People with insomnia may have more "plastic" brains
People with insomnia tend to have more “plasticity” in their brains, meaning that their they are more active and flexible than they are with people who sleep well. That’s the conclusion of a recent study at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
Specifically, the researchers found that the motor cortex, which controls movement, tends to be more “plastic” in patients with insomnia, including during the day. They said that people with insomnia may experience higher cortisol levels and anxiety on a daily basis.
For the study, researchers used transcranial magnetic stimulation (TMS) to trigger areas of the motor cortex in 18 insomniacs and 10 people without sleep issues. The brain stimulation caused them to move their thumbs involuntarily in a certain direction. The participants had accelerometers placed on their thumbs to measure their movements. Then researchers looked to see how easily the participants could learn to move their thumb in the opposite direction of the involuntary movement. The more easily a person could learn to move his or her thumb in the opposite direction, the more flexible the motor cortex.
Researchers had expected people with insomnia to have less plasticity, but say that what they found may be tied to the increased metabolism, cortisol levels and anxiety, which are characteristic of insomnia.
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Sourced from: Livescience, Insomniacs’ Brains May Be More Plastic
Published On: March 7, 2014
Drug shows promise in reversing cognitive decline
Researchers from the University of Florida have developed a drug that may help reverse mild cognitive decline in older adults. The type of memory targeted is known as “working memory,” which is the ability to recall day-to-day events.
How working memory functions depends on the right balance of chemicals in the brain. In a study of rats, the researchers wanted to see if high levels of an inhibitory brain neurotransmitter called GABA disrupt working memory.
The research team assessed the memory of both young and old rats using a “Skinner box” - a box in which the rats had to remember the location of a lever for short periods of up to 30 seconds. Both young and old rats were able to remember the location of the lever for very brief periods. But the researchers found that when these time periods grew, many of the older rats had difficulties remembering where the lever was, compared with the younger rats. Further investigation revealed that older rats with no memory problems produced fewer GABA receptors, which led to lower levels of the chemical. But older rats with memory problems produced more GABA receptors, meaning they had higher GABA levels.
Then the researchers tested a drug on older rats that blocked GABA receptor. This restored working memory to the same level as younger rats.
More testing is needed to determine if the drug is effective with humans.
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Sourced from: Medical News Today, New drug could reverse age-related cognitive decline
Published On: March 7, 2014