Tag Archives: brain

Robots could one day help surgeons remove hard to reach brain tumors

A robot that worms its way in The median survival rate for patients with glioblastomas, or high grade primary brain cancer, is less than two years. One factor contributing to this low rate is the fact that many deep-seated and pervasive tumors are not entirely accessible or even visible when using current neurosurgical tools and imaging techniques. But several years ago, J. …

Promising target found in treating deadly brain cancer

Glioblastomas are the most common form of brain tumor in adults — and the most aggressive. Because of the way the tumors invasively infiltrate the brain, spreading like ivy, they cannot be removed fully by surgery. There is no cure, and few patients survive more than two to three years even with aggressive treatment. …

Napping: Helpful or harmful to your sleep?

As kids, we did everything we could to avoid taking a nap. But as adults, some days we would do anything just to get one. We recently received this question from a viewer:                 Dear Dr. Manny, Do afternoon naps help or disturb sleep later on in the night? Thanks, Jamie Your body’s clock creates a feeling of sleepiness between 3 a.m. and 5 a.m. – and also a little in the afternoon. The longer you stay awake, the more likely you are to go into deeper stages of sleep when you finally do lay down at night. Scientists think this is caused by a buildup of a neurotransmitter in the brain called adenosine, which increases with each waking hour. Taking a nap causes the brain to get rid of adenosine rapidly, so you may have a harder time falling asleep later on in the night. However, there are some benefits to taking short naps during the day. Studies show that people who took midday naps performed up to 20 percent better in memory exercises than those who didn’t. Researchers believe sleep may help clear out the hippocampus – the part of the brain responsible for short-term memory – to make room for new information. But napping for too long can leave you feeling groggy, so try to keep your cat naps to about 20 minutes or less. Do you have a health question for Dr. Manny? Send it to [email protected].com.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/02/do-afternoon-naps-disturb-sleep-later-on-at-night/

More research needed on anesthesia’s impact on brain, study shows

Surgical anesthesia’s impact on the brain has long been debated, and even anesthesiologists have admitted the effects of these drugs on humans is not clearly understood. “Anesthetics have been somewhat of an enigma; nobody knows how they really work, and we basically use them in thousands of patients every day,” study author Dr. Andreas Loepke, a physician and researcher in the department of anesthesiology at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, told FoxNews.com. Concerns have been raised among anesthesiologists like Loepke over previous research indicating that exposure to anesthesia may increase the rate of cell death in the brains of young animals. And now, a new study in mice published in Annals of Neurology indicates that anesthesia seems to kill off younger neurons more often than older neurons – regardless of the age of the animal.  Researchers have not yet studied the impact of anesthesia on human brain cells. “You can’t section a human brain,” Loepke said. “…But if it were occurring in humans, we would predict that anesthetics affect neurons in patients of all ages.” Loepke and his colleagues examined the rates of cell death in the brains of mice exposed to anesthesia for six hours. They focused particularly on the dentate gyrus region of the brain, which helps control learning and memory. “We found something very interesting, in that cell death occurred in the spot where the dentate gyrus forms new neurons,” Loepke said. The root cause and impact of anesthesia-related cell death is unknown, and the study’s authors said more research needs to be done.   “During development, (we) form twice as many neurons as we need as an adult. The brain needs to be pruned back to properly function,” Loepke said. “So it’s currently unknown whether anesthesia kills neurons that would have been eliminated anyways from the brain or neurons later needed for vital function.”   Loepke added that human studies of older adults have indicated that some people do experience memory problems after undergoing anesthesia, which can be short-term or long-term.  Whether this is caused by anesthesia or by the body’s reaction to pain or surgery remains unclear. “The need for surgery could be a marker for these problems occurring – (or the) inflammatory response to the body from the surgery. These have all been found to alter neurons,” Loepke said. Loepke and his colleagues hope to go on to study the effect of anesthesia in humans using magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. But until more research is done, Loepke urged people not to worry too much. “Patients need to make sure they get the surgery they need, because putting off the surgery could put you at more risk (than the anesthesia),” Loepke said.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/06/05/more-research-needed-on-anesthesias-impact-on-brain-study-shows/

High blood pressure linked to declining brain function

High blood pressure, particularly in the arteries that supply blood to the head and neck, may be linked with declining cognitive abilities, according to a new study from Australia. Researchers found that people with high blood pressure in the central arteries including the aorta, the largest artery in the human body, and the carotid arteries in the neck performed worse on tests of visual processing, and had slower thinking and poorer recognition abilities. Typically, blood pressure measurements are taken from the brachial artery in the arm, but looking at the health of the central arteries may be a more sensitive way to assess cognitive abilities, said study researcher Matthew Pase, of the Center for Human Psychopharmacology at Swinburne University in Melbourne. The central arteries directly control bloodflow to the brain. “If we can estimate the blood pressure in central arteries, we might be able to better predict cognitive function and cognitive decline,” Pase said. [10 Odd Facts About the Brain] Pase presented the findings here on May 24 at the annual meeting of the Association for Psychological Science. How it all works A beating heart pumps blood in spurts, but the central arteries are flexible, expanding and contracting to maintain steady bloodflow to the brain. As people age, the central arteries stiffen, and with less elasticity, the brain receives more high-pressure blood, which may damage cognition, Pase said. [7 Ways the Mind and Body Change With Age] In the study, Pase and his colleagues looked at whether associations between blood pressure and cognition were stronger for measurements taken in the arm, or the central arteries. The researchers examined 493 Australians between ages 20 and 82. The participants were mostly Caucasians, and all were nonsmokers with no history of stroke or dementia, Pase said. Study participants performed tasks to measure various types of cognition, such as visual processing, working memory, recognition abilities and processing speed. The researchers also took blood pressure measurements from the arm and central arteries. Blood pressure and cognition The researchers found that high brachial blood pressure was linked to worse performance on the visual processing test, but high central blood pressure correlated to worse performance across several tests, including visual processing, recognition and processing speed. “This suggests central blood pressure is a more sensitive predictor of cognitive aging,” Pase said. To expand upon these findings, Pase said he wants to look at whether reducing central blood pressure which can be done by quitting smoking, doing regular exercise or limiting salt intake might protect people against mental deterioration. The researchers will detail their results in an upcoming issue of the journal Psychological Science. Copyright 2013 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/30/high-blood-pressure-linked-to-declining-brain-function/

Brain capable of making its own version of Valium, researchers find

The oral drug Valium – also known by its generic name, diazepam – was once popular with doctors in the 1970s as a treatment for seizures brought on by epilepsy.  However, the drug, also used to treat anxiety, has fallen out of favor in recent years as it is prone to abuse and often dangerous if taken in high doses. Now, in light of a recent study, the need for Valium to treat epilepsy may be even further diminished.  Researchers from Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered a naturally occurring protein in the brains of mammals that acts like Valium, stopping certain types of seizures from occurring. Researchers hope that if they are able to discover a way to boost this protein naturally, doctors would no longer have a need to prescribe Valium. The protein, identified as diazepam binding inhibitor (DBI), essentially acts like the brain’s very own brake system, sensing when a seizure is about to occur and arresting the process before it can spiral out of control. “Our thinking on brain circuits and epilepsy has been that our brains have their own ways to control seizures, and this is why most of us aren’t having seizures every day,” study author John Huguenard, professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford, told FoxNews.com.  “But what happens as a seizure starts, a few cells in the brain may get too active, and you get an avalanche of activity that eventually can take up most of the brain circuitry.  The brain’s own ‘Valium’ is acting as an anti-avalanche method, checking things when they’re first starting.” According to Huguenard, the brain has two main groups of nerve cells.  The first type of cells – excitatory cells – are responsible for stimulating other cells and sending messages from one area of the brain to another.   This messaging process, known as excitation, is responsible for communicating what we see, what we smell, what we do, etc. The other key type of cells are known as inhibitory cells, which are responsible for keeping the brain circuitry under control.  If one area of the brain gets too excited and starts to receive too many signals at once, the inhibitory cells kick into gear and slow the process in order to restore balance. “In terms of this form of epilepsy we’ve been studying, if a certain group of brain cells can’t communicate well through this inhibitory process, then (the animals) have seizures,” Huguenard said. The protein DBI is a crucial component of the inhibitory process, as it boosts the actions of an important neurotransmitter called gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA).  Roughly one-fifth of the inhibitory nerve cells in the brain operate by secreting GABA, which binds to receptors located on excitatory cells, rendering them temporarily unable to fire any more electrical signals.   Without DBI, GABA cannot be enhanced, and the excitatory cells ultimately don’t get the message telling them to calm down.  However, up until now, this function of DBI was not well understood by researchers. To determine exactly how DBI operates in the brains of mammals, Huguenard and his team analyzed a group of bioengineered mice with the DBI gene mutation, meaning their brains were incapable of producing DBI. “When we tested seizures in these animals and tested communication, we found that (the inhibitory process) was ineffective and that the animals had more seizures,” Huguenard said.  “It told us that this gene is producing a product in the brain that is controlling the seizures.” When they re-introduced the DBI-gene back into the brains of these mice, GABA-induced inhibition was restored and the mice suffered from fewer seizures. Benzodiazepine drugs, like Valium, work in a very similar way to DBI by also enhancing GABA-induced inhibition. But they often come at a high cost.  Many who take these medications long-term develop a physical dependence on the drug, experiencing serious withdrawal symptoms if they cease taking it.  Some studies have also found Valium to have an adverse effect on both short-term and long-term cognition. While the researchers only examined the brains of mice, they are optimistic DBI exists similarly in the brains of humans as well.   If the results end up translating to the human mind, Huguenard hopes to find a way to naturally boost DBI in the brain, negating the need for Valium to help control seizures. “The ultimate goal would be to develop new lines of therapy that would take this general approach – taking the brain’s mechanism for dealing with seizures and making them even more effective,” Huguenard said. The research was published May 30 in the journal Neuron.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/30/brain-capable-making-own-version-valium-researchers-find/

Young stroke victim recovers with help from new electrical stimulation technology

When Wes Schlauch, of Breinigsville, PA, was 16 years old, he suffered a stroke that paralyzed the entire right side of his body. Miraculously, three years later, Wes is not only walking and talking – he’s even sending text messages, attending college and going on fishing trips with friends. Wes’ positive attitude, devotion to rehabilitation and strong support system has had much to do with his success. But Wes has also benefitted tremendously from a cutting-edge technology that is revolutionizing therapies for patients suffering from brain injuries and neurodegenerative diseases: a new treatment known as functional electrical stimulation (FES). FES has been pioneered by companies like Bioness Inc., based in Valencia, CA., which created the devices that Wes uses. The devices – which Wes wears on both his right hand and leg – use electricity to stimulate the damaged portions of his brain and the neural connections between the brain and muscles. “The idea is that by using the electrical stimulation to make the muscle fire, his brain will retrain and relearn, and his muscles will fire more automatically without it in the long term,” Jolene Hammer, a physical therapist at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Bethlehem, PA., who works with Wes, told FoxNews.com. FOUR IN 100,000 Strokes are incredibly rare among children and teenagers like Wes. “From after the newborn period through age 18, the incidence (of stroke) that we estimate is about four in 100,000 children per year,” Dr. Rebecca Ichord, director of the pediatric stroke program at The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, who treated Wes, told FoxNews.com. According to Ichord, Wes’ stroke was likely triggered after he experienced whiplash while playing hockey. Doctors believe that one of the arteries in Wes’ neck twisted and dissected, causing the walls of the artery to separate. This caused a blockage in Wes’ blood flow that led to the formation of a clot – resulting in a stroke. Wes’ stroke was particularly devastating because it occurred in his baseline artery, which facilitates blood flow to critical parts of the brain. “(His) was one of the most severe types of strokes; when you block the baseline artery, you block critical parts of brain systems that control all elements of function,” Ichord said. “The mortality is relatively higher than in other types of stroke and long term handicap can be devastating.” Luckily, Wes was able to receive a clot-dissolving therapy within eight hours of his stroke, which restored blood flow to the injured part of his brain. However, Wes still had a long journey ahead of him. The right side of Wes’ body was paralyzed – a condition called hemiparesis. “I remember lying in the hospital bed and looking up at the ceiling, because that’s all I could do,” Wes told FoxNews.com. “My respiratory therapist told me to visualize myself getting better so I just visualized myself getting out of that situation.” Eventually, Wes stabilized and was moved to a rehabilitation facility where he had to relearn basic daily tasks, like dressing himself and eating – all the while confined to a wheelchair. THE RECOVERY PROCESS Fortunately, Wes didn’t stay in his wheelchair for long.  He soon progressed to a walker and then to a cane. As Wes regained his strength, he was able to begin FES treatments, with the help of his rehabilitation team.   To regain the use of his right hand, Wes eventually began using the Bioness NESS H200® Hand Rehabilitation System – an external device that Wes wears on his hand and arm. “That’s helped me be able to be more dexterous with my movements and has overall helped my hand big time,” Wes said. “It used to be that my hand was in a fist, and I wasn’t able to use it at all. I got the H200 device and I was able to use my hand nicely.” “I’ve even been known to text with my right hand,” Wes added. Later, Wes progressed to the NESS L300™ Foot Drop System, which allowed his foot to move more freely. “As he’s been using it, I see that he’s now able to start to actively move those muscles without it that he wasn’t before…Now, he can lift his foot and be aware of it and pull it up on his own,” Hammer said. “He has gotten to be able to lift his toe up and to be able to activate his hamstring.  Just last week, Wes took home a new device – the L300 Plus – which he will wear on his thigh to stimulate his hamstring. Wes will use this in conjunction with the L300 in order to gain further control over his leg, bolstering his ability to walk and even maneuver stairs. Though Wes gets fatigued easily (especially when using the devices), he is building up his tolerance and strength, and he eventually hopes to be able to wear both the L300 and L300 Plus for full days. “It’s helped my walking a ton and being able to walk around the community is a lot better for me as opposed to just being in a wheelchair like I was before. Now I’m on a cane. It’s helped me a lot,” Wes said. Wes’ doctors hope that technology like the Bioness devices will eventually help repair the damaged parts of Wes’ brain to some extent. “I think it’s a cutting edge way to start to work on retraining the muscle and hopefully to play into neuroplasticity, to activate the brain to make new connections and to activate these muscles,” Hammer said. ‘AN EXTRAORDINARY YOUNG MAN’ Wes continues to make extraordinary advances in his treatment and personal life – even making the dean’s list at college. “His speech is also a little affected, but he can still communicate,” Ichord said. “And his cognitive learning abilities, personality and sense of humor (were) all preserved; the thinking part is doing well and was never directly affected.” Wes credits his experience as a hockey player for giving him his strong work ethic.   “I work hard, I always did – back from when I was 16 on. I worked as hard as I could and…I really want to get back on the ice. That’s my main motivating factor,” Wes said. Wes continues to impress his physical therapists and doctors every day, and Hammer said she has high hopes for Wes’ future progress.   “I’ve been a therapist for a long time and he’s an extraordinary young man – one of the most motivated people I’ve met. If every patient worked as hard as him, I’d be out of a job,” Hammer said.source : http://www.foxnews.com/health/2013/05/20/electric-stimulation-treatments-help-young-stroke-victim/