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April 17, 2008, 7:28 PM CT

Slight Of Hand Is Not So Slight

Slight Of Hand Is Not So Slight
Typing on a keyboard or scribbling on paper may be similar activities, but there is a significant difference in how the body moves, as per new motor development research.

"In language we start with letters that lead to syllables that lead to words, and we use grammar to put everything together," said Howard N. Zelaznik, a Purdue University professor of health and kinesiology. "One of the fundamental questions in motor control is whether there is an alphabet that guides movement.

"We wanted to know if discrete skills, which have a definite beginning and end, such as typing, are controlled identically to continuous skills, such as scribbling, which do not have such a clear beginning and end. Or, are continuous movements composed of a series of discrete movements that are knotted together? On both accounts, the answer is no".

Zelaznik was part of research team led by Viktor Jirsa, director of research at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS) and a professor of movement sciences at the University of the Mediterranean in Marseilles, France, and Raoul Huys, a research associate at the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique as well as at the University of the Mediterranean. Purdue graduate students Breanna Studenka and Nicole Rheaume also were part of the team. Their research findings were published Thursday (April 17) in the Public Library of Science's Computational Biology online journal.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


April 10, 2008, 9:23 PM CT

Wine may protect against dementia

Wine may protect against dementia
There may be constituents in wine that protect against dementia. This is shown in research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at University of Gothenburg in Sweden.

The findings are based on 1,458 women who were included in the so-called Population Study of Women from 1968. When they were examined by physicians they were asked to report how often they drank wine, beer, and liquor by selecting from seven categories on a scale from never to daily. The scientists know nothing about how much they drank on each occasion, or how correct the estimates were. For each beverage the women reported having drunk more than once a month, they were classified as a consumer of that particular beverage.

Thirty-four years after the first study, 162 women had been diagnosed with dementia. The results show that among those women who reported that they drank wine a considerably lower proportion suffered from dementia, whereas this correlation was not found among those who had reported that they regularly drank beer or liquor.

The group that had the lowest proportion of dementia were those who had reported that the only alcohol they drank was wine, says Professor Lauren Lissner, who directs the study in collaboration with Professor Ingmar Skoog, both with the Sahgrenska Academy.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 27, 2008, 9:55 PM CT

Sniffing out danger

Sniffing out danger
Each human nose encounters hundreds of thousands of scents in its daily travels perched front and center on our face. Some of these smells are nearly identical, so how do we learn to tell the critical ones apart? .

Something bad has to happen. Then the nose becomes a very quick learner.

New research from Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine shows a single negative experience associated with an odor rapidly teaches us to identify that odor and discriminate it from similar ones.

"It's evolutionary," said Wen Li, lead author of the study and a postdoctoral fellow at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at the Feinberg School. "This helps us to have a very sensitive ability to detect something that is important to our survival from an ocean of environmental information. It warns us that it's dangerous and we have to pay attention to it."

The study will be published March 28 in the journal Science.

In the study, subjects were exposed to a pair of grassy smells which were nearly identical in their chemical makeup and perceptually indistinguishable. The subjects received an electrical shock when they were exposed to one scent, but not when they were exposed to the other similar one.

After being shocked, the subjects learned to discriminate between the two similar smells. This illustrates the tremendous power of the human sense of smell to learn from emotional experience. Odors that once were impossible to tell apart became easy to identify when followed by an aversive event.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 27, 2008, 9:50 PM CT

Key culprit in stroke brain cell damage

Key culprit in stroke brain cell damage
Scientists have identified a key player in the killing of brain cells after a stroke or a seizure. The protein asparagine endopeptidase (AEP) unleashes enzymes that break down brain cells' DNA, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have found.

The results are reported in the March 28 issue of the journal Molecular Cell.

Finding drugs that block AEP may help doctors limit permanent brain damage following strokes or seizures, says senior author Keqiang Ye, PhD, associate professor of pathology and laboratory medicine at Emory.

When a stroke obstructs blood flow to part of the brain, the lack of oxygen causes a buildup of lactic acid, the same chemical that appears in the muscles during intense exercise. In addition, a flood of chemicals that brain cells commonly use to communicate with each other over-excites the cells. Epileptic seizures can have similar effects.

While some brain cells die directly because of lack of oxygen, others undergo programmed cell death, a normal developmental process where cells actively destroy their own DNA.

"The mystery was: how do the acidic conditions trigger DNA damage?" Ye says. "This was a very surprising result because previously we had no idea that AEP was involved in this process".........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 18, 2008, 9:12 PM CT

Does stress damage the brain?

Does stress damage the brain?
Individuals who experience military combat obviously endure extreme stress, and this exposure leaves a number of diagnosed with the psychiatric condition of post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. PTSD is linked to several abnormalities in brain structure and function. However, as researcher Roger Pitman explains, Eventhough it is tempting to conclude that these abnormalities were caused by the traumatic event, it is also possible that they were pre-existing risk factors that increased the risk of developing PTSD upon the traumatic events occurrence. Drs. Kasai and Yamasue along with their colleagues sought to examine this association in a new study reported in the March 15th issue of Biological Psychiatry.

The authors measured the gray matter density of the brains of combat-exposed Vietnam veterans, some with and some without PTSD, and their combat-unexposed identical twins using a technology called magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). The detailed images provided by the MRI scans then allowed the researchers to compare specific brain regions of the siblings. They observed that the gray matter density of the pregenual anterior cingulate cortex, an area of the brain involved in emotional functioning, was reduced in veterans with PTSD, but not in their twins who had not experienced combat. As per Dr. Pitman, this finding supports the conclusion that the psychological stress resulting from the traumatic stressor may damage this brain region, with deleterious emotional consequences.........

Posted by: JoAnn      Read more         Source


March 18, 2008, 8:38 PM CT

Risk of Alzheimer's disease in their lifetime

Risk of Alzheimer's disease in their lifetime
Scientists from Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM) have estimated that one in six women are at risk for developing Alzheimers disease (AD) in their lifetime, while the risk for men is one in ten. These findings were released recently by the Alzheimers Association in their publication 2008 Alzheimers Disease: Facts and Figures.

Stroke and dementia are the most widely feared age-related neurological diseases, and are also the only neurological disorders listed in the ten leading causes of disease burden.

The scientists followed 2,794 participants of the Framingham Heart Study for 29 years who were without dementia. They found 400 cases of dementia of all types and 292 cases of AD. They estimated the lifetime risk of any dementia at more than one in five for women, and one in seven for men.

The realization that the lifetime risk of stroke or dementia was more than one in three in both sexes, which is higher than the lifetime risk of coronary heart disease in women, is sobering, said lead author Sudha Seshadri, MD, an associate professor of neurology at BUSM and an investigator of the Framingham Heart Study.

As per the researchers, the greater lifetime expectancy for women translates into a greater lifetime risk of several diseases.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 18, 2008, 5:08 AM CT

Pycnogenol improves memory in elderly

Pycnogenol improves memory in elderly
New research accepted for publication in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, demonstrates Pycnogenol, (pic-noj-en-all), an antioxidant plant extract from the bark of the French maritime pine tree, improves the memory of senior citizens.

The study results revealed Pycnogenol improved both numerical working memory as well as spatial working memory using a computerized testing system. The research was presented last week at the Oxygen Club of California 2008 World Congress on Oxidants and Antioxidants in Biology in Santa Barbara, CA.

These results support research from a range of disciplines that suggest that antioxidants may have an effect in preserving or enhancing specific mental functions, said Dr. Con Stough, lead researcher of the study. Cognitive research in this area specifically indicates that the putative benefits linked to antioxidant supplementation are linked to memory.

The double-blind, placebo controlled, matched pairs study, which was held at the Centre for Neuropsychology at Swinburne University, Melbourne Australia, examined the effects of Pycnogenol on a range of cognitive and biochemical measures in 101 senior individuals aged 60-85 years old. The study also examined the oxidative stress hypothesis of ageing and neurological degeneration as it relates to normal changes in cognition in elderly individuals. Participant screening for the study included medical history and cognitive assessment. Participants consumed a daily dose of 150mg of Pycnogenol for a three-month therapy period and were assessed at baseline then at one, two and three months of the therapy. The control and Pycnogenol groups were matched by age, sex, BMI, micronutrient intake and intelligence. The cognitive tasks comprised measures of attention, working memory, episodic memory and psycho-motor performance.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 16, 2008, 9:56 PM CT

Meditation Impacts Blood Pressure

Meditation Impacts Blood Pressure
Transcendental Meditation is an effective therapy for controlling hypertension with the added benefit of bypassing possible side effects and hazards of anti-high blood pressure drugs, as per a new meta-analysis conducted at the University of Kentucky. The study appears in the recent issue of the American Journal of Hypertension.

The meta-analysis reviewed nine randomized, controlled trials using Transcendental Meditation as a primary intervention for hypertensive patients. The practice of Transcendental Meditation was linked to approximate reductions of 4.7 mm systolic blood pressure and 3.2 mm diastolic blood pressure.

The study's lead author, Dr. James W. Anderson, professor of medicine at the University of Kentucky College of Medicine, said that blood pressure reductions of this magnitude would be expected to be accompanied by significant reductions in risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease-without drug side effects. Anderson's most recent findings reinforce an earlier study that found Transcendental Meditation produces a statistically significant reduction in hypertension that was not found with other forms of relaxation, meditation, biofeedback or stress management.

"Adding Transcendental Medication is about equivalent to adding a second antihigh blood pressure agent to one's current regimen only safer and less troublesome," Anderson said.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 16, 2008, 9:39 PM CT

Researchers use light to detect Alzheimer's

Researchers use light to detect Alzheimer's
Alzheimer's tangles
A team of scientists in Bedford, Mass. has developed a way of examining brain tissue with near-infrared light to detect signs of Alzheimer's disease.

In the March 15 issue of the journal Optics Letters, published by the Optical Society of America, the team describes how they used optical technology to examine tissue samples taken from different autopsies and correctly identified which samples came from people who had Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimers currently afflicts some 4.5 million Americans and is the most common cause of dementia among older people in the United States.

"We're primarily interested in finding a way of diagnosing and monitoring Alzheimer's disease during life," says U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs Research Scientist Eugene Hanlon. "We think this technique has a lot of potential for detecting the disease early on".

The new technique developed by Hanlon and his collaborators at Harvard Medical School/Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Boston University can detect alterations to the optical properties of the brain that occur as the tissue undergoes microscopic changes due to Alzheimer'ssometimes far in advance of clinical symptoms. The technique is now being tested for its effectiveness at diagnosing Alzheimer's disease in living people.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


March 16, 2008, 9:24 PM CT

Second depth-perception method in brain

Second depth-perception method in brain
Its common knowledge that humans and other animals are able to visually judge depth because we have two eyes and the brain compares the images from each. But we can also judge depth with only one eye, and researchers have been searching for how the brain accomplishes that feat.

Now, a team led by a scientist at the University of Rochester believes it has discovered the answer in a small part of the brain that processes both the image from a single eye and also with the motion of our bodies.

The team of researchers, led by Greg DeAngelis, professor in the Department of Brain and Cognitive Sciences at the University of Rochester, has published the findings in the March 20 online issue of the journal Nature.

It looks as though in this area of the brain, the neurons are combining visual cues and non-visual cues to come up with a unique way to determine depth, says DeAngelis.

DeAngelis says that means the brain uses a whole array of methods to gauge depth. In addition to two-eyed binocular disparity, the brain has neurons that specifically measure our motion, perspective, and how objects pass in front of or behind each other to create an approximation of the three-dimensional world in our minds.

The scientists say the findings may help instruct children who were born with misalignment of the eyes to restore more normal functions of binocular vision in the brain. The discovery could also help construct more compelling virtual reality environments someday, says DeAngelis, since we have to know exactly how our brains construct three-dimensional perception to make virtual reality as convincing as possible.........

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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