Archive for the ‘In the News’ Category

The Smell of Success

Monday, November 18th, 2013 by admin

Leaving summer behind moves families into the joy of comfort foods and holiday baking! We experience new scents, like pumpkin, cinnamon and other wonderful spices that warm us for the colder temperatures.  The Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago reminds us that the scent of lemons provides a truly effective boost for our brains! The aroma of lemons stimulates the cerebral cortex, which is the decision-making and problem-solving region of the brain. The extra boost helps us feel more focused very quickly – in as little as 2 minutes, according to recent studies.

Think about adding lemon zest to pancakes or muffins; slicing a lemon to accompany hot tea or a glass of water; or even using lotion with lemon essential oils to provide that extra energy for your sleepy child in the mornings.

Another way to boost the effectiveness of the cerebral cortex is to Brainjog 5-7 minutes, twice a day! Camp Academia and the engaging instructors keep their students’ brains stimulated and growing! Stop by today if you are interested in learning more!

Human skin cells transformed into functional brain cells

Thursday, August 4th, 2011 by admin

Researcher successfully transforms adult human skin cells into functional brain cells, providing further evidence that it is possible to generate new neurons.

There is still more evidence of the ability to create new brain cells: Dr. Sheng Ding, of the Gladstone Institute, has discovered an efficient way to transform adult human skills cells into neurons.  The neurons created by Dr. Ding actually exchanged the electrical implulses that brain cells use to communicate thoughts and emotions.  Ding’s research has enormous significance for regenerative medicine for individuals suffering from neurodegenerative diseases.  Ding’s transformation of adult human skin cells into neurons is one of the first documented experiments of its kind.

Dr. Lennart Mucke, Director of Neurological Research at Gladstone, elaborated, “Dr. Ding’s latest research offers new hope for the process of developing medications for these diseases, as well as for the possibility of cell-replacement therapy to reduce the trauma of millions of people affected by these devastating and irreversible conditions.”

Ding’s research builds upon that of another Gladstone Institute scientist, Senior Investigator Shinya Yamanaka, MD, PhD.  Dr. Yamanaka discovered a mechanism by which one could turn adult skin cells into cells that behaved like embryonic stem cells.  Embryonic cells can develop into any type of cell in the human body and possess vast potential for regenerative medicine.  Dr. Ding’s specific extension of Dr. Yamanaka’s findings explicitly shows the ability to create functioning brain cells from adult human skin cells. As embryonic stem cells remain controversial, human skin cells’ ability to be transformed into functional neurons is promising.

Dr. Ding created the functional neurons from two genes and a microRNA from a 55-year-old woman.  His successful manipulation of microRNA circumvents the issue of genome modification, which is not as safe or effective as using microRNA.

Ding explained, “This will help us avoid any genome modifications. These cells are not ready yet for transplantation. But this work removes some of the major technical hurdles to using reprogrammed cells to create transplant-ready cells for a host of diseases.”

Recent Yale study indicates that age-related cognitive deficits may be reversible

Friday, July 29th, 2011 by admin

The July 27 edition of the journal Nature published a study conducted by Yale University researchers that demonstrated that neural networks in brains of middle-aged and elderly individuals have weaker connectivity and fire with less strength than do brains in younger people.  The study also suggests that weaker connections in the neural network and decreased strength of firing can be reversed.

Yale researchers found that memory loss and other cognitive deficits associated with aging may be reversible.

The study investigated the activity of neurons in the prefrontal cortex (PFC), in which higher cognitive and executive functions are regulated.  Neurons in the PFC fire consistently to allow individuals to store information at hand, or have it on quick recall even when physical cues are not in the environment.  The ability to keep information “on deck” is called “working memory,” and must be constantly updated.  The PFC is the area of the brain responsible for organization, multi-tasking, regulating one’s thoughts and speech and engaging in abstract thought and reasoning.

There are many common cognitive deficits associated with aging, among them difficulty with executive function and the tendency to forget information.

Amy Arnsten, a study author, Professor of Neurobiology and Psychology and a member of the Kavli Institute for Neuroscience, stated, “Age-related cognitive deficits can have a serious impact on our lives in the Information Age as people often need higher cognitive functions to meet even basic needs, such as paying bills or accessing medical care. These abilities are critical for maintaining demanding careers and being able to live independently as we grow older.”

Arnsten and her colleagues examined the firing of neurons in the PFC in young, middle-aged and elderly animals as they completed a task involving working memory.  The neurons in young animals’ PFC could fire at a high rate while using working memory, but those of older animals decreased firing rates.  Researchers adjusted the neurochemical environment around the neurons in the older animals’ PFCs to resemble those of younger animals, which resulted in increased neuronal firing rates in the older animals.

Specifically, gaining PFC accumulates a signaling molecule called cAMP.  The excess of cAMP opens ion channels and weakens PFC neuronal firing.  Blocking or otherwise inhibiting cAMP-sensitive ion channels restored neuronal firing rates to that of youthful firing patterns.

These results indicate that memory loss and other cognitive deficits associated with aging can be reversed.   Yale is initiating clinical studies on agents that were successful in blocking cAMP-sensitive ion channels in order to understand how the initial study’s findings can be transferred to the general population.

Brainjogging, too, reverses memory loss and other cognitive deficits associated with aging.  A small cohort of individuals at Vernon Woods Retirement Community in LaGrange, Georgia have experienced increased retention and daily functioning as a result of Brainjogging twice daily.

One in three children in the U.S. may suffer from a special need

Thursday, July 28th, 2011 by admin

A recent study found that approximately one in three children in a sample population struggles with some form of special need, including learning disabilities, behavioral or emotional disorders, asthma, chronic conditions and developmental disorders.

A cross-sectional study published in the July 25 Pediatrics studied learning disabilities, emotional problems or behavioral problems in school-age children and these disorders affect on students’ well-being.  The U. S. researchers found that learning disabilities, emotional and behavioral disorders can cause difficult social and academic situations at school. Researchers studied more than 1,450 students in grades four through six, following their progress.  The population was derived from 34 rural schools in three large school districts in Maryland and West Virginia.  One-third of these students struggled with learning disabilities or other forms of “special needs,” including learning disabilities, emotional or behavioral disorders, asthma, chronic pain and ADHD, among other disorders, and related needs.

In addition to struggling academically, the third of students in the study who were identified as having special needs were identified as being targets for bullying and strategic social isolation.  These students were more likely to be disruptive in class, perhaps as a result of their academic struggles or, just as easily, of their frustration with being treated as an outsider.

Study co-author Dr. Christopher B. Forrest, a professor if pediatrics at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, said, “Health affects school performance.  Special health care needs have manifold effects on school outcomes that increase the likelihood that these kids are not going to successfully transition to adulthood.”

Forrest and colleagues used surveyed students and their parents, gathering data on long-term health problems, which were qualified as being those health problems that require health services or cause functional problems. Special health care needs were defined as those conditions lasting longer than 12 months and requiring intervention, which might take form of prescription medication, therapy or other educational services.  Students’ school records were reviewed to gather data on attendance, grades and standardized test scores.

The study’s findings indicate that one of every three children had a “high” special need.  Boys were twice as likely as girls to have a special health care need.  In some cases, Forrest and his team found that the problems generated by a special health need crested at a certain age.  Nonetheless, one in three children with a high special need is alarming. Children with special needs are affected by their condition in the classroom and in other arenas.

Forrest explained his position: “[They] have significant differences in their engagement in school and their school relationships, as well as academic achievement.  It sets up a trajectory for these kids that’s highly distressing.”

The study, however, was not national; it studied only populations in West Virginia and Maryland. The cities from which study populations were drawn had and high proportion of low-income families, potentially contributing to and skewing the study’s results.  Higher-income schools may have more structures to accommodate and facilitate the development of students with high special needs.

The executive director of the National Center for Learning Disabilities in New York City stated, “[The study] certainly clarifies that learning disabilities, once again, are shown to have a demonstrable effect on children’s achievement in school. We know that students with learning disabilities . . . have very distinct social and emotional challenges that can lead them into difficult situations. We also know many of these things intensify as children grow older.”

Learning disabilities can be very damaging to students’ academic and social development, threatening their potential to become viable adults.  Brainjogging treats and manages learning disabilities, enabling families to thrive even as one member struggles with a potentially inhibiting disability. Brainjogging offers cognitive therapy and tutoring for students and adults with learning disabilities, and specializes in autism spectrum disorders, dyslexia, ADHD and language and auditory processing disorders.

Too much screen time for the preschool-age set

Wednesday, July 27th, 2011 by admin

Children in the United States are exceeding screen time recommendations set forth by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).  AAP recommends that parents limit screen time to two hours per day for preschool-age children, who are defined as children under five years old.  Screen time includes time from television, DVDs,

Sixty-six percent of preschool-age children in the United States are exceeding recommendations of screen time set by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

computers and video games.  In a study conducted by the Seattle Children’s Research Institute and the University of Washington, researchers found that 66% of preschool-age children are exceeding the recommended daily amount of screen time.

Dr. Pooja Tandon and fellow researchers studied nearly 9,000 preschool-age children who took part in the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study — Birth Cohort (ECLS-b), a longitudinal, observational study of over 10,000 children born in 2001 with diverse socioeconomic and ethnic backgrounds. The ECLS-b used interviews with parents and child care providers to collect data about each child’s daily screen time (Science Daily).

According to Dr. Tandon, “A majority of children under the age of 5 years in the United States spend almost 40 hours a week with caregivers other than their parents, and it’s important to understand what kind of screen time exposure children are getting with these other caregivers.”

The results of the parent and child care provider interview revealed extended screen time for a majority of children.  On average, children were exposed to 4 hours of screen time each weekday, with 3.6 hours of exposure coming from home. In home-based childcare setting, children spent a combined average of 5.6 hours watching television or videos at home and while at child care, with 87% exceeding the 2 hour recommendation. In center-based childcare settings, children fared slightly better, watching an approximate total of 3.2 hours each weekday at home and while at childcare. Those children that did not attend any form of childcare, however, were not necessarily better off than children in childcare settings: children who remained at home watched, on average, 4.4 hours each day.

Screen time in young children has been associated with “speech delays, aggressive behavior and obesity, but few states have regulations about screen time in licensed child care settings” (Science Daily). Dr. Tandon believes that such regulations may be helpful in curbing screen time. “Parents can also play an important role,” she suggests, “by making sure all of their child’s caregivers are aware of the AAP’s advice regarding screen time.”

Additionally, screen time shows a positive correlation with autism.  Screen time for children with autism further delays social skills and inhibits progress.

Unsuccessful adult children can negatively affect their parents’ mental wellbeing

Friday, July 22nd, 2011 by admin

Siblings may receive similar upbringings, but they may or may not be equally successful. Unsuccessful children negatively influence their parents' mental health.

Adult children’s success can affect their parents’ mental health.  If one adult child is unsuccessful or struggling, even if other adult children are successful, a parent is negatively affected by the one child’s seeming inability to thrive.

“What this study finds is that the children may have their own lives and moved on, but their ups and downs are still deeply affecting their parents,” psychology professor Karen Fingerman, PhD, said August 12 at the 118th Annual Convention of the American Psychological Association. Fingerman, of Purdue University.

In Fingerman’s study, 633 middle-aged parents in the Philadelphia area rated their grown children’s individual achievements in relation to those of other adults the same age as their grown children.  The parents rated achievements in the areas of relationships, education, career and family life.  Many of the parents had more than one child; thus, there were 1,251 reports of grown children in Fingerman’s study.

In addition to answering questions about their children’s success, the parents answered questions about their own mental health.  They touched upon their relationship with their children and whether or not their children had ever “experienced specific physical, emotional, lifestyle and behavioral problems” (Science Daily). These lifestyle and behavioral problems included getting into trouble with the law, drinking and/or drug problems, divorce and other serious relationship problems.  The parents were asked to consider whether their children’s struggles were involuntary, which was defined as being the result of a health issue; Fingerman controlled for involuntary struggles.

The lifestyle and behavior problems identified in Fingerman’s study are destructive, regardless of whether or not they are caused by health issues.  Learning disabilities, when untreated, can breed frustration.  This frustration can manifest as disruptive behaviors, and eventually become disruptive habits.

Of the 633 parents Fingerman surveyed, 68 percent had at least one grown child suffering at least one problem in the last two years. Nearly 49 percent of parents said that at least one of their grown children was highly successful.  Sixty percent of parents had a mix of successful and unsuccessful children.  Fingerman found that 17 percent of parents had no unsuccessful children while 15 percent reported that they did not have any grown children that they would rate as being above average on life achievements.

The effects of adult children’s successfulness on their parents’ psychological wellbeing was apparent. In Fingerman’s research. Parents with more than one successful child reported better well-being, although having even one child who was “unsuccessful” negatively affected parents’ mental health, even if they had other, successful children.  Having only one successful child did not translate into a heightened psychological state for parents. The study’s findings suggest that parents react more strongly to their children’s failures than their successes.

Fingerman elaborated, “Having two children suffering problems may be more demanding than having only one child who suffers problems. By the same token, having a successful child did not buffer the effects of problem-ridden children.”

Learning disabilities can lead students into a mental state in which they feel as though they are somehow lacking in comparison to other children.  This general sense of not feeling good enough can deepen into an overall attitude of frustration and potentially anger with school and with the individuals they feel are foisting negative, threatening situations upon them.  The malaise that learning disabilities can foster may lead children into detrimental behavior patterns, and these can become habits that may jeopardize children’s ability to become viable adults.  If children are not taught how to learn in their own particular style,  working with the abilities inherent in their “disabilities,” they are at risk for far more than decreased academic achievement.  Fingerman’s study illustrates the effect that unsuccessful adult children can have on their parents’ mental health, but it is not too late to address children’s learning disabilities, dissuade them from negative behaviors that may stem from their frustration with their perceived inabilities and set them on a positive road.

Antidepressants may cause long-term, negative effects on brain function

Wednesday, July 20th, 2011 by admin

SSRI treatment, which is frequently used to alleviate depression and anxiety, may cause negative, long-term changes in brain function.

Recent research on selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) indicates that taking these antidepressants during pregnancy may increase autism risk in the developing child.  Another recent study shows that these same SSRIs, which are regularly used to treat depression and anxiety, may change brain function.  SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin in the brain, which might cause long terms changes impeding brain function.  While SSRIs generally create positive effects in the individuals to whom they are prescribed, and while these benefits can outlast usage, negative side effects can also remain in users after they cease taking SSRIs.

BioMed Central’s open access journal Molecular Brain recently published a study on the physiological changes that may occur in the brain as a result of using SSRIs.  The study closely investigated SSRI treatment’s relationship with the hippocampus, an area of the brain that is involved in long-term memory and spatial awareness.  Throughout life, neurons in the hippocampus can alter their activity and strengthen connections.  This pliability is referred to as “plasticity.”  Abnormal activity in the hippocampus can result in memory loss and disorientation, which are traditional symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, conducted by researchers from the Department of Pharmacology, Nippon Medical School, demonstrated that treating adult mice with a generic version of Prozac, fluoxetine, caused the mice’s granule cells to change.  These cells are one of the main types of neuronal cells in the hippocampus. The chronic use of fluoxetine in these mice also altered the connections between granule cells and other neuronal cells.  The new granule cells “appeared to undergo serotonin-dependent ‘dematuration’, which increased their activity and reversed adult-type plasticity into an immature state” (Science Daily). Decrease in brain plasticity generally correlates to decreased cognitive processing speed.

Brainjogging strengthens neural connections in the brain and is a viable alternative for treatment of anxiety and depression.  Anxiety and depression are often experienced in individuals with learning disabilities; Brainjogging treats both the learning disability and the emotional struggles that often accompany it.

Family dinners with teenagers makes them less likely to develop eating disorders

Tuesday, July 19th, 2011 by admin

Continuing to make time for frequent family dinners, even when children become teenagers, makes them less likely to engage in disordered eating behaviors. The June issue of Pediatrics published a review of 17 recent studies on eating patterns and nutrition in more than 182,000 children and adolescents.  Barbara Fiese, a University of Illinois professor of human development and family studies and director of the university’s Family Resiliency Center, and postdoctoral research associate Amber Hammons conducted the review.

Fiese says, “If you look at national surveys, the frequency of shared mealtimes does begin to drop off in the teen years, but a lot of that is due to competing demands on teenagers’ time due to after-school activities, jobs, and social life, and not for lack of interest.”

According to Fiese’s and Hammons’s review, having regular family meals, even when children become teenagers, can stave off eating disorders, obesity and inadequate nutrition.  If often seems, as children develop into adolescents and begin having packed schedules of their own, that having regular family meals is a lofty goal, but Fiese encourages family members to take out their schedules and coordinate at least three nights each week on which they can have dinner together.

Fiese states, “The common belief is that teens don’t want to be around their parents very much, and that teens are just too busy for regular meals with the family.  Parents may not be able to get their families together around the table seven days a week, but if they can schedule three family meals a week, they will safeguard their teens’ health in significant ways.”

Consistent shared meals creates a space in which adult family members are able to observe and address disordered eating behaviors before they turn into full-blown eating disorders.  The review showed that teenagers who eat at least five meals with their family each week are 35% less likely to engage in disordered eating than teens who don’t.  Disordered eating was defined as “binging and purging, taking diet pills, self-induced vomiting, using laxatives or diuretics, fasting, eating very little, skipping meals, and/or smoking cigarettes to lose weight” (Science Daily).  Those teens that ate with their families at least three times each week were 12% less likely to be overweight than children who ate with their families less often.  These children were also 24% more likely to eat healthy foods than were their peers who did not eat with their families as frequently.

Perhaps most importantly, families who frequently and regularly shared meals were more likely to feel connected.  In these families, it was more likely that teenagers would be willing to approach their family members if they began to struggle with unhealthy eating behaviors, in addition to other problems unrelated to eating and food.

Gene linked to dyslexia also controls cilia

Friday, July 15th, 2011 by admin

Full-length V5-tagged DCDC2 localizes to the primary cilium in neurons. Confocal images of rat primary hippocampal neurons transfected with DCDC2-V5 and labeled with a centriolar marker gamma-tubulin (A) or the neuronal ciliary marker Ac3 (D) and the V5 epitope (B and E). Nuclei were stained with DAPI (blue). The merged image shows colocalization of Ac3 and DCDC2-V5 in the primary cilium (F). Neurons transfected with deletion constructs of DCDC2 lacking either of the two doublecortin domains do not show ciliary localization of the protein (G–L). Scale bars indicate 10 µm. Credit: Massinen, et. al

According to scientists at Karolinska Institutet in Sweden, a gene linked to dyslexia also controls cilia, hair-like structures that project from the surface of most cells. Cilia resemble small antennae.  Although cilia’s purpose has long remained a puzzle, the current study reveals that cells use cilia to communicate.  Cilia also play a crucial role in the development of the body’s organs (Science Daily).

The functions of genes linked to dyslexia have heretofore been largely unknown.  Karolinska Institutet, in conjunction with Helsinki University, has discerned that DCDC2 is involved in regulating the signaling of cilia in brain neurons.  Additionally, the current research, presented in the scientific journal PLoS ONE, aligns with a previous study that tied DCDC2 and two other dyslexia genes in mice to cell migration.  Cell migration is a process by which nerve cells move to their correct location in the brain during embryonic development; cilia’s role in regulating cell migration could explain how dyslexia develops.  DCDC2 also regulates the length of cilia and activates two different signal systems in the cell, depending on the degree of the gene activity.

“Our discovery presents us with a possible new neurobiological mechanism for dyslexia,” says Professor Juha Kere, who co-led the study with Professor Eero Castrén of Helsinki University. Kere adds, “The cilia are important parts of the machinery that controls cell migration. Just what they do and how it could result in dyslexia are interesting questions that will be given further study.”

Brainjogging was originally created to treat dyslexia.  Individuals with dyslexia show quick and sustaining results when they use Brainjogging consistently.

Study cited: Massinen S, Hokkanen M-E, Matsson H, Tammimies K, Tapia-Páez I, et al. (2011) Increased Expression of the Dyslexia Candidate Gene DCDC2 Affects Length and Signaling of Primary Cilia in Neurons. PLoS ONE 6(6): e20580. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0020580)

Closely spaced pregnancies increase health risks, including autism risk

Tuesday, July 12th, 2011 by admin

Closely spaced pregnancies increase autism risk three-fold within 12 months and two-fold between 12 and 23 months.

Closely spaced pregnancies can increase the risk of myriad disorders and conditions: premature births, lower birth weight, schizophrenia, brain diseases and, according to a new study published online Pediatrics, autism.

Autism is not caused by a single factor, but is rather the result of an amalgamation of factors.  A recent study on the use of antidepressants during pregnancy and autism risk directed attention to the fact that the uterine environment may be one environmental factor increasing autism risk.   The Pediatrics study, helmed by Keely Cheslack-Postava, a post doctoral research fellow at Columbia University, investigated the relationship between closely spaced pregnancies and autism risk. Specifically, Cheslack-Postava studied the mother’s womb and how closely spaced pregnancies change the uterine environment.

Cheslack-Postava gathered data on 662,730 second-born siblings in California, all born between 1992 and 2002.  None of the individuals’ older siblings were diagnosed with autism. By age 6, 3,137 had been given a diagnosis of autism – and of these, 2,747 were born less than 36 months after their siblings.  There was a three-fold higher autism risk for second-borns conceived within 12 months of the first child.   When a second child was born within 12 and 23 months after a first child, the risk of the second-born developing autism was twice as high as that of a child born a full three years after the first sibling.

Cheslack-Postava’s research redirects attention to the uterine environment.  While no one uterine factor can be attributed to increasing autism risk, gestation depletes folate and other nutrients necessary for healthy fetal development, increasing the likelihood that the development of autism in a second sibling is tied to uterine environment.

Despite the study’s findings, Cheslack-Postava says, “At this point we aren’t able to say from this research that delaying a second pregnancy would have an effect on autism risk.”

Additionally, Dr. Rita Cantor, a professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles, stated that while the three-fold and two-fold increased risks for second-borns sounds high, parents must remember that the overall risk of autism is low.  She says, “There are a lot of people who have closely spaced pregnancies who don’t go on to have children with autism.”

There are also first borns with autism, so Cheslack-Postava’s study does not yield anything definitive about the uterine environment’s nutritional depletion from a recent pregnancy causing autism.  Her research does, however, call attention primarily to the uterine environment, and subsequent research can be focused on the uterine environment of children who develop autism.  This may isolate uterine variables that increase the likelihood of a child’s developing autism, regardless of where the child falls in birth order.

Brainjogging has enormous success with individuals with autism.