Top Five Neurology Stories of Last Week


Catch up on the biggest stories from the past week, from the link between testosterone and Alzheimer's, to a cancer drug that may treat Parkinson's disease.

Stanford University School of Medicine researchers, using tiny, see-through fish have shown how sleep and the circadian clock affect the scope of synapses in a particular brain region, and in the process, discovered a gene that may regulate the number of synapses.

"This is the first time differences in the number of synapses between day and night and between wake and sleep have been shown in a living animal," said Lior Appelbaum, PhD, study co-first author.

Publishing their results in the October 6 issue of Neuron, the researchers conducted the study with the knowledge that brain performance changes during the day, the belief that synaptic plasticity is regulated by daily cycles and sleep, a curiosity of why we need sleep and how sleep is restorative, and a theory that “nighttime changes in the number and strength of synapses help recharge the brain which, in turn, benefits memory, learning and other functions.”

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Are Epileptic Women Less Fertile?

Women with epilepsy may be more likely to experience infertility, according to new research published in Neurology.

The study of women in India found that women with epilepsy experienced infertility at more than twice the rate of that found in the general population (Study wasn’t out yet, so use this link to find it, detective). The research also found that women who were taking multiple epilepsy drugs were more likely to be infertile than those taking fewer drugs or no drugs for epilepsy.

The study involved 375 women with an average age of 26 who were anticipating becoming pregnant. The women were followed until they became pregnant or for up to 10 years. During that time, 62 percent became pregnant, while 38 percent remained infertile. The infertility rate for the women in the general population in India is 15 percent.

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The Testosterone-Alzheimer's Disease Link

Study results appearing in the just-released September issue of the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease show that the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is associated, in older men, with low testosterone levels, adding to previous findings in older Caucasian men that low testosterone levels are associated with impaired thinking and Alzheimer’s disease.

"Having low testosterone may make you more vulnerable to Alzheimer's disease," said co-author John E. Morley, MD, director, division of geriatric medicine, Saint Louis University. "The take-home message is we should pay more attention to low testosterone, particularly in people who have memory problems or other signs of cognitive impairment."

For the study—led by Leung-Wing Chu, MD, chief, division of geriatric medicine, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong—the researchers recruited 153 Chinese men age 55 years or older who lived in the community and did not have dementia (47 experienced mild cognitive impairment).

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Disturbing Findings among Girls with Autism and ADHD Symptoms

More training is needed in the screening and diagnosis of autism and ADHD, according to researchers from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, who found that the symptoms of autism and ADHD in girls who seek professional medical help are often downplayed or misinterpreted, with a risk that the girls won’t receive needed help or support.

Publishing their results in the Journal of Attention Disorders, the researchers focused their study on 100 girls who visited a physician because of difficulties with social interactions or concentration at school and/or elsewhere before enter adulthood, and then were referred to the pediatric neuropsychiatric clinic at Sahlgrenska University Hospital from 1999—2001.

"We could see that their parents had been concerned about the girls' behaviour or development during their first few years of life," said Svenny Kopp, doctoral student, Institute of Neuroscience and Physiology, Sahlgrenska Academy, and consultant paediatric psychiatrist, Queen Silvia Children's Hospital. "They had also asked for help at an early stage, but hadn't been given a proper diagnosis."

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Treat Parkinson's Disease with a Cancer Drug

Researchers from Johns Hopkins, whose study results were recently published in an early online issue of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, have found that the brain-protection effects of a molecule are shut down by over-activation of a single protein, allowing for facilitation of the most common Parkinson’s disease type.

The finding, which has the potential to lead to new targets for already-available agents, adds to previous research that showed the protein parkin “protects brain cells by ‘tagging’ certain toxic elements that are then destroyed naturally.” And although mutations in the gene that holds the code for parkin are known to cause rare, familial forms of Parkinson’s disease, the role of parkin in sporadic, late-onset disease has remained unclear, while the prevalence of this type of Parkinson’s disease increases with the aging of our population.

The current study shows that parkin’s activity can be shut down by over-activation of the protein c-Ab1, leading to build-up of brain cell-killing proteins and enabling the progression of Parkinson’s disease.

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