Spinal cord is ‘smarter’ than previously thought

We often think of our brains as being at the centre of complex motor function and control, but how ‘smart’ is your spinal cord?

Turns out it is smarter than we think.

It is well known that the circuits in this part of our nervous system, which travel down the length of our spine, control seemingly simple things like the pain reflex in humans, and some motor control functions in animals.

Now, new research from Western University has shown that the spinal cord is also able to process and control more complex functions, like the positioning of your hand in external space.

Full story at Medical Xpress

Best exercises and remedies for plantar fasciitis

Foot stretches and exercises can help plantar fasciitis by relieving pain, improving muscle strength, and promoting flexibility in the foot muscles and ligaments.

Overuse, strain, and inflammation on the plantar fascia ligament that connects the heel to the toes cause the foot injury that doctors refer to as plantar fasciitis. The tissue that the condition affects is under the arch of the foot but can cause a stabbing pain in the heel.

Plantar fasciitis usually resolves within 6 to 18 months without treatment. With 6 months of consistent, nonoperative treatment, people with plantar fasciitis will recover 97 percent of the time.

Full story at Medical News Today

LAMPREYS CAN REGENERATE SEVERED SPINES MORE THAN ONCE

The study opens up a new path for identifying pro-regenerative molecules and potential therapeutic targets for human spinal cord injury.

Spontaneous recovery from spinal cord injury is almost unheard of in humans and other mammals, but many vertebrates fare better. The eel-like lamprey, for instance, can fully regenerate its spinal cord even after being severed—within three months the lamprey is swimming, burrowing, and flipping around again, as if nothing had happened.

“We’ve determined that central nervous system regeneration in lampreys is resilient and robust after multiple injuries. The regeneration is nearly identical to the first time, both anatomically and functionally,” says senior author Jennifer Morgan, director of the University of Chicago-affiliated Marine Biological Laboratory’s Eugene Bell Center for Regenerative Biology and Tissue Engineering.

Morgan’s lab has been focusing on the descending neurons, which originate in the brain and send motor signals down to the spinal cord. Some of these descending neurons regenerate after central nervous system injury in lamprey, while others die.

Full story at futurity.org

FRAILTY A KEY RISK FACTOR FOR DEMENTIA

Researchers at Dalhousie University have found that frailty, more so than amyloid plaques and tangles in the brain, is a key risk factor for developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

PhD candidate Lindsay Wallace, lead author, and her supervisor Dr. Kenneth Rockwood, are optimistic their findings will be influential, as they were published this week in Lancet Neurology — one of the highest-impact journals in the field.

This study is the first to examine amyloid plaques and tangles in post-mortem brain tissues, in relation to both the subjects’ frailty index and the severity of their dementia symptoms when they were alive. The frailty index is a score of relative frailty based on the accumulation of deficits in physical health and ability to function.

Full story at Dalhousie University News

UTHealth enrolls first U.S. patient in novel stem cell trial to treat stroke disability

The first U.S. patient to participate in a global study of a stem cell therapy injected directly into the brain to treat stroke disability was enrolled in the clinical trial this week at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth).

“At McGovern Medical School at UTHealth, we have been studying cellular therapies as a novel treatment for stroke over the past 10 years. We are very excited to partner with ReNeuron and enroll the first patient into the PISCES III study,” said Sean I. Savitz, MD, the study’s global principal investigator and professor and director of the Institute for Stroke and Cerebrovascular Disease at UTHealth. “This study represents an important next step in the development of novel cellular therapies for chronic stroke and, to date, is the most advanced clinical trial to determine whether neural stem cells improve recovery in patients chronically disabled by stroke.”

Full story at news-medical.net

Activity keeps your brain sharper, even if you have dementia

People who move around more have sharper brains than couch potatoes, even well into old age and even if they already have some brain deterioration, researchers reported Wednesday.

The research helps answer a big question of whether exercise prevents dementia, or whether people with dementia-related damage to their brains move less because of that damage.

The new findings indicate that exercise and other activity helps preserve memory and brain function despite the various damage that leads to dementia, including hardened arteries and the brain-clogging plaques that are the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

Full story at NBC News

Prototype Rehab Device for Lower Leg Injuries in Development

A team of scientists is preparing for the final stage of development in a 4-year endeavor to create a new rehabilitation device for patients with lower leg injuries.

The scientists, from South Ural State University School of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science and Institute of Sport, Tourism and Service, are led by Aleksey Petrov, a professor at the SUSU Department of Electronic and Computing Machines.

“We have developed a mechatronic rehabilitation device for people with lower limbs injuries. This technology has a name of continuous passive motion,” says Petrov, according to Healio. “Our aim is to make one’s lower limb again movable.”

The device is designed for use in cases of rehabilitation following knee or hip joint injuries. The device involves motion of every joint in the lower leg, including the ankle, giving the patient the ability to imitate proper walking movement patterns. Additionally, the device has the application of teaching patients afflicted with infantile cerebral palsy to correctly walk.

Full story at Rehab Management

Why it’s never too late to start lifting weights

It may not be how you intended to spend older age, but there it is; a study by researchers at the University of Dublin has shown so conclusively how much older people benefit from resistance training – working their muscles, even drinking protein shakes – that they have concluded GPs should prescribe it.

Twenty to 25 minutes of activity, four days a week at home, with an emphasis on a high-protein diet, is ideal.

Dorian Jones, who runs the London-based Marigold Fitness classes, may be the country’s foremost senior-trainer. The 42-year-old is a certified boxing coach, a level three personal trainer and used to be on the basketball team for the police force, but he developed a passion for working with older people. Most of his clients are in their 70s or 80s. A handful are in their 90s. “I had a woman who was 102, and she unfortunately passed. But she looked amazing!”

Full story at The Guardian

Up to a third of knee replacements pack pain and regret

Danette Lake thought surgery would relieve the pain in her knees.

The arthritis pain began as a dull ache in her early 40s, brought on largely by the pressure of unwanted weight. Lake managed to lose 200 pounds through dieting and exercise, but the pain in her knees persisted.

A sexual assault two years ago left Lake with physical and psychological trauma. She damaged her knees while fighting off her attacker, who had broken into her home. Although she managed to escape, her knees never recovered. At times, the sharp pain drove her to the emergency room. Lake’s job, which involved loading luggage onto airplanes, often left her in misery.

When a doctor said that knee replacement would reduce her arthritis pain by 75 percent, Lake was overjoyed.

Full story at news-medical.net

Early physical therapy associated with reduction in opioid use

Patients who underwent physical therapy soon after being diagnosed with pain in the shoulder, neck, low back or knee were approximately 7 to 16 percent less likely to use opioids in the subsequent months, according to a new study by researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine and the Duke University School of Medicine.

For patients with shoulder, back or knee pain who did use opioids, early physical therapy was associated with a 5 to 10 percent reduction in how much of the drug they used, the study found.

Amid national concern about the overuse of opioids and encouragement from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and other groups to deploy alternatives when possible, the findings provide evidence that physical therapy can be a useful, nonpharmacologic approach for managing severe musculoskeletal pain.

Full story at news-medical.net