Author Interviews, Depression, Weight Research / 26.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Xiaoling Xiang School of Social Work, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Urbana, IL 61801 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The adverse health consequences of obesity have been well documented, but the psychological risks of obesity are less clear. The study examined the long-term impact of obesity on the onset of depression in a sample of middle-aged and older adults who were initially free of clinically relevant depressive symptoms. We found that being overweight or obese significantly predicted onset of clinically relevant depressive symptoms during the 16 years of follow-up. Unhealthy weight appeared to have a stronger, adverse impact on depressive symptoms among females and non-Hispanic whites compared with their male and ethnic minority counterparts. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, Toxin Research / 23.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Raanan Raz, PhD Visiting Scientist Harvard School of Public Health Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Raz: Air pollution contains various toxicants that have been found to be associated with neurotoxicity and adverse effects on the fetus in utero. Several studies have explored associations of air pollution with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). These studies suggest increased chances of having a child with autism spectrum disorders with higher exposures to diesel particulate matter (PM), criteria pollutants and some organic materials as well as closer proximity to a freeway. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Metabolic Syndrome / 22.12.2014

Prof. Giovambattista Desideri Università degli Studi dell'Aquila Direttore  UOC Geriatria e Lungodegenza Geriatrica Scuola di Specializzazione in Geriatria Scuola di Specializzazione in Medicina d'Emergenza-UrgenzaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Prof. Giovambattista Desideri Università degli Studi dell'Aquila Direttore  UOC Geriatria e Lungodegenza Geriatrica Scuola di Specializzazione in Geriatria Scuola di Specializzazione in Medicina d'Emergenza-Urgenza Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Desideri: Over the past decade, there has been an accumulating body of evidence that indicates that the consumption of cocoa flavanol-containing products can improve vascular function. Though much research has focused on the cardiovascular system, there is reason to believe that some of the benefits of cocoa flavanol consumption could extend also to the brain which is a heavily vascularized tissue that depends on regular blood flow to meet its metabolic demands. Thus, the current study tested the hypothesis that the regular inclusion of cocoa flavanols for 8 weeks could positively affect cognitive function in cognitively-intact older adults. The effects of cocoa flavanol ingestion on various cardiometabolic endpoints, including blood pressure and insulin sensitivity, were also evaluated given consistent evidence of positive effects of flavanols on these outcomes and the potentially influential role of these outcomes on cognitive function. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Desideri:The study enrolled 90 men and women aged 61-85 years with no evidence of cognitive dysfunction who were assigned to one of three flavanol groups, consuming a drink containing high (993 mg), intermediate ( 520 mg) or low (48 mg) amounts of cocoa flavanols every day for 8 weeks. Among those individuals who regularly consumed either the high-or intermediate-flavanol drinks, there were significant improvements in some measures of age-related cognitive dysfunction.  In the high- and intermediate-flavanol groups, both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were reduced and insulin resistance was significantly improved.   It is not yet fully understood how cocoa flavanols bring about improvements in cognitive function, but the study results suggest that the improvements in insulin resistance and blood pressure could be revealing. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, NYU / 17.12.2014

Uzma Samadani, MD. PhD. FACS. Chief Neurosurgeon New York Harbor Health Care System Co-Director Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for PTSD and TBI Assistant Professor Departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University School of Medicine New York , NY 10010MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Uzma Samadani, MD. PhD. FACS. Chief Neurosurgeon New York Harbor Health Care System Co-Director Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for PTSD and TBI Assistant Professor Departments of Neurosurgery, Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University School of Medicine New York , NY 10010 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Samadani: Eye tracking has been used for 30 years to investigate where people look when they follow particular visual stimuli.  Tracking has not, however, been previously used to assess underlying capacity for eye movement.  We have developed a very unique eye tracking algorithm that assesses the capacity of the brain to move the eyes. What we show in this paper is that with our eye tracking algorithm we can show (1) normal people have eye movements that, within a particular range, have equal capacity for vertical and horizontal movement, (2) people with specific weaknesses of the nerves that move the eyes up and down have decreased vertical capacity, (3) people with weaknesses in the nerves that move the eyes to the side have decreased horizontal capacity, (4) swelling in the brain can affect the function of these nerves and be detected on eye tracking, (5) eye tracking may be useful as a potential biomarker for recovery from brain injury. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Genetic Research, JAMA / 13.12.2014

David H. Ledbetter, Ph.D., FACMG Executive Vice President & Chief Scientific Officer, Geisinger Health System Danville, PA 17822MedicalResearch.com Interview with: David H. Ledbetter, Ph.D., FACMG Executive Vice President & Chief Scientific Officer, Geisinger Health System Danville, PA 17822 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ledbetter: One of the biggest challenges in clinical care and research of children with autism and related neurodevelopment disorders is the remarkable clinical variability between individuals. This heterogeneity is reduced, but still significant, when considering individuals who have neurodevelopment disorders due to the identical genetic mutation such as deletion 16p11.2. We proposed that family background, genetic or environmental, may contribute to the variability in cognitive, behavioral and motor performance profiles of children with a sporadic (new) mutation in 16p11.2. Our study confirmed that a significant portion of the clinical variability seen in these children is due to the performance level of their parents and unaffected siblings and suggested that this may be due in part to genetic background effects as these traits are all known to have very high heritability. (more…)
Addiction, ADHD, Author Interviews / 13.12.2014

William Brinkman, MD, MEd, MSc Associate Professor of Pediatrics Director, Research Section, Division of General & Community Pediatrics Research Director, Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical CenterMedicalResearch.com Interview with: William Brinkman, MD, MEd, MSc Associate Professor of Pediatrics Director, Research Section, Division of General & Community Pediatrics Research Director, Cincinnati Pediatric Research Group James M. Anderson Center for Health Systems Excellence Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study? Dr. Brinkman: Early onset of substance use is a significant public health concern as those who use substances before the mid-teen years are more likely to develop dependence than those who start later. The association of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and conduct disorder (CD) with tobacco and alcohol use has not been assessed in a young adolescent sample representative of the U.S. population. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, NEJM / 13.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Brett E. Skolnick PhD Department of Neurosurgery Cushing Neuroscience Institute Hofstra North Shore–LIJ School of Medicine, Manhasset, NY Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Skolnick: The experimental evidence for a role of progesterone is based on extensive non-clinical studies in non-primate species (4 animal species such as rat, mice) the majority of which indicate that progesterone has a variety of neuroprotective properties. The animal models of injury in traumatic brain injury (TBI) have included models of blunt trauma, fluid percussion injury, cortical aspiration but similar effects have been seen stroke models and models of spinal cord injury. In these experiments progesterone has been shown to reduce cerebral edema thus limiting the effects or preventing intracranial pressure increases which can lead to secondary injury. Progesterone has also been shown to exert anti-inflammatory, anti-apopotic and perhaps even anti-oxidant effects. All of these effect are postulated to work synergistically to prevent cell death which could result in improved functional outcomes. Two small single center clinical trials provided the support in traumatic brain injury patients that progesterone could have impact on functional outcomes in larger, properly powered trials.  The results of which are summarized in the NEJM article. In the current trial evaluated the Glasgow Outcome Scale and the extended version of the Glasgow Outcome scale at 6 months following injury. These scales are well validated scales that are used to determine the degree of recovery in terms of disability and handicap due to TBI rather than the degree of impairment. The GOS has 5 levels: death, vegetative state, severe disability, moderate disability and good recovery with death and vegetative state typically collapsed because they are considered equally undesirable. The Extended GOS takes the three best levels of recovery and subdivides these into a upper and lower category to increase the granularity of the outcome measure. Progesterone was administered within 8 hour of injury (loading dose followed by continuous infusions) for a total of 120 hours.  Careful assessments were performed to ensure optimal patient management during the trial to provide the best background to evaluate the impact of the addition of progesterone or placebo (1  to 1 randomization).  No effect was seen on the GOS or the extended GOS. In addition a fairly new approach of categorizing patients based on prognostic factors known at time of randomization (such as Age, baseline GCS, pupillary response, hypoxia, hypotension, Marshall Classification or presence/absence of subarachnoid hemorrhage) as developed by Hukkelhoven and colleagues was used. This was expected to tease out improvements, if they existed in subgroups of patients where perhaps progesterone could work better in the most severe or less severe traumatic brain injury patients. But again no effects were seen. The unfavorable outcomes (see NEJM paper for details) were essentially identical between progesterone and placebo groups whether they had the worst prognosis or the best prognosis. (more…)
Author Interviews, Erasmus, JACC, Memory, Stroke / 13.12.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: M. Arfan Ikram, MD, PhD,and Ayesha Sajjad, MD Department of Epidemiology Erasmus University Medical Center, Rotterdam Rotterdam, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: The occurrence of cognitive impairment and dementia after a stroke event are already known. Since these neuro-degenerative processes and stroke share vascular pathways in their pathogenesis such as small vessel disease, we aimed to study whether early cognitive impairment can be predictive of stroke onset in the elderly. We also hypothesized that a higher cognitive reserve (due to higher education attainment) may mask early symptoms of memory loss and thus put these older individuals at a higher risk of stroke. We found that self-reported subjective memory complaints as answered by a single question: “ Do you have memory complaints?” was highly predictive of stroke especially in older persons who were highly educated. In comparison, objective measures of cognitive impairment such as MMSE did not show any association with the risk of stroke. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, JAMA, OBGYNE, UC Davis / 10.12.2014

Cheryl K. Walker, MD Associate Professor Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Faculty, The MIND Institute School of Medicine, University of California, Davis MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Cheryl K. Walker, MD Associate Professor Department of Obstetrics & Gynecology Faculty, The MIND Institute School of Medicine, University of California, Davis Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Walker: Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a neurobehavioral condition identified in 1 in 68 U.S. children and is part of a broader group of developmental disabilities that affects 1 in 6 children.  Growing evidence suggests that Autism spectrum disorder and developmental delay originate during fetal life.  Preeclampsia is a complicated and frequently dangerous pregnancy condition that appears to arise from a shallow placental connection and may increase the risk of abnormal neurodevelopment through several pathways. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Dr. Walker: Children with Autism spectrum disorder were more than twice as likely to have been exposed to preeclampsia compared with children with typical development.  Risk for ASD was increased further in children born to mothers with more severe presentations of preeclampsia.  Mothers of children with developmental delay were more than 5 times more likely to have had severe forms preeclampsia – often with evidence of reduced placental function – compared with mothers of children with typical development. (more…)
Author Interviews, Genetic Research, Memory / 09.12.2014

Sandra Barral Rodriguez, Ph.D Assistant Professor G. H. Sergievsky Center & Taub Institute Columbia University Medical Center New York, NY 10032MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Sandra Barral Rodriguez, Ph.D Assistant Professor G. H. Sergievsky Center & Taub Institute Columbia University Medical Center New York, NY 10032 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Barral: We already know that there is a substantial genetic contribution to the variability observed in different cognitive tasks including memory performance. Previous work reported heritability estimates for episodic memory ranging between 30% and 60%. However, we can’t fully explain why some individuals demonstrate a better memory performance in late life, while others do not. We have previously defined a cognitive endophenotype based on exceptional episodic memory performance (EEM) and demonstrated that there is a familial aggregation of EEM in families selected on their basis of their exceptional survival, the Long Life Family Study. We performed genome-wide linkage analysis of long-lived families selected on the basis of their exceptional episodic memory and the follow-up SNP association analysis with episodic memory in four independent cohorts of more than 4,000 non-demented elderly cohorts. Our results provide strong evidence for potential candidate genes related to exceptional episodic memory on 6q24. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, PTSD / 05.12.2014

James L . Spira, PhD, MPH, ABPP Professor, Department of Psychiatry, John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii Director, National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pacific Islands DivisionMedicalResearch.com Interview with: James L . Spira, PhD, MPH, ABPP Professor, Department of Psychiatry, John A Burns School of Medicine, University of Hawaii Director, National Center for PTSD, Department of Veterans Affairs, Pacific Islands Division Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Spira:  Approximately 1.5 million Americans survive a traumatic brain injury (TBI) from traffic accidents, assaults, sports, and work injuries, with the vast majority of these being primarily mild (mTBI), otherwise known as concussion.1 Concussion, however, is uniquely problematic in the military given the new strategies of war encountered by service members when fighting an insurgency using improvised explosive devices. The rate of concussion experienced by United States (U.S.) service members engaging in combat during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq has been estimated at between 15% and 22%.2–4There has been controversy in the area of neurotrauma as to whether persistent postconcussive symptoms (PPCSx) are due to neurological causes or solely due to the psychological sequelae of having been exposed to a traumatic event.  The recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have afforded an opportunity to examine these factors, although teasing them apart has proven difficult.  The most influential study of persistent effects of concussion in service members is that of Hoge and colleagues,5 in which they failed to find an independent effect of prior concussion on PPCSx, once depression and posttraumatic stress (PTSD) was taken into account.  They went so far as to recommend that assessment for concussion following deployment is unnecessary.  Others, however, have reported persistent cognitive, emotional, and physical symptoms following concussion. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Memory / 04.12.2014

Joshua Sandry, Ph.D. Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Rutgers New Jersey Medical SchoolMedicalResearch.com Interview with Joshua Sandry, Ph.D. Neuropsychology & Neuroscience Research Kessler Foundation, West Orange, NJ Assistant Professor, Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation Rutgers New Jersey Medical School Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sandry: We were interested in better understanding the relationship between cognitive reserve and long-term memory impairment in moderate to severe Traumatic Brain Injury, from a cognitive perspective. The theory of cognitive reserve suggests that individuals who engage in intellectually enriching activities may be less susceptible to the negative cognitive consequences of long-term memory impairment that often accompanies neurological disorders. There’s significant evidence in support of cognitive reserve; however, it’s somewhat unclear what particular cognitive processes are involved in this relationship and how those cognitive processes may differ across high and low reserve individuals. We derived our predictions on the basis of well-established cognitive theory and found that working memory capacity partially mediates the cognitive reserve – long-term memory relationship in Traumatic Brain Injury. Or to put it another way, working memory may be one underlying cognitive process involved in this relationship. Importantly, this finding corroborates some recent related work we have conducted in multiple sclerosis. (more…)
Cognitive Issues, Sleep Disorders / 30.11.2014

Daniel Sternberg PhD. Data Scientist at LumosityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Daniel Sternberg PhD. Data Scientist at Lumosity Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Sternberg: We were interested in examining how lifestyle factors such as sleep, mood and time of day impact cognitive game play performance. We analyzed game play performance data on Lumosity tasks from more than 60,000 participants and found that performance on the tasks designed to challenge memory, speed, and flexibility peaked in the morning, while performance on tasks designed to challenge aspects of crystallized knowledge such as arithmetic and verbal fluency peaked in the afternoon. Overall, game performance for most tasks was highest after seven hours of sleep and with positive moods, though performance on tasks that challenged crystallized knowledge sometimes peaked with less sleep. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, Johns Hopkins, Mental Health Research / 28.11.2014

Daniel Safer MD Department of Psychiatry Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, Maryland Medicalresearch.com with: Daniel Safer MD Department of Psychiatry Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine Baltimore, Maryland Medical Research: What is the nature of this study? Dr. Safer: A large national sample of annual physician office-based visits by youth (aged 2-19) covering 12 years (1999-2010), focusing on trends in psychiatric DSM-IV diagnoses, with psychiatric diagnostic data analyzed proportionally comparing diagnoses that were subthreshold (not otherwise specified) with those that met full diagnostic criteria. (more…)
Author Interviews, Depression, Obstructive Sleep Apnea, PLoS / 26.11.2014

Dr. Marcus Povitz MD Department of Community Health Sciences University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada Adjunct Professor and Clinical Fellow Western University Department of Medicine, Western University, London, Ontario, CanadaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Marcus Povitz MD Department of Community Health Sciences University of Calgary, Calgary, Alberta, Canada Adjunct Professor and Clinical Fellow Western University Department of Medicine, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Povitz: Both depression and obstructive sleep apnea are important causes of illness and have overlapping symptoms. Both feature poor quality sleep, difficulty with concentration and memory as well as daytime sleepiness or fatigue. Previous research showed that depression is common in individuals with sleep apnea, but studies investigating the effect of treating sleep apnea on depressive symptoms have had conflicting results. Our study combined the results of all randomized controlled trials of participants who were treated for sleep apnea with CPAP or mandibular advancement devices where symptoms of depression were measured both before and after treatment. We found that in studies of individuals without a lot of symptoms of depression there was still a small improvement in these symptoms after treatment with CPAP or mandibular advancement device. In 2 studies of individuals with more symptoms of depression there was a large improvement in symptoms of depression. (more…)
Addiction, Mental Health Research / 26.11.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Melissa Anne Elin Authen Weibell Consultant Psychiatrist Helse Stavanger HF Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Weibell: Little is known about the effect of different patterns of substance use on outcomes in first-episode psychosis and the few studies that exist are often cross-sectional and heterogeneous. This new study investigated different patterns of substance use in an epidemiological first-episode psychosis (FEP) sample longitudinally, with the hypothesis that continuous use would predict poorer outcomes compared to never users or stop users. The study included 301 patients aged 16-65 with first episode non-affective psychosis included (1997-2001) from three separate catchment areas in Norway and Denmark. Four patterns of substance use were defined; never used (153 patients), persistent use(43), completely stopped use having previously used (36), and on-off use (48) during the first 2-years of follow-up. 184 patients were followed up at 10 years and compared on symptom levels and remission status. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Weight Research / 26.11.2014

Nicolas Cherbuin PhD ARC Future Fellow - Director of the NeuroImaging and Brain Lab Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing Research School of Population Health - College of Medicine Biology and Environment Australian National UniversityMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Nicolas Cherbuin PhD ARC Future Fellow - Director of the NeuroImaging and Brain Lab Centre for Research on Ageing, Health and Wellbeing Research School of Population Health - College of Medicine Biology and Environment Australian National University Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Cherbuin: A number of modifiable risk factors for cognitive aging dementia and Alzheimer’s disease have been identified with a high level of confidence by combining evidence from animal research and systematic reviews of the literature in humans that summarise the available findings without focusing on extreme findings that come about from time to time in research. One such risk factor is obesity for which we have previously conducted a systematic review (Anstey et al. 2011). This showed that obesity is associated with a two-fold increased risk of dementia and a 60% increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. What was surprising is that this effect was only detectable for obesity in middle age but not old age. This might suggest that the obesity only has an adverse effects on brain health earlier in life and that this effect fades at older ages. This is unlikely because a number of animal studies have shown that the biological mechanisms linking obesity with brain pathology do not disappear with older age but in fact appear to increase. Moreover, human studies show that thinking abilities decline faster in obese individuals. An alternative explanation is that human epidemiological studies investigating this question in older individuals include participants who do not have clinical dementia but in whom the disease is developing. Since dementia and Alzheimer’s disease pathology is associated with weight loss it is possible that estimated effects in humans have been confounded by this issue. Another possible confounder is that older people tend to lose muscle mass (sarcopenia) this may lead to the paradoxical condition in aging where a person has a normal weight but has excessive fat mass. Since it is fat tissue that is linked to risk to cerebral health it may have led to the apparently contradictory findings that obesity may not be a risk in older age. It is therefore of great interest to clarify whether obesity in early old age in individuals free of dementia is associated with poorer cerebral health. The hippocampus is one of the structures most sensitive stressors. Because obesity is known to lead to a state of chronic inflammation which is deleterious to the hippocampus, it was a logical structure to investigate. Moreover, the hippocampus is needed for memory function and mood regulation and is directly implicated in the dementia disease process. This study investigated 420 participants in their early 60s taking part in a larger longitudinal study of aging taking place in Canberra, Australia and who underwent up to three brain scans over an 8-year follow-up. These individuals were free of dementia and other neurological disorders. Associations between obesity and shrinkage of the hippocampus were investigated with longitudinal analyses which controlled for major confounders. The main findings were that overweight and obese participants had smaller volume of the hippocampus at the start of the study. In addition, the hippocampus shrunk more in these individuals over the follow-up period. (more…)
Aging, Memory, NYU, Weight Research / 24.11.2014

Stephen D. Ginsberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor Departments of Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University Langone Medical Center Center for Dementia Research Nathan Kline Institute Orangeburg, NY  10962MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Stephen D. Ginsberg, Ph.D., Associate Professor Departments of Psychiatry and Physiology & Neuroscience New York University Langone Medical Center Center for Dementia Research Nathan Kline Institute Orangeburg, NY  10962 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ginsberg: We tested the hypothesis that long-term calorie restriction positively alters gene expression within the hippocampus, a critical learning and memory area vulnerable in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. To test this hypothesis, we conducted experiments on female mice that were given food pellets 30% lower in calories than what was fed to the control group. The mice ate fewer calories derived from carbohydrates. Analyses were performed on mice in middle and old age to assess any differences in gene expression over time. Our data analysis revealed that the mice that were fed a lower calorie diet had fewer changes in approximately 900 genes that are linked to aging and memory. (more…)
Addiction, Author Interviews, Mental Health Research, University of Pittsburgh, Weight Research / 23.11.2014

Michele D. Levine Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PAMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Michele D. Levine Ph.D. Associate Professor of Psychiatry and Psychology Western Psychiatric Institute and Clinic Department of Statistics, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh PA Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Levine: Many women quit smoking as a result of pregnancy.  However, psychiatric disorders, which are prevalent among smokers can contribute to weight gain.  Thus, we sought to examine the relationship between maternal psychiatric disorders and gestational weight gain in a sample of pregnant former smokers. Results from the present study demonstrate that the rates of psychiatric disorders were high among pregnant former smokers and that more than half of women gained more weight than recommended by the IOM.  Although a history of having had any psychiatric disorder was not associated with gestational weight gain, a history of alcohol use disorder specifically was positively related to gestational weight gain. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory, Nature / 23.11.2014

Vijay Ramanan, PhD Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging (CfN) Department of Radiology Indianapolis, IN 46202MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Vijay Ramanan, PhD Indiana University Center for Neuroimaging (CfN) Department of Radiology Indianapolis, IN 46202 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Ramanan: Impairment in episodic memory is one of the first clinical deficits in early Alzheimer’s disease, the most common cause of dementia.  Among other examples, this might be reflected as an inability to recall an article recently read or as difficulty remembering what one had for dinner last night.  Unfortunately, the genetic and environmental mechanisms underlying these deficits are not fully understood.  Our goal was to discover new genes and pathways underlying memory performance to help identify potential drug targets for protecting against and ultimately reversing memory loss in dementia and normal aging. Through studying a large representative sample of older Americans, we discovered a variant (single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP) in the FASTKD2 gene associated with better memory performance and replicated this finding in independent samples.  We then integrated additional data to extend our understanding of the effect of this SNP.  For example, we know that the hippocampus is a vital brain structure for encoding and retrieving memories and it is well-understood that decreased hippocampal volume is a key early marker of Alzheimer’s disease and one that can be measured noninvasively through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  We predicted that this new memory-protective SNP would be associated with increased hippocampal volume and this turned out to be true.  We also discovered that carriers of this memory-protective SNP exhibited lower levels of proteins involved in cell death in the cerebrospinal fluid bathing the brain and spinal cord, a striking finding given that FASTKD2 encodes a protein that appears to promote apoptosis (i.e., programmed cell death).  Together, these convergent findings are consistent with a neuroprotective effect of this novel SNP discovery.  More broadly, our results nominate FASTKD2 and its functional pathways as potential targets for modulating neurodegeneration to combat memory loss in older adults. (more…)
Memory, Sleep Disorders, University of Pennsylvania / 22.11.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Jennifer Choi Tudor, Ph.D. Postdoctoral Fellow Ted Abel Lab Department of Biology 10-17 Smilow Center for Translational Research Philadelphia, PA 19104 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Tudor: We (Dr. Tudor, Dr. Abel, and colleagues) are interested in better understanding the molecular changes that occur with sleep deprivation.  Previously, we found that the expression of over 500 genes changes with sleep deprivation and that many of the genes were involved with protein synthesis.  Upon further investigation, we found that 5 hours of sleep deprivation impairs protein synthesis in the hippocampus, a brain region critical for memory.  This impairment is due to changes in mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) signaling and eukaryotic initiation factor 4E binding protein 2 (4EBP2) is critical to this process.  When we boosted levels of 4EBP2 in the hippocampus, mice that were sleep deprived were resistant to the detrimental effects of sleep deprivation on memory. (more…)
Cognitive Issues, Heart Disease / 17.11.2014

Dr. T. Jared Bunch, M.D Medical Director for Heart Rhythm Services Intermountain Healthcare network.MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. T. Jared Bunch, M.D Medical Director for Heart Rhythm Services Intermountain Healthcare network. Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Bunch: Approximately 5 years ago we found that atrial fibrillation was associated with all forms of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease.  At that time we did not know the mechanisms behind the association.  One hypothesis that we had was brain injury in patients with atrial fibrillation is in a spectrum, large injuries result in strokes and repetitive small injuries result in dementia.  In this regard, we anticipated that anticoagulation effectiveness and use may impact dementia risk.  Early this year we published in HeartRhythm Journal that atrial fibrillation patients with no history of dementia that have used warfarin, but had high percent times outside of the therapeutic range were much more likely to develop dementia.  We gained some insight from this trial in that we saw much higher risks of the patients were either over or under anticoagulated. Amongst our atrial fibrillation patients using warfarin nearly one third are also taking aspirin, typically due to the presence of coronary artery disease or a prior myocardial infarction. We hypothesized since these patients were using two agents that increase risk of bleed that over anticoagulation with warfarin may be an even great risk for dementia.  This is was we found.  The patients over anticoagulated greater than 30 percent of the time were nearly 2 and a half times more likely to develop dementia compared to those that were over anticoagulated less that 10 percent to the time. (more…)
Author Interviews, Eating Disorders, Nature / 17.11.2014

Pietro Cottone, Ph.D. Associate Professor Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry Laboratory of Addictive Disorders Boston University School of Medicine Boston, MA 02118MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Pietro Cottone, Ph.D. Associate Professor Departments of Pharmacology and Psychiatry Laboratory of Addictive Disorders Boston University School of Medicine Boston, MA 02118 Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Cottone: Binge-eating disorder affects over ten million people in the USA and it is characterized by excessive consumption of junk food within brief periods of time, accompanied by loss of control, uncomfortable fullness and intense feelings of disgust and embarrassment. Increasing evidence suggests that binge-eating disorder can be regarded as an addiction behavior. Memantine, a neuroprotective drug which blocks the glutamatergic system in the brain, is an Alzheimer's disease medication, and it has been shown potential to treat a variety of addictive disorders. We first developed a rodent model of binge eating by providing a sugary, chocolate diet only for one hour a day, while the control group was given the standard laboratory diet. Rats exposed to the sugary diet rapidly develop binge eating behavior, observed as a 4 fold increase in food intake compared to controls. Furthermore, binge eating rats are willing to work to a much greater extent to obtain just the cue associated with the sugary food (not the actual food), as compared to controls. In addition, binge eating subjects exhibit compulsive behavior by putting themselves in a potentially risky situation in order to get to the sugary food, while the control group obviously avoids that risk. We then tested whether administering memantine could reduce binge eating of the sugary diet, the strength of cues associated with junk food as well as the compulsiveness associated with binge eating. In addition, we studied which area of the brain was mediating the effects of memantine, by injecting the drug directly into the brain of binge eating rats. Our data show that memantine was able to block binge eating of the sugary diet, the willingness to work to obtain a cue associated with junk food, as well as the risky behavior of rats when the sugary diet was provided in a potentially unsafe environment. When we injected the drug directly into the nucleus accumbens of rats, they stopped binge eating. Importantly, the drug had no effects in control rats eating a standard laboratory diet. (more…)
Author Interviews, BMJ, Circadian Rhythm, Cognitive Issues, Metabolic Syndrome, Occupational Health / 04.11.2014

Dr. Philip Tucker Department of Psychology | Yr Adran Seicoleg College of Human and Health Sciences | Coleg y Gwyddorau Dynol ac lechyd Swansea University | Prifysgol Abertawe Singleton Park | Parc Singleton Swansea | Abertawe  Medical Research: What is the background for this stuMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Philip Tucker Department of Psychology | Yr Adran Seicoleg College of Human and Health Sciences | Coleg y Gwyddorau Dynol ac lechyd Swansea University | Prifysgol Abertawe Singleton Park | Parc Singleton Swansea | Abertawe Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Dr. Tucker: Shift work, like jet-lag, is known to disrupt workers’ normal circadian rhythms (i.e. their body clocks) and their social life. It is also associated with greater risk of developing ulcers, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, breast cancer and reproductive problems. Several studies have also shown that shift workers experience heightened fatigue and sleepiness, particularly at night, and this may affect job performance and safety. However, very little is known about the long-term consequences of shift work on cognitive abilities. We followed a large sample of shift workers and non-shift workers over 10 years, testing their cognitive performance every 5 years. We found that the shift workers’ cognitive performance was lower than that of the day workers.  The difference was greatest for those who had worked shifts for more than 10 years. The shift workers’ cognitive function recovered after they quit shift work, but this recovery took at least 5 years from time that they stopped working shifts. The effects could not be attributed to poorer sleep quality among shift workers. Rather, it seems likely that the findings reflect the disruption of the shift workers’ circadian rhythms, which as been shown by other researchers to have an impact on brain structures involved in cognition and mental health over the lifespan. (more…)
Author Interviews, Autism, JAMA / 03.11.2014

dr_stefan_hansenMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Stefan Nygaard Hansen PhD Student, MSc Stat Section for Biostatistics Department of Public Health Aarhus University Denmark Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Response: The main finding of our study is that 60% of the observed increase in autism prevalence among children born 1980-1991 in Denmark can be explained by changes in the way diagnoses are established and changes in the subsequent registration to national health registries. In 1994, the diagnostic criteria used by clinicians to establish psychiatric diagnoses was changed. This meant the recognition of autism as a spectrum of disorders but it also meant changes in the specific symptoms that form the basis of the autism diagnosis. In 1995, the national health registries in Denmark, which are often used in Danish health research, began to also include diagnoses given in connection with outpatient consultations whereas before 1995 only diagnoses given in connection with hospitalization was reported to the registries. This could mean that we after 1995 see more of the mild autism diagnoses since they may not require hospitalization. (more…)
Author Interviews, JAMA, McGill, Mental Health Research / 03.11.2014

Frank J. Elgar, PhD Associate Professor of Psychiatry Canada Research Chair in Social Inequalities in Child Health Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University Montreal, Quebec, CanadaMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Frank J. Elgar, PhD Associate Professor of Psychiatry Canada Research Chair in Social Inequalities in Child Health Institute for Health and Social Policy, McGill University Montreal, Quebec, Canada Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Elgar: Our study addressed two questions. The first was whether cyberbullying has unique links to adolescent mental health, or is an extension of traditional (face-to-face) bullying. We measured various forms of bullying and found that cyberbullying does indeed have a unique impact on mental health. Our second question about protective factors in the home environment.  We examined the frequency of family dinners as potential a moderating factor - understanding, of course, that dinners are a proxy of various family characteristics that benefit adolescents, such as communication, support, and parental monitoring. We found that teens who were targeted by cyberbullying but had ate dinner with their families more often had significantly better mental health outcomes as a result. (more…)
Author Interviews, Cognitive Issues, Psychological Science / 30.10.2014

MedicalResearch.com Interview with: Dr. Lorenza S. Colzato, Assistant Professor and Dominque Lippelt, Research Master Student Cognitive Neuroscience ResearchProgram Leiden, The Netherlands Medical Research: What is the background for this study? What are the main findings? Response: Our study aimed to investigate whether prior meditation experience could modulate the effect of two types of meditation on two aspects of creative thought. Creativity can be thought of as consisting of two main ingredients: Convergent thinking (finding one solution to a defined problem) and divergent thinking (finding many possible solutions to a problem). In a previous study we found that Open Monitoring meditation and Focused Attention meditaton (FAM) have distinguishable effects on creativity. OMM induces a control state that promotes divergent thinking while Focused Attention meditaton does not improve convergent thinking. Our results confirm and extend these findings. Open Monitoring meditation improved performance on a divergent thinking task, while Focused Attention meditaton did not, and these effects were present in both experienced and novice practitioners, suggesting that one does not have to have many years of meditation experience to benefit from its effects. However, while solving convergent thinking problems experienced practitioners tended to solve more problems through insight as opposed to using an analytical strategy, a way of problem solving that bears similarities to divergent thinking. (more…)
Alzheimer's - Dementia, Author Interviews, Sleep Disorders / 29.10.2014

Christian Benedict PhD Associate Professor of Neuroscience Uppsala University Dept. of NeuroscienceMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Christian Benedict PhD Associate Professor of Neuroscience Uppsala University Dept. of Neuroscience   Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Answer: Our study involved ~1500 men who were followed from 1970 to 2010. All participants were 50 years old at the start of study. Medical Research: What are the main findings? Answer: Men with reports of sleep disturbances had a 50%-higher risk to develop Alzheimer's disease during the 40-year follow-up period, than men without reports of sleep disturbances. (more…)
Author Interviews, Memory, Mental Health Research / 28.10.2014

Scott A. Small, MD Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology Division of Aging and Dementia Director, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain Department of Neurology, Columbia University New York, New YorkMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Scott A. Small, MD Boris and Rose Katz Professor of Neurology Division of Aging and Dementia Director, Alzheimer's Disease Research Center Taub Institute for Research on Alzheimer's Disease and the Aging Brain Department of Neurology, Columbia University New York, NY Medical Research: What is the background for this study? Dr. Small: Previous work, including from my lab, had shown that changes in a specific part of the brain—the dentate gyrus—are associated with age-related memory decline. Until now, however, the evidence in humans showed only a correlational link, not a causal one. To see if the dentate gyrus is the source of age-related memory decline in humans, we tested whether compounds called cocoa flavanols can improve the function of this brain region and improve memory. Flavanols extracted from cocoa beans had previously been found to improve neuronal connections in the dentate gyrus of mice. (more…)
Author Interviews, Brain Injury, Cognitive Issues, JAMA, UCSF / 27.10.2014

Raquel C. Gardner, MD, Research Fellow San Francisco VA Medical Center Clinical Instructor Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology University of California, San FranciscoMedicalResearch.com Interview with: Raquel C. Gardner, MD, Research Fellow San Francisco VA Medical Center Clinical Instructor Memory and Aging Center, Department of Neurology University of California, San Francisco Medical Research: What are the main findings of the study? Dr. Gardner: We found that people who experience a  traumatic brain injury (TBI )when they are 55 or older have a 26% higher chance of getting dementia over the next 5 to 7 years compared to people who experience bodily trauma. (more…)