Posts Tagged Alzheimer

[NEWS] Pill that reverses brain damage could be on the horizon

 

Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have made important progress in designing a drug that could recover brain function in cases of severe brain damage due to injury or diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

brain cellsVitaly Sosnovskiy | Shutterstock

The work builds on a previous study where the team managed to convert human fetal glial cells called astrocytes into functional neurons. However, that required using a combination of nine molecules – too many for the formula to be translated into a clinically useful solution.

As reported in the journal Stem Cell Reports, the team has now successfully streamlined the process so that only four molecules are needed – an achievement that could lead to pill for repairing brain damage.

We identified the most efficient chemical formula among the hundreds of drug combinations that we tested. By using four molecules that modulate four critical signaling pathways in human astrocytes, we can efficiently turn human astrocytes — as many as 70 percent — into functional neurons.”

Jiu-Chao Yin, Study Author

The researchers report that the new neurons survived for more than seven months in the laboratory environment and that they functioned like normal brain cells, forming networks and communicating with one another using chemical and electrical signaling.

“The most significant advantage of the new approach is that a pill containing small molecules could be distributed widely in the world, even reaching rural areas without advanced hospital systems,” says Chen.

“My ultimate dream is to develop a simple drug delivery system, like a pill, that can help stroke and Alzheimer’s patients around the world to regenerate new neurons and restore their lost learning and memory capabilities,” he continued.

Now, the years of effort the team has put into simplifying the drug formula has finally paid off and taken the researchers a step closer towards realizing that dream.

via Pill that reverses brain damage could be on the horizon

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[TED Talk] The Brain-Changing Effects of Exercise

What’s the most transformative thing that you can do for your brain today? Exercise! says neuroscientist Wendy Suzuki. Get inspired to go to the gym as Suzuki discusses the science of how working out boosts your mood and memory — and protects your brain against neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s.

This talk was presented at an official TED conference, and was featured by our editors on the home page.

ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Wendy Suzuki · Neuroscientist, author Wendy Suzuki is researching the science behind the extraordinary, life-changing effects that physical activity can have on the most important organ in your body: your brain.

Transcript

03:54
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09:41
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12:43
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12:47

via The Brain-Changing Effects of Exercise

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[BLOG POST] 20 Must-Know Facts To Harness Neuroplasticity And Improve Brain Health

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June is Alzheimer’s & Brain Awareness Month, so let me share these 20 Must-Know Facts to Harness Neuroplasticity & Improve Brain Health that come from the hundreds of scientific and medical studies we analyzed to prepare the book The SharpBrains Guide to Brain Fitness: How to Improve Brain Health and Performance at Any Age:

  1. There is more than one “It” in “Use It or Lose It” — our performance depends on a variety of brain functions and cognitive skills, not just one (be it “attention” or “memory” or any other).
  2. Genes do not determine the fate of our brains. Thanks to lifelong neuroplasticity, our lifestyles are as important as our genes-if not more- in how our brains grow and our minds evolve.
  3. We need to pay more attention to Randomized Controlled Trials (RCTs) to verify whether any intervention causes an effect, and under what specific circumstances.
  4. The largest recent RCT (the ongoing FINGER study) and a 2010 systematic review of all relevant RCTs provide useful guidance: First, they report a protective effect of social and cognitive engagement, physical exercise, and the Mediterranean diet. Second, the average benefits at the population level appear quite limited, so we need to have realistic expectations.
  5. Physical exercise and increased fitness promote brain functioning through a variety of mechanisms, including increased brain volume, blood supply and growth hormone levels.
  6. Cardiovascular exercise that gets the heart beating – from walking to skiing, tennis and basketball – seems to bring the greatest brain benefits; thirty to sixty minutes per day, three days a week, seems to be the best regimen.
  7. Mental stimulation strengthens the connections between neurons (synapses), improving neuron survival and cognitive functioning. Mental stimulation also helps build cognitive reserve, helping the brain better cope with potential AD pathology.
  8. Routine activities do not challenge the brain. Keeping up the challenge requires going to the next level of difficulty, or trying something new.
  9. The only leisure activity that has been associated with reduced cognitive function is watching television.
  10. Brain training can work, putting the “cells that fire together wire together” to good use, but available RCTs suggest some key conditions must be met to transfer to real-life benefits.
  11. The brain needs a lot of energy: It extracts approximately 50% of the oxygen and 10% of the glucose from arterial blood.
  12. The Mediterranean Diet, supplemented with olive oil and nuts, is associated with decreased risk of cognitive decline.
  13. Moderate doses of caffeine increase alertness but there is no clear sustained lifetime health benefit (or harm).
  14. Light-to-moderate alcohol consumption seems to lower the risk of dementia.
  15. Taking “brain supplements” of any kind does not seem to boost cognitive function or reduce risks of cognitive decline or dementia, unless directed to address an identified deficiency.
  16. The larger and the more complex a person’s social network is, the bigger the amygdala (which plays a major role in our behavior and motivation). There is no clear evidence to date on whether “online” relationships are fundamentally different from “offline” ones in this regard.
  17. Chronic stress reduces and can even inhibit neurogenesis. Memory and general mental flexibility are impaired by chronic stress.
  18. There is increasing evidence that meditation and biofeedback can successfully teach users to self-regulate physiological stress responses.
  19. We will not have a Magic Pill or General Solution to solve all our cognitive challenges any time soon, so a holistic multi-pronged approach is recommended, centered around nutrition, stress management, and both physical and mental exercise.
  20. Having said that, no size fits all, so it’s critical to understand and address individual needs, priorities and starting points.

Now, remember that what counts in terms of brain health is not reading this article, or any other, but practicing some healthy behaviors every day until small steps become internalized habits.

Revisit the fact above that really grabbed your attention…and make a decision to try something new this summer.

Source: 20 Must-Know Facts To Harness Neuroplasticity And Improve Brain Health | HuffPost

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[WEB SITE] Here’s an idea: Play your way to recovery – ideas.ted.com

As anyone who’s ever recovered from an injury knows, physical therapy can be painful, boring and slow. TED Fellow Cosmin Mihaiu is out to change that with MIRA, software that disguises physical therapy exercises as fun-to-play videogames. Here’s how it works.

Unlikely — fun! — physical therapy. “Traditionally, a patient doing physical therapy at home is, at most, looking in the mirror. There’s no other feedback or encouragement,” says Mihaiu. MIRA, built by his team in Romania and the United Kingdom, changes that. It’s a set of simple, fun-to-play videogames that encourage precise movement while offering audio and visual stimulus and a sense of achievement. By reaching their onscreen goals, patients also do their physical therapy exercises. So a patient recovering from a broken arm might fly a bee to gather pollen — while flexing and extending the arm. Someone recovering from a stroke might navigate a submarine through water to improve the precision of movement in the shoulder.

Off-the-shelf hardware and tailored exercises produce a personal experience. Each of the ten games offers a range of exercises that can be tailored to each patient’s needs; it’s up to the therapist to prescribe which ones to play, and for how long. Mihaiu and his team built software that can be played via a Kinect motion-sensing input device and a PC. Using readily available and relatively cheap hardware is one way they hope to promote adoption by clinics and hospitals — and eventually by patients at home.

BECAUSE PATIENTS KNOW THAT THEIR CLINICIANS CAN SEE WHETHER AND HOW THEY ARE DOING THE PRESCRIBED EXERCISES, THEY’RE MORE LIKELY TO COMPLY.

The inspiration for MIRA: a fall from a tree. When he was seven, Mihaiu fell out of a tree he’d used as a (poor) hiding place. “The doctors encased my arm and torso in a cast, and because I was stuck in that position for six weeks, I could no longer extend my elbow when the cast came off,” he says. A physical therapist prescribed exercises that called for him to flex and extend his elbow 100 times a day. Unsurprisingly, little Cosmin balked at such tedium. But that meant his recovery took far longer than it should have done. Years later, as a computer engineering student at the University of Babeș-Bolyai in Romania, Mihaiu remembered this childhood experience during a brainstorming session for the Microsoft Imagine Cup innovation competition. “We thought, what if we could get people to play their way to recovery?” he recalls. They didn’t win, but the idea stuck, and MIRA — which stands for Medical Interactive Recovery Assistant — was born.

VIDEO —> Cosmin Mihaiu: Physical therapy is boring — play a game instead

Continue —>  Here’s an idea: Play your way to recovery | ideas.ted.com.

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[WEB SITE] Brain Training And The End Of The Prozac Generation

More than 20 percent of Americans regularly consume prescribed drugs related to mental health issues, earning contemporary America the nickname, “the Prozac Generation.”  However, developing safe, targeted, and effective drugs for mental illnesses has increasingly become a struggle for the pharmaceutical industry.

As a result, there’s been a gradual withdrawal of research dollars from this area, despite the fact that globally, the mental health pharmaceutical market is worth more than $80 billion.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health (NIMH), more than 57 million people, or 26 percent of the U.S. population suffer from some form of mental health problem. But despite the ongoing need, one can legitimately claim that research has not produced a novel neurological drug in the past 30 years.  Additionally, many drugs currently on the market have been increasingly identified with negative side effects and limited efficacy.

Until recently, most mood disorders were attributed to an imbalance in a single neurochemical, such as serotonin. Increasingly, scientists have come to acknowledge that this is an oversimplification that can lead to counterproductive treatment.

Due to the complexity of brain networks, these pharmaceutical compounds may work to alleviate some symptoms, but they may exacerbate others. They may even contribute to new problems, such as cognitive impairment, suicide, or diabetes. Because the diagnosis of many conditions is a highly subjective process based on patient self-reporting, identifying the appropriate course of treatment is frequently an exercise in trial and error.

High cost, negative press, and the lack of an efficacy model have resulted in the drying up of the drug pipeline for pharmaceutical treatment of mental illness.

Are we moving into a post-pharmaceutical age in the treatment of neurological and psychiatric illness? If the flurry of wearable sensors, brain-computer interfaces, and non-invasive brain stimulation research are any measure, then the answer is “yes.”

 Brain training and the end of the Prozac generation

Brain training can be used to treat problems related to cognition, behavior, and emotion. (Image Source: Evoke Neuroscience)

New technology and an increased focus on traumatic brain injury (TBI) and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), have led to a greater understanding of the complexity of the brain. Instead of focusing on single chemical neurotransmitters affecting cognition and behavior, mental health research has evolved to address neurological “functions” through models of neural circuits known as “neural networks.”

Continue –> Brain Training And The End Of The Prozac Generation.

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