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Thursday
Jun222017

Extra-virgin olive oil preserves memory, protects brain against Alzheimer's

Domenico Praticò, MD, Professor in the Departments of Pharmacology and Microbiology and the Center for Translational Medicine at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. Credit: Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple UniversityThe Mediterranean diet, rich in plant-based foods, is associated with a variety of health benefits, including a lower incidence of dementia. Now, researchers at the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University (LKSOM) have identified a specific ingredient that protects against cognitive decline: extra-virgin olive oil, a major component of the Mediterranean diet. In a study published online June 21 in the Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology, the researchers show that the consumption of extra-virgin olive oil protects memory and learning ability and reduces the formation of amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain -- classic markers of Alzheimer's disease. Continue reading

Source: ScienceDaily, June 21, 2017

Wednesday
Jun212017

Predicting cognitive deficits in people with Parkinson's disease 

New tool may improve clinical trial design and aid in treatment development

Parkinson's disease (PD) is commonly thought of as a movement disorder, but after years of living with PD approximately twenty five percent of patients also experience deficits in cognition that impair function. A newly developed research tool may help predict a patient's risk for developing dementia and could enable clinical trials aimed at finding treatments to prevent the cognitive effects of the disease. The research was published in Lancet Neurology and was partially funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

"By allowing clinical researchers to identify and select only patients at high risk for developing dementia, this tool could help in the design of 'smarter' trials that require a manageable number of participating patients," said corresponding author Clemens Scherzer, MD, head of the Neurogenomics Lab and Parkinson Personalized Medicine Program at Harvard Medical School and a member of the Ann Romney Center for Neurologic Diseases at Brigham and Women's Hospital.

For the study, the research team combined data from 3,200 people with PD, representing more than 25,000 individual clinical assessments and evaluated seven known clinical and genetic risk factors associated with developing dementia. From this information, they built a computer-based risk calculator that may predict the chance that an individual with PD will develop cognitive deficits.

"This study includes both genetic and clinical assessments from multiple groups of patients, and it represents a significant step forward in our ability to effectively model one of the most troublesome non-motor aspects of Parkinson's disease," said Margaret Sutherland, PhD, program director at the NINDS. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, June 20, 2017

Tuesday
Jun202017

Mapping how words leap from brain to tongue 

SDSU neuroscientist Stephanie Ries explores the complex brain connections employed during word retrieval

Most adults can quickly and effortlessly recall as many as 100,000 regularly used words when prompted, but how the brain accomplishes this has long boggled scientists. Credit: © BillionPhotos.com / FotoliaWhen you look at a picture of a mug, the neurons that store your memory of what a mug is begin firing. But it's not a pinpoint process; a host of neurons that code for related ideas and items--bowl, coffee, spoon, plate, breakfast--are activated as well. How your brain narrows down this smorgasbord of related concepts to the one word you're truly seeking is a complicated and poorly understood cognitive task. A new study led by San Diego State University neuroscientist Stephanie Ries, of the School of Speech, Language, and Hearing Sciences, delved into this question by measuring the brain's cortical activity and found that wide, overlapping swaths of the brain work in parallel to retrieve the correct word from memory.


Most adults can quickly and effortlessly recall as many as 100,000 regularly used words when prompted, but how the brain accomplishes this has long boggled scientists. How does the brain nearly always find the needle in the haystack? Previous work has revealed that the brain organizes ideas and words into semantically related clusters. When trying to recall a specific word, the brain activates its cluster, significantly reducing the size of the haystack. Continue reading

Source: EurekAlert, June 19, 2017

Monday
Jun192017

Meditation and yoga can 'reverse' DNA reactions which cause stress, new study suggests

A new study examines the deep benefits of meditation and yoga. Credit: © frankie's / Fotolia

Mind-body interventions (MBIs) such as meditation, yoga and Tai Chi don't simply relax us; they can 'reverse' the molecular reactions in our DNA which cause ill-health and depression, according to a study by the universities of Coventry and Radboud.

The research, published in the journal Frontiers in Immunology, reviews over a decade of studies analysing how the behaviour of our genes is affected by different MBIs including mindfulness and yoga.

Experts from the universities conclude that, when examined together, the 18 studies -- featuring 846 participants over 11 years -- reveal a pattern in the molecular changes which happen to the body as a result of MBIs, and how those changes benefit our mental and physical health.

The researchers focus on how gene expression is affected; in other words the way that genes activate to produce proteins which influence the biological make-up of the body, the brain and the immune system.

When a person is exposed to a stressful event, their sympathetic nervous system (SNS) -- the system responsible for the 'fight-or-flight' response -- is triggered, in turn increasing production of a molecule called nuclear factor kappa B (NF-kB) which regulates how our genes are expressed.

NF-kB translates stress by activating genes to produce proteins called cytokines that cause inflammation at cellular level -- a reaction that is useful as a short-lived fight-or-flight reaction, but if persistent leads to a higher risk of cancer, accelerated aging and psychiatric disorders like depression.

According to the study, however, people who practise MBIs exhibit the opposite effect -- namely a decrease in production of NF-kB and cytokines, leading to a reversal of the pro-inflammatory gene expression pattern and a reduction in the risk of inflammation-related diseases and conditions. Continue reading

Source: ScienceDaily, June 15, 2017 (retrieved June 19, 2017).

Friday
Jun162017

Egocentric hearing: Study clarifies how we can tell where a sound is coming from 

A new UCL and University of Nottingham study has found that most neurons in the brain's auditory cortex detect where a sound is coming from relative to the head, but some are tuned to a sound source's actual position in the world.

The study, published in PLOS Biology, looked at whether head movements change the responses of neurons that track sound location.

"Our brains can represent sound location in either an egocentric manner - for example, when I can tell that a phone is ringing to my left - or in an allocentric manner - hearing that the phone is on the table. If I move my head, neurons with an egocentric focus will respond differently, as the phone's position relative to my ears has changed, while the allocentric neurons will maintain their response," said the study's first author, Dr Stephen Town (UCL Ear Institute).

The researchers monitored ferrets while they moved around a small arena surrounded by speakers that emitted clicking sounds. Electrodes monitored the firing rates of neurons in the ferrets' auditory cortex, while LEDs were used to track the animals' movement.

Among the neurons under investigation that picked up sound location, the study showed that most displayed egocentric orientations by tracking where a sound source was relative to the animal's head, but approximately 20% of the spatially tuned neurons instead tracked a sound source's actual location in the world, independent of the ferret's head movements. Contine reading

Source: EurekAlert, June 15, 2017