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July 19, 2008, 10:14 AM CT

An ID for Alzheimer's?

An ID for Alzheimer's?
Dr. Alzheimer
Every aging baby boomer listens for the footsteps of Alzheimer's, and for good reason: It's estimated that 10 million American boomers will develop the disease. The need to develop preventative strategies, ideally long before Alzheimer's destructive, clinical symptoms appear, is critical.

In furthering the steps toward that goal, UCLA associate professor of neurology John Ringman and colleagues confirm in the current issue of the journal Neurology that during Alzheimer's earliest stages, levels of specific proteins in the blood and spinal fluid begin to drop as the disease progresses, making them potentially useful as biomarkers to identify and track progression long before symptoms appear.

Identifying patients at the clinically "silent" stage is a prerequisite for advancing the strategies needed to prevent the symptoms from appearing. The hope is that one day, screening for such biomarkers could take its place beside such routine tests as colonoscopies and mammograms as another common tool of preventive medicine.

Familial Alzheimer's and sporadic Alzheimer's are two of the basic types of the disease. The majority of Alzheimer's cases are sporadic and late-onset, developing after the age of 65; the causes of this disease type are not completely understood. Familial Alzheimer's (FAD) is a rare form of the disease caused by certain gene mutations that affects less than 2 percent of Alzheimer's patients. FAD is early-onset, meaning the disease develops before age 65, and it is inherited; all offspring in the same generation have a 50-50 chance of developing FAD if one of their parents had it. The markers the scientists tracked came from people with the FAD mutations.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 16, 2008, 8:10 PM CT

Ways Circadian Disruption Affects Human Health

Ways Circadian Disruption Affects Human Health
The Daysimeter, shown above, measures an individual's daily rest and activity patterns, as well as exposure to circadian light - short-wavelength light, particularly natural light from the blue sky, that stimulates the circadian system.

Photo Credit: Rensselaer/Dennis Guyon
Growing evidence indicates that exposure to irregular patterns of light and darkness can cause the human circadian system to fall out of synchrony with the 24-hour solar day, negatively affecting human health - but researchers have been unable to effectively study the relationship between circadian disruptions and human maladies.

A study by scientists in Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's Lighting Research Center (LRC) provides a new framework for studying the effects of circadian disruption on breast cancer, obesity, sleep disorders, and other health problems.

Light and dark patterns are the major synchronizer of circadian rhythms - the biological cycles that repeat approximately every 24 hours - to the solar day. Inadequate or irregular light exposure can cause circadian rhythm disruptions that are believed to manifest into a variety of health ailments. However, ecological studies to measure human light exposure are virtually nonexistent, making it difficult to determine if, in fact, light-induced circadian disruption directly affects human health.

LRC scientists have created a small, head-mounted device to measure an individual's daily rest and activity patterns, as well as exposure to circadian light - short-wavelength light, especially natural light from the blue sky, that stimulates the circadian system. The device, called the Daysimeter, was sent to 43 female nurses across the country to measure their daily exposure to circadian light, as per Mark Rea, director of the LRC and principal investigator on the project.........

Posted by: Janet      Read more         Source


July 14, 2008, 9:50 PM CT

Exercise may prevent brain shrinkage in early

Exercise may prevent brain shrinkage in early
Mild Alzheimer's disease patients with higher physical fitness had larger brains in comparison to mild Alzheimer's patients with lower physical fitness, as per a research studyreported in the July 15, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the study, 121 people age 60 and older underwent fitness tests using a treadmill as well as brain scans to measure the white matter, gray matter and total volume of their brains. Of the group, 57 were in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease while the rest of the group did not have dementia.

"People with early Alzheimer's disease who were less physically fit had four times more brain shrinkage when in comparison to normal elderly adults than those who were more physically fit, suggesting less brain shrinkage correlation to the Alzheimer's disease process in those with higher fitness levels," said study author Jeffrey M. Burns, MD, of the University of Kansas School of Medicine in Kansas City and member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The results remained the same regardless of age, gender, severity of dementia, physical activity and frailty. There was no relationship between higher fitness levels and brain changes in the group of people without dementia.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 14, 2008, 5:15 PM CT

Passive Learning Too Imprints On The Brain

Passive Learning Too Imprints On The Brain
A view of the left hemisphere of the brain (with the left part of the image being the forward part of the brain) illustrating the Action Observance Network regions. (image courtesy Emily Cross)
It's conventional wisdom that practice makes perfect. But if practicing only consists of watching, rather than doing, does that advance proficiency? Yes, as per a research studyby Dartmouth researchers.

In a study titled "Sensitivity of the Action Observation Network to Physical and Observational Learning" reported in the journal Cerebral Cortex in May 2008, Dartmouth scientists determined that people can acquire motor skills through the "seeing" as well as the "doing" form of learning.

"It's been established in prior research that there are correlations in behavioral performance between active and passive learning, but in this study we were surprised by the remarkable similarity in brain activation when our research participants observed dance sequences that were actively or passively experienced," says Emily Cross, the principal investigator and PhD student at Dartmouth. Cross, who earned her degree in June, is currently a post-doctoral fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Cognitive and Brain Sciences in Leipzig, Gera number of.

Cross and her collaborators used a video game where players have to move in a particular sequence to match the position of arrows on the screen, similar to the popular Dance Dance Revolution game. The scientists measured the skill level of participants for sequences that were actively rehearsed daily, and a different set of sequences that were passively observed for an equivalent amount of time. Brain activity when watching both kinds of sequences (as well as a third set of sequences that were entirely unfamiliar) was captured using fMRI, functional magnetic resonance imaging. The study focused on the Action Observance Network (AON) in the brain, a group of neural regions found mostly in the inferior parietal and premotor cortices of the brain (near the top of the head) responsible for motor skills and some memory functions.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 9, 2008, 8:59 PM CT

Ionophore reverses Alzheimer's within days

Ionophore reverses Alzheimer's within days
Alzheimer tangles
Researchers report a remarkable improvement in Alzheimer's transgenic mice following therapy with a new drug. The study, published by Cell Press in the July 10th issue of the journal Neuron, provides the first demonstration that an ionophore, a compound that transports metal ions across cell membranes, can elicit rapid and pronounced improvement in neuropathology and cognitive function in mouse models of Alzheimer's Disease (AD).

Recent research has implicated dysregulation of metal ions in the brain, especially copper and zinc, in the pathogenesis of AD and the damaging accumulation of amyloid beta (A?) protein that is characteristic of this devastating disease. The ionophore clioquinol (CQ), an 8-hydroxyquinoline, has been shown to increase intracellular copper and zinc levels and decrease A? levels in cultured cells and in the brains of transgenic (Tg) AD mice. However, further studies in mice and humans demonstrated that brain entry of CQ was quite limited.

Dr. Ashley I. Bush from the Mental Health Research Institute of Victoria in Australia, with Dr. Paul A. Adlard and his colleagues examined the therapeutic potential of PBT2, a second generation 8-hydroxyquinoline designed for easier synthesis, higher solubility and increased blood-brain barrier permeability, in two well established Tg mouse models of AD. The Tg mice examined in the study overexpress the precursor protein for A? and possess mutations that cause AD in humans. One of the Tg models also expresses the human presenilin deletion mutation that also causes AD.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 8, 2008, 9:00 PM CT

Study points to cocktail therapy for Alzheimer's

Study points to cocktail therapy for Alzheimer's
A dietary cocktail that includes a type of omega-3 fatty acid can improve memory and learning in gerbils, as per the latest study from MIT scientists that points to a possible beverage-based therapy for Alzheimer's and other brain diseases.

The combination of supplements, which contains three compounds normally found in the bloodstream, is now being tested in Alzheimer's patients. The cocktail has previously been shown to promote growth of new brain connections in rodents.

"It may be possible to use this therapy to partially restore brain function in people with diseases that decrease the number of brain neurons, including, for example, Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's, strokes and brain injuries. Of course, such speculations have to be tested in double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials," said Richard Wurtman, Cecil H. Green Distinguished Professor of Neuropharmacology and senior author of a paper on the new work.

Such trials are now underway in Europe. A paper describing preliminary results has been submitted to the Alzheimer's Association International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease, to be held in Chicago July 26-31.

The new findings in gerbils appeared in the July 7 online edition of the Journal of FASEB (Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology).........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 7, 2008, 9:37 PM CT

Combination drug taken early relieves migraine symptoms

Combination drug taken early relieves migraine symptoms
A combination drug taken within an hour after the start of a migraine is effective in relieving symptoms, as per research reported in the July 8, 2008, issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The drug combines sumatriptan, a migraine-specific drug that affects the constriction of blood vessels, with naproxen sodium, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug that works on the inflammatory aspect of migraine and relieves non-traditional migraine symptoms such as sinus pain and pressure and neck pain.

"Unfortunately, a number of migraine sufferers put off therapy," said study author Stephen Silberstein, MD, of Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia, PA, and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. "This study provides more evidence that treating a migraine at the first sign of pain increases the likelihood of relief".

The research involved two studies with a total of 1,111 people with migraine who had experienced two to six attacks per month in the three months before the study started. Half of the people were given the sumatriptan/naproxen drug within an hour after migraine pain started and while the pain was still mild; the other half were given a placebo.

Two hours after the dose was given, about 50 percent of those who received the drug were free of any pain, in comparison to about 16 percent of those who got the placebo. The people who took the placebo were also two to three times more likely to progress to moderate or severe pain over four hours than those who took the drug.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 3, 2008, 9:03 PM CT

Statins have unexpected effect on brain cells

Statins have unexpected effect on brain cells
Cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins have a profound effect on an elite group of cells important to brain health as we age, researchers at the University of Rochester Medical Center have found. The new findings shed light on a long-debated potential role for statins in the area of dementia.

Neuroresearchers observed that statins, one of the most widely prescribed classes of medicine ever used, have an unexpected effect on brain cells. Scientists looked at the effects of statins on glial progenitor cells, which help the brain stay healthy by serving as a crucial reservoir of cells that the brain can customize depending on its needs. The team observed that the compounds spur the cells, which are very similar to stem cells, to shed their flexibility and become one particular type of cell.

The new findings come at a time of increasing awareness among neurologists and heart specialists of the possible effects of statins on the brain. Several studies have set out to show that statins provide some protection against dementia, but the evidence has been inconclusive at best. Meanwhile, there is some debate among physicians about whether statins might actually boost the risk of dementia. The new research reported in the recent issue of the journal Glia by Steven Goldman, M.D., Ph.D., and first author Fraser Sim, Ph.D., provides direct evidence for an effect of statins on brain cells.........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 3, 2008, 9:01 PM CT

Woman aquires new accent after stroke

Woman aquires new accent after stroke
A woman in southern Ontario is one of the first cases in Canada of a rare neurological syndrome in which a person starts speaking with a different accent, McMaster University scientists report in the recent issue of the Canadian Journal of Neurological Sciences

The puzzling medical phenomenon known as foreign-accent syndrome (FAS) arises from neurological damage, and results in vocal distortions that typically sound like the speaker has a new, "foreign" accent.

This particular case, however, is even more unusual because the English-speaking woman did not acquire an accent that sounds foreign but one that instead sounds like Maritime Canadian English.

The woman, referred to here as Rosemary, was recovering from a stroke two years ago, when her family noticed a change in her speech. They asked medical personnel at the Integrated Stroke Unit of Hamilton General Hospital why their mother was suddenly speaking with what sounded like a Newfoundland accent. It was at that point that the medical team joined forces with scientists in McMaster's Cognitive Science of Language program to study the case.

"It is a fascinating case because this woman has never visited the Maritimes, nor has she been exposed to anyone with an East Coast accent," says one of the study's authors, Alexandre Svigny, associate professor of cognitive science in the Department of Communication Studies & Multimedia at McMaster University. "Her family lineage is Irish and Danish, and neither of her parents ever lived anywhere but in southern Ontario."........

Posted by: Daniel      Read more         Source


July 2, 2008, 10:07 PM CT

Get smart about what you eat to improve your intelligence

Get smart about what you eat to improve your intelligence
New research findings published online in The FASEB Journal provide more evidence that if we get smart about what we eat, our intelligence can improve. As per MIT scientists, dietary nutrients found in a wide range of foods from infant formula to eggs increase brain synapses and improve cognitive abilities.

"I hope human brains will, like those of experimental animals, respond to this kind of therapy by making more brain synapses and thus restoring cognitive abilities," said Richard Wurtman, MD, senior researcher on the project.

In the study, gerbils were given various combinations of three compounds needed for healthy brain membranes: choline, found in eggs; uridine monophosphate (UMP) found in beets; and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), found in fish oils. Other gerbils were given none of these to serve as a baseline. Then they were checked for cognitive changes four weeks later. The researchers observed that the gerbils given choline with UMP and/or DHA showed cognitive improvements in tasks believed to be relevant to gerbils, such as navigating mazes. After these tests were concluded, the scientists dissected the mouse brains for a biological cause for the improvement. They found biochemical evidence that there was more than the usual amount of brain synapse activity, which was consistent with behaviors indicating higher intelligence.........

Posted by: JoAnn      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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