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October 26, 2006, 5:16 AM CT

Moderate Drinking May Boost Memory

Moderate Drinking May Boost Memory
In the long run, a drink or two a day may be good for the brain.

Scientists observed that moderate amounts of alcohol - amounts equivalent to a couple of drinks a day for a human - improved the memories of laboratory rats.

Such a finding may have implications for serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer's, said Matthew During, the study's senior author and a professor of molecular virology, immunology and cancer genetics at Ohio State University.

"There is some evidence suggesting that mild to moderate alcohol consumption can protect against diseases like Alzheimer's in humans," said During. "But it's not apparent how this happens".

He and his colleague, Margaret Kalev-Zylinska, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Auckland, in New Zealand, uncovered a neuronal mechanism that may help explain the link between alcohol and improved memory.

"We saw a noticeable change on the surface of certain neurons in rats that were given alcohol," During said. "This change may have something to do with the positive effects of alcohol on memory".

The scientists presented their findings at the annual Society for Neuroscience conference in Atlanta.

During and Kalev-Zylinska designed a special liquid diet for the rats. One formulation included a low dose of alcohol, comparable to two or three drinks a day for a human, while the other diet included a much higher dose of alcohol, comparable to six or seven drinks a day for a human. A third group of rats was given a liquid diet without alcohol. All animals were given their respective diets daily for about four weeks.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 26, 2006, 5:10 AM CT

Linking Emotions And Memories

Linking Emotions And Memories
Having a child with bottled up emotions isn't a good thing. Psychology experts from Case Western Reserve University have observed that the range of emotions that children use in play can be used as an indicator of how emotionally charged their memories will be.

Emotions--whether positive or negative--in play offer important information to people working with children about how able they will be at expressing the emotional side of their memories. Accessing emotional memories is important for adjusting to traumas experienced.

A number of children are unable to start talking about their emotions or memories with someone new, but watching children play can help child therapists and others working with children gauge how open children might be to talking about the emotions linked to past memories, as per Sandra Russ, Case professor of psychology. She has been studying the emotional side of play and how play benefits children for more than 20 years.

Russ, with Ethan D. Schafer, discusses this discovery in the Creativity Research Journal article, "Affect in Fantasy Play, Emotion in Memories, and Divergent Thinking." In the past, this link between emotions in play treatment and emotions in memories was observed but had not been formally studied in children.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 24, 2006, 6:08 PM CT

Electronic Chip Interacting With The Brain

Electronic Chip Interacting With The Brain
Scientists at the University of Washington (UW) are working on an implantable electronic chip that may help establish new nerve connections in the part of the brain that controls movement. Their most recent study, would be reported in the Nov. 2, 2006, edition of Nature, showed such a device can induce brain changes in monkeys lasting more than a week. Strengthening of weak connections through this mechanism may have potential in the rehabilitation of patients with brain injuries, stroke, or paralysis.

The authors of study, titled "Long-Term Motor Cortex Plasticity Induced by an Electronic Neural Implant," were Dr. Andrew Jackson, senior research fellow in physiology and biophysics, Dr. Jaideep Mavoori, who recently earned a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the UW, and Dr. Eberhard Fetz, professor of physiology and biophysics. For a number of years Fetz and colleagues have studied how the brains of monkeys control their limb muscles.

When awake, the brain continuously governs the body's voluntary movements. This is largely done through the activity of nerve cells in the part of the brain called the motor cortex. These nerve cells, or neurons, send signals down to the spinal cord to control the contraction of certain muscles, like those in the arms and legs.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 24, 2006, 6:03 PM CT

New Treatment For Obsessive-compulsive Disorders

New Treatment For Obsessive-compulsive Disorders
In a paper published on-line in advance of publication in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, Sanjaya Saxena, M.D., Director of the Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders (OCD) Program at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine, reports the surprising finding that the serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SRI) medication, paroxetine, is effective in treating patients with compulsive hoarding syndrome.

The study of 79 patients diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) 32 of them with compulsive hoarding syndrome suggests that further controlled trials of SRI medications for compulsive hoarding are now warranted.

Compulsive hoarding, which may affect up to 2 million people in the United States, is found in people with many diseases, including anorexia, schizophrenia, Alzheimer's disease and dementia. It is most often found in patients with OCD, though researchers are not yet sure if it is a subtype of OCD or a separate disorder.

In previous, retrospective studies looking at patients and data from past drug trials compulsive hoarding had been associated with poor response to SRI medications commonly used to treat OCD patients. However, no previous study had ever directly tested this widely held theory. Saxena's prospective study, comparing the hoarding and non-hoarding OCD patients, showed nearly identical responses to paroxetine (commonly known as Paxil.) The symptoms exhibited by patients in both groups improved significantly with treatment.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 24, 2006, 5:54 PM CT

Predicting Risk for Recurrent Stroke

Predicting Risk for Recurrent Stroke
People who have just suffered their first ischemic stroke, a blood clot in the brain, often have elevated inflammatory biomarkers in their blood that indicate their likelihood of having another stroke or an increased risk of dying, as per Columbia University Medical Center scientists at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital.

Reported in the Oct. 23 Archives of Internal Medicine, results of the new study indicate that these inflammatory markers are linked to long-term prognosis after a first stroke, and may help guide clinical care for people who have suffered a first stroke.

A biomarker called lipoprotein-associated phospholipase A2 (Lp-PLA2), which has been FDA-approved to predict the risk of first stroke, was found to be a strong predictor of recurrent stroke risk. Scientists also observed that elevated levels of another biomarker called high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP), a test usually used to predict risk of heart disease, was linked to more severe strokes and an increased risk of mortality.

"A better understanding of biomarkers for stroke risk may lead to the use of prophylactic therapys to reduce risk of people suffering debilitating strokes," said lead author Mitchell S. V. Elkind, M.D., M.S., associate professor of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and neurologist at NewYork-Presbyterian. "For example, statins appear to lower these biomarker levels, so our next step may be to study the clinical benefit of prescribing statins to reduce the risk of stroke in people with elevated biomarkers, and also to treat people who have suffered a stroke so that they do not have another serious event".........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 22, 2006, 11:15 PM CT

Genes And Perception Of Pain

Genes And Perception Of Pain
A new NIH-funded study shows that a specific gene variant in humans affects both sensitivity to short-term (acute) pain in healthy volunteers and the risk of developing chronic pain after one kind of back surgery. Blocking increased activity of this gene after nerve injury or inflammation in animals prevented development of chronic pain.

The gene in this study, GCH1, codes for an enzyme called GTP cyclohydrolase. The study suggests that inhibiting GTP cyclohydrolase activity might help to prevent or treat chronic pain, which affects as a number of as 50 million people in the United States. Doctors also may be able to screen people for the gene variant to predict their risk of chronic post-surgical pain before they undergo surgery. The results appear in the October 22, 2006, advance online publication of Nature Medicine.*.

"This is a completely new pathway that contributes to the development of pain," says Clifford J. Woolf, M.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, who led the research. "The study shows that we inherit the extent to which we feel pain, both under normal conditions and after damage to the nervous system." .

Dr. Woolf carried out the study in collaboration with Mitchell B. Max, M.D., of the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research (NIDCR) in Bethesda, Maryland, and his colleagues at the National Institute on Alcoholism Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) and elsewhere. Dr. Woolf's work was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). The research team also received funding from NIDCR, NIAAA, and other organizations.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 18, 2006, 10:49 PM CT

Newspaper Articles Skew Coverage Of Comas

Newspaper Articles Skew Coverage Of Comas
Newspaper articles skew coverage of comas by focusing heavily on patients who are more likely to awaken and recover, thus possibly leading the public to think that coma patients have better odds than they truly do.

These findings of a Mayo Clinic study on how U.S. newspapers cover comas are reported in the recent issue of Mayo Clinic Proceedings. This study is the first of its kind and follows a study published earlier this year in Neurology on how comas are represented in film. The lead author of both articles is Eelco F.M. Wijdicks, M.D., a neurointensivist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester.

Dr. Wijdicks traces the public's interest in coma patients to the Terri Schiavo case, which created intense interest in how coma patients are treated. Schiavo's situation illustrates the need for the public to be well informed about comas, Dr. Wijdicks says. The number of newspaper stories about coma increased in Florida after the Schiavo case.

For the Mayo Clinic study published in Proceedings, Dr. Wijdicks and his daughter, Marilou Wijdicks, identified 340 newspaper articles in 50 leading newspapers, one in each state, over five years to ascertain how well newspapers cover comas. California and Florida had the highest number of newspaper articles concerning coma. Few articles had misrepresentations or inaccuracies, but newspaper editors and reporters struggled with a few key issues.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


October 16, 2006, 8:55 PM CT

Could Dreams Be A Mechanism To Help Us Prepare For Danger?

Could Dreams Be A Mechanism To Help Us Prepare For Danger?
Dreams have been interpreted in a number of different ways through the ages: as messages from the gods, repressed sexual fantasies..... or, based on an evolutionist approach that emerged around the turn of the millennium, as a mechanism that helps us to prepare survival strategies in the face of danger.

Antonio Zadra, a professor in the Department of Psychology, likes that last theory. "Among its merits is that it lets us formulate hypotheses that can be tested quite easily," says Zadra, whose initial study tested no fewer than eight hypotheses derived from the new approach.

The theory was developed by Antti Revonsuo, Director of the Consciousness Research Group at the Centre for Cognitive Neuroscience at the University of Turku in Finland. He postulates that dreams developed in our long-ago ancestors to simulate outside threats, enabling the dreamer to put into practice or rehearse avoidance behaviours.

Pleistocene man faced constant threats from predators, rival tribes, and forces of nature. Seeking ways to avoid danger, our ancestors lived in a perpetual state of alert, and so the dream function assumed the form we see today. The theory is also based on the fact that rehearsing an action in your mind can improve the motor skills needed.

Research on dreams lends some credence to the theory. Research in the 1960s showed that 80% of dreams are negative in content, and misfortune occurs seven times more often than good fortune in dreams. In 96% of cases where there is some interaction with an animal, there is aggression. For both men and women, enemies are nearly always strangers - male strangers.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 15, 2006, 6:54 PM CT

Reward Perception In Cocaine Addiction

Reward Perception In Cocaine Addiction
People addicted to cocaine have an impaired ability to perceive rewards and exercise control due to disruptions in the brain's reward and control circuits, as per a series of brain-mapping studies and neuropsychological tests conducted at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory.

"Our findings provide the first evidence that the brain's threshold for responding to monetary rewards is modified in drug-addicted people, and is directly associated with changes in the responsiveness of the prefrontal cortex, a part of the brain essential for monitoring and controlling behavior," said Rita Goldstein, a psychology expert at Brookhaven Lab. "These results also attest to the benefit of using sophisticated brain-imaging tools combined with sensitive behavioral, cognitive, and emotional probes to optimize the study of drug addiction, a psychopathology that these tools have helped to identify as a disorder of the brain".

Goldstein will present details of these studies at a press conference on neuroscience and addiction at the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual meeting in Atlanta, Georgia, on Sunday, October 15, 2006, 2 to 3 p.m., and at a SfN symposium on Wednesday, October 18, 8:30 a.m.*.

Goldstein's experiments were designed to test a theoretical model, called the Impaired Response Inhibition and Salience Attribution (I-RISA) model, which postulates that drug-addicted individuals disproportionately attribute salience, or value, to their drug of choice at the expense of other potentially but no-longer-rewarding stimuli -- with a concomitant decrease in the ability to inhibit maladaptive drug use. In the experiments, the researchers subjected cocaine-addicted and non-drug-addicted individuals to a range of tests of behavior, cognition/thought, and emotion, while simultaneously monitoring their brain activity using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and/or recordings of event-related potentials (ERP).........

Posted by: JoAnn      Permalink         Source


October 15, 2006, 6:19 PM CT

Commonplace Sugar Controls Seizures

Commonplace Sugar Controls Seizures
This sugar has been in clinical use for decades, but now it is finding new uses, a potential cure for epilepsy.

2-deoxy-glucose, or 2DG, has long been used in radio labeling, medical scanning and cancer imaging studies in humans. But now, scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have found the substance also blocks the onset of epileptic seizures in laboratory rats.

Published in the journal Nature Neuroscience, the findings have potentially huge implications for up to half of all epileptic patients who currently have no access to therapy, says senior author Avtar Roopra, a UW-Madison assistant professor of neurology.

"We pumped the rats full [of 2DG] and still saw no side effects," says Roopra, who estimates that the compound may be available for human use within five years. "I see 2DG as an epilepsy management therapy much like insulin is used to treat diabetes."

"All the available epilepsy therapys have focused on suppressing seizures," says co-author and renowned epilepsy expert Tom Sutula, a UW-Madison professor of neurology. "There has been hope that [new drugs] will not only suppress seizures, but modify their consequences. [2DG] appears to be a novel therapy that offers great promise to achieve that vision."

About 1 percent of the world's population suffers from epilepsy, a neurological condition that makes people susceptible to seizures. Researchers think that seizures, of which there are a number of kinds, occur due to sudden changes in how brain cells send electrical signals to each other. In about 30 to 50 percent of epilepsy patients, available therapys - including the removal of parts of the brain's temporal lobe - are largely ineffective.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         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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