DiversityNursing Blog

New Treatment For Dementia Discovered: Deep Brain Stimulation

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Apr 06, 2015 @ 02:04 PM

www.sciencedaily.com

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Pushing new frontiers in dementia research, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) scientists have found a new way to treat dementia by sending electrical impulses to specific areas of the brain to enhance the growth of new brain cells.

Known as deep brain stimulation, it is a therapeutic procedure that is already used in some parts of the world to treat various neurological conditions such as tremors or Dystonia, which is characterised by involuntary muscle contractions and spasms.

NTU scientists have discovered that deep brain stimulation could also be used to enhance the growth of brain cells which mitigates the harmful effects of dementia-related conditions and improves short and long-term memory.

Their research has shown that new brain cells, or neurons, can be formed by stimulating the front part of the brain which is involved in memory retention using minute amounts of electricity.

The increase in brain cells reduces anxiety and depression, and promotes improved learning, and boosts overall memory formation and retention.

The research findings open new opportunities for developing novel treatment solutions for patients suffering from memory loss due to dementia-related conditions such as Alzheimer's and even Parkinson's disease.

This discovery was published in eLife, a peer-reviewed open-access scientific journal published by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, the Max Planck Society and the Wellcome Trust.

Assistant Professor Ajai Vyas from NTU's School of Biological Sciences said, "The findings from the research clearly show the potential of enhancing the growth of brain cells using deep brain stimulation.

"Around 60 per cent of patients do not respond to regular anti-depressant treatments and our research opens new doors for more effective treatment options."

Dr Lim Lee Wei, an associate professor at Sunway University, Malaysia, who worked on the research project while he was a Lee Kuan Yew Research Fellow at NTU, said that deep brain stimulation brings multiple benefits.

"No negative effects have been reported in such prefrontal cortex stimulation in humans and studies have shown that stimulation also produces anti-depression effects and reduces anxiety.

"Memory loss in older people is not only a serious and widespread problem, but signifies a key symptom of dementia. At least one in 10 people aged 60 and above in Singapore suffer from dementia and this breakthrough could pave the way towards improved treatments for patients."

Growing new brain cells

For decades, scientists have been finding ways to generate brain cells to boost memory and learning, but more importantly, to also treat brain trauma and injury, and age-related diseases such as dementia.

As part of a natural cycle, brain cells constantly die and get replaced by new ones. The area of the brain responsible for generating new brain cells is known as the hippocampus, which is also involved in memory forming, organising and retention.

By stimulating the front part of the brain known as the prefrontal cortex, new brain cells are formed in the hippocampus although it had not been directly stimulated.

The research was conducted using middle-aged rats, where electrodes which sends out minute micro-electrical impulses were implanted in the brains. The rats underwent a few memory tests before and after stimulation, and displayed positive results in memory retention, even after 24 hours.

"Extensive studies have shown that rats' brains and memory systems are very similar to humans," said Prof Ajai who is a recipient of NTU's prestigious Nanyang Assistant Professorship award.

"The electrodes are harmless to the rats, as they go on to live normally and fulfil their regular (adult) lifespan of around 22 months."

The research was funded by the Lee Kuan Yew Research Fellowship which supports and promotes young and outstanding researchers in their respective areas of specialisation.

Topics: science, health, brain, memory, dementia, medical, treatment, deep brain stimulation, brain cells, electricity

Sweet! A Special Cocoa Drink May Reverse Memory Loss

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Oct 27, 2014 @ 02:42 PM

By Maggie Fox

cocoa

A special type of concentrated cocoa drink seems to turn back the clock on memory, changing the brain and helping middle-aged people ace memory tests, researchers reported on Sunday.

Plant compounds called flavanols seem to be what does the trick, the team at Columbia University Medical Center report in the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"If a participant had the memory of a typical 60-year-old at the beginning of the study, after three months that person on average had the memory of a typical 30- or 40-year-old," said Dr. Scott Small, who led the study.

It wasn’t hot cocoa that they drank, he cautions, but a proprietary drink made by Mars, Inc., which has also demonstrated that its flavanol-rich compounds can improve heart health. 

It is not yet available on the market.

Small’s team tested 37 healthy volunteers aged 50 to 69, who either drank a high-flavanol diet (900 mg of flavanols a day) or a low-flavanol diet (10 mg of flavanols a day) for three months. Everyone got functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans and also memory tests at the beginning and after the three months.

"When we imaged our research subjects' brains, we found noticeable improvements in the function of the dentate gyrus in those who consumed the high-cocoa-flavanol drink," said Adam Brickman, an associate professor of neuropsychology who worked on the study.

“High cocoa flavanols cause an improvement in the area of the brain that’s affected by aging,” Small said.

“This very small trial highlights some possible effects of flavanols found in cocoa beans over a short time period, but we’d need to see much longer, large-scale studies to fully understand whether a diet high in these flavanols could boost cognition in old age,” said Dr. Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK.

“We also don’t know how meaningful the improvements measured in the tests used here would be for people in their daily lives. This study didn’t look at dementia, and we can’t know from this research whether a diet high in cocoa would have any effect in either preventing or delaying the onset of the condition.”

And Small cautioned against using the findings to justify loading up on chocolate.

“It is true that cocoa flavanols are found in chocolate; however, only in small amounts,” he said. “Consuming a lot of chocolate is simply bad for your health.”

Source: www.today.com

Topics: brain, memory, cocoa, memory loss, chocolate

Chronic Stress Can Hurt Your Memory

Posted by Erica Bettencourt

Mon, Jul 21, 2014 @ 12:55 PM

By Serusha Govender and Sara Cheshire

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(CNN) -- Do you tend to forget things when you're stressed? Like when you're late for a meeting and can't remember where you left your car keys? Or when you have to give a big presentation and suddenly forget all your talking points seconds before you start?

There's nothing like stress to make your memory go a little spotty. A 2010 study found that chronic stress reduces spatial memory: the memory that helps you recall locations and relate objects.

Hence, your missing car keys.

University of Iowa researchers recently found a connection between the stress hormone cortisol and short-term memory loss in older rats. Their findings, published in the Journal of Neuroscience this week, showed that cortisol reduced synapses -- connections between neurons -- in the animals' pre-frontal cortex, the area of the brain that houses short-term memory.

But there's a difference between how your brain processes long-term job stress, for example, and the stress of getting into a car accident. Research suggests low levels of anxiety can affect your ability to recall memories; acute or high-anxiety situations, on the other hand, can actually reinforce the learning process.

Acute stress increases your brain's ability to encode and recall traumatic events, according to studies. These memories get stored in the part of the brain responsible for survival, and serve as a warning and defense mechanism against future trauma.

If the stress you're experiencing is ongoing, however, there can be devastating effects.

Neuroscientists from the University of California, Berkeley,found that chronic stress can create long-term changes in the brain. Stress increases the development of white matter, which helps send messages across the brain, but decreases the number of neurons that assist with information processing.

The neuroscientists say the resulting imbalance can affect your brain's ability to communicate with itself, and make you more vulnerable to developing a mental illness.

Defects in white matter have been associated with schizophrenia, chronic depression, bipolar disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. Research on post-traumatic stress disorder further shows that it can reduce the amount of gray matter in the brain.

The Berkeley researchers believe their findings could explain why young people who are exposed to chronic stress early in life are prone to learning difficulties, anxiety and other mood disorders.

To reduce the effects of stress, the Mayo Clinic recommends identifying and reducing stress triggers. Eating a healthy diet, exercising, getting enough sleep and participating in a stress-reduction activity such as deep breathing, massage or yoga, can also help.

Stress may harm the brain, but it recovers.

Source: www.cnn.com

Topics: study, researchers, the mayo clinic, university of Iowa, Berkeley, health, brain, memory, research, stress

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