Digitally tracking cognitive decline

digital-tracking-cognitive-declinePinpointing where healthy brain aging leaves off and dementia begins is difficult. Is a slip in memory an expected outcome for a too-busy person or a warning of something else? If an empty-nester loses the motivation to cook, is it a sign that the person is enjoying retirement after a lifetime spent cooking or an early sign of a cognitive decline?

Now, experts are now turning to computerized tools to detect dementia in earlier stages. Early detection might bring more successful clinical trials for treatments, which, by and large, have failed for full-blown dementia; at the very least, early detection helps people prepare for what is to come.

Read this story at IEEE Pulse.

Committing to memory

committing-to-memoryCell phone chimes, sticky notes, even the proverbial string around a finger—these external cues help guard against inevitable memory lapses. But internal help to the brain itself may be on the way in the form of  memory prosthetics. Once considered to be on the fringes of neuroscience, the idea of adding hardware to the brain to help with memory is gathering steam.

Read this story at IEEE Pulse.

Cannabis for epilepsy

child-epilepsy-eeg-scan-17Parents of children with treatment-resistant epilepsy are searching for something to help, and some are turning to cannabis to try to reduce seizure frequency.

With clinical trials of cannabidiol-based drugs under way, evidence for this treatment option may soon be forthcoming. However, concerns remain about side effects, such as sedation, interactions with other drugs, and potential disturbances of brain development.

Read this story at Pharmaceutical Journal.

Widespread gene disruption in brain in schizophrenia

Subtle yet widespread disruptions in gene expression mark the brain in schizophrenia, according to a study of over 500 brain samples  published in Nature Neuroscience on September 26. From the CommonMind Consortium, the study sequenced RNA messages to provide the most comprehensive picture yet of gene expression in the brain in schizophrenia.

The effort linked 20 percent of genetic risk signals previously identified for schizophrenia to changes in gene expression, pegged multiple suspect genes with roles in brain development, and detected 693 genes that were expressed slightly differently in schizophrenia, ranging from 1.03- to 1.33-fold changes compared to controls.

Read this story at Schizophrenia Research Forum.

Personalized depression treatment on the horizon?

illustration-woman-head-in-clouds-depression-16When a patient seeks help for depression, the doctor plays a primitive guessing game to find an effective antidepressant. It takes weeks to months to determine whether a drug really works, leaving many disabled and some to lose hope.

Now, researchers are seeking a way to match people with depression to an effective drug at the outset of their treatment by searching for tell-tale features that could predict how they will respond. This personalised approach draws on a range of measures, including genetic variation, inflammation-related molecules, and brain function.

Read this story at Pharmaceutical Journal.

Schizophrenia’s behemoth burden grows

Schizophrenia cost the US an extra $155.7 billion in 2013, according to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. This economic burden far exceeds a 2002 estimate, with the bulk due to indirect costs, including loss of productivity due to unemployment or caregiving. This finding signals a need for therapies that ameliorate cognition or otherwise help functioning in people with schizophrenia.

Read this story at Schizophrenia Research Forum.