The Relationship Between Sleep and Alzheimers

Oregon Health & Science University in Portland has begun a research project to better understand the how relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s disease. The research will focus on a “key process” in the brains of sleeping humans which will be the first of its kind and will hopefully illuminate the ways in which sleep and Alzheimer’s are intertwined.

In the early stages of Alzheimer’s sleep problems are very common for patients. Sometimes even years before patients develop more noticeable cognitive problems or memory loss they will suffer from disrupted sleep.

In the last five years studies have found that people, and mice, that were suffering from poor sleep patterns had a buildup of beta amyloid plaque in their brains. Beta amyloid plaque, a sticky mixture of proteins, collects in synapses. It is also a key characteristic in people with Alzheimer’s disease.

Researchers think that sleep might sweet toxins in the brain which would prevent beta amyloid from collecting in synapses. However, it is still not clear if the disrupted sleep is caused by the beta amyloid buildup or the beta amyloid buildup causes the disrupted sleep, “It may be a vicious cycle,” Miroslaw Machiewicz from the National Institute on Aging told the AP.

In order to help further solve this mystery, the team at the Oregon Health & Science University plans to observe people’s brains in a hyper-sensitive MRI machine while they sleep. They hope to see when the sweeping in the brain occurs in the sleep cycle. This new study could further illuminate, and possibly highlight, the relationship between sleep and Alzheimer’s which could help find new treatments and preventative measures in the future. Despite this excitement, scientists do acknowledge that participants may have a hard time sleeping in a noisy and small MRI machine. Good luck sleeping!


Cerebellar Disorders

Blog Post by Mario Ubaldo Manto, University of Brussels, Founding Editor of the journal The Cerebellum and founder of the Society for Research on the Cerebellum

Our knowledge of cerebellar functions and cerebellar disorders has increased dramatically during the past century. New pathophysiological mechanisms have been elucidated during these last decades. With the advent of new technologies, cerebellar disorders are increasingly recognized, and the field of cerebellar symptoms has been extended to cognitive operations and emotions.

Cerebellar disorders are often heterogeneous and the diagnosis may remain a real challenge. A typical example is autosomal dominant spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs). The prevalence of SCAs is estimated to be 1-4/100,000. Patients exhibit a slowly progressive cerebellar syndrome with various combinations of oculomotor disorders, dysarthria, dysmetria/kinetic tremor, and/or ataxic gait. They can present also with pigmentary retinopathy, extrapyramidal movement disorders (parkinsonism, dyskinesias, dystonia, chorea), pyramidal signs, cortical symptoms (seizures, cognitive impairment/behavioral symptoms) and peripheral neuropathy. SCAs are also genetically heterogeneous and the clinical diagnosis of subtypes of SCAs is complicated by the noticeable overlap of the phenotypes between genetic subtypes.

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A Meeting of Minds – Cambridge Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium

Blog Post by Jenny Ridge, Academic & Professional Marketing, Medicine

neuroscience logoThe Cambridge Clinical Neuroscience and Mental Health Symposium starts today, with Press authors ready to speak on the most up-to-date research.

Organised by Cambridge Neuroscience, whose mission is to increase our fundamental understanding of brain function and enhance quality of life, the Symposium is a highly significant event for all neuroscientists. The Symposium connects the varied and vast areas of neuroscience research and teaching that takes place across the University of Cambridge and affiliated institutions and is vital to furthering the aims of Cambridge Neuroscience.

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Painful C1-C2 Facet Arthropathy

Blog Post by H. Gordon Deen, Mayo Clinic, Jacksonville, USA

An often overlooked cause of neck pain is C1 – C2 facet arthropathy.  Patients with this disorder present with severe upper cervical pain which is invariably unilateral on the side of the abnormal facet joint.  Pain is consistently reproduced by cervical extension and by looking over the shoulder on the affected side.

For a variety of reasons, the diagnosis is often missed on MRI.  First, axial MR images are in essentially the same plane as the abnormal facet joint and the cuts may fall immediately above and below the joint, thereby missing the abnormality.  Second, coronal imaging, which is the best way to visualize the upper cervical facet joints, is not routinely done with MR studies of the cervical spine.  And third, bony detail is not seen as well on MR as it is on CT scanning.  Thus, it is not unusual for a patient to undergo several MRI studies without establishing the diagnosis.

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