Monday, December 31, 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Neurobollocks: Molly Crockett's TED Talk

Dr. Molly Crockett's TED talk is a great addition to this season's blowback against neurobollocks. It is good viewing!

Molly Crockett - Beware Neuro-bunk
View Molly Crockett's TED Talk

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Telemedicine and Dementia

Telemedicine in a rural memory disorder clinic-remote management of patients with dementia.
Canadian Geriatrics Journal 2012 Dec;15(4):96-100. doi: 10.5770/cgj.15.28. Epub 2012 Dec 4.
Azad N, Amos S, Milne K, Power B.


There are many reasons to develop telemedicine clinics for assessment and management of dementia. Time constraints, location, and poor weather conditions can all impact on the ability of patients and providers to attend rural clinics. The utility of telemedicine in the diagnosis of dementia and subsequent follow-up appears promising in the literature, as it provides a viable means of assessing cognition in patients in remote areas with limited access to medical specialists.
This study explored the feasibility of introducing a telemedicine memory disorder follow-up clinic in a rural community. The evaluation of 32 clinic sessions found high levels of satisfaction, with over 90% of physicians and patients indicating that they'd be willing to use video conferencing again. Physicians overwhelmingly felt the sessions provided enough information to assist in clinical decision-making (96%), and patients and CCAC Case Managers/Geriatric Assessors felt able to present the same information by video conferencing as in person (92% for both groups). The telemedicine clinic provided a number of favourable results such as: timely access to specialist care in the patient's own community; fewer cancelled clinics; enhanced care transitions between the follow-up clinic and primary care with the support of a case manager/geriatric assessor; and enhanced follow-up for a complex patient population. In addition, the telemedicine initiative freed up spaces for "in-person" clinics. This allowed them to focus on new patient assessments.
The high satisfaction rates amongst all key stakeholders affirm that telemedicine is a viable option and worth continued efforts at shaping and developing, particularly in regions where local physician specialists are a scare resource.

PMID: 23259023 [PubMed - in process]

Friday, December 21, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Disease

Neuropsychological Signs of Alzheimer's Disease 8 Years Prior to Diagnosis
Journal of Alzheimer's Disease, 2012 Dec 19.
Schmid NS, Taylor KI, Foldi NS, Berres M, & Monsch AU.


We investigated the earliest neuropsychological changes in Alzheimer's disease (AD) by comparing the baseline performance of 29 individuals who subsequently developed AD within an average of 7.91 ± 2.70 years with 29 pairwise-matched individuals who remained cognitively healthy (NC). We hypothesized that subtle, qualitative changes in cognition precede clinical AD by several years, and therefore examined subjective as well as standard quantitative measures of cognition, in addition to subjective estimates of mood and medical status. Participants were selected from the 825 members of the longitudinal BASEL study (BAsel Study on the ELderly), all of whom had been ApoE-genotyped and received comprehensive bi-annual neuropsychological assessments. Within 13 years, 29 were diagnosed with probable AD. Each individual who progressed to AD (AD-P) was pairwise matched to a NC participant based on age, education, demographic status, observation period, and, importantly, ApoE genotype. A regression analysis using the lasso technique identified which of 115 neuropsychological variables best discriminated baseline NC from baseline AD-P performance. This analysis yielded eleven neuropsychological variables that optimally discriminated the two groups (correct classification rate: 60.4%): 1) Intrusions and 2) response bias in verbal learning and memory tasks; 3) delayed figure recall; 4-6) three Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale (WAIS) Block Design subtest variables; 7-8) number of errors and repetitions on letter fluency; and 9-11) self-report of memory problems, a feeling of sadness, and cardiac problems. These results suggest that the preclinical neuropsychological cascade to AD includes subtle but identifiable qualitative impairments in verbal and visual memory, visuospatial processing, error control, and subjective neuropsychological complaints.

PMID: 23254631 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, December 20, 2012

CNS Drug Development

A short but informative blogpost earlier today from the blog, In The Pipeline:

CNS Drug Development Claims Another Victim
Read the post

"Useful Neuropsychology Texts" from Neuropsych Bookworm

A blog entry from the 13th of December from Neuropsych Bookworm:

"Useful Neuropsychology Texts"
Read the blog entry

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease

From today's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

A Life Hijacked: Alzheimer's takes bigger toll on former pilot
November 25, 2012 12:08 am
By Gary Rotstein / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
<a href="">Read the article</a>

Saturday, November 17, 2012

"Redefining Dementia in Denmark" From the CBC

The CBC show, "The Sunday Edition," has an excellent feature 0n 18 November 2012 called "Redefining Dementia in Denmark."

It can be heard at the link below and via their podcast.

The Sunday Edition

Saturday, September 15, 2012


From the New Statesman

Your brain on pseudoscience: the rise of popular neurobollocks
By Steven Poole
New Statesman
06 September 2012

"The “neuroscience” shelves in bookshops are groaning. But are the works of authors such as Malcolm Gladwell and Jonah Lehrer just self-help books dressed up in a lab coat?"

Read the article

Friday, August 31, 2012


Effects of Delirium Are Found to Linger
29 August 2012

Read the full article

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

A Nice Article about Dr. Peter Donovick

Peter Donovick ’61 Uncovers the Mysteries of the Brain
By Tiffany Bentley
Lafayette (
09 August 2012

Read the article

Thursday, August 09, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: SAMP8

Hippocampal neuron loss is correlated with cognitive deficits in SAMP8 mice.
Neurol Sci. 2012 Aug 8;
Authors: Li G, Cheng H, Zhang X, Shang X, Xie H, Zhang X, Yu J, Han J


The objective of this study is to examine whether neuron loss occurs in SAMP8 and whether neuron loss is correlated with cognitive deficits of these mice. Neuronal loss is considered as one of the most important pathological hallmarks of Alzheimer disease (AD). In addition to the early-onset, irreversible, severe deficits of learning and memory, SAMP8 mice show spontaneous age-related neurodegenerative changes and other characteristics seen in AD patients, such as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles. However, it is still unknown whether neuron loss occurs in SAMP8 and whether neuron loss is correlated with cognitive deficits of these mice. We employed 8-month-old SAMP8 and SAMR1 mice to investigate the cognitive function and neuron numbers. The behaviors were examined by the grading score of senescence and Morris water maze (MWM) test, the neuron number in hippocampus was estimated by the optical fractionator technique. The grading score of senescence and MWM test demonstrated that SAMP8 exhibited notable age-related changes in appearance and cognitive function. Moreover, severe hippocampal neuron loss was found in SAMP8 as determined by the optical fractionator stereological method. Compared to SAMR1, the neuron number of CA1, CA3 and DG in SAMP8 was reduced by 15.6, 19.8 and 20.2 %, respectively, and the neuron loss in hippocampus was associated with cognitive deficits. Collectively, these results suggest that hippocampal neuronal loss is well correlated with learning and memory deficits in SAMP8 and SAMP8 represents an important mouse model for AD.

PMID: 22872064 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Alzheimer's Disease: A Wrap for BAP

Trials for Alzheimer’s Drug Halted After Poor Results
The New York Times
06 August 2012

Read full article


Corporate Press Release: Read the release

Commentary from the In The Pipeline blog: In The Pipeline

Commentary from Pharmalot: Pharmalot

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease: Negative Bapineuzumab Findings in Phase III Trial

Critical reading for those interested in Alzheimer's clinical trials: first results from the BAP Phase III program. The link includes additional links to a New York Times article and a company press release.

From FierceBiotech:

UPDATED: Pfizer, J&J Alzheimer's drug bapineuzumab flunks out in big PhIII
July 23, 2012
By John Carroll

Read the full article

Examine media reports this week for these results and accompanying analysis and commentary. Those who have been following this clinical-trial program should examine the corporate press release for additional details about the other three Phase III trials in this program (which were not part of today's results).

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Disease

Does pharmacological treatment of neuropsychiatric symptoms in Alzheimer's disease relieve caregiver burden?
Drugs Aging. 2012 Mar 1;29(3):167-179
Levy K, Lanctôt KL, Farber SB, Li A, Herrmann N


Caregiving for patients with Alzheimer's disease (AD) is associated with negative outcomes for the caregiver such as depression, anxiety, medical illness, poorer general health and mortality, which further translate into adverse outcomes for the patient. The burden experienced by caregivers of AD patients, both professional and informal, has been found to be positively related to the presence and severity of the patients' neuropsychiatric symptoms, also referred to as the behavioural and psychological symptoms of dementia (BPSD). As such, management of BPSD may help in alleviating caregiver burden. The purpose of this review is to summarize the current literature on the effects of pharmacological interventions for BPSD on the burden of AD patient caregivers. A literature review was conducted, using keywords related to dementia, drug treatment, caregiving and BPSD. Studies were included if they were a randomized controlled trial of a currently marketed drug in AD patients, and included a measure of caregiver burden and BPSD. Twenty-four articles met the eligibility criteria for this review. Cognitive enhancers (cholinesterase inhibitors, memantine) were associated with decreased caregiver burden in some studies, though it is unclear whether the improvements were related to changes in BPSD or cognition and function. Antipsychotics have been associated with decreased caregiver burden in some studies, though variability may be related to disease severity. Other drug treatments, including antidepressants, have also been shown to have inconsistent effects on caregiver burden. Besides the small number of clinical trials that included a measure of caregiver burden, there is large variability in the literature due to differing conceptualizations of caregiver burden and the lack of a recognized gold standard for caregiving burden assessment. It is therefore difficult to draw strong conclusions about whether the pharmacological management of BPSD relieves caregiver burden. Given the importance of caregiver burden and its negative consequences for the caregiver and the patient, future clinical trials should pay more attention to this crucial outcome.

PMID: 22350526 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease: Phase II Gammagard Findings

A report from the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Vancouver:

Alzheimer's drug IVIg could halt sufferers' decline
Trial involving 16 patients excites scientists by suggesting treatment prevented deterioration of memory and cognitive skills
Alexandra Topping and agencies
The Guardian
Wednesday 18 July 2012 10.21 BST


"A new treatment for Alzheimer's could halt deterioration in people with early symptoms of the disease, a limited human trial has shown. The treatment, called the "most exciting drug in development" by scientists, is currently prescribed to people with immune system problems but could have a significant impact on the quality of life of Alzheimer's sufferers, the trial suggests.

"The drug, intravenous immunoglobulin (IVIg), prevented the decline in cognitive skills, memory and the ability to live independently, among patients with mild to moderate symptoms of Alzheimer's. Those who took a placebo continued to decline. The small number of patients who took the highest dose of the drug for three years showed no decline in memory."


Read the full article


Here is the AAIC press release: Read the AAIC press release

Monday, July 16, 2012

Dr. Alan Baddeley Awarded

Lifetime Award goes to memory expert
The British Psychological Society


"Professor Alan Baddeley FRS CBE from the University of York has received this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award from the [British Psychoogical] Society’s Research Board."


Read article

Friday, July 13, 2012

Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) 2012: Overview

Here is a link to the official AAIC Overview document:

Here is the current schedule of press briefings (Pacific Time) for the conference, as cited on the conference website:

Sunday, July 15
7:30 a.m. Gait disturbances and Alzheimer's disease risk/early detection

Monday, July 16
7:30 a.m. Irregular sleep patterns affect cognitive function and dementia risk

Tuesday, July 17
7:30 a.m. Alzheimer's therapies update

Wednesday, July 18
7:30 a.m. AAIC 2012 Developing Topics - including several clinical trials

If you are not attending the conference, you might anticipate being able to access media reports on these topics along this schedule, in addition to overall media coverage of the event.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Forthcoming: Important Alzheimer's AAIC Conference Begins this Weekend in Vancouver

Beginning on the 14th, the Alzheimer's Association International Conference (AAIC) in Vancouver. Visit the website for all information:

All eyes and ears will be on clinical trials findings!

However, even if you are a student, this is an excellent annual conference to attend and you will find great interactions with others. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease

In Preventing Alzheimer’s, Mutation May Aid Drug Quest
The New York Times
11 July 2012


Two decades ago, researchers began discovering rare gene mutations that cause Alzheimer’s disease in all who inherit them. Now, they have found the opposite: a mutation that prevents the devastating brain disorder. The protective mutation also is very rare — it is not the reason most people do not develop Alzheimer’s disease. But what intrigues researchers is how it protects the brain. It does the reverse of what the mutations that cause Alzheimer’s do. Those mutations lead to excessive amounts of a normal substance, beta amyloid, in the brain. The protective mutation slows beta amyloid production, so people make much less.


Read the full article

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer's Disease

GOOD or BAD responder? Behavioural and neuroanatomical markers of clinical response to donepezil in dementia. Behav Neurol. 2012;25(2):61-72 Authors: Bottini G, Berlingeri M, Basilico S, Passoni S, Danelli L, Colombo N, Sberna M, Franceschi M, Sterzi R, Paulesu E


We explored the neuropsychological and neuromorphometrical differences between probable Alzheimer's disease patients showing a good or a bad response to nine months treatment with donepezil. Before treatment, the neuropsychological profile of the two patient groups was perfectly matched. By the ninth month after treatment, the BAD-responders showed a decline of the MMSE score together with a progressive impairment of executive functions. A voxel-based morphometry investigation (VBM), at the time of the second neuropsychological assessment, showed that the BAD-responders had larger grey and white matter atrophies involving the substantia innominata of Meynert bilaterally, the ventral part of caudate nuclei and the left uncinate fasciculus, brain areas belonging to the cholinergic pathways. A more widespread degeneration of the central cholinergic pathways may explain the lack of donepezil efficacy in those patients not responding to a treatment that operates on the grounds that some degree of endogeneous release of acetylcholine is still available.

PMID: 22530263 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Thursday, July 05, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

Variability in performance: Identifying early signs of future cognitive impairment. Neuropsychology. 2012 Jul;26(4):534-540. Authors: Gamaldo AA, An Y, Allaire JC, Kitner-Triolo MH, Zonderman AB.


Objective: The current study examined whether year-to-year variability in cognitive performance differ between individuals cognitively unimpaired and individuals who subsequently develop dementia. Method: Analyses included a case-control sample of Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging (BLSA; mean [M] age = 69.90, standard deviation [SD] = 8.92) participants. One hundred and 35 clinically diagnosed demented participants were matched with 135 nondemented participants based on age at initial testing and sex. Cognitive performance was examined using measures of memory, executive function, attention, language, and global mental status performance. Cognitive performance was examined from baseline to 5 years before cognitive impairment (M, assessments = 3.03, SD = 2.80). Results: As compared with unimpaired individuals, individuals diagnosed with dementia had greater variability on measures of attention, executive function, language, and semantic memory at least 5 years before the estimated onset of cognitive impairment, which may be indicative of maladaptive cognitive functioning. The dementia cases, however, had less variability on visual memory than the unimpaired group, which may suggest that these cases had more difficulty learning. Conclusions: These results demonstrate that performance variability indexed over annual or biennial visits may be useful in identifying early signs of subsequent cognitive impairment. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID: 22746310 [PubMed - in process]

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Friday, June 22, 2012

Alzheimer's: Bapineuzumab and Solanezumab

Survey shows dim faith in Lilly, Pfizer Alzheimer's drugs
Ransdell Pierson | Reuters
The Chicago Tribune
June 19, 2012


"Results from the survey of 146 investors were released late on Tuesday by Mark Schoenebaum, a pharmaceutical analyst for the investment research services group. Wall Street is eagerly awaiting results of the trials and expects huge potential sales if either of the medicines proves able to arrest the progression of the memory-robbing disease.

"Pfizer and Lilly are expected in the third quarter to disclose the main findings from large studies of their respective medicines, bapineuzumab and solanezumab. Complete data are expected to be presented at medical meetings in the fourth quarter.

"The survey responders, on average, gave solanezumab only a 14 percent chance of meeting all the primary goals of its two Phase III studies, compared with an average 21 percent probability for the two big trials of bapineuzumab, Schoenebaum said."


Read the full article

Comments by the Pharmalot blog on this report, from the 20th of June:

Read the blog entry from Pharmalot.

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Diagnostic Value of Subjective Complaints

Understanding the relation between subjective complaints and objective performance findings is always a crucial factor in clinical assessment. It is a source of debate by clinicians and researchers and a literature has developed examining the issues that are generated by the relation. Here, an example:

Lenehan ME, Klekociuk SZ, Summers MJ. Absence of a relationship between subjective memory complaint and objective memory impairment in mild cognitive impairment (MCI): is it time to abandon subjective memory complaint as an MCI diagnostic criterion? Int Psychogeriatr. 2012 May 1: 1-10. [Epub ahead of print]


Background: Subjective memory complaints are a requirement in the diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) as they are thought to indicate a decline in objective memory performance. However, recent research suggests that the relationship between subjective memory complaint and objective memory impairment is less clear. Thus, it is possible that many people without subjective memory complaints who develop Alzheimer's disease are precluded from a diagnosis of MCI.Methods: The present study examined the relationship between subjective memory complaint assessed using the Multifactorial Memory Questionnaire (MMQ) and objective memory impairment assessed using standard neuropsychological measures in cases of amnestic MCI (n = 48), non-amnestic MCI (n = 27), and unimpaired healthy participants (n = 64).Results: Correlational and regression analyses indicated that subjective memory complaints displayed a poor relationship with objective memory performance. A subsequent discriminant function analysis indicated that subjective memory complaints failed to improve the diagnostic accuracy of MCI and resulted in increased rates of false negative and false positive diagnoses.Conclusion: The results of the present study suggest that a diagnostic criterion of subjective memory complaint reduces the accuracy of MCI diagnosis, resulting in an elevated rate of false positive and false negative diagnoses. The results of this study in conjunction with recent research indicate that a criterion of subjective memory complaint should be discarded from emerging diagnostic criteria for MCI.

PMID: 22717042 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: TrkB

Boulle F, Kenis G, Cazorla M, Hamon M, Steinbusch HH, Lanfumey L, A van den Hove DL. TrkB inhibition as a therapeutic target for CNS-related disorders. Prog Neurobiol. 2012 Jun 12. [Epub ahead of print]


The interaction of brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) with its tropomyosin-related kinase receptor B (TrkB) is involved in fundamental cellular processes including neuronal proliferation, differentiation and survival as well as neurotransmitter release and synaptic plasticity. TrkB signaling has been widely associated with beneficial, trophic effects and many commonly used psychotropic drugs aim to increase BDNF levels in the brain. However, it is likely that a prolonged increased TrkB activation is observed in many pathological conditions, which may underlie the development and course of clinical symptoms. Interestingly, genetic and pharmacological studies aiming at decreasing TrkB activation in rodent models mimicking human pathology have demonstrated a promising therapeutic landscape for TrkB inhibitors in the treatment of various diseases, e.g. central nervous system (CNS) disorders and several types of cancer. Up to date, only a few selective and potent TrkB inhibitors have been developed. As such, the use of crystallography and in silico approaches to model BDNF-TrkB interaction and to generate relevant pharmacophores represents powerful tools to develop novel compounds targeting the TrkB receptor.
Copyright © 2012. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

PMID: 22705453 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Alzheimer's Disease: "How Do You Live Knowing You Might Have an Alzheimer’s Gene?"

How Do You Live Knowing You Might Have an Alzheimer’s Gene?
The New York Times
07 June 2012

Read the full article

Alzheimer's Disease: CAD106 Phase I Results

Vaccine which could help delay Alzheimer's by five years passes first test
Daily Record (UK)
By Mike Swain
09 June 2012

Read the full article

Abstract of publication in Lancet Neurology: link here

Sunday, May 27, 2012

"The Trouble With Brain Scans"

A piece today by Vaughn Bell in The Observer:

The Trouble With Brain Scans
by Vaughn Bell
The Observer
27 May 2012

"Many of the methods on which brain scan studies are based have been flawed – as one image of a dead salmon proved"

Read the full piece here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Prospective Memory

Remember to Buy Milk on the Way Home! A Meta-analytic Review of Prospective Memory in Mild Cognitive Impairment and Dementia.
Journal of the International Neuropsychological Society. 2012 May 18;:1-11
Authors: van den Berg E, Kant N, Postma A


Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to execute delayed intentions. Previous studies indicate that PM is impaired in persons with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and dementia, but the extent, nature, and cognitive correlates are unclear. A meta-analytic review was, therefore, performed (literature search 1990 to July 2011) on case-control studies on PM in dementia (10 studies, 336 patients, 505 controls) and MCI (7 studies, 225 patients, 253 controls). Differences between event-based and time-based PM and between measures of prospective and retrospective memory were examined, as well as correlations with other cognitive functions. Results showed that patients with dementia or MCI exhibit large deficits in PM (Hedges' d -1.62 [95% confidence interval -1.98 to -1.27; p < .0001] for dementia; -1.24 [-1.51 to -0.995; p < .0001] for MCI; difference dementia vs. MCI: QM = 1.94, p = .16). Impairments were comparable in size for event-based and time-based PM (p > .05), as well as for prospective and retrospective memory (p > .05). PM showed modest correlations with measures of retrospective memory (median r = 0.27) and executive functioning (median r = 0.30). PM appears a valid construct in neuropsychological assessment in patients with dementia or MCI, but more insight is needed in the optimal characteristics of PM tasks to be used in clinical practice. (JINS, 2012, 18, 1-11).

PMID: 22595831 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: "Sluggish Cognitive Tempo"

Factor Structure of a Sluggish Cognitive Tempo Scale in Clinically-Referred Children.
Journal of Abnormal Child Psychology. 2012 May 8;
Authors: Jacobson LA, Murphy-Bowman SC, Pritchard AE, Tart-Zelvin A, Zabel TA, Mahone EM


"Sluggish cognitive tempo" (SCT) is a construct hypothesized to describe a constellation of behaviors that includes daydreaming, lethargy, drowsiness, difficulty sustaining attention, and underactivity. Although the construct has been inconsistently defined, measures of SCT have shown associations with symptoms of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), particularly inattention. Thus, better characterization of SCT symptoms may help to better predict specific areas of functional difficulty in children with ADHD. The present study examined psychometric characteristics of a recently developed 14-item scale of SCT (Penny et al., Psychological Assessment 21:380-389, 2009), completed by teachers on children referred for outpatient neuropsychological assessment. Exploratory factor analysis identified three factors in the clinical sample: Sleepy/Sluggish, Slow/Daydreamy, and Low Initiation/Persistence. Additionally, SCT symptoms, especially those loading on the Sleepy/Sluggish and Slow/Daydreamy factors, correlated more strongly with inattentive than with hyperactive/impulsive symptoms, while Low Initiation/Persistence symptoms added significant unique variance (over and above symptoms of inattention) to the predictions of impairment in academic progress.

PMID: 22566025 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Amyvid Approval

From Pharmalot blog, a good read about the Amyvid approval decision:

Should FDA Have Approved Lilly Alzheimer’s Agent?
By Ed Silverman
April 9th, 2012 // 11:23 am

Read the full blog post

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Memory Program

I teach the first run tomorrow of my new 6-hr continuing-education program about Memory. Looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

FDA: Generic Lexapro

A press release from the FDA:

FDA approves first generic Lexapro to treat depression and anxiety disorder
14 March 2012

Read the full press release

Monday, March 12, 2012

Memory: BDNF and microRNAs

Making memories: How one protein does it
The JHU Gazette
12 March 2012


"Studying tiny bits of genetic material that control protein formation in the brain, Johns Hopkins scientists say that they have new clues to how memories are made and how drugs might someday be used to stop disruptions in the process that lead to mental illness and brain-wasting diseases.

"In a report published in the March 2 issue of Cell, the researchers say that certain microRNAs—genetic elements that control which proteins get made in cells—are the key to controlling the actions of so-called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or BDNF, long linked to brain cell survival, normal learning and memory boosting."

Read the full article

Saturday, March 03, 2012

Computerized Cognitive Testing

I noticed the abstract for this new paper earlier in the day. It should be a good read.

Bauer RM, Iverson GL, Cernich AN, Binder LM, Ruff RM, Naugle RI (2012). Computerized neuropsychological assessment devices: Joint position paper of the American Academy of Clinical Neuropsychology and the National Academy of Neuropsychology.
Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology (2012 Mar 1).

Neuropsychological Abstract of the Day: Alzheimer Clinical Trial

Multicenter, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Single-Ascending Dose Study of the Oral γ-Secretase Inhibitor BMS-708163 (Avagacestat): Tolerability Profile, Pharmacokinetic Parameters, and Pharmacodynamic Markers
Clin Ther. 2012 Feb 28;
Tong G, Wang JS, Sverdlov O, Huang SP, Slemmon R, Croop R, Castaneda L, Gu H, Wong O, Li H, Berman RM, Smith C, Albright CF, Dockens RC


BACKGROUND: γ-Secretase inhibitors (GSIs) are being investigated for their potential to modify the progression of Alzheimer disease based on their ability to regulate amyloid-β (Aβ) accumulation. BMS-708163 (avagacestat) is an oral GSI designed for selective inhibition of Aβ synthesis currently in development for the treatment of mild to moderate and predementia AD. In addition to the desired effect on Aβ synthesis, GSIs affect Notch processing, which is thought to mediate some toxic adverse effects reported with this drug class. Avagacestat produced up to 190-fold greater selectivity for Aβ synthesis than Notch processing in preclinical studies and may therefore produce less toxic adverse events than other less selective compounds. Presented here are the results of the first in-human study for this new GSI compound. OBJECTIVE: The goal of this study was to assess the tolerability profile, pharmacokinetic properties, and effects on pharmacodynamic markers (Aβ, trefoil factor family 3 protein, dual specificity phosphatase 6, and hairy and enhancer of split-1) of single, oral doses of avagacestat in healthy, young, male volunteers. METHODS: This was a multicenter, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, single-ascending dose study in 8 healthy young men (age, 18-45 years) per dosing panel. Each study participant was randomized to receive a single dose of placebo (n = 2) or avagacestat (n = 6 for each dose) as an oral solution in 1 of 9 sequential dose panels (0.3, 1.5, 5, 15, 50, 100, 200, 400, and 800 mg). For determination of avagacestat, blood samples were obtained before dosing and for up to 144 hours after dosing. For participants in the 800-mg avagacestat dose panel, additional samples were obtained at 216, 312, and 648 hours. For 40-amino acid isoform of Aβ (Aβ(1-40)) assessment, plasma samples were collected before avagacestat administration and up to 72 hours after dosing. RESULTS: Avagacestat concentrations peaked quickly after oral administration and then had a biphasic decrease in concentrations with a prolonged terminal phase. Exposures were proportional with doses up to 200 mg. Avagacestat was well tolerated at single oral doses up to 800 mg, with a biphasic effect on plasma Aβ(1-40). Adverse events were predominately mild to moderate in severity with no evidence of dose dependence up to 200 mg. CONCLUSIONS: Results from this single-ascending dose study suggest that avagacestat was tolerated at a single-dose range of 0.3 to 800 mg and suitable for further clinical development. identifier: NCT01454115.

PMID: 22381714 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tuesday, February 28, 2012


From the BBC:

Understanding the brain on dance
27 February 2012 Last updated at 23:29 ET

"How does the brain perceive and interpret beautiful movement?

"This is one of the key questions being asked by scientists at Bangor University who have enlisted the help of a professional dancer in their quest to better understand how our brains process movement and how we learn by observation.

"Dr Emily Cross' research focuses on the relatively new field of science called neuroaesthetics which looks at how the brain perceives artistic endeavours."

Read the full article

Upcoming Event: Cambridge Neuroscience Seminar (Cambridge, 20 March 2012)

The 24th Cambridge Neuroscience Seminar:

Translational Neuroscience
For full information, click here.

New Nature Neuropod

The February edition of Neuropod presented by Kerri Smith is up and is a great listen today. Listen to or download the edition and enjoy features about the connectome, thoughts on just how many neurons are present in the average human brain, and "The Good, the Bad, and the Monkey."

Just where did that number of 100 billion come from?

One number is sure: it is the 50th episode of this popular podcast. Congrats!


Homepage and link to podcast

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Can Science Ever Explain Consciousness?

The Guardian's Science Weekly podcast for this week examines consciousness.
"On 7 March at the Royal Institution in London, Science Weekly presenter Alok Jha will host a debate entitled Consciousness: The Hard Problem?

"To discuss this slippery subject ahead of the debate Alok brought the three leading researchers and thinkers who will be participating into the Science Weekly studio: Professor Anil Seth, co-director of the Sackler Centre for Consciousness Science at Sussex University; Professor Chris Frith, professor emeritus at the Wellcome Trust Centre for Neuroimaging at University College London; and Dr Barry Smith, director of the Institute of Philosophy at the School of Advanced Study at Birkbeck, University of London."
Read the full article and listen to the podcast

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Obit: Dr. Ulric Neisser

Ulric Neisser Is Dead at 83; Reshaped Study of the Mind
The New York Times
Published: February 25, 2012

"Mr. Neisser helped lead a postwar revolution in the study of the human mind by advancing the understanding of mental processes like perception and memory."

Read the full obituary

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Charlie Rose: The Brain Series (Series 2)

The Charlie Rose show is airing episodes from Series 2 of its "Brain Series."

Series 2 is a series of episodes that deal with brain disorders.

Home page

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

Effects of Practice on the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-IV Across 3- and 6-Month Intervals
Clinical Neuropsychologist. 2012 Feb 21;
Estevis E, Basso MR, Combs D


A total of 54 participants (age M = 20.9; education M = 14.9; initial Full Scale IQ M = 111.6) were administered the Wechsler Adult Intelligence Scale-Fourth Edition (WAIS-IV) at baseline and again either 3 or 6 months later. Scores on the Full Scale IQ, Verbal Comprehension, Working Memory, Perceptual Reasoning, Processing Speed, and General Ability Indices improved approximately 7, 5, 4, 5, 9, and 6 points, respectively, and increases were similar regardless of whether the re-examination occurred over 3- or 6-month intervals. Reliable change indices (RCI) were computed using the simple difference and bivariate regression methods, providing estimated base rates of change across time. The regression method provided more accurate estimates of reliable change than did the simple difference between baseline and follow-up scores. These findings suggest that prior exposure to the WAIS-IV results in significant score increments. These gains reflect practice effects instead of genuine intellectual changes, which may lead to errors in clinical judgment.

PMID: 22353021 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, February 20, 2012


From Business Wire:

neuGRID, the European Online Diagnosis Tool for Alzheimer’s, Goes Global with outGRID and the ITU
20 February 2012

"neuGRID, a cloud-computing infrastructure funded by the European Commission that stores and analyses a vast database of 3D brain scans, is now expanding globally to help find treatments for Alzheimer’s. This ground-breaking initiative will help develop a global online system to centralise and boost Alzheimer’s research initiatives."

Read full article

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: "Chemo-Brain"

Impaired Cognitive Function and Hippocampal Neurogenesis Following Cancer Chemotherapy
Clin Cancer Res. 2012 Feb 14;
Christie LA, Acharya MM, Parihar VK, Nguyen A, Martirosian V, Limoli CL


PURPOSE: A substantial proportion of breast cancer survivors report significant, long-lasting impairments in cognitive function, often referred to as "chemobrain." Advances in detection and treatment mean that many more patients are surviving long-term following diagnosis of invasive breast cancer. Thus, it is important to define the types, extent and persistence of cognitive impairments following treatment with cytotoxic cancer drugs. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We examined the effects of chronic treatment with two agents commonly used in breast cancer patients, cyclophosphamide and doxorubicin (Adriamycin). Athymic nude rats were given 50mg/kg cyclophosphamide, 2mg/kg doxorubicin or saline injections once per week for 4 weeks. A novel place recognition task and contextual and cued fear conditioning were employed to characterize learning and memory ability. Immunofluorescence staining for immature and mature neurons and activated microglia was used to assess changes in neurogenesis and neuroinflammation.RESULTS: Cyclophosphamide- and doxorubicin-treated rats showed significantly impaired performance on the novel place recognition task and the contextual fear conditioning task compared to untreated controls, suggesting disrupted hippocampal-based memory function. Chemotherapy-treated animals showed a significant decline in neurogenesis (80 to 90% drop in BrdU labeled cells expressing NeuN). Activated microglia (ED1 positive) were found after cyclophosphamide, but not doxorubicin treatment.CONCLUSIONS: Our results demonstrate that chronic treatment with either of two commonly-used chemotherapeutic agents impairs cognitive ability, and suggest that strategies to prevent or repair disrupted hippocampal neurogenesis may be effective in ameliorating this serious side effect in cancer survivors.

PMID: 22338017 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Friday, February 17, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Amyloid Beta

Intraneuronally Injected Amyloid Beta Inhibits Long-Term Potentiation In Rat Hippocampal Slices
J Neurophysiol. 2012 Feb 15;
Nomura I, Takechi H, Kato N


Extracellular accumulation of amyloid beta (Aβ) is a hallmark of Alzheimer's disease (AD). It has been reported that extracellular perfusion of Aβ inhibits long-term potentiation (LTP), which is strongly related to memory in animal models. However, it has recently been proposed that intracellular Aβ may be the first pathological change to occur in AD. Here, we have investigated the effect on LTP of intracellular injection of Aβ (Aβ(1-40), Aβ(1-42)) into hippocampal pyramidal cells using patch clamp technique. We found that injection of 1 nM Aβ(1-42) completely blocked LTP and extracellular perfusion of a p38 MAPK inhibitor or a metabotropic glutamate receptor blocker reversed these blocking effects on LTP. Furthermore, we have examined the effects of different concentrations of Aβ(1-40) and Aβ(1-42) on LTP and showed that Aβ(1-40) required a 1000-fold higher concentration to attenuate LTP than 1 nM Aβ(1-42). These results indicate that LTP is impaired by Aβ injected into genetically wild-type neurons in the sliced hippocampus, suggesting an acute action of intracellular Aβ on the intracellular LTP-inducing machinery.

PMID: 22338026 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Social Media as Science Facilitator

A good read from the Dana Foundation Blog:

Social Media as Science Facilitator
Dana Foundation Blog
17 February 2012

Social media creates a new culture surrounding science.

Read the blog post

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Dr. Kerry Hamsher

Congratulations to Dr. Kerry Hamsher for Distinguished Career Award from International Neuropsychological Society (INS)!

Ceremony takes place tomorrow evening, during the first day of this year's Annual Meeting.


Novelty Seeking

From today's New York Times:

What’s New? Exuberance for Novelty Has Benefits
Published: February 13, 2012

"Novelty-seeking, a personality trait long associated with trouble, turns out to be one of the crucial predictors of emotional and physical well-being."

Read the full article

Monday, February 13, 2012

Alzheimer Disease: Discussions about Bexarotene

Discussions about Targretin (bexarotene):

From The Wall Street Journal:
Alzheimer's Families Clamor for Drug
By Shirley S. Wang
11 February 2012
Read the article

From the In The Pipeline blog:
Bexarotene for Alzheimer's
13 February 2012
Read the blog posting

Amnesia and Cinema

From The Guardian's website, with a podcast to follow:

Memory and amnesia in the movies
by Mo Castandi
13 February 2012
Read the full article

Pain Research

From the NIH:

Members of new Interagency Pain Research Coordinating Committee announced
13 February 2012


"The committee will work to identify critical gaps in basic and clinical research on the symptoms, causes, and treatment of pain and will recommend federal research programs in these areas. The focus will be to coordinate pain research activities across the federal government with the goals of stimulating pain research collaboration, fully leveraging the government resources dedicated to supporting pain research, and providing an important avenue for public involvement. The committee will explore public-private partnerships to broaden collaborative, cross-cutting research and consider best practices in disseminating information about pain to public and professional audiences."


Read the full press release

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Memory Formation

Visualizing long-term memory formation in two neurons of the Drosophila brain
Science. 2012 Feb 10;335(6069):678-85
Chen CC, Wu JK, Lin HW, Pai TP, Fu TF, Wu CL, Tully T, Chiang AS


Long-term memory (LTM) depends on the synthesis of new proteins. Using a temperature-sensitive ribosome-inactivating toxin to acutely inhibit protein synthesis, we screened individual neurons making new proteins after olfactory associative conditioning in Drosophila. Surprisingly, LTM was impaired after inhibiting protein synthesis in two dorsal-anterior-lateral (DAL) neurons but not in the mushroom body (MB), which is considered the adult learning and memory center. Using a photoconvertible fluorescent protein KAEDE to report de novo protein synthesis, we have directly visualized cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) response element-binding protein (CREB)-dependent transcriptional activation of calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and period genes in the DAL neurons after spaced but not massed training. Memory retention was impaired by blocking neural output in DAL during retrieval but not during acquisition or consolidation. These findings suggest an extra-MB memory circuit in Drosophila: LTM consolidation (MB to DAL), storage (DAL), and retrieval (DAL to MB).

PMID: 22323813 [PubMed - in process]

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Suicide Assessment

The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale: initial validity and internal consistency findings from three multisite studies with adolescents and adults.
American Journal of Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;168(12):1266-77.
Posner K, Brown GK, Stanley B, Brent DA, Yershova KV, Oquendo MA, Currier GW, Melvin GA, Greenhill L, Shen S, Mann JJ.


Research on suicide prevention and interventions requires a standard method for assessing both suicidal ideation and behavior to identify those at risk and to track treatment response. The Columbia-Suicide Severity Rating Scale (C-SSRS) was designed to quantify the severity of suicidal ideation and behavior. The authors examined the psychometric properties of the scale.

The C-SSRS's validity relative to other measures of suicidal ideation and behavior and the internal consistency of its intensity of ideation subscale were analyzed in three multisite studies: a treatment study of adolescent suicide attempters (N=124); a medication efficacy trial with depressed adolescents (N=312); and a study of adults presenting to an emergency department for psychiatric reasons (N=237).

The C-SSRS demonstrated good convergent and divergent validity with other multi-informant suicidal ideation and behavior scales and had high sensitivity and specificity for suicidal behavior classifications compared with another behavior scale and an independent suicide evaluation board. Both the ideation and behavior subscales were sensitive to change over time. The intensity of ideation subscale demonstrated moderate to strong internal consistency. In the adolescent suicide attempters study, worst-point lifetime suicidal ideation on the C-SSRS predicted suicide attempts during the study, whereas the Scale for Suicide Ideation did not. Participants with the two highest levels of ideation severity (intent or intent with plan) at baseline had higher odds for attempting suicide during the study.

These findings suggest that the C-SSRS is suitable for assessment of suicidal ideation and behavior in clinical and research settings.

Comment in
Am J Psychiatry. 2011 Dec;168(12):1233-4.

PMID: 22193671 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Friday, February 10, 2012


A curious website task:

Delirium (Acute Confusional State)

New nursing guidelines have been announced for dealing with Acute Confusional States by the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

New AACN Practice Alert Outlines Protocols to Assess and Manage Delirium in Critically Ill Patients
Feb. 10, 2012, 8:30 a.m. EST
PR NewsWire press release

More information available at the AACN website: Here.

Saturday, February 04, 2012

Dr. Stanley Prusiner Joins Cleveland Clinic Scientific Advisory Board

Nobel winner joins Lou Ruvo Center
By Paul Harasim
Las Vegas Review-Journal
Feb. 3, 2012 | 6:42 p.m.
"Nobel Prize laureate Dr. Stanley Prusiner, who discovered a revolutionary new class of proteins that cause devastating brain diseases in both animals and humans, has become chairman of the scientific advisory board of the Cleveland Clinic Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health."

Read the full article

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: MS and Cognitive Rehabilitation

A randomized controlled trial of a cognitive rehabilitation intervention for persons with multiple sclerosis
Clin Rehabil. 2012 Feb 2;
Stuifbergen AK, Becker H, Perez F, Morison J, Kullberg V, Todd A


Objective: To explore the feasibility and effects of a computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation intervention - Memory, Attention, and Problem Solving Skills for Persons with Multiple Sclerosis (MAPSS-MS) - for persons with multiple sclerosis on cognitive performance, memory strategy use, self-efficacy for control of symptoms and neuropsychological competence in activities of daily living (ADL).Design: A randomized controlled single-blinded trial with treatment and wait list control groups.Setting: Southwestern United States.Subjects: Convenience sample of 61 persons (34 treatment, 27 wait list control) with multiple sclerosis (mean age 47.9 years, SD 8.8).Intervention: The eight-week MAPSS-MS intervention program included two components: (a) eight weekly group sessions focused on building efficacy for use of cognitive compensatory strategies and (b) a computer-assisted cognitive rehabilitation program with home-based training.Outcome measures: A neuropsychological battery of performance tests comprising the Minimal Assessment of Cognitive Function in Multiple Sclerosis (MACFIMS) and self-report instruments (use of memory strategies, self-efficacy for control of multiple sclerosis and neuropsychological competence in ADL) were completed at baseline, two months (after classes), and at five months.Results: Both groups improved significantly (P < 0.05) over time on most measures in the MACFIMS battery as well as the measures of strategy use and neuropsychological competence in ADL. There was a significant group-by-time interaction for scores on the measures of verbal memory and the use of compensatory strategies.Conclusions: The MAPSS-MS intervention was feasible and well-accepted by participants. Given the large relative increase in use of compensatory strategies by the intervention group, it holds promise for enhancing cognitive function in persons with multiple sclerosis.

PMID: 22301679 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Developmental Neuropsychology

Brain development of very preterm and very low-birthweight children in childhood and adolescence: A meta-analysis
Developmental Medicine and Child Neurology. 2012 Jan 28;
de Kieviet JF, Zoetebier L, van Elburg RM, Vermeulen RJ, Oosterlaan J


Aim  The aim of this article was to clarify the impact and consequences of very preterm birth (born <32wks of gestation) and/or very low birthweight ([VLBW], weighing <1500g) on brain volume development throughout childhood and adolescence. Method  The computerized databases PubMed, Web of Knowledge, and EMBASE were searched for studies that reported volumetric outcomes during childhood or adolescence using magnetic resonance imaging and included a term-born comparison group. Fifteen studies were identified, encompassing 818 very preterm/VLBW children and 450 term-born peers. Average reductions in the total brain volume, white matter volume, grey matter volume, and in the size of the cerebellum, hippocampus, and corpus callosum were investigated using meta-analytic methods. Results  Very preterm/VLBW children were found to have a significantly smaller total brain volume than the comparison group (d=-0.58; 95% confidence interval [CI] -0.43 to -0.73; p<0.001), smaller white matter volume (d=-0.53; CI -0.40 to -0.67; p<0.001), smaller grey matter volume (d=-0.62; CI -0.48 to -0.76; p<0.001), smaller cerebellum (d=-0.74; CI -0.56 to -0.92; p<0.001), smaller hippocampus (d=-0.47; CI -0.26 to -0.69; p<0.001), and smaller corpus callosum (d=-0.71; CI -0.34 to -1.07; p<0.001). Reductions have been associated with decreased general cognitive functioning, and no relations with age at assessment were found. Interpretation  Very preterm/VLBW birth is associated with an overall reduction in brain volume, which becomes evident in equally sized reductions in white and grey matter volumes, as well as in volumes of diverse brain structures throughout childhood and adolescence.

PMID: 22283622 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Monday, January 30, 2012

Continuing-Education Program About Memory Functioning

I begin work this week drafting the structure of a multi-hour continuing-education (CE) program that I will be teaching several months from now on the topic of memory functioning for clinicians and clinical researchers.

I will be presenting an overview to current clinical and research findings about normal memory, memory problems in certain clinical conditions, the neurodegenerative diseases, and an overview to efforts to assess the effectiveness of trying to enhance memory and trying to prevent or slow memory decline.

If you were to attend a program like this, what would you like to hear about?

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Parkinson's and Anosmia

Odor identification deficits identify Parkinson's disease patients with poor cognitive performance
Movement Disorders. 2011 Sep;26(11):2045-50
Damholdt MF, Borghammer P, Larsen L, Ostergaard K


Olfactory dysfunction is a prodromal and prevalent nonmotor symptom of Parkinson's disease. Unlike olfactory dysfunction in Alzheimer's disease, it is believed to be unrelated to cognitive impairment. However, recent research has implicated cholinergic denervation in Parkinson's disease hyposmia and linked it to verbal memory. This research hypothesized that severe odor identification deficits may identify patients with Parkinson's disease at risk for cognitive impairment. The current study tested this hypothesis by comparing 24 functionally anosmic, nondemented patients with Parkinson's disease and 39 nonanosmic, nondemented patients with Parkinson's disease with 29 healthy control participants on composite scores of memory, processing speed, executive function, and language. The functionally anosmic group had significantly poorer visual and verbal memory than the nonanosmic group, which was indistinguishable from the control group. Furthermore, the functionally anosmic group had reduced processing speed compared with the nonanosmic patients with Parkinson's disease, who, in turn, were outperformed by the control group. On the composite language score, the score of the functionally anosmic group was significantly reduced compared with that of the control group, whereas the nonanosmic group scored in the medium range. The 2 patient groups did not differ on executive functioning. These findings demonstrate co-occurrence between reduced cognitive function and olfactory deficits in functionally anosmic patients with Parkinson's disease and support the notion of more severe cognitive deficits in this group.

PMID: 21638326 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


From The Independent:

Switzerland's 'Dementiaville' designed to mirror the past
Plan to build 1950s-style village for Alzheimer's sufferers divides geriatric-care experts

"Its detractors may end up dubbing it "Dementiaville", but Switzerland is brushing aside a debate raging among geriatric-care experts with plans to build a mock-1950s village catering exclusively for elderly sufferers of Alzheimer's and other debilitating mental illnesses."

Read the full article

The Game Brain: "Anti-Aging" Games

From The New Yorker:

by John Seabrook
30 January 2012 issue

Read the full piece

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Brain Awareness Week (BAW, #BrainWeek)

From the Dana Foundation Blog:

Gearing Up for Brain Awareness Week
20 January 2012

"Brain Awareness Week (BAW) is less than two months away (March 12–18) and here at the Dana Foundation we are excited...Remember, the Dana Foundation and the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) are here to help. If you register your organization with DABI and become a BAW partner at, you’ll get access to free BAW materials. Each year hundreds of BAW partners from Texas to Morocco register events with DABI and receive fun and valuable materials and resources for free."

Read the full blog entry

Hashtag it at #BrainWeek

FDA: progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) and Tysabri (natalizumab)

From the FDA:

FDA permits marketing of first test for risk of rare brain infection in some people treated with Tysabri
For Immediate Release: January 20, 2012

"Today, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration allowed marketing of the first test to help determine the risk for a rare brain infection called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in people using the drug Tysabri (natalizumab) to treat multiple sclerosis (MS) or Crohn’s disease (CD).

"The Stratify JCV Antibody ELISA test, when used with other clinical data from the patient, can help health care providers determine the risk for developing PML in MS and CD patients."
Read the full press release

Alzheimer's: A Caregiver's Classic, Updated

This blog post from the New York Times discusses "The 36-hour Day":

The Caregivers’ Bookshelf: An Alzheimer’s Classic
The New Old Age Blog
The New York Times
by Paula Span
January 20, 2012, 2:27 PM

Read the full blog entry

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Preventing Cognitive Decline

Exergaming and older adult cognition a cluster randomized clinical trial
Am J Prev Med. 2012 Feb;42(2):109-19
Anderson-Hanley C, Arciero PJ, Brickman AM, Nimon JP, Okuma N, Westen SC, Merz ME, Pence BD, Woods JA, Kramer AF, Zimmerman EA


BACKGROUND: Dementia cases may reach 100 million by 2050. Interventions are sought to curb or prevent cognitive decline. Exercise yields cognitive benefits, but few older adults exercise. Virtual reality-enhanced exercise or "exergames" may elicit greater participation.

PURPOSE: To test the following hypotheses: (1) stationary cycling with virtual reality tours ("cybercycle") will enhance executive function and clinical status more than traditional exercise; (2) exercise effort will explain improvement; and (3) brain-derived neurotrophic growth factor (BDNF) will increase.

DESIGN: Multi-site cluster randomized clinical trial (RCT) of the impact of 3 months of cybercycling versus traditional exercise, on cognitive function in older adults. Data were collected in 2008-2010; analyses were conducted in 2010-2011.

SETTING/PARTICIPANTS: 102 older adults from eight retirement communities enrolled; 79 were randomized and 63 completed.

INTERVENTIONS: A recumbent stationary ergometer was utilized; virtual reality tours and competitors were enabled on the cybercycle.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Executive function (Color Trails Difference, Stroop C, Digits Backward); clinical status (mild cognitive impairment; MCI); exercise effort/fitness; and plasma BDNF.

RESULTS: Intent-to-treat analyses, controlling for age, education, and cluster randomization, revealed a significant group X time interaction for composite executive function (p=0.002). Cybercycling yielded a medium effect over traditional exercise (d=0.50). Cybercyclists had a 23% relative risk reduction in clinical progression to MCI. Exercise effort and fitness were comparable, suggesting another underlying mechanism. A significant group X time interaction for BDNF (p=0.05) indicated enhanced neuroplasticity among cybercyclists.

CONCLUSIONS: Cybercycling older adults achieved better cognitive function than traditional exercisers, for the same effort, suggesting that simultaneous cognitive and physical exercise has greater potential for preventing cognitive decline.

TRIAL REGISTRATION: This study is registered at Clinicaltrials.govNCT01167400.

PMID: 22261206 [PubMed - in process]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Cognitive Rehabilitation

Errorless learning in cognitive rehabilitation: A critical review
Neuropsychological Rehabilatation. 2012 Jan 16;
Middleton EL, Schwartz MF


Cognitive rehabilitation research is increasingly exploring errorless learning interventions, which prioritise the avoidance of errors during treatment. The errorless learning approach was originally developed for patients with severe anterograde amnesia, who were deemed to be at particular risk for error learning. Errorless learning has since been investigated in other memory-impaired populations (e.g., Alzheimer's disease) and acquired aphasia. In typical errorless training, target information is presented to the participant for study or immediate reproduction, a method that prevents participants from attempting to retrieve target information from long-term memory (i.e., retrieval practice). However, assuring error elimination by preventing difficult (and error-permitting) retrieval practice is a potential major drawback of the errorless approach. This review begins with discussion of research in the psychology of learning and memory that demonstrates the importance of difficult (and potentially errorful) retrieval practice for robust learning and prolonged performance gains. We then review treatment research comparing errorless and errorful methods in amnesia and aphasia, where only the latter provides (difficult) retrieval practice opportunities. In each clinical domain we find the advantage of the errorless approach is limited and may be offset by the therapeutic potential of retrieval practice. Gaps in current knowledge are identified that preclude strong conclusions regarding a preference for errorless treatments over methods that prioritise difficult retrieval practice. We offer recommendations for future research aimed at a strong test of errorless learning treatments, which involves direct comparison with methods where retrieval practice effects are maximised for long-term gains.

PMID: 22247957 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

This looks like a great contribution. I am looking forward to reading it.

Age group and sex differences in performance on a computerized neurocognitive battery in children age 8-21
Neuropsychology. 2012 Jan 16;
Gur RC, Richard J, Calkins ME, Chiavacci R, Hansen JA, Bilker WB, Loughead J, Connolly JJ, Qiu H, Mentch FD, Abou-Sleiman PM, Hakonarson H, Gur RE


Objective: Examine age group effects and sex differences by applying a comprehensive computerized battery of identical behavioral measures linked to brain systems in youths that were already genotyped. Such information is needed to incorporate behavioral data as neuropsychological "biomarkers" in large-scale genomic studies. Method: We developed and applied a brief computerized neurocognitive battery that provides measures of performance accuracy and response time for executive-control, episodic memory, complex cognition, social cognition, and sensorimotor speed domains. We tested a population-based sample of 3,500 genotyped youths ages 8-21 years. Results: Substantial improvement with age occurred for both accuracy and speed, but the rates varied by domain. The most pronounced improvement was noted in executive control functions, specifically attention, and in motor speed, with some effect sizes exceeding 1.8 standard deviation units. The least pronounced age group effect was in memory, where only face memory showed a large effect size on improved accuracy. Sex differences had much smaller effect sizes but were evident, with females outperforming males on attention, word and face memory, reasoning speed, and all social cognition tests and males outperforming females in spatial processing and sensorimotor and motor speed. These sex differences in most domains were seen already at the youngest age groups, and age group × sex interactions indicated divergence at the oldest groups with females becoming faster but less accurate than males. Conclusions: The results indicate that cognitive performance improves substantially in this age span, with large effect sizes that differ by domain. The more pronounced improvement for executive and reasoning domains than for memory suggests that memory capacities have reached their apex before age 8. Performance was sexually modulated and most sex differences were apparent by early adolescence. (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2012 APA, all rights reserved).

PMID: 22251308 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Concussion in Sport

From the CBC:

Concussion prevention effort features mobile app
Four sports organizations partner with government on new education programs
CBC News
Posted: Jan 19, 2012 11:27 AM ET Last Updated: Jan 19, 2012 3:19 PM ET

Four sports organizations will receive $1.5 million in federal funding for new education programs designed to reduce concussions and other brain injuries in children and youth who play team sports.

The Public Health Agency of Canada's "Active and Safe" program is supporting a joint project of ThinkFirst Canada, the Canadian Centre for Ethics in Sport, the Coaching Association of Canada, and Hockey Canada to help coachers, trainers, parents, and athletes recognize and prevent serious brain injuries.

In announcing the funding in Ottawa Thursday, Minister of State for Amateur Sport Bal Gosal noted that an estimated 90 per cent of severe brain injuries were preventable if parents, coaches and the kids themselves knew more about the risks.

"We can't eliminate all injuries," Gosal said, "but we want to help parents and coaches predict the predictable and prevent what is preventable."
Read full article

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Assessment

N-backer: An auditory n-back task with automatic scoring of spoken responses
Behav Res Methods. 2011 Sep;43(3):888-96
Monk AF, Jackson D, Nielsen D, Jefferies E, Olivier P


The n-back task is commonly used to load working memory (WM) in dual-task and neuroimaging experiments. However, it typically involves visual presentation and buttonpress responses, making it unsuitable for combination with primary tasks that involve vision and action, such as sequential object use and other tasks of daily living. The N-backer software presented here will automatically present and score auditory-verbal n-back sequences utilising the standard speech synthesis and recognition facilities that come with Microsoft Windows. Data are presented from an experiment in which 12 student participants carried out three tasks from the Naturalistic Action Test (NAT) while their attention was divided between the primary task and a continuous auditory-verbal 2-back secondary task. The participants' 2-back performance was scored in two ways: by hand, from video recordings, and automatically, using the software, allowing us to evaluate the accuracy of N-backer. There was an extremely high correlation between these scores (.933). The videos were also used to obtain a comprehensive error score for the NAT. Significantly more errors were made in the more complex NAT tasks when participants were 2-backing, as compared with when they were not, showing that the auditory-verbal n-back task can be used to disrupt sequential object use. This dual-task method may simulate the attentional deficits of patients with brain injury, providing insights into the difficulties they face in tasks of daily living.

PMID: 21424186 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Learning Disabilities

A press release from the NIH:

NIH announces funding for new learning disabilities research centers
Centers in Boulder, Houston, Tallahassee, and Seattle
17 January 2012

"Funding for four centers to conduct research on the causes and treatment of learning disabilities in children and adolescents has been provided by the National Institutes of Health."

Read the full press release

Call for "Neurology Tsar"

From the Guardian:

NHS warned of 'neurology timebomb'
Call for 'neurology tsar' as growing numbers are diagnosed with Parkinson's, motor neurone disease and multiple sclerosis
The Guardian
Tuesday 17 January 2012

Read full article

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

"Just Trial and Error" Art and Neuroscience Take on Consciousness

Brainwave 2012

Thank you Dana Foundation Blog for posting about this series at the Rubin Museum of Art, the homepage for which follows:

Brainwave 2012

From the homepage:

"Now in its fifth year, Brainwave brings people from diverse walks of life together to engage with neuroscientists in one-on-one conversations in order to better understand the workings of our minds. Starting February 2012 we will focus on how memory is processed in the brain."

The Rubin is located in Chelsea (NYC). Information about the schedule and the museum are available on the homepage.

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Route Navigation and Route Knowledge

Landmark sequencing and route knowledge: An fMRI study
Cortex. 2011 Dec 16;
Nemmi F, Piras F, Péran P, Incoccia C, Sabatini U, Guariglia C


INTRODUCTION: The ability to navigate in a familiar environment mainly relies on route knowledge, that is, a mental representation of relevant locations along a way, sequenced according to a navigational goal. Despite the clear ecological validity of this issue, route navigation and route knowledge have been scarcely investigated and little is known about the neural and cognitive bases of this navigational strategy. Using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) we tested the validity of the predictions based on the main cognitive models of spatial knowledge acquisition about route-based navigation. METHODS: An order judgment task was used with two conditions (route and activity). Subjects were required to detect potential mismatches between a current sensory input and expectations deriving from route and activity knowledge. RESULTS: A medial occipto-temporal (e.g., lingual gyrus, calcarine cortex, fusiform gyrus, parahippocampal cortex) network was found activated during the route task, whereas a temporo-parietal (temporo-parietal junction) and frontal (e.g., Broca's area) network was related to the activity task. CONCLUSIONS: Functional data are congruent with cognitive models of route-based navigation. The route task activated areas related to both landmark identity and landmark order. Data are discussed in view of route-based navigation models.

PMID: 22225882 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Traumatic Brain Injury

From the Mind Hacks blog:

A Relationship Through Brain Injury

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

The Guardian/Observer Memory Week

The Guardian/Observer Memory Week
Read the article

"The free 'Making the Most of your Memory' 24-page booklets, are available with the Guardian this Saturday 14 January and the Observer on Sunday 15 January."

Friday, January 06, 2012

It's a Free Download: Today's News About Cognitive Decline

An open-access free download of the research paper upon which today's news in based:

Archana Singh-Manoux, Mika Kivimaki, M Maria Glymour, Alexis Elbaz, Claudine Berr, Klaus P Ebmeier, Jane E Ferrie, &
Aline Dugravot (2012). Timing of onset of cognitive decline: results from Whitehall II prospective cohort study. British Medical Journal.


Cognitive Decline

A report from the BBC:

Brain function can start declining 'as early as age 45'
5 January 2012
Last updated at 20:08 ET


"The brain's ability to function can start to deteriorate as early as 45, suggests a study in the British Medical Journal.

"University College London researchers found a 3.6% decline in mental reasoning in women and men aged 45-49.

"They assessed the memory, vocabulary and comprehension skills of 7,000 men and women aged 45 to 70 over 10 years."


Read the full article

Related report from the CBC:

Brain may start decline at age 45
Cognitive function may begin deteriorating earlier than previously believed
CBC News
Posted: Jan 5, 2012 6:45 PM ET Last Updated: Jan 6, 2012 7:14 AM ET


"Memory, reasoning and comprehension skills can start to decline at age 45, research published Thursday suggests.

"The findings go against previous research that had found cognitive decline starts after age 60 — and highlight the importance of a healthy lifestyle in protecting the brain from dementia, researchers say."


Read full article

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Aphasia and Communication

Rehabilitation targeted at everyday communication: can we change the talk of people with aphasia and their significant others within conversation?
Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilation. 2012 Jan;93(1 Suppl):S70-6
Wilkinson R, Wielaert S


OBJECTIVE: To investigate whether aphasia therapy can change the talk of speakers with aphasia and/or their significant others within conversation.

DESIGN: Small number of intervention studies targeting conversations involving speakers with aphasia are reviewed. All are single case studies.

SETTING: Key assessment in the studies was an audio or video recording of 1 or more conversations between the dyad, usually made in the home setting. Intervention in these studies took place in the participants' home or another setting, such as a therapy room.

PARTICIPANTS: In all of the studies reviewed, the participants consisted of a person with aphasia (PWA) and a significant other, usually the PWA's spouse.

INTERVENTIONS: In all studies, therapy took the form of a behavioral intervention involving the provision of feedback to the significant other and/or PWA on their conversational behaviors uncovered by a conversation analysis assessment. Handouts, transcripts, discussion, and video feedback were used. Suggestions to permit participants to cope better with the effects of aphasia within conversation were given, and opportunities for practicing these strategies within conversation were provided.

MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Postintervention, 1 or more conversations involving the PWA and significant other were recorded in the same manner as the preintervention. Conversations were analyzed in relation to changes in the behaviors targeted in intervention, such as those involved in topic initiation or repair of linguistic errors.

RESULTS: Each of the studies reviewed presented evidence that the talk of people with aphasia and/or their significant others can be changed in conversation. In some studies the evidence is primarily qualitative, in the form of observed changes to conversational behaviors postintervention. Some studies produce stronger evidence by combining qualitative and quantitative analyses of change.

CONCLUSIONS: There is evidence that intervention targeting conversations involving an aphasic speaker can achieve change. Future studies should move beyond single case designs, include more robust, quantifiable evidence of change, and provide evidence of maintenance of change.

PMID: 22202194 [PubMed - in process]

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

Congratulations Dr. Trevor Robbins!

Cambridge University figures in New Year Honours list
The Cambridge Student Online
31 December 2011


"A CBE is awarded to another medical man, Professor Trevor Robbins, "for services to Medical Research". Professor Robbins is Head of the Department of Experimental Psychology, and Director of Cambridge University's Behavioural and Clinical Neuroscience Institute. His research interests focus on the brain systems relevant to neurological disorders such as Parkinson's and Huntington's disease. Professor Robbins is a Fellow of Downing College, and of the Royal Society."


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