Monday, July 30, 2007

Wandering in Elderly CNS Patients: Neeka's Backlog

"Neeka's Backlog" is a blog written in Kiev by Veronica Khokhlova. Unfortunately, her topic over the past week or so has been the search for her father who had sustained a series of strokes and who wandered away from a family that was trying its best and, several days later, from a hospital that should have done better.

The blog was a definitive voice during the Orange Revolution and becomes equally compelling in these entries. The narrative of these days is the clearest that I've ever read and should be read by any professional caring for individuals with dementia or related CNS disorders.

Multiple Sclerosis

From a National Institutes of Health press release issued on the 29th:

After a Decades-Long Search, Scientists Identify New Genetic Risk Factors for Multiple Sclerosis

A pair of large-scale genetic studies supported by the National Institutes of Health has revealed two genes that influence the risk of getting multiple sclerosis (MS) — data sought since the discovery of the only other known MS susceptibility gene decades ago. The findings could shed new light on what causes MS — a puzzling mix of genes, environment and immunity — and on potential treatments for at least 350,000 Americans who have the disease.

"These studies describe the first genes conclusively linked to MS in more than 20 years," said Ursula Utz, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a part of NIH. "This breakthrough was made possible through persistence, an elegant search strategy, and genomic data and techniques that were not available until recently."

Both studies involved scanning DNA samples from more than 20,000 MS patients and unaffected individuals in the U.S. and Europe, and looking for single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which are single-letter variations in a gene's DNA code. Published simultaneously today in the New England Journal of Medicine and Nature Genetics, the studies demonstrate an association between MS and SNPs in two genes that encode interleukin receptors, proteins that serve as antennae on the surface of immune cells.

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

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Stroke and the Myomo e100

From today's New York Times:

In Latest Robotics, New Hope for Stroke Patients
The New York Times
Published: July 10, 2007

Mary O’Regan more or less ignored her left arm for 20 years.

As a sophomore in college, in 1986, she fell off the back of a friend’s dirt bike and hit her head on concrete, later suffering a stroke. After intensive medical and physical therapy, she learned to speak and walk again. She went back to school and then to work. (And, as it happened, two of her brothers ended up marrying two of the nurses who had taken care of her.) Still, much of her left side remained numb, and she did not regain use of her left arm.

Last year, however, Ms. O’Regan, now 40 and living in Westwood, Mass., enrolled in a clinical trial for a new robotic device called the Myomo e100, designed to help stroke patients regain motion in their arms. The device, worn as an arm brace, works by sensing weak electrical activity in patients’ arm muscles and providing just enough assistance that they can complete simple exercises, like lifting boxes or flipping on light switches. By practicing such tasks, patients may begin to relearn how to extend and flex the arm, rebuilding and strengthening neurological pathways in the process.

“The device is designed to help get patients over a functional hump” so they can start moving the weakened arm again, said John McBean, a mechanical engineer who developed the technology with Kailas Narendran, an electrical engineer and computer scientist. (The two began the project in 2002, in a graduate robotics class at M.I.T.)

“And the more they are able to use the arm, the more improvement they begin to see,” Mr. McBean continued. “So it’s a virtuous cycle.”

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

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Media: Charlie Rose

Charlie Rose has placed the video archives of his show online for viewing! Some excellent interviews in the fields neuroscience and medicine to be found, along with so many other fascinating interviews.

Available at

Williams Syndrome

From tomorrow's New York Times Sunday Magazine:

The Gregarious Brain
Published: July 8, 2007

If a person suffers the small genetic accident that creates Williams syndrome, he’ll live with not only some fairly conventional cognitive deficits, like trouble with space and numbers, but also a strange set of traits that researchers call the Williams social phenotype or, less formally, the “Williams personality”: a love of company and conversation combined, often awkwardly, with a poor understanding of social dynamics and a lack of social inhibition. The combination creates some memorable encounters. Oliver Sacks, the neurologist and author, once watched as a particularly charming 8-year-old Williams girl, who was visiting Sacks at his hotel, took a garrulous detour into a wedding ceremony. “I’m afraid she disrupted the flow of this wedding,” Sacks told me. “She also mistook the bride’s mother for the bride. That was an awkward moment. But it very much pleased the mother.”

Another Williams encounter: The mother of twin Williams boys in their late teens opened her door to find on her stoop a leather-clad biker, motorcycle parked at the curb, asking for her sons. The boys had made the biker’s acquaintance via C.B. radio and invited him to come by, but they forgot to tell Mom. The biker visited for a spell. Fascinated with how the twins talked about their condition, the biker asked them to speak at his motorcycle club’s next meeting. They did. They told the group of the genetic accident underlying Williams, the heart and vascular problems that eventually kill many who have it, their intense enjoyment of talk, music and story, their frustration in trying to make friends, the slights and cruelties they suffered growing up, their difficulty understanding the world. When they finished, most of the bikers were in tears.

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

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Wartime Traumatic Brain Injury: Illinois Not Waiting For A Bush Administration Heckuva-Brownie-Job

From The New York Times website:

Screening for Brain Injury Is Set for Illinois Veterans
Published: July 4, 2007

CHICAGO, July 3 — Frustrated with the federal government’s response to the mental health needs of soldiers, Illinois officials announced on Tuesday that members of the state’s National Guard would be routinely screened for traumatic brain injuries after serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.

The mandatory program, which appears to be the first in the nation, will also offer the screening to other veterans in the state and will include a 24-hour hot line providing psychological counseling to veterans of all military branches. The program is expected to cost $10.5 million a year.

“It’s been shown that the federal government simply was not prepared to deal with the number of war injured coming home from Iraq and Afghanistan,” said Tammy Duckworth, the director of the Illinois Department of Veterans Affairs and a former Blackhawk helicopter pilot who lost both legs on active duty in Iraq.

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

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Dreaming "Big Dreams"

From today's New York Times

Winding Through ‘Big Dreams’ Are the Threads of Our Lives
Published: July 3, 2007


“Back to life” or “visitation” dreams, as they are known among dream specialists and psychologists, are vivid and memorable dreams of the dead. They are a particularly potent form of what Carl Jung called “big dreams,” the emotionally vibrant ones we remember for the rest of our lives.


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