Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Holiday Stocking Stuffer

Just in time for gift-giving, Dana Press released earlier this month a paperback version of its 2003 resource on family-friendly brain health. A quick look at the 2006 release shows a very impressive resource about the healthy and disordered nervous system - as well as a CD-ROM of material. Nicely illustrated and written for a broad general audience:

The Dana Guide to Brain Health: A Practical Family Reference from Medical Experts by Floyd E. Bloom, M. Flint Beal, & David J. Kupfer. 2006 paperback version: Amazon link

Anthony H. Risser | |

Monday, November 27, 2006

Caregivers of Persons with Dementia

From an NIH press release:

Novel Program Enhances Dementia Caregivers’ Quality of Life

Monday, November 20, 2006
5:00 p.m. ET

NIA Media Contacts:
Susan Farrer or Linda Joy

NINR Media Contact:
Lanny Newman

A multifaceted, personalized intervention can significantly improve the quality of life for caregivers of people with dementia, new research published Nov. 21, 2006, in Annals of Internal Medicine has found. The study, Resources for Enhancing Alzheimer’s Caregiver Health II (REACH II), is the first randomized, controlled trial to look systematically at the effectiveness of a multi-component caregiver intervention provided to ethnically diverse populations. Follow-up studies, the researchers suggest, should examine how the intervention might be used in communities through the nation’s existing network of health and aging services.

REACH II was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), both components of the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The research was conducted at five sites nationwide — the University of Alabama (Birmingham and Tuscaloosa), Thomas Jefferson University (Philadelphia), the University of Tennessee (Memphis), the University of Miami (Fla.) and Stanford University (Palo Alto, Calif.). The University of Pittsburgh served as the coordinating center, and Pittsburgh’s Richard Schulz, Ph.D., was corresponding author for the study.

“Family members and friends provide most of the care for millions of people with dementia who live at home, often facing challenges that can seriously compromise their own quality of life,” notes NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “REACH II tells us that a well-designed, tailored intervention can make a positive, meaningful difference in caregivers’ lives.”

“This important research demonstrates that the intervention can readily benefit the diverse communities of caretakers who provide care to individuals with Alzheimer’s disease,” adds NINR Director Dr. Patricia A. Grady. “It also underscores the substantial cost that caregivers face — financially, physically, spiritually and emotionally — and helps to illustrate why caregiving research is a priority for NINR and NIA.”

The REACH II study included 642 individuals, more than 200 each of Hispanic, white and African American caregivers of persons with dementia. The caregivers within each ethnic/racial group were randomly assigned to either an intervention or a control group.

Trained project staff visited the caregivers in the intervention group at home nine times, talked with them during three half-hour telephone calls, and offered five structured telephone support sessions. The strategies included information sharing, instruction, role playing, problem solving, skills training, stress-management techniques and telephone support groups. Those in the control group received a packet of dementia education materials and two brief “check-in” telephone calls. Spanish-language services and materials were offered to the Spanish-speaking caregivers in Miami, Palo Alto and Philadelphia.

[ ... Read the full press release ... ]

Anthony H. Risser | |

Spindle Neurons

From the CBC:

Humpback whales share brain cells with humans
Last Updated: Monday, November 27, 2006 | 1:12 PM ET
CBC News

Humpback whales have joined an exclusive evolutionary club alongside humans, gorillas and dolphins, thanks to the discovery of a particular type of brain cell in the large aquatic mammals.

The brains of humpback whales contain spindle neurons, a kind of brain cell found in the cerebral cortex in large primates like humans and gorillas, according to a study published online on Monday.

Patrick R. Hof and Estel Van der Gucht of the Department of Neuroscience at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York published their findings in The Anatomical Record, the official journal of the American Association of Anatomists.

The authors found humpback whales not only had spindle neurons in the same area of the cortex where they are found in hominids, but also in other parts of their brain.

Named for their long, spindle-shaped bodies, spindle neurons are a complex and not completely understood cellular structure found in the brains of larger primates and cetaceans, the group of marine mammals that includes whales and dolphins.

They are thought to be involved in cognitive processes such as learning, remembering and recognizing, and are affected by conditions like Alzheimer's disease, autism and schizophrenia. In humans, they occur in the part of the brain thought to control speech, social organization and empathy.

[ ... Read the full article ... ]

Anthony H. Risser | |

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Abstract of the Day: Assessing Neurocognitive Toxicity in Animal Models

Bertaina-Anglade V, Enjuanes E, Morillon D, & Drieu la Rochelle C. (2006). The object recognition task in rats and mice: A simple and rapid model in safety pharmacology to detect amnesic properties of a new chemical entity. J Pharmacol Toxicol Methods, 54(2), 99-105.

Preclinical Pharmacology Department, Biotrial, 7-9 rue JL Bertrand, 35000 Rennes, France.

INTRODUCTION: The aim of the present study was to evaluate the potential usefulness of the object recognition learning paradigm to detect the potential amnesic properties of a new drug for use in the characterisation of its safety pharmacology profile. METHODS AND RESULTS: In the first experiment, the time-dependent decay of object recognition memory was characterised in Sprague-Dawley rats and C57Bl/6J mice. Under our experimental conditions, it takes between 3 and 4 post-training hours for the rats and between 1 and 2 post-training hours for the mice to forget the respective value of the objects. In the second experiment, the effects of scopolamine (0.03-1 mg/kg) were investigated in both rats and mice when administered 30 min prior to training in the object recognition task. Memory retention was tested 2 h after training in rats and 1 h after training in mice. Scopolamine impairs the object recognition memory at doses of 0.1, 0.3, and 1 mg/kg in rats and at doses of 0.3 and 1 mg/kg in mice. In the last experiment, effects of two benzodiazepines (alprazolam and diazepam) were assessed in the mouse model of object recognition task. Diazepam and alprazolam were intraperitoneally administered 30 min prior to training and memory retention was tested 10 min and 1 h after training. At 0.2 mg/kg, both benzodiazepines impair object recognition memory when testing is performed 1 h after training. However, when testing is performed 10 min after training, both benzodiazepines at 0.2 mg/kg failed to disrupt memory processes. DISCUSSION: Taken together, these results show that the object recognition task can easily be performed in rats and mice for safety pharmacology studies related to CNS function. Because of the ageing population and the increasing number of drugs prescribed to elderly patients, it becomes important to evaluate the potential side effects of a new chemical entity on memory function during evaluation of its safety profile. The object recognition task, which is simple, rapid, and reliable, should be of great use in safety pharmacology to detect amnesic properties of new compounds.

PMID: 16750402 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Anthony H. Risser | |

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Abstract of the Day: Quality of Life (QOL) Measurement in Epilepsy

von Lehe M, Lutz M, Kral T, Schramm J, Elger CE, & Clusmann H. Correlation of health-related quality of life after surgery for mesial temporal lobe epilepsy with two seizure outcome scales. Epilepsy and Behavior 2006 Aug; 9(1): 73-82.

Department of Neurosurgery, University Clinic Bonn, Bonn, Germany.

PURPOSE: The objective of this study was to correlate health-related quality of life (HRQOL) after surgery for mesial temporal lobe epilepsy, as revealed by a postoperative screening tool, to different modalities of seizure outcome classification (Engel, International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE)). METHOD: One hundred twenty-eight of one hundred forty consecutive patients returned a HRQOL questionnaire at a mean of 36 months after selective amygdalohippocampectomy. Patients answered in two ways: with an absolute estimation (values 1-4) and with a self-rated relative change (-1, 0, +1) after surgery. RESULTS: Eighty patients were seizure- and aura-free (63.3% ILAE 1), 16 continued to have auras (12.5% ILAE 2), and 13 experienced 1-3 seizure days per year after surgery (10.2% ILAE 3). Ninety-two patients were classified seizure-free (71.9% Engel I), and 17 had two or fewer seizures per year (13.3% Engel II). Of 110 patients in ILAE 1-3, 100 (91%) stated good or even very good postoperative HRQOL, and 99 (90.0%) reported improvements in HRQOL. Only 9 of the remaining 18 (50%) reported good or very good HRQOL after surgery (P=0.01). Corresponding results were obtained with Engel classes I and II, suggesting a trend toward ILAE 1-3 and Engel I and II as overall satisfactory outcomes. A more detailed HRQOL assessment yielded lowest scores in the cognitive domain, and a significant correlation of self-rated changes in cognitive functioning with seizure control (P=0.01). Changes in physical capabilities and mood were significantly better with satisfactory seizure outcome (P=0.006 and P<0.001, respectively), whereas the social aspects were not significantly dependent on seizure outcome (P=0.06). CONCLUSION: Correlation of HRQOL and seizure control suggested that ILAE 1-3 and Engel I and II most likely represent overall satisfactory outcome. Subdomain analyses revealed cognitive abilities as the most critical feature associated with seizure control, whereas social aspects remained mainly stable.

PMID: 16730476 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Anthony H. Risser | |

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Dr. Sandra Witelson in the News!

From today's New York Times:

A Hands-On Approach to Studying the Brain, Even Einstein’s
Published: November 14, 2006

HAMILTON, Ontario — Standing in her vaultlike walk-in refrigerator, Sandra F. Witelson pries open a white plastic tub that looks like an ice cream container.

There, soaking in diluted formaldehyde, is a gleaming vanilla-colored brain: the curvy landscape of hills and valleys (the gyri and sulci) that channeled the thoughts of the late mathematician Donald Coxeter, known as the man who saved geometry from near extinction in the 20th century.

“His brain is amazingly plump,” Dr. Witelson says. She ought to know.

Here at McMaster University, where she is a neuroscientist with the Michael G. DeGroote School of Medicine, Dr. Witelson has a collection of 125 brains. They are all from Canadians: business people, professionals, homemakers, and blue- and white-collar workers.

[ ... Read the full article ... ]

Anthony H. Risser | |