BrainBlog

BrainBlog

Friday, December 27, 2013

Coursera Opens 2014 With Two Exceptional Neuroscience Offerings

Coursera rings in the new year with second offerings of two exceptional neuroscience courses. These courses are "Drugs and the Brain" and "Medical Neuroscience," first offered in December 2012-January 2013 and April through June of 2013, respectively. Both begin in 2014 by the end of the first week in January.

"Drugs and the Brain" is a course by Dr. Henry Lester of CalTech. Dr. Lester is an international expert in neurotransmitter transport mechanisms and models of addiction. The course looks at the relationship between drugs (illicit, recreational, approved medications, and investigational products) and cellular activity. Mechanisms of intracellular and intercellular activity are explored. Addictions, neurodegenerative diseases, and psychiatric conditions are examined. Two additional weeks have been added to the course for this second offering. The recommended text for the course is: Eric Nestler, Steven Hyman, and Robert Malenka (2008). Molecular Neuropharmacology: A Foundation for Clinical Neuroscience (Second Edition). NY: McGraw-Hill.

From the online course description: "You’ll learn how drugs enter the brain, how they act on receptors and ion channels, and how “molecular relay races” lead to changes in nerve cells and neural circuits that far outlast the drugs themselves. “Drugs and the Brain” also describes how scientists are gathering the knowledge required for the next steps in preventing or alleviating Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, schizophrenia, and drug abuse."

"Medical Neuroscience" is a course by Dr. Leonard White of Duke. Dr. White is an extraordinary educator - this MOOC is but one of this innovative approaches to medical education. This course is a foundational course about nervous system structure and function, all with a focus on examining neurological diseases and related cognitive disorders. The recommended text for the course is: Dale Purves and colleagues (2012). Medical Neuroscience (Fifth Edition). Sunderland, MA: Sinauer Associates.

From the online course description: "The overall goal is to equip students in the health professions for interpreting impairments of sensation, action and cognition that accompany neurological injury, disease or dysfunction. Students currently pursuing advanced studies in the brain sciences will benefit from this course by learning the fundamentals of functional human neuroanatomy and how neuroscience discovery translates to clinical practice. Health professionals will benefit from the opportunity to review and update knowledge of foundational medical neuroscience."

Three differences distinguish the two courses: (1) coverage, (2) length, and (3) their average per week time commitment on the part of students.

Dr. Lester's course is not designed to be a comprehensive overview to neuroscience and is not geared toward medical issues per se. You will learn neurotransmitter function and pharmacological impact upon that function from an expert in the field. Dr. White's course is designed as a foundational overview to clinical neuroscience. There are nearly 10 hours of initial video just for coverage of gross neuroanatomy. The midcourse coverage of sensory and motor systems is the best I have experienced.

Dr. Lester's course is seven weeks long, whilst Dr. White's is twelve weeks long.

Dr. Lester's course requires about 4-to-6 hours a week. Interested students will probably add an extra couple of hours a week examining the recommended textbook and recommended additional readings. Dr. White's course requires at least 15 hours a week for students who already know something about neuroscience and at least 20 hours a week for students new to the field.

Despite these logistical differences, both courses are alike for providing a wonderful educational experience for students. The recommended textbooks are excellent (I teach my own brain and behavior courses and look at about a dozen of these texts a year, so I say this from a fairly experienced perspective). Both courses offer challenging examinations. Both courses are managed by great TAs, who are responsive to student requests and enquiries. Last time around, Justin, the TA for the Medical Neuroscience course held a soft open for the course a week ahead of time, which allowed students new to Coursera to get a feel for the user interface and to meet one another. The Discussion Forums for both courses are extremely useful.

Both courses are offered in English. English subtitles are available. It will be curious if additional subtitles from other languages are made available as Coursera as a platform becomes more comfortable with an international student body.

In the first version of the courses, Dr. Lester's course had roughly 64,000 students registered during the final week of the course, of which roughly 9,100 logged in during a typical week in the second half of the course and, of whom, 4,450 students passed the course and received a Statement of Accomplishment. A little over 30% of students who identified themselves by nation identified themselves as being in the US, the next largest groups were in Spain and in Brazil.

I recommend these two courses to you, if you have an interest in neuropsychology, in neurology, and/or in neuroscience. [Self-disclosure: I successfully completed Dr. Lester's course, but the time commitment was too great to complete Dr. White's course.] I will be taking both courses again, out of general interest and hope to see you in the Discussion Forums. There are unique features to both and these features are fine enough to motivate future students, current undergraduate and graduate students, and those interested in continuing their education beyond their degrees...even the second time around!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Parkinson's Disease: Dr. Mahlon DeLong Awarded

An entry at the Dana Foundation Blog:

Mahlon DeLong Wins Breakthrough Prize for Parkinson's Research
16 December 2013

Read the blog entry

NIH "BRAIN Initiative" Funding Opportunities

From the NIH:

NIH announces six funding opportunities for the BRAIN Initiative in fiscal 2014
17 December 2013
Opportunities focus on developing tools and technologies for advancing our understanding of brain circuitry

Read the press release

Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Selling of ADHD

The Selling of Attention Deficit Disorder
by Alan Schwarz
The New York Times
15 December 2013

Read the full article

Monday, December 02, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease: Genomic Data

Press release from the NIH:

NIH deposits first batch of genomic data for Alzheimer’s disease
Researchers gain rapid access to first set of raw human genome sequence
02 December 2013

[snip]

"Researchers can now freely access the first batch of genome sequence data from the Alzheimer’s Disease Sequencing Project (ADSP), the National Institutes of Health (NIH) announced today. The ADSP is one of the first projects undertaken under an intensified national program of research to prevent or effectively treat Alzheimer’s disease.

"The first data release includes data from 410 individuals in 89 families. Researchers deposited completed WGS data on 61 families and have deposited WGS data on parts of the remaining 28 families, which will be completed soon. WGS determines the order of all 3 billion letters in an individual’s genome. Researchers can access the sequence data at dbGaP or the National Institute on Aging Genetics of Alzheimer’s Disease Data Storage Site (NIAGADS), https://www.niagads.org .

"“Providing raw DNA sequence data to a wide range of researchers proves a powerful crowd-sourced way to find genomic changes that put us at increased risk for this devastating disease,” said NIH Director, Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D., who announced the start of the project in February 2012. “The ADSP is designed to identify genetic risks for late-onset of Alzheimer’s disease, but it could also discover versions of genes that protect us. These insights could lead to a new era in prevention and treatment.”"

[snip]

Read the full press release

Sunday, December 01, 2013

Congratulations, Dr. Nancy Helm-Estabrooks (Dr. Edith Kaplan Award)

WCU’s Helm-Estabrooks is honored by Massachusetts Neuropsychology Society
The Sylva Herald
26 November 2013

Read article

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Epilepsy: FDA Approves Aptiom (eslicarbazepine acetate) to Treat Seizures in Adults

From the FDA:

FDA approves Aptiom to treat seizures in adults
08 November 2013

"The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Aptiom (eslicarbazepine acetate) as an add-on medication to treat seizures associated with epilepsy."

Read the news release

Thursday, October 31, 2013

FDA: Approval of Alzheimer's Neuroimaging Diagnostic Drug, Vizamyl (flutemetamol F 18 injection)

From the FDA on the 25th of October, quoting the press release:

FDA approves second brain imaging drug to help evaluate patients for Alzheimer’s disease, dementia

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today approved Vizamyl (flutemetamol F 18 injection), a radioactive diagnostic drug for use with positron emission tomography (PET) imaging of the brain in adults being evaluated for Alzheimer's disease (AD) and dementia.

Dementia is associated with diminishing brain functions such as memory, judgment, language and complex motor skills. The dementia caused by AD is associated with the accumulation in the brain of an abnormal protein called beta amyloid and damage or death of brain cells. However, beta amyloid can also be found in the brain of patients with other dementias and in elderly people without neurologic disease.

Vizamyl works by attaching to beta amyloid and producing a PET image of the brain that is used to evaluate the presence of beta amyloid. A negative Vizamyl scan means that there is little or no beta amyloid accumulation in the brain and the cause of the dementia is probably not due to AD. A positive scan means that there is probably a moderate or greater amount of amyloid in the brain, but it does not establish a diagnosis of AD or other dementia. Vizamyl does not replace other diagnostic tests used in the evaluation of AD and dementia.

“Many Americans are evaluated every year to determine the cause of diminishing neurologic functions, such as memory and judgment, that raise the possibility of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Shaw Chen, M.D., deputy director of the Office of Drug Evaluation IV in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “Imaging drugs like Vizamyl provide physicians with important tools to help evaluate patients for AD and dementia.”

Vizamyl is the second diagnostic drug available for visualizing beta amyloid on a PET scan of the brain. In 2012, FDA approved Amyvid (Florbetapir F 18 injection) to help evaluate adults for AD and other causes of cognitive decline.

Vizamyl’s effectiveness was established in two clinical studies comprised of 384 participants with a range of cognitive function. All participants were injected with Vizamyl and were scanned. The images were interpreted by five independent readers masked to all clinical information. A portion of scan results were also confirmed by autopsy.

The study results demonstrate that Vizamyl correctly detects beta amyloid in the brain. The results also confirm that the scans are reproducible and trained readers can accurately interpret the scans. Vizamyl’s safety was established in a total of 761 participants.

Vizamyl is not indicated to predict the development of AD or to check how patients respond to treatment for AD. Vizamyl PET images should be interpreted only by health care professionals who successfully complete training in an image interpretation program. The Vizamyl drug labeling includes information about image interpretation.

Safety risks associated with Vizamyl include hypersensitivity reactions and the risks associated with image misinterpretation and radiation exposure. Common side effects associated with Vizamyl include flushing, headache, increased blood pressure, nausea and dizziness.

Press Release

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease: New Risk Genes Discovered

From Cardiff University News Centre:

New Alzheimer’s risk genes discovered in record study
27 October 2013

"In the largest ever study of its kind, an international collaboration of scientists, jointly led by Cardiff, has uncovered 11 new susceptibility genes linked with Alzheimer’s disease.

"This major breakthrough will significantly advance scientists’ knowledge of Alzheimer’s. It throws open new research avenues and enables a better understanding of the disease’s disordered functional processes."

Read the full press release here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

MOOCs: HarvardX "Fundamentals of Clinical Trials"

The HarvardX edX course "Fundamentals of Clinical Trials" started yesterday. Here is some information about the course [click here].

The content for Week One is quite good and presented well by the course faculty.

From the course information page:

[snip]

"This course will provide an introduction to the scientific, statistical, and ethical aspects of clinical trials research. Topics include the design, implementation, and analysis of trials, including first-in-human studies (dose-finding, safety, proof of concept, and Phase I), Phase II, Phase III, and Phase IV studies. All aspects of the development of a study protocol will be addressed, including criteria for the selection of participants, treatments, and endpoints, randomization procedures, sample size determination, data analysis, and study interpretation. The ethical issues that arise at each phase of therapy development will be explored.

"This course contains 12 modules. The modules will be released Monday of each week, with the exception of some holiday weeks. Most students should plan to spend 4 – 6 hours on each module. Students will have until February 14, 2014 to earn a HarvardX certificate."

[snip]

Friday, October 11, 2013

Lewy Body Dementia

Last week, The Dana Foundation offered online this general overview to Lewy Body Dementia:

Lewy Body Dementia: The Under-Recognized but Common Foe
By Meera Balasubramaniam and James E. Galvin
October 02, 2013

Read the article

Monday, September 30, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease: Amyvid News

One of the number of media reports about today's Amyvid news:

Lilly fails to persuade Medicare to pay for Alzheimer's imaging drug
September 30, 2013
By Tracy Staton
FiercePharma

Read article

[snippet]

"The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services has handed down its final decision on Eli Lilly's Alzheimer's imaging agent Amyvid. The final answer, after appeals from Lilly and patient groups? No. Medicare won't pay for Amyvid-aided brain scans, not outside of clinical trials."

[snippet]

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

OBIT: Dr. David Hubel

From The Washington Post:

David H. Hubel, Nobel Prize-winning neuroscientist, dies at 87
23 September 2013

Read the article

Here is a link to his Nobel Prize lecture: link

Monday, September 16, 2013

"Dementia Management" MOOC Coming This Autumn

At Coursera, Dr. Nancy Hodgson and Dr. Laura N. Gitlin, who is Director of the Center for Innovative Care in Aging at Johns Hopkins University, will offer her MOOC this autumn.

Here is a story on the MOOC from The New York Times "The New Old Age" blog: "Online Lessons in Dementia Management"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease: Jeanne Murray Walker Interview on WNYC's Leonard Lopate Show

The author speaks about her new book "The Geography of Memory: A Pilgrimage Through Alzheimer's"

The Leonard Lopate Show on WNYC
06 September 2013

Listen to the interview

Monday, September 09, 2013

"The Brain, Within its Groove" by Emily Dickinson

The Brain, within its Groove
Runs evenly--and true--
But let a Splinter swerve--
'Twere easier for You--

To put a Current back--
When Floods have slit the Hills--
And scooped a Turnpike for Themselves--
And trodden out the Mills--

-Emily Dickinson

In the world of MOOCs, few courses have had the creativity and success as the course about "Modern and Contemporary American Poetry" by Dr. Al Filreis of the University of Pennsylvania and Director of its wonderful Kelly Writers House.

Few courses, in real life or online, have such a dedicated teacher as Al.

The course, part of Al's regular teaching at UPenn in its English Department, was first presented in MOOC form this time last year at Coursera. The ten-week course is back, having opened over the weekend to over 30,000 students, myself included (second timer). Week after week, this likely remains the largest single collection of dedicated students reading and discussing the same poets and poems at any one time on the planet. And it remains intimate, lively, and interactive.

Although I am in the outlier minority in terms of my interpretation of Emily's poem (above) - seeing it as tragic, whilst the common interpretation is one of freeing ones' self from the mundane - as a neuropsychologist, discussing it is one of the true highlights of the course for me.

It is a wonderful experience. Neuroscientists need poetry. Join us!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Location: Pacific Northwest Udall Center (PANUC) in Seattle, Washington

Visit the website of the Pacific Northwest Udall Center (PANUC). This is the location for today's Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day.

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Parkinson's Disease

Cholerton BA, Zabetian CP, Quinn JF, Chung KA, Peterson A, Espay AJ, Revilla FJ, Devoto J, Watson GS, Hu SC, Edwards KL, Montine TJ, & Leverenz JB. (2013). Pacific northwest udall center of excellence clinical consortium: study design and baseline cohort characteristics. Journal of Parkinsons Disease, 3(2), 205-214. doi: 10.3233/JPD-130189.

Geriatric Research, Education, & Clinical Center, Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care System, Seattle, WA, USA Department of Psychiatry & Behavioral Science, University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, WA, USA.

Background: The substantial proportion of individuals with Parkinson's disease (PD) who have or are expected to develop concomitant cognitive impairment emphasizes the need for large, well-characterized participant cohorts to serve as a basis for research into the causes, manifestations, and potential treatments of cognitive decline in those with PD. Objective: To establish a multi-site clinical core that cognitively and clinically characterizes patients with PD by obtaining quality longitudinal clinical, neuropsychological, and validated biomarker data. Methods: Six hundred nineteen participants with idiopathic PD (68.0 ± 9.1 years, 7.1 ± 6.2 years since diagnosis, 70% males) were enrolled in the Pacific Northwest Udall Center (PANUC), one of the Morris K. Udall Centers of Excellence for Parkinson's Research, Clinical Consortium and underwent comprehensive clinical and neuropsychological assessment. Participants were diagnosed with no cognitive impairment (PD-NCI), mild cognitive impairment (PD-MCI), or dementia (PDD) at a diagnostic consensus conference. Results: A substantial proportion of the overall sample was diagnosed with cognitive impairment at baseline: 22% with PDD and 59% with PD-MCI. A higher rate of cognitive impairment was observed in men than women (87% vs. 68%, p < 0.0001), despite a higher level of education. Most patients older than 50 years at the time of diagnosis and with disease duration greater than 10 years were cognitively impaired or demented. Conclusions: The PANUC Clinical Consortium is a clinically and cognitively well-characterized cohort of patients with PD. Baseline cohort characteristics demonstrate a high rate of cognitive impairment in the sample, as well as potential sex differences with regard to cognitive diagnosis. The PANUC Clinical Consortium, with its access to biomarker, genetic, and autopsy data, provides an excellent foundation for detailed research related to cognitive impairment in PD.

PMID: 23938350 [PubMed - in process]

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Apathy in Traumatic Brain Injury

A Multidimensional Approach to Apathy after Traumatic Brain Injury.
Neuropsycholology Review 2013 Aug 7;
Arnould A, Rochat L, Azouvi P, & Van der Linden M

Abstract

Apathy is commonly described following traumatic brain injury (TBI) and is associated with serious consequences, notably for patients' participation in rehabilitation, family life and later social reintegration. There is strong evidence in the literature of the multidimensional nature of apathy (behavioural, cognitive and emotional), but the processes underlying each dimension are still unclear. The purpose of this article is first, to provide a critical review of the current definitions and instruments used to measure apathy in neurological and psychiatric disorders, and second, to review the prevalence, characteristics, neuroanatomical correlates, relationships with other neurobehavioural disorders and mechanisms of apathy in the TBI population. In this context, we propose a new multidimensional framework that takes into account the various mechanisms at play in the facets of apathy, including not only cognitive factors, especially executive, but also affective factors (e.g., negative mood), motivational variables (e.g., anticipatory pleasure) and aspects related to personal identity (e.g., self-esteem). Future investigations that consider these various factors will help improve the understanding of apathy. This theoretical framework opens up relevant prospects for better clinical assessment and rehabilitation of these frequently described motivational disorders in patients with brain injury.

PMID: 23921453 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Sunday, August 04, 2013

"Andrew Marr, After The Stroke"

Andrew Marr, after the stroke: 'I'm going to be sweeter all round'
The TV presenter suffered a severe stroke after a strenuous workout in January. On the eve of his return to our screens he talks of his fight back to health
Robert McCrum
The Observer
Saturday 3 August 2013

Read the article

Friday, August 02, 2013

Memory "Engineering"

From the Scientific American website:

The Era of Memory Engineering Has Arrived
How neuroscientists can call up and change a memory
By Jason Castro
Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Read the posting

Memory and the Perception of Place

From The Atlantic: Cities:

How Memory Alters Our Perception of Place
by EMILY BADGER
Aug 01, 2013

Read the article

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Neuropsychology Education

Graduate Admissions in Clinical Neuropsychology: The Importance of Undergraduate Training.
Archives of Clinical Neuropsychology 2013 Jul 23;
Karazsia BT, Stavnezer AJ, Reeves JW

Abstract

Discussions of and recommendations for the training of clinical neuropsychologists exist at the doctoral, internship, and post-doctoral level. With few exceptions, the literature on undergraduate preparations in clinical neuropsychology is sparse and lacks empirical evidence. In the present study, graduate-level faculty and current trainees completed surveys about graduate school preparations. Faculty expectations of minimum and ideal undergraduate training were highest for research methods, statistics, and assessment. Preferences for "goodness of fit" also emerged as important admissions factors. These results offer evidence for desirable undergraduate preparations for advanced study in clinical neuropsychology. Although undergraduate training in psychology is intentionally broad, results from this study suggest that students who desire advanced study in clinical neuropsychology need to tailor their experiences to be competitive in the application process. The findings have implications for prospective graduate students, faculty who train and mentor undergraduates, and faculty who serve on admissions committees.

PMID: 23880098 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Mouse Hippocampus and Memory

The cover of this week's Science:

About the research study represented by the cover:
here

Monday, July 22, 2013

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Photoreceptors from Embryonic Stem Cells

From The Guardian:

Embryonic stem cells could help restore sight to blind
Photoreceptors grown from embryonic stem cells have been successfully implanted in the retinas of blind mice
Alok Jha, Science Correspondent
The Guardian
Sunday 21 July 2013 18.00 BST

Read the article

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease: AAIC Review from "Fierce Biotech"

Alzheimer's roundup: Investigators carve out small gains against a brutal disease
Fierce Biotech
By John Carroll
July 18, 2013

Read the article

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Aggressive Behavior in Dementia

From The New York Times blog "The New Old Age":

When Aggression Follows Dementia
By PAULA SPAN
July 12, 2013, 4:38 pm

Read the article

Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Aging

Physical Activity and Risk of Cognitive Impairment Among Oldest-Old Women.
American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 3;
Wang S, Luo X, Barnes D, Sano M, & Yaffe K.

Abstract

OBJECTIVES: Physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline in the elderly, but its effects among the oldest-old (i.e., those aged 85 years and older) are not well known. Our study assessed the association between very late-life physical activity and 5-year risk of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or dementia and neuropsychological test performance among oldest-old women.
METHODS: This prospective study was conducted at three sites. Participants included 1,249 women (mean [standard deviation] age: 83.3 [2.8] years). Baseline physical activity was measured by self-reported blocks walked per week and analyzed according to tertile. Five years later, surviving participants who were 85 years and older (oldest-old) completed neuropsychological testing and underwent adjudication of clinical cognitive status (normal, MCI, or dementia). All analyses were adjusted for baseline age, education, cognition, depression, body mass index, hypertension, smoking, and coronary artery disease.
RESULTS: Compared with women in the lowest tertile, women in the highest tertile were less likely to develop dementia (13.0% versus 23.2%; multivariate adjusted odds ratio: 0.54 [95% confidence interval: 0.36-0.82]). However, risk of MCI was not associated with physical activity. Physical activity was also associated with higher performance 5 years later on tests of global cognition, category fluency, and executive function but not phonemic fluency, memory, or attention.
CONCLUSIONS: Higher level of very late-life physical activity was associated with a lower risk of subsequent dementia in oldest-old women. These findings support future studies for late-life physical activity interventions for the prevention of dementia among oldest-old women.

PMID: 23831179 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Friday, July 05, 2013

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Neuropsychological Assessment

A pilot evaluation of a brief non-verbal executive function assessment in Parkinson's disease.
International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry. 2013 Jul 4;
Hobson PJ, Meara RJ, & Evans R

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: Screening for cognitive impairment in the clinical or community setting is often hampered by the lack of a suitable assessment that is not overburdened with complex administration and scoring methods. We have developed non-verbal cognitive screening instrument: the Weigl Token Test (WTT) from two existing instruments, the Weigl's Colour-Form Sorting Test (WCFST) and the Token Test. The aim of this investigation is to compare the modified WTT with a battery of 'Gold Standard' cognitive assessments, to determine its utility, sensitivity and specificity as a brief cognitive screen in a cohort of Parkinson's disease (PD) patients.
METHODS: A total of 50 PD patients consented to participate in this investigation. All participants were assessed with a battery of cognitive screening instruments including the WCFST, Mini Mental Status Examination, Addenbrooke's Cognitive Examination-Revised and Delis Kaplan Executive Function Systems. The sensitivity and specificity of the WTT to detect cognitive impairment were based upon psychiatric interview, neuropsychological assessment and application of DSM-IV criteria.
RESULTS: The optimal cut-point of the WTT was 116/120, and its sensitivity and specificity to detect cognitive impairment were 88% and 89%, respectively. The diagnostic accuracy of the WTT as calculated by the area under the receiver operating curve was 0.83 (95% CI 0.76-0.95), suggesting that this instrument has acceptable psychometric properties to discriminate between case and non-cases of cognitive impairment.
CONCLUSIONS: The WTT demonstrated excellent concurrent validity with existing 'Gold Standard' assessments of cognitive impairment. We believe that this instrument will prove to be a valuable additional screening assessment in epidemiological, primary care, specialist mental health or clinical investigations. Copyright © 2013 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

PMID: 23824787 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Thursday, July 04, 2013

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Suicidal Behavior and Semantic Dementia

Suicidal Behavior in Dementia: A Special Risk in Semantic Dementia.
American Journal of Alzheimer's Disease and Other Dementias. 2013 Jul 1;
Sabodash V, Mendez MF, Fong S, & Hsiao JJ

Abstract

Background: Some studies report a low suicide risk in general dementia and in Alzheimer's disease (AD).Objective:To evaluate suicidal behavior among patients with semantic dementia (SD), a disorder that impairs semantic knowledge. Methods: We reviewed the presence of active suicidal behavior and related factors among 25 patients with SD compared to 111 age-matched patients with early-onset AD. Results: In all, 5 (20%) patients with SD had suicidal behavior (2 successfully killed themselves) compared to 1 (0.9%) with AD (P < .001). There was significantly more depression and greater premorbid history of suicidal behavior among the patients with SD compared to those with AD. Among the patients with SD, those with suicidal behavior, compared to those without, had more depression and greater insight into their deficits. Conclusions: Patients with SD are at special risk of committing suicide, particularly if they have depression and preserved insight. Possible mechanisms include an impaired sense of semantic competence with increased impulsivity.

PMID: 23821774 [PubMed - as supplied by publisher]

Wednesday, July 03, 2013

The "Dopamine Is ___" Craze

"Dopamine Is ___"
By Bethany Brookshire
Slate.com
Posted Wednesday, July 3, 2013, at 8:06 AM

Read the article

Lifestyle and Dementia

Active brain 'keeps dementia at bay'
By Helen Briggs
BBC News
3 July 2013 Last updated at 19:54 ET

Read the article

alpha-synuclein

From the NIH:

Altered protein shapes may explain differences in some brain diseases
Wednesday, July 3, 2013, Noon EDT

NIH-funded study finds that various strains of alpha-synuclein have diverse effects in neurons

Read the press release

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

Neuropsychology Abstract of the Day: Computerized Cognitive Testing

The relationship between computer experience and computerized cognitive test performance among older adults.
J Gerontol B Psychol Sci Soc Sci. 2013, 68(3), 337-346
Fazeli PL, Ross LA, Vance DE, & Ball K

Abstract

OBJECTIVE: This study compared the relationship between computer experience and performance on computerized cognitive tests and a traditional paper-and-pencil cognitive test in a sample of older adults (N = 634).
METHOD: Participants completed computer experience and computer attitudes questionnaires, three computerized cognitive tests (Useful Field of View (UFOV) Test, Road Sign Test, and Stroop task) and a paper-and-pencil cognitive measure (Trail Making Test). Multivariate analysis of covariance was used to examine differences in cognitive performance across the four measures between those with and without computer experience after adjusting for confounding variables.
RESULTS: Although computer experience had a significant main effect across all cognitive measures, the effect sizes were similar. After controlling for computer attitudes, the relationship between computer experience and UFOV was fully attenuated.
DISCUSSION: Findings suggest that computer experience is not uniquely related to performance on computerized cognitive measures compared with paper-and-pencil measures. Because the relationship between computer experience and UFOV was fully attenuated by computer attitudes, this may imply that motivational factors are more influential to UFOV performance than computer experience. Our findings support the hypothesis that computer use is related to cognitive performance, and this relationship is not stronger for computerized cognitive measures. Implications and directions for future research are provided.

PMID: 22929395 [PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]

Monday, July 01, 2013

Alzheimer Disease: A Self-Narrative Blog, "Watching The Lights Go Out"

A blog by Dr. David Hilfiker:

Watching The Lights Go Out
A Memoir from Inside Alzheimer's Disease

Clinical Trials: CRO PRA International Acquired

From Reuters:
KKR to buy clinical trials firm PRA International
Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:48pm BST

Read the article

= = =

PRA press release: here

Alzheimer Disease: TTP488 Preparing to Enter Phase III

From WRAL TechWire:

TransTech readies Alzheimer's disease treatment for late-stage clinical trials
Posted Jul. 1, 2013 at 12:34 p.m.

Read the article

Alzheimer Disease: Amyvid Debate Over Reimbursement

From Bloomberg:
Scientists Back Alzheimer’s Test Amid Doubts Over Value
By Elizabeth Lopatto - Jun 30, 2013 11:01 PM CT

"The U.S. government is set to decide this month whether federal health insurance should cover the cost of a $3,000 test..."

Read the news article

Patient H.M.: The Guardian's Book Review of Corkin's "Permanent Present Tense"

From The Guardian:

Permanent Present Tense: The man with no memory, and what he taught the world by Suzanne Corkin – review
This fine and moving book reveals as much about the limitations of neuropsychology as about the scope of human memory

A review by Jonathan Rée
The Guardian, Thursday 27 June 2013 08.00 BST

Read the book review

Inner Ear Tip Link Regrowth

A news release from the NIH:

Researchers discover two-step mechanism of inner ear tip link regrowth
Tuesday, June 11, 2013, 5 p.m. (EDT)

Read the press release

MOOC: Duke's "Medical Neuroscience" Comes To A Grand End on Coursera

Today is the formal end of a MOOC course on Coursera that was as good an introduction to neuroscience as can be found online, anywhere. Dr. Leonard White at Duke did an incredible job bringing neuroscience alive to thousands of interested students from secondary education on through persons with advanced degrees in, I believe, over 40 countries. A course that forewarned the need to devote 16 to 20 hours a week to attend to lecture material and text (the fifth edition of Purves and colleagues) proceeded with surprising ease (made so by an excellent TA for the course) and sustained interest.

Run, don't walk, to enroll should a second offering of the course be announced over the next year!

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Alzheimer's Disease: Gammagard Fails

From the company press release:

Baxter Announces Topline Results of Phase III Study of Immunoglobulin for Alzheimer's Disease

DEERFIELD, Ill., May 7, 2013 - Baxter International Inc. (NYSE:BAX) today announced that its Phase III clinical study of immunoglobulin (IG) did not meet its co-primary endpoints of reducing cognitive decline and preserving functional abilities in patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease. The Gammaglobulin Alzheimer's Partnership (GAP) study was conducted by Baxter in collaboration with the Alzheimer's Disease Cooperative Study (ADCS), a clinical trial consortium supported by the United States National Institute on Aging in the National Institutes of Health.

Topline analyses from the randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multi-center trial found that after 18 months of treatment, patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer's disease taking Baxter's IG treatment at either the 400 mg/kg or the 200 mg/kg dose did not demonstrate a statistically significant difference in the rate of cognitive decline as compared to placebo (mean 7.4 in the 400 mg/kg group, 8.9 in the 200 mg/kg group, and 8.4 in the placebo group). Results also did not indicate a statistically significant change in functional ability as compared to placebo (mean -11.4 in the 400 mg/kg group, -12.4 in the 200 mg/kg group, and -11.4 in the placebo group).

Read the full press release here.

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Additional discussion at the Alzheimer Research Forum website at this page: Gammagard™ Misses Endpoints in Phase 3 Trial

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

MOOC: "Medical Neuroscience" from Duke at Coursera, Week Two

The first week of the new offering "Medical Neuroscience" has ended and the second begun. I read somewhere that 40-odd thousand people had registered for it. This likely means that about 4000 people will see it through, in terms of the trajectories I have seen in other Coursera offerings. A good group of people contributing to the Discussion Forums, including the Instructor (which is good to see). It is an intensive course for a Coursera offering, with a suggested time commitment of 16-to-20 hours per week. Whether this commitment effects un-enrollments over time will be a curious phenomenon. The first week's lectures were a top-notch job of gross neuroanatomy and of cross-sections of interior gross neuroanatomy. Excellent video and presentations. In all, an excellent start to a course that holds a lot of promise for an educational experience!

Saturday, April 06, 2013

MOOC: "Medical Neuroscience" from Duke at Coursera

The new course "Medical Neuroscience" formally opens on Monday at Coursera.

Developed and offered by Dr. Leonard E. White at Duke, it looks like an excellent course.

The Twitter hashtag for the course is #MedNeuro.

Friday, February 01, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Parkinson's Disease: New Biomarker Effort

From the NIH:

NIH launches collaborative effort to find biomarkers for Parkinson's
New online resource will support data sharing
NIH News
15 January 2013

[snip]

"A new initiative aims to accelerate the search for biomarkers — changes in the body that can be used to predict, diagnose or monitor a disease — in Parkinson's disease, in part by improving collaboration among researchers and helping patients get involved in clinical studies.

"A lack of biomarkers for Parkinson's has been a major challenge for developing better treatments. The Parkinson’s Disease Biomarkers Program (PDBP) supports efforts to invent new technologies and analysis tools for biomarker discovery, to identify and validate biomarkers in patients, and to share biomarker data and resources across the Parkinson's community. The program is being launched by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health."

[snip]

Read the full press release

Friday, January 11, 2013

Zulch Prize

Professor Ray Dolan awarded the 2013 Klaus Joachim Zülch Prize
The Wellcome Trust
Holly Story
07 Jan 2013

Read article