Versus Brain Blast | Oct. 2019

Cooler weather, Halloween treats, and the Versus Brain Blast: just a few of the wonderful things October brings. This month we discuss how sleep may be associated with Alzheimer's disease, how neurofeedback may be used to treat Tourette's syndrome, and much more.

Sleep On It: Linking Rest and Alzheimer's Disease

Using EEG monitoring, a UC Berkeley research team studied the sleep habits of middle aged adults. When reexamined as older adults, participants whose sleep quality declined in middle age were shown to have a higher amount of brain proteins associated with Alzheimer’s disease than those whose sleep quality stayed the same or became better in middle age. The team is hopeful that further research on sleep habits may allow for early prediction, and possible prevention, of Alzheimer’s.

Mind Over Matter: Treating Tourette's with Neurofeedback

Story via Yale Daily News

At Yale University, professors are highlighting neurofeedback as a potential new treatment for the tics associated with Tourette’s syndrome. The professors used fMRI technology to show children how their brain was behaving in real-time. Over multiple neurofeedback sessions, the children learned to regulate the activity in their supplementary motor cortex and control their tics without the need for medication.

The Extra Mile: Understanding Physical Overexertion

Story via NPR

Two triathletes finishing a marathon.
A control group of triathletes was asked to maintain their current training regimen, while the experimental group was instructed to increase their training time by 40%. As training progressed, subjects in the experimental group had less activity in the area of the brain associated with decision-making. Instead of pushing through physical fatigue to earn a bigger reward, their brains prioritized the instant gratification of ending their exertion, causing them to perform less well in the triathlon than the control group.

Point of Impact: Locating Brain Trauma

An injured man is treated by paramedics.
Dr. Qianhong Wu of Villanova University created the Smart Brain, a model designed to mirror the human brain, including the skull and brain fluid. To gain insight into how brain matter moves, Dr. Wu also added cameras and sensors to the Smart Brain. When an individual receives head trauma, Dr. Wu and his team can use this replica to recreate the trauma and pinpoint where the patient’s brain was injured, allowing doctors to target this area.

Trial, Less Error: Predicting the Effectiveness of Antidepressants

Green and white pills in a pill pack.
During a clinical trial, scientists discovered that brain scans may allow them to predict how effective an antidepressant may be for an individual. Researchers scanned the brains of participants who suffered from major depression while they underwent an emotional processing task. They concluded that the more participants’ brain activity during these tasks differed from that of individuals without major depression, the less likely it was that they would benefit from the antidepressant sertraline.

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