Concussions Not Properly Appreciated
reported in the September-October issue of the American Journal of Sports
Medicine, high school football players who sustain concussions often
return to play prematurely because the significance of their injuries is
not appreciated. Return-to-play guidelines are not inclusive of some of
the most common signs and symptoms such as concentration deficits, blurred
vision (sensitivity to light), amnesia, dizziness and balance deficits.
Development in 4-D
imaging techniques can be used to visualize changes in brain structure
during childhood. A report published in the March 9, 2000 issue of the
journal Nature describes "the creation of spatially complex,
four-dimensional quantitative maps of growth patterns in the developing
human brain." The authors of the report believe that their form of
dynamic mapping "may . . . offer advantages in tracking fine-scale
effects of therapeutic interventions in dementia (and other
Damage May Be Reversible
study from the University of California, Los Angeles Stroke Unit, has
shown that the early use of clot-busters may reverse stroke injury. Time
is critical: clot-busting drugs generally must be used within 3 hours of
symptom onset. Therefore, it is particularly important for patients to be
aware of the warning signs of a stroke. Stroke symptoms include sudden
onset of weakness or numbness, difficulty speaking, severe headache and
vision problems, among others.
Trauma Linked To Alzheimer’s
to be published in the September issue of the Journal of Neuropathology
and Experimental Neurology support earlier studies saying brain trauma can
raise the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. In experiments performed on
anesthetized pigs, a research team at the University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine found that even moderate brain trauma can set off a
biochemical process that leads to development of amyloid plaques in the
brain tissues. This is the same kind of brain deterioration seen in
patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
Neurons Establish Connections in Rats With Severe Spinal Cord Injuries
reported (in the July, 2002 Journal of Neurosurgery: Spine), human neurons
grown as cells cloned from a tumor help restore some function in severely
injured spinal cords of rats. All seven rats in the delayed
(two weeks after injury) transplant group recovered electrical activity in
spinal cord neurons that control muscle movement. The cells sprouted
fibers, or axons, that grew into the undamaged, intact portions of the
spinal cord above and below the injured area.
Helps Injured Nerve Cells Regenerate
at Boston's Children's Hospital and Harvard University report that the
protein, inosine, switches on a number of genes involved in the growth of
nerve cells. Inosine caused nerve cells in rats to sprout new axons
and when those axons meet, they form new synapses through which messages
can be sent. Also inosine and related molecules may help prevent
damage from brain injury and stroke, as well as the progression of
Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, by shutting off the mechanism that signals
healthy brain cells to die.
Reagan's Death Renews Search for Alzheimer Cure
the ten years between President Regan's poignant letter to the American
people disclosing his diagnosis of Alzheimer disease, much research has
been undertaken but few of the findings have made their way into clinical
practice. With the aging of the baby boomer population, there will be an
explosion of Alzheimer cases which will burgeon into a major public health
problem. Research into Alzheimer includes study of brain cell
regeneration, diagnosis, drugs, genes and stem cells
Damage to Left Side of Brain Raises Infection
As reported in the May, 2004, issue of Annals of Neurology, damage to the dominant side of the brain, which is the left side in most people, seems to suppress the immune system. This effect could make a person more susceptible to infection. The immune and nervous systems are interlinked, influencing each other in complex ways that are just beginning to be understood.
Use of Anti-Inflammatory Steroids for TBI May Increase Risk of Death (January 2005)
Published by the British-based Cochran Library, this study of corticosteroid treatment for brain injury, including coma and concussion, included 10,008 patients, more than all similar studies combined. It is thought that some of the damage after a brain injury results from inflammation following initial injury and that reducing inflammation might reduce this secondary injury. A 2000 survey of brain trauma treatment centers in the United States found that one-third of those centers still use corticosteroids routinely. However, the study found that patients receiving corticosteroids were 18 percent more likely to die from their brain injury that those who did not take the drugs.
Researchers Pinpoint Circuit in the Brain Responsible for Encoding Decision-Making (May 2005)
Researchers at John Hopkins University have pinpointed the orbital frontal cortex, located right behind the eyes, as the site in the brain which controls normal decision making. Damage to this area explains why people who may still have the ability to learn normally are sluggish and inflexible in their behavior, trapping them in a prison of habit.
Pure Brain Stem Cells Cultured in Lab by British Scientists (August, 2005)
Scottish researchers have converted embryonic stem cells into nerve stem cells through the use of chemicals. Before this, scientists who managed to grow stem cells had not been able to obtain pure brain stem cells. This will help in understanding how stem cells work, that is, in explaining the difference between an embryonic stem cell which can make anything, and a brain stem cell which can just make brain. This has positive connotations for those working towards the treatment of Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's.
Caffeine Can Improve Short Term Memory (December, 2005)
For the first time, researches have been able to watch distinct areas of the brain, the ones that relate to short term memory, fire up after volunteers ingested the equivalent of two cups of coffee. The studies show that caffeine modulates a higher brain function through its effect on distinct areas of the brain. Researchers at the Medical University of Innsbruck used functional magnetic resonance imaging to determine the effect of caffeine consumption on parts of the brain network associated with short term, or working, memory; that is, the kind of brain activity required to remember things for a short period of time, like looking up a telephone number in the phone book and storing the number until it is dialed. The researchers found significant increases in activity in a brain region in the frontal lobe, where a part of the working network is located, and in the interior cingulate cortex, a part of the brain that controls attention.
Brains “God Spot” Hard to Pin Down (August, 2006)
A new study shows that mystical experiences may engage several areas of the brain, not just one “God spot.” Published in Neuroscience Letters, based on work done at Canada’s University of Montreal, the researchers tested 15 Carmelite Nuns. The nuns were asked to recall their most intense mystical experience, defined as a sense of union with God, as their brains were being scanned. The nuns’ brain scans did not show any particular “God spot” of brain activity.
Drugs May Quickly Lift Depression (August, 2006)
Ketamine, an anesthetic also used illegally as the club drug Special K, has the power to lift stubborn depression within hours, instead of weeks it typically takes prescription antidepressants to kick in. Researchers and drug companies have been working for years to develop faster-acting antidepressants but none has made it to market yet. In a new federal study, patients given a single intravenous infusion of Ketamine began to feel their depression lift within two hours and after a single day, 71% reported a major improvement in mood. There were no serious side effects. A week after the single injection, 35% were still feeling better. Published in the Archives of General Psychiatry, this Ketamine study adds to mounting evidence that a brain chemical called glutamate is involved in depression and can be targeted for treatment. Researchers emphasize that people should not experiment with the drug on themselves.
Progesterone Shows Promise as Treatment for Brain Injuries (October, 2006)
Progesterone given to trauma victims shortly after brain injuries appears to be safe and may reduce the risk of death and degree of disability. Researchers at Emory University conducted a three year pilot study with one hundred participants, finding encouraging evidence that progesterone is safe in a tbi setting and that there was a 50% reduction in the rate of death. Further, the study found significant improvement in the functional outcome and level of disability among patients with moderate brain injury. The research team is now planning a large clinical trial to test the effectiveness of progesterone in 1,000 patients with tbi.
Gene Map of Mouse Brain May Provide Human Benefits (September, 2006)
A private laboratory backed by Microsoft co-founder Paul G. Allen unveiled the complete genetic map of the mouse brain, an advance researchers say could shave years off the time required to develop the next generation of gene-targeted drugs. The map details the location of more than 21,000 genes in a male mouse’s brain. Researches have placed the complete three dimensional map on the internet and opened it up to scientists and the public free of charge. The map will let scientists immediately locate genes they suspect of playing a role in disease to determine how they actually operate at a particular brain region (at least in the mouse). This means genes can now be ruled in or out in a matter of minutes or hours. About 90% of the genes in a mouse’s brain have a human counterpart. More than 80% of the genes in a mouse’s DNA are expressed in the brain and almost no genes are found at only one brain region.