News Round-Up: June 2009 1st Edition

Research in Dementia

Soy isoflavones supplementation was associated with a significant improvement in spatial memory scores in a 12-week double-blind placebo-controlled cross-over trial involving 34 men and the authors suggest that this may be related to ‘oestrogen activation’ (Thorp et al, 2009) (STT3). In a 10-year follow-up of people without dementia (the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging), in the mild cognitive impairment group compared to the control group (1017 observations) there was found to be a significant differences in volume change in a number of areas including the hippocampus, superior parietal and frontal regions (Driscoll et al, 2009)(STT4).Homocysteine levels at baseline were significantly associated with rate of decline of CAMCOG scores in a study involving 94 people with Alzheimer’s Disease over the age of 75. There were at least 3 6-monthly visits but participants could be included for up to 9.5 years and the authors suggest an intervention trial (Oulhaj et al, 2009)(STT4). The authors of a small case (n=14) series of people with subcortical vascular dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease were able to identify cerebral microinfarcts more commonly in the latter group particularly in the occipital cortex. They hypothesise that the Amyloid plaques may predispose to cerebral microinfarcts (Okamoto et al, 2009)(STT5).

News in Brief (Click on the Links for further details)

A potentially important study for understanding Huntington’s Disease has been published. The study suggests that a protein ‘Rhes’ which is found only in the corpus striatum interacts with the mutant Huntingtin protein and reduces protein aggregates which subsequent leads to neurotoxicity. There may be an increased research interest in Rhes after these results. Further evidence has been found for the efficacy of Rapamycin in epilepsy and that this can reduce the changes (mossy fibre sprouting) that occur after a kainate challenge with increasing evidence that this is through an action on a regulatory protein.

Recent evidence supports an emerging theory of friendships – the Alliance Hypothesis. A previous theory states that people have friendships in which they count up the number of reciprocal gifts or tokens although there is a lot of data that doesn’t support this model. However the authors of the Alliance Hypothesis posit that people have friendships for times of conflict and that they prefer friends who are interested in their needs. A recent study suggests that people rank their friends similarly to how their friends rank them* . The authors of a model propose that marked changes in culture may more influenced by population density than the characteristics of the brain.

A slightly amusing finding occurred in one study looking at students who were using maths software packages for learning. When the students made mistakes they looked for problems with the computer software! In the National Longitudinal Study of Adolescent Health which included 2500 respondents there was found to be an association between carrier status for the MAOA low-activity-3-repeat allele and ‘gang membership’. It will be interesting to see the results of follow-up studies exploring this possible relationship further. In a study of violent recidivists, a lower glycogen level was associated with just under a third of the variation in recidivist offending. A systematic review of the cognitive effects of medications in older adults has been published. An online CBT package which utilises audio, visual and written material (but no clinician!) was used in one study in which participants enrolled for 5 weeks. 35% reported themselves as being ‘much or very much improved’. The authors of a expert-systems based computer program that generates music in response to the listener’s emotions are proposing to make the music copyright free (I haven’t yet been able to find the program online however and it looks as though it is in the prototype stage). It is tempting to speculate that such an approach could be adapted for therapeutic purposes for disorders of emotion and that absence of copyright fees might spur research in this direction.

Blogger News

MindHack’s Vaughan Bell writes about his recent published correspondence on taking an internet history in the British Journal of Psychiatry in this post and this is certainly an important emerging area.

*[I would argue however that people might have different types of friendships and that there might be numerous reasons for forming friendships that might be more intuitive – e.g. companionship or simply liking a person. If on the other hand , the theory is necessary from an evolutionary perspective then it is possible to argue that not all psychometric properties are necessarily selected for (i.e. certain other traits might be selected for with random fluctations in ‘friendship-associated’ genes that are carried along in the population or else that forming friendships utilises genes that are essential for more basic survival thus meaning that friendship is an incidental effect or that friendship formation involves a heterogenous group of mechanisms and there is no single driver for this (Alternatively it can also be argued that since relationships are so important for people and indeed other species, they must be tightly regulated genetically and would be a primary trait that would trump others during the selection process)]


Driscoll I, Davatzikos C, An Y, Wu X, Shen D, Kraut M, Resnick SM. Neurology. 2009 Jun 2;72(22):1906-13. Longitudinal pattern of regional brain volume change differentiates normal aging from MCI.

Okamoto Y, Ihara M, Fujita Y, Ito H, Takahashi R, Tomimoto H. Neuroreport. 2009 May 28. [Epub ahead of print]. Cortical microinfarcts in Alzheimer’s disease and subcortical vascular dementia.

Oulhaj A, Refsum H, Beaumont H, Williams J, King E, Jacoby R, Smith AD. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. 2009 May 29. [Epub ahead of print]. Homocysteine as a predictor of cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease.

Thorp AA, Sinn N, Buckley JD, Coates AM, Howe PR. Br J Nutr. 2009 Jun 1:1-7. [Epub ahead of print]. Soya isoflavone supplementation enhances spatial working memory in men.

Steps To Treatment (STT)

STT = Steps To Treatment. An estimate of the number of steps between the results and translation into treatment. This is an opinion.


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The comments made here represent the opinions of the author and do not represent the profession or any body/organisation. The comments made here are not meant as a source of medical advice and those seeking medical advice are advised to consult with their own doctor. The author is not responsible for the contents of any external sites that are linked to in this blog.


  1. How long have you been golfing for? Lord knows I could use a couple tips on the green, I am quite bad. Just played for my second time last weekend and it was one of those moments that you wish nobody was around!


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