Chapter 2. Functional Neuroanatomy: The Nervous System and Behavior
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by Moheb Costandi Mice transplanted with a once-discounted class of human brain cells have better memories and learning abilities than normal counterparts, according to a new study. Far from a way to engineer smarter rodents, the work suggests that human brain evolution involved a major upgrade to cells called astrocytes. Astrocytes are one of several types of glia, the other cells found alongside neurons in the nervous system. Although long thought to merely provide support and nourishment for neurons, it's now clear that astrocytes are vital for proper brain function. They are produced during development from stem cells called glial progenitors. In 2009, Steven Goldman of the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York and his colleagues reported that human astrocytes are bigger, and have about 10 times as many fingerlike projections that contact other brain cells and blood vessels, than those of mice. To further investigate these differences, they have more recently grafted fluorescently labeled human glial progenitors into the brains of newborn mice and examined the animals when they reached adulthood. Most of the grafted cells remained as progenitors, but some matured into typical human-looking astrocytes. They connected to their mouse counterparts to form astrocyte networks that transmitted electrical signals. Furthermore, they propagated internal signals about three times faster than the mouse astrocytes and improved the strengthening of connections between neurons in the hippocampus, a process thought to be critical for learning and memory. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science.
By Partha Mitra The Sherlock Holmes novel The Hound of the Baskervilles features the great Grimpen Mire, a treacherous marsh in Dartmoor, England. Holmes’ protagonist, the naturalist Stapleton, knows where the few secure footholds are, allowing him to cross the mire and reach the hills with rare plants and butterflies, but he warns Dr. Watson that a false step can be fatal, the bog inexorably consuming the unsuspecting traveller. Trying to unravel the complexities of the brain is a bit like crossing the great Grimpen Mire: one needs to know where the secure stepping-stones are, and a false step can mean sinking into a morass. As we enter the era of Big Brain Science projects, it is important to know where the next firm foothold is. As a goal worthy of a multi-billion dollar brain project, we have now been offered a motto that is nearly as rousing as “climb every mountain”: “record every action potential from every neuron.” According to recent reporting in the New York Times, this goal, proclaimed in a paper published in 2012, will be the basis of a decade-long “Brain Activity Map” project. Not content with a goal as lofty as this in worms, flies and mice, the press reports imply (and the authors also speculate) that these technologies will be used for comprehensive spike recordings in the human brain, generating a “Brain Activity Map” that will provide the answers to Alzheimers and Schizophrenia and lead us out of the “impenetrable jungles of the brain” that hapless neuroscientists have wandered over the past century. Neuroscience is most certainly in need of integration, and brain research will without doubt benefit from the communal excitement and scaled up funding associated with a Big Brain Initiative. However, success will depend on setting the right goals and guarding against irrational exuberance. Successful big science projects are engineering projects with clear, technically feasible goals: setting a human on the moon, sequencing the Human Genome, finding the Higgs Boson. The technologies proposed in the paper under discussion may or may not be feasible in a given species (they will not be feasible in the normal human brain, since the methods involved are invasive and require that the skull be surgically opened). However, technology development is notoriously difficult to predict, and may carry unforeseen benefits. What we really need to understand is whether the overall goal is meaningful. © 2013 Scientific American,
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17879 - Posted: 03.09.2013
Meredith Wadman Ron Kalil, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin–Madison, didn’t expect to see his son among the 28,500 attendees at the meeting of the Society for Neuroscience in New Orleans last October. And he wondered why Tom Kalil, deputy director for policy at the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), was accompanied by Miyoung Chun, vice-president of science programmes at the Kavli Foundation in Oxnard, California. Tom Kalil told his father that the Kavli Foundation had wanted his help in bringing nanoscientists together behind an ambitious idea. Ron Kalil says he thought: “Why are you talking about it at a neuroscience meeting?” He understands now. These two people, neither of them a working scientist, had been quietly pushing into existence the Brain Activity Map (BAM), the largest and most ambitious effort in fundamental biology since the Human Genome Project — and one that would need advances in both nanoscience and neuroscience to achieve its goals. This is the kind of science — big and bold — that politicians like. President Barack Obama praised brain mapping in his State of the Union address on 12 February. Soon after, Francis Collins, director of the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, Maryland, which will be the lead agency on the project, talked up the idea in a television appearance. The Obama administration is expected to provide more details about the initiative this month, possibly in conjunction with the release of the federal 2014 budget request. But already, some scientists are wondering whether the project, a concept less than two years old and still evolving, can win new funding from Congress, or whether it would crowd out projects pitched by individual scientists. “Creative science is bottom-up, not top-down,” says Cori Bargmann, a neurobiologist at the Rockefeller University in New York. “Are we talking about central planning inside the Beltway?” © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17875 - Posted: 03.07.2013
By Meghan Rosen Zombies aren’t the only things that feast on brains. Immune cells called microglia gorge on neural stem cells in developing rat and monkey brains, researchers report in the March 6 Journal of Neuroscience. Chewing up neuron-spawning stem cells could help control brain size by pruning away excess growth. Scientists have previously linked abnormal human brain size to autism and schizophrenia. “It shows microglia are very important in the developing brain,” says neuroscientist Joseph Mathew Antony of the University of Toronto, who was not involved in the research. Scientists have long known that in adult brains, microglia hunt for injured cells as well as pathogens. “They mop up all the dead and dying cells,” Antony says. And when the scavengers find a dangerous intruder, they pounce. “These guys are relentless,” says study coauthor Stephen Noctor, of the University of California, Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento. “They seek and destroy bacteria — it’s really quite amazing.” Microglia also lurk in embryonic brains, but the immune cells’ role there is less well understood. Previous studies had found microglia near neural stem cells — tiny factories that pump out new neurons. When Noctor’s team examined slices of embryonic human, monkey and rodent brains, he was struck by just how many microglia crowded around the stem cells and how closely the two cell types touched. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
By JOHN MARKOFF In setting the nation on a course to map the active human brain, President Obama may have picked a challenge even more daunting than ending the war in Afghanistan or finding common ground with his Republican opponents. In more than a century of scientific inquiry into the interwoven cells known as neurons that make up the brain, researchers acknowledge they are only beginning to scratch the surface of a scientific challenge that is certain to prove vastly more complicated than sequencing the human genome. The Obama administration is hoping to announce as soon as next month its intention to assemble the pieces — and, even more challenging, the financing — for a decade-long research project that will have the goal of building a comprehensive map of the brain’s activity. At present, scientists are a long way from doing so. Before they can even begin the process, they have to develop the tools to examine the brain. And before they develop tools that will work on humans, they must succeed in doing so in a number of simpler species — assuming that what they learn can even be applied to humans. Besides the technological and scientific challenges, there are a host of issues involving storing the information researchers gather, and ethical concerns about what can be done with the data. Also highly uncertain is whether the science will advance quickly enough to meet the time frames being considered for what is being called the Brain Activity Map project. Many neuroscientists are skeptical that a multiyear, multibillion dollar effort to unlock the brain’s mysteries will succeed.“I believe the scientific paradigm underlying this mapping project is, at best, out of date and at worst, simply wrong,” said Donald G. Stein, a neurologist at the Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta. “The search for a road map of stable, neural pathways that can represent brain functions is futile.” © 2013 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17850 - Posted: 02.26.2013
By Gary Stix The era of Big Neuroscience has arrived. In late January, The Human Brain Project—an attempt to create a computer simulation of the brain at every scale from the nano nano to the macro biotic—announced that it had successfully arranged a billion Euro funding package for a 10-year run. And then on Feb. 18, an article in The New York Times took the wraps off a plan to spend perhaps billions of dollars for an effort to record large collections of brain cells and figure out what exactly they are doing. Is this the Large Hadron Collider vs. the Superconducting Supercollider redux? Not yet. The billions for the Brain Activity Map, the U.S. project, are still a wish that has yet to be granted. But, despite as-always hazy government finances, brain researchers are thinking large as they never have before, and invoking the attendant rhetoric of moon shots, next-generation Human Genome Projects and the need for humankind to muster the requisite visionary zeal to tackle one of science’s “last frontiers.” Oy, spare me that last part. The challenges these projects have set for themselves, though, illustrate the challenge of going from today’s crude profiles of a biological machine of incomprehensible complexity to an accurate rendering of the goings-on of some 100 billion neurons woven together by a pulsating tapestry of 100 trillion electrical interconnections. © 2013 Scientific American
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17849 - Posted: 02.26.2013
Sandrine Ceurstemont, editor, New Scientist TV It's the sequel to fertilisation: the brains of unborn babies have now been imaged in action, showing how connections form. This fMRI movie, produced by Moriah Thomason from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan, shows a fly-through of several fetuses in their third trimester. By comparing the scans at slightly different stages of development, Thomason was able to pinpoint when different parts of the brain wire up. "The connection strength increases with fetal age," writes Thomason. By identifying how brain connectivity normally develops, the scans could help diagnose and treat conditions like schizophrenia and autism before birth. For more on this research, read our full-length news story, "First snaps made of fetal brains wiring themselves up". © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.
By Alan Boyle, Science Editor, NBC News BOSTON — The brain-mapping project that the Obama administration wants to facilitate isn't necessarily aimed at adding billions of dollars to the money already being spent on research, according to the scientists who inspired the idea. Instead, it's aimed at harnessing new technologies to uncover the secrets of neural function less expensively and more completely. "We can bring down the cost and increase the quality of the technology," said Harvard geneticist George Church, one of the researchers who proposed the Brain Activity Map Project last year. "We are trying to work with current funding [levels] to bring down the cost." The New York Times reported on Monday that the White House has embraced the idea of having the Office of Science and Technology Policy spearhead the project, with participation by the National Institutes of Health and other federal agencies. The federal initiative is to be unveiled as early as next month, the Times quoted its sources as saying. The roots of the project go back months if not years earlier: The goals of the BAM Project were outlined last June in a white paper appearing in the journal Neuron. The researchers proposed a 15-year international effort to map the functions of the brain's complex neural circuitry to an unprecedented degree — using traditional tools such as magnetic resonance imaging in combination with novel technologies such as nanosensors and wireless fiber-optic probes that can be implanted into the brain, and genetically engineered cells that can be linked up with brain cells to record their activity. © 2013 NBCNews.com
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17822 - Posted: 02.19.2013
By Rachel Ehrenberg BOSTON — For the first time, researchers have snapped pictures of mouse inner ear cells using an approach that doesn’t damage tissue or require elaborate dyes. The approach could offer a way to investigate hearing loss — the most common sensory deficit in the world — and may help guide the placement of cochlear devices or other implants. Inner ear damage and the deafness that results have long challenged scientists. The small delicate cochlea and associated parts are encased in the densest bone in the body and near crucial anatomical landmarks, including the jugular vein, carotid artery and facial nerve, which make them difficult to access. With standard anatomical imaging techniques such as MRI, the inner ear just looks like a small grey blob. “We can’t biopsy it, we can’t image it, so it’s very difficult to figure out why people are deaf,” said ear surgeon and neuroscientist Konstantina Stankovic of the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston. Stankovic and her colleagues took a peek at inner ear cells using an existing technique called two-photon microscopy. This approach shoots photons at the target tissue, exciting particular molecules that then emit light. The researchers worked with mice exposed to 160 decibels of sound for two hours —levels comparable to the roaring buzz of a snowmobile or power tools. Then they removed the rodents’ inner ears, which includes the spiraled, snail-shaped cochlea and other organs. Instead of cutting into the cochlea, the researchers peered through the “round window” — a middle ear opening covered by a thin membrane that leads to the cochlea. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013
By Pallab Ghosh Science correspondent, BBC News, Boston Scientists are set to release the first batch of data from a project designed to create the first map of the human brain. The project could help shed light on why some people are naturally scientific, musical or artistic. Some of the first images were shown at the American Association for the Advancement of Science meeting in Boston. I found out how researchers are developing new brain imaging techniques for the project by having my own brain scanned. Scientists at Massachusetts General Hospital are pushing brain imaging to its limit using a purpose built scanner. It is one of the most powerful scanners in the world. The scanner's magnets need 22MW of electricity - enough to power a nuclear submarine. The researchers invited me to have my brain scanned. I was asked if I wanted "the 10-minute job or the 45-minute 'full monty'" which would give one of the most detailed scans of the brain ever carried out. Only 50 such scans have ever been done. I went for the full monty. It was a pleasant experience enclosed in the scanner's vast twin magnets. Powerful and rapidly changing magnetic fields were looking to see tiny particles of water travelling along the larger nerve fibres. By following the droplets, the scientists in the adjoining cubicle are able to trace the major connections within my brain. Arcs of understanding The result was a 3D computer image that revealed the important pathways of my brain in vivid colour. One of the lead researchers, Professor Van Wedeen, gave me a guided tour of the inside of my head. BBC © 2013
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17814 - Posted: 02.18.2013
By JOHN MARKOFF The Obama administration is planning a decade-long scientific effort to examine the workings of the human brain and build a comprehensive map of its activity, seeking to do for the brain what the Human Genome Project did for genetics. The project, which the administration has been looking to unveil as early as March, will include federal agencies, private foundations and teams of neuroscientists and nanoscientists in a concerted effort to advance the knowledge of the brain’s billions of neurons and gain greater insights into perception, actions and, ultimately, consciousness. Scientists with the highest hopes for the project also see it as a way to develop the technology essential to understanding diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, as well as to find new therapies for a variety of mental illnesses. Moreover, the project holds the potential of paving the way for advances in artificial intelligence. The project, which could ultimately cost billions of dollars, is expected to be part of the president’s budget proposal next month. And, four scientists and representatives of research institutions said they had participated in planning for what is being called the Brain Activity Map project. The details are not final, and it is not clear how much federal money would be proposed or approved for the project in a time of fiscal constraint or how far the research would be able to get without significant federal financing. © 2013 The New York Times Company
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17813 - Posted: 02.18.2013
The use of an advanced imaging shortly after the onset of acute stroke failed to identify a subgroup of patients who could benefit from a clot-removal procedure, a study has found. The randomized controlled trial known as Mechanical Retrieval and Recanalization of Stroke Clots Using Embolectomy (MR RESCUE) was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (NINDS), part of the National Institutes of Health, and was published online Feb. 8 in the New England Journal of Medicine. In patients with ischemic stroke (caused by a blockage in an artery), brain cells deprived of blood die within minutes to hours. Rapidly opening the artery can halt brain cell death. Intravenous tissue plasminogen activator (t-PA), a drug that dissolves clots has been shown to improve outcomes in such stroke patients. However intravenous t-PA is not effective in many patients with large clots blocking the major brain arteries that cause the most devastating strokes. MR RESCUE investigators tested an invasive clot removal strategy designed to remove clots from these large arteries. Patients in the study were enrolled at 22 centers in the United States within approximately 5.5 hours of their stroke onset. Their ability to function independently was assessed at 90 days. All MR-RESCUE patients underwent emergency computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance (MRI) perfusion imaging to identify regions of the brain with decreased blood flow, as well as regions that could not be salvaged.
By Breanna Draxler Brain differences between the 23 participants were quantified at each surface vertex. Values below the global mean are shown in cool colors while values above this average are shown in warm colors. Image courtesy of Sophia Mueller et al. Every person thinks and acts a little differently than the other 7 billion on the planet. Scientists now say that variations in brain connections account for much of this individuality, and they’ve narrowed it down to a few specific regions of the brain. This might help us better understand the evolution of the human brain as well as its development in individuals. Each human brain has a unique connectome—the network of neural pathways that tie all of its parts together. Like a fingerprint, every person’s connectome is unique. To find out where these individual connectomes differed the most, researchers used an MRI scanning technique to take cross-sectional pictures of 23 people’s brains at rest. Researchers found very little variation in the areas of the participants’ brains responsible for basic senses and motor skills. It’s a pretty straight shot from the finger to the part of the brain that registers touch, for example, or from the eye to the vision center. Thus we apparently all sense the world in more or less the same way. The real variety arose in the parts of the brain associated with personality, like the frontoparietal lobe. This multipurpose area in the brain curates sensory data into complex thoughts, feelings or actions and allows us to interpret the things we sense (i.e., we recognize a red, round object as an apple). Because there are many ways to get from sensation to reaction, and many different ways to react to what we sense, each individual’s brain blazes its own paths.
A telltale boost of activity at the back of the brain while processing emotional information predicted whether depressed patients would respond to an experimental rapid-acting antidepressant, a National Institutes of Health study has found. “We have discovered a potential neuroimaging biomarker that may eventually help to personalize treatment selection by revealing brain-based differences between patients,” explained Maura Furey, Ph.D., of NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). Furey, NIMH’s Carlos Zarate, M.D., and colleagues, reported on their functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) study of a pre-treatment biomarker for the antidepressant response to scopolamine, Jan. 30, 2013, online in JAMA Psychiatry. Scopolamine, better known as a treatment for motion sickness, has been under study since Furey and colleagues discovered its fast-acting antidepressant properties in 2006. Unlike ketamine, scopolamine works through the brain’s acetylcholine chemical messenger system. The NIMH team’s research has demonstrated that by blocking receptors for acetylcholine on neurons, scopolamine can lift depression in many patients within a few days; conventional antidepressants typically take weeks to work. But not all patients respond, spurring interest in a predictive biomarker. The acetylcholine system plays a pivotal role in working memory, holding information in mind temporarily, but appears to act by influencing the processing of information rather than through memory. Imaging studies suggest that visual working memory performance can be enhanced by modulating acetylcholine-induced activity in the brain’s visual processing area, called the visual cortex, when processing information that is important to the task.
By JUDY BATTISTA NEW ORLEANS — The N.F.L., faced with increasing concern about the toll of concussions and confronted with litigation involving thousands of former players, is planning to form a partnership with General Electric to jump-start development of imaging technology that would detect concussions and encourage the creation of materials to better protect the brain. The four-year initiative, which is expected to begin in March with at least $50 million from the league and G.E., is the result of a late October conversation between Commissioner Roger Goodell and G.E.’s chief executive, Jeffrey Immelt, a former offensive tackle at Dartmouth. When Goodell explained his idea of getting leading companies in innovation to join the N.F.L. to accelerate research, Immelt said he wanted to help. After years of insisting there was no link between head injuries sustained on the field and long-term cognitive impairment, the N.F.L. has altered rules, fined and suspended players who hit opponents in the head and contributed millions of dollars for the study of head injuries. “Is this their way of defending themselves with this cloud over the sport? I’d be lying if I told you it had nothing to do with it,” Kevin Guskiewicz, the founding director of the Matthew Gfeller Sport-Related Traumatic Brain Injury Research Center at the University of North Carolina, said of the initiative. Guskiewicz is a member of the league’s Head, Neck and Spine Committee and the chairman of a subcommittee focused on safety equipment and playing rules. He will work with the N.F.L. and G.E. to identify areas of focus. © 2013 The New York Times Company
By R. Douglas Fields Imagine if your biggest health problem could be solved with the flip of a switch. Deep-brain stimulation (DBS) offers such a dramatic recovery for a range of neurological illnesses, including Parkinson's disease, epilepsy and major depression. Yet the metal electrodes implanted in the brain are too bulky to tap into intricate neural circuitry with precision and corrode in contact with tissue, so their performance degrades over time. Now neurophysiologists have developed a method of DBS that avoids these problems by using microscopic magnets to stimulate neurons. In experiments published in June 2012 in Nature Communications, neurophysiologist John T. Gale of the Cleveland Clinic and his colleague Giorgio Bonmassar, a physicist at Harvard Medical School and an expert on brain imaging, tested whether micromagnets (which are half a millimeter in diameter) could induce neurons from rabbit retinas to fire. They found that when they electrically energized a micromagnet positioned next to a neuron, it fired. In contrast to the electric currents induced by DBS, which excite neurons in all directions, magnetic fields follow organized pathways from pole to pole, like the magnetic field that surrounds the earth. The researchers found that they could direct the stimulus precisely to individual neurons, and even to particular areas of a neuron, by orienting the magnetic coil appropriately. “That may help us avoid the side effects we see in DBS,” Gale says, referring to, for instance, the intense negative emotions that are sometimes accidentally triggered when DBS is used to relieve motor problems in Parkinson's. © 2013 Scientific American
by Carrie Arnold Studying the links between brain and behavior may have just gotten easier. For the first time, neuroscientists have found a way to watch neurons fire in an independently moving animal. Though the study was done in fish, it may hold clues to how the human brain works. "This technique will really help us understand how we make sense of the world and why we behave the way we do," says Martin Meyer, a neuroscientist at King's College London who was not involved in the work. The study was carried out in zebrafish, a popular animal model because they're small and easy to breed. More important, zebrafish larvae are transparent, which gives scientists an advantage in identifying the neural circuits that make them tick. Yet, under a typical optical microscope, neurons that are active and firing look much the same as their quieter counterparts. To see what neurons are active and when, neuroscientists have therefore developed a variety of indicators and dyes. For example, when a neuron fires, it is flooded with calcium ions, which can cause some of the dyes to light up. Still, the approach has limitations. Traditionally, Meyer explains, researchers would immobilize the head or entire body of a zebrafish larvae so that they could get a clearer picture of what was happening inside the brain. Even so, it was difficult to interpret neural activity for just a few neurons and over a short period of time. Researchers needed a better way to study the zebrafish brain in real time. © 2010 American Association for the Advancement of Science
Keyword: Brain imaging
Link ID: 17742 - Posted: 02.02.2013
Alison Abbott & Quirin Schiermeier Two of the biggest awards ever made for research have gone to boosting studies of the wonder material graphene and an elaborate simulation of the brain. The winners of the European Commission’s two-year Future and Emerging Technologies ‘flagship’ competition, announced on 28 January, will receive €500 million (US$670 million) each for their planned work, which the commission hopes will help to improve the lives, health and prosperity of millions of Europeans. The Human Brain Project, a supercomputer simulation of the human brain conceived and led by neuroscientist Henry Markram at the Swiss Federal Insitute of Technology in Lausanne, scooped one of the prizes. The other winning team, led by Jari Kinaret at Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, Sweden, hopes to develop the potential of graphene — an ultrathin, flexible, electrically conducting form of carbon — in applications such as personal-communication technologies, energy storage and sensors. The size of the awards — matching funds raised by the participants are expected to bring each project’s budget up to €1 billion over ten years — have some researchers worrying that the flagship programme may draw resources from other research. And both winners have already faced criticism. Many neuroscientists have argued, for example, that the Human Brain Project’s approach to modelling the brain is too cumbersome to succeed (see Nature 482, 456–458; 2012). Markram is unfazed. He explains that the project will have three main thrusts. One will be to study the structure of the mouse brain, from the molecular to the cellular scale and up. Another will generate similar human data. A third will try to identify the brain wiring associated with particular behaviours. The long-term goals, Markram says, include improved diagnosis and treatment of brain diseases, and brain-inspired technology. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group
By Sandra G. Boodman Still clutching his discharge instructions from a suburban Maryland emergency room, Brian Harms struggled to make sense of what the neurosurgeon was saying. The ER staff had told Harms, admitted hours earlier, that his diagnoses were headache and vertigo and that he should go home and rest. A CT scan had found a benign cyst in his brain, but the staff didn’t convey any urgency about treating it. As the 29-year-old College Park resident was gathering his things, a neurosurgeon rushed in, telling Harms he would not be going home. “I need to get this information to you quickly,” Harms remembers the specialist telling him on the morning of Sept. 28, 2011. “You are in a lot of trouble, and you need surgery as soon as possible.” The neurosurgeon had been trying to arrange a transfer to Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, but doctors were worried that he might die en route. “I highly suggest you trust me and let me do this procedure here,” Harms remembers the surgeon telling him, but the decision was his. For Harms, who had seen several doctors for headaches and other symptoms during the previous 18 months, the news was beyond shocking. “It felt like the floor dropped out beneath me,” he recalled. “I was scared witless.” Only later would Harms, a University of Maryland doctoral candidate in geochemistry, learn how lucky he was to have survived both a series of misdiagnoses and a test, performed hours before his emergency surgery, that could have killed him. © 1996-2013 The Washington Post
Keyword: Pain & Touch
Link ID: 17727 - Posted: 01.29.2013
By Lisa Raffensperger Among the many unpleasant side effects of chemotherapy treatment, researchers have just confirmed another: chemo brain. The term refers to the mental fog that chemotherapy patients report feeling during and after treatment. According to Jame Abraham, a professor at West Virginia University, about a quarter of patients undergoing chemotherapy have trouble focusing, processing numbers, and using short-term memory. A recent study points to the cause. The study relied on PET (positron emission tomography) brain scanning to examine brain blood flow, a marker for brain activity. Abraham and colleagues scanned the brains of 128 breast cancer patients before chemotherapy began and then 6 months later. The results showed a significant decrease in activity in regions responsible for memory, attention, planning and prioritizing. The findings aren’t immediately useful for treating or preventing the condition of chemo brain, but the hard and fast evidence may comfort those experiencing chemo-related forgetfulness. And luckily chemo brain is almost always temporary: patients’ mental processing generally returns to normal within a year or two after chemotherapy treatment ends.