- •A group of European experts reviewed current evidence for therapeutic efficacy of tDCS.
- •Level B evidence (probable efficacy) was found for fibromyalgia, depression and craving.
- •The therapeutic relevance of tDCS needs to be further explored in these and other indications.
Posts Tagged Cortex
An international research consortium used neuroimaging techniques to analyze the brains of more than 3,800 volunteers in different countries. The largest study of its kind ever conducted set out to investigate anatomical similarities and differences in the brains of individuals with different types of epilepsy and to seek markers that could help with prognosis and treatment.
Epilepsy’s seizure frequency and severity, as well as the patient’s response to drug therapy, vary with the part of the brain affected and other poorly understood factors. Data from the scientific literature suggests that roughly one-third of patients do not respond well to anti-epileptic drugs. Research has shown that these individuals are more likely to develop cognitive and behavioral impairments over the years.
The new study was conducted by a specific working group within an international consortium called ENIGMA, short for Enhancing NeuroImaging Genetics through Meta-Analysis, established to investigate several neurological and psychiatric diseases. Twenty-four cross-sectional samples from 14 countries were included in the epilepsy study.
Altogether, the study included data for 2,149 people with epilepsy and 1,727 healthy control subjects (with no neurological or psychiatric disorders). The Brazilian Research Institute for Neuroscience and Neurotechnology (BRAINN), which participated in the multicenter study, was the center with the largest sample, comprising 291 patients and 398 controls. Hosted in Brazil, at the State University of Campinas (UNICAMP), BRAINN is a Research, Innovation and Dissemination Center (RIDC http://cepid.fapesp.br/en/home/) supported by the Sao Paulo Research Foundation – FAPESP.
“Each center was responsible for collecting and analyzing data on its own patients. All the material was then sent to the University of Southern California’s Imaging Genetics Center in the US, which consolidated the results and performed a meta-analysis,” said Fernando Cendes, a professor at UNICAMP and coordinator of BRAINN.
A differential study
All volunteers were subjected to MRI scans. According to Cendes, a specific protocol was used to acquire three-dimensional images. “This permitted image post-processing with the aid of computer software, which segmented the images into thousands of anatomical points for individual assessment and comparison,” he said.
According to the researcher, advances in neuroimaging techniques have enabled the detection of structural alterations in the brains of people with epilepsy that hadn’t been noticed previously.
Cendes also highlighted that this is the first epilepsy study built on a really large number of patients, which allowed researchers to obtain more robust data. “There were many discrepancies in earlier studies, which comprised a few dozen or hundred volunteers.”
The patients included in the study were divided into four subgroups: mesial temporal lobe epilepsy (MTLE) with left hippocampal sclerosis, MTLE with right hippocampal sclerosis, idiopathic (genetic) generalized epilepsy, and a fourth group comprising various less common subtypes of the disease.
The analysis covered both patients who had had epilepsy for years and patients who had been diagnosed recently. According to Cendes, the analysis – whose results were published in the international journal Brain – aimed at the identification of atrophied brain regions in which the cortical thickness was smaller than in the control group.
The researchers first analyzed data from the four patient subgroups as a whole and compared them with the controls to determine whether there were anatomical alterations common to all forms of epilepsy. “We found that all four subgroups displayed atrophy in areas of the sensitive-motor cortex and also in some parts of the frontal lobe,” Cendes said.
“Ordinary MRI scans don’t show anatomical alterations in cases of genetic generalized epilepsy,” Cendes said. “One of the goals of this study was to confirm whether areas of atrophy also occur in these patients. We found that they do.”
This finding, he added, shows that in the case of MTLE, there are alterations in regions other than those in which seizures are produced (the hippocampus, parahippocampus, and amygdala). Brain impairment is, therefore, more extensive than previously thought.
Cendes also noted that a larger proportion of the brain was compromised in patients who had had the disease for longer. “This reinforces the hypothesis that more brain regions atrophy and more cognitive impairment occurs as the disease progresses.”
The next step was a separate analysis of each patient subgroup in search of alterations that characterize each form of the disease. The findings confirmed, for example, that MTLE with left hippocampal sclerosis is associated with alterations in different neuronal circuits from those associated with MTLE with right hippocampal sclerosis.
“Temporal lobe epilepsy occurs in a specific brain region and is therefore termed a focal form of the disease. It’s also the most common treatment-refractory subtype of epilepsy in adults,” Cendes said. “We know it has different and more severe effects when it involves the left hemisphere than the right. They’re different diseases.”
“These two forms of the disease are not mere mirror-images of each other,” he said. “When the left hemisphere is involved, the seizures are more intense and diffuse. It used to be thought that this happened because the left hemisphere is dominant for language, but this doesn’t appear to be the only reason. Somehow, it’s more vulnerable than the right hemisphere.”
In the GGE group, the researchers observed atrophy in the thalamus, a central deep-lying brain region above the hypothalamus, and in the motor cortex. “These are subtle alterations but were observed in patients with epilepsy and not in the controls,” Cendes said.
Genetic generalized epilepsies (GGEs) may involve all brain regions but can usually be controlled by drugs and are less damaging to patients.
From the vantage point of the coordinator for the FAPESP-funded center, the findings published in the article will benefit research in the area and will also have future implications for the diagnosis of the disease. In parallel with their anatomical analysis, the group is also evaluating genetic alterations that may explain certain hereditary patterns in brain atrophy. The results of this genetic analysis will be published soon.
“If we know there are more or less specific signatures of the different epileptic subtypes, instead of looking for alterations everywhere in the brain, we can focus on suspect regions, reducing cost, saving time and bolstering the statistical power of the analysis. Next, we’ll be able to correlate these alterations with cognitive and behavioral dysfunction,” Cendes said.
[REVIEW] Biomechanics and neural control of movement, 20 years later: what have we learned and what has changed? – Full Text
We summarize content from the opening thematic session of the 20th anniversary meeting for Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement (BANCOM). Scientific discoveries from the past 20 years of research are covered, highlighting the impacts of rapid technological, computational, and financial growth on motor control research. We discuss spinal-level communication mechanisms, relationships between muscle structure and function, and direct cortical movement representations that can be decoded in the control of neuroprostheses. In addition to summarizing the rich scientific ideas shared during the session, we reflect on research infrastructure and capacity that contributed to progress in the field, and outline unresolved issues and remaining open questions.
At the 20th anniversary meeting for Biomechanics and Neural Control of Movement (BANCOM), the opening thematic session was chaired by Dr. Fay Horak (Oregon Health & Science University). Presentations and discussions covered insights from 20 years of research in the field of motor control, delivered by Drs. Zev Rymer (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago), Andy Biewener (Harvard University), Andy Schwartz (University of Pittsburgh), and Daofen Chen (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke). Presentation themes included the impact of technological advancements on motor control research, unresolved issues in muscle biology and neurophysiology, and changes in the scientific funding landscape. This brief review summarizes content presented by each speaker, along with discussions from the audience.
Considerable changes have occurred in the fields of biomechanics and motor control over the past 20 years, changes made possible by rapid technological advances in computing power and memory along with reduced physical size of biotechnology hardware. Because of these changes, research approaches have been reshaped and new questions have emerged. Previously, motor control research was constrained to laboratory-based assessments of individual neurons, muscles or joints, captured from low sample sizes. In the past, reliance on large, expensive, external recording devices, such as optical motion capture systems, understandably limited the feasibility of large-scale, multivariate research. Today, whole-body kinematic recordings using body-worn inertial measurement units, wireless electromyography (EMG), electroencephalography (EEG), and functional near infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) systems, and electrode arrays for neural network recordings are increasingly commonplace. Alongside these technical leaps, sociocultural bounds have expanded research inclusion, as evidenced in the representation of speakers at the 2016 BANCOM meeting. In contrast to the 1996 meeting, which included three invited female speakers, 13 women were included as speakers in 2016. Such advancements will continue to shape our scientific landscape, driving innovation through new technologies and perspectives.[…]
Winner of the Brainlab Community Neurosurgery Award, Sandro Krieg, MD, presented his research, Plasticity of Motor Representations in Patients with Brain Lesions: a Navigated TMS Study, during the 2017 American Association of Neurological Surgeons (AANS) Annual Scientific Meeting.
This study investigated the spatial distributions of motor representations in terms of tumor-induced brain plasticity by analyzing navigated transcranial magnetic stimulation (nTMS) motor maps derived from 100 patients with motor eloquently located brain tumors in or adjacent to the precentral gyrus (PrG).
The research evoked 8,774 motor potentials (MEPs) that were elicited in six muscles of the upper and lower extremity by stimulating four gyri in patients with five possible tumor locations. Regarding the MEP frequency of each muscle-gyrus subdivision per patient, the expected frequency was 3.53 (8,774 divided by 100 patients, further divided by six muscles and four gyri). Accordingly, the patient ratio for each subdivision was calculated by defining the per-patient minimum data points as three.
The tumor-location specific patient ratios were higher for frontal tumors in both gyri than for other tumor locations. This suggests that the finger representation reorganization in these frontal gyri, which corresponds to location of dorsal premotor areas, might be due to within-premotor reorganization rather than relocation of motor function from PrG into premotor areas one might expect from the Rolandic tumors. The research indicates that reorganization of the finger motor representations might be limited along the middle-to-dorsal dimension of the dorsal premotor areas (posterior MFG and SFG) and might not cross rostrally from the primary motor cortex (PrG) to the dorsal premotor cortex.
The use of non-invasive brain neurostimulation (NIBS) techniques to treat neurological or psychiatric diseases is currently under development. Fatigue is a commonly observed symptom in the field of potentially treatable pathologies by NIBS, yet very little data has been published regarding its treatment. We conducted a review of the literature until the end of February 2017 to analyze all the studies that reported a clinical assessment of the effects of NIBS techniques on fatigue. We have limited our analysis to repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) and transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS). We found only 15 studies on this subject, including 8 tDCS studies and 7 rTMS studies. Of the tDCS studies, 6 concerned patients with multiple sclerosis while 6 rTMS studies concerned fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome. The remaining 3 studies included patients with post-polio syndrome, Parkinson’s disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Three cortical regions were targeted: the primary sensorimotor cortex, the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the posterior parietal cortex. In all cases, tDCS protocols were performed according to a bipolar montage with the anode over the cortical target. On the other hand, rTMS protocols consisted of either high-frequency phasic stimulation or low-frequency tonic stimulation. The results available to date are still too few, partial and heterogeneous as to the methods applied, the clinical profile of the patients and the variables studied (different fatigue scores) in order to draw any conclusion. However, the effects obtained, especially in multiple sclerosis and fibromyalgia, are really carriers of therapeutic hope.
[Abstract] Evidence-based guidelines on the therapeutic use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) – Clinical Neurophysiology
A group of European experts was commissioned by the European Chapter of the International Federation of Clinical Neurophysiology to gather knowledge about the state of the art of the therapeutic use of transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) from studies published up until September 2016, regarding pain, Parkinson’s disease, other movement disorders, motor stroke, poststroke aphasia, multiple sclerosis, epilepsy, consciousness disorders, Alzheimer’s disease, tinnitus, depression, schizophrenia, and craving/addiction.
The evidence-based analysis included only studies based on repeated tDCS sessions with sham tDCS control procedure; 25 patients or more having received active treatment was required for Class I, while a lower number of 10–24 patients was accepted for Class II studies. Current evidence does not allow making any recommendation of Level A (definite efficacy) for any indication. Level B recommendation (probable efficacy) is proposed for: (i) anodal tDCS of the left primary motor cortex (M1) (with right orbitofrontal cathode) in fibromyalgia; (ii) anodal tDCS of the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC) (with right orbitofrontal cathode) in major depressive episode without drug resistance; (iii) anodal tDCS of the right DLPFC (with left DLPFC cathode) in addiction/craving. Level C recommendation (possible efficacy) is proposed for anodal tDCS of the left M1 (or contralateral to pain side, with right orbitofrontal cathode) in chronic lower limb neuropathic pain secondary to spinal cord lesion. Conversely, Level B recommendation (probable inefficacy) is conferred on the absence of clinical effects of: (i) anodal tDCS of the left temporal cortex (with right orbitofrontal cathode) in tinnitus; (ii) anodal tDCS of the left DLPFC (with right orbitofrontal cathode) in drug-resistant major depressive episode.
It remains to be clarified whether the probable or possible therapeutic effects of tDCS are clinically meaningful and how to optimally perform tDCS in a therapeutic setting. In addition, the easy management and low cost of tDCS devices allow at home use by the patient, but this might raise ethical and legal concerns with regard to potential misuse or overuse. We must be careful to avoid inappropriate applications of this technique by ensuring rigorous training of the professionals and education of the patients.
Discovery brings with it possible implications for brain regeneration –
In a cross-domain study directed by professor Peter Carmeliet (VIB – KU Leuven), researchers discovered unexpected cells in the protective membranes that enclose the brain, the so called meninges. These ‘neural progenitors’ (stem cells that differentiate into different kinds of neurons) are produced during embryonic development.
These findings show that the neural progenitors found in the meninges produce new neurons after birth, highlighting the importance of meningeal tissue as well as these cells’ potential in the development of new therapies for brain damage or neurodegeneration. A paper highlighting the results is published in the journal Cell Stem Cell.
Scientists’ understanding of brain plasticity, or the ability of the brain to grow, develop, recover from injuries and adapt to changing conditions throughout our lives, has been greatly broadened in recent years. Before the discoveries of the last few decades, neurologists once thought that the brain became ‘static’ after childhood. This dogma has changed, with researchers finding more and more evidence that the brain is capable of healing and regenerating in adulthood, thanks to the presence of stem cells. However, neuronal stem cells were generally believed to only reside within the brain tissue, not in the membranes surrounding it.
The meninges: unappreciated no more
Believed in the past to serve a mainly protective function to dampen mechanical shocks, the meninges have been historically underappreciated by science as having neurological importance in its own right. The data gathered by the team challenges the current idea that neural precursors—or stem cells that give rise to neurons—can only be found inside actual brain tissue.
Prof. Peter Carmeliet notes: “The neuronal stems cells that we discovered inside the meninges differentiate to full neurons, electrically-active and functionally integrated into the neuronal circuit. To show that the stem cells reside in the meninges, we used the extremely powerful single-cell RNA sequencing technique, a very novel top-notch technique, capable of identifying the [complex gene expression signature] nature of individual cells in a previously unsurpassed manner, a première at VIB.”
Following up on future research avenues
When it comes to future leads for this discovery, the scientists also see possibilities for translation into clinical application, though future work is required.
“An intriguing question is whether these neuronal stem cells in the meninges could lead to better therapies for brain damage or neurodegeneration. However, answering this question would require a better understanding of the molecular mechanisms that regulate the differentiation of these stem cells,” says Carmeliet. “How are these meningeal stem cells activated to become different kinds of neurons? Can we therapeutically ‘hijack’ their regeneration potential to restore dying neurons in, for example, Alzheimer’ Disease, Parkinson’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), and other neurodegenerative disorders? Also, can we isolate these neurogenic progenitors from the meninges at birth and use them for later transplantation? These findings open up very exciting research opportunities for the future.”
Moving into unchartered territory is high risk, and can offer high gain, but securing funding for such type of research is challenging. However, Carmeliet’s discoveries were made possible to a large extent by funding through “Opening the Future: pioneering without boundaries”, a recently created Mecenas Funding Campaign for funding of high risk brain research but with potential for breakthrough discoveries, started up by the KU Leuven in 2013 and unique in Flanders.
“Being able to use such non-conventional funding channels is of utmost importance to break new boundaries in research,” says Carmeliet. “This unique Mecenas funding initiative by the KU Leuven is innovative and boundary-breaking by itself. Our entire team is enormously grateful for the opportunities it has created for our investigations”.
Note: Material may have been edited for length and content. For further information, please contact the cited source.
Bifari F et al. Neurogenic Radial Glia-like Cells in Meninges Migrate and Differentiate into Functionally Integrated Neurons in the Neonatal Cortex. Cell Stem Cell, Published Online November 23 2016. doi: 10.1016/j.stem.2016.10.020