Spaceflight Causes Brain Changes Similar to Aging, Only Faster

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Rachael D. Seidler, PhD Professor, Applied Physiology & Kinesiology University of Florida

Dr. Seidler

Rachael D. Seidler, PhD
Professor, Applied Physiology & Kinesiology
University of Florida

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

Response: There is accumulating evidence that spaceflight impacts the human brain: the brain is shifted higher within the skull and there are some regions of gray matter increases and decreases.

To date, no studies have looked at the impact of spaceflight on human brain white matter pathways. Rodents flown in space show decreased myelination of white matter pathways. Here, we analyzed brain MRI scans pre and post spaceflight to quantify fluid shifts and white matter changes.

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Brain Change in Addiction as Learning, Not Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Marc Lewis, Ph.D. Klingelbeekseweg Arnhem The Netherlands

Prof. Lewis

Marc Lewis, Ph.D.
Klingelbeekseweg Arnhem
The Netherlands

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

Response: According to the brain disease model, addiction is a chronic disease brought about by changes in brain systems that mediate the experience and anticipation of reward and higher-order systems underlying judgment and cognitive control. Its proponents propose that these changes are driven by exposure to drugs of abuse or alcohol. The brain disease model is the most prevalent model of addiction in the Western world.

The disease model’s narrow focus on the neurobiological substrates of addiction has diverted attention (and funding) from alternative models. Alternatives to the brain disease model highlight the social-environmental factors that contribute to addiction and the learning processes that translate these factors into negative outcomes. Learning models propose that addiction, though obviously disadvantageous, is a natural, context-sensitive response to challenging environmental contingencies, not a disease.

In this review I examine addiction within a learning framework that incorporates the brain changes seen in addiction without reference to pathology or disease.  Continue reading

Critical Illness Linked To Brain Changes Associated with Cognitive Decline

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Keenan Walker, PhD Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine  Baltimore

Dr. Walker

Keenan Walker, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore

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

Response: This study was conducted in response to anecdotal accounts and scientific evidence which suggests that major medical conditions, such as critical illness and severe infections, can have a long-term neurological effect on some individuals.

There are quite a few studies to date which have found that critical illnesses, such as severe sepsis, are associated with long-term cognitive impairment. Based on this evidence, we wanted to figure out to what degree critical illness and major infection may affect later brain structure and to determine whether the structural changes associated with these events were similar to those observed in Alzheimer’s disease.

Our main finding was that individuals who had one or more critical illness or major infection major infection during the decades leading up to older adulthood were more likely to have smaller brain volumes in brain regions most vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease.

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Chronic Valvular Heart Disease Linked To White Matter Brain Changes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dr. Keun-Hwa Jung MD PhD

Program in Neuroscience, Neuroscience Research Institute of SNUMRC
College of Medicine
Seoul National University
First author: Dr. Woo-Jin Lee MD
Department of Neurology
Seoul National University Hospital
Seoul, South Korea 

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

Response: Cerebral white matter hyperintensity is a prevalent consequence of brain aging process and associated with various complications. One of the main mechanisms underlying the progression of white matter hyperintensity is chronic dysfunction of the glymphatic system which maintains metabolic homeostasis in brain. Glymphatic system is the route where the cerebrospinal fluid enters into the brain parenchyma and is cleared out with soluble wastes to the perivascular space of the cerebral small veins, peri-meningeal lymphatic vessels, deep cervical lymph nodes, and finally to the right atrium.

Although the integrity of the glymphatic system is dependent on the adequate drainage of cerebral veins and lymphatics to the downstream chamber, the right atrium, the impact of hemodynamic changes in right-sided cardiac chambers on the development of white matter hyperintensity have not been elucidated.

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Music Making Causes Rapid Neuroplastic Changes in Brain

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Bernhard Ross, Ph.D. Rotman Research Institute Baycrest Centre ON, Toronto

Dr. Ross

Bernhard Ross, Ph.D.
Rotman Research Institute
Baycrest Centre
ON, Toronto 

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

Response: We know from previous research that brain function for hearing is more strongly developed in musicians. The effect of a musician’s long-term training leads to a neuroplastic effect where their brain has more neurons involved in auditory processing. These neurons show stronger activity during listening to sound than in non-musicians and these findings strongly encouraged us to study neuroplasticity of the adult brain. We were interested in understanding why the neuroplastic effects of training and learning are so clearly expressed in professional musicians.

The study’s main finding was that actively making sound, by playing a musical instrument, changed brain responses for listening and perception. Most importantly, neuroplastic brain changes occurred very quickly, within one hour of listening and making sound. In contrast, brain changes were observed after days in previous studies that only had participants listening to sounds.

Another finding was that brain responses to hearing a sound are different when a person produces the sound themselves compared to listening to a recorded sound or a sound made by another person. This difference demonstrates that brain networks of intention, movement planning, movement execution, and expectation are involved when making a sound. We compared playing a real instrument with pressing a button for hearing a sound and found larger changes in the brain’s response to actively playing a musical instrument than pressing a button to elicit the same sound.

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