HealthMedicine8

Music Brings Memories Back to the Injured Brain

Dec. 10, 2013 —
Science Daily/Taylor & Francis
In the first study of its kind, two researchers have used popular music to help severely brain-injured patients recall personal memories. Amee Baird and Séverine Samson outline the results and conclusions of their pioneering research in the recent issue of the journal Neuropsychological Rehabilitation.

Although their study covered a small number of cases, it's the very first to examine 'music-evoked autobiographical memories' (MEAMs) in patients with acquired brain injuries (ABIs), rather than those who are healthy or suffer from Alzheimer's Disease.

In their study, Baird and Samson played extracts from 'Billboard Hot 100' number-one songs in random order to five patients. The songs, taken from the whole of the patient's lifespan from age five, were also played to five control subjects with no brain injury. All were asked to record how familiar they were with a given song, whether they liked it, and what memories it invoked.

Doctors Baird and Samson found that the frequency of recorded MEAMs was similar for patients (38%-71%) and controls (48%-71%). Only one of the four ABI patients recorded no MEAMs. In fact, the highest number of MEAMs in the whole group was recorded by one of the ABI patients. In all those studied, the majority of MEAMs were of a person, people or a life period and were typically positive. Songs that evoked a memory were noted as more familiar and more liked than those that did not.

As a potential tool for helping patients regain their memories, Baird and Samson conclude that: "Music was more efficient at evoking autobiographical memories than verbal prompts of the Autobiographical Memory Interview (AMI) across each life period, with a higher percentage of MEAMs for each life period compared with AMI scores."

"The findings suggest that music is an effective stimulus for eliciting autobiographical memories and may be beneficial in the rehabilitation of autobiographical amnesia, but only in patients without a fundamental deficit in autobiographical recall memory and intact pitch perception."

The authors hope that their ground-breaking work will encourage others to carry out further studies on MEAMs in larger ABI populations. They also call for further studies of both healthy people and those with other neurological conditions to learn more about the clear relationship between memory, music and emotion; they hope that one day we might truly "understand the mechanisms underlying the unique memory enhancing effect of music."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/12/131210072030.htm

 

New pathway for fear discovered deep within brain

February 12, 2014

Science Daily/Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

Fear is primal. In the wild, it serves as a protective mechanism, but for humans, fear is more complex. A normal amount keeps us safe. But too much fear, like PTSD, can prevent people from living healthy lives. Researchers are working to understand how the brain translates fear into action. Today, scientists announce the discovery of a new neural circuit that links the site of fear memory with a brain area that controls behavior.

Last year, CSHL Associate Professor Bo Li and his colleagues were able to use new genetic techniques to determine the precise neurons in the central amygdala that control fear memory. His current research exploits new methods to understand how the central amygdala communicates fear memories to the areas of the brain that are responsible for action.

In work published today in The Journal of Neuroscience, Li and his team identify a group of long-range neurons that extend from the central amygdala. These neurons project to an area of the brainstem, known as the midbrain periaqueductal gray (PAG), that controls the fear response.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140212132803.htm

Brain differences linked to insomnia identified by researchers

February 28, 2014

Science Daily/Johns Hopkins Medicine

Researchers report that people with chronic insomnia show more plasticity and activity than good sleepers in the part of the brain that controls movement. "Insomnia is not a nighttime disorder," says study leader, Rachel E. Salas, M.D., an assistant professor of neurology. "It's a 24-hour brain condition, like a light switch that is always on. Our research adds information about differences in the brain associated with it." The researchers say they hope their study opens the door to better diagnosis and treatment of the most common and often intractable sleep disorder that affects an estimated 15 percent of the United States population.

Because lack of sleep at night has been linked to decreased memory and concentration during the day, Salas and her colleagues suspected that the brains of good sleepers could be more easily retrained. The results, however, were the opposite. The researchers found much more plasticity in the brains of those with chronic insomnia.

Salas says the origins of increased plasticity in insomniacs are unclear, and it is not known whether the increase is the cause of insomnia. It is also unknown whether this increased plasticity is beneficial, the source of the problem or part of a compensatory mechanism to address the consequences of sleep deprivation associated with chronic insomnia. Patients with chronic phantom pain after limb amputation and with dystonia, a neurological movement disorder in which sustained muscle contractions cause twisting and repetitive movements, also have increased brain plasticity in the motor cortex, but to detrimental effect.

Salas says it is possible that the dysregulation of arousal described in chronic insomnia -- increased metabolism, increased cortisol levels, constant worrying -- might be linked to increased plasticity in some way. Diagnosing insomnia is solely based on what the patient reports to the provider; there is no objective test. Neither is there a single treatment that works for all people with insomnia. Treatment can be a hit or miss in many patients.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/02/140228155757.htm

Outbursts of anger linked to greater risk of heart attacks and strokes

March 3, 2014

Science Daily/European Society of Cardiology (ESC)

Outbursts of anger may trigger heart attacks, strokes and other cardiovascular problems in the two hours immediately afterwards, according to the first study to systematically evaluate previous research into the link between the extreme emotion and all cardiovascular outcomes. The researchers conclude: conclude: “Given the lessons we have learned from trying to treat depression after MI, treating anger in isolation is unlikely to be impactful. Instead, a broader and more comprehensive approach to treating acute and chronic mental stress, and its associated psychological stressors, is likely to be needed to heal a hostile heart.”

 

The remaining question in all of these studies, however, is how to prevent these dangerous anger episodes." They conclude: "Given the lessons we have learned from trying to treat depression after MI, treating anger in isolation is unlikely to be impactful. Instead, a broader and more comprehensive approach to treating acute and chronic mental stress, and its associated psychological stressors, is likely to be needed to heal a hostile heart."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140303211324.htm

Light affects our brain's performance: Photic memory for executive brain responses

March 10, 2014

Science Daily/University of Liège

It has long been known that light exerts powerful effects on the brain and on our well-being. Light is not only required for vision but is also essential for a wide range of “non-visual” functions including synchronization of our biological clock to the 24h day-night cycle. A novel photoreceptor has now been shown to be an essential component for relaying light information to a set of so-called non-visual centers in the brain. Continuous changes in light throughout the day also change us, new research suggests.

The phenomenon of prior light effects on a subsequent response to light is typical of melonopsin as well as certain photopigments of invertebrate and plant, and has been referred to as a "photic memory." Humans may therefore have an invertebrate or plant-like machinery within the eyes that participates to regulate cognition. It may also explain what human chronobiologists have described as "previous light history effects," a form of long term adaptation to previous lighting conditions.

These findings emphasize the importance of light for human cognitive brain functions and constitute compelling evidence in favor of a cognitive role for melanopsin. More generally, the continuous change of light throughout the day also changes us. Ultimately, these findings argue for the use and design of lighting systems to optimize cognitive performance.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140310152023.htm

Chronic sleep disturbance could trigger onset of Alzheimer's

March 17, 2014

Science Daily/Temple University

People who experience chronic sleep disturbance could face an earlier onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s, results from a new pre-clinical study indicate. "We can conclude from this study that chronic sleep disturbance is an environmental risk factor for Alzheimer's disease," a co-author said. "But the good news is that sleep disturbances can be easily treated, which would hopefully reduce the Alzheimer's risk."

 

"We can conclude from this study that chronic sleep disturbance is an environmental risk factor for Alzheimer's disease," he said. "But the good news is that sleep disturbances can be easily treated, which would hopefully reduce the Alzheimer's risk."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140317155205.htm

Health-care professionals should prescribe sleep to prevent metabolic disorders

March 24, 2014

Science Daily/The Lancet

Evidence increasingly suggests that insufficient or disturbed sleep is associated with metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes and obesity, and addressing poor quality sleep should be a target for the prevention -- and even treatment -- of these disorders. Addressing some types of sleep disturbance -- such as sleep apnea -- may have a directly beneficial effect on patients' metabolic health, say the authors. But a far more common problem is people simply not getting enough sleep, particularly due to the increased use of devices such as tablets and portable gaming devices.

Although a number of epidemiological studies point to a clear association between poor quality sleep and metabolic disorders, until recently, the reason for this association was not clear. However, experimental studies are starting to provide evidence that there is a direct causal link between loss of sleep and the body's ability to metabolize glucose, control food intake, and maintain its energy balance.

According to the study authors, "These findings open up new strategies for targeted interventions aimed at the present epidemic of the metabolic syndrome and related diseases. Ongoing and future studies will show whether interventions to improve sleep duration and quality can prevent or even reverse adverse metabolic traits. Meanwhile, on the basis of existing evidence, health care professionals can be safely recommended to motivate their patients to enjoy sufficient sleep at the right time of day."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140324200507.htm

Migraine attacks increase following stress 'let-down'

March 26, 2014

Science Daily/Montefiore Medical Center

Migraine sufferers who experienced reduced stress from one day to the next are at significantly increased risk of migraine onset on the subsequent day. "This study highlights the importance of stress management and healthy lifestyle habits for people who live with migraine," said a study co-author. "It is important for people to be aware of rising stress levels and attempt to relax during periods of stress rather than allowing a major build up to occur. This could include exercising or attending a yoga class or may be as simple as taking a walk or focusing on one's breath for a few minutes."

 

"This study highlights the importance of stress management and healthy lifestyle habits for people who live with migraine," said Dawn C. Buse, Ph.D., director, Behavioral Medicine, Montefiore Headache Center, associate professor, Clinical Neurology, Einstein, and study co-author. "It is important for people to be aware of rising stress levels and attempt to relax during periods of stress rather than allowing a major build up to occur. This could include exercising or attending a yoga class or may be as simple as taking a walk or focusing on one's breath for a few minutes."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140326181915.htm

Sleep may stop chronic pain sufferers from becoming zombies

March 27, 2014

Science Daily/University of Warwick

Chronic pain sufferers could be kept physically active by improving the quality of their sleep, new research suggests. The study found that sleep was a worthy target for treating chronic pain and not only as an answer to pain-related insomnia.

Considering the implications of the study Dr Tang said that "the prospect of promoting physical activity by regulating sleep may offer a novel solution to an old problem."

"The current study identified sleep quality, rather than pain and low mood, as a key driver of physical activity the next day. The finding challenges the conventional target of treatment being primarily focused on changing what patients do during the day. Sleep has a naturally recuperative power that is often overlooked in pain management. A greater treatment emphasis on sleep may help patients improve their daytime functioning and hence their quality of life" argued Dr Tang.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327101401.htm

Chronic stress in early life causes anxiety, aggression in adulthood

March 27, 2014

Science Daily/Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory

In experiments to assess the impacts of social stress upon adolescent mice, both at the time they are experienced and during adulthood, a laboratory team conducted many different kinds of stress tests and means of measuring their impacts. The research indicates that a 'hostile environment in adolescence disturbs psychoemotional state and social behaviors of animals in adult life,' the team says.

 

"The tests assessed levels of anxiety, depression, and capacity to socialize and communicate with an unfamiliar partner," explains Enikolopov. These experiments showed that in young mice chronic social defeat induced high levels of anxiety helplessness, diminished social interaction, and diminished ability to communicate with other young animals. Stressed mice also had less new nerve-cell growth (neurogenesis) in a portion of the hippocampus known to be affected in depression: the subgranular zone of the dentate gyrus.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327123654.htm

Circadian clock like an orchestra with many conductors

March 27, 2014

Science Daily/University of Michigan

You've switched to the night shift and your weight skyrockets, or you wake at 7 a.m. on weekdays but sleep until noon on weekends -- a social jet lag can fog your Saturday and Sunday. Life runs on rhythms driven by circadian clocks, and disruption of these cycles is associated with serious physical and emotional problems.

"The finding shows that instead of the entire orchestra following a single conductor, part of the orchestra is following a different conductor or not listening at all," Shafer said. The findings suggest that instead of a group of master pacemaker neurons, the clock network consists of many independent clocks, each of which drives rhythms in activity. Shafer and Yao suspect that a similar organization will be found in mammals, as well.

"A better understanding of the circadian clock mechanisms will be critical for attempts to alleviate the adverse effects associated with circadian disorders," Yao said.

Disrupting the circadian clock through shift work is associated with diabetes, obesity, stress, heart disease, mood disorders and cancer, among other disorders, Yao says. The International Agency for Research on Cancer classified shift work that disrupts circadian rhythms as a human carcinogen equal to cancer-causing ultraviolet radiation.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/03/140327142443.htm

Want spring allergy relief? Avoid stress

April 1, 2014

Science Daily/American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI)

Stress doesn’t cause allergies, but easing your mind might mean less allergy flare-ups this spring. According to a study, allergy sufferers with persistent stress experience more allergy flares. "Stress can cause several negative effects on the body, including causing more symptoms for allergy sufferers," said an allergist.

 

While there were no significant findings between allergy flares and stress on the same day, a number of sufferers reported allergy flares within days of increased daily stress. "Symptoms, such as sneezing, runny nose and watery eyes can cause added stress for allergy sufferers, and may even be the root of stress for some," said Dr. Patterson. "While alleviating stress won't cure allergies, it may help decrease episodes of intense symptoms."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140401101420.htm

Controlling brain waves to improve vision

April 24, 2014

Science Daily/Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology

A novel technique to test brain waves is being used to see how the brain processes external stimuli that do and don't reach our awareness. "When we have different things competing for our attention, we can only be aware of so much of what we see," said a researcher on the study. "For example, when you're driving, you might really be concentrating on obeying traffic signals." But say there's an unexpected event: an emergency vehicle, a pedestrian -- will you actually see the unexpected, or will you be so focused on your initial task that you don't notice?

By focusing your attention and concentrating more fully on what you are experiencing, however, the executive function of the brain can come into play and provide "top-down" control -- putting a brake on the alpha waves, thus allowing you to see things that you might have missed in a more relaxed state.

"We found that the same brain regions known to control our attention are involved in suppressing the alpha waves and improving our ability to detect hard-to-see targets," said Diane Beck, a member of the Beckman's Cognitive Neuroscience Group, and one of the study's authors.

"Knowing where the waves originate means we can target that area specifically with electrical stimulation" said Mathewson. "Or we can also give people moment-to-moment feedback, which could be used to alert drivers that they are not paying attention and should increase their focus on the road ahead, or in other situations alert students in a classroom that they need to focus more, or athletes, or pilots and equipment operators."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/04/140424170552.htm

How does stress increase risk for stroke, heart attack?

May 5, 2014

Science Daily/Elsevier

Scientists have shown that anger, anxiety, and depression not only affect the functioning of the heart, but also increase the risk for heart disease. Stroke and heart attacks are the end products of progressive damage to blood vessels supplying the heart and brain, a process called atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis progresses when there are high levels of chemicals in the body called pro-inflammatory cytokines. It is thought that persisting stress increases the risk for atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease by evoking negative emotions that, in turn, raise the levels of pro-inflammatory chemicals in the body.

"These new findings agree with the popular belief that emotions are connected to heart health," said Gianaros. "We think that the mechanistic basis for this connection may lie in the functioning of brain regions important for regulating both emotion and inflammation."

These findings may have implications for brain-based prevention and intervention efforts to improve heart health and protect against heart disease."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140505104403.htm

Stress degrades sperm quality

May 29, 2014

Science Daily/Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health

Psychological stress is harmful to sperm and semen quality, affecting its concentration, appearance, and ability to fertilize an egg, according to a study. It is not fully understood how stress affects semen quality. It may trigger the release of steroid hormones called glucocorticoids, which in turn could blunt levels of testosterone and sperm production. Another possibility is oxidative stress, which has been shown to affect semen quality and fertility.

 

"Stress has long been identified as having an influence on health. Our research suggests that men's reproductive health may also be affected by their social environment," says Teresa Janevic, PhD, the study's first author and an assistant professor at the Rutgers School of Public Health.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140529100719.htm

Sleep after learning strengthens connections between brain cells and memory

June 5, 2014

Science Daily/NYU Langone Medical Center / New York University School of Medicine

Researchers show for the first time that sleep after learning encourages the growth of dendritic spines, the tiny protrusions from brain cells that connect to other brain cells and facilitate the passage of information across synapses, the junctions at which brain cells meet.

The findings, in mice, provide important physical evidence in support of the hypothesis that sleep helps consolidate and strengthen new memories, and show for the first time how learning and sleep cause physical changes in the motor cortex, a brain region responsible for voluntary movements.

"We've known for a long time that sleep plays an important role in learning and memory. If you don't sleep well you won't learn well," says senior investigator Wen-Biao Gan, PhD, professor of neuroscience and physiology and a member of the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at NYU Langone Medical Center. "But what's the underlying physical mechanism responsible for this phenomenon? Here we've shown how sleep helps neurons form very specific connections on dendritic branches that may facilitate long-term memory. We also show how different types of learning form synapses on different branches of the same neurons, suggesting that learning causes very specific structural changes in the brain."

On the cellular level, sleep is anything but restful: Brain cells that spark as we digest new information during waking hours replay during deep sleep, also known as slow-wave sleep, when brain waves slow down and rapid-eye movement, as well as dreaming, stops. Scientists have long believed that this nocturnal replay helps us form and recall new memories, yet the structural changes underpinning this process have remained poorly understood.

To shed light on this process, Dr. Gan and colleagues employed mice genetically engineered to express a fluorescent protein in neurons. Using a special laser-scanning microscope that illuminates the glowing fluorescent proteins in the motor cortex, the scientists were then able to track and image the growth of dendritic spines along individual branches of dendrites before and after mice learned to balance on a spin rod. Over time mice learned how to balance on the rod as it gradually spun faster. "It's like learning to ride a bike," says Dr. Gan. "Once you learn it, you never forget."

After documenting that mice, in fact, sprout new spines along dendritic branches, within six hours after training on the spinning rod, the researchers set out to understand how sleep would impact this physical growth. They trained two sets of mice: one trained on the spinning rod for an hour and then slept for 7 hours; the second trained for the same period of time on the rod but stayed awake for 7 hours. The scientists found that the sleep-deprived mice experienced significantly less dendritic spine growth than the well-rested mice. Furthermore, they found that the type of task learned determined which dendritic branches spines would grow.

Running forward on the spinning rod, for instance, produced spine growth on different dendritic branches than running backward on the rod, suggesting that learning specific tasks causes specific structural changes in the brain.

"Now we know that when we learn something new, a neuron will grow new connections on a specific branch," says Dr. Gan. "Imagine a tree that grows leaves (spines) on one branch but not another branch. When we learn something new, it's like we're sprouting leaves on a specific branch."

Finally, the scientists showed that brain cells in the motor cortex that activate when mice learn a task reactivate during slow-wave deep sleep. Disrupting this process, they found, prevents dendritic spine growth. Their findings offer an important insight into the functional role of neuronal replay -- the process by which the sleeping brain rehearses tasks learned during the day -- observed in the motor cortex.

"Our data suggest that neuronal reactivation during sleep is quite important for growing specific connections within the motor cortex," Dr. Gan adds.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605141849.htm

Couples sleep in sync when wife is satisfied with their marriage

June 5, 2014

Science Daily/American Academy of Sleep Medicine

Couples are more likely to sleep in sync when the wife is more satisfied with their marriage. Results show that overall synchrony in sleep-wake schedules among couples was high, as those who slept in the same bed were awake or asleep at the same time about 75 percent of the time. When the wife reported higher marital satisfaction, the percent of time the couple was awake or asleep at the same time was greater.

 

"The sleep of married couples is more in sync on a minute-by-minute basis than the sleep of random individuals," said Gunn. "This suggests that our sleep patterns are regulated not only by when we sleep, but also by with whom we sleep."

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140605141857.htm

 

Insomnia: Sleep loss causes brain vulnerability to toxic elements

June 10, 2014

Science Daily/Investigación y Desarrollo

In search of the answer to why do we sleep, researcher have now revealed that chronic sleep loss can cause certain neurotoxic molecules, which normally circulate in the blood, to be transported to the central nervous system and interfere with the function of neurons. The longer the insomnia, the more junctions of cerebral blood vessels begin to degrade.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140610101316.htm

Poor cardiovascular health linked to memory, learning deficits

June 11, 2014

Science Daily/American Heart Association

People with poor cardiovascular health have a substantially higher incidence of cognitive impairment. Better cardiovascular health was more common in men and among people with higher education and higher income. The incidence of mental impairment was found more commonly in those with a lower income, who lived in the 'stroke belt' or had cardiovascular disease.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140611170956.htm

Hand shiatsu treatment explored as sleep aid

June 17, 2014
Science Daily/University of Alberta
Self-administered shiatsu is being explored as sleep treatment for patients with chronic pain. Researchers are exploring the traditional Japanese massage practice called shiatsu as a potential treatment to help patients with chronic pain find slumber -- and stay asleep. A small pilot study followed nine people living with chronic pain as they self-administered shiatsu pressure techniques on their hands at bedtime.

"One of the barriers to falling asleep for people who have pain is they worry about what's going to happen and while you're laying there you're thinking about all these negative things, it occupies your attention," Brown says. "This relates to research on attention in cognitive theory."

The pilot was an attempt to explore low-cost, unintimidating alternatives to drugs to help people with chronic pain fall asleep, noting medication is seldom recommended for long-term use. Brown collaborated on the project with shiatsu therapist Leisa Bellmore of the Artists' Health Centre at Toronto Western Hospital and U of A colleague Geoff Bostick.

For patients suffering from chronic pain due to low-back and other musculoskeletal injuries, the only thing that matters is finding results that work, Brown says. Not only does sleep deprivation lower a person's pain threshold, it also affects their health, from increased risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and traffic accidents.

More research is needed in foundational areas to break the cycle, she adds. "If you have insomnia, you face a higher risk of experiencing chronic pain. If you have chronic pain, you're not going to get as much sleep."
http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/06/140617121952.htm

 

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