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