March 15, 2010 at 7:51 pm Comments (0)
Extended exposure to cocaine can actually cause permanent changes to how genes are switched on and off in the brain and the finding could help lead to effective addiction treatment according to the same research. Ian Maze of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York and colleagues established their finding utilizing mice. In the study it was found that continual cocaine dependence prevented a specific enzyme from shutting off other genes in the pleasure circuits of the brain causing the mice’s craving for the drug to increase.
During the study the group gave one grouping of young mice frequent doses of cocaine and another group repeated doses of saline, then a single dose of cocaine. This lead to the discovery that cocaine alters the reward circuits in the brain by inhibiting gene 9A, which makes an enzyme that plays a critical role in switching genes on and off. This isn’t the only study to link cocaine to gene changes and intensified drug addiction symptoms but it is the first time that the way these changes occurred could be documented.
The study also lead to the discovery that the effects could be reversed by increasing the activity of gene 9A. The increase completely reversed the effects of chronic cocaine use in the test mice, leading to the belief that the same method could help human addicts of the drug and could even help with other forms of addiction including nicotine and alcohol.
February 4, 2010 at 4:52 pm Comments (0)
A new study that was recently published online in the New England Journal of Medicine may change the way people think about life-support for people who have been deemed unresponsive.
The study observed 54 unresponsive patients, and five of them were able to display brain activity that may be indicative of awareness, intent, and even a desire to communicate. Researchers scanned the brains of patients in hospitals in England and Belgium. The five patients whose brain scans indicated activity suffered from traumatic brain injuries which are usually caused by falls, car accidents, assault or other disasters.
The research used a brain scanning technique known as functional magnetic resonance imaging. Researchers were able to discern activity in a region of the brain that is associated with the question that is being asked of the patient. For instance, when the lone patient who displayed an ability to communicate was asked to imagine walking through his childhood home, activity was observed in the region of the brain that is “involved in constructing and navigating a mental map”.
In addition, researchers were able to get responses to yes-no questions from a 22-year-old male patient who has been unresponsive for five years after suffering a vehicular accident. By comparing his brain activity to the yes-no brain responses of healthy volunteers, researchers were able to ask him, for instance, whether his father’s name was Paul – to which he was said to have answered “yes”.
The President of the Brain Trauma Foundation, neurosurgeon Dr. Jamshid Ghajar, called the study as “very innovative.” It is the first study of its kind that presents a possibility of providing previously “unresponsive” patients with the ability to express their wishes.
September 21, 2009 at 1:02 am Comments (0)
New research has revealed that a gene variant responsible for a higher risk for Alzheimer’s disease can be found in the minds of even young adults. Those with brains that have the gene variant APOE4 (Which has been proven to be an indicator for a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s but not a 100% guarantee that the disease will occur.) in their 20s have a different way of functioning than those without. Those who have the gene seemed to require more effort and experienced less efficient function when asked to perform a battery of memory tests by researchers than those without the variant.
The test was conducted with 24 healthy young adults, half of which had APOE4. Functional MRI was done on the subjects during their memory testing to compare brain activity between the two groups. While for the most part their brains seemed to be similar, brain function and interconnection for those with APOE4 was different. Research into the way the gene variant affects brain function from the newly discovered young age group on into elderly years is hoped to reveal more about what determines the risk for Alzheimer’s.