In the British Journal of Psychiatry there is an interesting paper looking at the associations between anxiety in older adults and cognition (Butters et al, 2011). The researchers compared 160 people without dementia meeting the DSM-IV criteria for Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD) with a control group (n=37) without a history of psychiatric illness. The Hamilton Rating Scales for Depression and Anxiety were used as well as a neuropsychological battery. The researchers found that the GAD group performed significantly worse than the control group (after a step-wise Bonferroni correction) on the letter number sequencing, the D-KEFS sorting test and the RBANS immediate memory and delayed memory tasks. These findings remained after excluding subjects who met criteria for Major Depressive Disorder which was expected to be a significant confounder. Escitalopram was part of the treatment program and Escitalopram use was associated with an improvement in the D-KEFS scores – a measure of executive function. In subjects that experienced a significant improvement in self-reported anxiety (using the Clinical Global Impressions scale) there was a corresponding improvement in RBANS immediate and delayed memory scores. The study has generated some very specific hypotheses for further testing.
In the USA, the Advisory Council on Alzheimer’s Research, Care and Service is convening quarterly meetings to examine issues such as the infrastructure for research into Alzheimer’s Disease. If this model is successful it will be interesting to see if it can be applied elsewhere.
A small double-blind randomised cross-over study recruiting people with behavioural variant Frontotemporal Dementia (bvFTD) showed a significant improvement in carer rated Neuropsychiatry Inventory (NPI) scores on the day of administration of 24 IU Oxytocin. These early results will need to be replicated with larger numbers of subjects.
Poor self-perception of health was one of the factors that was significantly associated with fear of developing Alzheimer’s Disease in a telephone survey of 2013 adults.
In one MRI study, researchers compared sequential MRI data on people with Normal Pressure Hydrocephalus (NPH), Parkinson’s Disease (PD), Alzheimer’s Disease (AD. This data was acquired from the Alzheimer’s Disease Neuroimaging Initiative) with healthy controls. The researchers were interested in factors that helped to discriminate NPH from AD and PD and the results suggested that ventricular volume and cortical thickness combined were better than ventricular volumes alone (as the latter values overlapped with the AD group).
Hodges and colleagues looked at representation of musical knowledge in a study comparing people with Semantic Dementia and AD with healthy controls (n=47). Using volume based analysis of the structural Magnetic Resonance images they identified decreasing right Anterior Temporal Pole volume as being significantly correlated with impaired performance on knowledge of popular melodies. Although the people with Semantic Dementia performed worse than the AD and control groups on the melody recognition task the relationship with rATP volume also held in this group.
There is coverage of a paper published in PNAS about the origins of cooking. Cooking allowed for selective changes in the jaw and size of teeth in primates. By looking at fossil specimens and using the features of the jaw and teeth as proxy markers of cooking activity, the researchers hypothesise that cooking began approximately 1.9 million years ago. Other research suggests that cooking may have influenced the increase in brain volume that occurred in primate evolution.
There is coverage here of a recent finding of a 160 million year old placental mammal specimen. Hawks also has coverage of the paper here. There are various implications including the possibility that gene mutation rates in hominoids are much lower as well as the interpretation of lineages of early primates.
There is coverage of a PLOS-one paper here (via sandygautam) correlating increasing brain volume with maximal oxygen uptake in different species. Again there are various implications and in this context it is particularly interesting to note that Brain Derived Neutrophic Factor is secreted during exercise.
Butters et al. Changes in neuropsychological functioning following treatment for late-life generalised anxiety disorder. The British Journal of Psychiatry. 2011. 199. 211-218.
Appendix 1 – Annual News Roundups
Appendix 2 – Resources
There is a paper on Alzheimer’s Disease and Mild Cognitive Impairment freely available here.
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