Neurons lack the ability to replicate their DNA, so they’re constantly working to repair damage to their genome. Now, a new study by Salk scientists finds that these repairs are not random, but instead focus on protecting certain genetic “hot spots” that appear to play a critical role in neural identity and function, according to Science Daily.
The findings, published in the April 2, 2021, issue of Science, give novel insights into the genetic structures involved in aging and neuro-degeneration, and could point to the development of potential new therapies for diseases such Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and other age-related dementia disorders.
“This research shows for the first time that there are sections of genome that neurons prioritize when it comes to repair,” says Professor and Salk President Rusty Gage, the paper’s co-corresponding author. “We’re excited about the potential of these findings to change the way we view many age-related diseases of the nervous system and potentially explore DNA repair as a therapeutic approach.”
Researchers have published a new study framework that defines Alzheimer’s disease by brain changes, not symptoms.
“NIA-AA Research Framework: Towards a Biological Definition of Alzheimer’s Disease” was published in the April 2018 issue of Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association. First author Clifford R. Jack, Jr., M.D., of Mayo Clinic Rochester, MN and colleagues propose shifting the definition of Alzheimer’s disease in living people – for use in research – from the current one, based on cognitive changes and behavioral symptoms with biomarker confirmation, to a strictly biological construct. This represents a major evolution in how we think about Alzheimer’s.
In 2011, the Alzheimer’s Association (AA) and the National Institute on Aging (NIA) at the U.S. National Institutes of Health convened experts to update the diagnostic guidelines for Alzheimer’s disease. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.
Understanding and effectively treating Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias may be the most difficult challenge for the medical/scientific community this century. The field has experienced monumental challenges developing new and effective drug therapies, not the least of which was the discovery that – until recently – clinical trials were conducted where up to 30% of participants did not have the Alzheimer’s disease-related brain change targeted by the experimental drug. Continue reading →
I wrote a post several years ago on what you need to know about stroke. Here is the opening graf: “The National Stroke Association (NSA) says, “A stroke or heart attack of the brain occurs when a blood clot blocks an artery (a blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body) or a blood vessel (a tube through which the blood moves through the body) breaks, interrupting blood flow to an area of the brain. When either of these things happens, brain cells begin to die and brain damage occurs.”
Patients suffer stroke-like symptoms such as paralysis on one side or difficulty speaking. While symptoms typically go away in less than a few minutes and there’s no brain damage, TIAs often are followed by severe strokes.
TIAs are an “ominous prelude to an impending cerebrovascular catastrophe, but also the opportunity to prevent a disabling event,” Loyola Medicine neurologists Camilo R. Gomez, MD, Michael J. Schneck, MD and José Biller, MD report in the journal F1000 Research. However, the neurologists add that rapid evaluation and treatment can reduce the risk of stroke by about 80 percent during the dangerous first week following a TIA.
Most strokes are ischemic, meaning they are caused by blood clots that block blood flow to a part of the brain. TIAs also are caused by blood clots, but the clots quickly dissolve or are dislodged. However, there’s a 5 to 10 percent risk of suffering a stroke during the 30 days following a TIA, and 15 to 20 percent of ischemic stroke patients report having experienced an earlier TIA.
A TIA requires urgent management, but there is controversy about how to accomplish this: Should patients be temporarily hospitalized, which may be safer, or should they be evaluated on an outpatient basis, which may be more convenient and cost effective? The existing literature is inconclusive. “Both approaches have advantages and disadvantages,” the Loyola neurologists wrote. Continue reading →
This is fascinating and seems to bolster my thought that exercising the body benefits the brain a great deal. The concept of use it or lose it is widely known and accepted regarding physical development. It seems it also applies to mental makeup. As above, so below.
Research by a team of Vanderbilt University Medical Center (VUMC) scientists suggests that older people whose hearts pump less blood have blood flow reductions in the temporal lobe regions of the brain, where Alzheimer’s pathology begins.
The brain, which accounts for only 2 percent of total body weight, typically receives 12 percent of blood flow from the heart — a level maintained by complex, automatic processes, which maintain consistent blood flow to the brain at all times.
Angela Jefferson, Ph.D., director of the Vanderbilt Memory and Alzheimer’s Center, and colleagues investigated whether lower cardiac index (the amount of blood flowing out of the heart adjusted for body size) correlated with lower blood flow to the brain.
The purpose of the study was to better understand whether reductions in brain blood flow might explain clinical observations in prior research that have linked heart function to cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
“We currently know a lot about how to prevent and medically manage many forms of heart disease, but we do not yet know how to prevent or treat Alzheimer’s disease,” Jefferson said. Continue reading →
Here is some heartening news for folks worried about fats consumption.
You may want to think about adding avocados, olive oil, and nuts to your grocery list, since a new study has suggested that the monounsaturated fatty acids in these foods could boost intelligence.
Researchers from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that higher levels of monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in the blood correlated with greater general intelligence in older adults.
Study leader Aron K. Barbey, a professor of psychology at the university, and colleagues recently reported their results in the journal Neuroimage.
Because my family history includes both Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia, I am fascinated by every aspect of the brain and its functions. The following is from Neuroscience News.
The human brain is much better than previously thought at discovering and avoiding disease, a new study led by researchers at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden reports. Our sense of vision and smell alone are enough to make us aware that someone has a disease even before it breaks out. And not only aware – we also act upon the information and avoid sick people. The study is published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS).
By injecting harmless sections of bacteria, the researchers activated the immune response in participants, who developed the classic symptoms of disease – tiredness, pain and fever – for a few hours, during which time smell samples were taken from them and they were photographed and filmed. The injected substance then disappeared from their bodies and with it the symptoms. NeuroscienceNews.com image is for illustrative purposes only.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is working with seven U.S. universities and elements of the Air Force and Army on research that seeks to stimulate the brain in a non-invasive way to speed up learning.
DARPA announced the Targeted Neuroplasticity Training, or TNT, program last March, and work now has begun on the effort to discover the safest and most effective ways to activate a natural process called “synaptic plasticity.”
Plasticity is the brain’s ability to strengthen or weaken its neural connections to adapt to changes in the environment. For TNT Program Manager Dr. Doug Weber, such plasticity is about learning.
“We’re talking about neural plasticity, or how the neurons, which are the working units in the brain, how their function changes over time as we train on new skills,” he said during a recent interview with Department of Defense News.
Targeted Neuroplasticity Training
TNT research focuses on a specific kind of learning called cognitive skills training. People use cognitive skills to do things like pay attention, process information, do several things at once, detect and understand patterns, remember instructions, organize information and much more. Continue reading →
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.
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 →
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.
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 →
New research has revealed how three important brain signaling chemicals affect the way that we handle uncertainty. It turns out that noradrenaline regulates our estimates of how unstable the environment is, acetylcholine helps us adapt to changing environments, and dopamine pushes us to act on our beliefs about uncertainty. The research, publishing 15 November in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, was led by Louise Marshall and Dr Sven Bestmann at the UCL (University College London) Institute of Neurology.
The study involved 128 healthy participants who took part in a reaction-time task designed to test how they handled uncertainty. Participants were all given either a placebo or a drug to block noradrenaline, acetylcholine or dopamine before starting the task. Participants responded to symbols that were presented one after the other by pressing a corresponding button. Continue reading →
A new UCLA study could change scientists’ understanding of how the brain works — and could lead to new approaches for treating neurological disorders and for developing computers that “think” more like humans.
The research focused on the structure and function of dendrites, which are components of neurons, the nerve cells in the brain. Neurons are large, tree-like structures made up of a body, the soma, with numerous branches called dendrites extending outward. Somas generate brief electrical pulses called “spikes” in order to connect and communicate with each other. Scientists had generally believed that the somatic spikes activate the dendrites, which passively send currents to other neurons’ somas, but this had never been directly tested before. This process is the basis for how memories are formed and stored.
Scientists have believed that this was dendrites’ primary role.
But the UCLA team discovered that dendrites are not just passive conduits. Their research showed that dendrites are electrically active in animals that are moving around freely, generating nearly 10 times more spikes than somas. The finding challenges the long-held belief that spikes in the soma are the primary way in which perception, learning and memory formation occur.
“Dendrites make up more than 90 percent of neural tissue,” said UCLA neurophysicist Mayank Mehta, the study’s senior author. “Knowing they are much more active than the soma fundamentally changes the nature of our understanding of how the brain computes information. It may pave the way for understanding and treating neurological disorders, and for developing brain-like computers.”
The research is reported in the March 9 issue of the journal Science.
Scientists have generally believed that dendrites meekly sent currents they received from the cell’s synapse (the junction between two neurons) to the soma, which in turn generated an electrical impulse. Those short electrical bursts, known as somatic spikes, were thought to be at the heart of neural computation and learning. But the new study demonstrated that dendrites generate their own spikes 10 times more often than the somas.
Mayo Clinic researchers have uncovered three new agents to add to the emerging repertoire of drugs that aim to delay the onset of aging by targeting senescent cells – cells that contribute to frailty and other age-related conditions. A recent study of human cell cultures shows that the drugs, fisetin and two BCL-XL inhibitors – A1331852 and A1155463 – cleared senescent cells in vitro. Findings appear online in Aging.
“Senescent cells accumulate with age and at sites of multiple chronic conditions, such as in fat tissue in diabetes, the lungs in chronic pulmonary diseases, the aorta in vascular disease, or the joints in osteoarthritis,” says James Kirkland, M.D., Ph.D., director of the Robert and Arlene Kogod Center on Aging. “At Mayo Clinic, we discovered the first senolytic drugs – agents that selectively eliminate senescent cells while leaving normal cells unaffected. These senolytic agents alleviated a range of age- and disease-related problems in mice. We used the hypothesis-driven approach that we used to discover the first senolytic drugs, two published in early 2015 and another later in 2015, to discover these three new senolytic drugs.” Continue reading →
I am blown away by the brain and how it functions in our body and allows us to function. Remember, the brain which accounts for about two percent of our body weight burns around 25 percent of the calories we use in a day. This item from Neuroscience News moves the needle further.
When we are in a deep slumber our brain’s activity ebbs and flows in big, obvious waves, like watching a tide of human bodies rise up and sit down around a sports stadium. It’s hard to miss. Now, Stanford researchers have found, those same cycles exist in wake as in sleep, but with only small sections sitting and standing in unison rather than the entire stadium. It’s as if tiny portions of the brain are independently falling asleep and waking back up all the time.
What’s more, it appears that when the neurons have cycled into the more active, or “on,” state they are better at responding to the world. The neurons also spend more time in the on state when paying attention to a task. This finding suggests processes that regulate brain activity in sleep might also play a role in attention.
“Selective attention is similar to making small parts of your brain a little bit more awake,” said Tatiana Engel, a postdoctoral fellow and co-lead author on the research, which published Dec. 1 in Science. Former graduate student Nicholas Steinmetz was the other co-lead author, who carried out the neurophysiology experiments in the lab of Tirin Moore, a professor of neurobiology and one of the senior authors. Continue reading →
I have written time and again about the link between exercise and brain health. The Harvard Heart Letter has a nice post on how heart disease and brain health are tied together.
“Just like in the rest of your body, advancing years can take a toll on your brain function. Much of this slowing down is predictable and can be chalked up to normal aging. However, when thinking skills become increasingly fuzzy and forgetfulness gets to be a way of life, an early form of dementia known as mild cognitive impairment may be setting in,” so writes Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter.
“Often, the first reaction is to attribute these changes to the beginning of Alzheimer’s disease. But blood flow problems may be to blame, as well. “An estimated one-third of all cases of dementia, including those identified as Alzheimer’s, can be attributed to vascular factors,” says Dr. Albert Hofman, chair of the department of epidemiology at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Continue reading →
I have written about the benefits of Vitamin D a number of times. You can check some of the links at the end of this post to read further. Now comes Neuroscience News with a report on its possible impact on increased longevity.
Research in C. elegans shows the popular supplement engages longevity genes to increase lifespan and prevent the accumulation of toxic proteins linked to many age-related diseases.
A simple Google search for “what does vitamin D do?” highlights the widely used dietary supplement’s role in regulating calcium absorption and promoting bone growth. But now it appears that vitamin D has much wider effects — at least in the nematode worm, C. elegans. Research at the Buck Institute shows that vitamin D works through genes known to influence longevity and impacts processes associated with many human age-related diseases. The study, published in Cell Reports, may explain why vitamin D deficiency has been linked to breast, colon and prostate cancer, as well as obesity, heart disease and depression.
“Vitamin D engaged with known longevity genes – it extended median lifespan by 33 percent and slowed the aging-related misfolding of hundreds of proteins in the worm,” said Gordon Lithgow, PhD, senior author and Buck Institute professor. “Our findings provide a real connection between aging and disease and give clinicians and other researchers an opportunity to look at vitamin D in a much larger context.” Continue reading →
A little background here. I am a senior citizen and I attend health talks at my local teaching hospital, Northwestern Memorial Hospital. Their program is called Healthy Transitions. Around 100 folks show up regularly for the talks. However, when the talk deals with some aspect of mental decline the place is packed. Seems lots of us seniors are worried about cognitive impairment that can lead to Alzheimer’s and dementia. That’s why I have a particular sore spot when it comes to those expensive ‘brain games’ sold by some snake oil sales companies. They prey on the fears of seniors and offer false hope.
So, I was particularly gratified to find in PSYBLOG a post knocking them down. PSYBLOG recommends what they call ‘the oldest technique of all,’ namely “Simply learning new information or using existing knowledge in new ways can help boost attentional skills.”
Seniors can increase their attention skills the same way as infants and little children
Professor Rachel Wu, who led study on attentional skills, said, “Adults can increase their attention skills by grouping objects into categories, and then using these categories to search for objects more efficiently.
In other words, we can build new knowledge or use existing knowledge to increase our attention. Continue reading →