Epilepsy research focused on astrocytes

Mariko Onodera and Jan Meyer perform an experiment with potassium-sensitive microelectrodes in the Institute of Neurobiology at HHU.

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During epileptic seizures, a large number of nerve cells in the brain fire excessively and in synchrony. This hyperactivity may lead to uncontrolled shaking of the body and involve periods of loss of consciousness. While about two thirds of patients respond to anti-epileptic medication, the remainder is refractory to medical treatment and shows drug-resistance. These patients are in urgent need for new therapeutic strategies.

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Fatty acid may help combat multiple sclerosis

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The abnormal immune system response that causes multiple sclerosis (MS) by attacking and damaging the central nervous system can be triggered by the lack of a specific fatty acid in fat tissue, according to a new Yale study. The finding suggests that dietary change might help treat some people with the autoimmune disease.

The study was published Jan. 19 in The Journal of Clinical Investigation.

Fat tissue in patients diagnosed with MS lack normal levels of oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid found at high levels in, for instance, cooking oils, meats (beef, chicken, and pork), cheese, nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, pasta, milk, olives, and avocados, according to the study.

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Increased risk of Parkinson’s disease in patients with schizophrenia

A new study conducted at the University of Turku, Finland, shows that patients with a schizophrenia spectrum disorder have an increased risk of Parkinson’s disease later in life. The increased risk may be due to alterations in the brain’s dopamine system caused by dopamine receptor antagonists or neurobiological effects of schizophrenia.

The record-based case-control study was carried out at the University of Turku in collaboration with the University of Eastern Finland. The study examined the occurrences of previously diagnosed psychotic disorders and schizophrenia in over 25,000 Finnish Parkinson’s disease (PD) patients treated in 1996-2019.

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More than half of people using cannabis for pain experience multiple withdrawal symptoms

More than half of people who use medical marijuana products to ease pain also experience clusters of multiple withdrawal symptoms when they’re between uses, a new study finds.

And about 10% of the patients taking part in the study experienced worsening changes to their sleep, mood, mental state, energy and appetite over the next two years as they continued to use cannabis.

Many of them may not recognize that these symptoms come not from their underlying condition, but from their brain and body’s reaction to the absence of substances in the cannabis products they’re smoking, vaping, eating or applying to their skin, says the University of Michigan Addiction Center psychologist who led the study.

When someone experiences more than a few such symptoms, it’s called cannabis withdrawal syndrome – and it can mean a higher risk of developing even more serious issues such as a cannabis use disorder.

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Bedside EEG test can aid prognosis in unresponsive brain injury patients

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Assessing the ability of unresponsive patients with severe brain injury to understand what is being said to them could yield important insights into how they might recover, according to new research.

A team at the University of Birmingham has shown that responses to speech can be measured using electroencephalography, a non-invasive technique used to record electrical signals in the brain. The strength of these responses can be used to provide an accurate prognosis that can help clinicians make the most effective treatment decisions.

Significantly the assessments can be made while the patient is still in intensive care and does not require any conscious response from the patient – they do not have to ‘do’ anything.

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People in rural areas less likely to receive specialty care for neurologic conditions

MINNEAPOLIS – A new study has found that while the prevalence of neurologic conditions like dementia, stroke, Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis (MS) is consistent across the U.S., the distribution of neurologists is not, and people in more rural areas may be less likely to receive specialty care for certain neurologic conditions. The study, funded by the American Academy of Neurology, is published in the December 23, 2020, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“Neurologists in the United States are not evenly spread out, which affects whether patients can see a neurologist for certain conditions like dementia and stroke,” said study author Brian C. Callaghan, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology. “Our research found that some areas of the country have up to four times as many neurologists as the lowest served areas, and these differences mean that some people do not have access to neurologists who are specially trained in treating brain diseases.”

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College Football Players Underestimate Risk of Injury and Concussion

College football players may underestimate their risk of injury and concussion, according to a new study published today in JAMA Network Open.

Christine Baugh, PhD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine and member of the CU Center for Bioethics and Humanities, is the corresponding author of the article, “Accuracy of US College Football Players’ Estimates of Their Risk of Concussion or Injury.”

Baugh and co-authors report on survey results of 296 college football players from four teams in the Power 5 Conferences of the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Athletes were surveyed in 2017. The researchers found that between 43 percent and 91 percent of respondents underestimated their risk of injury and between 42 percent and 63 percent underestimated their risk of concussion.

To measure the accuracy of football players’ risk estimations, the researchers modeled individual athletes’ probabilities of sustaining a concussion or injury and compared model estimates to athlete perceptions. While recognizing that many people underestimate health risks, the authors point out that the risks college football athletes face may be more severe or debilitating than those faced by many in the general population. Given this elevated risk profile, they say it is concerning that athletes tend to underestimate the likelihood of these risks. These results raise questions about informed consent and how much risk should be acceptable in the context of a game, Baugh and her co-authors write.

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Mindfulness meditation may decrease impact of migraine

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WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. – Dec. 14, 2020 – Migraine is a neurological disease that can be severely debilitating and is the second leading cause of disability worldwide. Unfortunately, many patients with migraine discontinue medications due to ineffectiveness or side effects. Many patients still use opioids despite recommendations against them for headache treatment. However, in a recent clinical trial from Wake Forest Baptist Health, researchers showed that mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) may provide benefit to people with migraine.

“Mindfulness-based stress reduction is a mind-body treatment that teaches moment-by-moment awareness through mindfulness meditation and yoga,” said Rebecca Erwin Wells, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of neurology at Wake Forest School of Medicine, part of Wake Forest Baptist Health. “Mindfulness can also teach new ways to respond to stress, a commonly reported migraine trigger.”

According to an article published by JAMA Internal Medicine, researchers studied whether MBSR improved migraine outcomes, pain perception and measures of emotional well-being compared to headache education.

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Neurology patients faced with rising out-of-pocket costs for tests, office visits

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MINNEAPOLIS – Just like with drug costs, the amount of money people pay out-of-pocket for diagnostic tests and office visits for neurologic conditions has risen over 15 years, according to a new study published in the December 23, 2020, online issue of issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The study, funded by the American Academy of Neurology, found that people enrolled in high-deductible health plans were more likely to have high out-of-pocket costs than people in other types of plans.

“This trend of increased out-of-pocket costs could be harmful, as people may forgo diagnostic evaluation due to costs, or those who complete diagnostic testing may be put in a position of financial hardship before they can even start to treat their condition,” said study author Chloe E. Hill, MD, MS, of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and a member of the American Academy of Neurology. “What’s more, right now neurologists and patients may not have individualized information available regarding what the out-of-pocket costs might be to make informed decisions about use of care.”

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Scientists uncover a novel approach to treating Duchenne muscular dystrophy

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Scientists at Sanford Burnham Prebys Medical Discovery Institute, Fondazione Santa Lucia IRCCS, and Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore in Rome have shown that pharmacological (drug) correction of the content of extracellular vesicles released within dystrophic muscles can restore their ability to regenerate muscle and prevent muscle scarring (fibrosis). The study, published in EMBO Reports, reveals a promising new therapeutic approach for Duchenne muscular dystrophy (DMD), an incurable muscle-wasting condition, and has far-reaching implications for the field of regenerative medicine.

“Our study shows that extracellular vesicles are bioactive mediators that can transfer the benefits of medicine–in this case, HDAC inhibitors (HDACi)–to treat DMD,” says Pier Lorenzo Puri, M.D., professor in the Development, Aging and Regeneration Program at Sanford Burnham Prebys and co-corresponding author of the study. “We discovered the promise of this treatment almost 20 years ago and did all of the preclinical work, which led to a current clinical trial for boys with DMD. However, the therapeutic potential of HDACi has been so far limited by its systemic adverse effects.”

In the current clinical trial, boys with DMD are treated with HDACi at suboptimal doses due to the risk of adverse side effects. The scientists are hopeful that extracellular vesicles might provide a cell-free, non-immunogenic, transplantable tool for local delivery of bioactive particles that transfer HDACi to dystrophic muscles, thereby overcoming the undesirable secondary effects caused by chronic use at high doses.

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