Portions of the brain fall asleep and wake back up all the time

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.

Full story of brain activity in slumber at Science Daily

‘Corkscrew’ shape of blood flow in heart’s upper chamber may signal lower stroke risk

Using specialized CT scans of a healthy heart and one with heart disease, a team of Johns Hopkins cardiologists and biomedical engineers say they’ve created computer models of the “shape” of blood flow through the heart’s upper left chamber that someday may help predict stroke risk.

Specifically, their computer visualizations found that blood in the diseased heart failed to flow in corkscrew like “eddies” that most effectively moved blood out of the left atrium in the healthy heart and “showed us exactly how this motion would increase the risk of developing a blood clot,” says Hiroshi Ashikaga, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor of medicine and member of the Heart and Vascular Institute at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

The researchers say the same fluid motion analysis used in their two-heart proof-of-concept study may one day offer an accurate way to predict stroke risk in people with heart disease marked by enlargement and weakness of the cardiac muscle.

Full story of corkscrew like shape in heart lowering stroke risk at Science Daily

Possible new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s

A new scientific discovery may provide a future avenue for treatment and prevention of Alzheimer’s disease.

A study published Nov. 28 in the journal JAMA Neurology examined aquaporin-4, a type of membrane protein in the brain. Using brains donated for scientific research, researchers at OHSU discovered a correlation between the prevalence of aquaporin-4 among older people who did not suffer from Alzheimer’s as compared to those who had the disease.

“It suggests that aquaporin-4 might be a useful target in preventing and treating Alzheimer’s disease,” said senior author Jeffrey Iliff, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine in the OHSU School of Medicine. “However, we aren’t under any illusion that if we could just fix this one thing, then we’d be able to cure Alzheimer’s Disease.”

Full story of new target for treating and preventing Alzheimer’s at Science Daily

New insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins

A new study from The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston offers important insight into how Alzheimer’s disease begins within the brain. The researchers found a relationship between inflammation, a toxic protein and the onset of the disease. The study also identified a way that doctors can detect early signs of Alzheimer’s by looking at the back of patients’ eyes.

“Early detection of Alzheimer’s warning signs would allow for early intervention and prevention of neurodegeneration before major brain cell loss and cognitive decline occurs,” said lead author Ashley Nilson, a neuroscience graduate student. “Using the retina for detecting AD and other neurodegenerative diseases would be non-invasive, inexpensive and could become a part of a normal screening done at patient checkups.”

Full story of insight onto Alzheimer’s first stages at Science Daily

Cluster headaches: Painful but treatable, preventable

Often called the suicide headache because of the excruciating intensity of the pain, cluster headaches are three times more likely to strike men than women.

“Patients tell me it feels like they’re being mutilated with an ice pick and is worse than anything they’ve ever felt,” said Juline Bryson, M.D., assistant professor of neurology at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and a board-certified headache specialist.

“Because they are so rare, they are often misdiagnosed as migraines or allergies and aren’t treated appropriately.”

Full story of treating cluster headaches at Science Daily

Recommendations regarding use of statins for the prevention of cardiovascular disease

The U.S. Preventive Services Task Force (USPSTF) has issued a recommendation statement regarding the use of statins for primary prevention of cardiovascular disease in adults. The report appears in the November 15 issue of JAMA.

Recommendations

  • The USPSTF recommends initiating use of low- to moderate-dose statins in adults ages 40 to 75 years without a history of cardiovascular disease (CVD) who have 1 or more CVD risk factors (dyslipidemia, diabetes, hypertension, or smoking) and a calculated 10-year CVD event risk of 10 percent or greater (B recommendation, indicating that there is high certainty that the net benefit is moderate, or there is moderate certainty that the net benefit is moderate to substantial).

Full story of statins and cardiovascular disease at Science Daily

Research suggests ‘missed opportunities’ to prescribe drugs for stroke prevention

An analysis of the records of UK patients who had experienced a stroke has found that over half of those who should get drugs to prevent strokes were not prescribed them.

Across the UK, that amounts to 33% of all stroke and ‘mini-stroke’ (transient ischaemic attack, or TIA) patients having a ‘missed opportunity’ for preventative treatment.

Three types of patients are recommended to have drugs to prevent strokes; patients with high blood pressure, patients who are at high risk of a stroke, and patients with an irregular heartbeat — called atrial fibrillation.

Full story of missed opportunities for stroke prevention at Science Daily

Use of prescription pain medicines is significantly different between people with and without Alzheimer’s disease

Approximately one third of persons with Alzheimer’s disease use prescription medicines for pain after their diagnosis, reports a recent study conducted at the University of Eastern Finland. The use of analgesics was as common among persons with Alzheimer’s disease as it was among those of the same age without the disease, but there were significant differences in the types of medicines used. The results were published in European Journal of Pain.

The researchers found out that 35% of those with Alzheimer’s disease and 34% of those without used a prescription analgesic in the first six months after the disease diagnosis. Paracetamol was the most common medicine in both groups, but it was significantly more frequently used by persons with Alzheimer’s disease. Persons with Alzheimer’s disease also used less anti-inflammatory medicines, such as ibuprofen, and mild opioids for their pain.. During a six-year follow-up, the use of paracetamol and opioids increased significantly, while the use of anti-inflammatory drugs became less common..

Full story of pain medication and Alzheimer’s disease at Science Daily

Sometimes just watching hurts, and the signs of pain are seen in the brain

Some people claim to experience pain just watching something painful to happen. This is true especially of people suffering from complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a disabling chronic pain disorder in a limb. In CPRS patients, both own movements and just observing other persons’ movements may aggravate the pain.

When you hurt yourself, pain receptors in the body send signals to different parts of the brain. As the result, you experience pain. Researchers in Aalto University, Finland, found that when CRPS patients feel pain caused by observing other person’s movements, their brains display abnormal activation in many such areas that respond to normal physical pain. Thus the pain that the CRPS patients felt during movement observation presented similarities to the “normal” pain associated with tissue damage.

“CPRS is a very complex disease with devastating chronic pain. Its pathophysiology is incompletely understood and definitive biomarkers are lacking. Our discovery may help to develop diagnostics and therapeutic strategies for CRPS patients,” tells neurologist Jaakko Hotta, Doctoral Candidate at Aalto University.

Full story of signs of pain in the brain at Science Daily

Pain sensors specialized for specific sensations

Many pain-sensing nerves in the body are thought to respond to all types of ‘painful events’, but new UCL research in mice reveals that in fact most are specialized to respond to specific types such as heat, cold or mechanical pain.

The study, published in Science Advances and funded by Wellcome and Arthritis Research UK, found that over 85% of pain-sensing neurons in whole organisms are sensitive to one specific type of painful stimulus. It was previously thought that most pain-sensing neurons were very similar, so the new finding could enable scientists to develop new specific painkillers for different pain conditions.

Previous research using electrodes to monitor pain-sensing neurons had suggested that they respond to all types of pain, but the new study suggests that this recording technique may have altered the neuron’s properties.

Full story of pain sensors specialized for specific sensations at Science Daily