Monday, September 28, 2009

Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children

Neuropsychology at the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Children and the UCL Institute of Child Health
View the website here

From the homepage:

"The Paediatric Neuropsychology Service consists of the Clinical Neuropsychology Department at Great Ormond Street Hospital and the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Unit based at the Institute of Child Health (ICH). The academic and clinical staff in the Service work collaboratively to offer a comprehensive neuropsychology service for children, adolescents and their families."

MRI Imagery: Inside Bill Moorier's Head

"Inside Bill Moorier's Head"
website link

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Living With A Child With Disabilities: A Narrative from The Plinth

Early Saturday morning, Gav C, the father of a now-deceased young boy named Tom, spent his hour for the One and Other Antony Gormley project from the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square describing life with his son. It is a narrative extraordinary in its directness.

I recommend its viewing for any student training to work with young children with disabilities. You will learn something from it.

To view it: Gav C. on the Fourth Plinth

Cognition in the Time of Twitter

From The Times (UK)

Speed of digital era may be harming our ability to think
The age-old rhythms of life are under assault as the distinction between work and leisure is eroded by new technology. Is it damaging our very humanity?
Eva Hoffman
September 26, 2009

Read the article

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One and Other Fourth Plinth: "Be Safe, Not Scrambled"

Barbara, a rehabilitation professional, went on Antony Gormley's One and Other Fourth Plinth project in Trafalgar Square yesterday morning.

She promoted helmet use for sports and recreational activities and did so in a very nice kiddie-friendly manner.

Her hour can be viewed at:

Upcoming Event: Genesis Conference 2009 (London, 10th-11th December)

The Genesis 2009 Conference will take place on the 10th and 11th of December at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre (London).

From the website:

"Welcome to Genesis 2009 – “Back in focus!”
The challenges of the economic downturn stimulated us to build innovative new partnerships at Genesis last year. The resultant exciting mix of business and science is something many have only dreamed of. This will be retained for 2009 with a streamlined approach for delegates to maximise the return on your investment in participating."

For details, please see the conference website

Obit: Dr. Leon Eisenberg

Dr. Leon Eisenberg, Pioneer in Autism Studies, Dies at 87
Published: September 24, 2009

"Dr. Eisenberg conducted some of the first rigorous studies of autism, attention deficit disorder and learning delays."


“Leon took a very courageous stand and denounced the way psychiatry treated children, this whole system in which we had a few rich kids and their parents getting psychoanalysis five days a week and still not being cured,” said C. Keith Conners, a professor emeritus in the department of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University. “No one even knew what a cure looked like. He had this conviction that nothing was being done for the bulk of children who needed help, and that we had very little scientific data to guide us.”


Read the full article

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Alzheimer's Disease: Britain's Future

Terry Pratchett: Britain facing tsunami of Alzheimer's disease
Sir Terry Pratchett has warned of a "worldwide tsunami of Alzheimer's" facing Britain as figures show the Government spends less on researching the disease than the cost of building one mile of motorway.

By Rebecca Smith, Medical Editor
The Telegraph
Published: 7:30AM BST 22 Sep 2009

Read the article

Clinical Trials: Upcoming Conference

Early next year:

Third Annual Patient Recruitment in Clinical Trials conference, to be held 08th-09th March, 2010 in Philadelphia, PA.

From the conference webpage:

"Patient recruitment and retention are critical to drug development programs. Patient recruitment if not adequately planned for can extend your development timeline by a number of years. Retention of patients throughout the life of a clinical trial is essential in order have complete data sets for your analysis and subsequent filings. In order to optimize both you have to have a plan. This conference is intended to cover the topics one should consider when drafting and strategically implementing a patient recruitment and retention plan for a clinical development program."

Please see conference webpage for details.

Parkinson's Disease: Narrative From A Spouse

From The Times (UK):

Case study: ‘It’s hard to recognise the man I married’
Judith Magill’s retirement dreams were dashed when her husband, Patrick, had Parkinson's disease diagnosed aged 57
21 September 2009


"People die with Parkinson’s disease, not of it,” said the specialist to my husband, Patrick, when he got the diagnosis at the age of 57. He was upbeat, though leaving us in no doubt that the condition would worsen. Parkinson’s would nibble away at Patrick’s physical and, if we were unlucky, his mental reactions. It would fundamentally change our lives after just two years of marriage.


Read the full piece

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Brain Well-Being

From The Guardian

How to boost your brain power
Gardening, friendship, dancing, pregnancy and the odd glass of wine could improve your mental prowess
Stephen Pincock
The Guardian
Tuesday 22 September 2009

Read the article

Monday, September 21, 2009

World Alzheimer's Day

Today is World Alzheimer's Day.

Read something today to increase your knowledge about the disease and dementia.

Here's a general-readership resource:

Alzheimer's Disease: Unraveling the Mystery

... and a report from the Alzheimer's Association:

Summary of 2009 World Alzheimer Report

Parkinson's: Wii-hab and Symptom Improvement

From The Times (UK):

The latest Parkinson’s treatment: Wii-hab
Parkinson’s disease symptoms could be controlled by a game that can be bought on every high street, says a recent study

Simon Crompton
21 September 2009


This summer, the Medical College of Georgia in the United States announced the striking results of its research into the effects of “Wii-hab” on people with Parkinson’s disease. In an eight-week study, 18 people were asked to play Wii Sports, including virtual versions of boxing and ten-pin bowling, for an hour a day, three times a week for four weeks. By the end of that time all the participants showed significant improvements in rigidity, movement, fine motor skills and energy levels. Importantly, their depression levels also decreased; depression affects around half of people with Parkinson’s disease.


Read the full article

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cognitive Pharmacological Enhancement

From The Observer:

Can a daily pill really boost your brain power?
In America, university students are taking illegally obtained prescription drugs to make them more intelligent. But would you pop a smart pill to improve your performance? Margaret Talbot investigates the brave new world of neuro enhancement
Margaret Talbot
The Observer
Sunday 20 September 2009

Read the article

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Surrealism: Count on Kafka!

From The Guardian:

Reading Kafka 'enhances cognitive mechanisms', claims study
Subjects who had just read Kafka's The Country Doctor were better at recognising patterns in grammar test, psychologists found
Alison Flood
Thursday 17 September 2009 14.59 BST


Research from psychologists at the University of California in Santa Barbara and the University of British Columbia claims to show that exposure to surrealism enhances the cognitive mechanisms which oversee implicit learning functions. The psychologists showed a group of subjects Kafka's story The Country Doctor, a disturbing and surreal tale in which a doctor travels by "unearthly horses" to an ill patient, only to climb into bed naked with him and then escape through the window "naked, exposed to the frost of this most unhappy of ages".

A second group were shown the same story, but rewritten so the plot made more sense. Both groups were then asked to complete an artificial grammar learning task which saw them exposed to hidden patterns in letter strings, and then asked to copy the strings and mark those which followed a similar pattern.

"People who read the nonsensical story checked off more letter strings - clearly they were motivated to find structure," said Travis Proulx, a postdoctoral researcher at UCSB and co-author of the research, which appears in an article published in the September issue of the journal Psychological Science. "But what's more important is that they were actually more accurate than those who read the more normal version of the story. They really did learn the pattern better than the other participants did.


Read the full article

Business World: Biotechnology & Venture Capital

From The New York Times:

Biotech Tries to Shrug Off Setbacks
Published: September 17, 2009

"While some investors are pulling back, life sciences companies continue to innovate, and hope the capital to expand will come."

Read the piece

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Computerized Cognitive Testing in Clinical Trials

A United BioSource Corporation press release from 10th September, 2009:

United BioSource Corporation (UBC) today announced the acquisition of Cognitive Drug Research, Ltd. (CDR), the leader in computerized cognitive testing for clinical trials. The CDR System is the most widely used computerized cognitive testing system in the world: it is used in more than 1000 trials encompassing approximately 50 different disease areas, validated in over 60 languages, and cited in more than 700 publications and abstracts. Additionally, CDR maintains the industry’s largest healthy subject, patient, and drug databases of cognitive effects, providing the standard for establishing the clinical relevance of compounds.

Read the full press release

FDA: Updated Info on Tysabri (Natalizumab)

From the FDA:

Information on Natalizumab (marketed as Tysabri)
Updated Information: [9/2009]

The FDA continues to receive reports of progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in patients receiving Tysabri. Tysabri was approved by the FDA for the treatment of relapsing forms of multiple sclerosis (MS) in November 2004 and for moderately to severely active Crohn’s disease in January 2008. From July 2006, (when Tysabri marketing resumed) to September 8, 2009, 13 reported cases of Tysabri-related PML were confirmed worldwide in patients being treated for MS with Tysabri monotherapy. Of these, four cases were patients in the United States (U.S.). There have been no postmarketing reports of PML in patients treated with Tysabri for Crohn’s disease. Less than 2% of Tysabri use in the U.S. has been in patients with Crohn's disease.

The risk for developing PML appears to increase with the number of Tysabri infusions received. The number of monthly infusions of Tysabri in the 13 patients who developed PML ranged from 12 to 35 infusions. The average number of infusions received before the diagnosis of PML was 25. There is minimal experience in patients who have received more than 35 infusions of Tysabri.

The overall rate of developing PML with Tysabri therapy in patients who have received at least one infusion remains below one per 1,000 patients. Based on available data from the U.S. and outside of the U.S., the current rate of PML in patients who have received at least 24 infusions ranges from 0.4 to 1.3 per 1,000 patients.

At this time, the FDA is not requiring changes regarding PML to the Tysabri prescribing information or to the Tysabri risk management plan, called the TOUCH Prescribing Program. All patients receiving Tysabri therapy in the U.S. must be enrolled in the TOUCH Prescribing Program. Under this program, every patient who receives Tysabri is closely monitored for the occurrence of PML and other serious opportunistic infections.

Read the Update

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Aphasia Assessment

van der Meulen I, van de Sandt-Koenderman WM, Duivenvoorden HJ, & Ribbers GM (2009). Measuring verbal and non-verbal communication in aphasia: Reliability, validity, and sensitivity to change of the Scenario Test.
International Joutnal of Language and Communication Disorders

Background: This study explores the psychometric qualities of the Scenario Test, a new test to assess daily-life communication in severe aphasia. The test is innovative in that it: (1) examines the effectiveness of verbal and non-verbal communication; and (2) assesses patients' communication in an interactive setting, with a supportive communication partner. Aims: To determine the reliability, validity, and sensitivity to change of the Scenario Test and discuss its clinical value. Methods & Procedures: The Scenario Test was administered to 122 persons with aphasia after stroke and to 25 non-aphasic controls. Analyses were performed for the entire group of persons with aphasia, as well as for a subgroup of persons unable to communicate verbally (n = 43). Reliability (internal consistency, test-retest reliability, inter-judge, and intra-judge reliability) and validity (internal validity, convergent validity, known-groups validity) and sensitivity to change were examined using standard psychometric methods. Outcomes & Results: The Scenario Test showed high levels of reliability. Internal consistency (Cronbach's alpha = 0.96; item-rest correlations = 0.58-0.82) and test-retest reliability (ICC = 0.98) were high. Agreement between judges in total scores was good, as indicated by the high inter- and intra-judge reliability (ICC = 0.86-1.00). Agreement in scores on the individual items was also good (square-weighted kappa values 0.61-0.92). The test demonstrated good levels of validity. A principal component analysis for categorical data identified two dimensions, interpreted as general communication and communicative creativity. Correlations with three other instruments measuring communication in aphasia, that is, Spontaneous Speech interview from the Aachen Aphasia Test (AAT), Amsterdam-Nijmegen Everyday Language Test (ANELT), and Communicative Effectiveness Index (CETI), were moderate to strong (0.50-0.85) suggesting good convergent validity. Group differences were observed between persons with aphasia and non-aphasic controls, as well as between persons with aphasia unable to use speech to convey information and those able to communicate verbally; this indicates good known-groups validity. The test was sensitive to changes in performance, measured over a period of 6 months. Conclusions & Implications: The data support the reliability and validity of the Scenario Test as an instrument for examining daily-life communication in aphasia. The test focuses on multimodal communication; its psychometric qualities enable future studies on the effect of Alternative and Augmentative Communication (AAC) training in aphasia.

PMID: 19724959 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Ataxia Awareness on One & Other Fourth Plinth

This Monday, Bev Ashby, an artist, will take the plinth for her hour in the One & Hour Fourth Plinth event in Trafalgar Square. She will create a sculpture representing ataxia to promote ataxia awareness.

Read article

Follow at One&Other for live media stream.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Contemporary Healthcare in U.S.: Assistive Devices

For Speech-Impaired, Insurance Fights Remedy
The New York Times
Published: September 15, 2009

"Despite their usefulness and lower cost, devices like iPhones and netbook PCs that can help the speech-impaired are not covered by Medicare or insurers."

Read the article

Sunday, September 13, 2009

David Axelrod Speaks About Epilepsy in Upstate New York

From The Utica Observer-Dispatch:

Obama adviser speaks about epilepsy locally
Axelrod also touts healthcare reform
Posted Sep 12, 2009 @ 09:01 PM
Last update Sep 12, 2009 @ 10:59 PM

WHITESBORO —Amid the national debate on health care, a top White House adviser related his personal story about troubles his family encountered in getting care for a daughter with epilepsy.

David Axelrod, a close adviser to President Barack Obama, was the keynote speaker at a fundraiser for Citizens United for Research in Epilepsy, known as CURE, at Hart's Hill Inn Saturday evening.

Axelrod's wife, Susan Landau, is one of the founders of CURE, and she has come to the Mohawk Valley in the past for CURE fundraisers, though Saturday was Axelrod's first visit. More than 700 people attended Saturday's fundraiser, which raised $207,000.

Before the event, he took questions from reporters about his personal story, and said it had been “the cause of our lives to see to it that other families don't have to experience the sadness our family has.”

He also said Obama's health care objectives would help families cope with the cost of serious illnesses like his daughter Lauren's.

“Half the bankruptcies in this country flow from medical issues,” he said. “I think many people in this country live in fear of becoming seriously ill, not just because of what it means for their health, but because of what it does for their finances.”

Read the full article

The CURE website: click here

Friday, September 11, 2009

Merck's Cladribine and Multiple Sclerosis

From FierceBiotech:

Merck KGaA pulls ahead in hot oral MS drug race
By John Carroll
September 11, 2009 — 8:22am ET

Researchers for Merck KGaA say that new analysis of the late-stage data for their oral drug cladribine highlight the drug's potential as a new therapy for multiple sclerosis. Patients taking a short course of the therapy were more likely to go two years without seeing the disease flare up, and that could prove crucial for the developer as it prepares to make its case that cladribine should be neurologists' preferred choice among a slate of experimental oral MS therapies.

Read the full article

Patient Advocacy

After a Diagnosis, Someone to Help Point the Way
The New York Times
Published: September 12, 2009

"Patient advocates can help research treatment options, sort out insurance claims and open doors to specialists."

Read the full article

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Upcoming Event:Alzheimer's Drug Discovery (Jersey City, NJ, 14-15 September)

The 10th international conference on Alzheimer's disease drug discovery takes place next week on the 14th and 15th in Jersey City, NJ.

From the conference website:

"The 10th International Conference on Alzheimer's Disease Drug Discovery is presented by the Alzheimer's Drug Discovery Foundation (ADDF), the only public charity solely dedicated to rapidly accelerating the discovery and development of drugs to prevent, treat and cure Alzheimer's disease and cognitive aging.

This conference brings together academic and industry scientists to accelerate the development of novel drug discovery programs for Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias."

Visit the conference website

Dr. Brenda Milner

From the CBC:

McGill neuroscientist wins $1M research prize
Last Updated: Tuesday, September 8, 2009 | 5:26 PM ET


McGill University Prof. Brenda Milner has won the International Balzan Prize for 2009. The prize is one million Swiss francs, or about $1 million Cdn, for her groundbreaking research into cognitive neuroscience and how we remember.


Read the full article

Dr. Milner was interviewed on the 9th of September on As It Happens. You can download the podcast at this link (tune in to the last 10 minutes). She speaks about several aspects of her work, including Patient H.M., and the Balzan Prize.

Chronic Wasting Disease

Study Spells Out Spread of Brain Illness in Animals
The New York Times
Published: September 10, 2009

The infectious agent that leads to chronic wasting disease is spread in the feces of infected animals long before they become ill, new research indicates.

Read the full article

Monday, September 07, 2009

Alzheimer's Disease: Advances in Genetic Understanding

A report from The Guardian about ongoing genetics research in Alzheimer's disease:

Alzheimer's research links three genes to disease
Findings hailed as 'huge step' towards earlier testing and better treatment for Alzheimer's
Ian Sample, science correspondent
Sunday 6 September 2009 18.05 BST

Read the article

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Popular Neuroscience: Books for a Long Train Ride

Looking for reading material for a longish train trip I am about to take, I decided to hit to bookshelves of my Square's Barnes & Noble to see what popular neuroscience titles might be a good diversion (as well as potential supplementary 'lighter' references, should I re-teach an introductory course to neuroscience sometime over the next year).

I chose three.

The first is by Elkhonon Goldberg, a revision of an earlier work, which is titled "The New Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes in a Complex World" and is available in paperback by Oxford University Press. I first met the author when I was a graduate student, so I am looking forward to reading up on what he's been up to.

The second is about glial cells and is entitled, "The Root of Thought: Unlocking Glia" by Andrew Koob. Five years ago, if someone said there would be a popular offering about glia, I would have thought 'Yeah, right...' Though I do enjoy adding discussion about glia to my teaching, I never thought I'd see such a book, published by FT Press, on the shelves. I posted an entry about glial cells on the blog in August.

The final book is about empathy and "mirror neurons." Social cognition has become a popular topic over the past decade and I am looking forward to reading what Marco Iacoboni has written about this in his book, published by Picador.

Acadia's Pimavanserin and Parkinson Disease Psychosis

FierceBiotech reported today about a failed Phase III trial of Acadia's Pimavanserin in a study of Parkinson's Disease Psychosis (sometimes abbreviated as "PDP"):

ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Announces Results from Phase III Trial of Pimavanserin in Parkinson's Disease Psychosis
Pimavanserin Misses Primary Endpoint of Antipsychotic Efficacy; Meets Key Secondary Endpoint of Motoric Tolerability


SAN DIEGO -- Sep. 1, 2009-- ACADIA Pharmaceuticals Inc. (Nasdaq: ACAD) today announced top-line results from the first pivotal Phase III trial with pimavanserin in patients with Parkinson's disease psychosis, or PDP. The study did not meet its primary endpoint of antipsychotic efficacy as measured using the Scale for the Assessment of Positive Symptoms, or SAPS. Pimavanserin met the key secondary endpoint of motoric tolerability as measured using the Unified Parkinson's Disease Rating Scale, or UPDRS. Pimavanserin was safe and well tolerated, with the frequency of adverse events generally similar in the pimavanserin and placebo arms.


Read the full article

NOTE: Pimavanserin is a 5-HT2A receptor inverse agonist.

Neuropsychology Journal

I received the September 2009 issue of the Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society yesterday. If you (or your library) have access to it) it is chock-full of excellent articles, including an overview to the anterior temporal lobes and semantic memory, a paper about the Brixton Spatial Anticipation Test, several papers relevant to problems and deficits in executive functioning in different pathologies, and a look at the phenomenon of "closing-in" behavior in patients with Alzheimer's disease

Multiple Sclerosis

An article in The Times (U.K.):

Blood test could predict severity of multiple sclerosis
Mark Henderson, Science Editor
August 31, 2009


Patients whose MS is thought likely to progress quickly could be started swiftly on therapies that can reduce the frequency and severity of attacks, while those at lower risk could be spared medication they do not need immediately. More accurate ways of assessing prognosis could also help to prepare patients for what they should expect in the future, removing the uncertainty that can be a distressing feature of the disease.


Read the full article

Dr. Rachel Farrell, of the Institute of Neurology at University College London, is the principal investigator.