Category Archives: brain damage

Memory loss reversed in early Alzheimer’s – Study

Researchers have successfully reversed memory loss in a small number of people with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease using a comprehensive treatment program, which involves a combination of lifestyle changes, brain stimulation, and medication.

Researchers suggest the MEND program is highly effective for reversing memory loss.

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Memory improvements as a result of the treatment program have so far been sustained for 2 years, the researchers report, and some patients have even been able to return to work as a result.

Study co-author Dr. Dale Bredesen, of the Buck Institute on Research and Aging in Novato, CA, and colleagues recently published their findings in the journal Aging.

While the study only involved 10 patients, the researchers believe their findings may open the door to an effective therapy for cognitive decline.

“The magnitude of improvement in these 10 patients is unprecedented, providing additional objective evidence that this programmatic approach to cognitive decline is highly effective,” says Dr. Bredesen.

There are currently around 5.4 million people in the United States living with Alzheimer’s disease. Continue reading

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Brain activity may predict stress-related cardiovascular risk – AHA

I have written numerous posts on the brain, stress and relaxation. This study seems to be an amalgam of them all. If you want to read further on any of them, punch the word into the S E A R C H box at the right and have at it. There is a lot of information available.

  • A pattern of brain activity that occurs during psychological stress may predict bodily reactions, such as surges in our blood pressure, that increase risk for cardiovascular disease.
  • People who have exaggerated responses to stressors, like large rises in blood pressure or heart rate, are at greater risk of developing hypertension and premature death from cardiovascular disease, researchers say.

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The brain may have a distinctive activity pattern during stressful events that predicts bodily reactions, such as rises in blood pressure that increase risk for cardiovascular disease, according to new proof-of-concept research in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the Open Access Journal of the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association. Continue reading

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What about football and the athlete’s brain?

Regular readers know that I have lost three family members to dementia and/or Alzheimer’s disease, so I am totally interested in any new information on the subject. I am also a passionate fan of the National Football League.

The following is from the Alzheimer’s Prevention Bulletin.

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Most fans will track first downs and touchdowns on Sept. 7, the opening game of the National Football League’s (NFL’s) 2017 season. If he tunes in, Robert Stern, PhD, no doubt will focus on any traumatic brain injuries (TBI) that occur during the game. These can range from mild TBI – as in a concussion – to severe TBI.

Dr. Stern also will watch for those more common head impacts that do not result in symptoms of concussion or draw the attention of the television cameras.  Called “subconcussive” trauma, those hits are associated with a brain disease that is the focus of Dr. Stern’s research.

Dr. Stern is the Director of Clinical Research for the Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) Center and Director of the Alzheimer’s Disease Center Clinical Core, both at Boston University.

“Alzheimer’s disease is my primary focus professionally,” Dr. Stern said. “But some years ago, I started to learn more about another neurodegenerative disease called CTE. I soon realized that CTE had the potential to become a major public health issue. That’s when CTE research became a passion.”

CTE is a progressive, degenerative brain disease, similar to Alzheimer’s disease, found in people with a history of repetitive brain trauma. That brain trauma could include concussions as well as those subconcussive hits to the head that do not have symptoms. The trauma can trigger a series of events in the brain that progressively destroy its tissue, resulting in CTE. The symptoms that accompany CTE are similar to Alzheimer’s disease: changes in memory and cognition as well as changes in mood and behavior. Eventually, it can lead to dementia.

TBI, CTE & Alzheimer’s: Are they Connected? 

Is there a connection between TBI, CTE and Alzheimer’s?

“I used to refer to TBI as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease, because early research suggested that,” said Dr. Stern. “However, more recent research suggests that the relationship between the two is not very clear.”

That means people who experience TBI at any age – a hit on the football field as a youth or a fall on the stairs as an older adult – do not appear to increase their chance of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

Concussion Controversies in Sports

Now let’s head back to the football field.

A 2016 Harris Poll showed pro football is continuing its reign as America’s favorite sport. Its popularity persists in spite of concern about the sport’s long-term impact on players’ brain health that began in the early 2000s. At that time, autopsies of deceased American football players revealed evidence of CTE. Years later, research from the BU center published recently in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that 110 out of 111 deceased former NFL players had CTE.

Dr. Stern estimates that in some contact sports like football, there can be 1,000 or more subconcussive hits per season of play. And these impacts can leave their mark on an athlete and eventually lead to CTE.

“There’s research that indicates even after one season of youth football, children ages 8-10 years old,  had structural changes to their brains that were directly associated with the number of hits to the head they received,” Dr. Stern said. “Research from my team at BU has shown a dose-response relationship between the total estimated number of those repetitive head impacts a football player receives through youth, high school, and college football, and later life cognitive impairments and problems with depression and behavior. We have to take these repetitive head impacts seriously.”

And thanks to Dr. Stern, that message is getting out.

Want to learn more about head injury and CTE? Join Dr. Robert A. Stern, PhD, Clinical Core Director of the BU Alzheimer’s Disease Center online as he discusses the role of head injury in developing dementia later in life. 

  • Thursday, August 24th, 2-3 PM Eastern (11 AM-12 PM Pacific / Arizona, 12-1 PM Mountain, 1-2 PM Central)
  • Can’t make it to the live webinar? Don’t worry! Just register as if you will attend and we will send you a recording that you can view at your convenience,
  • Sign up now.

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Can too much sitting erase exercise benefits?

I have written about the dangers of prolonged sitting previously. You can check out my Page – Do you know the dangers of too much sitting?  for further information on it.

White matter is brain tissue containing nerve fibers responsible for brain communication. As we age, nerve fiber activity declines and disrupts brain function. But a new study suggests that among older adults, the structural integrity of white matter is not only dependent on levels of physical activity, but also on the amount of remaining time spent sedentary, according to Medical News Today.

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Lead researcher Agnieszka Burzynska, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Illinois, and her team publish their findings in the journal PLOS ONE.

Past studies have associated physical activity among older adults with reduced cognitive decline. In 2012, research from the University of Scotland in the UK found that seniors who had high levels of physical activity had fewer problems with memory and thinking skills, while a 2013 study claimed exercise is beneficial for the cognitive functioning of dementia patients. Continue reading

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Learning with music can change brain structure – Study

As a guy who has had musical accompaniment to virtually everything he ever did, I was pleased to learn how it can affect the brain positively. One of my happiest recent discoveries was the bluetooth speaker that connects to the water bottle on my bike.

Using musical cues to learn a physical task significantly develops an important part of the brain, according to a new study.

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People who practiced a basic movement task to music showed increased structural connectivity between the regions of the brain that process sound and control movement.

The findings focus on white matter pathways — the wiring that enables brain cells to communicate with each other.

The study could have positive implications for future research into rehabilitation for patients who have lost some degree of movement control.

Thirty right-handed volunteers were divided into two groups and charged with learning a new task involving sequences of finger movements with the non-dominant, left hand. One group learned the task with musical cues, the other group without music.

After four weeks of practice, both groups of volunteers performed equally well at learning the sequences, researchers at the University of Edinburgh found.

Using MRI scans, it was found that the music group showed a significant increase in structural connectivity in the white matter tract that links auditory and motor regions on the right side of the brain. The non-music group showed no change.

Researchers hope that future study with larger numbers of participants will examine whether music can help with special kinds of motor rehabilitation program, such as after a stroke.

The interdisciplinary project brought together researchers from the University of Edinburgh’s Institute for Music in Human and Social Development, Clinical Research Imaging Centre, and Centre for Clinical Brain Sciences, and from Clinical Neuropsychology, Leiden University, The Netherlands.

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Genes Associated With Resilience Against Brain Pathology Identified

Having had three family members who suffered from some form of dementia I am highly motivated to find out all I can about this scourge that devastates mostly seniors. The following is from the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
Genes help cognition withstand damage in brain from Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s

The pathologies (damage) in the brain that stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions cause in older adults only partially explain the memory loss, reduced reasoning ability and other cognitive impairments that result from these conditions. Little is known about why the effects of brain pathology vary between people who develop it.

Senses

Now researchers have discovered two genes, known as UNC5C and ENC1, that are associated with aging individuals having better memory and brain function than would be expected, given the amount of pathologies that accumulated in their brains. They reported their findings in an article published today in the journal PLOS Medicine. Continue reading

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Brain’s Power to Adapt Offers Short-Term Gains, Long-Term Strains

There is not necessarily fresh ground broken here, but I think seeing details on how the brain functions can only be helpful. The most important idea for me is one I had going in, namely, you only have one brain so take care of it.

Like air-traffic controllers scrambling to reconnect flights when a major hub goes down, the brain has a remarkable ability to rewire itself after suffering an injury. However, maintaining these new connections between brain regions can strain the brain’s resources, which can lead to serious problems later, including Alzheimer’s Disease, according to researchers.

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After a head injury, the brain can show enhanced connectivity by using alternative routes between two previously connected regions of the brain that need to communicate, as well as make stronger connections, said Frank G. Hillary, associate professor of psychology, Penn State. These new connections between damaged areas are often referred to as hyperconnections, he added. Continue reading

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Heading a football causes instant changes to the brain

I am not a big fan of the game of soccer, or, as it is known everywhere but in the U.S., football, but there are lots of kids playing it  here and their parents should know about this.

Researchers from the University of Stirling have explored the true impact of heading a football, identifying small but significant changes in brain function immediately after routine heading practice.

The study from Scotland’s University for Sporting Excellence published in EBioMedicine is the first to detect direct changes in the brain after players are exposed to everyday head impacts, as opposed to clinical brain injuries like a concussion.

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Football players headed a ball 20 times, fired from a machine designed to simulate the pace and power of a corner kick. Before and after the heading sessions, scientists tested players’ brain function and memory.

Increased inhibition in the brain was detected after just a single session of heading. Memory test performance was also reduced by between 41 and 67 percent, with effects normalizing within 24 hours.

Played by more than 250 million people worldwide, the ‘beautiful game’ often involves intentional and repeated bursts of heading a ball. In recent years the possible link between brain injury in sport and increased risk of dementia has focused attention on whether football heading might lead to long term consequences for brain health. Continue reading

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Teenage Binge Drinking Can Affect Brain Functions in Future Offspring

I seriously doubt that I have many teenagers checking out my posts. However, I am sure that there are moms, dads and other loved ones who do. As if there weren’t enough reasons for kids to lighten up on booze, this study adds a biggie.

Repeated binge drinking during adolescence can affect brain functions in future generations, potentially putting offspring at risk for such conditions as depression, anxiety, and metabolic disorders, a Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine study has found.

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“Adolescent binge drinking not only is dangerous to the brain development of teenagers, but also may impact the brains of their children,” said senior author Toni R. Pak, PhD, an associate professor in the Department of Cell and Molecular Physiology of Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine.

The study by Dr. Pak, first author AnnaDorothea Asimes, a PhD student in Dr. Pak’s lab, and colleagues was presented at Neuroscience 2016, the annual meeting of the Society for Neuroscience. Continue reading

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Bad habits that can hurt your brain – WebMD

I  write often about the benefits the brain gets from exercise and how we should make regular exercise a priority as much for our mental health as physical. That is a good positive target.

It turns out that WebMD also has some excellent suggestions for keeping our brains clicking on all cylinders, but they approach from the negative side. Not doing harmful things is also an important consideration in getting to old age with a fully functional brain.

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Here is their list of bad habits:

Missing out on sleep. WebMD notes, “… lack of sleep may be a cause of dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease. It’s best to have regular sleeping hours. If you have trouble with sleep, avoid alcohol, caffeine, and electronics in the evening, and start a soothing bedtime ritual.”

I would like to interject here that my Page on How important is a good night’s sleep could be worth checking into. Continue reading

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New study suggests rethink of dementia causes

Since I have both Alzheimer’s and dementia on both sides of my family tree, I am always interested in studies on the subject.

University of Adelaide researchers have developed a new theory for the causes of dementia and other neurodegenerative diseases, involving an out-of-control immune system.

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Published in the journal Frontiers in Neuroscience, the researchers have assembled strong evidence that the neurological decline common to these diseases is caused by ‘auto-inflammation’, where the body’s own immune system develops a persistent inflammatory response and causes brain cells to die.

“Dementia, including the most common form, Alzheimer’s Disease, and related neuro-degenerative conditions are dramatically rising in frequency as people live longer and our population ages,” says study lead Professor Robert Richards, from the University of Adelaide’s School of Biological Sciences. “Australia is predicting that by 2050 there will be almost double the number of people with dementia, and the United States similarly says there will be twice as many.

“Currently, we have no effective treatments to assist the millions of affected people, and these diseases are an enormous burden on families and the public health care system.”

Previously, researchers have focused on the role of protein deposits called amyloid plaques that lodge in the brain of Alzheimer’s affected people. But it is now clear that this is an inadequate explanation for Alzheimer’s Disease.

There are many distinct forms of neuro-degeneration including Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Huntington’s Diseases. These conditions are distinguished by the different types of brain nerve cells that are first affected and by the symptoms that first appear. However, as all of these diseases progress, they become more similar.

Professor Richards believes that instead of many different mechanisms, each disease has the same underlying mechanism, and common pathway of nerve cell loss.

“Our interest in the body’s own (innate) immune system as the culprit began when we discovered that immune system agents become activated in a laboratory model of Huntington’s Disease,” he says. “Remarkably, researchers from other laboratories were at the same time reporting similar features in other neuro-degenerative diseases. When we pulled the evidence together, it made a very strong case that uncontrolled innate immunity is indeed the common cause.”

The innate immune system is the first line of defense in cells, and normally distinguishes molecules that belong to the body from foreign, disease-causing, molecules. It is an alarm and response system with a self-destruct mechanism to contain and eliminate invaders or abnormal cells, like cancer.

Malfunctions can occur because of various triggers including genetic mutations, infection, toxins or physical injury, all of which have been linked with different forms of neuro-degeneration. Initially the innate immune system protects the tissue against these triggers, but prolonged activation becomes self-perpetuating, causing brain cell death to occur.

“We hope this new way of understanding neuro-degeneration will lead to new treatments,” Professor Richards says. “We now need to further investigate the immune signaling molecules, to identify new drug targets that will delay the onset and/or halt the progression of these devastating diseases.”

While the jury is still out on these findings, I would recommend continuing along previously successful lines. Check out my Page – Important facts about your brain (and exercise benefits) to learn more.

Tony

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Some People with High Blood Pressure May Have Early Brain Damage – AHA

A new imaging technique found that some people with high blood pressure also have damage to nerve tracts connecting different parts of the brain, according to a study presented at the American Heart Association’s (AHA) 2015 High Blood Pressure Conference.

The area of brain damage detected is linked to difficulties in certain cognitive skills, decision-making, and the ability to regulate emotions.

IMG_7718“We already have clear ways to explore the damage high blood pressure can cause to the kidneys, eyes, and heart. We wanted to find a way to assess brain damage that could predict the development of dementia associated with vascular diseases,” said Daniela Carnevale, Ph.D., the study’s senior author and assistant professor at Sapienza University of Rome, based in Neuromed Institute.

While there has been a lot of research on hypertension-related brain changes in the grey matter, Carnevale proposed that a look into the brain’s white matter could tell if high blood pressure was having an effect even earlier than what is known.

Researchers used diffusion tensor imaging (DTI), an enhancement of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), to evaluate and compare the structural and functional properties of the main connections between different brain regions. Fifteen participants were on medication for moderate to severe high blood pressure and 15 participants had normal blood pressure. Participants were also given a cognitive assessment.

The brain imaging found that, while none of the participants showed abnormalities on a standard MRI, the more advanced DTI revealed that participants with high blood pressure had damage to:
•    brain fibers that affect non-verbal functions;
•    nerve fibers that affect executive functioning and emotional regulation; and
•    limbic system fibers, which are involved in attention tasks.

In addition, imaging and laboratory tests indicated damage to the heart and kidneys from high blood pressure.

Researchers also found those with high blood pressure performed significantly worse on two different assessments of cognitive function and memory. However, there were no differences in tests evaluating verbal function or ability to perform daily activities.

“DTI provides a way to evaluate pre-symptomatic brain damage in people with high blood pressure in order to identify possible therapies to help control brain damage and reduce the eventual development of dementia. It is generally accepted that not all available medications have the same impact on different kinds of organ damage,” Carnevale said.

DTI, also called tractography, is not performed in routine medical practice, but the researchers suggest that physicians should start to consider potential brain damage as they treat patients with high blood pressure.

To read further on high blood pressure check out my posts:

What is High Blood Pressure?

What You Need to Know About High Blood Pressure

Leisure Time Activity Could Lower Your Risk of High Blood Pressure

Tony

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Type 2 Diabetes May Shrink the Brain, Study Suggests

They found that the longer a patient had the disease, the more brain volume loss occurred, particularly in the gray matter. Gray matter includes areas of the brain involved in muscle control, seeing and hearing, memory, emotions, speech, decision-making and self-control.

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Loss of gray matter can lead to dementia, experts say.

People with type 2 diabetes may lose more brain volume than is expected as they age, new research indicates.

Surprisingly, this shrinkage doesn’t appear to be linked to the damaging effect of diabetes on tiny blood vessels in the brain, but instead by how the brain handles excess sugar, the researchers noted.

“We have known for a long time that diabetes is not good for the brain,” said lead researcher Dr. R. Nick Bryan, a professor of radiology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perleman School of Medicine in Philadelphia.

Diabetes is associated with an increased risk for stroke and dementia, he said. Until now, doctors have thought these risks were likely related to blood vessel damage related to diabetes.

“But our study suggests that there is additional damage to the brain which may be more like a brain disorder such…

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