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Drugs to treat Alzheimer's disease don't help patients with mild cognitive impairment and are linked to greater risk of harm, a Canadian review concludes. People with mild cognitive impairment show symptoms of memory problems that are not severe enough to be considered dementia or to interfere with day-to-day functioning. Each year, three to 17 per cent of people with mild cognitive impairment deteriorate to dementia, research suggests. It was hoped that "cognitive enhancers" used to treat dementia might delay progression to dementia. Dr. Sharon Straus of the department of geriatric medicine at the University of Toronto and her team reviewed clinical trials and reports on the effects of four cognitive enhancers. "Cognitive enhancers did not improve cognition or function among patients with mild cognitive impairment and were associated with a greater risk of gastrointestinal harms," the reviewers concluded in Monday's issue of the Canadian Medical Association Journal. "Our findings do not support the use of cognitive enhancers for mild cognitive impairment." The medications act on different neurotransmitters in the brain, such as acetylcholine. © CBC 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18658 - Posted: 09.17.2013

Kelly Servick If keeping the brain spry were as simple as pumping iron, everyone would want to own the ultimate piece of cognitive exercise equipment. But designing activities to reverse the mental effects of aging is tricky. A new video game created by neuroscientists shows promise in reversing some signs of decline. Now, the researchers behind it aim to prove that video game training can be more than the latest workout craze. Games designed to keep the brain healthy as it ages have found an eager audience. “Many, many people have gotten into the business,” says neuropsychologist Glenn Smith of the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. The brain does appear to be capable of changing its structure and developing new skills over the course of a lifetime. But not all the products on the market are designed using scientific knowledge of the aging brain, and their ability to make meaningful, lasting changes hasn’t been proven, says Smith, who studies games as treatment for early signs of dementia. “There’s an awful lot of skepticism out there,” he says. The heart of the issue is whether practicing a video game can strengthen skills that are useful away from a computer. Early research showed that people could improve on computerized memory and speed tasks in the lab, Smith says. But it’s not clear whether these gains translate to everyday life. A recent trend puts more value in games that target the underlying problem—the decline in ability to remember and react as people age. © 2012 American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18611 - Posted: 09.05.2013

By Caitlin Shure The newest chemical under investigation for managing Alzheimer’s disease (AD) is actually not new at all. Insulin, the therapeutic hormone all-too familiar to individuals with diabetes, has been around for decades. In fact December will mark 90 years since its discoverers earned the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for the extraction of insulin for clinical use. Yet to say that insulin has been under our noses all these years wouldn’t exactly be correct. Because if it had been under our noses, we might have sensed its neurologic benefits sooner. The latest insulin therapy is not delivered via injection like its diabetes-treating counterparts, nor does it come in the form of a pill or a patch like the cholinesterase inhibitors often prescribed to patients with AD. Instead this novel therapeutic enters the body through the nose—the only entry point that gives insulin a chance of reaching the brain. A large peptide molecule, insulin from the blood cannot float easily into the brain because the blood brain barrier (BBB), a sort of neuroprotective moat, prevents its transport. Fortified by cellular guards called tight junctions, the BBB rejects many pharmacologic hopefuls, allowing entrance only to certain types of substances. Namely small or lipophilic molecules can be administered orally (or via injection, or through the skin) and as long as the relevant chemicals end up in the blood stream, they can casually saunter across the BBB and act on the brain. Large and cumbersome, insulin does not have this luxury and must therefore take a more creative route across the moat. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 18546 - Posted: 08.22.2013

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News A lifetime of too much copper in our diets may be contributing to Alzheimer's disease, US scientists say. However, research is divided, with other studies suggesting copper may actually protect the brain. The latest study in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences showed high levels of copper left the brain struggling to get rid of a protein thought to cause the dementia. Copper is a vital part of our diet and necessary for a healthy body. Tap water coming through copper pipes, red meat and shellfish as well as fruit and vegetables are all sources of dietary copper. Barrier The study on mice, by a team at the University of Rochester in New York, suggested that copper interfered with the brain's shielding - the blood brain barrier. Mice that were fed more copper in their water had a greater build-up of the metal in the blood vessels in the brain. The team said this interfered with the way the barrier functioned and made it harder for the brain to get rid of a protein call beta amyloid. One of the hallmarks of Alzheimer's disease is the formation of plaques of amyloid in the dying brain. Lead researcher Dr Rashid Deane said: "It is clear that, over time, copper's cumulative effect is to impair the systems by which amyloid beta is removed from the brain." BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 18532 - Posted: 08.20.2013

For most people, seeing a picture of a famous face — Oprah Winfrey, the Queen or Einstein, for instance — sparks immediate recognition and brings the name readily to the lips. But for people with a rare form of early-onset dementia called primary progressive aphasia, or PPA, the ability to identify a face or the person's name can be impaired. PPA strikes people aged about 40 to 65, much earlier than is typical for other forms of dementia like Alzheimer's disease. The condition is characterized by a deterioration in language and eventually the ability to communicate, although at least initially cognitive function in other areas remains intact, said Tamar Gefen, a PhD candidate in clinical neuropsychology at Northwestern University in Chicago. "Memory is fine, attention is fine and their planning, their judgment, their personality, their emotions — they're intact," explained Gefen, adding that early symptoms can include being unable to recall the names of familiar people or in some cases everyday objects. "Someone will come in and say: 'I can't remember my co-worker's name. I see her every day and I cannot remember it,"' she said. As the disease progresses, the person has difficulty speaking coherently and eventually stops talking altogether. Since the inability to put a name to a face can be an early sign of Alzheimer's disease, Gefen said it's important to properly diagnose the cause using specific tests that can identify PPA. © CBC 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 18: Attention and Higher Cognition
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 14: Attention and Consciousness
Link ID: 18498 - Posted: 08.13.2013

Drinking cocoa every day may help older people keep their brains healthy, research suggests. A study of 60 elderly people with no dementia found two cups of cocoa a day improved blood flow to the brain in those who had problems to start with. Those participants whose blood flow improved also did better on memory tests at the end of the study, the journal Neurology reported. Experts said more research was needed before conclusions could be drawn. It is not the first time cocoa has been linked with vascular health and researchers believe that this is in part due to it being rich in flavanols, which are thought to have an important role. In the latest study, researchers asked 60 people with an average age of 73 to drink two cups of cocoa a day - one group given high-flavanol cocoa and another a low-flavanol cocoa - and consume no other chocolate. Ultrasound tests at the start of the study showed 17 of them had impaired blood flow to the brain. There was no difference between those who drank flavanol-rich cocoa and those who had flavanol-poor cocoa. But whichever drink they were given, 88% of those with impaired blood flow at the start of the study saw improvements in blood flow and some cognitive tests, compared with 37% of people whose blood flow was normal at the beginning of the study. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 4: The Chemistry of Behavior: Neurotransmitters and Neuropharmacology
Link ID: 18477 - Posted: 08.08.2013

By Nathan Seppa High blood glucose levels appear to be associated with an increased risk of dementia in older people, a new study finds. Paul Crane at the University of Washington in Seattle and his colleagues recorded blood glucose levels in 2,067 people an average of 76 years old who initially had no signs of dementia. After five years, roughly one-fourth of the participants developed some form of dementia. Among people without diabetes, the risk of developing dementia was 18 percent greater in those with high blood glucose levels than in those with low levels. In people with diabetes, the risk of dementia was 40 percent higher in the high-glucose group, the scientists report in the Aug. 8 New England Journal of Medicine. The researchers took into account differences in age, gender, education, heart disease, blood pressure, smoking history and exercise level. While the study doesn’t establish a biological link between high blood glucose and dementia, the researchers speculate that the association could be explained by either glucose-related damage to tiny blood vessels in the central nervous system or insulin resistance – in which cells lose the ability to efficiently process sugar. © Society for Science & the Public 2000 - 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 13: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 9: Homeostasis: Active Regulation of the Internal Environment
Link ID: 18476 - Posted: 08.08.2013

By RONI CARYN RABIN Marie Theriault started having trouble with her hands more than three years ago. She was the director of a day care center, but suddenly she couldn’t change diapers or tie shoelaces. She started dropping things. “People would say to me, ‘Look, you dropped your folder,’ ” Mrs. Theriault, 59, said. “I wasn’t aware I had dropped it.” Though she did not have any problems with memory, Mrs. Theriault eventually found out that she has a rare form of Alzheimer’s disease. The diagnosis enabled her family to plan ahead: Her husband took early retirement and found a clinical trial for her to enroll in, and the two went on a safari that had been a dream for years. “We’re front-loading a bit, enjoying life as much as we can, now that the disease is manageable,” said Paul Theriault, 57. “It can get pretty ugly.” For the Theriaults, getting an accurate diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease brought a measure of relief, even though the future might be grim. Indeed, there is a growing interest in the early detection of dementia, not only in patients like Mrs. Theriault but also in people with normal age-related memory changes or even no symptoms at all. The idea is that treatments for Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias have been largely ineffective because the conditions aren’t caught early enough. Now researchers are starting clinical trials that focus on people in the “pre-symptomatic phase” of Alzheimer’s disease. Medicare is paying for wellness visits that include cognitive assessments and screening. Copyright 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18425 - Posted: 07.30.2013

By James Gallagher Health and science reporter, BBC News Researchers believe they are closer to developing a blood test that could diagnose Alzheimer's. There is no definitive test for the brain-wasting disease. Doctors rely on cognition tests and brain scans. A technique published in the journal Genome Biology showed differences in the tiny fragments of genetic material floating in the blood could be used to identify patients. The test was accurate 93% of the time in trials on 202 people. One of the main goals of Alzheimer's research is to find ways of detecting the disease earlier. It starts years before symptoms appear and it is thought that future treatments will need to be given before large parts of the brain are destroyed. This will require new ways of testing for the condition. The team at the Saarland University, in Germany, analysed 140 microRNAs (fragments of genetic code) in patients with Alzheimer's disease and in healthy people. They found 12 microRNAs in the blood which were present in markedly different levels in people with Alzheimer's. These became the basis of their test. Early trials showed it was successful and was "able to distinguish with high diagnostic accuracies between Alzheimer's disease patients and healthy" people. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18420 - Posted: 07.29.2013

Researchers in Canada and Ireland have discovered that blood pressure drugs, known as ACE inhibitors, can improve brain function while slowing down the onset of dementia. ACE inhibitors, known by names such as ramipril and perindopril, have been already been shown in previous studies to delay the onset of dementia. What the medical community didn’t know was that these drugs may also enhance cognitive function. The study, published in the British Medical Journal, concludes that the use of ACE inhibitors could become useful in the management of dementia. The study examined 361 patients, all of whom had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia (triggered by lack of blood supply to the brain) or a mix of the two. Many Alzheimer's patients suffer dementia, which can affect memory, thinking, reasoning, planning and the ability to speak. Eighty-five of the patients were already taking the ACE inhibitors while the rest were not. Researchers also separately tested 30 patients, put on the drugs for the first time, for changes in their brain function. The average age was 77 and participants were followed for one year. © CBC 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18408 - Posted: 07.27.2013

By GINA KOLATA A new study has found that dementia rates among people 65 and older in England and Wales have plummeted by 25 percent over the past two decades, to 6.2 percent from 8.3 percent, a trend that researchers say is probably occurring across developed countries and that could have major social and economic implications for families and societies. Another recent study, conducted in Denmark, found that people in their 90s who were given a standard test of mental ability in 2010 scored substantially better than people who had reached their 90s a decade earlier. Nearly one-quarter of those assessed in 2010 scored at the highest level, a rate twice that of those tested in 1998. The percentage of subjects severely impaired fell to 17 percent from 22 percent. The British study, published on Tuesday in The Lancet, and the Danish one, which was released last week, also in The Lancet, soften alarms sounded by advocacy groups and some public health officials who have forecast a rapid rise in the number of people with dementia, as well as in the costs of caring for them. The projections assumed the odds of getting dementia would be unchanged. Yet experts on aging said the studies also confirmed something they had suspected but had had difficulty proving: that dementia rates would fall and mental acuity improve as the population grew healthier and better educated. The incidence of dementia is lower among those better educated, as well as among those who control their blood pressure and cholesterol, possibly because some dementia is caused by ministrokes and other vascular damage. So as populations controlled cardiovascular risk factors better and had more years of schooling, it made sense that the risk of dementia might decrease. A half-dozen previous studies had hinted that the rate was falling, but they had flaws that led some to doubt the conclusions. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18388 - Posted: 07.18.2013

By PAM BELLUCK The man complained of memory problems but seemed perfectly normal. No specialist he visited detected any decline. “He insisted that things were changing, but he aced all of our tests,” said Rebecca Amariglio, a neuropsychologist at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. But about seven years later, he began showing symptoms of dementia. Dr. Amariglio now believes he had recognized a cognitive change so subtle “he was the only one who could identify it.” Patients like this have long been called “the worried well,” said Creighton Phelps, acting chief of the dementias of aging branch of the National Institute on Aging. “People would complain, and we didn’t really think it was very valid to take that into account.” But now, scientists are finding that some people with such complaints may in fact be detecting early harbingers of Alzheimer’s. Studies presented Wednesday at an Alzheimer’s Association conference in Boston showed that people with some types of cognitive concerns were more likely to have Alzheimer’s pathology in their brains, and to develop dementia later. Research presented by Dr. Amariglio, for example, found that people with more concerns about memory and organizing ability were more likely to have amyloid, a key Alzheimer’s-related protein, in their brains. And, in a significant shift highlighted at the conference, leading Alzheimer’s researchers are identifying a new category called “subjective cognitive decline,” which is people’s own sense that their memory and thinking skills are slipping even before others have noticed. © 2013 The New York Times Company

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18387 - Posted: 07.18.2013

By Marilynn Marchione The Associated Press New research boosts the "use it or lose it" theory about brainpower and staying mentally sharp. People who delay retirement have less risk of developing Alzheimer's disease or other types of dementia, a study of nearly half a million people in France found. It's by far the largest study to look at this, and researchers say the conclusion makes sense. Working tends to keep people physically active, socially connected and mentally challenged — all things known to help prevent mental decline. "For each additional year of work, the risk of getting dementia is reduced by 3.2 percent," said Carole Dufouil, a scientist at INSERM, the French government's health research agency. She led the study and gave results Monday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Boston. 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 — 1 in 9 people aged 65 and over. What causes the mind-robbing disease isn't known and there is no cure or any treatments that slow its progression. France has had some of the best Alzheimer's research in the world, partly because its former president, Nicolas Sarkozy, made it a priority. The country also has detailed health records on self-employed people who pay into a Medicare-like health system.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18377 - Posted: 07.16.2013

By Helen Briggs BBC News Today's 90-year-olds are surviving into very old age with better mental performance than ever before, Danish research suggests. People born in 1915 scored higher in cognitive tests in their 90s compared with those born a decade earlier, according to a study in The Lancet. Better living standards and intellectual stimulation may be key factors, experts say. The number of people reaching very old age is on the rise globally. In the US, for example, the amount of people aged 90 or above has more than doubled in 30 years. In Denmark, where the study took place, the chance of surviving into the 10th decade of life has gone up by about 30% each decade for people born in 1895, 1905 and 1915. However, there has been little research on the quality of life that people reaching such an old age can look forward to. The researchers, led by Prof Kaare Christensen, of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, surveyed all Danes born in 1905 who were still alive and living in the country in 1998 (3,600 people, aged 92-93). They assessed their physical strength, mental functioning, ability to carry out daily living tasks such as walking inside and outside, and any symptoms of depression. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18366 - Posted: 07.11.2013

by Jessica Hamzelou THE next generation may live to see 100, and with old age inevitably comes illness. While older people may be more prone to getting cancer or Alzheimer's, it seems they are unlikely to succumb to both. Understanding this link could offer insights into treating both diseases. The association was first noticed in 2005 when researchers looked at how many people over 65 with cancer later developed Alzheimer's, and vice versa. To further explore the link, Massimo Musicco at the Institute of Biomedical Technology in Milan, Italy, and his colleagues recorded cancer and Alzheimer's diagnoses for over a million people by looking at registries of drug prescriptions and hospital admissions between 2004 and 2009. In each case of cancer or Alzheimer's, they checked for the other disease before the person was treated, as well as in the years after. The group found that people with Alzheimer's were half as likely to develop cancer as their age-matched peers. People with cancer, on the other hand, were 35 per cent less likely to get Alzheimer's. "It's a very convincing demonstration of the links between two pathologies that we often think of as separate," says Richard Faragher of the British Society for Research on Ageing. "The question is: what is going on?" Although both diseases are linked to ageing, they work in very different ways. While cancer results from the uncontrolled growth of cells, Alzheimer's is related to the death of brain cells. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18365 - Posted: 07.11.2013

By Helen Briggs BBC News Keeping mentally active by reading books or writing letters helps protect the brain in old age, a study suggests. A lifetime of mental challenges leads to slower cognitive decline after factoring out dementia's impact on the brain, US researchers say. The study, published in Neurology, adds weight to the idea that dementia onset can be delayed by lifestyle factors. An Alzheimer's charity said the best way to lower dementia risk was to eat a balanced diet, exercise and stay slim. In a US study, 294 people over the age of 55 were given tests that measured memory and thinking, every year for about six years until their deaths. They also answered a questionnaire about whether they read books, wrote letters and took part in other activities linked to mental stimulation during childhood, adolescence, middle age, and in later life. After death, their brains were examined for evidence of the physical signs of dementia, such as brain lesions and plaques. The study found that after factoring out the impact of those signs, those who had a record of keeping the brain busy had a rate of cognitive decline estimated at 15% slower than those who did not. Dr Robert Wilson, of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, who led the study, said the research suggested exercising the brain across a lifetime was important for brain health in old age. BBC © 2013

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18347 - Posted: 07.04.2013

By Rachel Nuwer Doctors and nutritionists have long associated the Mediterranean diet with human health benefits, including a lower risk of Alzheimer's disease. A recent study of 1,880 elderly people living in New York City, for example, showed that those who strongly adhered to a Mediterranean diet over the study's 14-year span had a 32 to 40 percent lower incidence of Alzheimer's compared with those who did not. Extra virgin olive oil seems to be one of the main factors behind this risk reduction. People adhering to a Mediterranean diet consume up to 50 milliliters (around one fifth of a cup) of the fragrant green liquid a day. Previously, researchers assumed this benefit came from extra virgin olive oil's high concentration of monounsaturated fatty acids. But in 2005 scientists discovered that oleocanthal—the naturally occurring compound that elicits a peppery, burning sensation in the back of the throat—seemed to produce effects strikingly similar to those of ibuprofen, which tamps down inflammation. Since then, investigators have turned their attention to the potential benefits of this particular compound. Some studies have shown that oleocanthal interferes with the formation of characteristic neurofibrillary tangles and beta-amyloid plaques, both of which play principal roles in Alzheimer's neurological devastation. Research published online in ACS Chemical Neuroscience in February offers new details on how the compound works. The study authors applied different concentrations of oleocanthal over three days to mouse brain cell cultures. They also administered oleocanthal to live mice—the first time such an experiment has been done—every day for two weeks. In both trials, levels of two proteins that play major roles in transporting beta-amyloid out of the brain as well as enzymes that degrade beta-amyloid increased significantly after administering oleocanthal. © 2013 Scientific American

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18278 - Posted: 06.15.2013

Robert Bazell NBC News Just two years ago, Barbara Whitmarsh was a woman who seemed to have it all. She was a highly regarded scientist at the National Institutes of Health. Married for 30 years, she’d raised six children with her beloved husband, John. But then John Whitmarsh started to notice some disturbing changes in his wife, now 62. It was as if the woman he’d married and lived with all that time was slowly and inexorably fading away. “Her ability to feel empathy, her personality, it just disappeared over a period of time,” John said. “I would ask her, ‘Is there anything wrong?’ and she would say, ‘No, I love you and everything's fine,’ but she wasn't there. And she said it in that flat way.” A scientist himself, Whitmarsh knew there was, indeed, something wrong. And he was worried. He asked his wife to see a psychiatrist who eventually diagnosed her with frontotemporal dementia or FTD. It’s a dementia that generally strikes at an earlier age than Alzheimer’s disease. And its symptoms are different – at least in the beginning – from Alzheimer’s because it originates in a different part of the brain. It’s also a disease that until very recently doctors thought was rare -- but that view is changing. “We've begun to realize that frontotemporal dementia is actually more common than Alzheimer's disease in people with degenerative disorders under the age of 60,” said Dr. Bruce Miller, director of the Memory and Aging Center at the University of California, San Francisco.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 19: Language and Hemispheric Asymmetry
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 15: Language and Our Divided Brain
Link ID: 18277 - Posted: 06.15.2013

Helen Shen Bexarotene, a cancer drug touted as a potential treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, may not be the blockbuster remedy scientists were hoping for, according to several analyses published in Science on 24 May1–4. Four independent research groups report that they failed to fully replicate striking results published in the journal last year5 by Gary Landreth, a neuroscientist at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio, and his colleagues. Landreth's team reported that the drug bexarotene could lower brain concentrations of the β-amyloid protein that has long been suspected as a key contributor to Alzheimer’s disease, and could even reverse cognitive impairments in diseased mice. But the study garnered particular attention for its claim that the drug could clear 50% of amyloid plaques — sticky clumps of the protein thought to interfere with brain function — in as little as 72 hours. “That attracted a lot of folks to try to replicate these studies,” says Philip Wong, a neuroscientist at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. “No drug at the present moment can do things like that.” None of the follow-up studies published this week replicated the effects of bexarotene on plaques. Two groups did, however, confirm Landreth’s finding that the drug reduced levels of a soluble, free-floating form of β-amyloid, which can aggregate in plaques4. Not all of the papers examined memory in mice, but one group led by Radosveta Koldamova, a neuroscientist at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania, found that bexarotene treatment led to cognitive improvements1. © 2013 Nature Publishing Group

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18190 - Posted: 05.25.2013

by Caroline Williams Those at risk of developing Alzheimer's may be able to slow its onset through daily B vitamins. We already know that a high level of the amino acid homocysteine in the blood is a risk factor for Alzheimer's, and that B vitamin supplements help reduce homocysteine levels. But it was unclear whether or not these supplements would slow the progression of mild cognitive impairment (MCI) to Alzheimer's. David Smith and Gwenaëlle Douaud at the University of Oxford led a research effort to find out. They used MRI to track changes in the brains of 200 elderly volunteers with MCI over two years. During this time, half were given high doses of vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid – 300, 20 and 4 times the UK guideline daily amounts, respectively. The rest took a placebo. In 2010, Smith and his colleagues showed that high doses of B vitamins slowed whole-brain shrinkage by up to 53 per cent in patients with above average homocysteine levels. Now Smith and Douaud's team have looked deeper to work out which brain regions are best protected. They found that it was the areas of the brain most seriously affected by Alzheimer's, including the hippocampus and cerebellum, that were protected in volunteers given the vitamins. For instance, in those with high homocysteine, the atrophy rate in these brain regions was 5.2 per cent in the placebo group but just 0.6 per cent in the vitamin group. © Copyright Reed Business Information Ltd.

Related chapters from BP7e: Chapter 7: Life-Span Development of the Brain and Behavior; Chapter 17: Learning and Memory
Related chapters from MM:Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development; Chapter 13: Memory, Learning, and Development
Link ID: 18177 - Posted: 05.21.2013