Daily Crossword Puzzles May Help Sustain Brain Function As We Age

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Professor Keith A. Wesnes BSc PhD FSS CPsychol FBPsS Head Honcho, Wesnes Cognition Ltd Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Exeter, UK Visiting Professor, Department of Psychology, Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK Adjunct Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia Visiting Professor, Medicinal Plant Research Group, Newcastle University, UK Wesnes Cognition Ltd, Little Paddock, Streatley Hill, Streatley on Thames UK

Prof. Wesnes

Professor Keith A. Wesnes
BSc PhD FSS CPsychol FBPsS
Head Honcho, Wesnes Cognition Ltd
Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, Medical School, University of Exeter, UK
Visiting Professor, Department of Psychology
Northumbria University, Newcastle, UK
Adjunct Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne, Australia
Visiting Professor, Medicinal Plant Research Group
Newcastle University, UK
Wesnes Cognition Ltd, Little Paddock, Streatley Hill, Streatley on Thames UK 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: This data we reported were taken from the PROTECT study, a 10-year research programme being conducted jointly by Kings College London and the University of Exeter Medical School. It started in November 2015 and over 20,000 individuals aged 50 to 96 years have enrolled.

A highly novel feature of the study is that it is run entirely remotely, the participants logging on via the internet at home and providing demographic and life style information, and also performing online cognitive tasks of key aspects of cognitive function. The tasks are from two well-validated systems, CogTrack and the PROTECT test system, and assess major aspects of cognitive function including focused and sustained attention, information processing, reasoning and a range of aspects of memory.

One of the lifestyle questions was ‘How frequently do you engage in word puzzles, e.g. crosswords?’ and the 6 possible answers were: never; occasionally; monthly; weekly; daily; more than once per day. We analysed the cognitive data from 17,677 individuals who had answered the question, and found that the more often the participants reported engaging in such puzzles, the better their cognitive function on each of the 9 cognitive tasks they performed. The group who never performed such puzzles were poorest on all measures, and the improvements were mostly incremental as the frequency of use increased. The findings were highly statistically reliable, and we controlled for factors including age, gender and education. To evaluate the magnitudes of these benefits, we calculated the average decline over the age-range on the various tasks in the study population. The average difference between those who ‘never’ did puzzles to those who did so ‘more than once a day’ was equivalent to 11 years of ageing; and between those who never did puzzles and all those who did was 8 years.

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Higher Cost Sharing For Mental Health Services Could Increase Downstream Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Bastian Ravesteijn PhD Department of Health Care Policy Harvard Medical School

Dr. Ravesteijn

Bastian Ravesteijn PhD
Department of Health Care Policy
Harvard Medical School 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We find that higher out-of-pocket costs for mental health care could have the unintended consequence of increasing the use of acute and involuntary mental health care among those suffering from the most debilitating disorders. Continue reading

Patients and Providers Feel Amyloid PET Scanning Diagnosis of Alzheimer’s Disease Beneficial

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Liana Apostolova, MD, MSc, FAAN Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor  in Alzheimer's Disease Research Professor in Neurology, Radiology. Medical and Molecular Genetics Indiana University School of Medicine Indiana Alzheimer's Disease Center Indianapolis, IN 46202

Dr. Apostolova

Liana Apostolova, MD, MSc, FAAN
Barbara and Peer Baekgaard Professor  in Alzheimer’s Disease Research
Professor in Neurology, Radiology. Medical and Molecular Genetics
Indiana University School of Medicine
Indiana Alzheimer’s Disease Center
Indianapolis, IN 46202

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: While many studies have evaluated the diagnostic or prognostic implications associated with amyloid PET, few have explored its effects on the patient or caregiver. Amyloid imaging does not only help clinicians with their diagnosis and management. It also affects patient and caregiver decisions related to lifestyle, financial and long-term care planning, and at times also employment. Few studies to date have explored patient and caregiver views on the clinical use of amyloid PET and the potential benefits they could derive from having more precise diagnosis.

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Paper and Digital SAGE Brain Tests Equally Identify Cognitive Impairment and Dementia

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Douglas W. Scharre MD Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry Director Division of Cognitive Neurology, Department of Neurology  Director, Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders Director, Memory Disorders Research Center Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Institute Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center  Columbus, OH

Dr. Douglas Scharre

Douglas W. Scharre MD
Professor of Clinical Neurology and Psychiatry Director, Division of Cognitive Neurology
Department of Neurology
Director, Center for Cognitive and Memory Disorders
Director, Memory Disorders Research Center
Co-Director, Neuroscience Research Institute
Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center
Columbus, OH

 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Self-Administered Gerocognitive Examination (SAGE) is a pen-and paper, valid and reliable cognitive assessment tool for identifying individuals with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or early dementia. We published age and education normative data on SAGE and determined that one point be added to the scores when age over 79 and one point be added when education level is 12 years or less. We evaluated the identical test questions in digital format (eSAGE) made for tablet use, adjusted with previously published age and education norms, and determined eSAGE’s association with gold standard clinical assessments. eSAGE is commercially known as BrainTest.

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Study Finds Diet Not Connected to GI Problems in Children With Autism

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Bradley James Ferguson, PhD University of Missouri School of Medicine

Dr. Ferguson

Bradley James Ferguson, PhD
University of Missouri School of Medicine 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Many individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) have gastrointestinal problems, such as constipation, irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal pain, but the cause of these GI issues is not currently known. Previous research from our laboratory showed a significant positive relationship between cortisol levels and GI problems, especially for constipation. However, it is possible that other factors such as diet may affect GI functioning, especially since many children have altered diets. This study examined 32 different nutrients in the children’s diets, as assessed by a food frequency questionnaire that assessed the participant’s diet over the past month, and how each nutrient was related to upper and lower GI tract symptom scores over the past month created from the Questionnaire on Pediatric Gastrointestinal Symptoms – Rome III. The results showed no significant relationships between any of the nutrients and GI symptoms, suggesting that diet was not associated with GI symptoms in this sample.

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Brain Imaging Confirms Boys and Girls Experience Depression Differently

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Jie-Yu Chuang PhD Department of Psychiatry University of Cambridge Cambridge, United Kingdom

Dr. Jie-Yu Chuang

Jie-Yu Chuang PhD
Department of Psychiatry
University of Cambridge
Cambridge, United Kingdom 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Men and women appear to suffer from depression differently, and this is particularly striking in adolescents. By 15 years of age, girls are twice as likely to suffer from depression as boys. There are various possible reasons for this, including body image issues, hormonal fluctuations and genetic factors, where girls are more at risk of inheriting depression. However, differences between the sexes don’t just involve the risk of experiencing depression. Men are more liable to suffer from persistent depression, whereas in women depression tends to be more episodic. Compared with women, depressed men are also more likely to suffer serious consequences from their depression, such as substance abuse and suicide. Despite this, so far, most researchers have focused on depression in women, likely because it is more common. As a result, we’d like to make people more aware of the sex difference issue in depression.

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An Ultra-Early Inflammatory Biomarker of Traumatic Brain Injury

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Lisa J Hill PhD Institute of Inflammation and Ageing Research Fellow Neuroscience and Ophthalmology Institute of Inflammation and Ageing College of Medical and Dental Sciences University of Birmingham UK

Dr. Hill

Dr Lisa J Hill PhD
Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
Research Fellow
Neuroscience and Ophthalmology
Institute of Inflammation and Ageing
College of Medical and Dental Sciences
University of Birmingham UK 

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability among young adults and, according to the World Health Organization, by 2020 TBI will become the world’s leading cause of neurological disability across all age groups.  Early and correct diagnosis of traumatic brain injury is one of the most challenging aspects faced by clinicians. Being able to detect compounds in the blood that help to determine how severe the brain injury is would be of great benefit to patients and aid in their treatment.  Inflammatory markers are particularly suited for biomarker discovery as TBI leads to very early alterations in inflammatory proteins.  The discovery of reliable biomarkers for the management of TBI would improve clinical interventions.

We collected blood samples from 30 injured patients within the first hour of injury prior to the patient arriving at hospital and analysed them. Analysis of protein biomarkers from blood taken within the first hour of injury has never been carried out until now. We used a panel of 92 inflammation-associated human proteins when analysing the blood samples. The analysis identified three inflammatory proteins, known as CST5AXIN1 and TRAIL, as novel biomarkers of TBI.

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Study Helps Explains Why Dopamine Drugs Not Effective For Depression

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Robb B. Rutledge, PhD Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry  and Ageing Research University College London London, England

Dr. Rutledge

Robb B. Rutledge, PhD
Max Planck University College London Centre for Computational Psychiatry
and Ageing Research
University College London
London, England

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: Depression is associated with deficits in how the brain responds to rewards, something the neurotransmitter dopamine is strongly implicated in.

Dopamine represents what is called a reward prediction error, the difference between experienced and predicted reward. This error signal is used for learning. For example, if the outcome of a decision is better than expected, you can update your expectations using this error signal and you should expect more next time. Previous research has shown that depression reduces these signals in the brain when people are learning about the world around them. We designed a task where participants did not have to learn anything during the experiment and we found that in this situation reward prediction error signals were not affected by depression. The signals we measured in the ventral striatum, a brain area with a lot of input from the dopamine neurons, looked the same in depressed and non-depressed individuals. We also found that the emotional impacts of reward prediction errors were similar in depressed and non-depressed individuals when we eliminated the need for learning during the task in both the lab and using a smartphone experiment with 1833 participants.

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Long Term Memories Can Be Selectively Erased

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Samuel Schacher, PhD and
Jiangyuan Hu, PhD,
Department of Neuroscience
Columbia University Medical Cente
New York State Psychiatric Institute
New York, NY 10032, USA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: It is well established that learning and memory requires changes in the properties of specific neural circuits in the brain activated by the experience. The long-term storage of the memory is encoded through changes in the function of the synapses within the circuit. Synapses are sites of communication between neurons, and the changes in their function come in two varieties: increases in strength and decreases in strength. The encoding of memories typically requires some combination of these synaptic changes, synaptic plasticity, which can last a long time to contribute to long-term memory. Thus the maintenance of a memory will require the persistent change (long-term synaptic memory) in the function of specific synapses.

But memories come in different flavors. In the original experiment by Pavlov, a neutral tone, which dogs ignore, came to predict the immediate appearance of a meal. After several of these pairings, the dogs would become happily excited just with the tone. The same type of conditioning could have a negative valence – the tone could proceed a shock to one of the dog’s paw. Now the neutral tone would predict a negative stimulus and the dog would express fearful behavior just with the tone (associative learning). A non-associative form of memory would be the same types of stimuli but without the preceding neutral stimulus. At random times the animal will be given a meal or a shock. The behavior of the animal for some time will take on the positive or negative features of its environment – a contented versus depressed condition.

Each of these forms of long-term memory would be maintained by increases in the strength of specific synapses.

The questions addressed in our study published in Current Biology, based on previous work in my lab and the lab of my colleague Wayne Sossin at McGill, were:

1) Do the same molecules maintain increases in synaptic strength in the neurons of the circuit after stimuli that produce long-term classical conditioning (associative learning) and long-term sensitization (non-associative learning)?
2) If different molecules maintain the different synaptic memories, is it possible to reverse or erase the different synaptic memories by interfering with the function of the different molecules?
3) If true, can we reverse the different synaptic memories expressed in the same neuron by interfering with the function of the different molecules.

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Study Finds Link Between Genetic Variant, Opioid Addiction and Binge Eating

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Camron D. Bryant Ph.D Laboratory of Addiction Genetics, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and Department of Psychiatry Boston University, Boston, MA

Dr. Bryant

Camron D. Bryant Ph.D
Laboratory of Addiction Genetics, Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics and Department of Psychiatry
Boston University, Boston, MA

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings?

Response: We previously used genome-wide linkage analysis, fine mapping, gene validation, and pharmacological targeting to identify a negative regulatory role for the gene casein kinase 1-epsilon (Csnk1e) in behavioral sensitivity to drugs of abuse, including psychostimulants and opioids.

Parallel human candidate genetic association studies identified an association between multiple genetic variants in CSNK1E with heroin addiction in multiple populations. Drug addiction is a multi-stage process that begins with the initial acute subjective and physiological responses that can progress to chronic administration, tolerance, and withdrawal. The recovery process begins with abstinence from drug taking but can quickly be derailed by relapse to drug taking behavior. Preclinical pharmacological studies also support a role for CSNK1E in reinstatement of opioid self-administration and relapse to alcohol drinking.

Despite the evidence that disruption of Csnk1e gene and protein function can affect various behaviors associated with drug and alcohol addiction, it is unclear what stage of the addiction process these genetic and pharmacological manipulations modulate. In this study, we show that disruption of the Csnk1e gene resulted in an enhancement of the rewarding properties of the highly potent and addictive opioid, fentanyl.  Unexpectedly, we also discovered that disruption of Csnk1e also enhanced binge eating – but only in female mice.

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