Category Archives: Neuro-Psych

Drug For Huntington’s, Maybe Later Alzheimer’s?

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Huntington’s disease is a neuro-degenerative disorder in which nerve cells in the brain are damaged. It is inherited, caused by defects in a single gene. Huntington’s effects include changes in behavior and emotions, involuntary jerky movements, and cognitive difficulties. To date there have been no effective drugs or other treatments. Consequently, there has been considerable excitement over the announcement of positive results of a Phase 1 trial of a drug for Huntington’s.

The drug is a synthetic single strand of DNA which has been customized to latch onto the Huntington messenger molecule, thereby blocking it’s action. There is excitement that similar custom DNA molecules could be created for Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Needless to say, there is much hard work ahead.

Here are four media articles about the announcement (Publication will occur at a later date.):

Excitement as trial shows Huntington’s drug could slow progress of disease
Drug trial shows promising results to fight Huntington’s disease
Drug lowers deadly Huntington’s disease protein
First trials of Huntington’s drug show it could slow disease

All four links have been added to Neuro-Psych

Category: Neuro-Psych

Brain Inflammation & Alzheimer’s

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A current article, published on this year’s solstice (21 Dec), has excited Alzheimer’s researchers about the possibility of a refinement of the line of attack on the disease. The deposit of amyloid plaques is widely regarded as the core cause of the death of masses of brain neurons, the direct cause of Alzheimer’s symptoms. Most drug development efforts have targeted removal of the plaques, and almost all have failed (see The hard truth about Alzheimer’s drugs, link filed in Treatment > Drugs). The only one with any promise is Aducanumab, which only seems to have value if taken in very early stages of Alzheimer’s, and will be hugely expensive (see the article at end).

Besides the development of amyloid plaques, tangles of tau proteins inside the neurons, together with signs of activated/irritated immune cells called microglia are also found extensively in the brains of Alzheimer’s patients. The activated/irritated microglia can be caused by such things as a mild injury or a virus, and are also provoked by the deposit of amyloid. The newly published paper suggests that there may be an interaction or even feedback loop between deposit of amyloid and the irritated microglia. A key part of the process is the formation inside the microglia of a protein complex called an inflammasome. This complex both signals to other microglia to provoke further inflammation, but also releases specks of a protein called ASC. These specks appear to act as seeds for further deposit of amyloid, and the resulting amyloid plaques have ASC specks at their core. The first media article below compares this to the “grit inside a pearl”.

The research was mostly carried out on mice, though examining the brains of deceased Alzheimer’s patients showed substantial amounts of amyloid plaque containing ASC specs at core. In parts of the mice experiments, it was shown that presence or absence of ASC affected the generation of amyloid, and in other parts of the experiments, it was shown that when antibodies to ASC were injected, it interfered with the seeding effect for amyloid by ASC.

Thus, attacking inflammation and the action of ASC now seems like a promising way forward.

Here are two media articles about the study:

Brain inflammation sows the seeds of Alzheimer’s
Do Microglia Spread Aβ Plaques?

Here is the original study article:
Microglia-derived ASC specks cross-seed amyloid-β in Alzheimer’s disease

All three of these links have been added to Alzheimers > Neurology & Neuroplasticity

And here is an article about the drug Aducanumab (link added to Treatment > Drugs):
Robert Chen, MD-PhD candidate in Alzheimer’s research: What were the key findings from the Aducanumab phase 1 clinical trials? [Reprinted as: Aducanumab Is Showing Promise As An Alzheimer’s Treatment, But It’s Still Early]

Your Brain Sleeping: Locally Only?

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Most previous brain research about sleep has been oriented towards all-in, or all-out: fully asleep or completely awake. However, new research from MIT suggests that parts of the brain may be asleep while other parts are still awake. A link to the article has been posted on Strong Brain in Neuro-Psych:
How the brain controls sleep: Brain structure generates pockets of sleep within the brain Maybe this is what happens when we drift off at night and struggle to stay asleep in the morning?

Category: Neuro-Psych

New Neuroscience Links

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Here are the newest links in Neuroscience:

Important Link between the Brain and Immune System Found     New anatomical structures have been identified which form a network of lymphatic vessels in the meninges — the membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord — that shuttle fluid and immune cells from the cerebrospinal fluid to a group of lymph nodes in the neck

The Benefits of Nature Experience: Improved Affect and Cognition     
This study extends previous research by demonstrating additional benefits of nature experience on affect and cognition through assessments of anxiety, rumination, and a complex measure of working memory (operation span task).

Nature experience reduces rumination and subgenual prefrontal cortex activation     
This study reveals a pathway by which nature experience may improve mental well-being and suggests that accessible natural areas within urban contexts may be a critical resource for mental health in our rapidly urbanizing world.

The Brain: Our Strange, Important, Subconscious Light Detectors     
Sightless cells hidden within the eye may set our circadian rhythms, trigger migraines, and explain the seasonal ebb and flow of our moods.

‘I’m bad with names’ is a real thing     
Names are arbitrary and that meaninglessness makes it harder to hold the memory of it.

The Brain Age     
We could be entering a time of great neurodiscovery – with the neurohype to match.

Blood turned into nerve cells by Canadian researchers     
Stem cells extracted from blood are converted into neural stem cells using patented technique

The Man Who Saw Time Stand Still     
One day, a man saw time itself stop, and as David Robson discovers, unpicking what happened is revealing that we can all experience temporal trickery too.

How to Use Light to Control the Brain     
Using “optogenetics,” researchers are able to trigger a memory