October 25, 2010

Seizing an Opportunity: Broader Definitions of Epilepsy May Lead to Better Treatments

From The Dana Foundation:

There is not just one type of epilepsy. While some forms of the disease are characterized by convulsive seizures, others involve seizures that are barely noticeable. Seizures can occur for many reasons: they can be caused by genetic mutations, injury, or infection early in life. In addition, events in daily life, such as stress, or normal variations in hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone, can influence brain activity and therefore influence seizures. By considering the powerful interactions between the brain and the endocrine system, this influence of hormones on seizures can be understood and new treatment options can be considered.

A common misconception is that a seizure involves sudden, uncontrolled movements or convulsions. However, convulsions do not always accompany seizures. One type of epilepsy—absence epilepsy—is characterized by seizures that involve little movement at all, only a blank, expressionless gaze. For a brief period, the person experiencing the seizure is unresponsive, or “absent.” These seizures are not easy to recognize and may therefore go undetected. Even the person having the seizure may not notice it, because consciousness is temporarily interrupted during an absence seizure.

The diversity in the types of seizures has led to difficulty in classifying them. It is often hard to bring seizures under control because there are many causes, some of which are not well understood. Fortunately, in the past few decades clinical and laboratory research has led to a better understanding of the diversity of seizures and the causes of epilepsy.

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October 21, 2010

Could an Experimental Memory Drug Put an End to “Senior Moments”?

From: Discover Magazine Online:

A new drug seems to be able to reverse normal age-related memory decline in old mice–like a face-lift for neurons, bringing them back to their younger days. The results of the experimental treatment, which works by blocking certain stress hormones, were published in the Journal of Neuroscience.

“What’s most surprising is that even short-term inhibition was able to reverse memory loss in old mice,” says Jonathan Seckl, a professor of molecular medicine who was involved in the research. “I don’t think people had realized this was so reversible. It takes [the animals] back to being relatively young.” [Technology Review].

Research has shown that stress hormones called glucocorticoids play a role in memory loss, by damaging the brain over time. But targeting the glucocorticoids themselves is dangerous, because reducing their levels would leave the body without a stress response. The researchers therefore targeted an enzyme instead, which activates the hormone in neurons.

Click here for the complete article.

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October 19, 2008

Mood state effects of chocolate

emotions,meds — alice @ 2:31 am

Gordon Parker, Isabella Parker and Heather Brotchie
Article in Journal of Affective Disorders

Background: Chocolate consumption has long been associated with enjoyment and pleasure. Popular claims confer on chocolate the properties of being a stimulant, relaxant, euphoriant, aphrodisiac, tonic and antidepressant. The last claim stimulated this review.

Method: We review chocolate’s properties and the principal hypotheses addressing its claimed mood altering propensities. We distinguish between food craving and emotional eating, consider their psycho-physiological underpinnings, and examine the likely ‘positioning’ of any effect of chocolate to each concept.

Results: Chocolate can provide its own hedonistic reward by satisfying cravings but, when consumed as a comfort eating or emotional eating strategy, is more likely to be associated with prolongation rather than cessation of a dysphoric mood.

Limitations: This review focuses primarily on clarifying the possibility that, for some people, chocolate consumption may act as an antidepressant self-medication strategy and the processes by which this may occur.

Conclusions: Any mood benefits of chocolate consumption are ephemeral.

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January 9, 2008

Cheap drugs against aggression don’t work

Study shows placebos as good as antipsychotics for the intellectually disabled.

Scientists have discovered that taking a sugar pill is more effective than routine medications in treating aggression in people with intellectual disabilities. Until now, patients with intellectual disabilities have been prescribed antipsychotic drugs — normally given to people with a psychiatric disease like schizophrenia — to treat aggressive behaviour such as head banging. But evidence for the drugs’ effectiveness has been thin.

“Antipsychotic drugs are widely used because they are cheap and at high doses they sedate people,” says Eric Emerson at Lancaster University, an expert in the behaviour of intellectually disabled people.

Peter Tyrer, based at Imperial College London, led an international research project looking at 86 people with intellectual disability at clinics across England, Wales and at one centre in Australia. Patients being treated for aggressive behaviour randomly received one of two antipsychotic drugs — respiridone or haloperidol — or a placebo.

Nature News

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September 12, 2007

The biology of sleep

dreaming,journal,meds,sleep — thomasr @ 1:47 pm

sleep.jpegMedscape is running a special topic edition on the biology of sleep. The articles include papers on the management of insomnia; the relationship between passive sleeping and sleep disturbance during pregnancy; and the effects of hypothalamic stimulation on cluster headache and sleep.

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March 8, 2007

Can we improve mind reading?

oxytocin.pngIs it possible to improve our ability to read other’s minds? In the case of mind-reading disabilities such as that found in autism spectrum disorder, it has been suggested that it is possible to train patients to become better at reading other’s minds.

What, then about pharmacological interventions? Is there an “empathy drug” that makes us more empathic? In a priority communication in Biological Psychiatry, Domes et al. report that the administration of oxitocin (relative to placebo effect) improves the ability to infer the mental state of others from social cues of the eye region. Hubmed abstract; Full Text.

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February 9, 2006

Nalmafene for your ludomania

meds — thomasr @ 9:46 am

A new study demonstrates that Nalmefene, an experimental drug, has positive treatment effects on compulsive gambling. It works through making gambling become less thrilling and compelling.

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January 5, 2006

Toward an Explanation of the Genesis of Ketamine-Induced Perceptual Distortions

meds — thomasr @ 1:52 pm

Ketamine is an anaesthetic drug for human and veterinary use. However, it is also a drug that is used recreationally due to its ability to induce lighter and more short-lived hallucinations than LSD. It also produces perceptual distortions.

In a paper in Brain and Mind, Pereira and Johnson present a thorough investigation of how ketamine actually induce these states. This study, it is claimed, also sheds light on normal states of consciousness.

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December 7, 2004

The emergence of Consciousness

meds — thomasr @ 6:34 pm
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December 5, 2004

A new drug for Consciousness?

SCR Feature,meds — thomasr @ 6:37 am
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