, professor of anthropology, shows a 250,000-year-old "Kabwe skull" from Africa. The sex is unknown, but this specimen has 15 teeth still intact or partially present -- 12 of them have obvious damage from dental caries.

Credit: Jim Barlow
Reproduction pressures and rising fertility explain why women suffered a more rapid decline in dental health than did men as humans transitioned from hunter-and-gatherers to farmers and more sedentary pursuits, says a University of Oregon anthropologist.

The conclusion follows a comprehensive review of records of the frequencies of dental cavities in both prehistoric and living human populations from research done around the world. A driving factor was dramatic changes in female-specific hormones, reports John R. Lukacs, a professor of anthropology who specializes in dental, skeletal and nutritional issues.

His conclusions are outlined in the recent issue of Current Anthropology The study examined the frequency of dental caries (cavities) by sex to show that women typically experience poorer dental health than men. Among research evaluated were studies previously done by Lukacs. Two clinical dental studies published this year (one done in the Philippines, the other in Guatemala) and cited in the paper, Lukacs said, point to the same conclusions and "may provide the mechanism through which the biological differences are mediated".

A change in food production by agrarian societies has been linked to an increase in cavities. Anthropologists have attributed men-women differences to behavioral factors, including a sexual division of labor and dietary preferences. However, Lukacs said, clinical and epidemiological literature from varied ecological and cultural settings reveals a clear picture of the impacts on women's oral health.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


October 14, 2008, 9:47 PM CT

Vitamin B does not slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer's

Vitamin B does not slow cognitive decline in Alzheimer's
A clinical trial led by Paul S. Aisen, M.D., professor of neurosciences at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine, showed that high-dose vitamin B supplements did not slow the rate of cognitive decline in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer disease. The study would be reported in the October 15 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Aisen is director of the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a multi-center network spanning the United States and Canada, which conducted the clinical trial to determine if reduction of an amino acid called homocysteine would reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease or slow its progression. Homocysteine is known to be involved in neurological disease, including Alzheimer's, and its metabolism is affected by B vitamins. Therefore, it was thought that B vitamin supplements might offer a new therapeutic approach in treating Alzheimer' disease.

"Previous studies using B vitamin supplementation to reduce homocysteine levels in patients with Alzheimer's weren't large enough, or of long enough duration to effectively assess their impact on cognitive decline," said Aisen. "This study of several hundred individuals over the course of 18 months showed no impact on cognition, eventhough it resulted in lower levels of homocysteine in these patients."........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


October 14, 2008, 8:25 PM CT

Alzheimer's disease and blood pressure

Alzheimer's disease and blood pressure
A new study (http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.bihy.2008.04.006) published in Bioscience Hypotheses (http://www.elsevier.com/locate/issn/1756-2392), a recently launched Elsevier journal, proposes that some people suffering from Alzheimer's disease experience a reduction in their hypertension because of cognitive decline.

Publications relating to dementia and blood pressure have been evaluated by the paper's author Dr Sven Kurbel of the Osijek Medical Faculty in Croatia. The cognitive problems suffered by some Alzheimer's patients have previously been put down to low blood pressure (arterial hypotension). The hypothesis put forward by Dr Kurbel is that the opposite is true. He suggests that as the patient's memory fails, they forget the causes of anxiety and worry that was causing high blood pressure: failing memory causes hypotension, not visa versa.

High blood pressure itself is a cause of disease, including strokes, so paradoxically, Dr. Kurbel's hypothesis suggests, therapys which alleviate memory loss could affect other causes of illness. If this hypothesis is correct it could have a significant effect on the therapy of conditions such as metabolic syndrome, which involves increased weight and high blood pressure. Dr. Kurbel concludes that "An important question is would reduction of stressful memories and of stress exposure in everyday life help diminish the risk of getting high blood pressure or metabolic syndrome in the years to come."........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 14, 2008, 7:54 PM CT

How brain sees what you do not see

How brain sees what you do not see
Blindsight is a phenomenon in which patients with damage in the primary visual cortex of the brain can tell where an object is eventhough they claim they cannot see it. A research team led by Prof. Tadashi Isa and Dr. Masatoshi Yoshida of the National Institute for Physiological Sciences, Japan, provides compelling evidence that blindsight occurs because visual information is conveyed bypassing the primary visual cortex. Japan Science and Technology Agency supported this study. The team reports their finding in the Journal of Neuroscience on Oct 15, 2008.

The scientists recorded eye movements of Japanese monkeys that had damage in one side of the primary visual cortex. Training with an eye movement task for 2-3 months enabled the monkeys to move their eyes to the correct direction where an object was even in the affected side of their visual fields. Brain became able to feel where an object was without 'seeing' it. After the training, their eye movements looked almost normal; they discriminated five different directions even in the affected visual field. To investigate how eyes move, the monkeys' eye movements to targets in their affected visual field were compared with those to dark targets in their normal visual field. Both were 'equally difficult to see'. By this trick, the scientists found two differences from the normal: 1) the trajectory of their eye movements was straight and 2) the response time of their eye movement was short. These differences were believed to be due to the damage of eye movement control and decision making, not purely on that of vision. Therefore, the scientists concluded that the monkeys' eye movements after damage in the primary visual cortex were mediated by a qualitatively different vision which is supported by alternative brain circuits bypassing the primary visual cortex.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 14, 2008, 7:52 PM CT

Researchers continue to find genes for type 1 diabetes

Researchers continue to find genes for type 1 diabetes
Genetics scientists have identified two novel gene locations that raise the risk of type 1 diabetes. As they continue to reveal pieces of the complicated genetic puzzle for this disease, the scientists expect to improve predictive tests and devise preventive strategies.

"As we add to our knowledge of the biology of type 1 diabetes and better understand details of the disease's genetic risk, we will be able to develop better diagnostic tests that meaningfully predict who will develop diabetes," said study leader Hakon Hakonarson, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Center for Applied Genomics at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia.

The study appeared online Oct. 7 in Diabetes, the journal of the American Diabetes Association. Hakonarson's co-leader in the study was Constantin Polychronakos, M.D., director of Pediatric Endocrinology at McGill University in Montreal.

Type 1 diabetes, formerly called juvenile diabetes, commonly begins in childhood, when the body's immune system malfunctions and destroys insulin-producing beta cells in the pancreas. Without insulin, blood sugar levels run out of control and can impair blood flow and damage the eyes, nerves and kidneys. It is second only to asthma as the most common chronic disease in American children. Patients are dependent for life on insulin injections or insulin medications.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source



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Did you know?
Studies in monkeys and women suggest that unlike traditional estrogen therapy, a diet high in the natural plant estrogens found in soy does not increase the risk of uterine cancer in postmenopausal women, according to Mark Cline, D.V.M., Ph.D., an associate professor of comparative medicine at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center.

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