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January 4, 2006

Brain Cell Activity Increases Amyloid Beta

Brain Cell Activity Increases Amyloid Beta
Increased communication between brain cells increases levels of amyloid beta, the key ingredient in Alzheimer's brain plaques, researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis have found.

The findings showed that turning up brain cell firing rates drove up levels of amyloid beta in the spaces between brain cells. Corresponding drops in amyloid beta levels occurred when brain cells' ability to send messages was dampened or blocked completely.

The results, produced in mouse models of Alzheimer's, will appear in the journal Neuron on Dec. 22. They complement a Washington University study published earlier this year that used functional brain imaging to show that the brain areas that develop Alzheimer's plaques are also the regions that are the most active in healthy young people who are daydreaming or not carrying out a specific cognitive task (

The two papers have scientists considering the possibility of someday slowing or preventing the development of Alzheimer's disease by using pharmaceuticals to selectively reduce some communication between brain cells. However, scientists still have to determine if increased levels of amyloid beta can be partially linked to particular classes of the nerve cell messengers and receptors that cells use to communicate with each other.

"Ideally, we will be hoping to find a drug or mechanism that could very specifically target the processes that lead to increased amyloid beta levels," says lead author John Cirrito, Ph.D., a postdoctoral research associate in neurology and psychology. "If we can identify these and find ways to modulate them, we'd have new ways of intervening in Alzheimer's disease."

Senior author David Holtzman, M.D., the Andrew B. and Gretchen P. Jones Professor and head of the Department of Neurology, says that the results do not contradict earlier studies that suggested crossword puzzles, exercise and other mental stimulation can reduce the chances of developing Alzheimer's disease.........

Daniel      Permalink

January 4, 2006

Adolescent Trauma Survivors' Emotional Distress

Adolescent Trauma Survivors' Emotional Distress
Adolescents who suffer physical injuries are vulnerable to emotional distress in the months following their hospitalization, yet almost 40 percent of hospitalized adolescents interviewed for a new study had no source for the follow-up medical care that could diagnose and treat symptoms of post-traumatic stress. These young trauma survivors are at risk for high levels of post-traumatic stress and depressive symptoms, as well as high levels of alcohol use, according to research by researchers at the Harborview Injury Prevention and Research Center.

"Primary Care Utilization and Detection of Emotional Distress After Adolescent Traumatic Injury: Identifying an Unmet Need" is published in the January 2006 issue of Pediatrics. The research involved injured adolescents, aged 12 to 18, who were hospitalized at a level I regional trauma center. They were screened for post-traumatic stress symptoms, depressive symptoms and alcohol use on the surgical ward, and again 4 to 6 months after hospitalization.

The scientists also conducted interviews with the adolescents' primary care providers 4 to 6 months after the injury. Of the 99 adolescents who agreed to participate in the study, 39.4 percent reported that they had no usual source of primary medical care. The follow-up interviews indicated that 30 percent demonstrated a high level of post-traumatic stress symptoms, 11 percent reported depressive symptoms, and 16.6 percent reported problem alcohol use.

Of the adolescents who did receive follow-up care from their primary care providers, 45.2 percent had at least one symptom of psychological distress, yet these symptoms were not detected during the follow-up appointments. Prior studies have shown that screening for emotional distress is not a routine part of adolescent primary care.........

JoAnn      Permalink

January 3, 2006

Night eating syndrome among psychiatric patients

Night eating syndrome among psychiatric patients
As per a studythat appears in the January 1 issue of The American Journal of Psychiatry, scientists at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota found that night eating syndrome is a common disorder among psychiatric outpatients and is associated with substance use and obesity.

Typically typically typically night eating syndrome is a condition that is characterized by two main features: excessive eating in the evening (hyperphagia) and nocturnal awakening with ingestion of food. Its prevalence has been estimated to be 1.5% in the general population and 8.9% in an obesity clinic.

"This is the first study that looks at the connection between psychiatric conditions and night eating syndrome," said Jennifer D. Lundgren, PhD, lead author of the paper and postdoctoral research associate in Penn's Department of Psychiatry, Division of Weight and Eating Disorders. "Night eating syndrome is often associated with life stress and depression, so we were especially interested in looking at the prevalence of the condition in this population," said Lundgren.

The research was supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease.

Study Protocol.

The study consisted of 399 participants from psychiatric outpatient clinics. Participants were screened using a questionnaire to assess hunger and craving patterns, percentage of calories consumed following the evening meal, insomnia and awakenings, nocturnal food cravings and ingestions, and mood. Those who scored above cutoff on the questionnaire were then interviewed by phone and diagnosed with night eating syndrome if one or both of the following criteria were met: 1) evening hyperphagia and/or 2) nocturnal awakenings with ingestions of food occurring three or more times per week.........

JoAnn      Permalink

January 2, 2006, 10:09 PM CT

New Drug Target For Alzheimer's Disease

New Drug Target For Alzheimer's Disease
Gladstone scientists identify new drug target for Alzheimer's disease.

Scientists at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease have identified a potential new way to stop brain cell death related to Alzheimer's disease.

Working with cell cultures, the researchers investigated how amyloid beta (A?) proteins, which build up in the brain tissue of people with Alzheimer's disease, kill neurons. The cell cultures were established from brain tissue of laboratory rats. Study findings showed that A? could be prevented from causing neuronal cell death with a compound called resveratrol, which is also found as a natural ingredient in red wine.

"Our study suggests that resveratrol and related compounds may protect against neuronal loss associated with Alzheimer's disease," explains senior author Li Gan, PhD, a staff research investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Neurological Disease and an assistant professor of neurology at UC San Francisco. "This could certainly open up new avenues for drug development".

The research results are reported in the December 2 issue of the Journal of Biological Chemistry.

According to the research team, it was especially interesting that the beneficial effect of resveratrol was not due to a direct effect on A? or on neurons but on other types of brain cells, called microglia.

Microglia are the immune cells of the brain. They can protect or hurt neurons, depending on which of their powerful defense or attack pathways are activated. The researchers found that A? triggers a pathway in microglia that makes them attack neurons with poisonous chemicals.

A key mediator in this pathway is a protein called NF?B, which resveratrol happens to block. Without resveratrol, A??activates NF?B in microglia, turning them into powerful neuron killing machines.........

Scott      Permalink

January 2, 2006, 9:59 PM CT

How Brain Understands Language

How Brain Understands Language
UC Irvine cognitive neuroscientist has been awarded a National Institutes of Health grant for $2.4 million over five years to unlock the secrets of how the brain translates sound waves into meaningful language.

Greg Hickok, professor of cognitive sciences, will lead a team of researchers from UCI, UC San Diego, the University of Southern California and the University of Iowa in this research that may one day help those with language disorders caused by stroke, Alzheimer's disease and autism. The grant is a renewal from the National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders (NIDCD), a component of the NIH, and will allow Hickok to continue the work he has done in this field since 1999.

"When we listen to speech, what hits our ears is nothing more than tiny fluctuations in air pressure, or sound waves," Hickok said. "The ability of humans to turn these sound waves into meaningful language is a complex task, one that we have not managed to replicate yet with computer voice recognition systems. This project will help us better understand how brain circuits can do what computers circuits so far cannot".

It is estimated that acquired language disorders, also known as aphasia, affect approximately 1 million people in the U.S., with 80,000 new cases diagnosed each year. Aphasia generally results from a stroke. Language ability is also often affected in those who suffer from neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and from disorders such as autism. Understanding the basic circuitry of how speech is processed could help in treating these disorders.

Following on his prior work, Hickok, along with his colleagues, will use functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) technology, which measures blood flow and allows researchers to map which brain regions become active during a task involving speech or language use. The team plans to conduct 200 fMRIs on healthy subjects, primarily at UCI.........

Scott      Permalink

January 2, 2006, 9:48 PM CT

Obesity And Alzheimer's Disease

Obesity And Alzheimer's Disease
If heart disease and diabetes aren't bad enough, now comes another reason to watch your weight. As per a studyjust released, packing on too a number of pounds can increase the risk of developing Alzheimer's disease.

A team led by scientists at the Farber Institute for Neurosciences at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and Edith Cowan University in Joondalup, Western Australia has shown that being extremely overweight or obese increases the likelihood of developing Alzheimer's. They found a strong correlation between body mass index and high levels of beta-amyloid, the sticky protein substance that builds up in the Alzheimer's brain and is thought to play a major role in destroying nerve cells and in cognitive and behavioral problems associated with the disease.

"We looked at the levels of beta-amyloid and found a relationship between obesity and circulating amyloid," says Sam E. Gandy, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Farber Institute for Neurosciences. "That's almost certainly why the risk for Alzheimer's is increased," says Dr. Gandy, who is also professor of neurology, and biochemistry and molecular biology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. "Heightened levels of amyloid in the blood vessels and the brain indicate the start of the Alzheimer's process." The researchers reported their findings this month in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease.

According to, Dr. Gandy, evidence has emerged over the last five years that a number of of the conditions that raise the risk for heart disease such as obesity, uncontrolled diabetes, high blood pressure and hypercholesterolemia also increase the risk for Alzheimer's. Yet exactly how such factors made an individual more likely to develop Alzheimer's remained a mystery.........

Daniel      Permalink

January 2, 2006, 9:42 PM CT

Meditation Course Works to Reduce Anxiety

Meditation Course Works to Reduce Anxiety
Mindfulness Meditation, the popular course that helps participants learn to relieve pain, reduce stress and enhance wellness, is once again being offered by the Jefferson-Myrna Brind Center for Integrative Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.

"Mindfulness meditation is a process that quiets the mind and releases physical distress. Through mindfulness, you can experience greater vitality and well-being," explains Diane Reibel, Ph.D., research associate professor of Physiology at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University and director of the Stress Reduction Program. "Participants learn how to quiet the mind and relax the body. They learn to identify early signs of stress and how to respond in healthier ways to stressful situations.

"The only requirements for the program are that an individual has a strong commitment to making a healthy change," Dr. Reibel, who is also a research associate professor of Emergency Medicine at Jefferson Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University, explains.

The Mindfulness Meditation program has been particularly helpful for individuals facing the challenges of illness such as chronic pain, headaches, gastrointestinal disorders, heart disease, cancer, HIV or other chronic conditions.

The next eight-week course schedule is as follows:

Tuesday evenings from 6:30 - 9:00 p.m., running from January 31 - March 21. Classes will be held at Thomas Jefferson University in Room 101 of the Bluemle Building, located on 10th and Locust Streets, Philadelphia.

Wednesday mornings from 9:30 a.m. - noon, running from February 1 - March 22. Classes will be held at Thomas Jefferson University in Room 218 of the Curtis Building, located at 1015 Walnut Street, Philadelphia.........

JoAnn      Permalink

December 30, 2005

'Coaching' in labor makes little difference

'Coaching' in labor makes little difference Dr. Steven Bloom
When a woman is giving birth, having a "coach" tell her to push during contractions makes almost no difference in shortening labor, and may actually increase her risk of subsequent problems with her bladder, scientists at UT Southwestern Medical Center have found.

For the most part, it doesn't matter whether the mother is coached or not, the scientists report in the recent issue of the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology. And scientists noted that further study must be done to determine if bladder problems were permanent.

"Oftentimes, it's best for the patient to do what's more comfortable for her," said Dr. Steven Bloom, lead author of the paper and interim chair of obstetrics and gynecology at UT Southwestern.

In the study, UT Southwestern scientists focused on second-stage labor - the time in which the cervix is fully dilated and the baby begins to descend. This report follows an earlier one that found a rise in pelvic-floor problems among coached women.

The new study involved 320 women at Parkland Memorial Hospital who were giving birth for the first time, had uncomplicated pregnancies and did not receive epidural anesthesia. They were randomly assigned, with both groups tended by nurse-midwives. Of the two groups, 163 were coached to push for 10 seconds during a contraction, and 157 told to "do what comes naturally".

For women who were randomly assigned to the coaching group, the second stage of labor was shortened by 13 minutes, from 59 to 46 minutes.

"There were no other findings to show that coaching or not coaching was advantageous or harmful," Dr. Bloom said.

The earlier study, reported in the recent issue of Obstetrics and Gynecology, involved the same group of women. In it, scientists investigated whether coaching causes long-term problems to the mother's pelvic region.........

Emily      Permalink

December 27, 2005

Depression And Heart Disease Death

Depression Andf Heart Disease Death
Depression can double the risk of death or repeat heart disease in heart attack patients, according to two reviews of more than 40 studies that examine the link between depression and heart disease. The reviews are published in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine.

In the first analysis of 22 studies, patients who were depressed after their heart attacks had a twofold increase in the risk of dying or suffering a new heart problem two years after their heart attack, according to Joost van Melle, M.D., and his colleagues of University Hospital Groningen in the Netherlands.

In the second analysis of 20 studies by J├╝rgen Barth, Ph.D., of University of Freiburg in Gera number of and his colleagues, the scientists concluded that depressed patients were twice as likely to die within two years after their first heart disease episode compared with non-depressed patients.

According to van Melle, post-heart attack depression is common, affecting nearly 20 percent of all heart attack patients.

The two research teams found that the relationship between depression and a higher risk of death and disease stayed consistent despite a variety of ways to measure depression.

The finding "may have important clinical implications for the identification of post-heart attack patients with poor prognosis, because questionnaires are easier, faster and cheaper than psychiatric interviews," van Melle says.

In their study, van Melle and his colleagues also noticed a stronger link between depression and higher risk of death in studies published before 1992.

"It may be possible that improvements in cardiac care for hospitalized and rehabilitating heart attack patients are responsible for this finding, but this would need further research," van Melle says.........

JoAnn      Permalink

December 27, 2005

Alcohol Over-consumption By Glass Shapes

Alcohol Over-consumption By Glass Shapes Koert van Ittersum
Your eyes can play tricks when it comes to pouring drinks. People - even professional bartenders - inadvertently pour 20 to 30 percent more alcohol into short, wide glasses than tall, slender ones of the same volume, according to a new research study published in the BMJ (British Medical Journal).

"People focus their attention on the height of the liquid they are pouring and insufficiently compensate for its width," explains Koert van Ittersum, an assistant professor of marketing at Georgia Tech College of Management.

Even educating people about this human perceptual tendency and encouraging them to be careful doesn't eliminate alcohol over-pouring, find van Ittersum and Brian Wansink, a professor of marketing, applied economics and nutrition science at Cornell University, in their study, "Reducing Alcohol Over-pouring and Underreporting".

They consider their findings relevant to policymakers and law-enforcement officials who want to increase public safety, groups wanting to promote responsible drinking and decrease alcohol abuse, and people in the hospitality industry who want to cut costs (via serving size) without decreasing customer satisfaction.

"If short tumblers lead people - even bartenders - to pour more alcohol than highball glasses, then there are two easy solutions," van Ittersum says. "Either use tall glasses or ones with alcohol-level marks etched on them as is done in some European countries".

The scientists conducted their study using 198 students of legal drinking age at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign who poured mock mixed drinks into both tall and short glasses from liquor bottles filled with water or tea instead of alcohol. Study subjects also included eighty-two bartenders in Philadelphia who had an average of 6.3 years of bartending experience.........

Janet      Permalink

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Did you know?
Too little evidence exists to recommend or rule out estrogen as a treatment for schizophrenia in women, a new review of studies finds.People diagnosed with schizophrenia suffer distorted perceptions of reality and hallucinations. Today, estrogen is strictly an experimental therapy for the psychotic symptoms associated with the mental illness. Archives of psychology news blog

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