Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Are you immune to alcohol?

Why is it you can have a few drinks after work with your mates and you feel fine, but your friend who has had the same amount of alcohol as you is under the table?
A new study has shown that the immune cells in your brain can contribute to how you respond to alcohol, and treatment could soon be available for people known as 'one drink wonders'.
The study conducted by the University of Adelaide, Australia published in the British Journal of Pharmacology, found significant implications for understanding the way alcohol affects us, by studying the effects on both the immunological and neuronal response on laboratory mice, finding the brains immune response was involved in behavioural responses to alcohol.
The mice were given a single shot of alcohol in which the behavioural changes included decreased motor impairment and slow recovery time. But when researches genetically altered the mice or used drugs that blocked the brains toll-like receptors (related to the immune system), it reduced the effects of the alcohol and recovery time.
Lead researcher Dr Mark Hutchinson, ARC Research Fellow with the University's School of Medical Sciences, said, "It's amazing to think that despite 10,000 years of using alcohol, and several decades of investigation into the way that alcohol affects the nerve cells in our brain, we are still trying to figure out exactly how it works."
"Medications targeting this specific receptor — toll-like receptor 4 — may prove beneficial in treating alcohol dependence and acute overdoses," Dr Hutchinson said. "Such a shift in mindset has significant implications for identifying individuals who may have bad outcomes after consuming alcohol, and it could lead to a way of detecting people who are at greater risk of developing brain damage after long-term drinking."
This is good news as alcohol has an intoxicating and psychoactive effect on many Australians, which can lead to the many accidents, injuries, diseases, and disruptions in every day family life.
"Alcohol is consumed annually by two billion people world-wide with its abuse posing a significant health and social problem," says Dr Mark Hutchinson "Over 76 million people are diagnosed with an alcohol abuse disorder.

A Noninvasive Deep Brain Treatment For Essential Tremor?

Mini ultrasound machine

Focused ultrasound shows promise as a noninvasive deep brain treatment for essential tremor, a condition that affects millions.

    WASHINGTON, DC – In a presentation at the Congress of Neurological Surgeons today, University of Virginia neurosurgeon W. Jeffrey Elias, MD reported that preliminary results of a pilot clinical trial indicate that MR-guided focused ultrasound has the potential to safely and effectively control essential tremor (ET), a common neurological condition that affects 10 million Americans.

Results from the study’s first 10 patients showed a 78 percent improvement in contralateral tremor scores in the hand, as assessed with the Clinical Rating Scale for Tremor (CRST). Patients’ functional activities scores improved by 92 percent, as measured in the ‘Disability’ subsection of the CRST. Outcomes and complications were comparable to other procedures for tremor, including stereotactic thalamotomy and deep brain stimulation.

“So far, this noninvasive treatment has been life-changing for patients,” said Elias, the study’s principal investigator and Director of Stereotactic and Functional Neurosurgery at UVA. “All now have improved ability to use their dominant hand to perform tasks that they couldn’t do before treatment, such as writing legibly, drinking and eating without spilling, and buttoning clothes. It has been exciting to see their immediate improvements.”

The study is using magnetic resonance imaging to guide and monitor the delivery of focused ultrasound to tremor-causing nerve cells in the thalamus, a region deep within the brain known to be an effective target for ET and other movement disorders. The treatment goal is to reduce tremor in a patient’s dominant hand.

Most study participants have had ET for decades, Elias reported. As part of the study’s inclusion criteria, all had previously taken at least two medications that failed to control their tremor. Despite the severity of their disability, patients had opted to cope with symptoms rather than undergo invasive surgical procedures.

Conducted under an FDA-approved protocol, the single-arm, non-randomized, phase 1 study began in February 2011 and is expected to treat 15 patients before concluding. All patients are being followed for three months. If final results prove successful, Elias anticipates launching a larger, pivotal trial to study the overall safety and long-term efficacy of MR-guided focused ultrasound in treating medication-refractory ET.

Funding for the study is being provided by the Focused Ultrasound Surgery Foundation, which is also underwriting a parallel study at the University of Toronto in Canada. Foundation Chairman, Neal Kassell, MD, says the study’s success could lead to other new treatments. “By demonstrating that MR-guided focused ultrasound can treat tissue deep in the brain with great precision and accuracy, we hope to open the door to treating Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and brain tumors. Much work remains to be done, but the path forward is clear,” he observed.

Kassell added, “Because the brain poses more complex technical challenges than other organs, success in treating ET will spur advancements in developing new focused ultrasound therapies for the breast, liver, pancreas and prostate, which are less complicated to treat.”

Currently, MR-guided focused ultrasound is an FDA-approved therapy for uterine fibroids; it is approved in Europe and elsewhere for the treatment of uterine fibroids and pain associated with bone metastasis. Around the world, clinical trials are treating prostate, breast, bone and uterine tumors.

Study brings secrets of brain cell communication closer

Researchers at The University of Queensland's Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) have taken a significant step towards unravelling the mechanism by which communication between brain cells occurs.

Findings from a study just published in Nature Communications reveals that the lipid (fat) from the membranes of brain cells controls the movement of vesicles containing chemical messengers called neurotransmitters.

QBI's Associate Professor Frederic Meunier, who led the study, says these findings were made possible through experimentation with very selective compounds affecting the membrane.

“Our findings explain how minute changes in the lipid composition of our neurons can have a dramatic effect on the way these cells communicate with each other in the brain,” he says.

“We found that the lipid phosphatidylinositol(4,5)bisphosphate orchestrates the mobilization and movement of secretory vesicles towards the plasma membrane of neurosecretory cells.”

According to Associate Professor Meunier, a better understanding of the mechanism underpinning neurotransmitter release will aid scientists' ongoing fight against the plethora of diseases affecting neuronal communication in the brain.

“Changes in lipid composition have already been shown to be a factor contributing to the development of dementia in Alzheimer's disease,” he says.

“We hope that developing novel compounds targetting the fat lipid composition of biological membranes could ultimately help in the treatment of such brain disorders.”

The study was carried out in conjunction with colleagues from The University of Queensland's School of Biomedical Sciences, Flinders University in South Australia, the Centre for Cell Signalling within the Institute of Cancer in London, the Australian Centre for Blood Diseases in Melbourne's Monash University and the Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry in Germany.

Media: Denise Cullen
Executive Communications Officer
Phone: +61 7 3346 6434

Frederic Meunier
Associate Professor, QBI
Tel: +61 7 3346 6373


Neuronal trafficking laboratory

Neurons are highly polarized cells that transport membrane compartments called vesicles. They underpin functions like neuronal communication through the release of neurotransmitters at the synapse and carry important survival factors from the synapse back to the cell body. The focus of our laboratory is to decipher the puzzle of molecular events underpinning these trafficking events in neurons and neurosecretory cells and see how the puzzle is affected by medical conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and other neurodegenerative diseases. Our ultimate aim is to understand the sequence of molecular interactions underpinning the release of neurotransmitter, the recycling of synaptic vesicles, the internalisation and trafficking of survival factors and their receptors.

Queensland Brain Institute

The Queensland Brain Institute (QBI) was established as a research institute of the University of Queensland in 2003. The Institute is now operating out of a $63 million state-of-the-art facility and houses 33 principal investigators. QBI is one of the largest neuroscience institutes in the world dedicated to understanding the mechanisms underlying brain function.

Cell Phones Can Hamper Your Brain

Cell Phones Can Hamper Your Brain On Tuesday, Health Canada pleaded to parents of kids under the age of 18 to encourage their kids to limit the use of cell phones. It has come to light that the developing brain is at the risk of developing brain cancer if they are exposed to cell phone for long.
Previously, there have been studies which showed that extreme exposure of ears to cell phones may hamper the hearing capacity of a person. There is no doubt that longer exposure of cell phones can impact brain activities as a number of waves are emitted through cell phones.
Therefore, it is sort beneficial to take precautions and limit the usage of cell phones. The World Health Organization also raised concerns over the radioactive rays coming from cell phones. Cell phones are advised to shift to texting and to use head phones as through it the radioactive rays can be restricted from entering into the brain.
The radioactive waves coming from the cell phones are equivalent to the radioactive waves of radio and television. It has been estimated that about 24 million cell phones are used by Canadians at present.

Brain scans studied for use in diagnosing pedophilia

A new study suggests that brain scans can reveal pedophilia and detect the sexual orientation of possble offenders. (Don Carstens / Brand X/Corbis)

pedophiles' brains respond differently
For years, pedophiles have been diagnosed either after they have committed sexual offenses or after they have agreed to submit to an intrusive and imperfectly reliable test that measures penile changes as a subject looks at pictures of nude children. A new study suggests that a pedophile's different brain responses to photos of unclothed children and adults can detect pedophilia with greater accuracy.
The technique used also appears able to detect whether the individual's pedophilic urges are hetero- or homosexual -- a distinction that may call for different approaches to treatment.
Published "online first" on Monday in the Archives of General Psychiatry, the study describes the use of functional Magnetic Resonance Imagery (fMRI) to map distinct patterns of brain activation in 24 acknowledged pedophiles and 32 healthy male volunteers of similar age and intelligence levels. Among the acknowledged pedophiles were 11 who were attracted to prepubescent girls and 13 who were homosexually pedophilic. The healthy volunteer group was made up of 18 men attracted to adult women and 14 men attracted to adult men.
While lying in the MRI scanner, which detects increased blood flow to specific regions of the brain in response to stimuli, each man was shown the same random sequence of 490 pictures. Scattered among neutral photographs were 280 photos of children and adults, both male and female, shown for just a second. For each category of person -- adult male, adult female, female child, male child -- separate pictures depicted a whole-body frontal view, genitals only, or face only.
The patterns of activation in several regions of the brain where sexual impulses and arousal are processed were quite distinct across the four groups. Only one group -- heterosexual pedophiles -- failed to show a significantly distinct pattern of arousal when shown pictures of adult women and female children. But their brains responded to pictures of female children in ways that made them easily distinguishable from the heterosexual control group.
The researchers, from Kiel and Berlin in Germany and Hvidovre, Denmark, said this is a first-ever effort to use "neurofunctional pattern classification" to assess pedophilia. Compared to the existing test of phallometry -- the measurement of penile changes in response to various pictures, the use of fMRI seems to be slightly less sensitive -- meaning it may not detect all pedophiles.  But it appears to be much more specific than phallometry, meaning it is less likely than phallometry to identify people as pedophilic who are not.
An accurate gauge of pedophilia could be an important tool in detecting whether court-ordered treatment is working, and whether a convicted pedophile can be safely released into society. It might also identify those who need the most intensive treatment: Among single-victim offenders, the phallometry test suggests that only about half have the sustained sexual attraction to children that classifies them as pedophilic.

Mobiles cause brain tumour, impotency: Doctor

Mobile phone users who keep their handsets in their front and side pockets are vulnerable to serious ailments including impotency and heart diseases due to harmful radiation, and a new range of mobile phones launched in the UAE, promise low radiation hazard, industry players and doctors said.
Dh1,200 fine for mobile phone use while driving
Dr Shanid Mangalath, Expert at the Health and Care Research Center, Dubai, said neurological studies conducted by the centre proved that ten per cent of the brain tumour cases could be caused by high radiation due to constant use of mobile phones.
“The most modern phones with WiFi and wireless connectivity cause the worst form of radiation. A simple phone without cameras or other high tech facilities offer the least levels of radiation. Putting your mobile phones in pocket is a dangerous practice, because the heart or testicles are directly exposed to high radiation, during an incoming call or call connection, when the user keeps the phone close to his or her ears. The new phones will help the user to keep the handset away from the ears, while the phone is getting connected,” he reasoned.
“Keeping the phone in your trouser pockets can cause impotency because the high radiation can even kill your sperm. The safest place to keep your mobile is the belt pouch. Soft tissues exposed to mobile radiation can get damaged,” Dr Shahid said.
“The low radiation phones allow users to reduce the impact of peak radiation while receiving the calls. It helps them to keep the handset at an arm’s length,” he said, adding that Bluetooth and headphones may give the same effect.
“Currently an average mobile user is having two handsets. The demand for low radiation phones is increasing — the demand for base phones is increasing at the rate of 35 to 37 per cent per year and for smart phones the annual demand growth is 11 per cent. We will be setting up 20 retail outlets of Telelinks and 300 retail outlets. While major mobile manufacturers say their mobile phones generate various levels of radiation (1.6 watts per body weight), Magnus claim that the handsets will have low radiation.
The company will introduce a smart phone that can monitor the users heart beats using a new software and biometric technology. Future plans include smart phones that can be used to check the user’s blood sugar level, without pricking their blood vessels. “We are doing a trial run for a new system that will allow a mobile phone user to check their blood sugar level. “Using analysers, the blood sugar level can be checked accurately by sending special rays through the mobile phone user’s finger tips. There is no need to prick the finger tips to get blood samples. We expect to launch this in the market soon,” he added.
Jabir Mohammed TTP, Regional Head, Middle East North Africa region, Magnus Telecom, said: “About 10 million handsets currently in use in the UAE are causing a lot of radiation around us. The mobile phones generate radiation from microwave, which is harmful to heart and brain. Mobile phone manufacturers are not giving much concern for reducing radiation. Mobile users are exposed to high levels of radiation and the peak radiation level occurs while dialing and connecting the calls.”

How the brain's natural memory rhythms can enhance learning

WASHINGTON: In a discovery that challenges conventional wisdom of the brain mechanisms of learning, two Indian-origin scientists have found that the brain churns out memories rhythmically.

The brain learns through changes in the strength of its synapses -- the connections between neurons -- in response to stimuli.

Now, UCLA neuro-physicists have found that there is an optimal brain "rhythm", or frequency, for changing synaptic strength.

And further, like stations on a radio dial, each synapse is tuned to a different optimal frequency for learning.

The findings, which provide a grand-unified theory of the mechanisms that underlie learning in the brain, may lead to possible new therapies for treating learning disabilities.

"Many people have learning and memory disorders, and beyond that group, most of us are not Einstein or Mozart," said Mayank R. Mehta, the paper's senior author and an associate professor in UCLA's departments of neurology, neurobiology, physics and astronomy.

"Our work suggests that some problems with learning and memory are caused by synapses not being tuned to the right frequency."

Mehta and co-author Arvind Kumar, a former postdoctoral fellow in his lab, found that not only does each synapse have a preferred frequency for achieving optimal learning, but for the best effect, the frequency needs to be perfectly rhythmic -- timed at exact intervals. Even at the optimal frequency, if the rhythm was thrown off, synaptic learning was substantially diminished.

Although much more research is needed, the findings raise the possibility that drugs could be developed to "retune" the brain rhythms of people with learning or memory disorders, or that many more of us could become Einstein or Mozart if the optimal brain rhythm was delivered to each synapse.

"We already know there are drugs and electrical stimuli that can alter brain rhythms," Mehta said.

"Our findings suggest that we can use these tools to deliver the optimal brain rhythm to targeted connections to enhance learning," he added.

Strokes and Alzheimer's can team up, says Canadian researcher

There is a strong link between stroke and Alzheimer's disease — one which opens up new avenues of prevention and treatment, say researchers.

There is a strong link between stroke and Alzheimer's disease — one which opens up new avenues of prevention and treatment, say researchers.

OTTAWA — For decades, doctors have diagnosed some patients with stroke and others with Alzheimer's disease, even though the vast majority of seniors suffer from a combination of each.
Now, a growing body of evidence suggests that, far from being diseases that develop independently of each other, stroke and Alzheimer's can overlap and speed up signs of dementia, says a leading Canadian brain researcher.
"These disorders cohabit, especially in an aging brain," Dr. Sandra Black told the Canadian Stroke Congress in Ottawa Tuesday. "Both of these conditions work against stroke recovery and hasten functional decline."
Some studies have estimated that up to half of all seniors with age-related dementia have both Alzheimer's and cardiovascular disease — the kind that can lead to a heart attack or stroke. In contrast, fewer than one-third have an exclusive Alzheimer's diagnosis, and only 10 per cent suffer strokes alone.
The findings suggest the same medications — and healthy habits — that are good for the heart can also be good for the head, said Black, a neurologist and researcher at Toronto's Sunnybrook Research Institute.
The relationship between stroke and Alzheimer's is still hotly debated by experts.
What's clear is that when the brain lacks a healthy flow of blood due to hardened or constricted vessels, it is less able to fight off the damage associated with dementia, said Black.
Indeed, the same risk factors that raise a person's chances of having a stroke — high cholesterol and blood pressure, excess weight, smoking, lack of exercise — also raise the risk of dementia.
Likewise, a brain injury caused by small, "silent" strokes can accelerate memory and learning problems in people who already are developing Alzheimer's, but show no symptoms.
In fact, it's the minor, difficult-to-detect strokes, rather than the signature plaques and tangles responsible for Alzheimer's, that speed cognitive decline and destroy a person's ability to reason, communicate and carry out normal day-to-day activities, said Black.
The most solid evidence comes from a study of 700 U.S. nuns, who were followed for many years. All the nuns had similar eating and exercise habits, and all agreed to allow their brains to be studied after death.
These autopsies confirmed a striking relationship between the presence in the brain of vascular disease and symptoms caused by damage related to Alzheimer's. What's more, the sisters with brain abnormalities characteristic of Alzheimer's were more likely to have symptoms of dementia if they also had strokes or clogged brain arteries.
Stroke and Alzheimer's are leading causes of disability among Canadian seniors and are responsible for $10.5 billion annually in direct health-care costs.
Each year, an estimated 50,000 Canadians suffer a stroke, and another 315,000 live with its effects. About 500,000 live with Alzheimer's, or a related dementia — a figure that's expected to double in the next two decades, according to the Alzheimer Society of Canada.
"Especially since (these diseases) will be epidemic in this century, we urgently need to understand how they develop, how some elders can resist them and how they interact so that we can better treat and prevent them," Black said.
Traditionally, stroke and Alzheimer's experts have resisted working together — a divide that is only starting to narrow. Having a better understanding of the relationship between the two diseases would help physicians treat the risk factors that could affect their progression, especially in people aged 75 and over, said Black.
Several studies have suggested that certain types of blood-pressure-lowering drugs, such as angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBS), might hold Alzheimer's at bay. Other studies have pointed to a link between Alzheimer's and cholesterol, raising the possibility that statins, the drugs that lower cholesterol, also might protect the brain.
"There's a lot of circumstantial evidence, but no one has done a face-to-face trial," said Black.
Controlling weight, eating low-fat and low-salt diets and keeping the brain active through reading, doing puzzles and learning new things also appear to protect the brain against dementia.
By far the most promising treatment, even for people who already show signs of dementia, is regular aerobic exercise.
Animal studies have found exercise can reduce the accumulation of the abnormal proteins that are a hallmark of Alzheimer's. An Australian study of patients with memory problems also showed that brisk walking for 150 minutes a week improved cognitive function.
Black's research team is conducting a study on the impact of exercise on patients with early Alzheimer's.
"I don't have an interaction with a patient and family now without talking about exercise, heart-healthy diet, salt — all that stuff," said Black.

Depression May Weaken Brain Circuits Tied to Hate, Reward

A new UK study suggests depression weakens neural connections in specific brain networks.
Investigators used functional magnetic resonance imaging (brain scans) to scan the brain activity in 39 depressed people (23 female 16 male) and 37 control subjects who were not depressed (14 female 23 male).
Depression May Weaken Brain Circuits Tied to Hate, RewardThe researchers found the fMRI scans revealed significant differences in the brain circuitry of the two groups.
Among depressed patients, the greatest difference was the reduced connection of the so-called “hate circuit” involving brain regions of the superior frontal gyrus, insula and putamen.
According to lead researcher Jianfeng Feng, Ph.D., the hate circuit was first clearly identified in 2008 by Semir Zeki, Ph.D., who found that a circuit which seemed to connect three regions in the brain (the superior frontal gyrus, insula and putamen) when test subjects were shown pictures of people they hated.
Researchers also discovered the brains of depressed people had altered activity in response to risks and actions, reward and emotion, attention and memory processing.
Among the depressed group:
•The hate circuits were 92 percent likely to be weakened;
•The risk/action circuit was 92 percent likely to be weakened;
•The emotion/reward circuit was 82 percent likely to be weakened.
“The results are clear but at first sight are puzzling as we know that depression is often characterized by intense self loathing and there is no obvious indication that depressives are less prone to hate others,” Feng said.
“One possibility is that the uncoupling of this hate circuit could be associated with impaired ability to control and learn from social or other situations which provoke feelings of hate towards self or others. This in turn could lead to an inability to deal appropriately with feelings of hate and an increased likelihood of both uncontrolled self-loathing and withdrawal from social interactions.
“It may be that this is a neurological indication that it is more normal to have occasion to hate others rather than hate ourselves.”
As in many aspects of medical research, additional studies are required to improve analysis and interpretation.

How The Brain Responds To Stress

Stress is a force coming from inside or outside of the body which affects a person. This activates the brain to respond to the stressor. A new discovery by the research team from the University of Leicester has discovered the nerve cells which are responsible for coping mechanism to stress.
In general, stress is related to both external and internal factors. External factors include the physical environment, including job, relationships with others, and all the situations, challenges, difficulties, and expectations a person is confronted with on a daily basis. Internal factors determine the body’s ability of a person to respond to, and deal with, the external stress-inducing factors. Some of these internal factors which can influence a person’s ability to handle stress include his nutritional status, overall health and fitness levels, emotional well-being, and the amount of sleep and rest you get.
The researchers have discovered a deeper understanding of the brain’s function in limiting the impact of stress to a person. They have discovered nerve cells located in the brain which is described to be thin and mushroom-like responsible for a person’s recall and cognition or learning. These nerve cells also functions by changing a person’s recall of painful or any traumatic events which can put a great deal of stress to a person. Thus, lessening stress and making a person feel better.
“Every day stress “reshapes” the brain – nerve cells change their morphology, the number of connections with other cells and the way they communicate with other neurons. In most cases these responses are adaptive and beneficial – “they help the brain to cope with stress and shape adequate behavioral reaction. However, upon severe stress things can get out of control, the brain “buffering” capacity is exhausted and the nerve cells in the hippocampus – ” an area of the brain responsible for learning and memory – start to withdraw their processes, don’t effectively communicate with other cells and show signs of disease.” Dr Pawlak of the University Department of Cell Physiology and Pharmacology explained.
“One strategy that brain cells particularly like to use to cope with stress is changing the shape of tiny processes they normally employ to exchange information with other neurons, called dendritic spines.” He added.
The research was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and can be used to understand and formulate new treatment modality for psychiatric disorders which are related to stress.
According to the Department of Health and Human Services in the US:
  • 75% of the general population experiences at least “some stress” every two weeks (National Health Interview Survey).
  • Half of those experience moderate or high levels of stress during the same two-week period.
  • Millions of Americans suffer from unhealthy levels of stress at work. (A study several years ago estimated the number to be 11 million–given events since that time, this number has certainly more than tripled–studies in Sweden, Canada, and other Westernized countries show similar trends.)
  • Worker’s compensation claims for “mental stress” in California rose 200-700% in the 1980s (whereas all other causes remained stable or declined!)
  • Stress contributes to heart disease, high blood pressure, strokes, and other illnesses in many individuals.
  • Stress also affects the immune system, which protects us from many serious diseases.
  • Tranquilizers, antidepressants, and anti-anxiety medications account for one fourth of all prescriptions written in the U.S. each year.
  • Stress also contributes to the development of alcoholism, obesity, suicide, drug addiction, cigarette addiction, and other harmful behaviors.
  • The U.S. Public Health Service has made reducing stress by the year 2000 one of its major health promotion goals.

Mouse Study Suggests Infectious Process in Alzheimer’s

New animal research suggests the brain damage caused by Alzheimer’s disease may result from an infectious process similar to “mad cow” disease.

Mouse Study Suggests Infectious Process in AlzheimersInvestigators from The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston believe brain damage that characterizes Alzheimer’s disease could originate in a form similar to that of infectious prion diseases (such as bovine spongiform encephalopathy and Creutzfeldt-Jakob).
“Our findings open the possibility that some of the sporadic Alzheimer’s cases may arise from an infectious process, which occurs with other neurological diseases such as mad cow and its human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease,” said researcher Claudio Soto, Ph.D.
“The underlying mechanism of Alzheimer’s disease is very similar to the prion diseases. It involves a normal protein that becomes misshapen and is able to spread by transforming good proteins to bad ones. The bad proteins accumulate in the brain, forming plaque deposits that are believed to kill neuron cells in Alzheimer’s.”
The results showing a potentially infectious spreading of Alzheimer’s disease in animal models were published in the online issue of Molecular Psychiatry, part of the Nature Publishing Group.
In Alzheimer’s disease, brain plaques are hallmarks of the illness and are caused by misshapen aggregates of beta amyloid protein and twisted fibers of the protein tau.
In the study, researchers injected the brain tissue of a confirmed Alzheimer’s patient into mice and compared the results to those from injected tissue of a control without the disease.
None of the mice injected with the control showed signs of Alzheimer’s, whereas all of those injected with Alzheimer’s brain extracts developed plaques and other brain alterations typical of the disease.
“We took a normal mouse model that spontaneously does not develop any brain damage and injected a small amount of Alzheimer’s human brain tissue into the animal’s brain,” said Soto.
“The mouse developed Alzheimer’s over time and it spread to other portions of the brain. We are currently working on whether disease transmission can happen in real life under more natural routes of exposure.”

Low iron diet iron cuts brain disease risk

Low iron diet iron lessens brain disease risk (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
Just the right amount of iron is needed for proper cell functioning but an excess could trigger brain diseases like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's, new research says.

Men have more iron in their system than women, which may explain why they develop these age-related degenerative diseases at a younger age.

Women lose iron through blood loss during menstruation, so a lesser number of them have these diseases, according to a University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) study, the journal Neurobiology of Aging reports.
George Bartzokis, professor of psychiatry at the UCLA and colleagues compared iron levels in women who had their uterus removed (hysterectomy) before menopause and thus did not menstruate and lose iron, with levels in postmenopausal women who had not gone through the procedure.

They found the women who had undergone hysterectomy had higher levels of iron in their brains than the women who hadn't, compared to that of the men, according to a UCLA statement.

"But there are things postmenopausal women and especially men can do to reduce their iron levels through relatively simple actions," Bartzokis said.

"These include not overloading themselves with over-the-counter supplements that contain iron, unless recommended by their doctor; eating less red meat, which contains high levels of iron; donating blood; (taking) curcumin or green tea, that may have positive health consequences," Bartzokis said.

Researchers used an MRI technique that can measure the amount of ferritin iron in the brain (ferritin is a protein that stores iron).

They examined 39 postmenopausal women, 15 of whom had undergone a hysterectomy. They looked at three white-matter and and five gray-matter regions of the brain. Fifty-four male subjects were also imaged for comparison.

The researchers found that 15 of the women who had hysterectomy had concentrations of iron in the brain's white-matter regions that did not differ from the men's levels.

Further, both the women who had a hysterectomy and the men, had significantly higher amounts of iron than the women who had not undergone a hysterectomy.

Brain disorders cost Europe 800 billion euros a year: study

Brain disorders cost Europe 800 billion euros a year: study

The cost of brain disorders in Europe soared to 798 billion euros last year, double the figure for 2005 and equating to 1,550 euros per capita, says a new report.
The bill will continue to rise as people live longer, and this represents "the number one economic challenge for European health care now and in the future," says the study, which was commissioned by the European Brain Council (EBC).
The authors, who acknowledge that their cost estimates are "very conservative,” call for a major increase in research funding and resources - and perhaps longer patents for drug treatments - to help tackle the issue.
The report examines the situation in 30 European countries covering 19 diagnostic groups. It puts the total number of mental and neurological conditions at well over 100, ranging from headaches, migraines and sleep disorders to strokes, Parkinson's disease, psychotic disorders and dementia.
Over one-third of Europe's 514 million population has been affected in some way, either suffering from a condition themselves or having aided or cared for those who are suffering, it says.
The "immense and expanding" cost of brain disorders is also substantially higher in Europe than other comparable disease areas such as cardiovascular disease - estimated by the European Heart Network at 192 billion euros in 2008 - or cancer - put at 150-250 billion euros a year, the study notes.
However, despite the overwhelming impact which brain disorders have on society and the fact that their costs far exceed those of cancer and cardiovascular disease, "research into the diagnosis, prevention and more effective treatment of such disorders has not been recognised as a top priority," says Jes Olesen, professor of neurology at the University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
"This report indicates that brain research needs far more focus and to receive a considerable proportion of healthcare research spending," he adds.
In 2010, the direct healthcare costs of brain disorders - including doctor' visits, hospital care and drugs - constituted 24% of total European Union (EU) healthcare spending, while indirect costs - including loss of production due to work absences or enforced early retirement - added considerably to this. The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimates that brain diseases cause 35% of the burden of all diseases in Europe.
The report acknowledges that there have been significant funding improvements at the European Commission level, but points out that these started from a very low level, with just 85 million euros spent in the Fifth Framework Programme (FP5 - the EU R&D programme) between 1998-2002. The last funding tranche in FP7 was 381 million euros, or just 0.05% of the estimated cost of brain disorders.
Moreover, the report says the pharmaceutical industry has begun to turn its back on brain disorder research, in the face of stricter regulation of central nervous system (CNS) drug treatments and disappointing financial returns. Here, the authors suggest that "political action could…include simplification of procedures, reducing bureaucracy or perhaps prolonging patents for drugs for brain diseases."
But without urgent action, the situation can only worsen, given the continuing rise in life expectancy in Europe, the authors warn. Because of the ageing population, degenerative disorders such as dementia, Parkinson's and stroke are particularly destined to become more common, but anxiety and mood disorders are also very prevalent in older populations, they add.

Brain Memory Finding May Help Schizophrenia Research

A variation in a part of the brain may explain why some people have a better memory of reality than others and could advance understanding of brain disorders like schizophrenia, scientists said.
In a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience, researchers from Cambridge University tested 53 volunteers and found differences in their ability to distinguish between real or imagined memories.

The scientists then found a direct link between these results and the size of a specific area of the brain called the paracingulate sulcus, or PCS.
The PCS is one of the last regions of the brain to develop before birth, and the study found that people with a larger PCS were better at discerning real experiences from imagined ones.
"The memory differences we observed were quite striking. It is exciting to think that these individual differences in ability might have a basis in a simple brain folding variation," said Cambridge's Jon Simons, who led the research.
The findings may also help scientists understand more about schizophrenia, he said, because an inability to recognize what is real and what isn't is a hallmark of the disease.
"Hallucinations are often reported whereby, for example, someone hears a voice when nobody's there. Difficulty distinguishing real from imagined information might be an explanation for such hallucinations," Simons said. "The person might imagine the voice but misattribute it as coming from the outside world."
Schizophrenia is a severe mental disorder which affects 24 million people worldwide, according to World Health Organization data, yet relatively little is known of its causes.
"We've found evidence that suggests this particular (brain)region might be reduced in people with schizophrenia, and that this could be the beginning of an explanation for why these people experience hallucinations," Simons said in a telephone interview.
The 53 volunteers in the study first had brain scans which showed whether they had either a clear presence or absence of PCS in the left or right brain.
The researchers then showed them well-known word pairs -- such as "Laurel and Hardy" for example -- which were sometimes complete and sometimes had the second word blanked out.
The volunteers were then asked to remember whether they had seen a completed pair, or whether they had completed the pair in their own mind.
"What we're interested in linking next. is whether individuals with schizophrenia who also have that reduction in the PCS are definitely more likely to experience hallucinations," Simons said, adding that his team is planning further research in the coming months.