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More Information and Recent Research on Neurodegenerative Disease

(NBC News) Every Saturday at Casa Maravilla, a housing development for seniors in Chicago, dozens of older Latinos gather to dance and, they hope, help preserve their memory… The dancers are part of the Latino Alzheimer’s & Memory Disorders Alliance, or LAMDA, which started “Bailando por la Salud” (Dancing for Health) to inspire Latinos who are uncomfortable with other forms of exercise to get fit and healthier -- which in turn may help stave off Alzheimer’s and other memory loss conditions.
(Science Daily) Being overweight appears related to reduced levels of a molecule that reflects brain cell health in the hippocampus, a part of the brain involved in memory, learning, and emotions, and likely also involved in appetite control, according to a new study.
(Bloomberg) Women with high levels of estrogen have more than double the risk of dementia, researchers found in the latest study to cast doubt on the health benefits of the female sex hormone.
(Reuters Health) People who had been exposed to the pesticide DDT were more likely to have Alzheimer's disease than those with no traces of the chemical in their blood, researchers found in a new study.
(Medical News Today) Exposure to common infections - even if they do not make you ill - may be linked to decline in brain functions like memory and reasoning, according to new research… The common infections the researchers studied included Chlamydia pneumoniae (which can lead to pneumonia and bronchitis), Helicobacter pylori (the cause of most stomach and duodenal ulcers), and the herpes viruses cytomegalovirus and herpes simplex viruses 1 and 2 (which can cause cold sores and other conditions).
(Science Daily) A study shows that levels in the brain and cerebrospinal fluid of the molecules necessary for tissue recovery through the clearance of harmful inflammatory substances are lower than normal in patients with Alzheimer's disease. The study also showed association between the lower levels of these molecules with impaired memory function.
Studies: Whole Grains Reduce Inflammation
(Whole Grains Council, via email) [M]any people claim grains (even healthy whole grains) are dangerous because they contribute to chronic inflammation - which plays a role in heart disease, Alzheimer's ("Grain Brain"), and many types of cancer… [But two] recent studies show that whole grains actually reduce inflammation. The first study … "provides evidence supporting the beneficial effects of whole-grain foods on biomarkers of systemic inflammation in obese children". The second study … showed that eating whole grain barley and brown rice, even for a short period, helped increase "good bacteria" in the digestive system, which relates to improvements in system-wide inflammation.
More . . .
Low Levels of Pro-Inflammatory Agent Help Cognition in Rats
(Science Daily) Although inflammation is frequently a cause of disease in the body, research indicates that low levels of a pro-inflammatory cytokine in the brain are important for cognition. Cytokines are proteins produced by the immune system.
(Science Daily) ACE inhibitors [are] drugs that widen blood vessels by limiting activity of ACE – angiotensin-converting enzyme – a naturally occurring protein found in tissues throughout the body… A study found that genetically targeting certain immune blood cells to overproduce the enzyme broke down defective proteins in the brain associated with Alzheimer's disease and prevented cognitive decline in laboratory mice bred to model the disease.
(MedPage Today) Diabetic patients in late middle-age receiving intensive anti-hypertensive therapy in a randomized trial showed the same rates of cognitive decline as those assigned to standard treatment, researchers said… If anything, the study suggested that the aggressive management of blood pressure may have had deleterious effects, given the small but statistically significant acceleration in brain atrophy in that group.
Community: However, the article doesn’t specify which treatment was used to reduce blood pressure. Presumably, it wasn’t an ACE inhibitor (see the previous article excerpt).
(Counsel & Heal) New research reveals that the brain scans of people who do not have dementia but have two parents with Alzheimer's disease exhibit signs of the disease years before symptoms appear. "Studies show that by the time people come in for a diagnosis, there may be a large amount of irreversible brain damage already present," lead researcher Lisa Mosconi, PhD, with the New York University School of Medicine in New York, said in a news release. "This is why it is ideal that we find signs of the disease in high-risk people before symptoms occur."
(Brigham and Women's Hospital) In a study published this week…, Bess Frost, PhD, and co-authors, identify abnormal expression of genes, resulting from DNA relaxation, that can be detected in the brain and blood of Alzheimer's patients… They used transgenic flies and mice expressing human tau to show that DNA is more relaxed in tauopathy. They then identified that the relaxation of tightly wound DNA and resulting abnormal gene expression are central events that cause neurons to die in Alzheimer's disease.
(Stanley Coren, Ph.D., F.R.S.C., Psychology Today) John … Dignard was hit by a car at the age of five, and the accident caused brain damage. In the end he was left with learning difficulties and a very unreliable short-term memory… If Dignard went to a shopping mall, by the time he came out he usually had completely forgotten where his car was parked. It is in such situations where the episodic memory ability of a dog becomes important. Dignard can now go shopping with confidence because of a German Shepherd Dog named Goliath, who is his memory aide… Dignard says “I'd be lost all the time without him. Now I just tell him ‘go to the exit door,’ or I tell him ‘back to the car,’ and he takes me there.”
(Jordan Gaines Lewis, LiveScience) I sure could use a little memory boost. Unfortunately, despite the growing popularity of brain-training apps and programmes like LumosityCogniFitCogMed and Jungle Memory, I’m not going to find any help here; studies raise doubt about whether these programmes and apps have any tangible effect on improving cognition.
(Christopher Taibbi, M.A.T., Psychology Today) Do you recall a time when you studied for a test and recalled that the answer to a question lay in your notebook…it was on the right-hand page…in the upper right corner…. Do you recall precisely where you were when you heard of the attacks on 9/11? Consider how often your brain gives you mental pictures to help you recall information. Today, let's put it to the test!
(Andrew Weil, M.D.) Want to enhance your meals and your health? Sprinkle on rosemary! This herb has a history of medicinal and culinary applications, as it was used in ancient Greece to strengthen and stimulate the memory. Today, it's an essential part of aromatherapy to boost mental alertness and promote well-being. It contains compounds that have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Fresh or dried rosemary provides iron, calcium and fiber.
(Science Daily) Scientists have discovered the use of a simple single-celled amoeba to understand the function of human proteins in causing Alzheimer’s disease.
(MedPage Today) Many chronic diseases, especially in neuropsychiatry, are believed to result from combinations of genetic risk factors and environmental triggers, but only in a very few have both partners in this dance been identified. Now, a group of California researchers says they've found evidence that pesticide exposure interacts with certain gene variants to promote Parkinson's disease.
(Discover Magazine) This notorious stimulant may enhance learning and help treat Parkinson's, schizophrenia and other neurological diseases.
(Science Daily) Researchers say that high-intensity strength training produced significant improvements in quality of life, mood and motor function in older patients with Parkinson’s disease.
(Science Daily) Neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson's disease involve the death of thousands of neurons in the brain. Nerve growth factors produced by the body, such as GDNF, promote the survival of the neurons; however, clinical tests with GDNF have not yielded in any clear improvements. Scientists have now succeeded in demonstrating that GDNF and its receptor Ret also promote the survival of mitochondria, the power plants of the cell. By activating the Ret receptor, the scientists were able to prevent in flies and human cell cultures the degeneration of mitochondria, which is caused by a gene defect related to Parkinson's disease.
(Singularity Hub) Even with promising results in humans paired with dramatic results in earlier tests in primates, ProSavin, first developed in 1997, is heading back to the drawing board. Researchers will tweak the dosage and the delivery method in hopes of proving in subsequent randomized human trials that its effects exceed those of a placebo.
Community: Simply a placebo? Seems to me it’s pretty important that the suggestion of a cure seems to have helped some people.
(Science Daily) Researchers have shown that continuing spinal cord stimulation appears to produce improvements in symptoms of Parkinson’s disease, and may protect critical neurons from injury or deterioration.
(Science Daily) A new study shows that, when properly manipulated, a population of support cells found in the brain called astrocytes could provide a new and promising approach to treat Parkinson's disease. These findings, which were made using an animal model of the disease, demonstrate that a single therapy could simultaneously repair the multiple types of neurological damage caused by Parkinson's, providing an overall benefit that has not been achieved in other approaches.
(Massachusetts General Hospital) The first clinical trial of a drug intended to delay the onset of symptoms of Huntington disease reveals that high-dose treatment with the nutritional supplement creatine was safe and well tolerated by most participants. In addition, neuroimaging showed a treatment-associated slowing of regional brain atrophy, evidence that creatine might slow the progression of presymptomatic disease.
(Columbia University Medical Center) In most cases of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), or Lou Gehrig's disease, a toxin released by cells that normally nurture neurons in the brain and spinal cord can trigger loss of the nerve cells affected in the disease, Columbia researchers reported… The toxin is produced by star-shaped cells called astrocytes and kills nearby motor neurons. In ALS, the death of motor neurons causes a loss of control over muscles required for movement, breathing, and swallowing. Paralysis and death usually occur within 3 years of the appearance of first symptoms.
(Columbia University Medical Center) Columbia University Medical Center (CUMC) researchers have identified a gene, called matrix metalloproteinase-9 (MMP-9), that appears to play a major role in motor neuron degeneration in amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The findings, made in mice, explain why most but not all motor neurons are affected by the disease and identify a potential therapeutic target for this still-incurable neurodegenerative disease.
(Emory University) The word "chaperone" … describes a type of protein that can guard the brain against its own troublemakers: misfolded proteins that are involved in several neurodegenerative diseases. Researchers at Emory University School of Medicine have demonstrated that as animals age, their brains are more vulnerable to misfolded proteins, partly because of a decline in chaperone activity… They also identified targets for potential therapies: bolstering levels of either a particular chaperone or a growth factor in brain cells can protect against the toxic effects of misfolded proteins.
Community: There are many practical things we can do to prevent, delay, or minimize cognitive decline.

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