This Week on NeuroScientistNews: 30 March – 3 April
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Alzheimer’s and circadian rhythm disruptions; cognitive dysfunction in chronic fatigue syndrome; anti-depressant use in children, and more.
Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a progressive and highly disruptive neurodegenerative condition, leads to a severe decrease in cognitive capabilities. Though the root cause of AD is unclear, it is known that increased levels of amyloid-β—a cleavage product of the amyloid precursor protein (APP)—are associated with development of the disease. Additionally, disruptions of sleep cycles are known to occur in AD patients, with increased sleep activity during daytime and increased wakefulness at night. These sleep disruptions suggest a link between the circadian clock and AD pathogenesis.
Scientists at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health have identified a unique pattern of immune molecules in the cerebrospinal fluid of people with myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS) that provides insights into the basis for cognitive dysfunction—frequently described by patients as “brain fog”—as well as new hope for improvements in diagnosis and treatment.
Those suffering from depressive symptoms have an increased risk for physical diseases, especially for arthrosis and arthritis. These findings were reported by researchers from the University of Basel and the Ruhr-University Bochum. Their results, based on data from 14,300 people living in Switzerland, have been published in the journal Frontiers in Public Health.
The slow death of dopamine-producing nerve cells in a certain region of the brain is the principal cause underlying Parkinson's disease. In mice, it is possible to simulate the symptoms of this disease using a substance that selectively kills dopamine-producing neurons. Scientists from the German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ) have now shown for the first time in mouse experiments that after this treatment, cells of the peripheral immune system migrate from the bloodstream into the brain, where they play a major role in the death of neurons. The investigators were able to reduce the level of neurodegeneration using a substance that blocks a specific surface molecule on these inflammatory cells.
Depression is a major health problem for which most patients are not effectively treated. In particular, depression is an increasing problem in children and teenagers. The most commonly prescribed antidepressants are selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), only two of which are FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration) approved to treat depression in children and adolescents.