This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 23 March – 27 March
Protection against neurodegeneration; association between migraine and carpal tunnel syndrome; treatment for traumatic brain injury, and more.
In the adult brain, communication between neurons is constantly remodeled by the elimination of old synapses and the formation of new ones. Patients with neurodegenerative diseases have fewer synapses compared to normally aging adults, suggesting that their brains have decreased structural plasticity. While it is difficult to analyze this plasticity across aging in humans, research on hibernating animals provides an important model to study structural plasticity at a molecular level.
Patients with carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS) are more than twice as likely to have migraine headaches, reports a study in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery -- Global Open®, the official open-access medical journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. The association also runs in the other direction, with migraine patients having higher odds of carpal tunnel syndrome, according to research by Dr. Huay-Zong Law and colleagues of University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas. The findings add a new piece of evidence in the ongoing debate over the use of nerve decompression surgery as a treatment for migraine headaches.
Innovative angles of attack in research that focus on how the human brain protects and repairs itself will help develop treatments for one of the most common, costly, deadly and scientifically frustrating medical conditions worldwide: traumatic brain injury (TBI). In an extensive opinion piece recently published online in Expert Opinion on Investigational Drugs, Henry Ford Hospital researcher Ye Xiong, M.D., Ph.D., makes the case for pioneering work underway in Detroit, Michigan, and elsewhere seeking to understand and repair brain function at the molecular level.
Epilepsy afflicts more than 50 million people worldwide. Many epilepsy patients can control their symptoms through medication, but about 30% suffer from intractable epilepsy and are unable to manage the disease with drugs. Intractable epilepsy causes multiple seizures, permanent mental, physical, and developmental disabilities, and even death. Therefore, surgical removal of the affected area from the brain has been used as a treatment for patients with medically refractory seizures, but this too fails to provide a complete solution because only 60% of the patients who undergo surgery are rendered free of seizures.
Carbon nanotube fibers invented at Rice University may provide the best way to communicate directly with the brain. The fibers have proven superior to metal electrodes for deep brain stimulation and to read signals from a neuronal network. Because they provide a two-way connection, they show promise for treating patients with neurological disorders while monitoring the real-time response of neural circuits in areas that control movement, mood and bodily functions.