Six new genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s found

Using data from over 18,000 patients, scientists have identified more than two dozen genetic risk factors involved in Parkinson’s disease, including six that had not been previously reported. The study, published in Nature Genetics, was partially funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and led by scientists working in NIH laboratories.”Unraveling the genetic underpinnings of Parkinson’s is vital to understanding the multiple mechanisms involved in this complex disease, and hopefully, may one day lead to effective therapies,” said Andrew Singleton, Ph.D., a scientist at the NIH’s National Institute on Aging (NIA) and senior author of the study.Dr. Singleton and his colleagues collected and combined data from existing genome-wide association studies (GWAS), which allow scientists to find common variants, or subtle differences, in the genetic codes of large groups of individuals. The combined data included approximately 13,708 Parkinson’s disease cases and 95,282 controls, all of European ancestry.The investigators identified potential genetic risk variants, which increase the chances that a person may develop Parkinson’s disease. Their results suggested that the more variants a person has, the greater the risk, up to three times higher, for developing the disorder in some cases.”The study brought together a large international group of investigators from both public and private institutions who were interested in sharing data to accelerate the discovery of genetic risk factors for Parkinson’s disease,” said Margaret Sutherland, Ph.D., a program director at the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of NIH. “The advantage of this collaborative approach is highlighted in the identification of pathways and gene networks that may significantly increase our understanding of Parkinson’s disease.”To obtain the data, the researchers collaborated with multiple public and private organizations, including the U.S. Department of Defense, the Michael J. Fox Foundation, 23andMe and many international investigators.Affecting millions of people worldwide, Parkinson’s disease is a degenerative disorder that causes movement problems, including trembling of the hands, arms, or legs, stiffness of limbs and trunk, slowed movements and problems with posture. Over time, patients may have difficulty walking, talking, or completing other simple tasks. Although nine genes have been shown to cause rare forms of Parkinson’s disease, scientists continue to search for genetic risk factors to provide a complete genetic picture of the disorder.The researchers confirmed the results in another sample of subjects, including 5,353 patients and 5,551 controls. …

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Inspiration linked to bipolar disorder risk

Inspiration has been linked with people at risk of developing bipolar disorder for the first time in a study led by Lancaster University.For generations, artists, musicians, poets and writers have described personal experiences of mania and depression, highlighting the unique association between creativity and bipolar disorder — experiences which are backed up by recent research. But, until now, the specific links between inspiration — the generation of ideas that form the basis of creative work — and bipolar disorder has received little attention.New research by Professor by Steven Jones and Dr Alyson Dodd, of Lancaster University, and Dr June Gruber at Yale University, has shown people at higher risk for developing bipolar disorder consistently report stronger experiences of inspiration than those at lower risk.The paper ‘Development and Validation of a New Multidimensional Measure of Inspiration: Associations with Risk for Bipolar Disorder’, published in PLOS One this week, found a specific link between those people who found their source of inspiration within themselves and risk for bipolar disorder.Professor Jones, co-director of Lancaster University’s Spectrum Centre, said: “It appears that the types of inspiration most related to bipolar vulnerability are those which are self-generated and linked with strong drive for success.”Understanding more about inspiration is important because it is a key aspect of creativity which is highly associated with mental health problems, in particular bipolar disorder. People with bipolar disorder highly value creativity as a positive aspect of their condition. This is relevant to clinicians, as people with bipolar disorder may be unwilling to engage with treatments and therapies which compromise their creativity.”As part of the study, 835 undergraduate students were recruited to complete online questionnaires from both Yale University in the U.S. and Lancaster University in the U.K.They were asked to complete a questionaire which measured their bipolar risk using a widely-used and well-validated 48-item measure which captures episodic shifts in emotion, behaviour, and energy called The Hypomanic Personality Scale (HPS).They also completed a new questionnaire developed by the team which was designed to explore beliefs about inspiration, in particular the sources of inspiration — whether individuals thought it came from within themselves, from others or the wider environment. This measure was called the the EISI (External and Internal Sources of Inspiration) measure.The students who scored highly for a risk of bipolar also consistently scored more highly than the others for levels of inspiration and for inspiration which they judged to have come from themselves.Researchers say, although this pattern was consistent, the effect sizes were relatively modest so, although inspiration and bipolar risk are linked, it is important to explore other variables to get a fuller picture and to conduct further research with individuals with a clinical diagnosis of bipolar disorder.The research team is currently inviting UK-based individuals with a diagnosis of bipolar disorder to take part in an online survey exploring associations between inspiration, mood and recovery. Go to: www.thinkingstyle.spectrumdevelopment.org.uk.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Lancaster University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Seven-Year Compensation Battle for Man Injured by Bus

Home » No Win No Fee » Latest Personal Injury News » 2014 » 3 » Seven-Year Compensation Battle for Man Injured by BusSeven-Year Compensation Battle for Man Injured by BusCorey Wilson, a 21-year-old from the Croydon area, was seriously injured during a bus accident almost seven years ago and he and his family have since been fighting for appropriate compensation for the effects the event has had on his life.Bus AccidentMr Wilson was boarding a double-decker Arriva bus in May 2007 when it pulled away from the stop, resulting in his sleeve getting caught in the door and him being dragged underneath it, the Croydon Guardian reports.Passengers on the bus had to help lift the vehicle up to free Mr Wilson, who was immediately rushed to hospital, where he was required to spend two months, missing vital schooling.For the past seven years, Mr Wilson has suffered extensively, both physically and mentally.InjuriesWith regard to physical injuries, Mr Wilson broke his leg, fractured his ankle and suffered from a life-threatening brain trauma, which has resulted in him experiencing bouts of amnesia, as well as post-traumatic stress disorder.During the ambulance journey to hospital following the accident, Mr Wilson’s heart stopped and he had to be resuscitated by paramedics. He still has problems sleeping and requires constant care. Barbara Malcolm, Mr Wilson’s mother, told the Croydon Guardian, “Before the accident he had ADHD, but nothing else. Now he has all these problems. It has been seven years and still we have nothing. I am here for Corey 24/7 because he is in so much pain and on so much medication.”The AftermathMr Wilson is now required to take seven different types of medication each day and his mother has had to leave her job organising after-school activities to look after him full-time.He is now unable to take part in sports, which he loved to do prior to the accident, and has found his wellbeing severely affected.Mr Wilson said, “I can’t stand up for long because I get light-headed. I used to do boxing, tennis and football but now I find it hard to run. I’m anti-social now. I don’t go out much anymore.”He added he has suffered from feelings of depression due to being practically house-bound and has been unable to follow his childhood ambition of becoming either an electrician or a construction worker.’Unreasonable’ Compensation OfferAfter fighting for suitable compensation over a six-year period, Arriva finally offered Mrs Malcolm and her son a settlement of £10,000.However, she says this is nowhere near enough for the damage inflicted on her son’s life, despite the family facing a constant daily struggle.She said, “Sometimes I feel like giving up.”Despite this, Mrs Malcolm is continuing to negotiate with Arriva over the injuries sustained by her son as she believes a lack of concentration by the driver of the bus caused Mr Wilson to almost die.Compensation Battle ContinuesSpeaking to the Croydon Guardian, a spokesman for Arriva said, “Communication between Corey Wilson’s lawyer and our representatives is ongoing and with the matter being a legal case we cannot comment any further.”Or Call freephone 0800 884 0321SHARE THIS

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3-D imaging sheds light on Apert syndrome development

Three dimensional imaging of two different mouse models of Apert Syndrome shows that cranial deformation begins before birth and continues, worsening with time, according to a team of researchers who studied mice to better understand and treat the disorder in humans.Apert Syndrome is caused by mutations in FGFR2 — fibroblast growth factor receptor 2 — a gene, which usually produces a protein that functions in cell division, regulation of cell growth and maturation, formation of blood vessels, wound healing, and embryonic development. With certain mutations, this gene causes the bones in the skull to fuse together early, beginning in the fetus. These mutations also cause mid-facial deformation, a variety of neural, limb and tissue malformations and may lead to cognitive impairment.Understanding the growth pattern of the head in an individual, the ability to anticipate where the bones will fuse and grow next, and using simulations “could contribute to improved patient-centered outcomes either through changes in surgical approach, or through more realistic modeling and expectation of surgical outcome,” the researchers said in today’s (Feb. 28) issue of BMC Developmental Biology.Joan T. Richtsmeier, Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, Penn State, and her team looked at two sets of mice, each having a different mutation that causes Apert Syndrome in humans and causes similar cranial problems in the mice. They checked bone formation and the fusing of sutures, soft tissue that usually exists between bones n the skull, in the mice at 17.5 days after conception and at birth — 19 to 21 days after conception.”It would be difficult, actually impossible, to observe and score the exact processes and timing of abnormal suture closure in humans as the disease is usually diagnosed after suture closure has occurred,” said Richtsmeier. “With these mice, we can do this at the anatomical level by visualizing the sutures prenatally using micro-computed tomography — 3-D X-rays — or at the mechanistic level by using immunohistochemistry, or other approaches to see what the cells are doing as the sutures close.”The researchers found that both sets of mice differed in cranial formation from their littermates that were not carrying the mutation and that they differed from each other. They also found that the changes in suture closure in the head progressed from 17.5 days to birth, so that the heads of newborn mice looked very different at birth than they did when first imaged prenatally.Apert syndrome also causes early closure of the sutures between bones in the face. Early fusion of bones of the skull and of the face makes it impossible for the head to grow in the typical fashion. The researchers found that the changed growth pattern contributes significantly to continuing skull deformation and facial deformation that is initiated prenatally and increases over time.”Currently, the only option for people with Apert syndrome is rather significant reconstructive surgery, sometimes successive planned surgeries that occur throughout infancy and childhood and into adulthood,” said Richtsmeier. …

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Growing number of chemicals linked with brain disorders in children

Toxic chemicals may be triggering the recent increases in neurodevelopmental disabilities among children — such as autism, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, and dyslexia — according to a new study from Harvard School of Public Health (HSPH) and Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai. The researchers say a new global prevention strategy to control the use of these substances is urgently needed.The report will be published online February 15, 2014 in Lancet Neurology.”The greatest concern is the large numbers of children who are affected by toxic damage to brain development in the absence of a formal diagnosis. They suffer reduced attention span, delayed development, and poor school performance. Industrial chemicals are now emerging as likely causes,” said Philippe Grandjean, adjunct professor of environmental health at HSPH.The report follows up on a similar review conducted by the authors in 2006 that identified five industrial chemicals as “developmental neurotoxicants,” or chemicals that can cause brain deficits. The new study offers updated findings about those chemicals and adds information on six newly recognized ones, including manganese, fluoride, chlorpyrifos and DDT (pesticides), tetrachloroethylene (a solvent), and the polybrominated diphenyl ethers (flame retardants).The study outlines possible links between these newly recognized neurotoxicants and negative health effects on children, including:Manganese is associated with diminished intellectual function and impaired motor skills Solvents are linked to hyperactivity and aggressive behavior Certain types of pesticides may cause cognitive delays Grandjean and co-author Philip Landrigan, Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai, also forecast that many more chemicals than the known dozen or so identified as neurotoxicants contribute to a “silent pandemic” of neurobehavioral deficits that is eroding intelligence, disrupting behaviors, and damaging societies. But controlling this pandemic is difficult because of a scarcity of data to guide prevention and the huge amount of proof needed for government regulation. “Very few chemicals have been regulated as a result of developmental neurotoxicity,” they write.The authors say it’s crucial to control the use of these chemicals to protect children’s brain development worldwide. They propose mandatory testing of industrial chemicals and the formation of a new international clearinghouse to evaluate industrial chemicals for potential developmental neurotoxicity.”The problem is international in scope, and the solution must therefore also be international,” said Grandjean. “We have the methods in place to test industrial chemicals for harmful effects on children’s brain development — now is the time to make that testing mandatory.”Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Harvard School of Public Health. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

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Uncovering the drivers of honey bee colony declines and losses

Scientists have announced the results of research conducted on honey bee colony declines and the factors attributed to honey bee losses. In a paper published this week in the journal EcoHealth, scientists at EcoHealth Alliance investigated the causes of long-term declines of colony numbers and annual colony losses. The work shows that socioeconomic and political pressures on honey production over the past few decades has caused a long-term reduction in the number of colonies in production in the USA, Europe and many other countries. However, more recently honey bee managers have reported increased losses in their stocks each year (so-called ‘annual colony losses’), and the new research shows that pests, pathogens and management issues likely play a major role in this, and are under researched and poorly understood drivers.Honey bees provide ecosystem services through pollination of crops worth $215 billion annually worldwide. Concern over honey bee declines in recent decades as well as annual losses has sparked debate over their causes and has led to hypotheses that a specific novel syndrome ‘Colony Collapse Disorder’ (CCD) is plaguing bee populations. Many scientists have proposed new drivers such as pollution from pesticides as the cause of these declines. EcoHealth Alliance conducted an in-depth, critical review of the science behind these declines and losses and have shown that:1. The long-term multi-decadal downward trend in the number of bee colonies in many countries reflects a reduction in the profitability of bee keeping due to economic and/or political change, with many bee keepers leaving the profession;2. Data on annual losses is sparse and collected in a non-uniform way that makes comparing the extent and potential cause of losses to those in previous years difficult3. That there are significant inconsistencies with the way researchers (and thus potentially bee keepers) define CCD, suggesting that it may be over-reported; and4. …

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Autistic brains create more information at rest, study show

New research from Case Western Reserve University and University of Toronto neuroscientists finds that the brains of autistic children generate more information at rest — a 42% increase on average. The study offers a scientific explanation for the most typical characteristic of autism — withdrawal into one’s own inner world. The excess production of information may explain a child’s detachment from their environment.Published at the end of December in Frontiers in Neuroinformatics, this study is a follow-up to the authors’ prior finding that brain connections are different in autistic children. This paper determined that the differences account for the increased complexity within their brains.”Our results suggest that autistic children are not interested in social interactions because their brains generate more information at rest, which we interpret as more introspection in line with early descriptions of the disorder,” said Roberto Fernndez Galn, PhD, senior author and associate professor of neurosciences at Case Western Reserve School of Medicine.The authors quantified information as engineers normally do but instead of applying it to signals in electronic devices, they applied it to brain activity recorded with magnetoencephalography (MEG). They showed that autistic children’s brains at rest generate more information than non-autistic children. This may explain their lack of interest in external stimuli, including interactions with other people.The researchers also quantified interactions between brain regions, i.e., the brain’s functional connectivity, and determined the inputs to the brain in the resting state allowing them to interpret the children’s introspection level.”This is a novel interpretation because it is a different attempt to understand the children’s cognition by analyzing their brain activity,” said Jos L. Prez Velzquez, PhD, first author and professor of neuroscience at University of Toronto Institute of Medical Science and Department of Pediatrics, Brain and Behavior Center. “Measuring cognitive processes is not trivial; yet, our findings indicate that this can be done to some extent with well-established mathematical tools from physics and engineering.”This study provides quantitative support for the relatively new “Intense World Theory” of autism proposed by neuroscientists Henry and Kamila Markram of the Brain Mind Institute in Switzerland, which describes the disorder as the result of hyper-functioning neural circuitry, leading to a state of over-arousal. More generally, the work of Galn and Prez Velzquez is an initial step in the investigation of how information generation in the brain relates to cognitive/psychological traits and will begin to frame neurophysiological data into psychological aspects. The team now aims to apply a similar approach to patients with schizophrenia.Story Source:The above story is based on materials provided by Case Western Reserve University. …

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Theatre offers promise for youth with autism

Oct. 22, 2013 — A novel autism intervention program using theatre to teach reciprocal communication skills is improving social deficits in adolescents with the disorder that now affects an estimated one in 88 children, Vanderbilt University researchers released today in the journal Autism Research.The newly released study assessed the effectiveness of a two-week theatre camp on children with autism spectrum disorder and found significant improvements were made in social perception, social cognition and home living skills by the end of the camp. There were also positive changes in the participants’ physiological stress and reductions in self-reported parental stress.Called SENSE Theatre, the Social Emotional Neuroscience & Endocrinology (SENSE) program evaluates the social functioning of children with autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders.Camp participants ages 8 to 17 years join with typically developing peers who are specially trained to serve as models for social interaction and communication, skills that are difficult for children with autism. The camp uses techniques such as role-play and improvisation and culminates in public performances of a play.”The findings show that treatment can be delivered in an unconventional setting, and children with autism can learn from unconventional ‘interventionists’ — their typically developing peer,” said lead author Blythe Corbett, Ph.D., associate professor of Psychiatry and Vanderbilt Kennedy Center investigator.Social perception and interaction skills were measured before and after the camp using neuropsychological measures, play with peers and parental reporting. Significant differences were found in face processing, social awareness and social cognition, and duration of interaction with familiar peers increased significantly over the course of the camp.Additionally, the stress hormone cortisol was measured through saliva samples taken both at home and throughout the camp to compare the stress level of participants at home, at the beginning of the camp and at the end of the camp. Cortisol levels rose on the first day of camp when compared to home values but declined by the end of treatment and during post-treatment play with peers.”Our findings show that the SENSE Theatre program contributes to improvement in core social deficits when engaging with peers both on and off the stage,” Corbett said. “This research also shows it’s never too late to make a significant difference in the lives of children and youth with autism spectrum disorder, as [this program] targets children who are much older than kids who are participating in early intervention, yet we are still seeing significant gains in the core deficits of autism, and in a rather brief intervention.”This research was supported by the Martin McCoy-Jesperson Discovery Grant in Positive Psychology and a grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. R01 MH085717).Corbett will continue using theatre techniques to study areas of social functioning among children with autism through a newly awarded grant from the National Institute of Mental Health (Grant No. R34 MH097793). This forthcoming study will explore treatment length and peer familiarity as factors in optimizing and generalizing gains and will enroll more than 30 youth with autism ages 8 to 16 in a 10-week program model beginning January 2014.

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New Harm Reduction Measure: Medication to Fight HIV Transmission in IDUs

New Harm Reduction Measure: Medication to Fight HIV Transmission in IDUsOctober 2nd 2013 | By: Staff | Posted In: Drugs and Alcohol, Recent NewsA treatment called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has proven to be a significant assistance in protecting those individuals who use needles to inject drugs, also known as intravenous drug users, or IDUs. Addicts who utilize needles are at continual risk for a myriad of diseases, including HIV.A study conducted with 2,400 drug users in Bangkok, Thailand concluded that those individuals who ingested tenofovir pills or the PrEP treatment on a daily basis decreased their chance of acquiring the HIV virus by 74 percent. The exciting findings from this study will likely lead to other studies on the safety and validity of the PrEP treatment in acting …

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Five-fold increase in ADHD medication use in children and adolescents

Sep. 10, 2013 — Use of stimulant medications to treat Attention-Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) in children and adolescents has increased significantly over the past several years. This trend toward increased use of prescription stimulants extends beyond ADHD to other types of neuropsychiatric disorders in children and teens as well, including Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), according to a study published in Journal of Child and Adolescent Psychopharmacology.Share This:Søren Dalsgaard, MD, PhD, Helena Skyt Nielsen, PhD, and Marianne Simonsen, PhD, Aarhus University (Denmark), Lundbeck Foundation Initiative for Integrative Psychiatric Research (Denmark), and Hospital of Telemark (Norway), conducted a study of more than 850,000 children born in Denmark between 1990 and 2001. They found that 61% of children with ADHD, 16% of children with ASD, and 3% of those with other psychiatric disorders were treated with one or more medications typically prescribed for ADHD—methylphenidate, dexamphetamine, and atomoxetine. The data indicated significant increases in the prescription rates of these medications during the years 2003 to 2010.”This study utilizes a population-based national cohort of children and adolescents, and assesses stimulant treatment in children and adolescents with ASD,” says Harold S. Koplewicz, MD, Editor-in-Chief of JCAP, and President, Child Mind Institute, New York, NY. “This is the largest and first prospective study to quantify the change in the use of treatment with ADHD medications over time.”Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:|Story Source: The above story is based on materials provided by Mary Ann Liebert, Inc., Publishers. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above. Journal Reference:Søren Dalsgaard, Helena Skyt Nielsen, Marianne Simonsen. …

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Temperature in the quantum world

Sep. 9, 2013 — How does a classical temperature form in the quantum world? An experiment at the Vienna University of Technology has directly observed the emergence and the spreading of a temperature in a quantum system. Remarkably, the quantum properties are lost, even though the quantum system is completely isolated and not connected to the outside world. The experimental results are being published in this week’s issue of Nature Physics.Quantum and Classical Physics: From the Microscopic to the Macroscopic WorldThe connection between the microscopic world of quantum physics and our everyday experience, which is concerned with much larger objects, still remains puzzling. When a quantum system is measured, it is inevitably disturbed and some of its quantum properties are lost.A cloud of atoms, for example, can be prepared in such away that each atom is simultaneously located at two different places, forming a perfect quantum superposition. As soon as the location of the atoms is measured, however, this superposition is destroyed. All that is left are atoms sitting at some well-defined places. They behave just as classical objects would.In this case, the transition from quantum behavior to classical behavior is initiated by the measurement — a contact with the outside world. But what happens, if a quantum system is not influenced from the outside at all? …

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Maternal posttraumatic stress disorder associated with increased risk for child maltreatment

Sep. 2, 2013 — Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in mothers appears to be associated with an increased risk for child maltreatment beyond that associated with maternal depression, according to a study published by JAMA Pediatrics, a JAMA Network publication.The psychopathology of a caregiver is understood to be an important risk factor for child maltreatment and maternal depression is associated with an increased use of corporal punishment and physical abuse of children. Until recently, research on maternal depression and maltreatment risk has largely ignored the high rate of comorbidity between depression and PTSD. The National Comorbidity Survey suggests that 24.7 percent of depressed women have PTSD and that 48.4 of women with PTSD have depression, according to the study background.Claude M. Chemtob, Ph.D., of the NYU School of Medicine, and colleagues examined the association of probable maternal depression, PTSD and comorbid PTSD and depression with the risk for child maltreatment and parenting stress and with the number of traumatic events that preschool children are exposed to.The study included 97 mothers of children ages 3 to 5 years old. About half of the children were boys.The children of mothers with PTSD (mean number of events the child was exposed to, 5) or with comorbid PTSD and depression (3.5 events) experienced more traumatic events than those of mothers with depression (1.2 events) or neither disorder (1.4 events). When PTSD symptom severity scores were high, psychological aggression and the number of traumatic events children experienced increased. Depressive symptom severity scores also were associated with the risk for psychological aggression and exposure to traumatic events only when PTSD symptom severity scores were low, according to the study results.”Mothers in the comorbid group reported the highest levels of physically and psychologically abusive behaviors and overall parenting stress. Although not statistically significant, mothers with depression alone showed a trend toward endorsing more physically abusive and neglectful parenting behaviors,” the study concludes. “Given the high comorbidity between PTSD and depression, these findings suggest the importance of measuring PTSD symptoms when considering the relationship between depression and increased risk for child maltreatment.”

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Potential cause of autism discovered

Aug. 28, 2013 — Problems with a key group of enzymes called topoisomerases can have profound effects on the genetic machinery behind brain development and potentially lead to autism spectrum disorder (ASD), according to research announced today in the journal Nature. Scientists at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine have described a finding that represents a significant advance in the hunt for environmental factors behind autism and lends new insights into the disorder’s genetic causes.”Our study shows the magnitude of what can happen if topoisomerases are impaired,” said senior study author Mark Zylka, PhD, associate professor in the Neuroscience Center and the Department of Cell Biology and Physiology at UNC. “Inhibiting these enzymes has the potential to profoundly affect neurodevelopment — perhaps even more so than having a mutation in any one of the genes that have been linked to autism.”The study could have important implications for ASD detection and prevention.”This could point to an environmental component to autism,” said Zylka. “A temporary exposure to a topoisomerase inhibitor in utero has the potential to have a long-lasting effect on the brain, by affecting critical periods of brain development. “This study could also explain why some people with mutations in topoisomerases develop autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders.Topiosomerases are enzymes found in all human cells. Their main function is to untangle DNA when it becomes overwound, a common occurrence that can interfere with key biological processes.Most of the known topoisomerase-inhibiting chemicals are used as chemotherapy drugs. Zylka said his team is searching for other compounds that have similar effects in nerve cells. “If there are additional compounds like this in the environment, then it becomes important to identify them,” said Zylka. “That’s really motivating us to move quickly to identify other drugs or environmental compounds that have similar effects — so that pregnant women can avoid being exposed to these compounds.”Zylka and his colleagues stumbled upon the discovery quite by accident while studying topotecan, a topoisomerase-inhibiting drug that is used in chemotherapy. …

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Video games do not make vulnerable teens more violent

Aug. 26, 2013 — Do violent video games such as ‘Mortal Kombat,’ ‘Halo’ and ‘Grand Theft Auto’ trigger teenagers with symptoms of depression or attention deficit disorder to become aggressive bullies or delinquents? No, according to Christopher Ferguson of Stetson University and independent researcher Cheryl Olson from the US in a study published in Springer’s Journal of Youth and Adolescence. On the contrary, the researchers found that the playing of such games actually had a very slight calming effect on youths with attention deficit symptoms and helped to reduce their aggressive and bullying behavior.Share This:Ferguson and Olson studied 377 American children, on average 13 years of age, from various ethnic groups who had clinically elevated attention deficit or depressive symptoms. The children were part of an existing large federally funded project that examines the effect of video game violence on youths.The study is important in light of ongoing public debate as to whether or not violent video games fuel behavioral aggression and societal violence among youths, especially among those with pre-existing mental health problems. Societal violence includes behavior such as bullying, physical fighting, criminal assaults and even homicide. And the news media often draws a link from the playing of violent video games to the perpetrators of school shootings in the United States.Ferguson and Olson’s findings do not support the popular belief that violent video games increase aggression in youth who have a predisposition to mental health problems. The researchers found no association between the playing of violent video games and subsequent increased delinquent criminality or bullying in children with either clinically elevated depressive or attention deficit symptoms. Their findings are in line with those of a recent Secret Service report in which the occurrence of more general forms of youth violence were linked with aggressiveness and stress rather than with video game violence.Interestingly, the researchers of the current study found a few instances in which video game violence actually had a slight cathartic effect on children with elevated attention deficit symptoms and helped to reduce their aggressive tendencies and bullying behavior. Although Ferguson and Olson warned that their results could not be generalized to extreme cases such as mass homicides, they strongly advocate for a change in general perceptions about the influence of violent video games, even within the context of children with elevated mental health symptoms.”We found no evidence that violent video games increase bullying or delinquent behavior among vulnerable youth with clinically elevated mental health symptoms,” Ferguson stressed. …

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Potential molecular defense against Huntington’s disease

Aug. 25, 2013 — Leicester geneticists have discovered a potential defence against Huntington’s disease — a fatal neurodegenerative disorder which currently has no cure.The team of University of Leicester researchers identified that glutathione peroxidase activity — a key antioxidant in cells — protects against symptoms of the disease in model organisms.They hope that the enzyme activity — whose protective ability was initially observed in model organisms such as yeast — can be further developed and eventually used to treat people with the genetically-inherited disease.The disease affects around 12 people per 100,000.Their paper, Glutathione peroxidase activity is neuroprotective in models of Huntington’s disease, was published in Nature Genetics on 25 August.A team of experts from the University’s Department of Genetics carried out research for more than six years to identify new potential drug targets for the disease.They used model systems, such as baker’s yeast, fruit flies, and cultured mammalian cells to help uncover potential mechanisms underlying disease at the cellular level.They initially screened a genome-wide collection of yeast genes and found several candidates which protected against Huntington’s related symptoms in yeast. They then validated their findings in fruit flies and mammalian cells.They found that glutathione peroxidase activity is robustly protective in these models of Huntington’s disease.Importantly, there are drug-like compounds available that mimic this activity that have already been tested in human clinical trials for other disorders — which potentially means the approach could be used to treat people with the disease.The team now aim to further validate the observations regarding glutathione peroxidase activity, in order to understand whether this could have therapeutic relevance for Huntington’s.In addition, they have identified many additional genes that are protective — and aim to further explore these to see if there are any additional therapeutic possibilities suggested by their research.Dr Flaviano Giorgini, Reader in Neurogenetics of the University’s Department of Genetics and senior author of the paper, said: “We are taking advantage of genetic approaches in simple model organisms in order to better understand Huntington’s disease, with the aim of uncovering novel ways to treat this devastating disorder.”It appears that glutathione peroxidase activity is a robustly protective antioxidant approach which may have relevance for Huntington’s disease.”Dr Robert Mason, Research Associate in the Department of Genetics, and first author of the study, said: “In addition to glutathione peroxidase, this study has identified many genes that improve Huntington’s ‘symptoms’ in yeast. These genes provide valuable information on the underlying mechanisms leading to Huntington’s, and further study will likely uncover additional approaches that could be beneficial in treating this terrible disease.”Dr Giorgini stated: “We are excited by the work because it uncovers a potential new route for therapeutics in Huntington’s disease. I am also proud that all of this work has been conducted at the Department of Genetics at the University of Leicester.”The study was performed in collaboration with Prof Charalambos Kyriacou, also of the Department of Genetics at Leicester. Massimiliano Casu, Nicola Butler, Dr Carlo Breda, Dr Susanna Campesan, Dr Jannine Clapp, Dr Edward Green and Devyani Dhulkhed also contributed to the research study.The research was primarily funded by CHDI Foundation and the Huntington’s Disease Association.

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Omega-3 reduces ADHD symptoms in rats

Aug. 23, 2013 — A new multidisciplinary study shows a clear connection between the intake of omega-3 fatty acids and a decline in ADHD symptoms in rats.Researchers at the University of Oslo have observed the behaviour of rats and have analyzed biochemical processes in their brains. The results show a clear improvement in ADHD-related behaviour from supplements of omega-3 fatty acids, as well as a faster turnover of the signal substances dopamine, serotonin and glutamate in the nervous system. There are, however, clear sex differences: a better effect from omega-3 fatty acids is achieved in male rats than in female.Unknown biology behind ADHDCurrently the psychiatric diagnosis ADHD (Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder) is purely based on behavioural criteria, while the molecular genetic background for the illness is largely unknown. The new findings indicate that ADHD has a biological component and that the intake of omega-3 may influence ADHD symptoms.”In some research environments it is controversial to suggest that ADHD has something to do with biology. But we have without a doubt found molecular changes in the brain after rats with ADHD were given omega-3,” says Ivar Walaas, Professor of Biochemistry.The fact that omega-3 can reduce ADHD behaviour in rats has also been indicated in previous international studies. What is unique about the study in question is a multidisciplinarity that has not previously been seen, with contributions from behavioural science in medicine as well as from psychology, nutritional science and biochemistry.Hyperactive ratsThe rats used in the study are called SHR rats — spontaneously hypertensive rats. Although this is primarily a common type of rat, random mutations in their genes have resulted in genetic damage that produces high blood pressure. It is therefore first and foremost blood-pressure researchers who have so far been interested in these rats.However, the rats do not suffer from high blood pressure until they have reached puberty. Before that age they present totally different symptoms — namely hyperactivity, poor ability to concentrate and impulsiveness. …

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Brain size may signal risk of developing an eating disorder

Aug. 22, 2013 — New research indicates that teens with anorexia nervosa have bigger brains than teens that do not have the eating disorder. That is according to a study by researchers at the University of Colorado’s School of Medicine that examined a group of adolescents with anorexia nervosa and a group without. They found that girls with anorexia nervosa had a larger insula, a part of the brain that is active when we taste food, and a larger orbitofrontal cortex, a part of the brain that tells a person when to stop eating.Guido Frank, MD, assistant professor of psychiatry and neuroscience at CU School of Medicine, and his colleagues report that the bigger brain may be the reason people with anorexia are able to starve themselves. Similar results in children with anorexia nervosa and in adults who had recovered from the disease, raise the possibility that insula and orbitofrontal cortex brain size could predispose a person to develop eating disorders.”While eating disorders are often triggered by the environment, there are most likely biological mechanisms that have to come together for an individual to develop an eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa,” Frank says.The researchers recruited 19 adolescent girls with anorexia nervosa and 22 in a control group and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to study brain volumes. Individuals with anorexia nervosa showed greater left orbitofrontal, right insular, and bilateral temporal cortex gray matter compared to the control group. In individuals with anorexia nervosa, orbitofrontal gray matter volume related negatively with sweet tastes. An additional comparison of this study group with adults with anorexia nervosa and a healthy control group supported greater orbitofrontal cortex and insula volumes in the disorder across this age group as well.The medial orbitofrontal cortex has been associated with signaling when we feel satiated by a certain type of food (so called “sensory specific satiety”). This study suggests that larger volume in this brain area could be a trait across eating disorders that promotes these individuals to stop eating faster than in healthy individuals, before eating enough.The right insula is a region that processes taste, as well as integrates body perception and this could contribute to the perception of being fat despite being underweight.This study is complementary to another that found adults with anorexia and individuals who had recovered from this illness also had differences in brain size, previously published in the American Journal of Psychiatry, 2013.This study was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, July 22, 2013.

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Iron is at core of Alzheimer’s disease, study suggests

Aug. 20, 2013 — Alzheimer’s disease has proven to be a difficult enemy to defeat. After all, aging is the No. 1 risk factor for the disorder, and there’s no stopping that.Most researchers believe the disease is caused by one of two proteins, one called tau, the other beta-amyloid. As we age, most scientists say, these proteins either disrupt signaling between neurons or simply kill them.Now, a new UCLA study suggests a third possible cause: iron accumulation.Dr. George Bartzokis, a professor of psychiatry at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA and senior author of the study, and his colleagues looked at two areas of the brain in patients with Alzheimer’s. They compared the hippocampus, which is known to be damaged early in the disease, and the thalamus, an area that is generally not affected until the late stages. Using sophisticated brain-imaging techniques, they found that iron is increased in the hippocampus and is associated with tissue damage in that area. But increased iron was not found in the thalamus.The research appears in the August edition of the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.While most Alzheimer’s researchers focus on the buildup of tau or beta-amyloid that results in the signature plaques associated with the disease, Bartzokis has long argued that the breakdown begins much further “upstream.” The destruction of myelin, the fatty tissue that coats nerve fibers in the brain, he says, disrupts communication between neurons and promotes the buildup of the plaques. These amyloid plaques in turn destroy more and more myelin, disrupting brain signaling and leading to cell death and the classic clinical signs of Alzheimer’s.Myelin is produced by cells called oligodendrocytes. …

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Preferred play for children with autism

Aug. 16, 2013 — Play is critical to children’s development, including children with autism spectrum disorders (ASD). Kathy Ralabate Doody, assistant professor of exceptional education at SUNY Buffalo State, observed different play options to determine those most likely to appeal to children with ASD.The findings were published in the North American Journal of Medicine and Science.”Children with ASD chose to engage in play that provided strong sensory feedback, cause-and-effect results, and repetitive motions,” said Doody.One novel aspect of the research, conducted by Doody with Jana Mertz, program coordinator at the Autism Spectrum Disorder Center at the Women & Children’s Hospital of Buffalo, was that the children with ASD could freely select their preferred activities. The research was conducted at a monthly event, “Au-some Evening,” at Explore & More, a children’s museum with exhibits that are designed to engage children through play. The event is open to children with ASD, their families, and their guests.The most popular activity among children with ASD was the exhibit “Climbing Stairs.” Children who climbed a short staircase could then drop a ball and watch it descend. Another popular activity involved a windmill. Children can push its arms, causing it to spin. A table filled with rice completed the top three exhibits among children with ASD.In addition to the well-known senses of sight, smell, touch, taste, and hearing, Doody described others, including the vestibular and proprioceptive senses. The vestibular sense helps us keep our balance and know where we are in space; proprioception has to do with the way our joints respond to movement and pressure. “It’s the sense that makes deep-tissue massage pleasurable,” she said. …

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