Posts Tagged Parkinson’s disease

[WEB SITE] Learning stress-reducing techniques may benefit people with epilepsy

Learning techniques to help manage stress may help people with epilepsy reduce how often they have seizures, according to a study published in the February 14, 2018, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Despite all the advances we have made with new drugs for epilepsy, at least one-third of people continue to have seizures, so new options are greatly needed,” said study author Sheryl R. Haut, MD, of Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, NY, and member of the American Academy of Neurology. “Since stress is the most common seizure trigger reported by patients, research into reducing stress could be valuable.”

The study involved people with seizures that did not respond well to medication. While all of the 66 participants were taking drugs for seizures, all continued to have at least four seizures during about two months before the study started.

During the three-month treatment period all of the participants met with a psychologist for training on a behavioral technique that they were then asked to practice twice a day, following an audio recording. If they had a day where they had signs that they were likely to have a seizure soon, they were asked to practice the technique another time that day. The participants filled out daily electronic diaries on any seizures, their stress level, and other factors such as sleep and mood.

Half of the participants learned the progressive muscle relaxation technique, a stress reduction method where each muscle set is tensed and relaxed, along with breathing techniques. The other participants were the control group-;they took part in a technique called focused attention. They did similar movements as the other group, but without the muscle relaxation, plus other tasks focusing on attention, such as writing down their activities from the day before. The study was conducted in a blinded fashion so that participants and evaluators were not aware of treatment group assignment.

Before the study, the researchers had hypothesized that the people doing the muscle relaxing exercises would show more benefits from the study than the people doing the focused attention exercises, but instead they found that both groups showed a benefit-;and the amount of benefit was the same.

The group doing the muscle relaxing exercises had 29 percent fewer seizures during the study than they did before it started, while the focused attention group had 25 percent fewer seizures, which is not a significant difference, Haut said. She added that study participants were highly motivated as was shown by the nearly 85 percent diary completion rate over a five-month period.

“It’s possible that the control group received some of the benefits of treatment in the same way as the ‘active’ group, since they both met with a psychologist and every day monitored their mood, stress levels and other factors, so they may have been better able to recognize symptoms and respond to stress,” said Haut. “Either way, the study showed that using stress-reducing techniques can be beneficial for people with difficult-to-treat epilepsy, which is good news.”

Haut said more research is needed with larger numbers of people and testing other stress reducing techniques like mindfulness based cognitive therapy to determine how these techniques could help improve quality of life for people with epilepsy.

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[WEB SITE] Dopamine deficiency: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

    1. Symptoms
    2. Causes
    3. Diagnosis
    4. Treatment
    5. Dopamine vs. serotonin
    6. Outlook

 

 

Dopamine is a chemical found naturally in the human body. It is a neurotransmitter, meaning it sends signals from the body to the brain.

Dopamine plays a part in controlling the movements a person makes, as well as their emotional responses. The right balance of dopamine is vital for both physical and mental wellbeing.

Vital brain functions that affect mood, sleep, memory, learning, concentration, and motor control are influenced by the levels of dopamine in a person’s body. A dopamine deficiency may be related to certain medical conditions, including depression and Parkinson’s disease.

A dopamine deficiency can be due to a drop in the amount of dopamine made by the body or a problem with the receptors in the brain.

Symptoms

 

Sad and depressed woman with low dopamine levels. alone in thought.

A dopamine deficiency is associated with depression, but researchers are still investigating this complex link.

 

The symptoms of a dopamine deficiency depend on the underlying cause. For example, a person with Parkinson’s disease will experience very different symptoms from someone with low dopamine levels due to drug use.

Some signs and symptoms of conditions related to a dopamine deficiency include:

  • muscle cramps, spasms, or tremors
  • aches and pains
  • stiffness in the muscles
  • loss of balance
  • constipation
  • difficulty eating and swallowing
  • weight loss or weight gain
  • gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)
  • frequent pneumonia
  • trouble sleeping or disturbed sleep
  • low energy
  • an inability to focus
  • moving or speaking more slowly than usual
  • feeling fatigued
  • feeling demotivated
  • feeling inexplicably sad or tearful
  • mood swings
  • feeling hopeless
  • having low self-esteem
  • feeling guilt-ridden
  • feeling anxious
  • suicidal thoughts or thoughts of self-harm
  • low sex drive
  • hallucinations
  • delusions
  • lack of insight or self-awareness

Causes

 

Dopamine model 3D render.

 Dopamine deficiency may be influenced by a number of factors. Existing conditions, drug abuse, and an unhealthy diet may all be factors.

 

Low dopamine is linked to numerous mental health disorders but does not directly cause these conditions.

The most common conditions linked to a dopamine deficiency include:

In Parkinson’s disease, there is a loss of the nerve cells in a specific part of the brain and loss of dopamine in the same area.

It is also thought that drug abuse can affect dopamine levels. Studies have shown that repeated drug use could alter the thresholds required for dopamine cell activation and signaling.

Damage caused by drug abuse means these thresholds are higher and therefore it is more difficult for a person to experience the positive effects of dopamine. Drug abusers have also been shown to have significant decreases in dopamine D2 receptors and dopamine release.

Diets high in sugar and saturated fats can suppress dopamine, and a lack of protein in a person’s diet could mean they do not have enough l-tyrosine, which is an amino acid that helps to build dopamine in the body.

Some studies have found that people who are obese are more likely to be dopamine deficient too.

Diagnosis

There is no reliable way to measure levels of dopamine in a person. However, a doctor may look at a person’s symptoms, lifestyle factors, and medical history to determine if they have a condition related to low levels of dopamine.

Treatment

 

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements.

Omega-3 fatty acid supplements may help to boost dopamine levels naturally.

 

 Treatment of dopamine deficiency depends on whether an underlying cause can be found.

If a person is diagnosed with a mental health condition, such as depression or schizophrenia, a doctor may prescribe medications to help with the symptoms. These drugs may include anti-depressants and mood stabilizers.

Ropinirole and pramipexole can boost dopamine levels and are often prescribed to treat Parkinson’s disease. Levodopa is usually prescribed when Parkinson’s is first diagnosed.

Other treatments for a dopamine deficiency may include:

  • counseling
  • changes in diet and lifestyle
  • physical therapy for muscle stiffness and movement problems

Supplements to boost levels of vitamin Dmagnesium, and omega-3 essential fatty acids may also help to raise dopamine levels, but there needs to be more research into whether this is effective.

Activities that make a person feel happy and relaxed are also thought to increase dopamine levels. These may include exercise, therapeutic massage, and meditation.

Dopamine vs. serotonin

Dopamine and serotonin are both naturally occurring chemicals in the body that have roles in a person’s mood and wellbeing.

Serotonin influences a person’s mood and emotions, as well as sleep patterns, appetite, body temperature, and hormonal activity, such as the menstrual cycle.

Some researchers believe that low levels of serotonin contribute to depression. The relationship between serotonin and depression and other mood disorders is complex and unlikely to be caused by a serotonin imbalance alone.

Additionally, dopamine affects how a person’s moves, but there is no clear link to the role of serotonin in movement.

Outlook

Dopamine deficiency can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life, affecting them both physically and mentally. Many mental health disorders are linked to low levels of dopamine. Other medical conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, have also been linked to low dopamine.

There is limited evidence that diet and lifestyle can affect the levels of dopamine a person creates and transmits in their body. Certain medications and some therapies may help relieve symptoms, but a person should always speak to a doctor first if they are concerned about their dopamine levels.

 

via Dopamine deficiency: Symptoms, causes, and treatment

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[WEB SITE] Cannabidiol shows promise to reduce seizures for people with difficult-to-treat epilepsy

Taking cannabidiol may cut seizures in half for some children and adults with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome (LGS), a severe form of epilepsy, according to new information released today from a large scale controlled clinical study that will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 69th Annual Meeting in Boston, April 22 to 28, 2017. Cannabidiol is a molecule from the cannabis plant that does not have the psychoactive properties that create a “high.”

Nearly 40 percent of people with LGS, which starts in childhood, had at least a 50 percent reduction in drop seizures when taking a liquid form of cannabidiol compared to 15 percent taking a placebo.

When someone has a drop seizure, their muscle tone changes, causing them to collapse. Children and adults with LGS have multiple kinds of seizures, including drop seizures and tonic-clonic seizures, which involve loss of consciousness and full-body convulsions. The seizures are hard to control and usually do not respond well to medications. Intellectual development is usually impaired in people with LGS.

Although the drop seizures of LGS are often very brief, they frequently lead to injury and trips to the hospital emergency room, so any reduction in drop seizure frequency is a benefit.

“Our study found that cannabidiol shows great promise in that it may reduce seizures that are otherwise difficult to control,” said study author Anup Patel, MD, of Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine in Columbus and a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

For the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study, researchers followed 225 people with an average age of 16 for 14 weeks. The participants had an average of 85 drop seizures per month, had already tried an average of six epilepsy drugs that did not work for them and were taking an average of three epilepsy drugs during the study.

Participants were given either a higher dose of 20 mg/kg daily cannabidiol, a lower dose of 10 mg/kg daily cannabidiol or placebo as an add-on to their current medications for 14 weeks.

Those taking the higher dose had a 42 percent reduction in drop seizures overall, and for 40 percent, their seizures were reduced by half or more.

Those taking the lower dose had a 37 percent reduction in drop seizures overall, and for 36 percent, seizures were reduced by half or more.

Those taking the placebo had a 17 percent reduction in drop seizures, and for 15 percent, seizures were reduced by half or more.

There were side effects for 94 percent of those taking the higher dose, 84 percent of those taking the lower dose and 72 percent of those taking placebo, but most side effects were reported as mild to moderate. The two most common were decreased appetite and sleepiness.

Those receiving cannabidiol were up to 2.6 times more likely to say their overall condition had improved than those receiving the placebo, with up to 66 percent reporting improvement compared to 44 percent of those receiving the placebo.

“Our results suggest that cannabidiol may be effective for those with Lennox-Gastaut syndrome in treating drop seizures,” said Patel. “This is important because this kind of epilepsy is incredibly difficult to treat. While there were more side effects for those taking cannabidiol, they were mostly well-tolerated. I believe that it may become an important new treatment option for these patients.”

There is currently a plan to submit a New Drug Application to the FDA later this year.

Source: Cannabidiol shows promise to reduce seizures for people with difficult-to-treat epilepsy

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[ARTICLE] The effect of active video games on cognitive functioning in clinical and non-clinical populations: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials – Full Text

Abstract

Physically-active video games (‘exergames’) have recently gained popularity for leisure and entertainment purposes. Using exergames to combine physical activity and cognitively-demanding tasks may offer a novel strategy to improve cognitive functioning. Therefore, this systematic review and meta-analysis was performed to establish effects of exergames on overall cognition and specific cognitive domains in clinical and non-clinical populations. We identified 17 eligible RCTs with cognitive outcome data for 926 participants. Random-effects meta-analyses found exergames significantly improved global cognition (g = 0.436, 95% CI = 0.18–0.69, p = 0.001). Significant effects still existed when excluding waitlist-only controlled studies, and when comparing to physical activity interventions. Furthermore, benefits of exergames where observed for both healthy older adults and clinical populations with conditions associated with neurocognitive impairments (all p < 0.05). Domain-specific analyses found exergames improved executive functions, attentional processing and visuospatial skills. The findings present the first meta-analytic evidence for effects of exergames on cognition. Future research must establish which patient/treatment factors influence efficacy of exergames, and explore neurobiological mechanisms of action.

1. Introduction

Cognition can be broadly defined as the actions of the brain involved in understanding and functioning in our external environment (Hirschfeld and Gelman, 1994). As it is generally accepted that cognition requires multiple mental processes, this broader concept has been theoretically separated into multiple ‘cognitive domains’ (Hirschfeld and Gelman, 1994). Although definitions vary, and the boundaries between domains often overlap, examples of distinct areas of cognitive functioning include the processes for learning and remembering verbal and spatial information, attentional capacities, response speed, problem-solving and planning (Strauss et al., 2006).

Various neuropsychological tests have been developed as tools for assessing and quantifying an individual’s overall cognitive functioning (or ‘global cognition’) along with their performance within the separable domains of cognition (Strauss et al., 2006). Performance in these various cognitive tests has been found to be relatively stable over time in healthy adults, and moderately accurate predictors of real-world functioning and occupational performance (Chaytor and Schmitter-Edgecombe, 2003 ;  Hunter, 1986). Furthermore, neuropsychological tests can detect the deficits in cognitive functioning which arise as a consequence of various psychiatric and neurological diseases (Mathuranath et al., 2000 ;  Nuechterlein et al., 2004). For example, people with Parkinson’s disease show marked impairments in planning and memory tasks (Dubois and Pillon, 1996), whereas those with schizophrenia have cognitive pervasive deficits, 1–2 standard deviations below population norms, which also predict the severity of disability in this population (Green et al., 2000). Additionally, cognitive abilities decline naturally in almost all people during healthy ageing (Van Hooren et al., 2007). In an ageing population, the functional consequences of cognitive decline may ultimately have a severe social and economic impact. Thus, interventions which improve cognition hold promise for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological diseases, an have positive implications for population health.

Fortunately, interventions which stimulate the brain and/or body can improve cognition, or attenuate decline. For instance, physical exercise has been shown to significantly improve global cognition, along with working memory and attentional processes, in both clinical and healthy populations (Firth et al., 2016Smith et al., 2010 ;  Zheng et al., 2016). Interventions can also be designed to target cognition directly, as computerized training programs for memory and other functions have been found to provide significant cognitive benefits, at least in the short term (Hill et al., 2017 ;  Melby-Lervåg and Hulme, 2013). Furthermore, ‘gamification’ of cognitive training programs can maximize their clinical effectiveness, as more complex and interesting programs are capable of better engaging patients in cognitively-demanding tasks while also training multiple cognitive processes simultaneously (Anguera et al., 2013).

Previous studies have found that providing both aerobic exercise and cognitive training together may have additive effects, preventing ageing-related cognitive decline more effectively (Shatil, 2013). This may be due to aerobic and cognitive activity stimulating neurogenesis through independent but complementary pathways; as animal studies show that while exercise stimulates cell proliferation, learning tasks support the survival of these new cells (Kempermann et al., 2010), such that combining these two types of training results in 30% more new neurons than either task alone (Fabel et al., 2009).

Rather than delivering aerobic and cognitive training in separate training sessions, recent advances in technology has presented an opportunity for combining physical activity with cognitively-challenging tasks in a single session through ‘exergames’. Exergames are considered as interactive video-games which require the player to produce physical body movements in order to complete set tasks or actions, in response to visual cues (Oh and Yang, 2010). Common examples include the ‘Nintendo Wii’ (along with ‘Wii Fit’ or ‘Wii Sports software’) or the ‘Microsoft Xbox Kinect’. Additionally, virtual reality systems which use exercise bikes and/or treadmills as a medium for players to interact with three-dimensional worlds have also been developed to provide immersive training experiences (Sinclair et al., 2007).

Along with their popular usage for leisure and entertainment, there is growing interest in the application of exergame systems to improve clinical outcomes. Recent systematic reviews and meta-analyses of this growing literature have provided preliminary evidence that exergames can improve various health-related outcomes, including reducing childhood obesity, improving balance and falls risk factors in elderly adults, facilitating functional rehabilitation in people with parkinson’s disease, and even reduce depression (Barry et al., 2014Li et al., 2016 ;  van’t Riet et al., 2014). However, the effects of exergames on cognitive functioning have not been systematically reviewed, despite many individual studies in this area.

Therefore, the aim of this study was to systematically review all existing trials of exergames for cognition, and apply meta-analytic techniques to establish the effects of exergames on global cognition along with individual cognitive domains. We also sought to (i) examine the effects of exergames on cognition in healthy and clinically-impaired populations, and (ii) investigate if the effects of exergames differed from those of aerobic exercise alone, by comparing exergames to traditional physical activity control conditions.

Fig. 1

Fig. 1. PRISMA flow diagram of systematic search and study selection.

Continue —> The effect of active video games on cognitive functioning in clinical and non-clinical populations: A meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials

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[ARTICLE] Near-Infrared Spectroscopy in Gait Disorders – Is it Time to Begin? – Full Text

Walking is a complex motor behavior with a special relevance in clinical neurology. Many neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and stroke, are characterized by gait disorders whose neurofunctional correlates are poorly investigated. Indeed, the analysis of real walking with the standard neuroimaging techniques poses strong challenges, and only a few studies on motor imagery or walking observation have been performed so far. Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is becoming an important research tool to assess functional activity in neurological populations or for special tasks, such as walking, because it allows investigating brain hemodynamic activity in an ecological setting, without strong immobility constraints. A systematic review following PRISMA guidelines was conducted on the fNIRS-based examination of gait disorders. Twelve of the initial yield of 489 articles have been included in this review. The lesson learnt from these studies suggest that oxy-hemoglobin levels within the prefrontal and premotor cortices are more sensitive to compensation strategies reflecting postural control and restoration of gait disorders. Although this field of study is in its relative infancy, the evidence provided encourages the translation of fNIRS in clinical practice, as it offers a unique opportunity to explore in depth the activity of the cortical motor system during real walking in neurological patients. We also discuss to what extent fNIRS may be applied for assessing the effectiveness of rehabilitation programs.

Walking is one of the most fundamental motor functions in humans,13 often impaired in some focal neurological conditions (ie, stroke), or neurodegenerative diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease (PD).4 Worldwide almost two thirds of people over 70 years old suffer from gait disorders, and because of the progressively ageing population, an increasing pressure on health care systems is expected in the coming years.5

Although the physiological basis of walking is well understood, pathophysiological mechanisms in neurological patients have been poorly described. This is caused by the difficulty to assess in vivo neuronal processes during overt movements.

During the past 20 years, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) has been the preferred instrument to investigate mechanisms underlying movement control6 as well as movement disorders.7 fMRI allows measuring the blood oxygenation level-dependent (BOLD) signal that, relying on variations in deoxy-hemoglobin (deoxyHb) concentrations, provides an indirect measure of functional activity of the human brain.8 Patterns of activation/deactivation and connectivity across brain regions can be detected with a very high spatial resolution for both cortical and subcortical structures. This technique, however, is characterized by severe limitations and constraints about motion artifacts and only small movements are allowed inside the scanner. This entails dramatic compromises on the experimental design and on the inclusion/exclusion criteria. Multiple solutions have been attempted to overcome such limitations. For instance, many neuroimaging studies have been performed on the motor imagery,9,10 but imaging can be different from subject to subject,11 and imagined walking and actual walking engage different brain networks.12 Other authors have suggested the application of virtual reality,13 and there have been a few attempts to allow an almost real-walking sequence while scanning with fMRI.14,15Additional opportunities to investigate the mechanisms sustaining walking control include the use of surrogate tasks in the scanner as proxy of walking tasks,16 or to “freeze” brain activations during walking using positron emission tomography (PET) radiotracers, which allow the retrospective identification of activation patterns, albeit with some uncertainties and low spatial and temporal resolution.12

Therefore, until now there has not been an ecological way to noninvasively assess neurophysiological correlates of walking processes in gait disorders.

Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) is becoming an important research tool to assess functional activity in special populations (neurological and psychiatric patients)17 or for special tasks.1821 fNIRS is a noninvasive optical imaging technique that, similarly to fMRI, measures the hemodynamic response to infer the underlying neural activity. Optical imaging is based on near-infrared (650-1000 nm) light propagation into scattering tissues and its absorption by 2 major chromophores in the brain, oxy-hemoglobin (oxyHb) and deoxyHb, which show specific absorption spectra depending on the wavelength of the photons.22 Typically, an fNIRS apparatus is composed of a light source that is coupled to the participant’s head via either light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or through fiber-optical bundles with a detector that receives the light after it has been scattered through the tissue. A variation of the optical density of the photons measured by detectors depends on the absorption of the biological tissues (Figure 1A). Using more than one wavelength and applying the modified Beer-Lambert law, it is possible to infer on the changes of oxyHb and deoxyHb concentrations.23 fNIRS has a number of definite advantages compared to fMRI, its major competitor: (a) it does not pose immobility constrains,25 (b) is portable,26 (c) allows recording during real walking,27 (d) allows long-lasting recordings, (e) it does not produce any noise, (f) it makes possible the investigation of brain activity during sleep,28 (f) it allows to obtain a richer picture of the neurovascular coupling as it measures changes in both oxyHb and deoxyHb concentration with high temporal resolution (up to milliseconds). High temporal resolution is usually not mandatory for the investigation of the hemodynamic response whose dynamic takes at least 3 to 5 seconds, but it can be useful for the study of transient hemodynamic activity like the initial dip29 or to detect subtle temporal variations in the latency of the hemodynamic response across different experimental conditions.19,21,30 The major drawback of fNIRS in comparison to fMRI is its lower spatial resolution (few centimeters under the skull) and its lack of sensitivity to subcortical regions.18,19 However, this might be considered a minor limitation, as there is a large body of evidence suggesting that (a) cortical mechanisms take place in walking,31 (b) the organization of the motor system is distributed along large brain regions,32and (c) the function of subcortical structures is mirrored in the cerebral cortex.33

figure

Figure 1. Illustration of penetration depth of near-infrared light into the tissue in a probe configuration used to investigate motor performances during walking task (upper row). The picture shows brain reconstruction from a high-resolution anatomical MRI. The spheres placed over the skull correspond to vitamin E capsules employed during the MRI to mark the positions of the optodes and to allow the coregistration of the individual anatomy together with the optode position. In this illustration, only the photons propagation from one source (S) to one detector (D) have been simulated. The yellow-red scale indicates the degree of sensitivity74 for the considered source-detector pair to the head/brain structures. (A, B, and C) Lower row: Examples of fNIRS experimental device used for assessing brain activity during real walking tasks. These fNIRS approaches included either commercial device, such as (A) wireless portable fNIRS system (NIRx; Germany) or support systems for treadmill walking activity with body weight support24 (B) or with free movement range (C).

Continue —> Near-Infrared Spectroscopy in Gait Disorders – Feb 14, 2017

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[WEB SITE] First-ever neuroscience conference to explore ultra-personal approach to brain health

For three days this week, Roanoke, Virginia, is the capital of the precision neuroscience world.

The first-ever scientific meeting to explore an ultra-personal approach to brain health — the Virginia-Nordic Precision Neuroscience Conference — opened this week at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

“The promise, hope, and opportunity for precision neuroscience is great — with the potential for realizing the brain and mind’s full potential, preventing disorders, and restoring brain health after injury or degenerative disease,” said Virginia Tech President Tim Sands, who welcomed about 200 scientists on behalf of Virginia Tech and Carilion Clinic. “It is also the responsibility of the scientific and medical communities to help define the real possibilities, differentiate hype from reality, and help focus the scientific enterprise and resource allocation on areas where the promise can be realized.”

More than 1,000 disorders of the brain and nervous system result in more hospitalizations than any other disease group, including heart disease and cancer.

“By understanding an individual’s genetics, behavior, education, habits, life experiences such as physical and psychological trauma — all the things that make people who they are — the neuroscientific community may be able to develop individually tailored plans for people to optimize education, health care, diet, exercise, and environments where they are likely to thrive cognitively, socially, and physically,” said Michael J. Friedlander, Virginia Tech’s vice president for health sciences and technology and the founding executive director of the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

The collaboration grew from an idea developed by Friedlander and Tor S. Haugstad, a neurologist and neuroscience chair at Sunnaas National Rehabilitation Hospital in Oslo, Norway, worked to develop as the Norway/U.S. Neuroscience Collaboration, initially called NUNC. The effort has grown to include multiple universities in Norway as well as in several other Nordic countries, and universities and foundations throughout Virginia.

People respond to brain injuries differently, which is one of the motivations for further development of the precision neuroscience field.

“We may get two people in our department with very similar brain injuries, and one may be rendered with a low level of consciousness while the other can recover and return home to his family and work life,” said Haugstad, who also chairs the traumatic brain rehabilitation program at Sunnaas National Rehabilitation Hospital. “We need to discover at cellular and molecular levels why people respond so differently, and tailor treatment and rehabilitation to the specific person.”

The meeting, which will continue through Friday, is the first to bring the top minds of precision neuroscience from across the globe together in a think-tank setting to explore the challenges and promise of bringing personalized medicine to brain health and brain disorders.

“One individual’s experience with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, a traumatic brain injury, or various other neurological or psychiatric disorders will not be exactly like anyone else’s,” Friedlander said.

“From a business and health care point of view, clinical trials may fail because they target generic diseases that manifest very differently in different people,” Friedlander said. “If a drug or treatment doesn’t work in 75 percent of the people, it is considered a failure — but it worked in 25 percent. Should we forget about the 25 percent of people it helped and scrap potentially lifesaving therapies that may have cost hundreds of millions of dollars during a decade of development?”

By targeting groups of patients based on their predicted manifestations of a particular brain disorder, the success rate for finding new treatments will improve and the investment risk can be lessened, according to Friedlander.

“Essentially the pharmaceutical industry and investors de-risk their investments by having more precise, targeted therapies and tests that are more likely to be successful,” Friedlander said. “The treatment may be effective for 10 percent of people with a particular brain disease, but we can learn a lot about why those 10 percent may have benefitted based on their genetic composition and expression patterns and their life experiences. Then, we get back to work on a treatment for the next 10 percent, and the next 10 percent. It may not be one size fits all.”

Researchers will discuss innovations ranging from a Nobel prize-winning imaging system that visualizes the action of molecules within the brain, to the work of physician-scientists who are on the frontlines of health care delivery for brain injury, neurodegenerative diseases of aging, and brain developmental disorders.

In many ways, the conference has special meaning for the partner cities in Virginia and in Europe, Haugstad said.

“Roanoke is a city with a history of rail that, through innovation and spirit, is reinventing itself, and it is leading the way in precision neuroscience,” Haugstad said. “In Norway, a country that depends on oil revenue, the cities are changing much like cities in Virginia, by finding new ways to live and move forward. Together, we are very good partners.”

Source: Virginia Tech

Source: First-ever neuroscience conference to explore ultra-personal approach to brain health

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[REVIEW] The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for movement disorders – Full Text HTML/PDF

Movement DisordersABSTRACT

There is growing interest in the therapeutic potential of marijuana (cannabis) and cannabinoid-based chemicals within the medical community and, particularly, for neurological conditions. This interest is driven both by changes in the legal status of cannabis in many areas and increasing research into the roles of endocannabinoids within the central nervous system and their potential as symptomatic and/or neuroprotective therapies. We review basic science as well as preclinical and clinical studies on the therapeutic potential of cannabinoids specifically as it relates to movement disorders. The pharmacology of cannabis is complex, with over 60 neuroactive chemicals identified to date. The endocannabinoid system modulates neurotransmission involved in motor function, particularly within the basal ganglia. Preclinical research in animal models of several movement disorders have shown variable evidence for symptomatic benefits, but more consistently suggest potential neuroprotective effects in several animal models of Parkinson’s (PD) and Huntington’s disease (HD). Clinical observations and clinical trials of cannabinoid-based therapies suggests a possible benefit of cannabinoids for tics and probably no benefit for tremor in multiple sclerosis or dyskinesias or motor symptoms in PD. Data are insufficient to draw conclusions regarding HD, dystonia, or ataxia and nonexistent for myoclonus or RLS. Despite the widespread publicity about the medical benefits of cannabinoids, further preclinical and clinical research is needed to better characterize the pharmacological, physiological, and therapeutic effects of this class of drugs in movement disorders.

Continue —> The therapeutic potential of cannabinoids for movement disorders – Kluger – 2015 – Movement Disorders – Wiley Online Library

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[WEB SITE] New technology discovered for brain repair: Chemical transformation of human glial cells into neurons

For the first time, researchers have used a cocktail of small molecules to transform human brain cells, called astroglial cells, into functioning neurons for brain repair. The new technology opens the door to the future development of drugs that patients could take as pills to regenerate neurons and to restore brain functions lost after traumatic injuries, stroke, or diseases such as Alzheimer’s. Previous research, such as conventional stem cell therapy, requires brain surgery and therefore is much more invasive and prone to immune-system rejection and other problems. The research, led by Gong Chen, Professor of Biology and the Verne M. Willaman Chair in Life Sciences at Penn State University, will be published online in the journal Cell Stem Cell on Oct. 15th, 2015.

“We have discovered a cocktail of small molecules that can reprogram human brain astroglial cells into neuron-like cells after eight-to-ten days of chemical treatment,” Chen said. The neurons the researchers reprogrammed survived for more than five months in cell culture, where they formed functional synaptic networks. The scientists also injected the reprogrammed human neurons into the brains of living mice, where they integrated into the neural circuits and survived there for at least one month.

Astroglial cells before treatment with small-molecule cocktails in the lab of Gong Chen at Penn State University Credit: Gong Chen lab, Penn State University

Astroglial cells before treatment with small-molecule cocktails in the lab of Gong Chen at Penn State UniversityCredit: Gong Chen lab, Penn State University”The small molecules are not only easy to synthesize and package into drug pills, but also much more convenient for use by patients than other methods now being developed,” Chen said. Before the promise of the new technology results in pills at a pharmacy, the new research effort must first succeed through much development and testing in the laboratory and then through a series of clinical trials.

Continue —> New technology discovered for brain repair: Chemical transformation of human glial cells into neurons – Medical News Today

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[WEB SITE] How healthy is your brain? Stand on one leg to find out

Here’s something you should do for your health: stand on one leg.

Can you do it for at least 20 seconds? If so, your brain’s probably in pretty good shape.

Japanese researchers have found this simple test is an excellent way to determine whether someone has cerebral small-vessel disease (SVD), reports Prevention magazine. SVD can be a factor in strokes, dementia and Parkinson’s disease. “Cerebral small vessel disease is a frequent finding on CT and MRI scans of elderly people and is related to vascular risk factors and cognitive and motor impairment, ultimately leading to dementia or Parkinsonism in some,” wrote an unrelated 2011 study published in BMC Neurology.

The Kyoto University study, published last December in the journal Stroke, observed some 1,400 men and women with an average age of 67 attempt to stand with one leg raised and eyes open. All of the participants later had MRI scans done of their brains.

Almost without exception, the study participants who had trouble maintaining balance on one leg had SVD; some of them had brain lesions or other brain disorders.

Those who successfully balanced on one leg generally had brains without any signs of disease. They also scored higher on other, more traditional mental tests.

via How healthy is your brain? Stand on one leg to find out | OregonLive.com.

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[WEB SITE] tDCS – A Therapy For The Future? – Brain Blogger

Transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) is a non-invasive, painless brain stimulation method which uses electrical currents to modulate neuronal activity in specific parts of the brain. A constant, low intensity current is delivered through small electrodes attached to the scalp in order to either increase or reduce neuronal activity.

This is clearly a trending topic: although interest in tDCS dates back to the 1960s, a search in PubMed reveals that more than half of the articles on tDCS were published in the last two years.

Despite numerous studies on different applications for tDCS, its use is still not generally accepted in the clinical setting; tDCS is not an FDA-approved therapy, remaining mostly an experimental method. Although tDCS has been tested on numerous conditions such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic pain, fibromyalgia, and stroke, its efficacy is still largely inconclusive.

Many studies applying tDCS have already been published in 2015, as well as a few reviews analyzing its efficacy for different conditions. By gathering the available information for the application of tDSC in a specific context, reviews are particularly useful, allowing researchers to sort through all the conflicting data. And these have actually shown some promising applications for tDSC.

Learning and Memory

There have been claims that tDCS can enhance cognition in healthy adult populations, especially working memory and language production, spiking the interest in tDCS as a neuroenhancement tool.

tDCS seems to act as a neuromodulatory technique, inducing a long-term enhancement or reduction of signal transmission between neurons. By strengthening or weakening neuronal connections, it may facilitate learning and memory formation, as well as neural plasticity that contributes to functional recovery after stroke, for example.

However, a review on the effects of a single-session of tDCS showed that it did not have a significant effect on a variety of cognitive function such as language, episodic memory, working memory or mental arithmetic, just to name a few. Nevertheless, it did not exclude the possibility that tDCS may be effective after multiple sessions.

There are in fact many reports from studies in healthy subjects stating that tDCS enhances verbal performance and learning, improving such outcomes as verbal speed, fluency, and amount of verbal learning. These language enhancement outcomes could potentially be quite useful in treating language deficits associated with different pathological conditions. In fact, tDCS has been used to enhance treatment efficacy in post-stroke aphasia rehabilitation and the results seem promising, with tDCS being effective in increasing language skills despite a high variety of stimulation parameters and patient characteristics.

Language enhancement can also be applied to a word reading context. Repeated tDCS application to adults with developmental dyslexia has been shown to significantly improve reading speed and fluency.

Reports supporting a positive effect on memory enhancement can also be found. Different studies have demonstrated an improvement in working memory and episodic memory in healthy subjects, with an increase in accuracy and in response time. But again, the evidences are still considered insufficient for a clinical application.

These memory enhancement effects could be quite useful in both Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, and in post-stroke rehabilitation. Again, some promising outcomes in these pathologies have been reported, but there are still conflicting results.

Continue–> tDCS – A Therapy For The Future? | Brain Blogger.

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