A Brain Scientist Who Studies Alzheimer’s Explains How She Stays Mentally Fit

As a specialist in Alzheimer’s prevention, Jessica Langbaum knows that exercising her mental muscles can help keep her brain sharp.

But Langbaum, who holds a doctorate in psychiatric epidemiology, has no formal mental fitness program. She doesn’t do crossword puzzles or play computer brain games.

“Just sitting down and doing Sudoku isn’t probably going to be the one key thing that’s going to prevent you from developing Alzheimer’s disease,” she says.

Instead of using a formal brain training program, she simply goes to work.

Full story at npr.org

Study shows how exercise generates new neurons, improves cognition in Alzheimer’s mouse

A study by a Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) research team finds that neurogenesis -inducing the production of new neurons—in the brain structure in which memories are encoded can improve cognitive function in a mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease. Their investigation shows that those beneficial effects on cognition can be blocked by the hostile inflammatory environment present in the brain of patients with Alzheimer’s disease and that physical exercise can “clean up” the environment, allowing new nerve cells to survive and thrive and improving cognition in the Alzheimer’s mice.

“In our study we showed that exercise is one of the best ways to turn on neurogenesis and then, by figuring out the molecular and genetic events involved, we determined how to mimic the beneficial effects of exercise through gene therapy and pharmacological agents,” says Rudolph Tanzi, Ph.D., director of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit, vice-chair of the Department of Neurology and co-director of the Henry and Alison McCance Center for Brain Health at MGH and senior author of the paper published in Science.

Lead author, Se Hoon Choi, Ph.D., of the Genetics and Aging Research Unit adds, “While we do not yet have the means for safely achieving the same effects in patients, we determined the precise protein and gene targets for developing ways to do so in the future.”

Full story at Medical Xpress

New findings from research into multiple concussions in hockey players

The relationship between head injuries suffered during contact sport and Alzheimer’s disease is now being called into question thanks to research by the Sahlgrenska Academy, which has revealed that hockey players with multiple concussions probably have other injuries in their brains.

“There seem to be two separate conditions and pathologies involved here,” says Pashtun Shahim, a doctor and researcher of neurology and physiology.

He himself has met the 28 sportspeople who were the subjects of the research, the majority of whom were elite ice hockey players from Sweden (both male and female).

All of them had experienced long-term problems after suffering concussion on multiple occasions, with complaints including sensitivity to noise and light, irritability, depression, difficulty concentrating and memory problems.

Full story of findings into hockey player concussions at Science Daily

FDA approves new diabetes medication

We now know that there’s much more to pain than simply what is happening in the painful body part, and attention has turned to the role of the brain. But not even this mysterious organ can tell us everything we need to know about pain, at least not yet.

You may wonder why the brain is part of the discussion about pain at all. After all, we’re not talking about a brain disease such as Alzheimer’s or stroke.

But we think that the brain is actually the best place to look when trying to understand pain; after all, pain is a purely subjective experience.

The problem is that pain cannot be “seen”. While a flinch, a limp, or a grimace may provide us with clues, ultimately we only know that someone is in pain if they tell us they are.

And it doesn’t necessarily make sense to only consider the part of the body that’s sore – sometimes people report pain in a body part that no longer exists, known as phantom limb pain.

Full story of FDA approving new diabetes drug at the Los Angeles Times

Understanding pain: can the brain provide all the answers?

We now know that there’s much more to pain than simply what is happening in the painful body part, and attention has turned to the role of the brain. But not even this mysterious organ can tell us everything we need to know about pain, at least not yet.

You may wonder why the brain is part of the discussion about pain at all. After all, we’re not talking about a brain disease such as Alzheimer’s or stroke.

But we think that the brain is actually the best place to look when trying to understand pain; after all, pain is a purely subjective experience.

The problem is that pain cannot be “seen”. While a flinch, a limp, or a grimace may provide us with clues, ultimately we only know that someone is in pain if they tell us they are.

And it doesn’t necessarily make sense to only consider the part of the body that’s sore – sometimes people report pain in a body part that no longer exists, known as phantom limb pain.

Full story of brain helping with pain at Science Alert

Zen and the Art of Alzheimer’s

I sat across the room from my father on Thanksgiving night. He looked at me pointedly. “What’s your name?” he asked.

“I’m Mary,” I answered.

“Mary… ” he prompted.

“Mary McLaughlin,” I said, wondering if he would recognize that my last name was the same as his.

“Mary McLaughlin,” he repeated slowly. He listened to the syllables as they floated in the air. Then he shook his head. No, it didn’t ring a bell.

My father, a few months shy of his 91st birthday, has advanced Alzheimer’s disease. Though he still has good days, he has forgotten most of the things that just a few years ago he would have listed as evidence of a life well-lived — his three college degrees; his two successful careers; his five grown children; his 57-year-and-counting marriage to my mother. They — we — are all shadows now. Glimpses. Points of information that he finds fascinating and puzzling, but that evaporate almost as soon as they are spoken to him.

It’s all lost.

I’ve played that Thanksgiving night conversation through in my head a hundred times since it happened and it stings every time I do. And then, with each replay, I continue through to the second part of our conversation until I get to the part that salves the sting.

Full story of the Zen of Alzheimer’s at The Huffington Post

New cognitive model ‘could detect early-stage dementia’

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, there are more than 5 million people in the US living with Alzheimer’s disease. But researchers say they have developed a new model that could improve early detection of dementia, allowing better treatment options and potentially slowing the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD, say the model, based on the reading of cognitive test scores, could determine whether memory loss in older adults is benign or whether it could develop into Alzheimer’s disease.

Although current methods of diagnosing dementia involve cognitive tests, the researchers note that the challenge for doctors is that the majority of normal, healthy people will have low scores in some areas.

They add that this makes it difficult to determine whether the patient has a mild form of cognitive impairment, is in the early stages of dementia, or is free of any cognitive problems.

Full story of detecting early stages of dementia at Medical News Today

Letter: All should be aware of Alzheimer’s toll

We have to wake up.

James Carville, political commentator and media personality, spoke at the Alzheimer’s Services 30th Anniversary Gala earlier this year and remarked Alzheimer’s disease is “contagious.” Carville, along with his other siblings, cared for their mother, “Nippy,” with the disease, and was simply expressing that the disease was contagious in the sense that the whole family suffers on its own terms when one family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

So true. Caregivers and a network of family and friends are all affect ed by this debilitating brain disorder which affects 5.2 million Americans of all ages annually.

The disease is reaching epidemic proportions with mounting costs. In 2013, the direct costs of caring for those with Alzheimer’s to American society will total an estimated $203 billion, including $142 billion in costs to Medicare and Medicaid.

Alzheimer’s Services of the Capital Area serves a 10-parish area, and recent numbers revealed more than 21,000 individuals in these areas alone have developed Alzheimer’s, with a calculated 100,000-plus individuals statewide.

Full story of waking up to Alzheimer’s at The Advocate

DOG HEROES HELP PEOPLE WITH DEMENTIA LIVE BETTER LIVES

After being diagnosed with Early-Onset Alzheimer’s Disease (EOAD) at age 57, Rick Phelps was given an Exelon patch and a directive to make a follow-up appointment with his neurologist in six months.

That’s it-that’s all modern medicine could offer a man whose world had been unceremoniously upended by a terminal diagnosis.

Alzheimer’s disease has no cure, no effective treatment, and there are few resources to help families deal with the crushing effects of increasing cognitive impairment.

Fortunately for Rick, unconventional intervention would come a few months after his devastating diagnosis; in the form of a furry, four-legged savior named Sam. The spry German Shepard is a member of an elite squad of service dogs specially-trained to assist people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia.

Unlike therapy dogs that assist blind or physically disabled individuals, these so-called “psychiatric service dogs” are patterned after police K9s-conditioned to analyze a situation and make decisions on how best to protect their human handlers.

Full story of dogs helping dementia at Paw Nation

11 new gene variants linked to Alzheimer’s disease

In the largest genetic analysis of Alzheimer’s ever completed, scientists have discovered 11 new genes that may be tied to the late-onset form of the dementia disease.

Scientists scanned the brains of 74,076 older volunteers with Alzheimer’s and others who did not have the disease in 15 countries to come up with their findings. The study was published in Nature Genetics on Oct. 27.

Prior to this study, only 11 gene variants had been linked to late-onset Alzheimer’s disease, including one called Apolipoprotein E-e4 (APOE-e4) which appeared to have the strongest impact on risk.

Now, with the latest research, scientists have doubled the known gene variants linked to the disease.

These genes may play a role in how cells function, including how microglial cells (cells that form the support structure of the central nervous system) react to areas of inflammation. Other gene variants were shown to affect brain cell function and synaptic function in the hippocampus, which is the area of the brain responsible for memory and learning.

In particular, researchers say the link to one newly-discovered gene variant known as HLA-DRB5/DRB1 is a landmark finding. It plays a large role in the major histocompatibility complex region of the brain, which is an area of cell surface molecules that control how white blood cells — which are involved in the immune system — interact. This area of the brain has also been connected with multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It could mean that the immune system has something to do with Alzheimer’s.

Full story of Alzheimer’s and genes variants at CBS News