Children Need Both Naps and Overnight Sleep to Process Emotional Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Rebecca Spencer PhD Associate Professor Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences University of Massachusetts

Dr. Rebecca Spencer

Dr. Rebecca Spencer PhD
Associate Professor
Department of Psychological and Brain Sciences
University of Massachusetts

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

Response: We know that in young adults, sleep contributes to emotion processing. We wondered if naps work similarly for preschool children.  To look at this, we had children learn an emotional memory task and then either take a nap or stay awake.  We then tested their memory after that interval and again the next day.

We found that when children napped, they had better memory for those items the next day than if they did not nap.  That the naps seem to support memory (even if in a delayed fashion) seems consistent with the observation of parents and preschool teachers that children are often emotionally dysregulated if they do not nap.

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Brain Imaging Reveals How Prolonged Intermittent Cannabis Can Induce Memory Deficits

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Italia V. Rolle, PhD and Dr. Tim McAfee, MD Office on Smoking and Health National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion CDC

Ana Maria Sebastião, PhD
Professor of Pharmacology and Neurosciences
Director Institute of Pharmacology and Neurosciences, Faculty of Medicine and
Francisco Mouro, PhD
Unit of Neurosciences, Institute of Molecular Medicine
University of Lisbon, Portugal

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

Response: There is pressing need to comprehend how cannabinoid exposure impacts brain functioning. While cannabinoid-related research has increased exponentially in the last decade, the mechanisms through which cannabinoids affect brain functioning are still elusive. Specifically, we need to know how prolonged cannabinoid exposure affects important cognitive processes, such as memory, and also find the roots of those effects. This is particularly relevant considering that several countries have already approved cannabis-based medicines.

In this sense, our work sheds new light into the mechanisms underlaying the memory-deficits provoked by a continuous exposure to a cannabinoid drug. More precisely, using brain imaging techniques, we found that long-term exposure to a synthetic cannabinoid drug impairs the ability of key brain regions involved in learning and memory to communicate with each other. Our data points to the necessity of considering cannabinoid actions in a broader perspective, including brain circuitry and communication.  Continue reading

Forgetting To Do Things? Try Acting in Advance

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr Antonina Pereira - CPsychol, PhD, FHEA, AFBPsS Head of Department of Psychology & Counselling University of Chichester Chichester, West Sussex UK

Dr. Pereira

Dr Antonina Pereira – CPsychol, PhD, FHEA, AFBPsS
Head of Department of Psychology & Counselling
University of Chichester
Chichester, West Sussex UK

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

Response: Prospective memory (PM) is the ability to remember to perform future activities, such as remembering to take medication or remembering to attend an appointment. Prospective memory tasks pervade our daily lives, and PM failures, although sometimes merely annoying (e.g., forgetting an umbrella at home on a rainy day), can have serious and even life-threatening consequences (e.g., forgetting to turn off the stove).

The fulfilment of such delayed intended actions can indeed be an early indicator of Alzheimer’s disease, with prospective memory failures representing one of the most prominent memory concerns in older adulthood and a fundamental requirement for independent living across the lifespan.

We aimed to address this issue by exploring the potential benefits of a purposefully designed technique, encoded enactment, where participants were encouraged to act through the activity they must remember to do.

This particular study was the fruit of an international research collaboration led by the University of Chichester and including members from Radboud University Nijmegen, Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust and the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Lisbon.

Our team has explored the potential benefits of this specific encoding strategy for healthy younger adults, healthy older adults as well as for patients with mild cognitive impairment.

Results were very encouraging: All age groups reported improvement in prospective memory, but this was particularly evident in older patients with mild cognitive impairment, that is, potentially in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study suggests that encouraging people in this category to adopt enactment as a means to enhance prospective memory could result in them leading independent, autonomous lives for longer.

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Virtual Reality Improves Recall

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

University of Maryland researchers conducted one of the first in-depth analyses on whether people recall information better through virtual reality, as opposed to desktop computers. Credit: John T. Consoli / University of Maryland

A picture of Eric Krokos, UMIACS graduate student, using the EEG Headset while on the computer.

Eric Krokos
5th-year Ph.D. student in computer science
Augmentarium visualization lab

augmentarium.umiacs.umd.edu
University of Maryland 

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

Response: I am interested in exploring the use of virtual and augmented reality in high-impact areas like education, medicine, and high-proficiency training. For VR and AR to excel as a learning tool, we felt there needed to be a baseline study on whether people would perceive information better, and thus learn better, in an immersive, virtual environment as opposed to viewing information on a two-dimensional desktop monitor or handheld device.

Our comprehensive user-study showed initial results that people are able to recall information using virtual reality—there was an 8.8 percent improvement in recall ability from our study participants using VR. Continue reading

Amyloid PET Scan Useful in Memory Evaluation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Arno de Wilde, MD / PhD candidate

Department of Neurology & Alzheimer Center
Amsterdam Neuroscience
VU University Medical Center
Amsterdam, the Netherlands

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

Response: Previous studies assessing the clinical utility of amyloid imaging used very selected research populations, limiting the translatability to clinical practice. In contrast, we used an unselected memory clinic cohort, offering amyloid PET to ALL patients visiting our memory clinic, and for the purpose of this study, we implemented amyloid PET in our routine diagnostic work-up. Our results demonstrate that amyloid PET has important consequences, in terms of diagnosis and treatment changes, for a significant number of patients within a situation that closely resembles clinical practice. I think that these results are an important step in ‘bridging the gap’ between using amyloid PET in a research setting versus daily clinical practice.

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Neural Prosthetic Improved Short Term Memory Coding and Recall

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Robert E. Hampson, PhD Professor, Physiology & Pharmacology School of Medicine Wake Forest

Dr. Hampson

Robert E. Hampson, PhD
Professor, Physiology & Pharmacology
School of Medicine
Wake Forest

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

Response: There are many diseases and injuries that affect human memory, and many types of memory deficits, from inability to recall stored memories to the inability to make new memories.  We focused on problems with making new memories, and identifying the brain activity associated with those memories.  We found that we could identify when the brain formed “codes” for new memory, and when those codes were incorrect or faulty.  By identifying what both “strong” and “weak” naturally occurring codes should be, we influence the process to strengthen the weak codes, resulting in better memory.

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Virtual Reality Study Helps Identify How Memories Are Stored and Retrieved

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Halle Dimsdale-Zucker University of California, Davis Center for Neuroscience | Ph.D. Candidate

Halle Dimsdale-Zucker

Halle Dimsdale-Zucker
University of California, Davis
Center for Neuroscience | Ph.D. Candidate

Dynamic Memory Lab

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

Response: This study sought to test competing models for how different types of retrieved contextual information (spatial, episodic – which is spatial AND temporal information) are supported by the hippocampus and its subfields. We only found differences between the subfields when people were spontaneously reactivating episodic, but not spatial information. This is surprising because a dominant view of the hippocampus is that it is specialized to represent spatial information.

What this suggests is that when there is more than just spatial information that can be remembered that the hippocampus is able to flexibly represent whatever information is most task-relevant for remembering and distinguishing items from one another.

Intriguingly, we found that different subfields represented shared episodic contextual information and item-unique contextual information. This highlights that our memories need to both link together common features of related events while retaining the event-specific details.

UC Davis neuroscientists are using virtual reality to investigate how memories are organized. Graduate student Halle Dimsdale-Zucker showed subjects movies created with virtual sketching software and asked them questions about objects inside the houses. She was able to show that different regions of a brain structure called the hippocampus play different roles in remembering items in context. Credit: Halle Dimsdale-Zucker, UC Davis

UC Davis neuroscientists are using virtual reality to investigate how memories are organized. Graduate student Halle Dimsdale-Zucker showed subjects movies created with virtual sketching software and asked them questions about objects inside the houses. She was able to show that different regions of a brain structure called the hippocampus play different roles in remembering items in context.
Credit: Halle Dimsdale-Zucker, UC Davis

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Our Memory System Is Adapted To Helping Us Raise Children

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
“Cute babies” by daily sunny is licensed under CC BY 2.0Benjamin M. Seitz
Doctoral Student
Department of Psychology, Learning & Behavior
University of California, Los Angeles

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

 

Response: The adaptive memory literature is based on two crucial theories.

The first is that we process information on different ‘levels’ and these different levels of processing information strongly influence our ability to later remember that information.

The second is that our evolutionary history has shaped our cognitive abilities and that these abilities therefore perform optimally when performing tasks related to evolutionary fitness. It has been established that processing words based on their relevancy to an imagined ancestral survival scenario yields incredible memory performance far superior than processing those same words based on their relevancy to similar imagined scenarios that do not involve the survival element or ancestral environment.

Our study demonstrates that thinking about raising offspring in an ancestral environment while processing words leads to a similar benefit to recall of those words as when thinking about survival, suggesting the human memory system while also useful in helping our species survive may have also been particularly useful in helping us raise our offspring.

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No Convincing Evidence of Memory Dysfunction Due To Statins

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr-Beth-Taylor

Dr. Taylor

Beth A. Taylor, PhD
Director of Exercise Physiology Research, Hartford Hospital Associate Professor, Kinesiology
University of Connecticut

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

Response: Hydroxy-methyl-glutaryl (HMG) CoA reductase inhibitors (statins) are the most effective medications for managing elevated concentrations of low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C).  Although statins are generally well-tolerated, they are not without side effects, and mild central nervous system (CNS) complaints such as memory loss and attention decrements are the second most commonly reported adverse effect of these drugs.

Studies assessing cognitive effects of statins vary widely and have produced inconclusive findings. Despite the equivocal data on adverse cognitive side effects with statin therapy, in 2012 the FDA announced a safety label change for statins, based on published case reports of memory loss and confusion and data from the Adverse Events Reporting System. One possibility for these equivocal findings is that studies involving the effects of statins on cognition typically have assessed cognitive function using traditional cognitive tests, which may yield small effect sizes and demonstrate high intra-participant variability. This may explain the discrepancy between clinical trials and patient self-reports, and could be addressed by utilizing CNS tests that directly assess brain parameters.

To the best of our knowledge and literature review, this study is the first to investigate the effects of statins on the central nervous system by utilizing fMRI to assess brain neural activation in healthy adults treated with 80 mg atorvastatin or placebo.

We detected few changes attributable to statin therapy with standardized neuropsychological tests, a finding similar to that from previous clinical trials. However, participants on atorvastatin demonstrated altered patterns of neural activation on vs. off statin compared to participants treated with placebo. Unexpectedly, the treatment groups differed at both timepoints. The clinical implications of these findings are unclear and warrant additional clinical trials.

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Chronic Inflammation in Midlife May Predispose To Smaller Brain Volumes and Memory Ability In Seniors

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Keenan A. Walker, PhD
Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
Baltimore, MD

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

Response: There is quite a bit of evidence linking immune function with dementia. For example, several of the risk genes for Alzheimer’s disease are known to play a key role in immune functioning and the regulation of inflammation. We conducted the current study to determine whether systemic inflammation earlier in life might be a risk factor for neurodegeneration decades later. This long temporal window allows us to get closer to understanding causality. That is, which comes first – systemic inflammation or brain volume loss.

Using a large community sample, we found that individuals with higher levels of blood inflammatory markers during midlife tended to have smaller brain volumes in select regions and reduced memory ability as older adults. We found the strongest associations between systemic inflammation and brain volume loss in brain regions most vulnerable Alzheimer’s disease.

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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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Transcranial Brain Stimulation May Improve Cognition and Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Michael CTrumbo
Sandia National Laboratories
Department of Psychology
Psychology Clinical Neuroscience Center
The University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM 

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

Response: The impetus for this study can be found in claims made by several commercial enterprises that you can get cognitive benefits from brain training games intended to enhance working memory (the amount of information you can hold and manipulate in your mind at one time). However, a burgeoning body of research shows working memory training games often do not provide the benefits claimed. Research led by my colleague Laura Matzen shows evidence that working memory training may actually impair other kinds of memory.

A key concept in demonstrating improvement of the working memory system is task transfer – if working memory has been improved, then that improvement should be evident when attempting tasks aside from the trained task, to the extent that these new tasks utilize working memory. Brain stimulation combined with working memory training might work when training by itself falls short because stimulation allows for manipulation of brain plasticity in brain regions that are relevant to working memory task performance. If you’re improving connectivity in a brain region involved in working memory, then you should get transfer to other tasks to the extent that they rely on that same brain region. When you’re having people do tasks in the absence of brain stimulation, it’s not clear if you’re getting this general improvement in working memory brain areas. You might be getting very selective, task kind of improvements due to use of task-specific strategy development.

Therefore, the current study was designed to see if noninvasive brain stimulation paired with different types of working memory training might result in improvement not only in the trained task, but in related tasks. The findings suggest that particular parings of stimulation parameters and training programs result in working memory improvement. This is important because working memory is a critical component of many everyday tasks, such as reading and language comprehension, and working memory deficits are common in a number of disease states, such as depression. Working memory decline is also evident as part of the healthy aging process, beginning as early as your mid-20s. Therefore, a safe, reliable way to improve working memory stands to benefit both healthy and clinical populations in a variety of task domains which are critical to achieving a high quality of life.

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Doxycycline May Mute Painful Memories Associated With PTSD

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Dominik R Bach, PhD, MD

University of Zurich

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

Response: Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can occur after a psychological trauma such as physical violence, abuse, or natural disaster. It is characterised by increased arousal, flashbacks, and nightmares that reflect memories of the trauma. Current therapies include talking therapy, but it is costly and does not work in everybody. This is why we were looking for ways of reducing aversive memories with a drug. In the current study, we found that the antibiotic doxycycline impairs the formation of negative memories in healthy volunteers.

To form memories, the brain needs to strengthen connections between neurons. It has recently emerged that for strengthening such connections particular proteins are required that sit between nerve cells, so-called MMPs. They are involved in many disorders outside the brain, such as certain cancers and heart disease. This is how we already know that doxycycline suppresses the activity of MMPs. Since doxycycline is relatively safe and readily accessible, our research was relatively straightforward.

76 healthy volunteers – half women, half men – came to the laboratory and received either placebo (a sugar pill) or 200 mg doxycycline. They then took part in a computer test in which one screen color was often followed by a mildly painful electric shock and another color was not.

A week later, volunteers came back to the lab. They were shown the colors again , this time followed by a loud sound but never by shocks. The loud sounds made people blink their eyes – a reflexive response to sudden threat. This eye blink response was measured. Volunteers who had initially been under placebo had stronger eye blink after the color that predicted electric shock than after the other color. This “fear response” is a sensitive measure for memory of negative associations. Strikingly, the fear response was 60% lower in participants who had initially taken doxycycline.

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More than a Feeling: Emotions Determine What You Remember

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Signy Sheldon, PhD Assistant Professor Department of Psychology McGill University Montreal, QC, CAN

Dr. Signy Sheldon

Signy Sheldon, PhD
Assistant Professor
Department of Psychology
McGill University
Montreal, QC, CAN

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

Response: It is clear to most people that emotion and memory are strongly linked – thinking about our past experiences is often accompanied with a strong feelings, sometimes good and sometimes bad.

In psychological research, many investigations have looked at how emotional memories are remembered differently than non-emotional memories. A lot of this research has found that the valence of a memory, whether it is positive or negative, will impact how detailed a past event can be recalled. Much less research as looked at how the emotions we feel at the time of remembering can also influence the way that memory is recalled. This is a very important area of research. If emotions during remembering can influence what memories are accessed and how we experience these memories, this would suggest that our memories are tagged and organized according to emotions.

In this study, we looked at how different aspects of emotion can affect the types of past experiences we bring to mind to further investigate how emotions direct memory retrieval.

To do this, we had participants listen to unfamiliar excerpts of music that ranged in both memory valence (positive and negative) and arousal (high or low levels). To each piece of music, participants were asked to think of a past memory and then describe their experience of that event they were remembering.

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Optical Manipulation May Be Able To Erase Fearful Memories

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Takuya Takahashi M.D. Ph.D.

Professor, Department of Physiology
Yokohama City University
Graduate School of Medicine
Yokohama Japan

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

Response: A number of patients suffer from traumatic fear memories (eg. PTSD). At this point, there exists no treatment to control aversive fear memories.

People can form aversive fear memory from traumatic events such as disasters and accidents. These fear memories can induce depression and anxiety disorders (eg. panic disorders). Therefore, it is crucial to understand the molecular mechanism underlying fear memory formation and this could lead to the invention of novel technology to control fear memories.

We have previously reported that the formation of fear memory modifies synapses by the incorporation of AMPA receptors at hippocampus. Further, this molecular events are required for the fear memory formation (Mitsushima et al. PNAS 2011, Mitsushima et al. Nature Communications 2013).

Here, we invented the novel technology to erase fear memory by the optical manipulation of AMPA receptor, an important molecule at glutamatergic synapses.

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Memory Retrieval and Extinction Reduces Craving For Cigarettes

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Michael E. Saladin, Ph.D. Professor, Department of Health Sciences and Research College of Health Professions Medical University of South Carolina Charleston, SC

Dr. Michael Saladin

Michael E. Saladin, Ph.D.
Professor, Department of Health Sciences and Research
College of Health Professions
Medical University of South Carolina
Charleston, SC

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

Response: To the extent that learning and memory processes govern all aspects of behavior, they also govern dysregulated or maladaptive behaviors such as addiction and anxiety states. In the former case, stimuli associated with drug administration can acquire the ability to control drug-related motivational states (urges and craving) as well as drug seeking behavior. To illustrate the point, the simple act of observing a person light up a cigarette will cause the typical smoker to desire a cigarette and engage in smoking. A nonsmoker, by contrast, would not be similarly affected because they have no history where stimuli associated with smoking (e.g., sight of a lighter, cigarettes, plumes of smoke) are reliably paired with, or followed by, the rewarding effects of nicotine.

The research we conducted recently was based on neuroscience research showing that retrieved drug-associated memories (prompted with drug-paired cues) can be updated with information that decreases drug craving and/or administration. One such study showed that heroin craving in heroin addicts can be decreased by retrieving memories for heroin use via a brief heroin cue presentation (video of people using heroin) and then, a short time later, presenting an extensive variety of heroin cues (video, pictures and heroin use paraphernalia) over a 1-hour period. The logic of this intervention was that once the heroin memories were prompted into a labile state by the brief video presentation, the extensive heroin cue exposure would serve to update the content of the original memories with new information (i.e., cues are not followed by heroin reward) that is inconsistent with the original cue-drug contingency (i.e., cues are followed with heroin reward). Remarkably, just two sessions of this type of training, which we call retrieval-extinction training, resulted in significant reductions in heroin craving that persisted for six months. This study was done with heroin addicts who were inpatients so there was no way to assess the effects of this treatment on actual heroin use.

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Working Memory Changes Over Course of Childhood Development

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Dr. Shelley Gray PhD Professor, Speech and Hearing Department of Speech and Hearing Science Arizona State University Tempe, AZ

Dr. Shelley Gra

Dr. Shelley Gray PhD
Professor, Speech and Hearing
Department of Speech and Hearing Science
Arizona State University
Tempe, AZ

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

Response: Working memory is the part of our human memory system that simultaneously processes and stores incoming information. It is important to understand the structure of working memory so that more tailored assessments and interventions can be developed to help children with poor working memory learn more successfully. In this study we tested four competing models of working memory in second grade students with typical development using the Comprehensive Assessment Battery for Children – Working Memory (CABC-WM; Gray, Alt, Hogan, Green, & Cowan, n.d.; Cabbage et al., in press).

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Active Memory Blocker Prevents Experiences During Sleep From Being Remembered

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Roi Levy
The Leslie and Susan Gonda (Goldschmied) Multidisciplinary Brain Research Center,
The Mina and Everard Goodman Faculty of Life Sciences
Bar Ilan University
Ramat Gan, Israel

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

Response: Long-term memory after an experience takes many hours to be reach its final form. During the consolidation period, the nascent memory is labile: the consolidation can be interrupted by new experiences, or new experiences that are too insignificant to be remembered can capture the consolidation process, and thereby be remembered.

To avoid potentially maladaptive interactions between a new experience and consolidation, a major portion of the consolidation is deferred to the time in which we sleep, when new experiences are unlikely. For over 100 years, studies have demonstrated that sleep improves memory formation. More recent studies have shown that consolidation occurs during sleep, and that consolidation depends on the synthesis of products that support memory formation. Consolidation is unlikely to be shut off immediately when we are awakened from sleep. At this time, even a transient experience could capture the consolidation, leading to a long-lasting memory of an event that should not be remembered, or could interfere with the consolidation. We have identified a mechanism that prevents long-term memories from being formed by experiences that occur when awakened from sleep.

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Computerized Working Memory Training in Pediatric Sickle Cell Disease

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Steven J. Hardy, PhD Licensed Clinical Psychologist Divisions of Hematology and Oncology Children’s National Health System Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, DC

Dr. Steven J. Hardy

Steven J. Hardy, Phd
Licensed Clinical Psychologist
Divisions of Hematology and Oncology
Children’s National Health System
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics and Psychiatry & Behavioral Sciences
George Washington School of Medicine and Health Sciences Washington, DC

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

Response: Children with sickle cell disease exhibit neurocognitive deficits as a consequence of either silent or overt cerebral infarction or disease-related non-infarct central nervous system effects (likely resulting from chronic anemia and hypoxic events). These complications often lead to impairment in executive functioning (e.g., working memory, attention, inhibition, cognitive flexibility), which can make it difficult to focus in class, plan for long-term school projects, remember and carry out multi-step tasks or assignments, and stay organized. The literature on interventions to reduce neurocognitive sequelae of sickle cell disease is extremely limited.

Our research team investigated a promising home-based, computerized cognitive training program (Cogmed) involving repeated practice on performance-adapted exercises targeting working memory with a sample of youth (ages 7 – 16) with sickle cell disease. Of the participants who have enrolled in the study (n = 70), 49% exhibited working memory deficits (<25% in the general population have a working memory deficit) and were randomized to an eight-week waitlist or to begin Cogmed immediately. Participants who used Cogmed demonstrated significant improvements on multiple measures of working memory, while those randomized to the waitlist group only exhibited such improvements after receiving Cogmed. Approximately 25% of participants completed the recommended number of Cogmed sessions (20 – 25 sessions). However, analyses revealed that participants who completed at least 10 sessions (about 50% of the participants) showed comparable levels of working memory improvement.

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Menopause Has Variable Effect on Memory Decline in Women

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jill M. Goldstein, Ph.D.

Director of Research for the Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology
Brigham and Women’s Hospital and
Professor of Psychiatry and Medicine at Harvard Medical School

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

Response: Maintaining intact memory function as we age is one of the primary public health challenges of our time. In fact, women are at almost twice the risk for Alzheimer’s disease and it is not only because women live longer. Thus, it is incumbent upon us to understand this sex difference and incorporate the knowledge into the development of sex-dependent therapeutics.

Our study focused on beginning this investigation by understanding how memory circuitry and memory function change over the menopausal transition, when we believe that sex differences in memory aging emerge. By understanding healthy aging, we will better understand how the brain goes awry with age differently in men and women and who might be at highest risk for Alzheimer’s disease later in life.

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Can Low Dose Oral Nicotine Have Beneficial Health Effects?

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

U. H. Winzer-Serhan Ph.D. Associate Professor Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics Texas A&M Health Science Center

Dr. Ursula H. Winzer-Serhan

Ursala. H. Winzer-Serhan Ph.D.
Associate Professor
Department of Neuroscience and Experimental Therapeutics
Texas A&M Health Science Center

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

Response: Nicotine is a plant alkaloid that is naturally occurring in the tobacco plant. Smoking delivers nicotine to the brain where it acts as a stimulant. Tobacco and electronic cigarette smoking delivers many other chemicals to the body, which are harmful and can cause cancer.

However, the drug nicotine by itself is relatively benign and poses few health risks for most people. Nicotine acts in the brain on nicotinic receptors, which are ion channels that are widely expressed in the brain. They play an important role in cognitive functions. Research with rodents and in humans has shown that nicotine can enhance learning and memory, and furthermore, can protect neurons during injuries and in the aging brain. With the increasingly older population, it becomes more and more important to delay cognitive decline in the elderly. Right now, there is no drug available that could delay aging of the brain.

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Mitochondrial Calcium Channel Necessary To Support Adult Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair Department of Neuroscience Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. Ron Davis

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair
Department of Neuroscience
Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

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

Response: While calcium’s importance for our bones and teeth is well known, its role in neurons—in particular, its effects on processes such as learning and memory—has been less well defined. Our new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, offers new insights how calcium in mitochondria—the powerhouse of all cells—can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition.

Specifically, we show in fruit flies, a widely used model system, that blocking a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria called “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity. That surprised us – we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all. This is important because defects in the same calcium channel function have been shown to be associated with intellectual disability in humans.

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Calcium Channels in Mitochondria Appears Critical To Capacity For Memory

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair Department of Neuroscience Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

Dr. Ron L. Davis

Ron L. Davis, PhD Professor and Chair
Department of Neuroscience
Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute

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

Response: While calcium’s importance for our bones and teeth is well known, its role in neurons—in particular, its effects on processes such as learning and memory—has been less well defined. Our new study, published in the journal Cell Reports, offers new insights how calcium in mitochondria—the powerhouse of all cells—can impact the development of the brain and adult cognition.

Specifically, we show in fruit flies, a widely used model system, that blocking a channel that brings calcium to the mitochondria called “mitochondrial calcium uniporter” causes memory impairment but does not alter learning capacity. That surprised us – we thought they wouldn’t be able to learn at all. This is important because defects in the same calcium channel function have been shown to be associated with intellectual disability in humans.

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Memory Consolidation Enhanced By Weak Electrical Brain Stimulation

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Flavio Frohlich PhD Assistant Professor Departments of Psychiatry, Cell Biology and Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology Neuroscience Centerm School of Medicine University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

Dr. Flavio Frohlich

Flavio Frohlich PhD
Assistant Professor
Departments of Psychiatry, Cell Biology and Physiology, Biomedical Engineering, and Neurology
Neuroscience Center School of Medicine
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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

Response: Although we do not understand why we sleep, it is clear that sleep is very important for overall well being and health. One of many likely functions of sleep is memory consolidation, the process of stabilizing previously acquired memories. In particular, a brief electric brain activity pattern called the sleep spindle has been shown to correlate with memory consolidation and learning in general. We asked if this brain rhythm causes memory consolidation by using non-invasive feedback brain stimulation to selectively enhance sleep spindles. We applied a weak electric current in the shape of a sleep spindle to the scalp each time our algorithm detected a sleep spindle in the EEG.

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Moderate Alcohol May Impair Short Term Memory In Older Adults

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:
Jeff Boissoneault, PhD Research Assistant Professor Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health Department of Clinical and Health Psychology University of FloridaJeff Boissoneault, PhD
Research Assistant Professor
Center for Pain Research and Behavioral Health
Department of Clinical and Health Psychology
University of Florida

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

Response: Many older adults are regular moderate drinkers. Although moderate drinking is considered to be a low risk behavior, growing evidence suggests older adults may be more susceptible to the cognitive and behavioral effects of moderate alcohol intake than younger people. We have previously shown that blood alcohol concentrations (BACs) below the legal limit for driving in the United States, 0.08 g/dL, affect working, or short-term, memory performance in older but not younger adults. For this study, we examined frontal theta power (FTP) and posterior alpha power (PAP), which are electrophysiological measures of brain activity associated with cognitive effort and maintenance of visual information, during a working memory task in both older and younger social drinkers.

We found that during a nine-second delay period during which participants held briefly-displayed images in memory, moderate alcohol intake increased PAP in younger adults but decreased PAP in older adults. Examining the relationship between PAP and behavioral performance (accuracy and reaction time) suggested older adults may attempt to compensate for moderate alcohol-induced working memory impairment by prioritizing quick responding over the protection of their mental representation of the task images from environmental distractions. Younger adults did not show this effect.

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