Wednesday, December 22, 2010

News from the Synapse

In Map of Brain Junction, Avenues to Answers
The New York Times
Published: December 20, 2010

"Researchers have identified the components of a critical part of the brain’s architecture: the synapse, or junction where one neuron makes a connection with another."

Read the article

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dilemma of Ever Earlier Diagnosis of Alzheimer's Disease

Gina Kolata has written a fine piece inThe New York Times:

Early Tests for Alzheimer’s Pose Diagnosis Dilemma
The New York Times
Published: December 17, 2010

"Since there is no treatment, doctors wonder if they should tell people, years earlier, that they have the disease, or a good chance of getting it."

Read the article

Friday, December 17, 2010

Neuroimaging and Stimulating Human Brain Remodeling

A broadcast of a recent presentation at the National Institutes of Health:

Watch the presentation

Air date: Monday, November 29, 2010, 12:00:00 PM
Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local
Category: Neuroscience
Description: Neuroscience Seminar Series

Animal studies show that the adult brain shows remarkable plasticity in response to learning or recovery from injury. Non-invasive brain imaging techniques can be used to detect systems-level structural and functional plasticity in the human brain. This talk will focus on how brain imaging has allowed us to monitor healthy brains learning new motor skills and to assess how damaged brains recover. For example, structural and diffusion MRI shows that learning to juggle changes not only grey matter but also white matter in healthy brains. In patients recovering after a stroke to one side of their brain, functional MRI and transcranial magnetic stimulation provide evidence for increased recruitment of areas in the healthy side of the brain. Combining structural and functional approaches allows us to demonstrate that motor practice can functionally rescue regions that are structurally compromised following damage.

New developments in brain stimulation raise exciting opportunities for manipulating brain remodelling. Using transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS) to the motor cortex we can speed people’s learning of a new task, alter their brain chemistry, or temporarily improve hand function in stroke patients. FMRI identifies changes in cortical activity that may mediate these functional benefits. In future, imaging could be used to guide individually targeted brain stimulation to enhance recovery after damage.
Author: Heidi Johansen-Berg, Ph.D., , University of Oxford, United Kingdom
Runtime: 01:03:28

CIT File ID: 16300
CIT Live ID: 9775
Permanent link:

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

BBC Radio Wales: Science Cafe - Welsh Alzheimer's Research

From earlier today:

Listen to BBC Radio Wales Science Cafe Episode

"Around 40,000 people in Wales suffer from Alzheimer's Disease. Adam Walton explores the latest research by Welsh scientists to combat the most common form of dementia."

Sunday, December 12, 2010


Out of Our Brains
December 12, 2010, 3:47 PM
A New York Times blog

"Andy Clark wonders: are devices like iPhones and Blackberries actually becoming extensions of our thinking selves?"

Read the full posting

Friday, December 10, 2010

Alzheimer's: Impaired beta-Amyloid Clearance

From the NIH:

Impaired clearance, not overproduction of toxic proteins, may underlie Alzheimer’s disease
09 December 2010

In Alzheimer's disease, a protein fragment called beta-amyloid accumulates at abnormally high levels in the brain. Now researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have found that in the most common, late-onset form of Alzheimer’s disease, beta-amyloid is produced in the brain at a normal rate but is not cleared, or removed from the brain, efficiently. In addition to improving the understanding of what pathways are most important in development of Alzheimer's pathology, these findings may one day lead to improved biomarker measures for early diagnosis as well as a new approach to treating this devastating disorder.

Many believe that accumulation of abnormal levels of beta-amyloid in the brain initiates a cascade of events leading to the death of brain cells and ultimately to dementia. In the rare, early-onset forms of Alzheimer's that are linked to genetic mutations there is a marked increase in beta-amyloid production. In the more common, late-onset form of Alzheimer's, the mechanisms leading to increased beta-amyloid levels are not well understood.

The study, published in Science, was led by senior author Randall Bateman, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology at Washington University in St. Louis. Dr. Bateman and his colleagues previously reported an innovative procedure to measure beta-amyloid levels over time in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) — the fluid that bathes the brain. In the new study, the researchers used that procedure to measure beta-amyloid production and clearance rates in study volunteers with Alzheimer’s disease and in age-matched volunteers free of the disease.

"These findings may help point us toward better diagnostic tests and effective therapies. The next question is what is causing the decreased clearance rate," said Dr. Bateman.

Read the full press release

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Roche Pipeline Report

A report from FierceBiotech:

Roche provides update on leading late-stage pharmaceutical pipeline
New data on medicines with the potential to redefine standard of care highlighted at Investor event
Posted December 9, 2010

"Roche (SIX: RO, ROG; OTCQX: RHHBY) today will provide an update on its leading late-stage pipeline comprising twelve new molecular entities in key therapeutic areas. The London investor event will focus on major progress that has been achieved in recent months with Roche's late-stage pipeline assets in the areas of oncology and CNS, as well as on further development plans of these potential breakthrough medicines."

read the full report

NIH to offer new clinical research opportunity

NIH to offer new clinical research opportunity
Initiative to partner with Lasker Foundation
NIH Press Release, 09 December 2010

The National Institutes of Health has launched a new program in conjunction with the Albert and Mary Lasker Foundation that will provide medical doctors with funding for patient-focused, clinical research projects. The goal is to bridge the widening gap between cutting-edge research and improved patient care.

The initiative, called the Lasker Clinical Research Scholars Program, enables exceptional clinical researchers in the early stages of their careers to first spend 5 to 7 years at the NIH Clinical Center, the world's largest hospital dedicated to patient-oriented research, in Bethesda, Md.

Upon successful completion of this first stage, the scholars would be offered the opportunity to remain at the NIH as senior clinical research scientists or to apply for up to four years of independent financial support at a university or other external research institution.

Read the full press release

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Patient H.M. - An Anticipated Book!

Dr. Suzanne Corkin's book about Patient H.M. will be published sometime next year. I am so looking forward to it.

Make sure you add it to you wish list for must-have reads!

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Olfactory Assessment - Traditional-Chinese Version of UPSIT

Jiang RS, Su MC, Liang KL, Shiao JY, Wu SH, & Hsin CH. A pilot study of a traditional Chinese version of the University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test for application in Taiwan. American Journal of Rhinol Allergy. 2010 Jan-Feb;24(1):45-50.

BACKGROUND: The 40-item University of Pennsylvania Smell Identification Test (UPSIT) is the most widely used smell test in the world. Presently, culturally modified versions of this test are available in 12 languages. This study describes the first assessment of a prototype traditional Chinese version of the UPSIT (UPSIT-TC) for administration in Taiwan. The goals were to determine the efficacy of specific items for testing Taiwanese subjects and to establish normative adjustments to allow for the use of North American norms. METHODS: The American version of the UPSIT and the UPSIT-TC were administered to 40 healthy Taiwanese subjects on two test occasions separated from one another by 2 weeks. One subject was excluded because of invalid data. RESULTS: The mean UPSIT score was 28.3 (median, 28; SD, 3.8) for the first test administration and 28.5 (median, 28.0; SD, 4.4) for the second test administration. The mean UPSIT-TC score was 33.1 (median, 33.0; SD, 2.9) for the first administration and 32.8 (median, 33.0; SD, 3.6) for the second test administration. The UPSIT-TC scores were significantly higher than those of the UPSIT on both test occasions (p < 0.0001). Pearson correlations computed across the two test occasions were positive and statistically significant for both the UPSIT and the UPSIT-TC (respectively, r = 0.803 and 0.664; p < 0.0001). CONCLUSION: In accord with the modifications, the scores on the prototype UPSIT-TC were significantly higher than those on the American UPSIT when administered to a Taiwanese sample. Both versions of the UPSIT were stable across repeated test sessions.

PMID: 20109324 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Schizophrenia: "The Drug Deadlock"

"The Drug Deadlock"
11 November 2010

Download the article

Patient HM Continues to Impress!

A fine little piece in the New York Times about Patient H.M. and his performance on crossword puzzles.

No Memory, but He Filled In the Blanks
Published: December 6, 2010

"A man who had brain tissue removed in 1953 stunned researchers over the years by learning some new facts and maintaining his addiction to crossword puzzles."

Read the article

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Mouse Paired Associates Learning (PAL) Task

Bartko SJ, Vendrell I, Saksida LM, & Bussey TJ A computer-automated touchscreen paired-associates learning (PAL) task for mice: Impairments following administration of scopolamine or dicyclomine and improvements following donepezil.
Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Nov 18.

RATIONALE: Performance on the Cambridge Neuropsychological Test Automated Battery touchscreen paired-associates learning (PAL) test is predictive of Alzheimer's disease and impaired in schizophrenia and chronic drug users. An automated computer touchscreen PAL task for rats has been previously established. A pharmacologically validated PAL task for mice would be a highly valuable tool, which could be useful for a number of experimental aims including drug discovery. OBJECTIVES: This study sought to investigate the effects of systemic administration of cholinergic agents on task performance in C57Bl/6 mice. METHODS: Scopolamine hydrobromide (0.02, 0.2, and 2.0 mg/kg), dicyclomine hydrochloride (M(1) receptor antagonist; 2.0, 4.0, and 8.0 mg/kg), and donepezil hydrochloride (cholinesterase inhibitor; 0.03, 0.1, and 0.3 mg/kg) were administered post-acquisition in C57Bl/6 mice performing the PAL task. RESULTS: Scopolamine (0.2 and 2.0 mg/kg) and dicyclomine (at all administered doses) significantly impaired PAL performance. A significant facilitation in PAL was revealed in mice following donepezil administration (0.3 mg/kg). CONCLUSIONS: The present study shows that mice can acquire the rodent PAL task and that the cholinergic system is important for PAL task performance. M(1) receptors in particular are likely implicated in normal performance of PAL. The finding that mouse PAL can detect both impairments and improvements indicates that this task could prove to be a highly valuable tool for a number of experimental aims including drug discovery.

PMID: 21086119 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, December 06, 2010

TED Talk: Gero Miesenboeck

TED Talk: Gero Miesenboeck reengineers a brain
July 2010

Watch the talk here

"In the quest to map the brain, many scientists have attempted the incredibly daunting task of recording the activity of each neuron. Gero Miesenboeck works backward -- manipulating specific neurons to figure out exactly what they do, through a series of stunning experiments that reengineer the way fruit flies percieve light."

FDA Rejects Ezogabine

FDA rejects a new epilepsy drug from Valeant, GSK
02 December 2010

Read FierceBiotech article here


Earlier blog post on topic, from 12th August: here


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Top 10 Phase III Failures of 2010

From FierceBiotech, an interesting report:

Full article: Top 10 Phase III Failures of 2010

Dr. Mortimer Mishkin to be Awarded National Medal of Science

From an NIH press release:

NIMH's Dr. Mortimer Mishkin to be awarded National Medal of Science
12 November 2010

National Institutes of Health intramural researcher Mortimer Mishkin, Ph.D., will be awarded the National Medal of Science at a White House ceremony later this month. Mishkin is chief of the National Institute of Mental Health’s (NIMH) Section on Cognitive Neuroscience, and acting chief of its Laboratory of Neuropsychology. He is the first NIMH intramural scientist to receive the medal, which the President presents each year for outstanding contributions to science. Mishkin is among 10 recipients this year.

"I'm hugely honored. I also feel very happy because it reflects on the support I’ve received from NIH/NIMH all these years," said Mishkin, who has worked at the NIMH Intramural Research Program on the NIH campus in Bethesda, Md. since 1955.

In a series of meticulous studies spanning more than five decades, Mishkin and colleagues discovered much about how the brain processes input from the senses and encodes memory.

"There is no more complex piece of matter in the universe than the human brain, and so the complexity is a huge challenge," he explained. "Each brain area is important for a different kind of behavioral or mental function, yet no area is an island. Every area is part of a circuit. So we’ve been identifying pathways and trying to figure out how they work."

Due in part to work spearheaded by Mishkin, science now understands much about the pathways for vision, hearing and touch, and about how those processing streams connect with brain structures important for memory.

Read the full press release: click here

Society for Neuroscience: Registered Blogs

Here is a link to a set of listed neuroblogs for the conference. Each blog can be accessed from this page.

SfN Neuroblogs

Friday, November 12, 2010

Event: Society for Neuroscience Annual Meeting

The SfN annual meeting begins tomorrow.

You can access the website at:

The tweet hashtag is #SfN10. See the right-hand column for a feed of this hashtag.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease: Rethinking Things?

A very readable piece from Gina Kolata of the New York Times:

Doubt on Tactic in Alzheimer’s Battle
The New York Times
Published: August 18, 2010

"The failure of a promising Alzheimer’s drug highlights the gap between diagnosis and treatment."

Read the full article

Monday, August 16, 2010

Colin Blakemore: "The House I Grew Up In" (BBC Radio 4)

Audio available from The BBC:


From the show's webpage:

"Neurobiologist Professor Colin Blakemore was a war baby brought up in devastated Coventry. His two-up two-down home had the first TV in the street on which he lived next door to relatives and a family of ten. As an only child, his parents were able to cash in an insurance policy of £16 which enabled him to go to the local grammar school where he proved himself to be more of an artist and actor than a scientist. Producer: Smita Patel."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Potiga (ezogabine)

From FierceBiotech

FDA panel backs new epilepsy drug from GSK, Valeant
August 12, 2010 — 7:41am ET
By John Carroll
"GlaxoSmithKline and Valeant got a solid endorsement for their new epilepsy drug Potiga (ezogabine) from the FDA's panel of experts, putting them on track to a likely approval. The experts unanimously agreed that the drug would benefit epilepsy patients whose meds couldn't stop seizures. And they agreed that careful monitoring would flag patients who experience an inability to urinate while taking the drug."

Read the full article

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

OBIT: Patricia Neal

From The New York Times

Patricia Neal, an Oscar Winner Who Endured Tragedy, Dies at 84
Published: August 9, 2010

Patricia Neal

Sunday, August 08, 2010

NIH Videocast: "It Takes Tau to Tangle : Plaques, Tangles and Neurodegenerative Disease"

Available for viewing and downloading from the NIH:

It Takes Tau to Tangle : Plaques, Tangles and Neurodegenerative Disease
by Karen Duff

23 June 2010


Sunday, July 18, 2010

OBIT: Dr. Paul Satz

From UCLA: Obituary: Paul Satz

Obituary: Paul Satz, 77, psychiatry professor, founder of UCLA neuropsychology program
By Mark Wheeler
June 25, 2010

Paul Satz, a UCLA professor emeritus of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and the founder of the neuropsychology program at UCLA's Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior and Resnick Neuropsychiatric Hospital, died June 20, in Lihue, Hawaii, after a long battle with cancer. He was 77.

One of the founders of the discipline of neuropsychology, Satz was widely recognized for his groundbreaking research on brain–behavior relations. During his tenure at UCLA (1981–2002), he established the UCLA Neuropsychology Program and helped turn it into one of the world's largest and most successful training programs for clinical neuropsychologists.

The author of more than 300 publications, Satz's scientific contributions to the understanding of normal and abnormal brain development had — and continue to have — a major impact on diverse disciplines. His seminal contributions include landmark works that laid the foundation for the understanding of healthy and pathological asymmetries of brain structure and function; innovative theories of developmental disorders, including autism, dyslexia, attention deficit disorders and schizophrenia; and trailblazing research on the cognitive and affective consequences of head injuries and HIV/AIDS.

In recent years, Satz made additional high-impact contributions to the understanding of how individual differences in brain structure and function may protect people from the declines usually associated with aging, dementia and head injuries. He was widely acknowledged as a scientist uniquely capable of deep and creative insights into both the clinical and basic scientific foundations of the topics he investigated.

"It is impossible to summarize the accomplishments of a man who forged an entirely new discipline and transformed every area of inquiry that he encountered," said Robert Bilder, a colleague of Satz and a professor-in-residence of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences at UCLA. "Neuropsychology has lost one of it's most innovative and critical thinkers. I believe, however, that Paul was proudest of the lasting impact he had on such a large number of students. Fortunately, we can still hear echoes of Paul's voice in their continued teaching and research, passion for discovery of truth, and love for their own trainees, colleagues and patients."

Always deeply dedicated to teaching and mentorship, Satz directed, sponsored or co-directed some 31 training awards at UCLA and served in mentorship roles for more than 200 trainees. Even after his retirement, he personally sponsored fellows at UCLA and continued to supervise students and develop collaborative relationships, including the UCLA–Help Group Fellowship in Neuropsychology, which is named in his honor.

His legacy is evident in the large number of his students who have gone on to make major contributions to the field. Many of Satz's trainees also continue to serve actively in the medical psychology and neuropsychology programs at the Semel Institute and the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA.

Satz studied music at Boston University in the early 1950s and received his bachelor's degree in 1957 and a master's in clinical psychology in 1959 from the University of Miami. After earning his doctorate from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in 1963, he served as a postdoctoral fellow and, in 1964, established the sub-specialty of clinical neuropsychology in the department of clinical and health psychology at the University of Florida.

Satz continued to direct the University of Florida's neuropsychology program through 1979. He then served as a visiting professor at the University of Victoria in British Columbia before coming to UCLA in 1981.

Satz was president of the International Neuropsychology Society from 1973 to 1974, and in 1981, he became a founding member of the American Board of Clinical Neuropsychology. He was one of the board's inaugural diplomates in clinical neuropsychology, complementing his diplomate status in clinical psychology.

The recipient of numerous accolades, Satz was honored with the Albert J. Harris Award from the International Reading Association (1977), the Meritorious Service Award from the American Board of Professional Psychology (1988) and the American Psychological Association Award for Distinguished Professional Contributions to Knowledge (1997). He held leadership roles in more than 26 organizations spanning many disciplines in psychology, neuropsychology and learning disorders, including the President's Commission on Mental Health.

Satz's many scientific, clinical and training contributions were matched by an irrepressible sense of humor, a love of life, and a joy in the company of others. In a recent tribute, Satz was described as a champion of "serious fun," acknowledging his rare combination of scientific rigor and joie de vivre.

An accomplished pianist, Satz fondly recalled a newspaper that once published his picture, mistakenly identifying him as Frank Sinatra, to whom he bore an uncanny resemblance.

Satz is survived by his son Mark, with whom he lived in Hawaii; daughter Julie Satz, of Kona, Hawaii; son Scott, of Hibbing, Minn.; brother George; sisters Ada Casperino and Ruth (Henry) Best; and grandchildren Ryan and Jade Satz, Alexia Satz, and Drake and Dustin Satz.

A memorial fund has been established in honor of Dr. Satz to support education in neuropsychology. To contribute by check, please make checks payable to The UCLA Foundation and write "Paul Satz Memorial Fund" in the memo section. Checks should be mailed to Alan Han, Director of Development for Neuroscience, UCLA Medical Sciences Development, at 10945 Le Conte Ave., Suite 3132, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1784.

A tribute to Satz will be held on Friday, Aug. 6, at UCLA. For further details, please contact Robert Bilder at 310-825-9474 or

Friday, July 09, 2010

Event: Alzheimer's Conference (Honolulu, 10-15 July 2010)

The ICAD Alzheimer's Disease conference begins tomorrow, the 10th, in Honolulu.

Details about the conference can be found at

Tweeters there will be using the hashtag #ICAD.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Thank You British Psychological Society Research Digest Blog!

The British Psychological Society Research Digest blog has been very generous in interviewing BrainBlog for its current series of peeks into the lives of psychologists and neuroscientists who write blogs.

Read the article

Thank you!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Director Errol Morris on Anosognosia

Part one (of five) from today's New York Times:

The Anosognosic’s Dilemma: Something’s Wrong but You’ll Never Know What It Is (Part 1)
June 20, 2010, 9:00 PM

Read the article

Wednesday, June 16, 2010


NCDEU is an annual conference that presents advances in treatment and in clinical trials for a number of psychiatric conditions. It is a relatively small conference with a nicely organized agenda of workshopa, presentations, and poster sessions.

The website for the conference can be found here, which includes the program.

Sunday, June 13, 2010


Off to the NCDEU conference in Florida. More from there!

OBIT: Dr. Fred Plum

From The New York Times:

Fred Plum, Neurologist Who Helped Coin ‘Persistent Vegetative State,’ Dies at 86
Published: June 11, 2010

Read the full article

Friday, June 04, 2010

NIH Videocast: Network Neuroscience

From the 17th of May, 2010:

Network Neuroscience - Connectivity and Dynamics of the Human Brain
by Dr. Olaf Sporns
View the presentation
"Nervous systems are complex networks of interconnected neural elements that engage in spontaneous or evoked dynamics. Recent advances in the quantitative analysis and modeling of complex networks have provided new insights into the architecture of brain, structural and functional connectivity ¬ its small-world topology, efficient information flow, low wiring cost, modularity, and hubs. This talk provides an overview of this emerging field, with an emphasis on how complex network approaches can reveal structure/function relationships in the human brain."

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

"The Lion's Face" - An Opera About Dementia

From The Guardian:

Maps of the mind: The Lion's Face
How do you write an opera about dementia? Poet Glyn Maxwell on the moving journey that produced The Lion's Face
Glyn Maxwell
Tuesday 25 May 2010 21.46 BST
"Three years earlier, I had been asked by the composer Elena Langer to write a libretto for an opera about Alzheimer's. My first thoughts about the disease were mostly wrong. Knowing nothing about the subject, I did what poets do: I tried out some verse-forms – villanelles, pantoums, ghazals. I was falling into the trap of substituting the patterned oddities of poetry for the dire incoherences of dementia, looking for lyricism by default.

"The more I learned, the better the poems became. The Institute of Psychiatry in south London's Denmark Hill opened its doors to Elena and me. We talked to scientists and researchers, saw x-rays and brain scans. We met care-givers, psychologists, music and drama therapists. We saw good care homes where we'd still never want to go, and poor care homes that we tried not to think too much about. We were taken to the institute's windowless basement lab. This is where, if the patient has consented, their withered brain ends up, half of it deep-frozen, half of it examined. We watched humankind's underappreciated best friend, the fruit fly, dying a thousand helpful deaths in the hunt for a cure.

"And, of course, we met Alzheimer's patients and the people who love them. It's hard not to believe the latter suffer more. The smile of someone with Alzheimer's is private, inscrutable, while that of his or her spouse and children is frangible, see-through. Some of those we met who had had the diagnosis were at an early enough stage to volunteer to help us."
Read the full article

Monday, April 26, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease: NIH Conference

The videostream of the conference is quite good (requires RealPlayer), so drop in if you want to watcht the conference. Some good presentations so far.

Conference homepage

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease: NIH Conference

A reminder that tomorrow (Monday) you can watch the conference online. Information, including the programme, can be found at

If you tweet, the hashtag for the conference is #NIHAlz

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease: Watch NIH Conference Live Online

From the NIH:

NIH State-of-the-Science Conference: Preventing Alzheimer's Disease and Cognitive Decline - Day 1

View event: You will be able to view the event at when the event is live.

Air date: Monday, April 26, 2010, 8:30:00 AM
Time displayed is Eastern Time, Washington DC Local


Description: For many older adults, cognitive health and performance remain stable, with only a gradual and slight decline in short-term memory and reaction times. Others, however, progress into a more serious state of cognitive impairment or into various forms of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to investigating the causes and potential treatments for Alzheimer’s and other dementias, researchers are focused on finding ways to prevent cognitive decline. Many preventive measures for cognitive decline and for preventing Alzheimer’s have been suggested, but their value in delaying the onset and/or reducing the severity of decline or disease is unclear. Be part of pivotal discussions that will help answer critical questions related preventing Alzheimer's disease and cognitive decline.

Author: Sponsored by the National Institute on Aging Office of Medical Applications of Research

Runtime: 600 minutes

Webpage: click here

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Brain Game: Brain Training Games

From the BBC:

The results: Brain training games don't make us smarter
Read article

From Nature News: Read press release

Watch (in the UK):
"Can You Train Your Brain?"
21st April, 2100 hrs:

Monday, April 12, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease: Targeting the Blood-Brain Barrier

A news release from the NIH:

Targeting the Blood-Brain Barrier May Delay Progression of Alzheimer's Disease
12 April 2010
Researchers may be one step closer to slowing the onset and progression of Alzheimer's disease. An animal study supported by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS), part of the National Institutes of Health, shows that by targeting the blood-brain barrier, researchers are able to slow the accumulation of a protein associated with the progression of the illness. The blood-brain barrier separates the brain from circulating blood, and it protects the brain by removing toxic metabolites and proteins formed in the brain and preventing entry of toxic chemicals from the blood.

"This study may provide the experimental basis for new strategies that can be used to treat Alzheimer’s patients," said David S. Miller, Ph.D., chief of the Laboratory of Toxicology and Pharmacology at NIEHS and an author on the paper that appears in the May issue of Molecular Pharmacology.


"What we've shown in our mouse models is that we can reduce the accumulation of beta-amyloid protein in the brain by targeting a certain receptor in the brain known as the pregnane X receptor, or PXR," said Miller.

Read the full release

Friday, April 02, 2010

Congratulations Dr. Byron Rourke!

Windsor neuropsychologist Dr. Byron Rourke to receive The Order of Canada next week.

Read the article in The Windsor Star

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Donepezil and Aphasia

Chen Y, Li YS, Wang ZY, Xu Q, Shi GW, & Lin Y. [The efficacy of donepezil for post-stroke aphasia: a pilot case control study.] Zhonghua Nei Ke Za Zhi. 2010 Feb, 49(2), 115-118.

OBJECTIVE: To evaluate the efficacy of donepezil for post-stroke aphasia. METHODS: Sixty patients with acute post-stroke aphasia were divided into treatment group and a control group. All patients had been treated for secondary prevention according to the guideline. The treatment group received donepezil hydrochloride (5 mg/d) for 12 weeks. The efficacy of treatment was measured by comparing the changes of scores of Western Aphasia Battery (WAB) between baseline and 12 weeks later. RESULTS: Compared with the baseline, the changes of scores of all items of WAB and Aphasia Quotient (AQ) in both group after 12 weeks follow-up were great, however, the change of AQ was significantly greater in donepezil group (34.14 +/- 17.70)than that in control group (20.69 +/- 17.26)(P = 0.004). The patients in donepezil group also showed significant recovery in spontaneous speech, comprehension, repetition, and naming than those in control group (P < 0.05). The rate of significant improving in donepezil group was 60.0% which was significantly greater than that in control group (26.7%) (P = 0.009). CONCLUSION: There are spontaneous recovery of post-stroke aphasia within 3 months. Donepezil may facilitate the recovery in spontaneous speech, comprehension, repetition, and naming functions.

PMID: 20356506 [PubMed - in process]

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Scales to Measure Psychosis in Parkinson's Disease

Goetz CG. Scales to evaluate psychosis in Parkinson's disease. Parkinsonism and Related Disorders. 2009 Dec; 15 Suppl 3, 38-341

Hallucinations and psychotic behaviors are a frequent non-motor aspect of Parkinson's disease and its treatment. These behaviors usually do not occur in the presence of the physician and are therefore difficult to rate. Further, because of their bizarre nature, hallucinations are frequently underreported by patients, and caregivers are often unaware of them until they become problematic. A number of scales have been developed for rating these behaviors, most of them borrowed or adapted from assessment tools used in other psychotic disorders like schizophrenia. In the latter disorders, however, hallucinations and psychosis are phenomenologically different than the typical hallucinations of Parkinson's disease. The Movement Disorder Society Task Force on Parkinson's Disease Rating Scales has completed a systematic critique of scales used in clinical trials focusing on hallucinations and psychosis. In this critique, the following scales met the criteria to be classified as Recommended: Neuropsychiatric Inventory, Brief Psychiatric Rating Scale, Positive and Negative Syndrome Scale, and Schedule for Assessment of Positive Symptoms. However, the Task Force felt that each of these scales has significant weaknesses and is insufficient to be considered a definitive rating tool. The Task Force officially recommended the development of a new scale to assess hallucinations and psychosis in Parkinson's disease. This effort is now ongoing with official endorsement by the Movement Disorder Society.

PMID: 20083004 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Stretch!

Kashdan TB, & Rottenberg J. Psychological flexibility as a fundamental aspect of health. Clinical Psychology Review. 2010 Mar 12.

Traditionally, positive emotions and thoughts, strengths, and the satisfaction of basic psychological needs for belonging, competence, and autonomy have been seen as the cornerstones of psychological health. Without disputing their importance, these foci fail to capture many of the fluctuating, conflicting forces that are readily apparent when people navigate the environment and social world. In this paper, we review literature to offer evidence for the prominence of psychological flexibility in understanding psychological health. Thus far, the importance of psychological flexibility has been obscured by the isolation and disconnection of research conducted on this topic. Psychological flexibility spans a wide range of human abilities to: recognize and adapt to various situational demands; shift mindsets or behavioral repertoires when these strategies compromise personal or social functioning; maintain balance among important life domains; and be aware, open, and committed to behaviors that are congruent with deeply held values. In many forms of psychopathology, these flexibility processes are absent. In hopes of creating a more coherent understanding, we synthesize work in emotion regulation, mindfulness and acceptance, social and personality psychology, and neuropsychology. Basic research findings provide insight into the nature, correlates, and consequences of psychological flexibility and applied research provides details on promising interventions. Throughout, we emphasize dynamic approaches that might capture this fluid construct in the real-world.

PMID: 20347514 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, March 29, 2010

In the Wide World: Halifax, Nova Scotia

The Novel Tech Ethics research team at Dalhousie University, where today's Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day originated:

Novel Tech Ethics website

From the homepage:
"The Novel Tech Ethics research team led by Françoise Baylis and based at Dalhousie University, focuses on novel technologies that promise transformation. These technologies challenge us to explore the social, political, and cultural understandings of the self, and to reexamine our ethical obligations to others, including those with whom we will not co-exist.

"Currently, the Novel Tech Ethics research team has a particular focus on neural, genetic, and reproductive technologies. Grant-funded projects in these areas address the concerns of the individual, the community and the species. Academic exchanges, public discussion and debate contribute to our understanding of these issues and also help to inform public policy."

Among other features at the website, podcasts of presentations for their 2009 conference, BrainMatters: New Directions in Neuro Ethics, are available on this page:
Conference Podcasts

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Cognitive Enhancement

Outram SM. The use of methylphenidate among students: The future of enhancement? Journal of Medical Ethics. 2010 Apr, 36(4), 198-202.

Novel Tech Ethics, Dalhousie University, 1234 LeMarchant Street, Halifax NS B3H 3P7, Canada.

During the past few years considerable debate has arisen within academic journals with respect to the use of smart drugs or cognitive enhancement pharmaceuticals. The following paper seeks to examine the foundations of this cognitive enhancement debate using the example of methylphenidate use among college students. The argument taken is that much of the enhancement debate rests upon inflated assumptions about the ability of such drugs to enhance and over-estimations of either the size of the current market for such drugs or the rise in popularity as drugs for enhancing cognitive abilities. This article provides an overview of the empirical evidence that methylphenidate has the ability to significantly improve cognitive abilities in healthy individuals, and examines whether the presumed uptake of the drug is either as socially significant as implied or growing to the extent that it requires urgent regulatory attention. In addition, it reviews the evidence of side-effects for the use of methylphenidate which may be an influential factor in whether an individual decides to use such drugs. The primary conclusions are that neither drug efficacy, nor the benefit-to-risk balance, nor indicators of current or growing demand provide sufficient evidence that methylphenidate is a suitable example of a cognitive enhancer with mass appeal. In light of these empirically based conclusions, the article discusses why methylphenidate might have become seen as a smart drug or cognitive enhancer.

PMID: 20338928 [PubMed - in process]

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chronic Disease and Using the Internet for Information

Last week, the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a report about individuals with chronic diseases and their use of the Internet to obtain and share information. The report is available at the link below:

Pew Report on Chronic Disease and the Internet

From the summary:
"The deck is stacked against people living with chronic disease. They are disproportionately offline. They often have complicated health issues, not easily solved by the addition of even the best, most reliable, medical advice.

"And yet, those who are online have a trump card. They have each other. This survey finds that having a chronic disease increases the probability that an internet user will share what they know and learn from their peers. They unearth nuggets of information. They blog. They participate in online discussions. And they just keep going. "

Multiple Sclerosis (MS): The SURPASS Clinical Trial

Study Evaluating Rebif, Copaxone, and Tysabri for Active Multiple Sclerosis (SURPASS): Description

Corporate press release


Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: fMRI Tablet Touchscreen

Tam F, Churchill NW, Strother SC, & Graham SJ. A new tablet for writing and drawing during functional MRI.
Human Brain Mapping. 2010 Mar 24.

Writing and drawing are understudied with fMRI, partly for lack of a device that approximates these behaviors well while supporting task feedback and quantitative behavioral logging in the confines of the magnet. Consequently, we developed a tablet based on touchscreen technology that is accurate, reliable, relatively inexpensive, and fMRI compatible. After confirming fMRI compatibility, we conducted preliminary fMRI experiments examining the neural correlates of a widely used pen-and-paper neuropsychological assessment, the trail making test. In two subjects, we found left hemisphere frontal lobe activations similar to the major results of a previous group study, and we also noted individual differences mostly in the right hemisphere. These results demonstrate the utility of the new tablet for adaptations of pen-and-paper tests and suggest possible uses of the tablet for longitudinal, within-subjects studies of disease or therapy. We also discuss using the tablet for several other types of tests requiring many, continuous, or two-dimensional responses that were previously very difficult to perform during fMRI. Hum Brain Mapp, 2010. (c) 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

PMID: 20336688 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Brain Evolution: Colin Blakemore

From today's Observer:

Colin Blakemore: how the human brain got bigger by accident and not through evolution
Oxford neurobiologist Colin Blakemore tells Robin McKie why he thinks a mutation in the human brain 200,000 years ago suddenly made us a super-intelligent species

Robin McKie
28 March 2010
The Observer

Read the article

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Temporal Encoding

Bueti D, Bahrami B, Walsh V, & Rees G. Encoding of temporal probabilities in the human brain. Journal of Neuroscience. 2010 Mar 24, 30(12), 4343-4352.

Anticipating the timing of future events is a necessary precursor to preparing actions and allocating resources to sensory processing. This requires elapsed time to be represented in the brain and used to predict the temporal probability of upcoming events. While neuropsychological, imaging, magnetic stimulation studies, and single-unit recordings implicate the role of higher parietal and motor-related areas in temporal estimation, the role of earlier, purely sensory structures remains more controversial. Here we demonstrate that the temporal probability of expected visual events is encoded not by a single area but by a wide network that importantly includes neuronal populations at the very earliest cortical stages of visual processing. Moreover, we show that activity in those areas changes dynamically in a manner that closely accords with temporal expectations.

PMID: 20335470 [PubMed - in process]

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Traumatic Brain Injury: New CDC Report

Several days ago, the CDC released a report entitled, "Traumatic Brain Injury in the United States: Emergency Department Visits, Hospitalizations, and Deaths, 2002-2006" - available as a .pdf (and .doc) download.

Download the report

C-SPAN Video Library: Carl Zimmer's Soul Made Flesh

C-SPAN Video Library: Carl Zimmer's "Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain":

Watch the Talk

From 23 February 2004, "Carl Zimmer talked about his book, Soul Made Flesh: The Discovery of the Brain--and How it Changed the World, published by The Free Press. The book examined the way the brain has been perceived throughout history."

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Drugs in Clinical Practice

Santoro A, Siviero P, Minicuci N, Bellavista E, Mishto M, Olivieri F, Marchegiani F, Chiamenti AM, Benussi L, Ghidoni R,
Nacmias B, Bagnoli S, Ginestroni A, Scarpino O, Feraco E, Gianni W, Cruciani G, Paganelli R, Di Iorio A, Scognamiglio
M, Grimaldi LM, Gabelli C, Sorbi S, Binetti G, Crepaldi G, & Franceschi C. Effects of donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine in 938 italian patients with Alzheimer's disease: A prospective, observational study. CNS Drugs. 2010 Feb 1; 24(2): 163-176. doi: 10.2165/11310960-000000000-00000.

Department of Experimental Pathology, University of Bologna, Via S. Giacomo 12, Bologna, Italy.

Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors (AChEIs) have been used to improve cognitive status and disability in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease (AD). However, while the efficacy of AChEIs (i.e. how they act in randomized controlled trials) in this setting is widely accepted, their effectiveness (i.e. how they behave in the real world) remains controversial. To compare the effects of three AChEIs, donepezil (Aricept), galantamine (Reminyl) and rivastigmine (Exelon), in an Italian national, prospective, observational study representative of the 'real world' clinical practice of AChEI treatment for AD. 938 patients with mild to moderate AD collected within the framework of the Italian National Cronos Project (CP), involving several UVAs (AD Evaluation Units) spread over the entire national territory, who were receiving donepezil, galantamine or rivastigmine were followed for 36 weeks by measuring: (i) function, as determined by the Activities of Daily Living (ADL) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADL) scales; (ii) cognition, as measured by the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) and the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog) [primary outcome measures]; and (iii) behaviour, as measured on the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI) and Clinical Dementia Rating (CDR) scale. Moreover, all patients were genotyped for apolipoprotein E (apoE) genetic variants. No statistically significant improvement in the primary outcome measures (MMSE and ADAS-Cog) was observed with drug therapy at 36 weeks, at which point all groups had lost, on average, 1 point on the MMSE and gained 2-3 points on the ADAS-Cog scale compared with baseline. On the secondary outcome measures at week 36, all treatment groups showed a significant worsening on the ADL and IADL scales compared with baseline, while on the NPI scale there were no significant differences from baseline except for the galantamine-treated group which worsened significantly. Moreover, patients receiving galantamine worsened significantly compared with the donepezil-treated group on the IADL scale. ApoE epsilon4 allele did not influence the effect of drug therapy. Over a 36-week follow-up period, no significant difference in the effects of donepezil, galantamine and rivastigmine on a variety of functional and cognitive parameters was observed in a large number of apoE-genotyped patients with mild to moderate AD recruited within the framework of a national project representative of the scenario usually encountered in actual clinical practice in Italy. The limitations (possibility of administration of lower drug doses than are used in clinical trials, relatively short follow-up period and the lack of randomization) and strengths (large number of patients, concomitant observation of the three drugs and the number of parameters assessed, including apoE genotype) of the present study are acknowledged. Our type of naturalistic study should complement clinical trials because 'real world' practice operates in the face of the numerous variables (e.g. health status and co-morbidities) associated with a complex disease such as AD in elderly people.

PMID: 20088621 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Thursday, March 18, 2010

MindHacks Brings Neuropsychology to Parliament

An interesting post at MindHacks about their presentation for the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Scientific Research in Learning and Education:

Lords, Ladies, and Video Games

The posting also provides a link to the presentation's PowerPoint file.


"Beauty and the Brain" Walters Art Museum

Here is the website for the "Beauty and the Brain" exhibit discussed in the previous posting:

Walters Art Museum

Beauty and the Brain

A good read from The Dana Foundation Blog:

Gazing with New Eyes


Sunday, March 14, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Progression Rates

Doody RS, Pavlik V, Massman P, Rountree S, Darby E, & Chan W. Predicting progression of Alzheimer's disease. Alzheimers Res Ther. 2010 Feb 23; 2(1):2. [Epub ahead of print]

Alzheimer's Disease and Memory Disorders Center, Baylor College of Medicine, 6501 Fannin Street, NB302, Houston, TX 77030, USA.

ABSTRACT: INTRODUCTION: Clinicians need to predict prognosis of Alzheimer's disease (AD), and researchers need models of progression to develop biomarkers and clinical trials designs. We tested a calculated initial progression rate to see whether it predicted performance on cognition, function and behavior over time, and to see whether it predicted survival. METHODS: We used standardized approaches to assess baseline characteristics and to estimate disease duration, and calculated the initial (pre-progression) rate in 597 AD patients followed for up to 15 years. We designated slow, intermediate and rapidly progressing groups. Using mixed effects regression analysis, we examined the predictive value of a pre-progression group for longitudinal performance on standardized measures. We used Cox survival analysis to compare survival time by progression group. RESULTS: Patients in the slow and intermediate groups maintained better performance on the cognitive (ADAScog and VSAT), global (CDR-SB) and complex activities of daily living measures (IADL) (P values < 0.001 slow versus fast; P values < 0.003 to 0.03 intermediate versus fast). Interaction terms indicated that slopes of ADAScog and PSMS change for the slow group were smaller than for the fast group, and that rates of change on the ADAScog were also slower for the intermediate group, but that CDR-SB rates increased in this group relative to the fast group. Slow progressors survived longer than fast progressors (P = 0.024). CONCLUSIONS: A simple, calculated progression rate at the initial visit gives reliable information regarding performance over time on cognition, global performance and activities of daily living. The slowest progression group also survives longer. This baseline measure should be considered in the design of long duration Alzheimer's disease clinical trials.

PMID: 20178566 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Subjective Memory Complaints

Elfgren C, Gustafson L, Vestberg S, & Passant U. Subjective memory complaints, neuropsychological performance and psychiatric variables in memory clinic attendees: A 3-year follow-up study. Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics. 2010 Mar 6. [Epub ahead of print]

Department of Geriatric Psychiatry, Clinical Sciences, Lund University Hospital, SE-221 85 Lund, Sweden.

The aims were to evaluate the cognitive performance and clinical diagnosis in patients (<75 years) seeking help for subjective memory complaints, to determine the prevalence of certain psychiatric symptoms and to conduct follow-up examinations. At baseline 41% showed normal cognitive performance (subjective memory impairment; SMI), 37% fulfilled criteria for mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and 22% were classified as dementia. There were significant associations between the three groups and experiences of psychosocial stress and feelings of anxiety. The proportion of psychosocial stress was significantly higher in SMI vs. MCI and SMI vs. dementia. Feelings of anxiety were significantly higher in SMI vs. MCI. At the 3-year follow-up, 88% of the SMI patients remained stable SMI and 60% of the MCI patients remained stable. There was a significant reduction of psychosocial stress and moderate reduction of feelings of anxiety among the SMI patients. The findings indicate that the risk of patients with SMI developing dementia is small within a 3-year span. We propose that subjective memory complaints might be influenced by the presence of psychosocial stress and feelings of anxiety disturbing the memory processes and interfering with the patients' evaluation of their memory function. Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 20211500 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Friday, March 12, 2010

Pain Research

From King's College London:

Innovative Partnership for Pain Research
10 Mar 2010, PR 48/10
"King’s has partnered with Pfizer to create an open innovation laboratory for pain research. As part of the partnership, a small team of Pfizer scientists will be based at the Wolfson Centre for Age-Related Diseases to conduct research in pain biology."

read the full article

Upcoming Event: Computers and Medical Practice (London, 17 March 2010)

From the King's College London website:

Seminar: The computer as the third actor in the clinical consultation
17 Mar 2010, 12:45-13:45, 6th Floor Seminar Room, Capital House, Guy's Campus

Speaker: Dr Simon de Lusignan
Speaker institution: St George's University of London

Full information

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Aging and MCI Screening

Today's recommended read deals with an important neuropsychological assessment issue in the domain of aging and the potential to identify the presence of cognitive problems that might (emphasis on "might" - such findings in a screen are not definitive) be part of the onset of a dementing disease process. The issue has implications, as well, for applications in CNS clinical trials.

Scharre DW, Chang SI, Murden RA, Lamb J, Beversdorf DQ, Kataki M, Nagaraja HN, & Bornstein RA. Self-administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE): A Brief Cognitive Assessment Instrument for Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) and Early Dementia. Alzheimer Disease and Associate Disorders. 2010 January/March; 24(1), 64-71.

OBJECTIVES: To develop a self-administered cognitive assessment instrument to facilitate the screening of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and early dementia and determine its association with gold standard clinical assessments including neuropsychologic evaluation. METHODS: Adults aged above 59 years with sufficient vision and English literacy were recruited from geriatric and memory disorder clinics, educational talks, independent living facilities, senior centers, and memory screens. After Self-administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) screening, subjects were randomly selected to complete a clinical evaluation, neurologic examination, neuropsychologic battery, functional assessment, and mini-mental state examination (MMSE). Subjects were identified as dementia, MCI, or normal based on standard clinical criteria and neuropsychologic testing. RESULTS: Two hundred fifty-four participants took the SAGE screen and 63 subjects completed the extensive evaluation (21 normal, 21 MCI, and 21 dementia subjects). Spearman rank correlation between SAGE and neuropsychologic battery was 0.84 (0.76 for MMSE). SAGE receiver operating characteristics on the basis of clinical diagnosis showed 95% specificity (90% for MMSE) and 79% sensitivity (71% for MMSE) in detecting those with cognitive impairment from normal subjects. CONCLUSIONS: This study suggests that SAGE is a reliable instrument for detecting cognitive impairment and compares favorably with the MMSE. The self-administered feature may promote cognitive testing by busy clinicians prompting earlier diagnosis and treatment.

PMID: 20220323 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Interpersonal Impact and Infection Avoidance

The British Psychological Society's Research Digest blog has an interesting posting today about how we respond socially to reminders about infectious disease:

Reminder of disease primes the body and mind to repel other people

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: TBI Clinical Trials

Today's recommended reading addresses proposed efficacy measures for use in clinical trials related to traumatic brain injury (TBI):

Bagiella E, Novack TA, Ansel B, Diaz-Arrastia R, Dikmen S, Hart T, & Temkin N. Measuring Outcome in Traumatic Brain Injury Treatment Trials: Recommendations From the Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials Network. Journal of Head Trauma Rehabilitation. 2010.

BACKGROUND: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) involves several aspects of a patient's condition, including physical, mental, emotional, cognitive, social, and functional changes. Therefore, a clinical trial with individuals with TBI should consider outcome measures that reflect their global status. METHODS: We present the work of the National Institute of Child Health and Development-sponsored Traumatic Brain Injury Clinical Trials Network Outcome Measures subcommittee and its choice of outcome measures for a phase III clinical trial of patients with complicated mild to severe TBI. RESULTS: On the basis of theoretical and practical considerations, the subcommittee recommended the adoption of a core of 9 measures that cover 2 different areas of recovery: functional and cognitive. These measures are the Extended Glasgow Outcome Scale; the Controlled Oral Word Association Test; the Trail Making Test, Parts A and B; the California Verbal Learning Test-II; the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III Digit Span subtest; the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-III Processing Speed Index; and the Stroop Color-Word Matching Test, Parts 1 and 2. CONCLUSIONS: The statistical methods proposed to analyze these measures using a global test procedure, along with research and methodological and regulatory issues involved with the use of multiple outcomes in a clinical trial, are discussed.

PMID: 20216459 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: The New Wechsler Scales

Today's recommended reading deals with a very important issue in neuropsychological assessment:

Loring DW, & Bauer RM. Testing the limits: cautions and concerns regarding the new Wechsler IQ and Memory scales. Neurology, 2010, 74(8), 685-690.

Department of Neurology, Emory University, 101 Woodruff Circle, Suite 6000, Atlanta, GA, USA. 30322

The Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) and the Wechsler Memory Scale (WMS) are 2 of the most common psychological tests used in clinical care and research in neurology. Newly revised versions of both instruments (WAIS-IV and WMS-IV) have recently been published and are increasingly being adopted by the neuropsychology community. There have been significant changes in the structure and content of both scales, leading to the potential for inaccurate patient classification if algorithms developed using their predecessors are employed. There are presently insufficient clinical data in neurologic populations to insure their appropriate application to neuropsychological evaluations. We provide a perspective on these important new neuropsychological instruments, comment on the pressures to adopt these tests in the absence of an appropriate evidence base supporting their incremental validity, and describe the potential negative impact on both patient care and continuing research applications.

PMID: 20177123 [PubMed - in process]

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Assistive Aid for Persons with Memory Deficits

A Little Black Box to Jog Failing Memory
The New York Times
Published: March 8, 2010
"Researchers have tested the Sensecam, which contains a digital camera and an accelerometer, as an aid to people with Alzheimer’s disease and other memory disorders."

Read the full article

Monday, March 08, 2010

Alzheimer's Disease: A-beta and Immune System

Old Enemy Might Help to Prevent Alzheimer’s
The New York Times
Published: March 8, 2010

"Harvard researchers are taking a new look at beta amyloid, which was thought to be a chief villain in Alzheimer’s whose function was that of a waste product in the brain."

Read the full article

In the Wide World: Norwegian Neuropsychological Society

The Norwegian Neuropsychological Society/Norsk Nevropsykologisk Forening:


From the homepage:

"The Norwegian Neuropsychological Society (NNS) was formed in 1996 and professor Hallgrim Kløve was elected as NNA’s first chair. The aims of the Association are to promote neuropsychology in Norway, stimulate exchange of national and international communication among neuropsychologists, and stimulate development in neuropsychology as well as to provide information both internally and toward the public.

"The NNS is an interest organisation that has its member base in the Norwegian Psychological Association. The regulations of the NNS comply with the regulations of the Norwegian Psychological Association. From 2007 we have formally been approved as an associated interest group with the Norwegian Psychological Association."

Now, you can follow them on Twitter, too.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Developmental Neuropsychology: The Infant Brain on BBC Radio 4

Available from BBC Radio 4:

In Our Time: The Infant Brain: Listen Here.

Description, from the BBC source link:

Melvyn Bragg and guests Usha Goswami, Annette Karmiloff-Smith and Denis Mareschal discuss what new research reveals about the infant brain.

For obvious reasons, what happens in the minds of very young, pre-verbal children is elusive. But over the last century, the psychology of early childhood has become a major subject of study.

Some scientists and researchers have argued that children develop skills only gradually, others that many of our mental attributes are innate.

Sigmund Freud concluded that infants didn't differentiate themselves from their environment.

The pioneering Swiss child psychologist Jean Piaget thought babies' perception of the world began as a 'blooming, buzzing confusion' of colour, light and sound, before they developed a more sophisticated worldview, first through the senses and later through symbol.

More recent scholars such as the leading American theoretical linguist Noam Chomsky have argued that the fundamentals of language are there from birth. Chomsky has famously argued that all humans have an innate, universally applicable grammar.

Over the last ten to twenty years, new research has shed fresh light on important aspects of the infant brain which have long been shrouded in mystery or mired in dispute, from the way we start to learn to speak to the earliest understanding that other people have their own minds.


Usha Goswami, Professor of Education at the University of Cambridge and Director of its Centre for Neuroscience in Education

Annette Karmiloff-Smith, Professorial Research Fellow at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at the Department of Psychological Sciences, Birkbeck College, University of London

Denis Mareschal, Professor of Psychology at the Centre for Brain and Cognitive Development at Birkbeck College, University of London.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Alzheimer Disease: Dimebon Results, Part II

From The New York Times:

Hopes for Alzheimer’s Drug Are Dashed
Published: March 4, 2010

"The drug, called Dimebon, failed in its first late-stage clinical trial, dealing a blow to patients with Alzheimer’s and the companies developing the treatment, Medivation and Pfizer."

Read the full article

Alzheimer Disease: Dimebon Results

A press release from earlier today by Pfizer:

Pfizer And Medivation Announce Results From Two Phase 3 Studies In Dimebon (latrepirdine) Alzheimer’s Disease Clinical Development Program

"About the CONNECTION Study

"CONNECTION is a Phase 3, multi-national, double-blind, placebo-controlled safety and efficacy trial involving 598 patients with mild-to-moderate AD at 63 sites in North America, Europe, and South America. Patients had a mean age of 74.4 years and a mean score of 17.7 on the Mini-Mental State Examination (MMSE) upon entry into the study. More than 40 percent of the patients enrolled were in the United States. In the study, patients were randomized to one of three treatment groups, receiving dimebon 20 mg three times a day (TID), dimebon 5 mg TID, or placebo TID for six months. The 5 mg arm was included in the study to help define the effective dose range for dimebon treatment.

"No statistically significant improvements for the 20 mg TID group relative to placebo were achieved on the co-primary endpoints. One primary endpoint evaluated the effect of dimebon on cognition, as measured by the Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale (ADAS-cog), and showed that dimebon-treated patients achieved a 0.1 point difference from patients receiving placebo (p=0.86). Neither group was significantly changed from baseline. The other primary endpoint evaluated the effect of dimebon on independently-rated global function over the course of the six-month trial, as measured by the Clinician's Interview-Based Impression of Change Plus Caregiver Input (CIBIC-plus; p=0.81). According to the CIBIC-plus scale, 64.9 percent of the patients treated with dimebon 20 mg TID showed improvement or no change at Week 26 compared to 65.4 percent of placebo-treated patients. Results for the dimebon 5 mg dose were similar to the dimebon 20 mg and placebo, although they were numerically lower.

"The 20 mg TID dimebon-treated patients also showed no statistically significant differences compared to placebo on the secondary efficacy endpoints. After six months of treatment, patients treated with dimebon showed a 0.4 point difference from patients taking placebo on activities of daily living (p=0.61), as measured by the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study Activities of Daily Living Scale (ADCS-ADL). Neither group was significantly changed from baseline. The dimebon-treated group showed a 1.6 point improvement on behavior compared to placebo (p=0.17), as measured by the Neuropsychiatric Inventory (NPI). Compared to baseline, each group was improved, but this change was only significant for the dimebon group. On the Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE), another measure of cognition, both groups improved significantly over baseline (dimebon 0.7; placebo 1.2). The difference favoring placebo was not significant (p=0.10). Results for the dimebon 5 mg dose were similar to dimebon 20 mg and placebo, although they were numerically lower. Dimebon, 20 mg orally three-times daily, was well tolerated in the study. The number of patients with at least one adverse event was similar in the dimebon 20 mg and placebo groups (72.0% vs. 74.2%, respectively). The most frequently reported adverse events (>5%) in patients in the 20 mg dimebon group occurring more commonly than in the placebo group included somnolence (11.0% vs. 10.1%), dry mouth (8.5% vs. 6.6%), headache (9.5% vs. 5.6%), dizziness (7.5% vs. 5.1%), constipation (5.5% vs. 3.5%), cough (7.5% vs. 3.5%) and depression (6.0% vs. 3.5%). Similar rates of adverse events were observed for the 5 mg TID group. No clinically significant findings were noted in assessment of vital signs, clinical laboratories or on electrocardiography (ECG)."

Read the full release


Alzheimer’s Association statement on negative Phase III trial results for latrepirdine (Dimebon)
03 March 2010

Read the statement


From ABC News:

Pfizer Alzheimer's Drug Dimebon Fails in Study
Late Stage Trials Show No Effect But Drug May Still Have a Future
ABC News Medical Unit
March 03, 2010
"Dimebon, a once-promising new Alzheimer's drug from Pfizer Inc., may be no more effective than a placebo at treating the disease, according to late-stage clinical data released by the company Wednesday."

Read the full article

Event: Take Your Brain to Lunch (Philadelphia)

A program from the University of Pennsylvania:

Take Your Brain to Lunch
"Everything from education to warfare comes down to the workings of the human mind, and now the mind itself is being understood in terms of the brain. Come hear about the different ways that Penn Arts and Sciences faculty are studying this amazing three-pound organ and the insights it is offering on diverse human problems.

"Martha Farah, Annenberg Professor of Natural Sciences in the Department of Psychology and Director of Penn's new Center for Neuroscience & Society, will lead conversations with Penn faculty members about the brain. So take your brain to lunch and enjoy some food for thought!

All lectures are from 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m.
Light refreshments will be provided."

For dates and topics, please see the UPenn webpage for the program

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer Drug Development

Today's recommended article to read; abstract from PubMed:

Bergmans BA & De Strooper B. gamma-secretases: From cell biology to therapeutic strategies. Lancet Neurology. 2010 Feb; 9(2 ): 215-226.

Department of Molecular and Developmental Genetics, VIB, Leuven, Belgium; Center for Human Genetics, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.

Presenilins form the catalytic part of the gamma-secretases, protein complexes that are responsible for the intramembranous cleavage of transmembrane proteins. The presenilins are involved in several biological functions, but are best known for their role in the generation of the beta-amyloid (Abeta) peptide in Alzheimer's disease and are therefore thought to be important drug targets for this disorder. Mutations in the presenilin genes cause early-onset familial Alzheimer's disease, but mutation carriers have substantial phenotypic heterogeneity. Recent evidence implicating presenilin mutations in non-Alzheimer's dementias, including frontotemporal dementia and Lewy body dementia, warrants further investigation. An increased understanding of the diversity of the molecular cell biology of the gamma-secretase complex and the effects of clinical mutations in the presenilin genes might help pave the way for improved development of drugs that are designed to target gamma-secretase enzymatic activity in Alzheimer's disease and potentially in other neurological diseases. Copyright (c) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

PMID: 20129170 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Alzheimer Disease: A Care Project

From The Times (UK):

Fighting Alzheimer's with a touch of beauty
A pioneering care project demonstates how literature, music, art and love can improve the lives of dementia sufferers

28 February 2010
The Times
Margarette Driscoll

"In other words, people who appear to be lost to the world can still be reached through art, literature and music — and love. At Hearthstone, a group of seven homes looking after some 220 people with Alzheimer’s that Zeisel had helped to found in Massachusetts, residents are encouraged to paint and are taken on regular outings to galleries. They have reading circles and a film club.

“The development of new drugs to treat Alzheimer’s is helping people live a little bit longer,” says Zeisel. “What we’re asking ourselves is, how do we make that life worth living?”"


read the full article

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Neurodegenerative Disease Drug Discovery: UCSF and Genentech

From Fierce Biotech:

UCSF enters drug discovery agreement with Genentech
Posted February 19, 2010

"The University of California, San Francisco has signed a partnership agreement with Genentech, Inc., a wholly owned member of the Roche Group, to discover and develop drug candidates for neurodegenerative diseases.

"Through the agreement, Genentech will provide funding and its research acumen in neuroscience and will collaborate with UCSF to identify small molecules."

Read the full article

Traumatic Brain Injury: Progesterone Clinical Trial

From The Guardian:

Sex hormone progesterone may save lives after brain injury
A major clinical trial will test whether the female sex hormone can minimise damage and improve recovery after brain injury
Ian Sample, San Diego
Friday 19 February 2010 21.30 GMT

An article about the proTECT III clinical trial.

Read the article


Here is the entry for this study: proTECT III


Business World: GSK's Rare Diseases R&D Unit

From FierceBiotech:

GSK launches new specialist unit to research and develop medicines for rare diseases
Issued: Thursday 4 February 2010, London UK

Read the full article

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Biomakers in Alzheimer's and Mild Cognitive Impairment

Fjell AM, Walhovd KB, Fennema-Notestine C, McEvoy LK, Hagler DJ, Holland D, Brewer JB, Dale AM; for the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative. CSF Biomarkers in Prediction of Cerebral and Clinical Change in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer's Disease.J Neurosci., 2010 Feb, 10; 30(6): 2088-2101.

Center for the Study of Human Cognition, Department of Psychology, University of Oslo, NO-0317 Oslo, Norway, Department of Neuropsychology, Ullevaal University Hospital, NO-0407 Oslo, Norway, and Departments of Radiology, Psychiatry, and Neuroscience, University of California, San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093.

Brain atrophy and altered CSF levels of amyloid beta (Abeta(42)) and the microtubule-associated protein tau are potent biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease (AD)-related pathology. However, the relationship between CSF biomarkers and brain morphometry is poorly understood. Thus, we addressed the following questions. (1) Can CSF biomarker levels explain the morphometric differences between normal controls (NC) and patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or AD? (2) How are CSF biomarkers related to atrophy across the brain? (3) How closely are CSF biomarkers and morphometry related to clinical change [clinical dementia rating sum of boxes (CDR-sb)]? Three hundred seventy participants (105 NC, 175 MCI, 90 AD) from the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative were studied, of whom 309 were followed for 1 year and 176 for 2 years. Analyses were performed across the entire cortical surface, as well as for 30 cortical and subcortical regions of interest. Results showed that CSF biomarker levels could not account for group differences in brain morphometry at baseline but that CSF biomarker levels showed moderate relationships to longitudinal atrophy rates in numerous brain areas, not restricted to medial temporal structures. Baseline morphometry was at least as predictive of atrophy as were CSF biomarkers. Even MCI patients with levels of Abeta(42) comparable with controls and of p-tau lower than controls showed more atrophy than the controls. Morphometry predicted change in CDR-sb better than did CSF biomarkers. These results indicate that morphometric changes in MCI and AD are not secondary to CSF biomarker changes and that the two types of biomarkers yield complementary information.

PMID: 20147537 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]



26-29 October 2010
San Diego, California

From the homepage:

"Created by Marc Hodosh and Richard Saul Wurman, TEDMED celebrates conversations that demonstrate the intersection and connections between all things medical and healthcare related: from personal health to public health, devices to design and Hollywood to the hospital. Together, this encompasses more than twenty percent of our GNP in America while touching everyone's life around the globe."

A Brainy Tattoo

From Carl Zimmer's The Loom:

A report and picture of a brainy tattoo. :-) --- How do *you* spell brain?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Prospective Memory

Fish J, Wilson BA, & Manly T. The assessment and rehabilitation of prospective memory problems in people with neurological disorders: A review. Neuropsychological Rehabilitation, 2010 Feb, 4: 1-19. [Epub ahead of print]

MRC Cognition and Brain Sciences Unit, Cambridge, UK.

People with neurological disorders often report difficulty with prospective memory (PM), that is, remembering to do things they had intended to do. This paper briefly reviews the literature regarding the neuropsychology of PM function, concluding that from the clinical perspective, PM is best considered in terms of its separable but interacting mnemonic and executive components. Next, the strengths and limitations in the current clinical assessment of PM, including the assessment of component processes, desktop analogues of PM tasks, and naturalistic PM tasks, are outlined. The evidence base for the rehabilitation of PM is then considered, focusing on retraining PM, using retrospective memory strategies, problem-solving training, and finally, electronic memory aids. It is proposed that further research should focus on establishing the predictive validity of PM assessment, and refining promising rehabilitation techniques.

PMID: 20146135 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, February 08, 2010

Amygdala and Gaming Decisions

From the BBC:

Patients with amygdala injury 'unafraid' to gamble
09 February 2010

"Californian scientists think they may have discovered the part of the brain which makes people fear losing money."

Read the full article

Monday, January 25, 2010

FDA Approves Multiple Sclerosis Drug, Ampyra (dalfampridine) Extended-release

From FierceBiotech:

FDA approves Acorda's new MS drug
January 22, 2010 — 4:49pm ET
By John Carroll


The FDA announced Friday afternoon that it has approved Ampyra (dalfampridine) extended-release tablets to improve walking in patients with multiple sclerosis. In clinical trials, patients treated with Ampyra had faster walking speeds than those treated with a placebo. This is the first drug approved for this use.


Read the FierceBiotech full article

Multiple Sclerosis Clinical Trials

Novartis, Merck KGaA Pills Bring ‘New Horizon’ for MS (Update1)
By Naomi Kresge
20 January 2010

"Jan. 20 (Bloomberg) -- The first oral medicines for multiple sclerosis from Novartis AG and Merck KGaA may offer patients who are willing to run the risk of infections and other side effects an easier route toward treating the debilitating neurological disease, according to three studies."

(The drugs are immunosuppressive.)

Read full article

Upcoming Event: INS Annual Meeting (3-6 February 2010, Acapulco)

International Neuropsychological Society
38th Annual Meeting
February 3-6, 2010
Acapulco, Mexico

Conference webpage: here

Monday, January 18, 2010

Brain Game: Lumosity Games

The Telegraph has a link to a series of Lumosity games:

Available here

Aerobic Exercise and Neurons

Start running and watch your brain grow, say scientists
• Aerobic exercise triggers new cell growth – study
• Region of brain affected linked to recollection

Ian Sample, science correspondent
The Guardian
Monday 18 January 2010 20.41 GMT

Read the article

Friday, January 08, 2010

Movie: "In Search of Memory" with Eric Kandel

Total Recall: A Journey From Vienna to Brooklyn and the Center of the Brain
The New York Times
Published: January 8, 2010

A review of the new movie, "In Search of memory" about Dr. Eric Kandel.


"Ms. Seeger, a German filmmaker who occasionally appears on screen with Dr. Kandel and his family, gives only a sketch of his ideas and discoveries, but the basic information about axons, synapses and neurons is presented clearly and with enthusiasm. “In Search of Memory” is finally more concerned with the scientist than with his science, and in his particular memories rather than his insights into memory as such. This is hardly a criticism, since Dr. Kandel is an unusually engaging person with a pretty amazing biography."


Read the review