Chapter 16. None
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Heidi Ledford Nassir Ghaemi, director of the Mood Disorders Program at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, Massachusetts, has felt shackled by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), often called the bible of psychiatry. Some of his depressed patients occasionally show manic behaviour but do not fulfil the DSM’s criteria for a diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Ghaemi is interested in whether such patients might respond better to drugs for bipolar disorder than for depression. But his colleagues warned him against straying from the DSM when he applied for funding at the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), because peer reviewers tended to insist on research that hewed to DSM categories. Ghaemi held off from applying. If NIMH director Thomas Insel has his way, Ghaemi and other mental-health researchers will no longer feel the weight of the DSM. “NIMH will be re-orienting its research away from DSM categories,” Insel wrote in a blog entry on 29 April. The latest edition, the DSM-5, will be unveiled on 22 May at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco, California. Like many psychiatrists, Insel questions whether the DSM’s categories accurately reflect the way the brain works. He is pushing a project that aims to create a new framework that classifies mental-health disorders according to their biological roots. “Going forward, we will be supporting research projects that look across current categories — or sub-divide current categories — to begin to develop a better system,” Insel wrote. The blog post made waves in the media and rattled some psychiatric clinicians and researchers. But Insel says that he has been talking about the issue since 2008. “The word was just still not out there,” he says. Insel says that he has increasingly received complaints from grant applicants who have tried to follow his guidance, only to be shot down by peer reviewers for eschewing DSM scripture. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
by Claudia M Gold It seems that the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) may have dealt a death blow to the recently published Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM 5) when the organization declared they would no longer fund research based on the DSM system of diagnosis. The views of NIMH director Thomas Insel were referenced in the recent New York Times article on the subject. His goal was to reshape the direction of psychiatric research to focus on biology, genetics and neuroscience so that scientists can define disorders by their causes, rather than their symptoms. I am no fan of the DSM system, which reduces complex experience to lists of symptoms; focusing on the "what" rather than the "why." However, the NIMH model has limits as well. There seems to be a wish to study mental illness in the same way we study cancer or diabetes. While I certainly have great respect for the complexity of the pancreas, or the process of malignant transformation of cells, trying to understand the brain/mind in an analogous way seems to be an unnecessary and even undesirable reduction of human experience. What is missing from both paradigms is recognition of the relational and historical context of being human. Fortunately there seems to be awareness that neither paradigm is complete. The Times article goes on to say: Dr. Insel is one of a growing number of scientists who think that the field needs an entirely new paradigm for understanding mental disorders, though neither he nor anyone else knows exactly what it will look like. © 2013 NY Times Co.
by Helen Thomson "I was sitting on the toilet. I suddenly felt an explosion in the left side of my head and ended up on the floor. I think the only thing that kept me conscious was that I didn't want to be found with my pants down. Then the other side of my head went bang! I woke up in hospital and looked out of the window to see the tree was sprouting numbers. 3, 6, 9. Then I started talking in rhyme…" Ten days after having a subarachnoid haemorrhage – a stroke caused by bleeding in and around the brain – Tommy McHugh, an ex-con who'd been in his fair share of scraps, became a new man, with a personality that nobody recognised. When he was a young man, Tommy did time in prison. But after his stroke at age 51, everything changed. "I could taste the femininity inside of myself," he said. "My head was full of rhymes and images and pictures." Not only did he feel a sudden urge to write poetry, but he also began to paint and draw obsessively for up to 19 hours a day. He was never artistic before – in fact, he joked that he'd never even been in an art gallery "except to maybe steal something". Desperate to find out what was going on, Tommy wrote to several neuroscientists and end up working closely with Alice Flaherty at Harvard Medical School and Mark Lythgoe at University College London. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Bruce Bower Provocative evidence that certain memory exercises make people smarter has sparked the rise of online brain-training programs such as Lumosity. But at least one type of brain training may not work as advertised, a new study finds. As expected, practicing improved volunteers’ performance on tests of memory and the ability to locate items quickly in busy scenes, say psychologist Thomas Redick of Indiana University Purdue University Columbus and his colleagues. That improvement did not, however, translate into higher scores on tests of intelligence and multitasking, the researchers report in the May Journal of Experimental Psychology: General. Redick’s investigation is part of a growing scientific debate about brain training, which is promoted by some companies as having a variety of mental benefits. Some researchers say that extensive instruction and training on memory tasks can indeed fortify reasoning and problem solving. Others are skeptical that vigorous memory sessions produce such wide-ranging effects. The dispute feeds into a longstanding scientific controversy about whether enriched environments can increase intelligence, as measured on IQ tests. What’s not up for debate is that many people feel smarter after brain training. In the new study, 10 of 23 individuals who completed memory sessions said that the program helped them to think, multitask and focus better in daily life. But the scientists say that even if some participants performed daily tasks better after memory training, they may simply have tried harder or felt better about their efforts due to a belief that training had strengthened their minds. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
Keyword: Learning & Memory
Link ID: 18140 - Posted: 05.11.2013
Ed Yong Many moths have evolved sensitive hearing that can pick up the ultrasonic probes of bats that want to eat them. But one species comes pre-adapted for anything that bats might bring to this evolutionary arms race. Even though its ears are extremely simple — a pair of eardrums on its flanks that each vibrate four receptor cells — it can sense frequencies up to 300 kilohertz, well beyond the range of any other animal and higher than any bat can squeak. “A lot of previous work has suggested that some bats have evolved calls that are out of the hearing range of the moths they are hunting. But this moth can hear the calls of any bat,” says James Windmill, an acoustical engineer at the University of Strathclyde, UK, who discovered the ability in the greater wax moth (Galleria mellonella). His study is published in Biology Letters1. Windmill's collaborator Hannah Moir, a bioacoustician now at the University of Leeds, UK, played sounds of varying frequencies to immobilized wax moths. As the insects “listened”, Moir used a laser to measure the vibrations of their eardrums, and electrodes to record the activity of their auditory nerves. The moths were most sensitive to frequencies of around 80 kilohertz, the average frequency of their courtship calls. But when exposed to 300 kilohertz, the highest level that the team tested, the insects' eardrums still vibrated and their neurons still fired. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
By Ingrid Wickelgren I have seen the invisible arms of multiple sclerosis, a potentially devastating disease of the nervous system, touch friends, relatives and acquaintances. They perturbed the personality of a father of a close friend and left him unable to keep a job and support the family. They forced a young woman I met years ago to walk tentatively, watching her step. They put one beloved member of my extended family with two small children in a wheelchair and took away his voice. Nowadays, many people with MS find that new medications can mitigate the progression of their disease (see “New Treatments Tackle Multiple Sclerosis,” by James D. Bowen, Scientific American Mind, July/August 2013). But many mysteries remain about the cause of the disorder and no one knows how to prevent or cure it. About a decade ago, a technology entrepreneur named Art Mellor, who was diagnosed with MS in 2000, founded an organization called Accelerated Cure Project based in Waltham, Massachusetts to help speed progress on solving these mysteries, in part through greater collaboration among scientists. In one of its efforts, it maintains a repository of thousands of blood samples from patients who visited any of 10 U.S. clinics. The samples are made available to anyone willing to share their data with the Project. Scientists have used these samples in more than 70 different studies into the causes of MS and how to diagnose and treat it. A number of these experiments involve trying to identify molecular signs of the disease in the blood, in hopes of developing a simple blood test for the disorder. Such a test might reduce the time and cost of an MS diagnosis. The primary tool for spotting MS today is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which can reveal inflammation in the brain characteristic of the disorder. © 2013 Scientific American
Keyword: Multiple Sclerosis
Link ID: 18132 - Posted: 05.08.2013
By MARILYNN MARCHIONE DEERFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Baxter International Inc. says that a blood product it was testing failed to slow mental decline or to preserve physical function in a major study of 390 patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The company says that people who received 18 months of infusions with its drug, Gammagard, fared no better than others given infusions of a dummy solution. Gammagard is immune globulin, natural antibodies culled from donated blood. Researchers thought these antibodies might help remove amyloid, the sticky plaque that clogs patients’ brains, sapping memory and ability to think. Patients with moderate disease and those with a gene that raises risk of Alzheimer’s who were taking the higher of two doses in the study seemed to benefit, although the study was not big enough to say for sure. ‘‘The study missed its primary endpoints, however we remain interested by the prespecified sub-group analyses’’ in groups that seemed to benefit, Ludwig Hantson, president of Baxter’s BioScience business, said in a statement. Gammagard is already sold to treat some blood disorders, and the results of the Alzheimer’s study do not affect those uses. About 35 million people worldwide have dementia, and Alzheimer’s is the most common type. In the U.S., about 5 million have Alzheimer's. Current medicines such as Aricept and Namenda just temporarily ease symptoms. There is no known cure. © 2013 NY Times Co.
Link ID: 18131 - Posted: 05.08.2013
by Elizabeth Norton If you've ever cringed when your parents said "groovy," you'll know that spoken language can have a brief shelf life. But frequently used words can persist for generations, even millennia, and similar sounds and meanings often turn up in very different languages. The existence of these shared words, or cognates, has led some linguists to suggest that seemingly unrelated language families can be traced back to a common ancestor. Now, a new statistical approach suggests that peoples from Alaska to Europe may share a linguistic forebear dating as far back as the end of the Ice Age, about 15,000 years ago. "Historical linguists study language evolution using cognates the way biologists use genes," explains Mark Pagel, an evolutionary theorist at the University of Reading in the United Kingdom. For example, although about 50% of French and English words derive from a common ancestor (like "mere" and "mother," for example), with English and German the rate is closer to 70%—indicating that while all three languages are related, English and German have a more recent common ancestor. In the same vein, while humans, chimpanzees, and gorillas have common genes, the fact that humans share almost 99% of their DNA with chimps suggests that these two primate lineages split apart more recently. Because words don't have DNA, researchers use cognates found in different languages today to reconstruct the ancestral "protowords." Historical linguists have observed that over time, the sounds of words tend to change in regular patterns. For example, the p sound frequently changes to f, and the t sound to th—suggesting that the Latin word pater is, well, the father of the English word father. Linguists use these known rules to work backward in time, making a best guess at how the protoword sounded. They also track the rate at which words change. Using these phylogenetic principles, some researchers have dated many common words as far back as 9000 years ago. The ancestral language known as Proto-Indo-European, for example, gave rise to languages including Hindi, Russian, French, English, and Gaelic. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Ella Pickover A “helpful” new drug which could help problem drinkers reduce the amount of alcohol they consume will today become available to UK patients. If dependent drinkers take the drug nalmefene and undergo counselling they can cut their consumption levels by 61 per cent, manufacturers said. The pill, also known as selincro, has been licensed for use by health officials and will be available for doctors to prescribe to their patients from today. The drug, which is to be taken once a day, has been licensed for "the reduction of alcohol consumption in adult patients with alcohol dependence without physical withdrawal symptoms and who do not require immediate detoxification". While current drugs help patients to become teetotal, nalmefene helps people with drinking problems to cut back on the amount they drink. The drug works by modulating the reward mechanism in the brain. A clinical trial into the drug helped patients cut the amount they consumed from 12.75 units a day to five units a day - a 61 per cent reduction. And patients who underwent counselling as well as taking the drug reduced their "heavy drinking days" from 23 days a month to nine days a month after undergoing the treatment for six months, researchers said. "The people who we saw in the study were not stereotypical alcoholics, most of them had families and jobs," said drug investigator Dr David Collier, of Barts and The London School of Medicine. © independent.co.uk
Keyword: Drug Abuse
Link ID: 18129 - Posted: 05.07.2013
By PAM BELLUCK and BENEDICT CAREY Just weeks before the long-awaited publication of a new edition of the so-called bible of mental disorders, the federal government’s most prominent psychiatric expert has said the book suffers from a scientific “lack of validity.” The expert, Dr. Thomas R. Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health, said in an interview Monday that his goal was to reshape the direction of psychiatric research to focus on biology, genetics and neuroscience so that scientists can define disorders by their causes, rather than their symptoms. While the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or D.S.M., is the best tool now available for clinicians treating patients and should not be tossed out, he said, it does not reflect the complexity of many disorders, and its way of categorizing mental illnesses should not guide research. “As long as the research community takes the D.S.M. to be a bible, we’ll never make progress,” Dr. Insel said, adding, “People think that everything has to match D.S.M. criteria, but you know what? Biology never read that book.” The revision, known as the D.S.M.-5 and the first since 1994, has stirred unprecedented questioning from the public, patient groups and, most fundamentally, senior figures in psychiatry who have challenged not only decisions about specific diagnoses but the scientific basis of the entire enterprise. Basic research into the biology of mental disorders and treatment has stalled, they say, confounded by the labyrinth of the brain. © 2013 The New York Times Company
by Emily Underwood The fifth edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5)—slated for release this month—has lost a major customer before even going to print. Thomas Insel, director of the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), declared last week on his blog that the institution will no longer use the manual to guide its research. Instead, NIMH is working on a long-term plan to develop new diagnostic criteria and treatments based on genetic, physiologic, and cognitive data rather than symptoms alone. Insel's pronouncement is the most recent hit in a long barrage of criticism that has rained down upon the latest DSM revision process since it began over a decade ago. "While DSM has been described as a 'Bible' for the field," he wrote, "it is, at best, a dictionary, creating a set of labels and defining each." Although the manual's strength has been to standardize these labels, he wrote, "[t]he weakness is its lack of validity," and "[p]atients with mental disorders deserve better." Although Insel's blog was reported as a "bombshell," and "potentially seismic," NIMH's decision to scrap the DSM criteria has been public for several years, says Bruce Cuthbert, director of NIMH's Division of Adult Translational Research and Treatment Development. In 2010, the agency began to steer researchers away from the traditional categories of DSM by posting new guidance for grant proposals in five broad areas. Rather than grouping disorders such as schizophrenia and depression by symptom, the new categories focus on basic neural circuits and cognitive functions, such as those for reward, arousal, and attachment. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Posted by Helen Shen More than 150 neuroscientists descended on Arlington, Virginia this week to begin planning the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative—an ambitious but still hazy proposal to understand how the brain works by recording activity from an unprecedented numbers of neurons at once. President Barack Obama announced the initiative on 2 April, which will be carried out by three federal agencies—the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA)—alongside a handful of private foundations. Most neuroscientists have relished the attention on their field, but have also been left wondering what it means in scientific terms to “understand” the brain, what it will take to get there, and how much will be feasible in the programme’s projected 10-year lifespan. They gathered at an inaugural NSF planning meeting taking place from 5-6 May to discuss their ideas and concerns. “The belief is we’re ready for a leap forward,” says Van Wedeen, a neurobiologist at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Massachusetts, and one of the NSF meeting organizers. “Which leap and in which direction is still being debated.” The NSF group invited researchers representing neuroscience, computer science, and engineering — as many as would fit in the hotel conference room. Another estimated 200 or so followed the meeting by live webcast on Monday. Roughly 75 participants accepted NSF’s open invitation to submit one-page documents outlining the major © 2013 Nature Publishing Group,
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 18126 - Posted: 05.07.2013
by Helen Thomson "I've been in a crowded elevator with mirrors all around, and a woman will move and I'll go to get out the way and then realise: 'oh that woman is me'." Heather Sellers has prosopagnosia, more commonly known as face blindness. "I can't remember any image of the human face. It's simply not special to me," she says. "I don't process them like I do a car or a dog. It's not a visual problem, it's a perception problem." Heather knew from a young age that something was different about the way she navigated her world, but her condition wasn't diagnosed until she was in her 30s. "I always knew something was wrong – it was impossible for me to trust my perceptions of the world. I was diagnosed as anxious. My parents thought I was crazy." The condition is estimated to affect around 2.5 per cent of the population, and it's common for those who have it not to realise that anything is wrong. "In many ways it's a subtle disorder," says Heather. "It's easy for your brain to compensate because there are so many other things you can use to identify a person: hair colour, gait or certain clothes. But meet that person out of context and it's socially devastating." As a child, she was once separated from her mum at a grocery store. Store staff reunited the pair, but it was confusing for Heather, since she didn't initially recognise her mother. "But I didn't know that I wasn't recognising her." © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd
Link ID: 18119 - Posted: 05.04.2013
by Andy Coghlan and Sara Reardon The world's biggest mental health research institute is abandoning the new version of psychiatry's "bible" – the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, questioning its validity and stating that "patients with mental disorders deserve better". This bombshell comes just weeks before the publication of the fifth revision of the manual, called DSM-5. On 29 April, Thomas Insel, director of the US National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), advocated a major shift away from categorising diseases such as bipolar disorder and schizophrenia according to a person's symptoms. Instead, Insel wants mental disorders to be diagnosed more objectively using genetics, brain scans that show abnormal patterns of activity and cognitive testing. This would mean abandoning the manual published by the American Psychiatric Association that has been the mainstay of psychiatric research for 60 years. The DSM has been embroiled in controversy for a number of years. Critics have said that it has outlasted its usefulness, has turned complaints that are not truly illnesses into medical conditions, and has been unduly influenced by pharmaceutical companies looking for new markets for their drugs. There have also been complaints that widened definitions of several disorder have led to over-diagnosis of conditions such as bipolar disorder and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Now, Insel has said in a blog post published by the NIMH that he wants a complete shift to diagnoses based on science not symptoms. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
Symmetry study deemed a fraud Eugenie Samuel Reich Few researchers have tried harder than Robert Trivers to retract one of their own papers. In 2005, Trivers, an evolutionary biologist at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey, published an attention-grabbing finding: Jamaican teenagers with a high degree of body symmetry were more likely to be rated ‘good dancers’ by their peers than were those with less symmetrical bodies. The study, which suggested that dancing is a signal for sexual selection in humans, was featured on the cover of this journal (W. M. Brown et al. Nature 438, 1148–1150; 2005). But two years later, Trivers began to suspect that the study data had been faked by one of his co-authors, William Brown, a postdoctoral researcher at the time. In seeking a retraction, Trivers self-published The Anatomy of a Fraud, a small book detailing what he saw as evidence of data fabrication. Later, Trivers had a verbal altercation over the matter with a close colleague and was temporarily banned from campus. An investigation of the case, completed by Rutgers and released publicly last month, now seems to validate Trivers’ allegations. Brown disputes the university’s finding, but it could help to clear the controversy that has clouded Trivers’ reputation as the author of several pioneering papers in the 1970s. For example, Trivers advanced an influential theory of ‘reciprocal altruism’, in which people behave unselfishly and hope that they will later be rewarded for their good deeds. He also analysed human sexuality in terms of the investments that mothers and fathers each make in child-rearing. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
By Bruce Bower Human ancestors living in East Africa 2 million years ago weren’t a steak-and-potatoes crowd. But they had a serious hankering for gazelle meat and antelope brains, fossils discovered in Kenya indicate. Three sets of butchered animal bones unearthed at Kenya’s Kanjera South site provide the earliest evidence of both long-term hunting and targeted scavenging by a member of the human evolutionary family, anthropologist Joseph Ferraro of Baylor University in Waco, Texas, and his colleagues conclude. An early member of the Homo genus, perhaps Homo erectus, hunted small animals and scavenged predators’ leftovers of larger creatures, researchers report April 25 in PLOS ONE. Along with hunting relatively small game such as gazelles, these hominids scavenged the heads of antelope and wildebeests, apparently to add a side of fatty, nutrient-rich brain tissue to their diets, the scientists say. Those dietary pursuits could have provided the extra energy Homo erectus needed to support large bodies, expanded brains and extensive travel across the landscape, Ferraro says. A few East African sites dating to as early as 3.4 million years ago had previously produced small numbers of animal bones bearing butchery marks made by stone tools. Scientists think those bones indicate occasional meat eating (SN: 9/11/10, p. 8). Now Kanjera South has yielded several thousand complete and partial animal bones, representing at least 81 individual animals. A known reversal of Earth’s magnetic field preserved in an excavated soil layer allowed Ferraro’s team to determine the age of the finds, which accumulated over a few thousand years at most. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
By ADRIAN RAINE In studying brain scans of criminals, researchers are discovering tell-tale signs of violent tendencies. WSJ's Jason Bellini speaks with Professor Adrian Raine about his latest discoveries. The scientific study of crime got its start on a cold, gray November morning in 1871, on the east coast of Italy. Cesare Lombroso, a psychiatrist and prison doctor at an asylum for the criminally insane, was performing a routine autopsy on an infamous Calabrian brigand named Giuseppe Villella. Lombroso found an unusual indentation at the base of Villella's skull. From this singular observation, he would go on to become the founding father of modern criminology. Lombroso's controversial theory had two key points: that crime originated in large measure from deformities of the brain and that criminals were an evolutionary throwback to more primitive species. Criminals, he believed, could be identified on the basis of physical characteristics, such as a large jaw and a sloping forehead. Based on his measurements of such traits, Lombroso created an evolutionary hierarchy, with Northern Italians and Jews at the top and Southern Italians (like Villella), along with Bolivians and Peruvians, at the bottom. These beliefs, based partly on pseudoscientific phrenological theories about the shape and size of the human head, flourished throughout Europe in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Lombroso was Jewish and a celebrated intellectual in his day, but the theory he spawned turned out to be socially and scientifically disastrous, not least by encouraging early-20th-century ideas about which human beings were and were not fit to reproduce—or to live at all. ©2013 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
Link ID: 18111 - Posted: 05.04.2013
by Paul Gabrielsen An insect's compound eye is an engineering marvel: high resolution, wide field of view, and incredible sensitivity to motion, all in a compact package. Now, a new digital camera provides the best-ever imitation of a bug's vision, using new optical materials and techniques. This technology could someday give patrolling surveillance drones the same exquisite vision as a dragonfly on the hunt. Human eyes and conventional cameras work about the same way. Light enters a single curved lens and resolves into an image on a retina or photosensitive chip. But a bug's eyes are covered with many individual lenses, each connected to light-detecting cells and an optic nerve. These units, called ommatidia, are essentially self-contained minieyes. Ants have a few hundred. Praying mantises have tens of thousands. The semicircular eyes sometimes take up most of an insect's head. While biologists continue to study compound eyes, materials scientists such as John Rogers try to mimic elements of their design. Many previous attempts to make compound eyes focused light from multiple lenses onto a flat chip, such as the charge-coupled device chips in digital cameras. While flat silicon chips have worked well for digital photography, in biology, "you never see that design," Rogers says. He thinks that a curved system of detectors better imitates biological eyes. In 2008, his lab created a camera designed like a mammal eye, with a concave electronic "retina" at the back. The curved surface enabled a wider field of view without the distortion typical of a wide-angle camera lens. Rogers then turned his attention to the compound eye. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
Link ID: 18110 - Posted: 05.02.2013
Chris Palmer NF-kB activation in neurons in the hypothalamus increases with age (left column), while the total number of neurons (middle column) and the total number of all cell types in the hypothalamus (right column) is maintained at a relatively steady rate across age groups. The area of the brain that controls growth, reproduction and metabolism also kick-starts ageing, according to a study published today in Nature1. The finding could lead to new treatments for age-related illnesses, helping people to live longer. Dongsheng Cai, a physiologist at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and his colleagues tracked the activity of NF-κB — a molecule that controls DNA transcription and is involved in inflammation and the body's response to stress — in the brains of mice. They found that the molecule becomes more active in the brain area called the hypothalamus as a mouse grows older. Further tests suggested that NF-κB activity helps to determine when mice display signs of ageing. Animals lived longer than normal when they were injected with a substance that inhibited the activity of NF-κB in immune cells called microglia in the hypothalamus. Mice that received a substance to stimulate the activity of NF-κB died earlier. “We have provided scientific evidence for the concept that systemic ageing is influenced by a particular tissue in the body,” says Cai. Health and well-being © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
by Sara Reardon People with epilepsy have to learn to cope with the unpredictable nature of seizures – but that could soon be a thing of the past. A new brain implant can warn of seizures minutes before they strike, enabling them to get out of situations that could present a safety risk. Epileptic seizures are triggered by erratic brain activity. The seizures last for seconds or minutes, and their unpredictability makes them hazardous and disruptive for people with epilepsy, says Mark Cook of the University of Melbourne in Australia. Like earthquakes, "you can't stop them, but if you knew when one was going to happen, you could prepare", he says. With funding from NeuroVista, a medical device company in Seattle, Cook and his colleagues have developed a brain implant to do just that. The device consists of a small patch of electrodes that measure brain wave activity. Warning light Over time, the device's software learns which patterns of brainwave activity indicate that a seizure is about to happen. When it detects such a pattern, the implant then transmits a signal through a wire to a receiver implanted under the wearer's collarbone. This unit alerts the wearer by wirelessly activating a handheld gadget with coloured lights – a red warning light, for example, signals that a seizure is imminent. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.