Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Olfaction and Neurodegenerative Disease

Just noticeable difference in olfaction: A discriminative tool between healthy elderly and patients with cognitive disorders associated with dementia
Rhinology. 2011 15 1; 49(5): 513-518.
Chopard G, Galmiche J, Jacquot L, Brand G


Olfactory dysfunction appears to be one of the earliest signs of several age-related neurodegenerative disorders, including Alzheimer`s disease (AD) or Parkinson`s disease (PD). To rate performance and olfactory deficits in patients with cognitive disorders, various olfactory tasks have been used such as odor detection, discrimination, recognition memory, identification and naming but no study has been focused on just noticeable difference (JND), a sensitive tool of detection. The aim of this study was to investigate and compare variations in JNDs in healthy elderly and in patients with cognitive disorders associated with dementia. The results showed significantly higher olfactory JNDs in a population with cognitive disorders associated with dementia - i.e. a lower olfactory detection performance - compared to a control population paired in age, gender and education level. Additionally, the findings of the present study showed strong correlations between cognitive performances and JND scores in the control population contrary to the patient population. These findings are discussed in relation to the relevance of using olfactory JNDs in the diagnosis of dementias.

PMID: 22125780 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Anthony Risser

WNYC: "Free Will and the Science of the Brain"

Today on WYNC's Leonard Lopate show, Dr. Michael Gazzaniga.

Listen and/or download here

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Moyamoya

Intellectual ability and executive function in pediatric moyamoya vasculopathy
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2011 Nov 24;
Williams TS, Westmacott R, Dlamini N, Granite L, Dirks P, Askalan R, Macgregor D, Moharir M, Deveber G


Aim  Moyamoya vasculopathy is characterized by progressive stenosis of the major arteries of the Circle of Willis, resulting in compromised cerebral blood flow and increased risk of stroke. The objectives of the current study were to examine intellectual and executive functioning of children with moyamoya and to evaluate the impact of moyamoya type, stroke (clinical or silent), vasculopathy laterality, and disease duration on neurocognitive abilities. Method  Thirty pediatric participants (mean age 10y 10mo, SD 4y; 18 females, 12 males) completed age-appropriate Wechsler Intelligence Scales before any therapeutic revascularization procedures. Reports of executive function were obtained from parents and teachers using the Behavior Rating Index of Executive Function. Results  Children with moyamoya scored significantly lower than the test standardization samples on all indices of intelligence and ratings of executive functioning (p<0.001). Patients did not differ by type of moyamoya or history of stroke. Patients with bilateral disease and stroke scored significantly lower than those with unilateral disease on measures of overall intellectual function (p=0.035) and verbal comprehension (p=0.04). Deficits in metacognitive executive functions were also more pronounced in bilateral patients according to teacher ratings. Interpretation  Children with moyamoya are at risk for intellectual and executive problems, exacerbated by bilateral disease and clinical stroke history.

PMID: 22117564 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Clinical Trials: Moscow Rules

An interesting posting on the Pharmalot blog today:

Russian Trial Rules Are A ‘Serious Blow’ To Pharma
By Ed Silverman
November 29th, 2011 // 9:56 am

Read the blog post

Monday, November 28, 2011

Controversy over US Military Traumatic Brain Injury Cognitive Assessment

Today, NPR's All Things Considered will be airing a report it prepared with ProPublica about problems with the US military's approach to testing the cognitive function of individuals.

Here is a link to a ProPublica article about the issue:

Testing Program Fails Soldiers

An audio link and a transcript of the report will likely be made available by NPR on the All Things Considered website after it airs.

The ProPublica report includes links to a number of documents about the issue, for those interested in looking deeper into the controversy.

ADDENDUM: The NPR story can be listened to and/or downloaded at this link: Listen here.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Leadership Council

Alzheimer’s Disease and Dementia Leadership Council Holds Inaugural Meeting
Council convenes at the New York Academy of Sciences to discuss strategies for tackling barriers to translation in dementia.
Posted 11/28/2011

"NEW YORK, November 23, 2011- The newly created Alzheimer's Disease and Dementia Leadership Council gathered for its inaugural meeting at the New York Academy of Sciences on Tuesday, November 15. The leadership council, consisting of key opinion leaders in industry, academia, and government, is charged with creating strategic objectives for the Academy's Translational Science Initiative, which aims to accelerate the transfer of basic scientific discoveries into new methods for diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, initially focused on Alzheimer's disease and dementia."

Read the full NYAS press release

From the One Mind for Research organization: Read the press release

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Elan and University of Cambridge to Create Neurodegenerative Research Institute

Elan to create research centre with Cambridge University
Sun Nov 27, 2011 4:14am EST

"(Reuters) - Elan Corp Plc has signed an agreement with Britain's Cambridge University to create a research center focused on therapies for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, the Dublin-headquartered biotech group said on Sunday."

Read the full article

Addendum (28 November 2011):

From Cambirdge Business Media:
28 November 2011 12:32
$10m neuroscience drug discovery centre for Cambridge
Lautaro Vargas
Read the full article

Friday, November 25, 2011

Mind Wandering, Creativity, and Brain Function

CBC Radio's "Spark" show's Nora Young discusses this topic on its 30 October 2011 show.

Dr. Kalina Christoff, an assistant professor in the Psychology department and the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia, is interviewed.

Available as a podcast from the show's webpage.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI)

A new post at the New York Times blog, "The New Old Age":

November 23, 2011, 12:18 PM
It’s Mild Cognitive Impairment. Now What?

"How would you react to a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment — memory problems that allow you to continue normal daily activities, but presage an increased likelihood of developing Alzheimer’s disease within a few years?"

Read the full post

FDA: Insomnia Drug Approval

From the FDA:

For Immediate Release: Nov. 23, 2011

FDA approves first insomnia drug for middle-of-the-night waking followed by difficulty returning to sleep


The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Intermezzo (zolpidem tartrate sublingual tablets) for use as needed to treat insomnia characterized by middle-of-the-night waking followed by difficulty returning to sleep.

This is the first time the FDA has approved a drug for this condition. Intermezzo should only be used when a person has at least four hours of bedtime remaining. It should not be taken if alcohol has been consumed or with any other sleep aid.

Insomnia is a common condition in which a person has trouble falling or staying asleep. It can range from mild to severe, depending on how often it occurs and for how long. Insomnia can cause excessive daytime sleepiness and lack of energy. It also can make a person feel anxious, depressed, or irritable. People with insomnia may have trouble focusing on tasks, paying attention, learning, and remembering.

Zolpidem tartrate was first approved in the United States in 1992 as the drug Ambien. Intermezzo is a lower dose formulation of zolpidem. The recommended and maximum dose of Intermezzo is 1.75 milligrams for women and 3.5 mg for men, taken once per night. The recommended dose for women is lower because women clear zolpidem from the body at a lower rate than men.

“For people whose insomnia causes them to wake in middle of the night with difficulty returning to sleep, this new medication offers a safer choice than taking a higher dose of zolpidem upon waking,” said Robert Temple, M.D., deputy center director for clinical science in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “With this lower dose there is less risk of a person having too much drug in the body upon waking, which can cause dangerous drowsiness and impair driving.”

Intermezzo was studied in two clinical trials involving more than 370 patients. In the studies, patients taking the drug had a shorter time to fall back asleep after waking compared to people taking an inactive pill (placebo). The most commonly reported adverse reactions in the clinical trials were headache, nausea and fatigue.

Like other sleep medicines, Intermezzo may cause serious side effects, including getting out of bed while not fully awake and doing an activity that you do not know you are doing or do not remember having done. Reported activities while under the influence of sleep medicines include driving a car, making and eating food, having sex, talking on the phone, and sleep walking—without knowing at the time or remembering later. Chances of such activity increase if a person has consumed alcohol or taken other medicines that make them sleepy.

Intermezzo is a federally controlled substance because it can be abused or lead to dependence.

Intermezzo is made by Transcept Pharmaceuticals Inc. of Port Richmond, Calif.


Read the full press release

Monday, November 21, 2011

Science Weekly Podcast: Understanding the Brain

This week's Science Weekly podcast from The Guardian includes a report about the Society for Neuroscience (SfN) annual conference ("the brainiest science conference on the planet") and a report about dementia.

Listen to the podcast here

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Hippocampal Atrophy

Hippocampal Subregions are Differentially Affected in the Progression to Alzheimer's Disease
Anat Rec (Hoboken). 2011 Nov 18;
Greene SJ, Killiany RJ,


Atrophy within the hippocampus (HP) as measured by magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is a promising biomarker for the progression to Alzheimer's disease (AD). Subregions of the HP along the longitudinal axis have been found to demonstrate unique function, as well as undergo differential changes in the progression to AD. Little is known of relationships between such HP subregions and other potential biomarkers, such as neuropsychological (NP), genetic, and cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) beta amyloid and tau measures. The purpose of this study was to subdivide the hippocampus to determine how the head, body, and tail were affected in normal control, mild cognitively impaired, and AD subjects, and investigate relationships with HP subregions and other potential biomarkers. MRI scans of 120 participants of the Alzheimer's Disease Neuroimaging Initiative were processed using FreeSurfer, and the HP was subdivided using 3D Slicer. Each subregion was compared among groups, and correlations were used to determine relationships with NP, genetic, and CSF measures. Results suggest that HP subregions are undergoing differential atrophy in AD, and demonstrate unique relationships with NP and CSF data. Discriminant function analyses revealed that these regions, when combined with NP and CSF measures, were able to classify by diagnostic group, and classify MCI subjects who would and would not progress to AD within 12 months. Anat Rec,, 2011. © 2011 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

PMID: 22095921 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wellcome Trust Blog: "What I Learned at the BBC"

An interesting post on the Wellcome Trust Blog:

What I Learned at the BBC
By Johanna Hoog
18 November 2011

A look at how science gets on television.

Read the post

Friday, November 18, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Disease

Increasing the diagnostic accuracy of medial temporal lobe atrophy in Alzheimer's disease
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. 2011;25(3):477-90
Jacobs HI, Van Boxtel MP, van der Elst W, Burgmans S, Smeets F, Gronenschild EH, Verhey FR, Uylings HB, Jolles J


Medial temporal lobe (MTL) atrophy is considered to be one of the most important predictors of Alzheimer's disease (AD). This study investigates whether atrophy in parietal and prefrontal areas increases the predictive value of MTL atrophy in three groups of different cognitive status. Seventy-five older adults were classified as cognitively stable (n = 38) or cognitively declining (n = 37) after three years follow-up. At follow-up, the grey matter of the MTL, inferior prefrontal cortex (IPC), and inferior parietal lobule (IPL) was delineated on MRI scans. Six years later, a dementia assessment resulted in distinguishing and separating a third group (n = 9) who can be considered as preclinical AD cases at scan time. Ordinal logistic regressions analysis showed that the left and right MTL, as well as the right IPC and IPL accurately predicted group membership. Receiver Operating Curves showed that the MTL was best in distinguishing cognitively stable from cognitively declining individuals. The accuracy of the differentiation between preclinical AD and cognitively stable participants improved when MTL and IPL volumes were combined, while differentiating preclinical AD and cognitively declined participants was accomplished most accurately by the combined volume of all three areas. We conclude that depending on the current cognitive status of an individual, adding IPL or IPC atrophy improved the accuracy of predicting conversion to AD by up to 22%. Diagnosis of preclinical AD may lead to more false positive outcomes if only the MTL atrophy is considered.

PMID: 21471642 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Cognition in Depression

A meta-analysis of cognitive deficits in first-episode Major Depressive Disorder
Journal of Affective Disorders. 2011 Nov 14;
Lee RS, Hermens DF, Porter MA, Redoblado-Hodge MA


BACKGROUND: Recurrent-episode Major Depressive Disorder (MDD) is associated with a number of neuropsychological deficits. To date, less is known about whether these are present in the first-episode. The current aim was to systematically evaluate the literature on first-episode MDD to determine whether cognition may be a feasible target for early identification and intervention. METHODS: Electronic database searches were conducted to examine neuropsychological studies in adults (mean age greater than 18years old) with a first-episode of MDD. Effect sizes were pooled by cognitive domain. Using meta-regression techniques, demographic and clinical factors potentially influencing heterogeneity of neuropsychological outcome were also investigated. RESULTS: The 15 independent samples reviewed yielded data for 644 patients with a mean age of 39.36years (SD=10.21). Significant cognitive deficits were identified (small to medium effect sizes) for psychomotor speed, attention, visual learning and memory, and all aspects of executive functioning. Symptom remission, inpatient status, antidepressant use, age and educational attainment, each significantly contributed to heterogeneity in effect sizes in at least one cognitive domain. LIMITATIONS: Reviewed studies were limited by small sample sizes and often did not report important demographic and clinical characteristics of patients. CONCLUSIONS: The current meta-analysis was the first to systematically demonstrate reduced neuropsychological functioning in first-episode MDD. Psychomotor speed and memory functioning were associated with clinical state, whereas attention and executive functioning were more likely trait-markers. Demographic factors were also associated with heterogeneity across studies. Overall, cognitive deficits appear to be feasible early markers and targets for early intervention in MDD.PMID: 22088608

[PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Carl Zimmer on the Blood-Brain Barrier

On the Discover Magazine website:

Maybe You Do Need a Hole in Your Head—to Let the Medicine In
Carl Zimmer
November 2011
Read the article

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Upcoming Event: National Academy of Neuropsychology (16-19 Nov 2011, Florida)

Here is the conference homepage to the National Academy of Neuropsychology's (NAN) annual conference, taking place this week in Florida:

Conference Homepage

Monday, November 14, 2011

Epilepsy News

A press release from the NIH:

Ultrathin flexible brain implant offers unique look at seizures in NIH-funded research
13 November 2011


Researchers funded by the National Institutes of Health have developed a flexible brain implant that could one day be used to treat epileptic seizures. In animal studies, the researchers used the device — a type of electrode array that conforms to the brain's surface — to take an unprecedented look at the brain activity underlying seizures.

"Someday, these flexible arrays could be used to pinpoint where seizures start in the brain and perhaps to shut them down," said Brian Litt, M.D., the principal investigator and an associate professor of neurology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine in Philadelphia. The findings appear in this month's Nature Neuroscience. The team will also discuss their findings at the 2011 Society for Neuroscience meeting, Nov. 12-16 in Washington, D.C.

"This group's work reflects a confluence of skills and advances in electrical engineering, materials science and neurosurgery," said Story Landis, Ph.D., director of NIH's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), which helped fund the work. "These flexible electrode arrays could significantly expand surgical options for patients with drug-resistant epilepsy."


Read the full press release

Podcast: The Guardian's Science Weekly: "The Inscrutable Brain"

This week's Science Weekly podcast from The Guardian includes a segment called The Inscrutable Brain.


"On this week's show Alok Jha meets science writer Bryan Appleyard to discuss his new book The Brain is Wider than the Sky: Why Simple Solutions Don't Work in a Complex World. It's "part memoir and part reportage" on what he sees as our tendency to oversimplify the complexity of the human experience – particularly in the field of neuroscience – and misunderstand the limits of science."


Listen to the podcast

Friday, November 11, 2011


From a New York Times blog:

Preventing Hospital Delirium
November 11, 2011, 4:09 PM

Read the full blog entry

TC-5214 Depression Phase III Results

From Fierce Biotech:

Key AZ/Targacept depression drug flunks first Phase III test
By John Carroll
November 8, 2011 — 6:49am ET


"The high-profile depression drug TC-5214 has failed the first in a string of Phase III studies, dealing AstraZeneca's struggling R&D operation another stinging setback and walloping Targacept with a meltdown in its share value this morning."


Read the full article

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Neuropsychological Rehabilitation for Multiple Sclerosis

Neuropsychological rehabilitation for multiple sclerosis
Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;11:CD009131
Rosti-Otajärvi EM, Hämäläinen PI


BACKGROUND: Cognitive deficits are a common manifestation in multiple sclerosis (MS) and have a wide effect on the patient's quality of life. Alleviation of the harmful effects caused by these deficits should be a major goal of MS research and practice.

OBJECTIVES: The aim of this review was to evaluate the effects of neuropsychological/cognitive rehabilitation in MS by conducting a systematic review.

SEARCH STRATEGY: A systematic literature search was carried out on reports drawn from Cochrane MS Group Specialised Register (To October 2010), Evidence-based medicine (EBM) reviews (To September 2010), MEDLINE (January 1950 to September 2010), EMBASE (1974 to September 2010), PsycINFO (January 1806 to September 2010), WEB OF SCIENCE (WOS) (January 1986 to September 2010), CINAHL (1982 to September 2010), and identified from the references in these reports.

SELECTION CRITERIA: Randomised Controlled Trials (RCTs) and quasi-randomised trials evaluating the effects of neuropsychological rehabilitation in MS compared to other interventions or no intervention at all and employing neuropsychological rehabilitation methods and outcome measures were included.

DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS: Two review authors individually judged the relevance, risk of bias, and content of the included studies. Results were combined quantitatively with meta-analyses according to the intervention type: 1) Cognitive training and 2) Cognitive training combined with other neuropsychological rehabilitation methods. In addition, narrative presentation was used in reporting the results of those studies which were inappropriate to be included in the meta-analysis.

MAIN RESULTS: Fourteen studies (770 MS patients) fulfilled the inclusion criteria. On the basis of these studies, low level evidence was found that neuropsychological rehabilitation reduces cognitive symptoms in MS. Cognitive training was found to improve memory span (standardised mean difference 0.54 (95% confidence interval 0.2 to 0.88, P = 0.002)), working memory (standardised mean difference 0.33 (95% confidence interval 0.09 to 0.57, P = 0.006)), and immediate visual memory (standardised mean difference 0.32 (95% confidence interval 0.04 to 0.6, P = 0.02)). There was no evidence of an effect of cognitive training combined with other neuropsychological rehabilitation methods on cognitive or emotional functions. The overall quality as well as the comparability of the included studies were relatively low due to methodological limitations and heterogeneity of outcome measures. Although most of the pooled results in the meta-analyses yielded no significant findings, twelve of the fourteen studies showed some evidence of positive effects when the studies were individually analysed.

AUTHORS' CONCLUSIONS: The review indicates low level evidence for the positive effects of neuropsychological rehabilitation in MS. Interventions included in the review were heterogeneous. Consequently, clinical inferences can basically be drawn from single studies. Therefore, new trials may change the strength and direction of the evidence. To further strengthen the evidence, well-designed high quality studies are needed. In this systematic review, recommendations are given for improving the quality of future studies on the effects of neuropsychological rehabilitation in MS.

PMID: 22071863 [PubMed - in process]

Dr. Brenda Milner

A new interview with Dr. Milner:

The Daily talks to McGill researcher Brenda Milner
Canadian neuroscientist honoured with Greengard Prize for achievements of women in science
The McGill Daily
Published on November 10, 2011

Read the full interview

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: A Curious Dual-Task Study

Decrease in gait variability while counting backward: a marker of "magnet effect"?
Journal of Neural Transmission. 2010 Oct; 117(10): 1171-1176
Beauchet O, Allali G, Poujol L, Barthelemy JC, Roche F, Annweiler C


Counting backward (CB) and walking are both rhythmic tasks. An improvement of CB performance has been reported while walking, and has been interpreted as a "magnet effect" which is the tendency of biological oscillators to attract each other. The objective of this study was to compare the coefficient of variation (CoV) of stride time (ST) and the number of enumerated figures while single- and dual-tasking between older adults who increased and decreased their CoV of ST while CB. The number of enumerated figures and the CoV of ST under single-task (i.e., CB while sitting or walking alone) and dual-task (i.e., CB while walking) were measured among 100 community-dwelling older subjects (mean, 69.8 ± 0.07 years). Subjects were separated into two groups according to the dual-task-related changes in CoV of ST (i.e., either above or below the mean value of CoV of ST under single-task). Seventeen participants decreased their CoV of ST while CB compared to usual walking (2.6 ± 1.6% vs. 2.0 ± 1.3%, P < 0.001), while 83 increased their CoV of ST (1.7 ± 0.6% vs 3.4 ± 2.3%, P < 0.001). The subjects who decreased their CoV of ST had a tendency to enumerate more figures while walking compared to sitting (20.9 ± 6.3 vs 19.4 ± 4.7, P = 0.046) unlike those who increased their CoV of ST (20.3 ± 5.0 vs 21.8 ± 6.0 while sitting, P = 0.001). We found that most of subjects had worse gait and CB performance while dual-tasking. Conversely, a limited number of subjects improved significantly their gait performance and simultaneously had a tendency to improve their CB performance while walking compared to sitting. This behavior was observed only among subjects with the highest gait variability and could be interpreted as an implicit strategy based on the "magnet effect".

PMID: 20809070 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

The measurement of everyday cognition: Development and validation of a short form of the Everyday Cognition scales
Alzheimers Dement. 2011 Nov; 7(6): 593-601.
Tomaszewski Farias S, Mungas D, Harvey DJ, Simmons A, Reed BR, Decarli C


BACKGROUND: This study describes the development and validation of a shortened version of the Everyday Cognition (ECog) scales [Tomaszewski Farias et al. Neuropsychology 2008;22:531-44], an informant-rated questionnaire designed to detect cognitive and functional decline.

METHODS: External, convergent, and divergent validities and internal consistency were examined. Data were derived from informant ratings of 907 participants who were either cognitively normal, had mild cognitive impairment (MCI), or had dementia.

RESULTS: Twelve items were included in the shortened version (ECog-12). The ECog-12 strongly correlated with established functional measures and neuropsychological scores, only weakly with age and education, and demonstrated high internal consistency. The ECog-12 showed excellent discrimination between the dementia and normal groups (area under the receiver operator characteristic curve = 0.95, CI = 0.94-0.97), and showed promise in discriminating normal older adults from those with any cognitive impairment (i.e., MCI or dementia). Discrimination between the MCI and normal groups was poor.

CONCLUSIONS: The ECog-12 shows promise as a clinical tool for assisting clinicians in identifying individuals with dementia.

PMID: 22055976 [PubMed - in process]

Monday, November 07, 2011

Tractometry and The Psychology Dept at Cardiff University

A new word (for me, at least) for a new discipline of study in neuropsychology and neuroscience. Best wishes, Prof. Jones!

Investigating the brain’s white matter
Cardiff University News Centre
07 November 2011


"Pioneering brain research at Cardiff has received a major boost with the winning of the University’s first prestigious Investigator Award from the Wellcome Trust.

"Professor Derek Jones, Director of Cardiff University Brain Repair Imaging Centre (CUBRIC), has received the Award to develop the new discipline of Tractometry."


Read the full article

Saturday, November 05, 2011

Dear Reader

Dear Reader,

If you are reading this blog and find that there are pop-up ads or framed ads around the edges or in a different format than you see if you were to use the blog's direct URL, then you might be viewing the blog through some cookie-directed third-party vendor (especially if you first accessed this blog via a third party not of the scope of a Google or a Twitter or a Yahoo. etc.).

If this happens to you at this blog (or, indeed, at other websites that you visit), you might want to try cleaning your collection of cookies and re-entering the site directly from the BrainBlog URL.

Hopefully, this hasn't happened. However, I have heard from some other bloggers that their readers have had recent problems of this type.

Best wishes,


The Cerebellum and Neuropsychological Function

This sounds like a good read:

O'Halloran CJ, Kinsella GJ, & Storey E. (2011). The cerebellum and neuropsychological functioning: A critical review Journal of Clinical and Experimental Neuropsychology..

Friday, November 04, 2011

Upcoming Event: SfN's Neuroscience 2011 (12-16 Nov, Washington, DC)

Here is the website, chock full of information, for the Society for Neuroscience's annual meeting, Neuroscience 2011:

Neuroscience 2011

Computerized Cognitive Testing: A New CogState Paper

Reliability of repeated cognitive assessment of dementia using a brief computerized battery
American Journal of Alzheimers Disease and Other Dementias. 2011 Jun; 26(4): 326-333.
Hammers D, Spurgeon E, Ryan K, Persad C, Heidebrink J, Barbas N, Albin R, Frey K, Darby D, Giordani B


OBJECTIVE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the short-term stability and reliability of a brief computerized cognitive battery in established dementia types.
METHOD: Patients were administered the computerized battery twice with administrations approximately 2 hours apart, with intervening conventional neuropsychological tests. Patients were classified clinically, via consensus conference, as healthy controls (n = 23), mild cognitive impairment (n = 20), Alzheimer's disease (n = 52), dementia with Lewy Bodies ([DLB], n = 10), or frontotemporal dementia (n = 9).
RESULTS: Minimal practice effects were evident across Cog-State test administrations. Small magnitude improvements were seen across all groups on a working memory task, and healthy controls showed a mild practice effect on the accuracy of associative learning.
CONCLUSIONS: In established dementia, administration of the CogState tasks appears sensitive to cognitive impairment in dementia. Repeat administration also provided acceptable stability and test-retest reliability with minimal practice effects at short test-retest intervals despite intervening cognitive challenges.

PMID: 21636581 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

The Purpose of the Brain

A TEDtalk by University of Cambridge neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert:


From the webpage:

"Neuroscientist Daniel Wolpert starts from a surprising premise: the brain evolved, not to think or feel, but to control movement. In this entertaining, data-rich talk he gives us a glimpse into how the brain creates the grace and agility of human motion."

More on Dr. Brenda Milner's Newest Award

Pearl Meister Greengard Prize website

From the Montreal Gazette:

Montreal scientist wins Pearl Meister Greengard Prize
Montreal Gazette
November 3, 2011

"Neuropsychologist Dr. Brenda Milner was presented the Pearl Meister Greengard Prize at an award ceremony at Rockefeller University in New York on Thursday."

Read the full article

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Disease

Relationships Between Behavioral Syndromes and Cognitive Domains in Alzheimer Disease: The Impact of Mood and Psychosis
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2011 Nov 1;
Koppel J, Goldberg TE, Gordon ML, Huey E, Davies P, Keehlisen L, Huet S, Christen E, Greenwald BS


OBJECTIVES:: Behavioral disturbances occur in nearly all Alzheimer disease (AD) patients together with an array of cognitive impairments. Prior investigations have failed to demonstrate specific associations between them, suggesting an independent, rather than shared, pathophysiology. The objective of this study was to reexamine this issue using an extensive cognitive battery together with a sensitive neurobehavioral and functional rating scale to correlate behavioral syndromes and cognitive domains across the spectrum of impairment in dementia. DESIGN:: Cross-sectional study of comprehensive cognitive and behavioral ratings in subjects with AD and mild cognitive impairment. SETTING:: Memory disorders research center. PARTICIPANTS:: Fifty subjects with AD and 26 subjects with mild cognitive impairment; and their caregivers. MEASUREMENTS:: Cognitive rating scales administered included the Mini-Mental State Examination; the Modified Mini-Mental State Examination; the Boston Naming Test; the Benton Visual Retention Test; the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer's Disease Neuropsychology Assessment; the Controlled Oral Word Test; the Wechsler Memory Scale logical memory I and logical memory II task; the Wechsler Memory Scale-Revised digit span; the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Revised digit symbol task; and the Clock Drawing Task together with the Clinical Dementia Rating Scale and the Neuropsychiatric Inventory. RESULTS:: Stepwise regression of cognitive domains with symptom domains revealed significant associations of mood with impaired executive function/speed of processing (Δr = 0.22); impaired working memory (Δr = 0.05); impaired visual memory (Δr = 0.07); and worsened Clinical Dementia Rating Scale (Δr = 0.08). Psychosis was significantly associated with impaired working memory (Δr = 0.13). CONCLUSIONS:: Mood symptoms appear to impact diverse cognitive realms and to compromise functional performance.

PMID: 22048323 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]


The BBC Newspod podcast of the 1st of November discusses schizophrenia a hundred years on.

It occurs in the final four minutes of the podcast, available from the BBC website and from iTunes as a free download.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Science Communication Conference 2012

Science Communication Conference 2012
Wellcome Trust Blog
31 October 2011
by Mun-Keat Looi


"The British Science Association, in partnership with the Wellcome Trust, have opened a call for proposals to run sessions at the 2012 Science Communication Conference.

"The conference will again be held at Kings Place, London, on Mon 14 & Tues 15 May 2012 and address key issues facing science communicators. It’s always a good opportunity to network, share ideas and good practice."


Read the full blog entry

Cognitive Enhancing Drugs

From The University of Cambridge:

The Ethics of Smart Drugs
31 October 2011
Read the full article here

Upcoming Videocast: The Neuroimaging of Pain (07 Nov 2011)

From a press release from the NIH:

Stanford researcher to speak at NIH on the role of neuroimaging in understanding pain

NCCAM presents Opening Windows to the Brain: Lessons Learned in the Neuroimaging of Pain


Sean Mackey, M.D., Ph.D., chief of the Pain Management Division and associate professor of anesthesia and pain management at the Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford, Calif., will be the featured speaker for the third annual Stephen E. Straus Distinguished Lecture in the Science of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Dr. Mackey’s lecture is entitled Opening Windows to the Brain: Lessons Learned in the Neuroimaging of Pain.

Millions of Americans suffer from pain that is chronic, severe, and not easily managed. People who suffer from chronic pain may take various prescription and non-prescription medications; these do not always provide adequate relief and may have unwanted side effects. As a result, people sometimes turn to non-pharmacological strategies for pain management. Dr. Mackey will discuss the role of neuroimaging and how it provides a picture for the principal mechanisms involved in pain processing, perception, and plasticity. He will also discuss the role of neural (brain) reward systems in regulating pain, and the potential future for non-pharmacological strategies to reduce the experience of pain.

Monday, Nov. 7, 2011, 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. EST

National Institutes of Health, Building 10, 10 Center Drive, Bethesda, Md. Lecture: Lipsett Amphitheater. It will also be videocast at when the event is live.


Read the full release