Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Upcoming Event: Philadelphia, 23 February 2006

From the College of Physicians of Philadelphia website:

23 February 2006
6:00 PM
19 South 22nd Street, Philadelphia

Section on Medicine and the Arts Salon.
"Alzheimer's Narratives: Voicing the Experience of Patients and Families."
David H. Flood, Ph.D., Professor, Health and Society Programs, Drexel University
Rhonda L. Soricelli, M.D., Chair, Section on Medicine and the Arts.

This illustrated presentation will show that through analyses of Alzheimer's narratives - those written by patients as they descend into the disease, by caregivers as they struggle to cope, and by writers who enter imaginatively into the lives of those affected - we can come to a better understanding of the disease and its dreadful impact. Jason Karlawish, MD, Fellow, Institute on Aging, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine and Danita Vetter, MA, Vice-President of Programs and Education, Delaware Valley Chapter of the Alzheimer's Association, will contribute to the follow-up discussion.

For reservations or additional information, please contact Mara Zepeda at 215.563.3737, ext. 225 or

Anthony H. Risser | |

Saturday, January 21, 2006

Abstract of the Day: Cognitive Demands on Functional Decisions

Alexander NB, Ashton-Miller JA, Giordani B, Guire K, & Schultz AB. Age differences in timed accurate stepping with increasing cognitive and visual demand: A walking trail making test. Jounal of Gerontology: A Biological Sciences and Med Sciences. 2005 Dec; 60(12): 1558-1562.

BACKGROUND: Impaired vision, cognition, and divided attention performance predict falls. Requiring both visual and cognitive input, the ability to step accurately is necessary to safely traverse challenging terrain conditions such as uneven or slippery surfaces. We compared healthy young and older adults in the time taken to step accurately under conditions of increasing cognitive and visual demand. METHODS: Healthy Young (n = 42, mean age 21) and Older (n = 37, mean age 70) participants were required to step accurately on an instrumented walkway under conditions of increasing visual and cognitive demand. Based on the paper-and-pencil neuropsychological test, the Trail Making Test (P-TMT) A and B, participants stepped on instrumented targets with increasing sequential numbers (Walking Trail Making Test A [W-TMT A]) and increasing sequential numbers and letters (Walking Trail Making Test B [W-TMT B]), under conditions of Low as well as Normal lighting. RESULTS: W-TMT performance time increased with increased age (Older vs Young), decreased light (Low vs Normal), and increased cognitive demand (Trails B vs Trails A). W-TMT performance time was disproportionately increased in Low light and in the Older group under the highest cognitive demand (W-TMT B) conditions. Paired W-TMT A-B differences were three times higher in the Older group than in the Young group. In the Older group, the correlation between W-TMT results and P-TMT B was particularly strong (p <.001). CONCLUSIONS: The time to perform a stepping accuracy task, such as may be required to avoid environmental hazards, increases under reduced lighting and with increased cognitive demand, the latter disproportionately so in older adults.

PMID: 16424288 [PubMed - in process]
Anthony H. Risser | |

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Upcoming Event: Boston, 01-04 February 2006

The 34th Annual Meeting of the International Neuropsychological Society (INS) will take place in Boston from the 1st through the 4th of February. The conference occurs at the Boston Marriott Copley Place. Details can be found on the INS website on the webpage for the meeting.
Anthony H. Risser | |

Sunday, January 15, 2006

The Brain Game

Today's Sunday Morning on CBS has as one of its features a report about mental-gym approaches and video games designed to try to keep the functioning of the aging brain as healthy as can be. The piece includes an interview with the founder of Posit Science, an interview with a functional MRI researcher from Stanford, and a look at constraint-induced (CI) therapy.
Anthony H. Risser | |

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Obituary: Dr. Ira Black

From The Philadelphia Inquirer:
Neuroscientist Ira Black, stem-cell expert
The Philadelphia Inquirer
11 January 2006
Associated Press

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. - Ira Black, 64, an internationally recognized clinical neuroscientist and a founding director of the Stem Cell Institute of New Jersey, died yesterday.

A spokeswoman for the university hospital where Dr. Black taught said he had died at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. The cause of death was not disclosed.

Since 1990, Dr. Black, who lived in Princeton, was chairman of the neuroscience and cell biology department at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. The state-sponsored Stem Cell Institute was established nearby in May 2004.

Stem-cell research is an emerging science that advocates say could bring revolutionary therapies to a variety of disorders, including paralysis and Alzheimer's.

Gov. Codey, a champion of public funding for such research, said yesterday that Dr. Black left an "honorable legacy."

"His spirit lives on in his work, which is being applied to the treatment of degenerative and acute neurological diseases and spinal cord injury," Codey said in a statement.

Wise Young, a cofounding director of the institute, called Dr. Black a statesman for his field as well as one of its most rigorous scientists. Dr. Black discovered that certain adult bone-marrow cells could be converted into transplantable nerve cells, Young said.

"My great regret," he said in a statement, "is that he will not see the fruition of his work and the use of bone-marrow stem cells to treat neurological diseases."

Dr. Black used postnatal stem cells, but both doctors agreed that research on fetal and embryonic stem cells should be permitted, Young said. Opponents, including President Bush, liken such research to abortion because human embryos would be destroyed.

John Petillo, president of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, called Dr. Black a "faculty superstar" who was a dedicated teacher and mentor.

"He was engaged by the complexities of the brain and driven by the possibility of helping individuals with heartbreaking neuro-degenerative conditions or traumatic brain injuries," Petillo said in a statement.

Information about funeral arrangements was not available.
Anthony H. Risser | |

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Upcoming Event: Philadelphia, 12 January 2006

Dr. Thomas Perls gives a lecture entitled, Deciphering Exceptional Longevity: What we've Learned from the New England Centenarian Study at the University of Pennsylvania.

The event begins at 2:00 pm. Additional information can be found at the online flyer for the event.
Anthony H. Risser | |

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Abstract of the Day: Structural MRI Markers

den Heijer T, Geerlings MI, Hoebeek FE, Hofman A, Koudstaal PJ, & Breteler MM. Use of hippocampal and amygdalar volumes on magnetic resonance imaging to predict dementia in cognitively intact elderly people. Archives of General Psychiatry. 2006 Jan; 63(1): 57-62.

Author Affiliations: Departments of Epidemiology and Biostatistics and Neurology, Erasmus Medical Center, Rotterdam, the Netherlands.

CONTEXT: The recent focus on the development of preventive interventions for Alzheimer disease has fueled the search for biomarkers of presymptomatic disease. Patients with Alzheimer disease and mild cognitive impairment have marked atrophy of the hippocampus and amygdala compared with healthy elderly people. Whether atrophy of these structures is also present in persons without cognitive impairment who later develop dementia is unknown. OBJECTIVE: To assess whether volumetric assessment of the hippocampus and amygdala using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) predicts dementia in elderly people without cognitive impairment. DESIGN: Longitudinal cohort study. SETTING: A general community in the Netherlands. PARTICIPANTS: Five hundred eleven persons, aged 60 to 90 years, free of dementia at baseline were followed up during 3043 person-years (mean per person, 6.0 years). We performed volumetric assessment of the hippocampus and amygdala, obtained information about daily memory problems, and performed extensive neuropsychological testing in all study participants.Main Outcome Measure Dementia, as assessed by repeated neuropsychological screening and monitoring of medical records. RESULTS: Thirty-five persons developed dementia (26 with Alzheimer disease). Hippocampal and amygdalar volumes were strongly associated with the risk of dementia; the age-, sex-, and education-adjusted hazard ratio per 1-SD decrease in volume was 3.0 (95% confidence interval, 2.0-4.6) for the hippocampus and 2.1 (95% confidence interval, 1.5-2.9) for the amygdala. The hazard ratios associated with atrophy were similar in persons without memory complaints or low cognitive function at baseline. Compared with those remaining free of dementia, baseline brain volumes were 17% smaller in persons who received a clinical diagnosis of dementia within 2 to 3 years after MRI and still 5% smaller in those whose conditions were diagnosed 6 years after MRI. CONCLUSION: Atrophy of the hippocampus and amygdala on MRI in cognitively intact elderly people predicts dementia during a 6-year follow-up.

PMID: 16389197 [PubMed - in process]
Anthony H. Risser | |