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Archive for the ‘Neurological’ Category

The New York Times (12/17, Bhanoo, http://tinyurl.com/fearamygdala) reportsIn the 1930s, researchers discovered that when a certain part of monkeys’ brains was removed, the animals became fearless.  Now, scientists have confirmed that a missing amygdala results in similar behavior in humans, according to a study in the journal Current Biology. Patient SM, because of a rare condition called lipoid proteinosis, has holes where her amygdala would normally reside. Researchers found that she, like the monkeys, has no fear of creatures like snakes and spiders, which ordinarily alarm most people.  SM put her life at risk several times.  In one instance, she walked through a park alone at night and was attacked by a man with a knife. The following day, she walked through the same park again.   Shw was exposed  to snakes and spiders at a pet store, shown clips of horror movies like The Shining and The Blair Witch Project, and taken through a haunted house in a former sanatorium.   SM’s fear response was nonexistent.   What’s more, she “relished cuddling snakes and had to be stopped from reaching for a tarantula.”   Understanding how the mind of a patient like SM works could help researchers develop therapies for individuals who express excessive amounts of fear, like war veterans.

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HealthDay (4/8, Dotinga, http://tinyurl.com/MCI-test) reported that  Doug Scharre, MD  has developed a brief memory test to help doctors determine whether someone is suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), which can signal the development of Alzheimer’s disease.  In a study in the journal Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders, neurologist Dr. Douglas Scharre of Ohio State University Medical Center reports that the test detected 80 percent of people with mild thinking and memory problems. In a press release, Scharre said the test could help people get earlier care for conditions like Alzheimer’s disease.  “It’s a recurring problem,” he said. “People don’t come in early enough for a diagnosis, or families generally resist making the appointment because they don’t want confirmation of their worst fears.  Whatever the reason, it’s unfortunate because the drugs we’re using now work better the earlier they are started.  “The test can be taken by hand, which Scharre said may help people who aren’t comfortable with technology like computers.   He’s making the tests, which take 15 minutes to complete, available free to health workers at www.sagetest.osu.edu

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HealthDay (4/12, Dotinga, http://tinyurl.com/antidepressants-stroke) reported that a new study in rodents suggests that antidepressants and mood stabilizers might help recovery in stroke patients. The drugs have been linked in rodents to a growth of new brain cells which reduced the severity of the strokes the lab mice experienced.  It’s too early to tell if the drugs will have any effect on human stroke patients, but scientists say they’re curious because their study showed that the growth of new brain cells helped mice recover from the effects of stroke.  Researchers at the Buck Institute for Age Research in Novato, Calif., studied mice that were genetically engineered to either grow new brain cells prior to a stroke or fail to grow them. Those who did develop the fresh neurons tended to have smaller strokes and recover more easily, although it’s not clear why.  The researchers didn’t test drugs on humans that appear to boost the growth of new brain cells, but they believe that notion is worth studying.  The study appears in this week’s issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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HealthDay (1/23, Preidt http://tinyurl.com/frontal-confidence) reported people who have an unrealistically high opinion of themselves have less activity in the frontal lobes of their brain. “In healthy people, the more you activate a portion of your frontal lobes, the more accurate your view of yourself is.  And the more you view yourself as desirable or better than your peers, the less you use those lobes,” Jennifer Beer, an assistant professor of psychology at the University of Texas at Austin, said in a university news release.  The participants who had a very positive self-image had less activity in the orbitofrontal cortex, a region of the frontal lobe generally associated with reasoning, planning, decision-making and problem-solving.  Some of the volunteers with a realistic self-view had four times more frontal lobe activation than the participant with the highest self-regard.  The study is published in the February issue of the journal NeuroImage.

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lamictal-tabletsThe AP (5/11) reported that the FDA “has approved a dissolvable version of GlaxoSmithKline PLC’s blockbuster” medication “Lamictal [lamotrigine], the company said Monday.” The medicine “is prescribed for the treatment of epilepsy or bipolar disorders,” and the “company said a dissolvable version, which disintegrates on the patient’s tongue, is important because people with those disorders can have a hard time swallowing pills.” The company also said the FDA “approved Lamictal ODT in 25mg, 50 mg, 100 mg and 200 mg strengths, and it is expected to be available by July.” The Triangle Business Journal (5/11, Drew) also covered the story.

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WebMD (4/13, Doheny) reported that, according to research published online Apr. 13 in PLoS-Biology and in March in Environmental and Health Perspectives, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) appear to “adversely affect the development of brain cells and also make brain circuits ‘overexcited,’ which has been linked in previous research to developmental problems.” In their studies, researchers from the University of California-Davis Center for Children’s Environmental Health believe they “have identified the way in which a broad class of environmental contaminants influences the developing nervous system and may contribute to neuro-developmental impairments, such as hyperactivity, seizure disorders, and autism.” Working with rats, the team found that “exposures to low doses of PCBs…hampered their ability to learn to swim a maze,” and “adversely affected the plasticity of the animals’ dendrites,” which is “important for learning and memory.” Interestingly, exposure to lower doses appeared to be more damaging than exposure to higher doses of PCBs.

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USA Today (4/8, Zoroya) reports that neurologists at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency “are learning how roadside bombs — the most common weapon used against US troops in the field — harm the brain.” Using pigs, they have “discovered a sliding scale of injury ranging from brain cell inflammation to cell damage or cell death, depending on the power of the blast.” According to neurologist Army Col. Geoffrey Ling, “future research…may lead to ways in which battlefield medics can use a combination of helmet sensors and over-the-counter pain reliever to identify and treat mild cases of blast-caused brain injury.” The team “also found that brain damage from an improvised explosive device (IED) can be made worse for those riding inside an armored Humvee, because materials in the vehicle magnify the blast wave effect.” To date, “up to 360,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may have suffered brain injuries, the Pentagon announced last month,” with “many of those injuries” resulting “from IED blasts.”

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