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March 30, 2006, 7:23 AM CT

Vaccine For Alzheimer's Disease?

Vaccine For Alzheimer's Disease?
Doses of DNA-gene-coated gold particles protect mice against a protein implicated in Alzheimer's disease, scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

By pressure-injecting the gene responsible for producing the specific protein - called amyloid-beta 42 - the scientists caused the mice to make antibodies and greatly reduce the protein's build-up in the brain. Accumulation of amyloid-beta 42 in humans is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease.

"The whole point of the study is to determine whether the antibody is therapeutically effective as a means to inhibit the formation of amyloid-beta storage in the brain, and it is," said Dr. Roger Rosenberg, the study's senior author and director of the Alzheimer's Disease Center at UT Southwestern.

The gene injection avoids a serious side-effect that caused the cancellation of a prior multi-center human trial with amyloid-beta 42, scientists said. UT Southwestern did not participate in that trial. In that earlier study, people received injections of the protein itself and some developed dangerous brain inflammation.

The new study is available online and appears in an upcoming issue of the Journal of the Neurological Sciences.

The scientists used mutant mice with two defective human genes associated with Alzheimer's, genes that produce amyloid-beta 42. "By seven months, the mice are storing abundant amounts of amyloid-beta 42," said Dr. Rosenberg, who holds the Abe (Brunky), Morris and William Zale Distinguished Chair in Neurology.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 29, 2006, 11:23 PM CT

New Childhood-onset Epilepsy Disorder And Its Genetic Cause

New Childhood-onset Epilepsy Disorder And Its Genetic Cause
Scientists from the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and the Clinic for Special Children (CSC) in Strasburg, PA, have described a new childhood-onset disorder characterized by severe epilepsy and autistic traits, and identified its genetic basis.

Epilepsies are a biologically complex group of disorders comprising a number of discrete genetic entities, and the majority of recurrent seizure syndromes remain unexplained. Most, if not all, epileptic disorders can be traced to abnormalities of brain structure or chemistry that alter the electrical activity of nerve cell networks. The children in this study have autistic traits, also believed to be caused by disrupted nerve cell networks.

The finding, which is reported in the March 30th issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, describes the newly discovered disorder called cortical dysplasia-focal epilepsy syndrome (CDFE) in a group of closely related Old Order Amish children from Pennsylvania.

All affected children had relatively normal development until the onset of frequent intractable seizures in early childhood. Thereafter, they developed language regression and additional features of autism, possibly implicating this gene as a cause of autism in the general population. Physicians at the CSC isolated DNA from four of the affected children and their six parents and, in collaboration with TGen, identified a mutation in the gene that codes for a protein called CASPR2.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 22, 2006, 11:17 PM CT

Combating Balance Disorders

Combating Balance Disorders
Scientists at Oregon Health & Science University's Neurological Sciences Institute and the University of Bologna have developed a portable "Ipod-like" device that can be used to help correct balance disorders. Researchers believe this new device, based on auditory feedback of balance, can be worn on the belt like a pager to provide regular treatment for patients with balance disorders, improving their day-to-day activities. The research is reported in the current edition of the Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation.

"We believe this type of device can become an important tool in combating balance disorders associated with problems like vestibular loss diabetic neuropathy, or Parkinson's disease, where a person's ability to maintain balance is impaired," explained Fay Horak, Ph.D., a senior scientist at the NSI and senior author of the paper. "In fact, in early testing, research subjects with balance disorders who have used the device have shown significant improvement. We believe the nervous system can substitute auditory cues for missing or inaccurate sensory information from other senses important for balance, such as from sensors in the inner ear and from muscles and skin".

The balance feedback device acts much like a carpenter's level in alerting the subject to how much they are leaning outside of a predetermined central "safe-zone." The device is connected to a pair of headphones and hooked to the subject's belt. When activated, subjects receive audio cues to let them know how their body is balancing.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 22, 2006, 11:04 PM CT

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Stroke Recovery

Electrical Stimulation Boosts Stroke Recovery
Sending tiny electric pulses to a part of the brain controlling motor function helps ischemic stroke survivors regain partial use of a weakened hand, new Oregon Health & Science University research shows.

But coupling the technique known as cortical stimulation with aggressive rehabilitation is key to reversing the impairment, doctors say.

"It's the coolest thing in stroke I've seen in a long time," said Helmi Lutsep, M.D., associate professor of neurology and associate director of the Oregon Stroke Center, OHSU School of Medicine.

In a study examining the safety of cortical stimulation treatment, Lutsep and co-researchers found that stroke patients who received stimulation with rehabilitation improved "significantly" better in hand mobility and strength tests than people undergoing rehabilitation alone.

"Everybody improved to some degree, because even in the subjects who received some rehabilitation, we did see improvement," Lutsep said. "What the data suggested is those who received the (stimulation) implant improved more".

The study was published this month in the journal Neurosurgery. Lutsep's co-researchers were Jeffrey A. Brown, M.D., of Wayne State University, Detroit, Martin Weinand, M.D., of the University of Arizona, Tucson, and Steven C. Cramer, M.D., of the University of California, Irvine.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 16, 2006, 10:51 PM CT

MIT Researchers Restore Vision In Rodents

MIT Researchers Restore Vision In Rodents Research scientist Rutledge Ellis-Behnke, left, and Professor Gerald E. Schneider, both of the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences, worked with others to create a technique that helps rodents recover from traumatic brain injuries.
Rodents blinded by a severed tract in their brains' visual system had their sight partially restored within weeks, thanks to a tiny biodegradable scaffold invented by MIT bioengineers and neuroscientists.

This technique, which involves giving brain cells an internal matrix on which to regrow, just as ivy grows on a trellis, may one day help patients with traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord injuries and stroke.

The study, which will appear in the online early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) the week of March 13-17, is the first that uses nanotechnology to repair and heal the brain and restore function of a damaged brain region.

"If we can reconnect parts of the brain that were disconnected by a stroke, then we may be able to restore speech to an individual who is able to understand what is said but has lost the ability to speak," said co-author Rutledge G. Ellis-Behnke, research scientist in the MIT Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences. "This is not about restoring 100 percent of damaged brain cells, but 20 percent or even less may be enough to restore function, and that is our goal".

Spinal cord injuries, serious stroke and severe traumatic brain injuries affect more than 5 million Americans at a total cost of $65 billion a year in therapy.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 16, 2006, 10:48 PM CT

Unexpected Activity In Visual Cortex

Unexpected Activity In Visual Cortex
For years, neural activity in the brain's visual cortex was thought to have only one job: to create visual perceptions. A new study by scientists at MIT's Picower Institute for Learning and Memory shows that visual cortical activity can serve another purpose -- connecting visual experience with non-visual events.

The study, slated to appear in the March 17 issue of Science, implies that sensory parts of the brain may be able to accomplish more complex tasks than previously imagined, as per co-authors Marshall G. Shuler, MIT research affiliate, and Mark F. Bear, professor of brain and cognitive sciences. The findings have implications for understanding how our brains imbue sensory experience with behavioral meaning.

Electrodes were implanted in the visual cortex of adult rats. Initially, as expected, their neurons responded only to light. However, as the animal repeatedly experienced a light stimulus with the delivery of a drop of water, the neuronal activity changed. And in a number of cases, the neuron continued to be active after the light was extinguished until the water reward was delivered.

The neuron's activity, the scientists said, was correlation to the anticipation of the reward. What's more, neurons continued to predict reward times associated with the light cues even in different situations. "This is a strong indication that learning was actually occurring in the visual cortex," Shuler said.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 15, 2006, 6:46 AM CT

Halting Alzheimer's By Blocking An Enzyme

Halting Alzheimer's By Blocking An Enzyme
Oregon Health & Science University is participating in a national study of a drug that may prevent Alzheimer's disease by blocking an enzyme that produces plaques believed to trigger the disorder.

OHSU is one of six sites around the country taking part in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of the agent known as LY450139, a gamma secretase inhibitor manufactured by Indianapolis-based Eli Lilly and Co. Other study sites are in Indianapolis, St. Louis, Philadelphia, Seattle, and La Jolla, Calif. Lilly is funding the study.

Gamma secretase is an enzyme that produces beta-amyloid by snipping a fragment of the protein from a larger protein that extends across the plasma membrane of the cell. The beta-amyloid fragments clump together to form dense, insoluble plaques inside the hippocampus, a curved, elongated ridge deep in the brain that controls learning and memory, and the cerebral cortex, the surface layer of gray matter of the cerebrum where sensory and motor information is coordinated.

The gamma secretase enzyme is made up of a complex of four proteins, and LY450139 is thought to de-activate it by binding within the complex, eventhough the exact location is still being studied.

"There is a theory that beta-amyloid produces Alzheimer's disease, so if you stop the amyloid, you stop the disease," said Joseph Quinn, M.D., associate professor of neurology, and cell and developmental biology, OHSU School of Medicine and the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center. He also is an investigator at OHSU's Layton Aging & Alzheimer's Disease Center.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 13, 2006, 10:06 PM CT

A Woman With Amazing Memory

A Woman With Amazing  Memory
Scientists at UC Irvine have identified the first known case of a new memory syndrome - a woman with the ability to perfectly and instantly recall details of her past. Her case is the first of its kind to be recorded and chronicled in scientific literature and could open new avenues of research in the study of learning and memory.

Scientists Elizabeth Parker, Larry Cahill and James L. McGaugh spent more than five years studying the case of "AJ," a 40-year-old woman with incredibly strong memories of her personal past. Given a date, AJ can recall with astonishing accuracy what she was doing on that date and what day of the week it fell on. Because her case is the first one of its kind, the scientists have proposed a name for her syndrome - hyperthymestic syndrome, based on the Greek word thymesis for "remembering" and hyper, meaning "more than normal".

Their findings appear in the current issue of the journal Neurocase.

AJ first wrote McGaugh with the details of her extraordinary ability in 2000. She wrote that she "can take a date, between 1974 and today, and tell you what day it falls on, what I was doing that day and if anything of importance occurred on that day." She had been called "the human calendar" for years by her friends and acquaintances.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 12, 2006, 8:21 AM CT

How Fevers Cause Seizures

How Fevers Causes Seizures
It's one of those unavoidable facts of life - kids get sick and have fevers. Usually, those elevated internal temperatures cause only temporary discomfort, but in some small children they spark convulsions called "febrile seizures."

These convulsions are "scary and very upsetting to parents," said Robert L. Macdonald, M.D., Ph.D., professor and chair of Neurology.

They've also been something of an enigma, he said. The epilepsy research community has struggled to understand how fever ignites convulsions and how to treat them.

Macdonald and colleagues including Jing-Qiong Kang, M.D., Ph.D., research assistant professor of Neurology, have now discovered a molecular mechanism that could explain febrile seizures. The research, published last week in The Journal of Neuroscience, may lead to new approaches for preventing recurrent febrile seizures in vulnerable children.

Febrile seizures affect as many as one in 15 children worldwide, generally between the ages of 6 months and 6 years. Most children will suffer no long-term consequences from the convulsions, which tend to be generalized - involving the whole body - but some will go on to develop epilepsy.

"It has been very controversial through the years: do you treat febrile seizures or not?" Macdonald said. Several studies have investigated treating children with anti-seizure medications such as phenobarbital or sodium valproate to prevent recurrent febrile seizures, but the studies showed only limited benefit to the approach, Macdonald said.........

Posted by: Daniel      Permalink         Source


March 7, 2006, 0:21 AM CT

Separate Brain Mechanisms For Ambiguous And Risky Choices

Separate Brain Mechanisms For Ambiguous And Risky Choices
Distinct regions of the human brain are activated when people are faced with ambiguous choices versus choices involving only risk, Duke University Medical Center scientists have discovered.

The researchers found that they could predict activation of different brain areas, based on how averse study participants were toward either risk or ambiguity. The finding confirms what economists have long debated -- that different attitudes toward perceived risk and ambiguity in decision-making situations may reflect a basic distinction in brain function, the scientists said. Such fundamental knowledge of neural functioning will contribute to an understanding of why people make risky choices, and how such risk-taking can become pathological, as in addiction or compulsive gambling, they added.

Their study appears in the March 2, 2006 issue of Neuron. The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke and Duke.

"We were able to see individual differences in brain activation depending on the person's preferences or aversions to risk and ambiguity," said Scott Huettel, Ph.D., lead author and a neuroscientist with the Brain Imaging and Analysis Center at Duke University. "People who preferred ambiguity had increased activation in the prefrontal cortex, and people who preferred risk had increased activation in the parietal cortex. This opens up the possibility that there are specific neural mechanisms for different forms of economic decision making, which is a very exciting idea."........

Posted by: Scott      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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