Waynekid Kam – Brain Blogger http://brainblogger.com Health and Science Blog Covering Brain Topics Wed, 30 May 2018 15:00:03 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.6 Two Wrongs Make a Right – Abnormal Brain Circuitry May Stop Abnormal Movement http://brainblogger.com/2009/10/19/two-wrongs-make-a-right-abnormal-brain-circuitry-may-stop-abnormal-movement/ http://brainblogger.com/2009/10/19/two-wrongs-make-a-right-abnormal-brain-circuitry-may-stop-abnormal-movement/#comments Mon, 19 Oct 2009 12:00:29 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=3190 A solution to an abnormal neurological movement problem can perhaps be abnormal as well. The irregular wiring of the brain may actually eliminate dystonia — repetitive movements and atypical postures. According to the Journal of Neuroscience, changes in brain pathways may actually counteract the genetic mutations for the movement disorder. This idea can explain why a few individuals with the inherited mutation are able to live normal lives.

Researchers at the Feinstein Institute identified two specific brain pathways that influence the severity of dystonia symptoms. All individuals who carry the mutations and symptoms for dystonia have an abnormal pathway between the cerebellum and the thalamus, but a normal second pathway between the thalamus and the cortex. Indeed, it is the people who carry the mutations but have no symptoms of dystonia that have this abnormal second pathway. Scientists believe that the different brain pathways are formed at an early stage of brain development. This phenomenon gives a whole new meaning to the logical fallacy of “two wrongs make a right.” When one wrong is committed (genetic mutation), another wrong will cancel it out (the abnormal thalamus and cortex connection).

The finding can bring many implications. For one thing, the study could lead to new treatments and prevention options for patients with dystonia. Additionally, it could provide better understanding to other neurological illnesses, especially those involving movement, such as the more popular, Parkinson’s disease. Conceivably, the abnormal brain wiring may be similar to the electrical stimulation used in treating movement disorders. The preferred surgical treatment for these disorders is the chronic electrical stimulation of the brain, known as deep brain stimulation (DBS). It has been shown that DBS improves motor symptoms, although we do not exactly know how stimulation works in a physiological level. Do abnormal brain circuits between the thalamus and cortex act like the DBS therapy? Does the irregular wiring of the brain, due to developmental problems, improve dystonia, in the same way as our known therapies?

The developmental changes in brain wiring could be the same as foreign electrical stimulation, in that they both modify transmission in movement through an unknown mechanism.

Reference

Johnson MD, Miocinovic S, McIntyre CC, & Vitek JL (2008). Mechanisms and targets of deep brain stimulation in movement disorders. Neurotherapeutics : the journal of the American Society for Experimental NeuroTherapeutics, 5 (2), 294-308 PMID: 18394571

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The Science of Brain Freeze http://brainblogger.com/2008/07/06/the-science-of-brain-freeze/ http://brainblogger.com/2008/07/06/the-science-of-brain-freeze/#comments Sun, 06 Jul 2008 19:01:07 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=1066 Neuroscience and Neurology CategoryHave you ever experienced a freezing sensation after eating an ice cream cone? You’re with a group of friends eating the dessert, and suddenly you have a severe headache that lasts for a brief amount of time. You’re not alone because billions of individuals have endured this common reaction called sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia. It’s also known as brain freeze or ice cream evoked headache. Why does even the simplest discomfort get a scientific name? But in all seriousness, what exactly happens to the body when one experiences a brain freeze?

Diagnosis: Sphenopalatine ganglioneuralgia

Ice Cream SundaeSymptoms: Head pain, sharp freezing sensation, toothaches

Causes: Consumption of ice cream, popsicles and other icy treats

Treatment: Drink warm fluids or wait (self-limiting)

Prevention: Eat cold foods at a slower pace!

There are two possible explanations behind pain and its association with a quick, big gulp of slushies, slurpees or Italian ice.

1) Blood vessel phenomenon: It is known that blood vessels constrict when the body experiences cold temperature and dilates when in hot temperature. This simple fact can be applied to the biological cause of brain freeze. Upon contact with ice, the blood vessels in the roof of the mouth begin to constrict, making the vessels in the head to expand, and thus creating a headache.

2) Trigeminal nerve factor: The trigeminal nerve is primarily responsible for the sensation of the face, also known as the fifth cranial nerve (CN-V). As a result of eating cold foods, the trigeminal nerve in the palate of the mouth becomes overstimulated. Stimulation of the nerve causes neurons to fire pain signals to the brain, producing a headache.

Brain freeze is one of those common occurrences that bring the curiosity out of us. Curiosity stems from human nature. What other topics have made you ask, why and how?

Reference

Kaczorowski, M. (2002). Ice cream evoked headaches (ICE-H) study: randomised trial of accelerated versus cautious ice cream eating regimen. BMJ, 325(7378), 1445-1446. DOI: 10.1136/bmj.325.7378.1445

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Brain Prosthesis: Coming to a Hospital Near You? http://brainblogger.com/2008/06/02/brain-prosthesis-coming-to-a-hospital-near-you/ http://brainblogger.com/2008/06/02/brain-prosthesis-coming-to-a-hospital-near-you/#comments Mon, 02 Jun 2008 17:01:13 +0000 http://brainblogger.com/?p=1009 Neuroscience and Neurology CategoryThe possibility of fusing a mechanical device with the human brain becomes a reality.

Ladies and gentleman, I would like to introduce you to a new piece of technology. Lo and behold, the brain prosthesis. Wait. Did I just say brain prosthesis, as in an artificial replacement of the mind? Yes, that’s right; the brain prosthesis is going to be used to replace the damaged parts of our brain.

Hundreds of individuals who have lost their body parts due to traumatic injuries or congenital defects have already chosen to get artificial replacements. To elaborate, a patient may want to get a synthetic limb because of a missing arm or an ocular prosthesis because of a damaged eye. However, never would we ever consider replacing a damaged brain. But according to scientists at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, a silicon chip could be used to replace the hippocampus, part of the forebrain involved in forming memories. This may provide great hope for people who have suffered from stroke and epilepsy or for those currently battling Alzheimer’s disease. That’s wonderful news.

MRICurrently, Dr. Theodore Berger and his team of colleagues at the university are testing their prosthetic device on a live rat. Their preliminary data showed positive results. They have created a device, successfully mimicking the activity of biological signals in the hippocampal circuit. According to mathematical models, this microchip, incorporated in the brain tissue, matched perfectly with an intact brain slice without the chip. Thus, the researchers’ next step is to use and study animal models.

Could this possibly work? I’m optimistic. Though, it may very well come with complications, both ethically and biologically. First and foremost, our bodies could reject this foreign object. Secondly, ethicists will certainly raise valid arguments over the procedure that will tamper with the patients’ identities. Most importantly, the role of the human brain is intricate. It is where we interpret our conscious thoughts and emotions. But at a time where accidents and diseases will inevitably rob our memories, sometimes we need these recollections that shape who we are. Hence, research in this field, combining neuroscience and technology, should continue.

Nevertheless, I wonder how many people out there would want this procedure if it does work and if it is going to be given a green light. If drugs can’t fully work, maybe biomedical engineering can help revolutionize medicine. Perhaps scientists can replace other parts of the brain. A scary thought. I’m also curious to know if the current prosthesis would really help a victim of Alzheimer’s disease, because there will still be the presence of amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain. I guess we’ll have to stay tuned.

Reference

Philips, H. (2008) Brain prosthesis passes live tissue test. NewScientist.

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