February 21, 2011

Former CFL players’ brains used to study link between concussions and disease

From the Globe and Mail:

Concussion stories from Bobby Kuntz’s days with the Toronto Argonauts and the Hamilton Tiger-Cats made for family football folklore until a decade ago when they suddenly seemed bittersweet.

Mr. Kuntz, who suffered as many as 20 concussions playing football in the 1950s and 60s, developed a tremor and started to forget things. His golf game went and he had to give up his position as president and chief executive officer of his family’s metal finishing business.

His symptoms were progressive, yet difficult to diagnose. His wife, Mary, took him down to the Mayo Clinic – he was in his late 60s – and doctors suggested Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson’s.

“The only way you’ll ever find out if its Lewy Body disease is to have an autopsy,” Mrs. Kuntz recalled the Mayo Clinic doctors telling her about a decade ago.

She had always planned on having her husband autopsied as she was concerned about whether her five living children were at risk of inheriting his brain disease. Ms. Kuntz wants to know if there is a link between repeated concussions and his Lewy Body disease, a progressive form of dementia, or Parkinson’s, a degenerative disorder of the central nervous system with similar characteristics.

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January 26, 2011

How Brain Activity is Linked to Sleep

From: PsychCentral.com

Brain activity during times of wakefulness affects sleep and sleep quality. While researchers have been aware of this for some time, a clear understanding of how the mechanisms triggering sleep occur has remained largely unknown.

Now, a recent study has uncovered valuable insight into how the changeover from wakefulness to sleep occurs. This discovery potentially paves the way for a host of breakthroughs that could affect everything from sleeping aids to treatments for stroke and brain injury.

Led by James Krueger, Ph.D, Washington State University, the findings were recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology and represent the most significant discovery of Krueger’s 36-year career focused on sleep research.

The study centered on a hypothesis that the major energy currency of the cell — ATP (adenosinetriphosphate) — is a key trigger for brain activity leading up to sleep. Specifically, researchers followed the method behind how ATP assists in the release of cytokines, the regulatory proteins for sleep.

“We know that brain activity is linked to sleep, but we’ve never known how,” Krueger said. “This gives us a mechanism to link brain activity to sleep. This has not been done before.”

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November 4, 2010

Why Animals Are Biologically Conscious. The conscious brain has a long evolutionary history.

From: The Blog of Dr. Bernard J. Baars inPsychology Today

To the best of our knowledge, consciousness depends upon brains, and brains are biological organs. In a boxing match, a blow to the jaw often leads to a loss of consciousness, but the same impact to the torso does not. More specifically, scientists have long thought that human consciousness depends upon two large brain structures, the cortex and the thalamus. The daily cycle of waking, dreaming and sleep depends on distinctive global rhythm generators in the thalamus and cortex. (www.baars-gage.com, Chapter 8)

While deep brain nuclei control the daily sleep-waking cycle, the specific contents of conscious vision, like the sight of a coffee cup, are directly supported by known regions of the cortex and corresponding nuclei in the thalamus. Cortex and its satellites underlie speech and hearing, vision, hearing and touch, the ability to make decisions and to control our voluntary muscles.

In contrast, medical students have long learned that the two large lobes of the cerebellum, hanging from the rear of the cortex, can be damaged in humans without impairing consciousness significantly. Since the cerebellum has nearly the same numbers of neurons as cortex, the question therefore becomes: How it is that cortex supports conscious contents? Why not the cerebellum? (Figure 1).

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October 27, 2010

Hypnosis Leads to Heightened Brain Waves and Levels of Consciousness

From: Natural News

Many people are wary of hypnosis because they are not educated on the topic. Hypnosis is a natural state and many people reach this state of consciousness every day without even realizing it. When you drive a car, you are in a light state of hypnosis. You are in control, you have an increased ability to concentrate, and you are operating on autopilot without really realizing it. A great deal of research has been conducted on the hypnotic state and various states of consciousness.

Your brain has four different brain wave states: beta, alpha, theta, and delta. While you are reading this article, you are in the state of beta. You are alert and able to concentrate on this article. The beta state is normal wakening state. Alpha state is a relaxed state. You are able to access creativity and visualization. Theta state is a deeper state of relaxation; this is a common state of hypnosis and meditation. Theta allows you to access memories. You experience theta as you fall asleep and wake up every day. Lastly is delta, which occurs while sleeping. Delta allows your body to heal. You are able to access your subconscious mind during alpha, theta, and delta states and can also reach various depths of hypnosis (Tools for Wellness).

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October 18, 2007

Dream content: Individual and generic aspects

Dream reports were collected from normal subjects in an effort to determine the degree to which dream reports can be used to identify individual dreamers. Judges were asked to group the reports by their authors. The judges scored the reports correctly at chance levels. This finding indicated that dreams may be at least as much like each other as they are the signature of individual dreamers. Our results suggest that dream reports cannot be used to identify the individuals who produced them when identifiers like names and gender of friends and family members are removed from the dream report. In addition to using dreams to learn about an individual, we must look at dreams as telling us about important common or generic aspects of human consciousness.next term

Allan Hobson and David Kahn in press article in Consciousness & Cognition

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September 15, 2007

Brain stem may be key to consciousness:

From MindHacks
An article in this week’s Science News discusses whether the brain stem may play a more central role in consciousness than it’s usually given credit for.

It focuses on children with hydranencephaly, a where the cortex fails to develop in children and instead, the space is filled with cerebral spinal fluid.

Typically, affected children survive only a few months after birth, but those that do survive seem to remarkably more conscious than you would guess based on theories that suggest the cortex is where all the action happens to support consciousness.

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August 2, 2007

Neurology: An awakening

thalamus.jpegNeuroscientists and engineers are developing ways to help patients overcome paralysis and stroke. But what about mental function itself? Can medical intervention restore consciousness?

Nature runs a story on thalamic stimulation after severe stroke. Could this method be applied to help patients in coma or vegetative state regain their mental life?

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May 22, 2007

Resting states in unconscious monkeys

Nature has an interesting report from Marc Raichle‘s laboratory that studies the resting states in monkeys. This study not only demonstrates that resting states occur in non-human primates, but that it is possible to find such activity during unconscious states.

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April 28, 2007

Sleep Protects Declarative Memories From Interference

cov_memory.gifDeclarative memories — memories for facts and events in time — become more resistant to interference during sleep, according to a study that will presented at the 59th Annual Meeting of the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) in Boston, Massachusetts.

“We know that sleep helps boost memory for procedural tasks, such as learning a new piano sequence. But we’re not sure, even though it’s been debated for over a hundred years, whether sleep impacts declarative memory,” said lead author Jeffrey Ellenbogen, MD, a clinical fellow in medicine at Harvard Medical School, in Boston.

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March 12, 2007

On the (sound) track of anesthetics

3412_web.jpgDanish scientists challenge the accepted scientific views of how nerves function and of how anesthetics work. Their research suggests that action of nerves is based on sound pulses and that anesthetics inhibit their transmission.

Every medical and biological textbook says that nerves function by sending electrical impulses along their length. “But for us as physicists, this cannot be the explanation. The physical laws of thermodynamics tell us that electrical impulses must produce heat as they travel along the nerve, but experiments find that no such heat is produced,” says associate professor Thomas Heimburg from the Niels Bohr Institute at Copenhagen University. He received his Ph.D. from the Max Planck Institute in Göttingen, Germany, where biologists and physicists often work together – at most institutions these disciplines are worlds apart. Thomas Heimburg is an expert in biophysics, and when he came to Copenhagen, he met professor Andrew D. Jackson, who is an expert in theoretical physics. They decided to work together in order to study the basic mechanisms which govern the way nerves work.

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December 21, 2006

Functional neuroimaging in unconscious states

mri.jpegSteven Laureys and colleagues ask whether functional imaging methods such as fMRI and PET can be used to detect consciousness in individual patients. Recent studies have showed activation patterns in a vegetative patient that are comparable to helahty subjects. One pertinent question is therefore whether we can move from group studies towards individual scans. Here, Laureys et al. still have reservations, saying that “[published] data are insufficient to make recommendations for or against any of the neurorehabilitative treatments in vegetative state and minimally conscious state patients.”

How should functional imaging of patients with disorders of consciousness contribute to their clinical rehabilitation needs? Laureys S, Giacino JT, Schiff ND, Schabus M, Owen AM. 2006 Dec ; 19 (6): 520-527

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November 16, 2006

Brain Stimulation During Non-REM Sleep Enhances Memory

altered states,memory,unconscious states — thomasr @ 3:14 pm

tms.jpgTranscranial application of low-frequency electrical current during early nocturnal sleep potentiates the subject’s ability to remember words memorized the night before, German neuroendocrinologists report in this week’s online issue of Nature.

It is widely believed that sleep is linked with the long-term consolidation of new memories, via slow potential oscillations Read more... Comments (0)Print This Post

March 17, 2006

Hard to detect consciousness

unconscious states — thomasr @ 12:22 pm

We have previously reported about the consciousness monitor, an approach that seeks to use electroencephalograms to detect awakenings during anesthesia. In a recent study, one such monitor called Narcotrend, failed to demonstrate a reliable measure of consciousness.

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Waking up from PVS

unconscious states — thomasr @ 12:11 pm

The vegetative state is a paradoxical condition marked by loss of consciousness yet persistence of other functions such a day-night cycle. For this condition the rule of thumb has been that the longer a patient stays in this condition, the less likely they are to regain consciousness. This prolonged phase has been called presistent, or prolonged, vegetative state (PVS). But how likely is it that these PVS patients can regain consciousness? In a double case study by Avesani et al. it is claimed that even in this condition, awakening is still possible.

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January 9, 2006

Brain physiology and unconscious states

unconscious states — thomasr @ 5:47 pm

The distinction between different kinds of unconscious states such as anaesthesia, coma, vegetative state, minimally conscious state and locked-in syndrome are hard to draw. One of the methods used as tools for distinguishing between these states, or at least grossly between conscious and unconscious states, is the EEG. Some studies have shown that the EEG might be a viable option in our search for proper distinction between these states.

However, as Kotchoubey writes in an article in Progress in Brain Research, the use of EEG is confounded by several variables, and the tool should be used with great caution.

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December 21, 2005

Electricity and awakenings in vegetative state

unconscious states — thomasr @ 3:16 pm

A new study documents the effects of brain stimulation in vegetative state, a paradoxial unconscious state. As it seems, stimulation of the thalami – deep yet vital parts of the information processing in the brain – may help patients move from an unconscious state towards a minimally conscious state. As such, these results indicate that deep brain stimulation may be used clinically for raising patients’ level of consciousness.

In a recent review it is also claimed that electric stimulation can have a positive effect on unconscious or disturbed mental states such as coma and Alzheimer’s disease.

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December 18, 2005

Brain areas disconnect during deep sleep

unconscious states — thomasr @ 9:33 pm

Experiments shed light on what happens to consciousness during sleep.

Article from MSNBC.com reproduced below.

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November 22, 2005

Breakdown of Cortical Effective Connectivity During Sleep

unconscious states — thomasr @ 11:31 pm

When we fall asleep, consciousness fades yet the brain remains active. Why is this so?

Massimini et al

Science, Vol 309, Issue 5744, 2228-2232 , 30 September 2005

To investigate whether changes in cortical information transmission play a role, we used transcranial magnetic stimulation together with high-density electroencephalography and asked how the activation of one cortical area (the premotor area) is transmitted to the rest of the brain. During quiet wakefulness, an initial response (~15 milliseconds) at the stimulation site was followed by a sequence of waves that moved to connected cortical areas several centimeters away. During non–rapid eye movement sleep, the initial response was stronger but was rapidly extinguished and did not propagate beyond the stimulation site. Thus, the fading of consciousness during certain stages of sleep may be related to a breakdown in cortical effective connectivity.


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Birth of consciousness in brain

unconscious states — thomasr @ 11:29 pm

Italian team pinpoints origin of consciousness

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September 1, 2005

The sleep cycle: a mathematical analysis from a global workspace perspective

unconscious states — thomasr @ 6:15 am

Combining Dretske’s AIM model and Baars’ Global Workspace model provides new insights into sleep and abnormal brain states.

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