(Finally!) Alzheimer’s Disease Therapy that Works!!

Posted by Curt Kinghorn on Oct 16, 2017 6:51:47 PM

About 32% of Americans older than 85 have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. This debilitating condition gradually affects memory, thinking, behavior and executive functions leaving the afflicted unable to perform daily tasks and gradually unaware of the world around them.  Often, people with Alzheimer’s disease are also diagnosed with other types of dementia such as that caused by vascular disease.  Worldwide, it is estimated that about 50 million people have some form of dementia.  As the world’s population ages, without a cure, it is estimated that by 2050 more than 130 million people worldwide may suffer from dementia with 60 – 70% having Alzheimer’s and another 20 – 25% having a vascular form of the disease. 

Because so many people worldwide are affected by Alzheimer’s disease, many drugs have been developed in the hopes of treating and ultimately curing the disease.  But, over 200 experimental drugs intended to treat or cure the disease have failed in the last 30 years.  Another 100 drugs are currently in clinical trials, so far without strong success.

THE STUDY

In the April 2017 edition of Scientific American, Miia Kivipelto and Krister Håkansson discuss the results of a study they (Kivipelto) led titled the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER).  The results of this study were the first to be published in a larger group of lifestyle change studies.

In the FINGER study, 631 men and women in the treatment group aged 60 – 77 and 629 in the control group participated.  Further, the pool of subjects was chosen to consist of individuals who, according to scores on a test for dementia risk, were determined to be at an elevated risk for cognitive decline.  Those in the control group received health advice and had their cardiovascular health checked regularly.  If health problems such as high blood pressure were identified, these control group members were referred to a physician.  The regimen for those in the treatment group consisted of four parts:

  1. Nutritional guidance – aimed at a healthy balance of protein, fat, carbohydrates, dietary fibers and salt, restrictions on consumption of trans-fatty acids, refined sugar and alcohol (all in accordance with recommendations by the Finnish National Nutrition Council).
  2. Cognitive training – used a computer program to train on different cognitive tasks to enhance executive function (particularly planning and organizing), memory improvement and mental speed. This training consisted of two – three sessions per week in intervals of 10 – 15 minute sessions.
  3. Physical exercise – included muscle-strength training, aerobic exercise and postural balance eventually ramping up to two or three gym sessions of 60 minutes a week.
  4. More intensely monitored cardiovascular status – included regular checkups on metabolic and vascular health, measures of weight, blood pressure and hip and waist circumference averaging every four months and meetings at roughly the same intervals with physicians to discuss these results and using the results as a basis, encouraged the participants to change their daily health habits.

 (Photo from Scientific American)

See the results below!

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Topics: Tidbits related to Neuroscience, Neuroscience in Life

Curt's Mind-Blowing Audio Illusions!! Neuroscience at Work!!

Posted by Curt Kinghorn on Jul 26, 2017 5:57:24 PM

We are all acquainted with OPTICAL ILLUSIONS, illusions caused by the brain's visual and perception systems playing tricks on us and characterized by visually perceived images that differ from objective reality.  Here are 2 well-known examples:

“My Wife and My Mother-in-law” published in 1915 by cartoonist W.E. Hill

(Do you see both an old and a young woman?)

 

 

This "widget" is an impossible object!! Can you see why?

These and other optical illusions work because of the structures and processes of our brains. Similarly, there are also “AUDIO ILLUSIONS” that work because of the brain's auditory processing structures and processes.  Here are 3 AUDIO ILLUSIONS.  Because they are AUDIO ILLUSIONS, you have to be able to hear them to appreciate them!  Also, for the 2nd AUDIO ILLUSION, the McGurk effect, you have to be able to SEE the screen as well as HEAR the audio.

AUDIO ILLUSION #1

In the following audio clip, Jayatri Das, Chief Bioscientist at Franklin Institute Science Museum, demonstrates how our brain uses additional information to make sense out of an otherwise unintelligible sound sequence.  (This will blow your mind!!) Click the image to hear.

 

  AUDIO ILLUSION #2 McGurk Effect

This Audio Illusion is stunning!  Your brain uses visual information to make sense of the audio information it is receiving!  Even when you know what is going on, it doesn’t seem to change its effect!!! Click the image below to hear this AUDIO ILLUSION. (Remember, for this AUDIO ILLUSION to work, you have to be able to SEE this clip as well as HEAR it!)

 

AUDIO ILLUSION #3 Shepard Tone Effect

SHEPARD TONE is named after Roger Shepard (born 1929).  Technically, it is a sound created by a superposition of sine waves separated by octaves and where the bass tone either moves up or down. What you hear is an AUDIO ILLUSION of a tone that continually ascends or descends but that ultimately never seems to go higher or lower!!! Click on the image below to hear the SHEPARD TONE EFFECT in ascending form. (There is also a descending form.)

 

 
 
 
The SHEPARD TONE EFFECT is explained in the following video clip.
  
 
 
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Topics: Neuroscience in Life

NIH Research Funding News You Can Use!!

Posted by Curt Kinghorn on Jun 30, 2017 2:42:58 PM

It is no surprise to most of us that a huge chunk of the funding for neuroscience and animal behavioral research comes from the National Institutes of Health (NIH).   The Trump Administration proposed cutting NIH’s 2018 budget by about $5.8 billion compared to 2017 levels to about $25.9 billion, a 16.2% cut in spending power!! Fortunately, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle recognize and appreciate the value of NIH research.  As a result, as part of the 2017 stopgap funding bill (the “Continuing Resolution”), Congress not only eliminated the proposed $8 billion deficit, but increased the funding by about $4 billion! Hooray!!

On May 17, 2017 NIH Dir. Francis S Collins testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) in a hearing titled The Transformative Power of Biomedical Research.  In his testimony, Dir. Collins gave important clues about things going on NIH that will affect your ability to get research money, whether as an experienced researcher or a researcher just beginning your career and also about areas of need and opportunity.  Highlights of Dir. Collins’ testimony include:

  • NIH is preparing to limit the amount of NIH support going to any one PI
    • “NIH is preparing to implement a new measure to allow a broader number of meritorious investigators, particularly those in early-and mid—career, to receive NIH funding through new and renewed grants. … We are … proposing to work with NIH grant applicants and their institutions to limit the total NIH support that any one principal investigator may receive to research currently funded by NIH, allowing NIH funds to be more broadly distributed.”
  • Rare Diseases are an area of Great Need and Great Opportunity
    • “Rare diseases also present an area of great need and great opportunity, one which NIH continues to be uniquely positioned to address. …  The private sector generally finds it difficult to mount expensive initiatives for such small markets-the risks are too high. Finding new treatments thus requires NIH to play a leading role-by investing in the early stage of therapeutic development to “de-risk” such projects.”
  • Director Collins’ priority is to ensure the next generation that NIH will support them
    • If advances in medical research are to continue, if research is to lead to breakthroughs that can reduce healthcare costs, if the considerable economic return on research is to continue, and if America is to continue its global leadership in biomedicine, we need to be sure this next generation has the confidence that there will be support for them. This is a priority for me.”

You can view Dir. Collins' ~11 minute testimony in its entirety here as well as comments and questions by members of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) by clicking the button below.

See Dr. Collins' Testimony

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Topics: Neuroscience in Life

Curt’s Quirky (but good!) Neuroscience-related Movies!!

Posted by Curt Kinghorn on May 5, 2017 3:25:28 PM

Neuroscience touches all aspects of our lives, often in unusual ways!  Consequently, it is no surprise that there are many movies that have neuroscience-related themes.  Here are my reviews of a couple of such “quirky” movies (that I highly recommend!).  I have included icons to help you know where you can find these movies:

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Topics: Neuroscience in Life

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