Sunday, December 31, 2006

Music of the Hemispheres

Interesting piece in today's New York Times about music and the brain and work by Daniel Levitin [link].

Curious neuro readers are directed to some classical papers by Macdonald Critchley on this topic.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Dr. Arthur L. Benton, Neuropsychologist

Dr. Arthur L. Benton, Neuropsychologist

Obituary printed in the Iowa City Press-Citizen:

Friday, December 29, 2006
Arthur Benton, 97

Arthur Benton, beloved husband of the late Rita, died December 27, 2006 from complications of emphysema, in Glenview, Illinois. Loving father of Raymond Benton (Nina), Abigail Sivan (Milton Harris), and Daniel Benton (Nancy Hauserman). Devoted grandfather of Jeffrey Benton, Ori Sivan (Claudia Regojo), and Ofer Sivan (Amber Neville). Fond brother-in-law of Joan Rogers.

He was born October 16, 1909 in New York City. Dr. Benton received his B.A. and M.A. degrees from Oberlin College and his Ph.D. in Psychology from Columbia University in 1935. He acquired his training as a psychologist at the Payne Whitney Psychiatric Clinic of New York Hospital. Early in 1941, Benton volunteered for service in the U.S. Navy and was commissioned as a lieutenant in the medical department. His active duty lasted until 1945, followed by many years of service in the U. S. Navy Reserve, retiring at the rank of Captain.

In 1946, Benton accepted an appointment as associate professor of Psychology at the University of Louisville. In 1948, he moved to the University of Iowa, as professor and director of graduate training in clinical psychology. In 1958 he became professor of psychology and neurology, retiring in 1978, at which time the Benton Laboratory of Neuropsychology in the Division of Behavioral Neurology was dedicated. At Iowa he supervised 46 doctoral dissertations and 24 master's theses.

He was president of the American Orthopsychiatric Association (1965), the International Neuropsycholo-gical Society (1970), and secretary-general of the Research Group on Aphasia of the World Federation of Neurology (1971-78). He held appointments as visiting scientist or scholar at the University of Milan (1964), the Neurosurgical Clinic, Hospital Sainte-Anne, Paris (1968), the Hebrew University Medical School, Jerusalem (1969), the Free University of Amsterdam (1971), the University of Helsinki (1974), the Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology (1974), the University of Melbourne (1977), L'Ecole des Hautes Etudes, Paris (1979), the University of Victoria, British Columbia (1980), the University of Minnesota Medical School (1980), and the University of Michigan (1986). He received honorary doctorates from Cornell College (1978) and the University of Rome (1990).

His awards include the Distinguished Professional Contribution Award from the American Psychological Association (1978), the Distinguished Service and Outstanding Contribution Award of the American Board of Professional Psychology (1985), the Outstanding Scientific Contribution of the International Neuropsychological Society (1981), the Samuel Torrey Orton Award of the Orton Dyslexia Society (1982), and the Distinguished Clinical Neuropsychological Award of the National Academy of Neuropsychology (1989). In 1992 he received the Gold Medal Award for Life Achievement in the Application of Psychology from the American Psychological Foundation. The citation for this award reads in part: "For lifetime contributions that include pioneering clinical studies of brain-behavior relations. He introduced novel and objective psychological assessment techniques that expanded our understanding of the difficulties manifested by neurologically compromised patients. He broadened the applications of psychology and in the process opened up a new field of study and practice, clinical neuropsychology."

Internment private. A memorial service will be scheduled later. In lieu of flowers, donations to: Arthur Benton-Manfred Meier Neuropsychology Fund, c/o American Psychological Foundation, 750 First Street N.E., Washington, DC 20002-4242.

Dr. Arthur L. Benton, Neuropsychologist

Originally uploaded by rissera.

Dr. Arthur L. Benton, Neuropsychologist

Friday, December 29, 2006

Alzheimer Disease: Centenary Theme Issue of Brain

The November 2006 issue [link] of the journal, Brain, celebrates the centenary of Dr. Alois Alzheimer and his case report.

Among the issue's papers are a half-dozen ones with full-content free-access, including a good historical review and an overview of treatment.

Thursday, December 28, 2006


Today's New York Times has an article about malnutrition.

Two forms of malnutrition of global importance are marasmus and kwashiorkor. I often discuss them and their cognitive consequences whenever I write about developmental neuropsychology.

Here is the Times article:

Malnutrition Is Cheating Its Survivors, and Africa’s Future
December 28, 2006
The New York Times

SHIMIDER, Ethiopia — In this corrugated land of mahogany mountains and tan, parched valleys, it is hard to tell which is the greater scandal: the thousands of children malnutrition kills, or the thousands more it allows to survive.

Malnutrition still kills here, though Ethiopia’s infamous famines are in abeyance. In Wag Hamra alone, the northern area that includes Shimider, at least 10,000 children under age 5 died last year, thousands of them from malnutrition-related causes.

Yet almost half of Ethiopia’s children are malnourished, and most do not die. Some suffer a different fate. Robbed of vital nutrients as children, they grow up stunted and sickly, weaklings in a land that still runs on manual labor. Some become intellectually stunted adults, shorn of as many as 15 I.Q. points, unable to learn or even to concentrate, inclined to drop out of school early.

There are many children like this in the villages around Shimider. Nearly 6 in 10 are stunted; 10-year-olds can fail to top an adult’s belt buckle. They are frequently sick: diarrhea, chronic coughs and worse are standard for toddlers here. Most disquieting, teachers say, many of the 775 children at Shimider Primary are below-average pupils — often well below.

“They fall asleep,” said Eteafraw Baro, a third-grade teacher at the school. “Their minds are slow, and they don’t grasp what you teach them, and they’re always behind in class.”

Their hunger is neither a temporary inconvenience nor a quick death sentence. Rather, it is a chronic, lifelong, irreversible handicap that scuttles their futures and cripples Ethiopia’s hopes to join the developed world.

“It is a barrier to improving our way of life,” said Dr. Girma Akalu, perhaps the nation’s leading nutrition expert. Ethiopia’s problem is sub-Saharan Africa’s curse. Five million African children under age 5 died last year — 40 percent of deaths worldwide — and malnutrition was a major contributor to half of those deaths. Sub-Saharan children under 5 died not only at 22 times the rate of children in wealthy nations, but also at twice the rate for the entire developing world.

But below the Sahara, 33 million more children under 5 are living with malnutrition. In United Nations surveys from 1995 to 2003, nearly half of sub-Saharan children under 5 were stunted or wasted, markers of malnutrition and harbingers of physical and mental problems.

The world mostly mourns the dead, not the survivors. Intellectual stunting is seldom obvious until it is too late.

Bleak as that may sound, the outlook for malnourished children in sub-Saharan Africa is better than in decades, thanks to an awakening to the issue — by selected governments, anyway.

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Game Brain

There is a front-page article in today's New York Times concerning the current state of mental-gymnastic services:

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

(A very catchy lead sentence for the article!)

Friday, December 22, 2006

FDA Approves Cool-Cap

An FDA press release:

December 20, 2006

Media Inquiries: Karen Riley, 301-827-6242
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA Approves Novel Device That Prevents or Reduces Brain Damage in Infants

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved a first-of-a-kind medical device for the treatment of babies born with moderate to severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy (HIE), a potentially fatal injury to the brain caused by low levels of oxygen.  The Olympic Cool-Cap system is designed to prevent or reduce damage to the brains of these patients by keeping the head cool while the body is maintained at a slightly below-normal temperature.  The Cool-Cap is manufactured by Olympic Medical Corporation, a subsidiary of Natus Medical Incorporated of San Carlos, Calif.

“This approval brings new hope to parents of the approximately 5,000-9,000 babies each year who are born in the United States with moderate to severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy,” said Dr. Daniel Schultz, director of FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health.  “Until now, there has been no effective treatment for these infants other than supportive care.  Up to 20 percent of them died, and 25 percent suffered permanent disability because of neurological deficits.”

The Olympic Cool-Cap treats the patient by maintaining a steady flow of water at a selected cool temperature through a cap covering the infant’s head. The system, which consists of a cooling unit, a control unit, temperature probes and a water-filled cap, was found safe and effective in a study with 234 infants with moderate to severe HIE.  At 18 months of age, there were fewer deaths and fewer severe cases of neurodevelopmental disability in the cooled group compared with the control group.

As conditions of the approval, Olympic Medical Corporation will set up a patient registry to collect information on device usage and to track treatment outcomes; organize a training and certification process for all operators of the device; and restrict use of the device to patients who meet the eligibility criteria defined by the original study.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Early Diagnosis of Alzheimer Disease and FDDNP

From today's New York Times:

New Chemical Is Said to Provide Early Sign of Alzheimer’s Disease
The New York Times
Published: December 21, 2006

Originally uploaded by rissera.

A chemical designed by doctors in Los Angeles could give earlier signals of Alzheimer’s disease and provide a new way to test treatments, a study has shown.

Currently, the only way to diagnose the disease is to remove brain tissue or to perform an autopsy.

The new study, to be published today in the New England Journal of Medicine, is by doctors at the University of California, Los Angeles, and is part of a larger quest to find a better method to diagnose the condition using tracers that can be detected with a positron emission tomography, or PET, scan.

The new chemical, called FDDNP, attaches to abnormal clumps of proteins called amyloid plaques and nerve cell tangles that develop in Alzheimer’s sufferers and inhibit messages being processed by the brain.

In the study, Dr. Gary Small and his colleagues discovered that the chemical allowed doctors to pick out which of 83 volunteers had Alzheimer’s, which had mild memory problems and which were functioning normally for their age.

It was 98 percent accurate in determining the difference between Alzheimer’s and mild cognitive impairment, which surpassed the 87 percent success rate for a PET scan test that measured sugar metabolism in the brain, and the 62 percent accuracy rate when doctors used a magnetic resonance imaging.

The FDDNP signal can be seen in people years before they develop Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. Small said.

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

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer Disease

Atchison TB, Massman PJ, & Doody RS. Baseline cognitive function predicts rate of decline in basic-care abilities of individuals with dementia of the Alzheimer's type. Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology. 2006 Dec 13; [Epub ahead of print].

Department of Psychology, Sociology, and Social Work, West Texas A&M University, Box 60296, Canyon, TX 79016-0001, United States.

Decline in basic self-care abilities is an important risk factor for institutionalization in individuals with dementia. The ability to predict such decline would be of clinical importance in working with families of dementia patients. Research has suggested that cognitive decline may precede loss of functional capacity. This paper utilized a large sample of probable Alzheimer's disease patients (N=150) who were evaluated longitudinally to assess the pattern of neuropsychological functioning predictive of rapid decline in self-care. The findings indicated that despite initial equality of Lawton Physical Self-Maintenance (PSM) scores, patients showing rapid decline of PSM function displayed significantly more impaired performance on neuropsychological measures at diagnosis. They also exhibited a statistically significant difference in the pattern of scores from patients who remained stable. The pattern of the rapid declining group included more severe impairment in visual spatial skills, processing speed, and concept formation. Difficulties in using individual patients' cognitive profiles to make predictions about future rate of PSM decline are discussed.

PMID: 17174522 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

More on the ACTIVE Study

From an NIH press release:

Tuesday, December 19, 2006
4:00 PM ET

Susan Farrer
or Linda Joy
301- 496-1752

Lanny Newman

Mental Exercise Helps Maintain Some Seniors’ Thinking Skills

Certain mental exercises can offset some of the expected decline in older adults' thinking skills and show promise for maintaining cognitive abilities needed to do everyday tasks such as shopping, making meals and handling finances, according to a new study. The research, funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and published in the Dec. 20, 2006, Journal of the American Medical Association, showed that some of the benefits of short-term cognitive training persisted for as long as five years.

The Advanced Cognitive Training for Independent and Vital Elderly, or ACTIVE, Study is the first randomized, controlled trial to demonstrate long-lasting, positive effects of brief cognitive training in older adults. However, testing indicated that the training did not improve the participants’ ability to tackle everyday tasks, and more research is needed to translate the findings from the laboratory into interventions that prove effective at home.

The ACTIVE trial was funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA) and the National Institute of Nursing Research (NINR), both components of NIH. Sherry L. Willis, Ph.D., of Pennsylvania State University in State College, Pa., and co-authors report the findings on behalf of ACTIVE investigators at the study’s six sites: Hebrew SeniorLife, Boston; Indiana University School of Medicine, Indianapolis; Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore; Pennsylvania State University; University of Alabama at Birmingham; and University of Florida, Gainesville (in collaboration with Wayne State University, Detroit), and the data coordinating center at the New England Research Institutes, Watertown, Mass.

“This large trial found that community-dwelling seniors who received cognitive training had less of a decline in certain thinking skills than their peers who did not have training. The study addresses a very important hypothesis — that interventions can be designed to maintain cognitive function,” says NIA Director Richard J. Hodes, M.D. “The challenge now is to further examine these interventions and others to see how they can be employed in real-world settings.”

“Cognitive decline is known to precede loss of functional ability in older adults. It affects everyday activities such as driving or following instructions on a medicine bottle,” says NINR Director Patricia A. Grady, Ph.D., R.N. “Research to identify effective ways of delaying this decline is important because it may help individuals, and our aging citizenry, maintain greater independence as they grow older.”

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

FDA Approves Invega (Paliperidone)

An FDA Press Release:

December 20, 2006
Media Inquiries: Press Office, 301-827-6242
Consumer Inquiries: 888-INFO-FDA

FDA Approves New Drug for Schizophrenia

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) today approved Invega (paliperidone) extended-release tablets for the treatment of schizophrenia. Paliperidone is a new molecular entity, which means this medication contains an active substance that has never before been approved for marketing in any form in the United States. Paliperidone is the principal active metabolite of risperidone, a marketed drug for treating schizophrenia.

"Schizophrenia can be a devastating illness requiring lifelong medication and professional counseling," said Douglas Throckmorton, MD, Deputy Director of FDA's Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. "Today's approval adds to the treatment options for patients with this condition."

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

Monday, December 18, 2006

Your Busy Brain, While You Sleep: Way Better Than TiVo!

This is one of the more interesting research studies that I've read about over the past couple of months. Please open up the link to the full article to read all about it:

From today's New York Times:

In Memory-Bank ‘Dialogue,’ the Brain Is Talking to Itself

The New York Times
December 18, 2006

New recordings of electrical activity in the brain may explain a major part of its function, including how it consolidates daily memories, why it needs to dream and how it constructs models of the world to guide behavior.

The recordings capture dialogue between the hippocampus, where initial memories of the day’s events are formed, and the neocortex, the sheet of neurons on the outer surface of the brain that mediates conscious thought and contains long-term memories.

Such a dialogue had been thought to exist, but no one had been able to eavesdrop on it successfully. The new insight has emerged from recordings of rat brains but is likely to occur in much the same way in the human brain, which has analogous structures and the same basic principles of operation.

The finding, reported on the Web site of the journal Nature Neuroscience by Daoyun Ji and Matthew A. Wilson, researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, showed that during nondreaming sleep, the neurons of both the hippocampus and the neocortex replayed memories — in repeated simultaneous bursts of electrical activity — of a task the rat learned the previous day.

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

Here is the Nature Neuroscience abstract: link

Friday, December 01, 2006

Around the Globe: Iran Alzheimer Association

Alzheimer programming in Iran:

(Available in Farsi and in English).

Anthony H. Risser | |

Abstract of the Day: Agitation in Alzheimer Disease

Zuidema SU, Derksen E, Verhey FR, & Koopmans RT. (2006). Prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms in a large sample of Dutch nursing home patients with dementia. International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry,

Kalorama, Beek-Ubbergen, The Netherlands.

OBJECTIVE: To estimate the prevalence of neuropsychiatric symptoms of dementia patients in Dutch nursing homes. METHODS: Cross-sectional study in a large sample of 1322 demented patients living in 59 dementia special care units (SCUs) in The Netherlands. Symptoms were observed by licensed vocational nurses during regular care-giving in a 2-week observational period prior to assessment. Neuropsychiatric symptoms were assessed using the Neuropsychiatric Inventory- Nursing home version (NPI-NH; frequency X severity score >/= 4) and the Cohen-Mansfield Agitation Inventory (CMAI; symptoms occurring at least once a week). RESULTS: More than 80% of these patients suffered from at least one clinically significant symptom, as defined with the NPI-NH frequency X severity score >/= 4. Measured with the NPH-NH agitation/aggression, apathy and irritability were the most frequently observed behaviors, with prevalences of 30-35%. Using the CMAI, 85% of the patients showed at least one symptom of agitation, of which general restlessness was observed most frequently (44%). Other frequently observed symptoms with prevalence rates of 30% were cursing or verbal aggression, constant request for attention, negativism, repetitious sentences, mannerisms, pacing, and complaining. Physically aggressive symptoms such as hitting, kicking, biting occurred less often (less than 13%). CONCLUSIONS: Prevalence rates of neuropsychiatric symptoms in Dutch nursing home patients with dementia residing in SCUs are high, especially agitation and apathy. Insight into the prevalence rates of individual symptoms in patients with dementia has important practical consequences for the accurate planning of staff allotment and stresses the need for patient oriented care. Copyright (c) 2006 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 17136713 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Anthony H. Risser | |