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October 29, 2007, 7:18 PM CT

Epilepsy-induced brain cell damage prevented

Epilepsy-induced brain cell damage prevented
For some epilepsy patients, the side effects of epilepsy can be as troubling as the seizures. One pressing concern is the cognitive impairment seizures often inflict, which potentially includes memory loss, slowed reactions and reduced attention spans.

Now researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have directly observed seizure-induced structural changes in brain cells in laboratory animals. They report in The Journal of Neuroscience that the insights they gained allowed them to use a drug to block those changes in the brain.

"Assuming that these structural changes are associated with cognitive impairment -- and there's a lot of data to suggest that's true - then this could provide us with a path to therapies that reduce cognitive problems in epilepsy," says senior author Michael Wong, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of neurology, of anatomy and neurobiology, and of pediatrics.

Approximately 1 to 2 percent of the general population suffers from some form of epilepsy. Severe or prolonged seizures can cause brain cell death, leading to anatomic damage visible on brain scans. But in some cases the cognitive impairments caused by seizures cannot be associated with discernible brain damage.

Previous studies have suggested that seizures may damage dendrites, treelike branches that extend from a nerve cell to receive signals. In studies of human tissue, scientists noted the loss of spines, small bumps on the exterior of the dendrite. Spines are known to be important for the formation of synapses, junctions where two nerve cells communicate across a small gap.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 22, 2007, 5:03 AM CT

Clinical trial evaluating brain cancer vaccine

Clinical trial evaluating brain cancer vaccine
A clinical trial evaluating a brain cancer vaccine in patients with newly diagnosed brain cancer has begun at NYU Medical Center. The study will evaluate the addition of the vaccine following standard treatment with surgery and chemotherapy in patients with glioblastoma multiforme, a deadly form of brain cancer.

The vaccine, called DCVax-Brain, incorporates proteins found in patients tumors and is designed to attack cancer cells containing these proteins. The study underway at NYU Medical Center is an expansion of an earlier phase I trial of the vaccine. The vaccine is made by the Northwest Biotherapeutics, Inc., based in Bothell, Washington.

We are really excited about the promise of this vaccine, said Patrick J. Kelly, M.D., the chairman of the Department of Neurosurgery and the Joseph Ransohoff Professor of Neurosurgery at NYU School of Medicine. Everything now depends on something in addition to surgery so that these tumors do not recur. A cancer vaccine like this may make a difference in extending life and maintaining a good quality of life.

This is a form of individualized treatment, adds NYU neuro-oncologist Michael Gruber, M.D. There is a lot of promise with this approach, he says. He and Dr. Kelly will be the lead researchers conducting the trial at NYU.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


October 19, 2007, 5:12 AM CT

Better devices to move injured or artificial limbs

Better devices to move injured or artificial limbs
Neural activity in the premotor cortex carries information about reaching and grasping. Information can be obtained from local field potentials (top left, blue signal), spikes or individual neuronal action potentials (green), and multi-unit activity (red), measuring the activity of populations of neurons. The most accurate information is obtained by combining multi-unit activity from multiple electrodes, depicted by the red-colored shadow hand of the monkey.

Credit: Sandrine Alon
Neuroresearchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem have developed a novel approach for measuring and deciphering brain activity that holds out promise of providing improved movements of natural or artificial limbs by those who have been injured or paralyzed.

Neuroresearchers have long been working towards achieving a better understanding of the relationship between brain activity and behavior, and particularly between neural activity in the motor regions of the cortex and hand movements.

In addition to addressing basic scientific questions, this line of research carries important practical implications, since the identification of precise relationships would enable neuroresearchers to assist in the construction of devices through which brain signals will activate muscles in a paralyzed limb or a prosthetic (robotic) arm.

In an article recently published in The Journal of Neuroscience, Hebrew University neurophysiologists Eran Stark and Prof. Moshe Abeles report on their new approach for measuring and deciphering brain activity, which avoids a number of of the drawbacks of current methods and which provides an accurate decoding of brain activity.

Currently, two methods are being used to measure brain activity in the context of neuro-prosthetic devices. The first method is based on the EEG (electroencephalogram) and is measured either over the scalp, directly from the cortical surface, or from the cortex itself. The second method is based on the activity of individual nerve cells within the cortex, and uses intra-cortical electrodes which essentially are fine wires.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 17, 2007, 9:12 PM CT

Aspirin: just for men?

Aspirin:  just for men?
First it was an apple, now it is an aspirin a day that may keep the doctor away. Aspirin has become standard for heart attack prevention, but research reported in the online open access journal BMC Medicine suggests that this may really be a man's drug.

Researchers have long puzzled over why the protective effects of aspirin vary so widely between clinical trials. Some trials show no difference between aspirin and placebo, whilst others report that aspirin reduces the risk of a heart attack by more than 50%.

This latest study, from The James Hogg iCAPTURE Centre for Cardiovascular and Pulmonary Research, highlights the influence of gender on aspirin's protective powers. Investigators examined the results of 23 previously published clinical trials for the effect for aspirin in heart attack prevention, involving more than 113,000 patients. The authors then analysed how much the ratio of men to women in these trials affected the trials' outcomes.

"Trials that recruited predominantly men demonstrated the largest risk reduction in non-fatal heart attacks," says Dr Don Sin, one of the study's authors. "The trials that contained predominately women failed to demonstrate a significant risk reduction in these non-fatal events. We observed that a lot of the variability in these trials seems to be due to the gender ratios, supporting the theory that women may be less responsive to aspirin than men for heart protection".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 15, 2007, 4:40 PM CT

Simple eye scan opens window to multiple sclerosis

Simple eye scan opens window to multiple sclerosis
A five-minute eye exam might prove to be an inexpensive and effective way to gauge and track the debilitating neurological disease multiple sclerosis, potentially complementing costly magnetic resonance imaging to detect brain shrinkage - a characteristic of the diseases progression.

A Johns Hopkins-based study of a group of 40 multiple sclerosis (MS) patients used a process called optical coherence tomography (OCT) to scan the layers of nerve fibers of the retina in the back of the eye, which become the optic nerve. The process, which uses a desktop machine similar to a slit-lamp, is simple and painless. The retinal nerve fiber layer is the one part of the brain where nerve cells are not covered with the fat and protein sheathing called myelin, making this assessment specific for nerve damage as opposed to brain MRI changes, which reflect an array of different types of tissue processes in the brain.

Results of the scans were calibrated using accepted norms for retinal fiber thickness and then in comparison to an MRI of each of the patients brains - also calibrated using accepted norms. Experimenters found a correlation coefficient of 0.46, after accounting for age differences. Correlation coefficients represent how closely two variables are related -- in this case MRI of the brain and OComputerized axial tomography scans. Correlation coefficients range from -1 (a perfect opposing correlation) through 0 (no correlation) to +1 (a perfect positive correlation). In a subset of patients with relapsing remitting MS, the most common form of the disease, the correlation coefficient jumped to 0.69, suggesting an even stronger association between the retinal measurement and brain atrophy.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 10, 2007, 5:23 PM CT

Brain circuits used in sensation of touch

Brain circuits used in sensation of touch
The ability to tactually recognize fine spatial details, such as the raised dots used in braille, is particularly important to those who are blind. With that in mind, a team of scientists has identified the neural circuitry that facilitates spatial discrimination through touch. Understanding this circuitry may lead to the creation of sensory-substitution devices, such as tactile maps for the visually impaired.

The findings are reported in the Oct. 10 edition of The Journal of Neuroscience.

The research team, led by Krish Sathian, MD, PhD, professor of neurology in Emory University School of Medicine, included first author Randall Stilla, research MRI technologist at Emory, and Gopikrishna Deshpande, Stephen Laconte and Xiaoping Hu of the Coulter Department of Biomedical Engineering at Georgia Tech and Emory.

Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI), the scientists found heightened neural activity in a network of frontoparietal regions of the brain when people engaged in fine tactile spatial discrimination. Within this network, the levels of activity in two subregions of the right posteromedial parietal cortex--the right posterior intraparietal sulcus (pIPS) and the right precuneus--were predictive of individual participants' tactile sensitivities.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 10, 2007, 5:09 AM CT

Revimmune for refractory MS

Revimmune for refractory MS
Accentia Biopharmaceuticals announces that it met with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on September 26, 2007 for a scheduled pre-Investigational New Drug (pre-IND) meeting on Revimmune. The FDA has indicated its support for Accentia to submit an IND for a pivotal Phase 3 randomized controlled, multi-center clinical trial of Revimmune, the companys potential therapeutic for refractory, relapsing-remitting Multiple Sclerosis (MS). The FDA indicated that they support the proposed submission from Accentia and that they are in overall agreement with the proposed design of the Accentia clinical program.

The Revimmune MS study will enroll subjects in a one-year study comparing baseline disability to disability at month 12 with an interim data analysis. After consultation with the FDA on the design of the trial, it was agreed that the primary endpoint will be recovery of lost function and that this unique study will be done under a special protocol assessment (SPA). Accentia will proceed diligently with submission of the IND under a SPA and of an application for Fast Track status, and currently projects commencement of the Phase 3 study in the first half of 2008. A Special Protocol Assessment is a declaration from the Food and Drug Administration that a proposed Phase 3 trial 's design, clinical endpoints, and statistical analyses are acceptable for FDA approval. All previous approved therapeutics suppress rather than eliminate autoimmunity and they have used the more limited indication of a reduction in the rate of progression of disability as their primary endpoint, not a reduction in disability as for Revimmune.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 8, 2007, 9:39 AM CT

Brain Center Responsible for Tinnitus

Brain Center Responsible for Tinnitus
For the more than 50 million Americans who experience the phantom sounds of tinnitus -- ringing in the ears that can range from annoying to debilitating -- certain well-trained rats may be their best hope for finding relief.

Scientists at the University at Buffalo have studied the condition for more than 10 years and have developed these animal models, which can "tell" the scientists if they are experiencing tinnitus.

These researchers now have received a $2.9 million five-year grant from the National Institutes of Health to study the brain signals responsible for creating the phantom sounds, using the animal models, and to test potential therapies to quiet the noise.

The research will take place at the Center for Hearing and Deafness, part of the Department of Communicative Disorders and Sciences in the university's College of Arts and Sciences. Richard Salvi, Ph.D., director of the center, is principal investigator. Researchers from UB's Department of Nuclear Medicine and from Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo are major collaborators on portions of the project.

Tinnitus is caused by continued exposure to loud noise, by normal aging and, to a much lesser extent, as a side effect of taking certain anti-cancer drugs. It is a major concern in the military: 30 percent of Iraq and Afghanistan combat veterans suffer from the condition.........

Posted by: Sue      Read more         Source


October 4, 2007, 9:35 PM CT

Cholesterol metabolism and Alzheimer's disease

Cholesterol metabolism and Alzheimer's disease
Eventhough the causes of Alzheimer's disease are not completely understood, amyloid-beta (A-beta) is widely considered a likely culprit the "sticky" protein clumps into plaques thought to harm brain cells.

But now scientists at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have uncovered evidence strengthening the case for another potential cause of Alzheimer's. The finding also represents the first time researchers have found a correlation between early- and late-onset Alzheimer's.

As per a research findings reported in the Oct. 4, 2007 issue of the journal Neuron, the researchers report that when A-beta is made, a small bit of protein is also released that can regulate cholesterol levels in the brain. The discovery adds weight to the less prominent theory that abnormal brain cholesterol metabolism plays a role in the mental decline seen in Alzheimer's patients.

"Our research links two major determinants for early- and late-onset Alzheimer's disease," says senior author Guojun Bu, Ph.D., professor of pediatrics and of cell biology and physiology. "And we've shown that the process that links them is implicated in brain cholesterol metabolism."

The report follows closely on another study reporting that statins, widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, could prevent certain neural changes that signal the progression of Alzheimer's disease. Additional earlier studies support the idea that statins could benefit Alzheimer's patients; however, other studies have observed no such protective effect from statins.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


October 4, 2007, 5:07 AM CT

Converting brain signals into action

Converting brain signals into action
MIT scientists have developed a new algorithm to help create prosthetic devices that convert brain signals into action in patients who have been paralyzed or had limbs amputated.

The technique, described in a paper published as the cover article in the October edition of the Journal of Neurophysiology, unifies seemingly disparate approaches taken by experimental groups that prototype these neural prosthetic devices in animals or humans.

"The work represents an important advance in our understanding of how to construct algorithms in neural prosthetic devices for people who cannot move to act or speak," said Lakshminarayan "Ram" Srinivasan (S.M., Ph.D. 2006), lead author of the paper.

Srinivasan, currently a postdoctoral researcher at the Center for Nervous System Repair at Massachusetts General Hospital and a medical student in the Harvard-MIT Division of Health Sciences and Technology (HST), began working on the algorithm while a graduate student in MIT's Department of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science (EECS).

Trauma and disease can lead to paralysis or amputation, reducing the ability to move or talk despite the capacity to think and form intentions. In spinal cord injuries, strokes, and diseases such as amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's disease), the neurons that carry commands from the brain to muscle can be injured. In amputation, both nerves and muscle are lost.........

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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