Research: Foods/Spices Slow, Perhaps Reverse Alzheimer’s

aging wellDid you know that so-called “incurable” neurodegenerative conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease can be slowed, if not also partially reversed? Regeneration, after all, is the default state of the human body.

This may sound all the more surprising when you consider that Continue reading

Research Identifies Mechanism Responsible for Eye Movement Disorder

Discovery could lead to therapies for this condition, and a better understanding of how genetic mutations in the nervous system cause movement disorders in other parts of the body with a long term view to encouraging the re-growth of damaged cells

A research team from King’s College London and the University of Exeter Medical School has identified how a genetic mutation acts during the development of nerves responsible for controlling eye muscles, Continue reading

The Scientific Side of Steroid Use and Abuse

Leslie Henderson is concerned about steroid abuse, not necessarily by sports luminaries like Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but rather by adolescents.

“There is this disconnect among young people that somehow your emotions, your thought processes—things that have to do with your brain—are separate and different from what steroids may be doing to your body—your muscles, your heart, or your liver, or anything like that,” says Henderson, a professor of physiology and neurobiology, and of biochemistry at the Geisel School of Medicine Continue reading

To Ditch Dessert, Feed the Brain

If the brain goes hungry, Twinkies look a lot better, a study led by researchers at Yale University and the University of Southern California has found.

Brain imaging scans show that when glucose levels drop, an area of the brain known to regulate emotions and impulses loses the ability to dampen desire for high-calorie food, according to the study published online September 19 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

“Our prefrontal cortex is a sucker for glucose,” said Rajita Sinha, the Foundations Fund Professor of Psychiatry, and professor in the Department of Neurobiology and the Yale Child Study Center, one of the senior authors of the research.

The Yale team manipulated glucose levels intravenously and monitored changes in blood sugar levels while subjects were shown pictures of high-calorie food, low-calorie food and non-food as they underwent fMRI scans.

When glucose levels drop, an area of the brain called the hypothalamus senses the change. Other regions Continue reading

Salk Scientists Say: It’s not an Apple a Day after all – It’s Strawberries

A recent study from scientists at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies suggests that a strawberry a day (or more accurately, 37 of them) could keep not just one doctor away, but an entire fleet of them, including the neurologist, the endocrinologist, and maybe even the oncologist.

Investigations conducted in the Salk Institute’s Cellular Neurobiology Laboratory (CNL) will appear in the June 27, 2011, issue of PLoS ONE. The report explains that fisetin, a naturally-occurring flavonoid found most abundantly in strawberries and to a lesser extent in other fruits and vegetables, lessens complications of diabetes. Previously, the lab showed that fisetin promoted survival of neurons grown in culture and enhanced memory in healthy mice. That fisetin can target multiple organs strongly suggests that a single drug could be used to mitigate numerous medical complications.

“This manuscript describes for the first time a drug that prevents both kidney and brain complications Continue reading

Sniffing Can Help Communications and Steer Wheelchairs

A new health gadget will allow disabled persons steer their wheelchairs or communicate with loved ones through sniffing-inhaling and exhaling through the nose.

Professor Noam Sobel, engineers Dr. Anton Plotkin and Aharon Weissbrod, along with research student Lee Sela of Weizmann Institute of Science’s Department of Neurobiology created the new system which identifies changes in air pressure inside the nose’s nostrils. The gadget then translates these changes into electrical signals. The device was tested on healthy individuals as well as quadriplegics and the data showed that the device is easily learned.

Patients who have “locked-in syndromes” (unimpaired cognitive abilities while being completely paralyzed) have the ability to finally communicate with others and to even initiate communication. Caretakers the world over will rejoice once this technology spreads to common use. Many parents of paralyzed children have longed for the day to hear their child speak… and with the new sniffing technology, they may get that chance.

Even those patients on respirators can control the muscles involved in the soft palate to sniff. Researchers were able to devise a device that bypasses the airflow into the nostrils. About 75% of these patients were able to use the device. For the healthy patients, the device was favorable such as a mouse or joystick used to play video games.

One woman who had been locked-in for 18 years after a traffic accident says the device is easier to use than a blink-based device. About 13 patients were able to use sniffing to operate a computer and write messages. For most, it only took days to learn the device and how to sniff to operate.

Further fascinating results included the case of steering wheelchairs. After 15 minutes of practice time, a patient was able to navigate a route with sharp turns as well as a non-disabled volunteer. This could also lead to other uses such as for pilots or even surgeons. Because the device can detect in or out directions of sniffing, and long or short sniffs, there exists the possibility of creating a “language” with multiple signals.

The best news is that it’s relatively inexpensive to produce these devices. This means more people who need this device and are on disability income are more likely to afford them on their own. Insurance companies are also more likely to cover the device if it is cost-efficient.