Reflections on March 2009

In March, there was a particularly interesting paper comparing 12 new-generation antidepressants in the Lancet and the authors came out with some bold conclusions. There was a review of the Seattle Protocols for exercise in dementia which shows the benefits of an organised approach to exercise programs complete with published research on efficacy. The effects of Amyloid deposition are often debated and although well recognised as part of Alzheimer’s pathology there is undoubtedly much more to the picture than first meets the eye as can be seen from the reviewd paper on  amyloid deposition without significant cognitive impairment. A number of Winnicott’s papers were reviewed most of which were very interesting and ably conveyed his insights. A number of key policy documents were also reviewed including the National Service Framework for Mental Health and the Government’s Vision for Mental Health Care. Books reviewed included ‘The Man Who Forgot to Read’ – a moving  account of a writer who develops alexia sine agraphia following a stroke. Dr Charles Parker’s interesting blog covers cutting edge advances in psychiatric diagnosis and treatment while the Paleoblog gives rich albeit indirect insights into people from an anthropological perspective. A number of podcasts were reviewed including one on the Diamond Light Synchotron where a variety of interesting research projects are underway.  In terms of research there were a number of studies looking at factors influencing conversion of MCI to dementia and the significance of Mild Behavioural Impairment is becoming increasingly evident. The NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development is currently underway as is the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative which makes data available on the internet for collaborators around the world. A comparison of Nortriptylline and Escitalopram provided evidence of effectiveness for different symptom profiles. There were also a number of interesting findings for zinc supplementation in one trial and deep brain stimulation in another. Neuroimaging of the hippocampus was used to predict location in space in one widely reported study while another provided evidence that dialectical bootstrapping improved decision making. An intriguing finding was that of a fine reticular network being laid down in the brain during infections which appears to provide an infrastructure for the movement of  immune cells. There were also further imaging studies supporting the sensory recruitment hypothesis which suggests that perception is distributed across the areas involved in the early sensory processing.

Medical Articles Reviewed

Review of Neurobiological Mechanisms in Major Depressive Disorder here

Review of Anosmia in Lewy Body Dementia here

Review of Frequent Amyloid Deposition Without Significant Cognitive Impairment Among the Elderly here

Review of Comparative Efficacy and Acceptability of 12 New-Generation Antidepressants here

Review of The Seattle Protocols: Exercise Interventions for Dementia and Cognitive Impairment here

Psychology/Psychotherapy Articles Reviewed

Review of Winnicott on Appetite and Emotional Disorder here

Review of Winnicott on Ocular Psychoneuroses of Childhood here

Review of Winnicott on Reparation in Respect of Mother’s Organised Defence Against Depression here

Review of Winnicott on the Mind and its Relation to the Psyche-Soma here

Review of Winnicott on Anxiety Associated with Insecurity here

Social Psychiatry/Policy Documents Reviewed

The Journey to Recovery – The Government’s Vision for Mental Health Care here

National Service Framework for Mental Health here

Mental Health Ten Years On: Progress on Mental Health Care Reform here

Commissioning and Access to Psychological Therapies here

Book Reviews

Review of The Man Who Forgot How to Read here

Review of Vintage Sacks here

Review of Your Inner Fish here

Review of 50 Psychology Classics here

Blog Reviews

Advances in the History of Psychology Blog Review here

Social Science Statistics Blog Review here

Palaeoblog Review here

CorePsych Blog Review here

Podcast Reviews

Podcast Review: March 2009 3rd Edition. Review of Feb/March Nature Podcasts here

Podcast Review: John Betts on Jungian Psychology #8 here

Podcast Review: The Diamond Light Source Synchrotron here

Podcast Review: March 2009 Third Edition. Lancet Podcasts Reviewed here


Beginning An Anthropological Exploration of the Insular Cortex here

Research in Dementia

In a study of family caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s Disease in Turkey, there was found to be a significant association between caregiver burnout and caregiver anxiety as well as patient’s self-maintenance (Yilmaz et al, 2009). The authors of a study looking at anosognosia found that this may impact on the results of self-rated quality of life measures in people with Alzheimer’s Disease (Berwig et al, 2009).

Performance on memory tasks was inversely correlated with the number of neurofibrillary tangles in the hippocampus on post-mortem. There was also an inverse correlation between memory performance and NFT’s in the entorhinal cortex, CA1 and subiculum (Reitz et al, 2009). CSF ABeta42 levels were inversely correlated with brain atrophy in Alzheimer’s Disease and the authors suggest that this may result from increased ABeta42 aggregation in the disease process (Fagan et al, 2009).  A longitudinal study which involved autopsy found an inverse correlation between carrying the APOE2 gene and cognition in those over the age of 90 but a significant correlation with Alzheimer’s Disease neuropathology (Berlau et al, 2009). Risk factors that Alzheimer’s Disease and Diabetes share in common are examined in this review article (Gotz et al, 2009). A region on chromosome 8 was found to be significantly associated with Late-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease in a study involving 837 people with late-onset Alzheimer’s Disease (AD) and 550 controls (Nalls et al, 2009). Homocysteine levels were increased and paraoxonase levels decreased in people with Alzheimer’s Disease (AD n=51, VaD n=28, Mixed Dementia n=41) which was interpreted as a relationship between oxidative stress and the neurodegenerative process in Alzheimer’s Disease (Wehr et al, 2009). Anosognosia for amnesia (using the everyday memory checklist) was found to be positively correlated with disease progression in Alzheimer’s Disease in a longitudinal study involving 58 people with mild Alzheimer’s Disease (Akai et al, 2009). Acetylcholinesterase inhibitors were found to be have different effects on blood pressure and cerebral perfusion in Alzheimer’s Disease in this review (Claassen et al, 2009). An intriguing hypothesis that has been developed states that cognitive changes in Alzheimer’s Disease and normal aging may represent an ‘adaptive metabolism reduction program’ and it will be interesting to see the results of future studies testing this hypothesis (Reser, 2009). Another study shows evidence that cardiovascular risk factors do not influence progression of Alzheimer’s Disease (as opposed to onset) and it will be interesting to see the results of future replication studies (Abellan et al, 2009). As cognition became increasingly impaired using study data from two trials, there was found to be worse agreement between three measures of cognition – Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive, Clinical Dementia Rating and MMSE (Tractenberg et al, 2009). An in vitro study provided evidence for neuroprotective effects of acetaminophen (Tripathy and Grammas, 2009). In a secondary analysis in the Video-imaging Synthesis of Treating Alzheimer’s Disease (VISTA) study, 74% of community-resident people with mild-to-moderate AD were found to misplace items recurrently and for 81% of these cases, this represented the inability to recall where items had been placed (Hamilton et al, 2009). A causal relationship to explain the association between Alzheimer’s Disease and glaucoma has been proposed as reduced cerebrospinal fluid pressure by a Belgian group (Wostyn et al, 2009). Placing of the minute hand on the clock drawing test was effective in discriminating people with Alzheimer’s Disease from controls (Leyhe et al, 2009). Iron levels were elevated in the hippocampus in 26 people with Alzheimer’s Disease compared to controls in a phase-imaging study of 26 people with Alzheimer’s Disease and 24 controls with potential diagnostic implications (Ding et al, 2009).

In a prospective study of community-based people with dementia (n=48) including post-mortem, visual hallucinations were associated with a higher frequency of neocortical lewy-related pathology, abnormal posture and gait than those without visual hallucinations. However in 59% of cases the diagnosis was Alzheimer’s Disease with concurrent Lewy Body related pathology (Tsuang et al, 2009). People with Lewy Body Dementia (n=29) were significantly more likely than those with Alzheimer’s Disease (n=33) to report difficulties with swallowing (Shinagawa et al, 2009).

A component of inclusion bodies – trans-activation-responsive DNA-binding protein 43 (TDP-43) has been found in familial British Dementia by a Canadian group (Schwab et al, 2009). In a 5-year prospective cohort study, over 70% of people with mild behavioural impairment converted to dementia and were more likely to develop Frontotemporal Dementia than Alzheimer’s Disease and the authors suggest that MBI may be an FTD prodrome (Taragano et al, 2009). In a small case control series of Frontotemporal Dementia, 12 people with MAPT gene mutations were found to have greater grey matter loss in the frontal, parietal and anteromedial temporal lobes copared to the control group while the 12 people with PGRN gene mutations were found to have greater grey matter loss in the frontal, parietal and posterior temporal lobes than controls (Whitwell et al, 2009).

People with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease were found to perform worse on time estimate tasks than a younger comparison group and this effect was independent of episodic memory (Rueda and Schmitter-Edgecombe, 2009). An MRI study showed more temporal grey matter loss in people with Prodromal Alzheimer’s Disease compared to amnestic mild cognitive impairment (Rami et al, 2009). A study freely available here showed a significant relationship between MRI measured hippocampal loss and CSF AB1-42 in mild cognitive impairment and ApoeE allele in Alzheimer’s Disease (Schuff et al, 2009). A small study (n=20) found evidence of altered connectivity between the dominant hand area in the motor cortex and language related areas using a combination of motor evoked potentials and transcranial magnetic stimulation in people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (Bracco et al, 2009). In a study looking at 10 people with amnestic MCI and people with AD (11 mild; 17 mod; 15 severe) there was found to be a significant correlation between the size of the white matter lesions in the periventricular and subcortical areas and severity of dementia  (Targosz-Gajniak et al, 2009). A Dutch Randomised Controlled Trial found that a multidisciplinary diagnostic approach was cost-effective for evaluation of cognitively impaired elderly (Wolfs et al, 2009). Using data from 383 MR volumes in the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative (ADNI) and MR based shape analysis, subjects with MCI and Alzheimer’s Disease were found to have an outward-deformation in the lateral ventricles. There was also evidence of inward deformation in the anterior-lateral and ventro-lateral thalamus (Qiu et al, 2009). The Memory Impairment Screen Plus (MISplus) was found to be more effective at predicting conversion of MCI to AD than a number of other measures including the MMSE when a threshold score of 2/6 was used in this longitudinal study (Dierckx et al, 2009). Reduced whole-brain cortical thickness and DTI measurements in the left temporal region were effective in differentiating people with MCI and controls particularly in combination (Wang et al, 2009). The clinical dementia rating scale and neuropsychological criteria were discordant for diagnosis of MCI in 37% of cases in a study of 3063 elderly people with dementia living in the community (Saxton et al, 2009). In a cross-sectional study looking at 109 people aged 65 years or older with depression (who had responded to treatment) and 65 controls who had never experienced depression, the depressed group had just under twice the prevalence (38% – 2/3 amnestic, 1/3 non-amnestic) of Mild Cognitive Impairment as the control group (Bhalla et al, 2009). In a meta-analysis of 14 studies which looked at hippocampal volume in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment and Alzheimer’s Disease compared to controls there was found to be greater atrophy in the left hippocampus in both MCI and AD groups as well as a greater degree of atrophy in AD subjects (24.2% left, 23.1% right reduction in hippocampal volume) than in MCI (12.9% left, 11.1% right reduction in hippocampal volume) with both being significantly greater than controls (Shi et al, 2009).

A study (article freely available here) suggests a role for the phosphatidylinositol 3-kinase in the suggested neuroprotective role of the anticholinesterase inhibitors . In another study there was evidence suggesting that Galantamine acted via a calcium/calmodulin-dependent protein kinase II and protein kinase C activation in effecting a suggested improvement in Long Term Potentiation (Moriguchi et al, 2009). A phase I study (n=6) showed preliminary evidence that combining an error free learning approach with Donepezil in people with Alzheimer’s Disease improved performance on a naming task (Rothi et al, 2009). A recent study looked at a 1 year follow-up of Donepezil in 189 people with severe Alzheimer’s Disease and the authors concluded that Donepezil was safe and effective during this period (Homma et al, 2009).

In a GSK funded population-based longitudinal study involving 2050 people without dementia and 587 people with dementia, psychological and behavioural symptoms were found in most people with dementia. There was a finding that depression and anxiety prevalence decreased at later stages of the illness although they were elevated in the initial stages (Savva et al, 2009). A compound polybutylcyanoacrylate has been demonstrated to be effective at delivering proteins into neurons in vitro (Hasadri et al, 2009). Neurosonology has been proposed as a useful measure for investigating dementia (Demarin et al, 2009).The relationship between the blood-brain barrier and cognitive decline has been examined in a review paper in which a causal link is proposed (Popescu et al, 2009).  In a systematic review of the use of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids there was found to be no reduction in progression of dementia although other studies have shown a reduction in cognitive decline in elderly people without dementia (Fotuhi et al, 2009).  The authors of a Cochrane review found inconsistent evidence for clinical effects of Gingko Biloba in cognitive impairment and dementia (Birks et al, 2009). Although performance on tests wasn’t impaired by drinking caffeine containing drinks (ccd’s) there was found to be a linearly decreasing performance with an increase in age in those consuming ccd’s before the test and the authors caution that ccd’s should be considered when interpreting test scores (Lesk et al, 2009).  A combination of folate and B12 deficiency was found to increase apoptosis and intracellular homocysteine to a greater extent than either alone in this in vitro study (Kifle et al, 2009). In the Lothian Birth Cohort 1936 study, APOE4 carrier study was found to interact with childhood intelligence in influencing old age non-verbal cognition (Luciano et al, 2009). In a study of 629 elderly people without dementia, vibratory threshold measured at the ankles/toes were significantly correlated with composite mobility scores (Buchman et al, 2009).

Miscellaneous Research

The authors of a meta-analysis of six studies looking at the epidemiology of ADHD concluded that the prevalence decreased with increasing age but there were difficulties with the DSM-IV criteria in adulthood for a number of reasons. For instance although there were fewer symptoms in adulthood, people still met criteria for functional impairment (Simon et al, 2009). In a longitudinal study of childhood temperament involving 12,150 people (with employment status at follow-up being identified for 7183) responses to the childhood questions ‘often complain of aches and pains’ and ‘often appears miserable or unhappy’ were significantly associated with middle age sickness absence after controlling for a number of other variables (Henderson et al, 2009).

Research in Psychosis

A diffuse tensor MRI study looking at 76 people with schizophrenia and 76 controls found that in people with schizophrenia there were widespread regions of reduced fractional anisotropy (which is thought to be a marker for the integrity of white matter)  in people with schizophrenia compared to the controls (Kanaan et al, 2009). A randomised-controlled trial of treatment as usual (n=40) versus individual and family CBT relapse prevention (n=41) in people with first episode psychosis found a significantly longer time to relapse in the relapse prevention group (Gleeson et al, 2009). In a study involving 173 people with schizophrenia-like psychosis, schizophrenia spectrum disorders and depression and 64 controls looking at a number of measures including emotion and self-esteem, the best fitting model for paranoid delusions including pessimistic thinking style and impaired cognition as explanatory factors (Bentall et al, 2009). In a sample of 451 85-year-olds in Sweden, paranoid symptoms were associated with agitation and irritability/anger in people with and without dementia and the authors emphasise the importance of treating these symptoms (Ostling et al, 2009). The neurobiology of affiliation is an area with a number of implications for psychiatric disorders and is covered in this paper (Bora et al, 2009). A causal model for drug-induced diabetes is proposed in this paper (Starenburg and Bogers, 2009). In a retrospective case-note review of 89 people started on Aripiprazole and 132 people started on Quetiapine over 5 years, improvement using Clinical Global Impression scores was broadly similar with 74% improving with Aripiprazole and 67% with Quetiapine (Shajahan et al, 2009). A retrospective cohort study of 6957 national service conscripts showed an association between lower performance on a national examination given at the end of 6 years of primary education and development of schizophrenia spectrum disorders (Chong et al, 2009).

Research In Mood Disorders

In a study which involved 25 people with bipolar I disorder without a history of psychosis and 24 people with bipolar I disorder with a history of psychosis there weren’t found to be any significant neuropsychological differences between the groups. However the authors concluded that there was a trend towards impaired verbal working memory in the people with a history of psychosis compared to those without which would be consistent with the findings of some research studies in people with schizophrenia. The scores on the Schizotypal Personality Scale were positively correlated with visual recall memory but negatively correlated with verbal memory (Savitz et al, 2009). In a partly GSK-funded study involving 811 people with moderate to severe depression, Nortripytlline and Escitalopram were compared. The graphs showed a close overlap of the two antidepressants on measures of MADRS, HDRS-17 and BDI with time (12 weeks from baseline). However vegetative symptoms (weight loss, appetite, sleep and libido) improved further with Nortriptylline than Escitalopram while the reverse was true for observed mood and cognitive symptoms (Uher et al, 2009). A psychoeducation program which involved 21 90-minute sessions covering awareness of illness, compliance, detection of prodromal symptoms and lifestyle and involved 120 people randomised to the treatment or control groups. Time to recurrence and number of recurrences were significantly less in the psychoeducation group as was the time spent acutely ill (Colom et al, 2009).

A prevention program in the Netherlands involving CBT Bibliotherapy, watchful waiting, CBT problem-solving treatment and referral for medication as necessary halved the incidence of depression and anxiety in a sample of 170 people over the age of 75 with subthreshold anxiety and depression (van’t Veer-Tazelaar et al, 2009). Using Magnetic Transfer Ratios (a measure of white matter integrity), 16 people with type II diabetes and depression were found to have significantly lower MTR’s bilaterally in the head of the caudate compared with 22 people with type II diabetes without depression and a control group with diabetes or depression (Kumar et al, 2009). A blunted prolactin and cortisol response to clomipramine infusion was found in people with remitted depression and a history of major affective disorders compared to a control group (Cordes et al, 2009). In an RCT with 60 people with unipolar depression being treated with Imipramine, zinc supplementation was found to increase the speed of onset of response and efficacy and it will be interesting to see the results of further replication studies (Siwek et al, 2009). In a deep brain stimulation study which involved 2 subjects, stimulation of the caudate nucleus was found to be effective for OCD symptoms and simulation of the nucleus accumbens was found to be effective for improving depressive symptoms and this larger studies are indicated (Aouizerate et al, 2009). A small study (n=14) found that Verenicline, a nicotinic acetylcholine receptor partial agonist was associated with a significant improvement in mood (using a self-report measure) and 44% achieving abstinence from smoking with the authors recommending further research to confirm these findings (Philip et al, 2009).

News In Brief

A brief discussion of an article reviewing neurobiological factors in depression. A longitudinal study identifies risk factors for development of depression in adolescence. Research looking at mortality in Bipolar Disorder. Cortical thinning in the right hemisphere was associated with depression in a study looking at 131 people with familial depression. Depression was a significant predictor of developing heart disease in a longitudinal study of Vietnam War veteran twins. An association between diabetes and post-partum depression was found in this study. Circumstantial evidence suggests that deficiencies in monoamine levels can be compensated for. The authors of a small study found that people with depression were less able to learn beneficial information in a special test of novel attitudes although it would be interesting to see further replication in larger samples. Prevalence of depression in epilepsy was found to be increased almost two-fold in the Canadian Community Health Survey.

A study looking at how people responded to exposure to the traumatic events (such as 911) covered in the media and finding that people had many helpful ways of coping. An association between the glucorticoid receptor and abuse in childhood has been shown in one study.   PTSD was found in more than 1/3 of people who had experienced a stroke and this this influenced recovery.

Research showing that mortality rates from alcohol in men are twice those of women in Scotland. Recent research showing benefits of dextroamphetamine in speech processing in Broca’s Aphasia. This is interesting in relation to the treatment of thought disorder using antipsychotic medication. A new study shows that the enzyme P4503A is unlikely to be involved in the clearance of methadone. There is evidence of a unidirectional relationship between alcohol and depression – with the authors concluding that alcohol abuse or dependence leads to depression rather than the reverse. Increasing age was associated with a greater impairment in planning and motor coordination and decreasing insight into these impairments after drinking alcohol. Portrayal of alcohol on TV adverts and films was found to have an immediate effect on drinking behaviour in viewers in this study. In a group of people with the inactive form of Alcohol-Dehydrogenase 2 (associated with adverse responses to alcohol), high novelty seeking and low harm avoidance traits were associated with alcohol use. Indirect evidence suggests that low-moderate levels of alcohol influence the release of beta-endorphins in the ventral tegmental area.

A small study examined the association between anxiety levels in jurors and the nature of material being discussed in the trial and suggested that women could be more prone to anxiety in the trials particularly if they had experienced similar events in their own history. However further replication is needed.

There is evidence that copy number variants may play a role in the pathogenesis of schizophrenia. Post-partum psychosis is associated with age this reported study. An American study looked at antipsychotic prescribing and found that a majority of patients were receiving antipsychotic medication without a diagnosis of bipolar disorder or schizophrenia and that a number of the prescriptions were of brief duration and of a subtherapeutic dose. Initial results suggest that Modafanil may reduce Olanzapine associated weight gain. The DISC 1 gene which is associated with Schizophrenia has been found to influence neural development and other relevant genes in two recent studies.

Developments in smart homes for people with dementia by a team at the University of Bath is covered here. Discussion of Fasudil which could be trialled in dementia here. A study suggesting 2 genes – CaIDAG-GEFI and CaIDAG-GEFII that are implicated in side effects from L-DOPA therapy in Parkinson’s Disease. A four-fold increase in cognitive impairment in cardiac failure discussed here. Evidence for the influence of cognitive training on D1 receptors. Discussion of a review of combining different drug classes in dementia and the research that is needed in this area. A meta-analysis looking at trials examining the effects of cognitive training in healthy elderly and progression of dementia and finding no benefit although more research is needed in this area.  The results of a study looking at an off-road driving test that is used to make predictions of driving safety in Alzheimer’s Disease. Another study shows benefits on attention and memory for a cognitive training program. Another study providing evidence that cortical atrophy using MRI can be used to assess risk of conversion from MCI to Alzheimer’s Disease. Results from the ACCORD study providing evidence of an association between glycosylated haemoglobin levels and performance on four cognitive tasks. A randomised-controlled trial of software for improving speed on certain cognitive tasks showed evidence of an improvement on memory tasks. A study looking at retrospective recall of exercise patterns showed a positive association between increased exercise and decreasing risk of developing memory loss. The potential benefits of BDNF in dementia although clinical trial results are pending. Evidence that stimulating the immunce system with CpG ODN’s may be a useful mechanism for exploring amyloid plaque reduction in research in Alzheimer’s Disease. Evidence that ABeta4 clearance in the brain may be influenced by blood levels of ABeta4. A new model of Alzheimer’s Disease has been proposed in which netrin-1 is involved in creating synaptic connections and the amyloid plaque in breaking synaptic connections. A longitudinal study showing an association between longer working hours and performance on cognitive tasks.Further supporting evidence for the protective role of alpha secretase against Alzheimer’s Disease. Using Nuclear Magnetic Resonance imaging, a team has been able to identify the structure of a residue on the Tau Protein. A number of studies are reported on here which show a relationship between cognitive decline and metabolic risk factors including obesity, metabolic syndrome, and being underweight.

The GPR3 protein as a potential therapeutic target in Alzheimer’s Disease. A class of drugs – the secretase inhibitors – that are being trialled for Alzheimer’s Disease have been found to reduce traumatic brain injury related damage. A study in the new field of optogenetics suggests that deep brain stimulation in Parkinson’s Disease may be more effective when applied to the axons rather than the cell bodies of neurons in the subthalamic nucleus. Using a paradigm which involves fluorescence – FRET, a research team has found that alpha-synuclein which is implicated in Parkinson’s Disease is able to rapidly change shape. Alpha-synuclein is a member of a class of proteins – the ‘intrinsically disordered proteins’ which remain functional even when unfolded and which challenge the notion of a fixed 3-d protein structures always correlating with function. An exciting research project is 95% complete – the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative involves longitudinal MRI and PET scans as well as a number of other biological markers and the data is being made publicly available. A small study provides further evidence that hippocampal volume and rate of atrophy are associated with development of Alzheimer’s Disease. Diabetes and elevated LDL cholesterol levels have been associated with higher rates of progression in Alzheimer’s Disease in a longitudinal study involving 156 people with Alzheimer’s Disease. It will be interesting to see the results of larger replication studies. Inhibition of CK2 (a transport regulating enzyme) was found to interfere with the effect of Amyloid protein on tau transport in neurons. In a widely discussed study a peak age of 22 was found for cognitive abilities such as abstract reasoning and processing speed. fMRI studies supporting the sensory recruitment hypothesis which states that memories of a percept are stored in the area in which the perception occurs.  One group report 80% accuracy in predicting which visual patterns a person is retaining in memory based on the fMRI data.  A study which suggests that the formation of memories involving NMDA receptors occurs selectively during sleep.Preliminary evidence suggests that a constituent of Soybeans can degrade amyloid fibrils. Recent research suggests that a protein – Modifier for Cell Adhesion (MOCA) may play a role in a number of neurodegenerative conditions. A possible role for PARK9 in manganese processing. Sodium phenylbutyrate is suggested as a new therapeutic approach to be examined in Alzheimer’s Disease. A computational model – ResponseNet has been used to investigate the actions of proteins in Parkinson’s Disease. A one-leg balance test that is easy to administer was found to be associated with rate of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s Disease in this study. A widely reported fMRI study by Demis Hassabis and Eleanor Maguire found a significant relationship between hippocampal activity and location in a virtual spatial environment.A study is showing a 74% increase in case of diabetes in the UK between 1997 and 2003 which is of significance in terms of another recent study looking at the relationship between dementia and diabetes.

Evidence suggesting is that GTF21 is associated with social behavioural performance and GTF2IRD1 is associated with visuo-spatial performance in Williams Syndrome. Evidence that a protein, Nup214, regulating passage of material through the nuclear pore complex plays a role in unpacking RNA. There is a study showing that having extra copies of the LIS1 gene may result in changes in neural development and is associated with learning disability in children. When the LIS1 gene is missing, lissencepaly results. Preliminary results suggest that game playing robots that respond to physiological data are associated with a number of positive outcomes in children with Autistic Spectrum Disorders

Genetic variations in a specific amino acid coded for by the HLA-DRB1 gene has been associated with susceptibility to Multiple Sclerosis. Elucidating the interaction between rhodopsin and transducin in visual processing in the retina. A very interesting finding was reported on suggesting that during an infection, a reticular network is laid down in the brain which guides immune cells. The recent construction of a connectome  suggests that genetics play a small role in the formation of connections in the nervous system.. A recent study looks at the complex impact of online publications. An imaging study showing an association between activity in the insular cortex in response to near misses in a gambling task and scores on a questionnaire indicative of problem gambling. A study showed a reduction in functional impairment following a CVA, with the use of tPA. An fMRI study suggesting that exercise modifies visualisation of cigarettes in smokers. Research showing that pigeons and baboons are capable of same-difference discriminations.

Over 500 6-18 year-olds were scanned prospectively (using MRI) as part of the ‘NIH MRI Study of Normal Brain Development’. A significant association between cortical thickness in multimodal association areas and intelligence was found. An increase in Ghrelin and a decrease in Leptin were found in people with chronic insomnia in this study. Having extra-curricular activities at school was associated with more years of education in later life. In a test of attention, the Visual Serial Addition Test, children with ADHD were found to have similar accuracy of responses to the control group but higher variability in response times. An association has been found between the metabotropic glutamate 5 receptor and the process of adapting to new changes in the environment.  A study using photographic negatives has shown that contrast around the eyes is important in recognition of faces. Alpha activity was significantly higher before mistakes were made in a sustained attention task and this information has the potential to be used in jobs which require prolonged attention. Regulation of blood flow through cerebral arteries could allow perfusion of tissues after a stroke.

Excessive daytime sleepiness has been associated with increased cardiovascular mortality in the elderly. A study of children’s moral values in the real world and also in virtual worlds provided some complex results including an association between moral values in both environments. Hypertension in children was associated with impairment on a number of cognitive tasks consistent with findings in adults. Watching a speaker’s lips and face during speech was associated with up to a six-fold increase in comprehension. The number of years of music experience of musicians was associated with their ability to identify ’emotion sounds’ in a study which compared musicians and non-musicians. Doodling was associated with a better retention of information when listening to a telephone message. There was an association between ‘positive emotions’ and better physical health reported on here. Religious believers were less likely to show activity in the Anterior Cingulate Cortex during a stroop test than non-believers in this study. In one study,  subjects were found to be optimistic in predicting their performance on tasks in an ‘ideal world’ but their predictions were more realistic if they were asked how they were likely to perform without reference to the ‘ideal world’.

One study has looked at how scientific knowledge increases by focusing on yeast research. The researchers found that knowledge grew exponentially and that scientists (both junior and senior) working in large teams were less ‘productive’. The authors of an analysis of 57 prospective studies involving 900,000 people conclude that moderate obesity (BMI 30-35) reduces lifespan by an average of 3 years and severe obesity (BMI 40-50) reduces lifespan by an average of 10 years. QTC intervals have been used correlated with post-CVA mortality in one study. Cells derived from a tumour have been used to create neurospheres which are now being used in neuroscience research. High-angular resolution diffusion imaging was used in twins to suggest that genetics determine myelin integrity in a number of important brain regions. Since myelin influence nerve conduction velocities and this is associated with speed of processing which in turn is associated with intelligence, myelin genes have been suggested to be related to intelligence. The SIRT1 gene and NAD a metabolite for energy production have been linked in a new study. NAD is needed for SIRT1  function and levels of NAD in cells oscillates daily. SIRT1 is conserved across organisms and is implicated as a contributing factor in the aging process. Synchronisation of EEG activity was found in guitarist playing music together. A preliminary study suggests that Trigeminal Nerve Stimulation may be effective in intractable epilepsy.

A study providing different lines of evidence suggesting that President Obama’s presidential campaign has been correlated with a reduction in racism. A study showing that natural sounding sentences with false statements elicited larger evoked response potentials than similar sentences without false statements.  A study found evidence that preschool children were able to recognise and follow consensus. A study has looked at a technique referred to as ‘dialectical bootstrapping’ in which evidence is provided that this improves the accuracy of decisions made by an individual.  A study looking at learning in school in children born prematurely (before 26 weeks) is covered here. A study found that higher IQ was associated with lower risk of death from a number of conditions including coronary artery disease and that this could be explained through a number of factors including lifestyle (diet, exercise, smoking). The authors of an fMRI study suggest from their results that the Amygdala and Posterior Cingulate Cortex are involved in the decision making process of forming first impressions of another person. A 300-million year old brain has been discovered in a distant relative of the shark.


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