Monday, October 16, 2017

Study identifies brain areas altered during hypnotic trances

reposted from

thanks RebecccaR

Study identifies brain areas altered during hypnotic trances

By scanning the brains of subjects while they were hypnotized, researchers at the School of Medicine were able to see the neural changes associated with hypnosis.
Hypnotized woman sitting on a chair with her arm outstretched
Stanford researchers found changes in three areas of the brain that occur when people are hypnotized.
Your eyelids are getting heavy, your arms are going limp and you feel like you’re floating through space. The power of hypnosis to alter your mind and body like this is all thanks to changes in a few specific areas of the brain, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have discovered.
The scientists scanned the brains of 57 people during guided hypnosis sessions similar to those that might be used clinically to treat anxiety, pain or trauma. Distinct sections of the brain have altered activity and connectivity while someone is hypnotized, they report in a study published online July 28 in Cerebral Cortex.  
“Now that we know which brain regions are involved, we may be able to use this knowledge to alter someone’s capacity to be hypnotized or the effectiveness of hypnosis for problems like pain control,” said the study’s senior author, David Spiegel, MD, professor and associate chair of psychiatry and behavioral sciences.

A serious science

For some people, hypnosis is associated with loss of control or stage tricks. But doctors like Spiegel know it to be a serious science, revealing the brain’s ability to heal medical and psychiatric conditions.
David Spiegel
David Spiegel
“Hypnosis is the oldest Western form of psychotherapy, but it’s been tarred with the brush of dangling watches and purple capes,” said Spiegel, who holds the Jack, Samuel and Lulu Willson Professorship in Medicine. “In fact, it’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.”
Despite a growing appreciation of the clinical potential of hypnosis, though, little is known about how it works at a physiological level. While researchers have previously scanned the brains of people undergoing hypnosis, those studies have been designed to pinpoint the effects of hypnosis on pain, vision and other forms of perception, and not the state of hypnosis itself.
“There had not been any studies in which the goal was to simply ask what’s going on in the brain when you’re hypnotized,” said Spiegel.

Finding the most susceptible

To study hypnosis itself, researchers first had to find people who could or couldn’t be hypnotized. Only about 10 percent of the population is generally categorized as “highly hypnotizable,” while others are less able to enter the trancelike state of hypnosis. Spiegel and his colleagues screened 545 healthy participants and found 36 people who consistently scored high on tests of hypnotizability, as well as 21 control subjects who scored on the extreme low end of the scales.
Then, they observed the brains of those 57 participants using functional magnetic resonance imaging, which measures brain activity by detecting changes in blood flow. Each person was scanned under four different conditions — while resting, while recalling a memory and during two different hypnosis sessions.
“It was important to have the people who aren’t able to be hypnotized as controls,” said Spiegel. “Otherwise, you might see things happening in the brains of those being hypnotized but you wouldn’t be sure whether it was associated with hypnosis or not.”

Brain activity and connectivity

Spiegel and his colleagues discovered three hallmarks of the brain under hypnosis. Each change was seen only in the highly hypnotizable group and only while they were undergoing hypnosis.
First, they saw a decrease in activity in an area called the dorsal anterior cingulate, part of the brain’s salience network. “In hypnosis, you’re so absorbed that you’re not worrying about anything else,” Spiegel explained.
It’s a very powerful means of changing the way we use our minds to control perception and our bodies.
Secondly, they saw an increase in connections between two other areas of the brain — the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the insula. He described this as a brain-body connection that helps the brain process and control what’s going on in the body.
Finally, Spiegel’s team also observed reduced connections between the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex and the default mode network, which includes the medial prefrontal and the posterior cingulate cortex. This decrease in functional connectivity likely represents a disconnect between someone’s actions and their awareness of their actions, Spiegel said. “When you’re really engaged in something, you don’t really think about doing it — you just do it,” he said. During hypnosis, this kind of disassociation between action and reflection allows the person to engage in activities either suggested by a clinician or self-suggested without devoting mental resources to being self-conscious about the activity.   

Treating pain and anxiety without pills

In patients who can be easily hypnotized, hypnosis sessions have been shown to be effective in lessening chronic pain, the pain of childbirth and other medical procedures; treating smoking addiction and post-traumatic stress disorder; and easing anxiety or phobias. The new findings about how hypnosis affects the brain might pave the way toward developing treatments for the rest of the population — those who aren’t naturally as susceptible to hypnosis.
“We’re certainly interested in the idea that you can change people’s ability to be hypnotized by stimulating specific areas of the brain,” said Spiegel.
A treatment that combines brain stimulation with hypnosis could improve the known analgesic effects of hypnosis and potentially replace addictive and side-effect-laden painkillers and anti-anxiety drugs, he said. More research, however, is needed before such a therapy could be implemented.
The study’s lead author is Heidi Jiang, a former research assistant at Stanford who is currently a graduate student in neuroscience at Northwestern University.
Other Stanford co-authors are clinical assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences Matthew White, MD; and associate professor of neurology Michael Greicius, MD, MPH. 
The study was funded by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (grant RCIAT0005733), the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (grant P41EB015891), the Randolph H. Chase, M.D. Fund II, the Jay and Rose Phillips Family Foundation and the Nissan Research Center.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Neuro-protection - STAT

reposted from

Tuesday, 3 October 2017

Neuro-protection - STAT

The last major breakthrough in Parkinson’s drugs was levodopa in 1967. That was 50 years ago and despite huge effort, no concrete progress has been made with a truly disease modifying or disease preventing drug in the meantime. Might the answer be staring us in the face?

Two truths are self evident: 1) Parkinson’s disease is more common as people age; 2) Vascular disease (such as heart disease and stroke) are also more common as people age.

Fortunately, there is much that can be done to reduce a person’s risk of having a stroke or heart attack. As well as exercise (yet another mention for the miracle cure), there is a wide selection of medicines that have excellent evidence of benefit.

In the UK, there have been two very large, very well conducted studies of people with early stage PD – the Tracking Parkinson’s study (PRoBaND) and the Oxford Discovery study. These studies give us an incredible opportunity to discover subtle findings that you need observations of thousands of people.

In the attached paper, many of the leaders of the British Parkinson’s disease field (including several professors from UCL) looked at the relationship between Parkinson’s and vascular treatment.

They found that in nearly 3000 people from across the UK with early stage PD, nearly 60% had increased risk of vascular disease, and yet only 1 in 4 of those people were having treatment for it.

Statins were designed as cholesterol lowering drugs. As they’ve been widely used, it seems there are lots more beneficial properties to statins. Such is the likelihood that they have a benefit to brain cells, there is a study of statins in MS and statins in Parkinson's underway currently. (For more information see this Queen Square MS centre page, and the PD STAT study site).

Whether or not statins work to protect the brain in humans remains to be seen (return here for the answer when the studies are published). What is clear is that if you have Parkinson’s, you should be asking your GP to assess your heart health!

Do you think Statins will be part of the answer? Do you think we're joining the dots enough, either individually between specialists, GPs and people with Parkinson's, or as a research community? Let us know your thoughts. Join the discussion below.


Statins are underused in recent-onset Parkinson's disease with increased vascular risk: findings from the UK Tracking Parkinson's and Oxford Parkinson's Disease Centre (OPDC) discovery cohorts.

BACKGROUND:Cardiovascular disease (CVD) influences phenotypic variation in Parkinson's disease (PD), and is usually an indication for statin therapy. It is less clear whether cardiovascular risk factors influence PD phenotype, and if statins are prescribed appropriately.

OBJECTIVES:To quantify vascular risk and statin use in recent-onset PD, and examine the relationship between vascular risk, PD severity and phenotype.

METHODS:Cardiovascular risk was quantified using the QRISK2 calculator (high ≥20%, medium ≥10 and <20%, low risk <10%). Motor severity and phenotype were assessed using the Movement Disorder Society Unified PD Rating Scale (UPDRS) and cognition by the Montreal cognitive assessment.

RESULTS:In 2909 individuals with recent-onset PD, the mean age was 67.5 years (SD 9.3), 63.5% were men and the mean disease duration was 1.3 years (SD 0.9). 33.8% of cases had high vascular risk, 28.7% medium risk, and 22.3% low risk, while 15.2% of cases had established CVD. Increasing vascular risk and CVD were associated with older age (p<0.001), worse motor score (p<0.001), more cognitive impairment (p<0.001) and worse motor phenotype (p=0.021). Statins were prescribed in 37.2% with high vascular risk, 15.1% with medium vascular risk and 6.5% with low vascular risk, which compared with statin usage in 75.3% of those with CVD.

CONCLUSIONS:Over 60% of recent-onset PD patients have high or medium cardiovascular risk (meriting statin usage), which is associated with a worse motor and cognitive phenotype. Statins are underused in these patients, compared with those with vascular disease, which is a missed opportunity for preventive treatment.


Monday, October 2, 2017

A Life-Long Approach to Physical Activity for Brain Health

reposted from

A Life-Long Approach to Physical Activity for Brain Health

There is lots of observational data to support the notion of physical activity being protective against many diseases associated with ageing. Unfortunately even with cohort studies it is difficult to mitigate the effect of reverse causality (i.e. physical activity diminishing as a result of undiagnosed disease and therefore participation in physical activity appearing protective)... 
Randomised controlled trials have been done and are supportive but because the nature of the intervention makes it hard to blind participants... other causal approaches may end up being useful...

Front Aging Neurosci. 2017 May 23;9:147. doi: 10.3389/fnagi.2017.00147. eCollection 2017. Macpherson H, Teo WP, Schneider LA, Smith AE.

It is well established that engaging in lifelong Physical activity (PA) can help delay the onset of many chronic lifestyle related and non-communicable diseases such as cardiovascular disease, type two diabetes, cancer and chronic respiratory diseases. Additionally, growing evidence also documents the importance of PA for brain health, with numerous studies indicating regular engagement in physical activities may be protective against cognitive decline and dementia in late life. Indeed, the link between PA and brain health may be different at each stage of life from childhood, mid-life and late life. Building on this emerging body of multidisciplinary research, this review aims to summarize the current body of evidence linking regular PA and brain health across the lifespan. Specifically, we will focus on the relationship between PA and brain health at three distinct stages of life: childhood and adolescence, mid-life, late life in cognitively healthy adults and later life in adults living with age-related neurodegenerative disorders such as Parkinson's disease (PD) and Alzheimer's disease (AD).

Giants of Circadian Biology Win Nobel Prize

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Giants of Circadian Biology Win Nobel Prize

The award in Physiology or Medicine goes to chronobiologists Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, and Michael Young.
By  | October 2, 2017

Jeffrey Hall, Michael Rosbash, Michael YoungNOBEL MEDIA. III. N. ELMEHEDThe 2017 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine has been jointly awarded to Jeffrey HallMichael Rosbash, and Michael Young for their work on circadian rhythms. The trio is recognized for research on the period gene in Drosophila—a central regulator of the circadian clock whose discovery led to the identification of such genes in humans and other animals—plus the protein machinery governing the timing of biological rhythms.
In the course of their research, collaborators Rosbash and Hall at Brandeis University and Young independently at Rockefeller University, “solved the mystery of how an inner clock in most of our cells in our bodies can anticipate daily fluctuations between night and day to optimize our behavior and physiology,” Thomas Perlmann, secretary general for the Nobel Assembly and Nobel Committee, says in a statement.
Russell Foster, head of the Sleep and Circadian Neuroscience Institute at the University of Oxford, tells The Scientist that he’s “thrilled and delighted” by the news. “These are the people who gave us our first working model of how the molecular clock might tick. The three of them . . . have formed the platform of our understanding of the molecular basis of circadian rhythms, not only in flies, but it’s informed the work in mice and humans.”
Retired since 2008, Jeffrey Hall was at Brandeis University from 1974, where he took an early interest in the biology of circadian rhythms in Drosophila. His initial work with period showed that the gene played an important role in regulating the rhythm of courtship song cycles produced by male fruit flies (PNAS, 77:6729-33, 1980).
Hall later began collaborating with Brandeis colleague Michael Rosbash—a neuroscientist he got to know primarily through sport, colleagues say. The pair went on to isolate the period gene—which had been described in the 1970s by Seymour Benzer and Ronald Konopka—and showed that it produced a protein, PER, that cycles on a daily rhythm (Cell, 39:369-76, 1984). Rockefeller’s Michael Young and colleagues simultaneously isolated period, publishing the findings in Nature the same year (312:752-54).
These are the people who gave us our first working model of how the molecular clock might tick.—Russell Foster,
University of Oxford
The research laid the groundwork for other researchers to map similarly essential circadian genes in mice and other animals. “What’s extraordinary is that the basic building blocks of the clock discovered in flies are very similar in mice and humans,” says Foster. “It’s broadly the same genes and broadly the same proteins.”
The trio went on to pin down the details of the protein machinery governing circadian rhythms. Working with postdoctoral researcher Paul Hardin, Hall and Rosbash showed that mRNA transcripts from the period gene also cycle, allowing the PER protein to regulate its own production via a feedback loop (Nature, 343:536-40, 1990). “It was a great experience working as a postdoc,” Hardin tells The Scientist, adding that he is pleased and not overly surprised about today’s news. “Their work for a number of years has merited an award of this magnitude. I was so happy to hear the news this morning.”
Young, meanwhile, discovered a number of other genes influencing period protein dynamics. In 1994, his group identified timeless, a clock gene that produces a protein, TIM, that binds to PER, and is required for the latter’s entry into the nucleus to regulate period gene expression (Science, 263:1603-6). A few years later, the team described another gene, double-time, which regulates the accumulation of the period protein (Cell, 94:83-95, 1998). “He’s just a terrific scientist,” says collaborator Brian Crane, a biochemist at Cornell University. “His impact is huge. I figured that sooner or later this would happen, but it’s nice to see it materialize.”
It’s not the first time the laureate trio has been recognized for contributions to biology and the research into human circadian rhythms that has followed. In 2009, the Gruber Foundation awarded the Neuroscience Prize to Hall, Rosbash, and Young for the establishment of “a direct link between genes and behavior” that could later be extended beyond fruit flies into humans and, indeed, “all living organisms.”
In 2012, the three were recognized again with the Canada Gairdner International Award for pioneering science’s understanding of the circadian rhythm. “The medical relevance of these findings has become apparent as it was found that changes in these clock genes are associated with a series of sleep disorders in humans,” Young said in an interview at the time. “There are strong indications that some forms of depression are linked to the control of circadian rhythms.”
All three have made an impression inside and outside the lab. “Being in the room with them, you realize you have to keep concentration to keep up with the discussion,” notes Michael Hastings, a molecular neurobiologist working on circadian rhythms at the University of Cambridge, who sees both Rosbash and Young frequently at research gatherings. “[They have] an enormous intellectual appetite and curiosity.”
On announcing the prize, Rosbash’s first response to the news of the award this morning was “you are kidding me,” Perlmann told the audience. “That’s a classic Michael response,” Hardin says. “He’s quite the jokester.”
Update (October 2): The article has been updated to include reaction from Brian Crane.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

People with PD

reposted from NBS


Two students pursuing ballet at the highest level

A husband and wife changing their lives through dance

An alumna rediscovering her passion for choreography

United in one incredible performance at NBS' 2017
Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop

Fran & Murray Ellis (Dancers)

"I feel alive. I feel happy. Dance has given me a whole new approach and a desire to keep fighting."

"Fran, are you a dancer?" If you asked me that question three years ago, the answer would have been a flat, "No."

I was so angry when I was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease. I had done everything right my whole life, yet here I was. At the urging of my husband, Murray, I reluctantly attended NBS' weekly Sharing Dance for People with Parkinson's classes - part of the School's Sharing Dance community initiatives. I was worried that going to the classes would mean I was a patient and a victim. And I was definitely not a dancer.

But almost immediately, I saw that the people in the classes weren't victims; they were people - people who live full, enthusiastic lives. Dance opened the door for me to see the possibilities in my life. It helped me feel better physically and emotionally.

Murray benefits from the classes too. He joined after he saw how much dance helped me accept my diagnosis and feel alive again. The classes help him feel supportive in his role as my husband and friend. He sees dance as a universal language that brings all of us together. I can't picture our life without it.

When Rachel Bar asked Murray and me to perform her piece at the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop, I was thrilled. To share the stage with two incredibly talented young dancers means so much to me. It gives me confidence - it says you CAN dance, you CAN move, you CAN be a valued part of society.

When we take the stage this July, I hope the audience sees that people of all ages and abilities can work together to create beautiful art. I hope they see that I don't let Parkinson's disease define who I am or what I'm capable of.

So go ahead, ask me: "Fran, are you a dancer?"

Absolutely. Are you?


Ryan and Pravda (Dancers)

"I'm learning that there is so much more to dance than perfect technique."

Ryan: I have dedicated my life to dance. I first came to NBS' Professional Ballet/Academic Program in grade six and now, six years later, I'm about to graduate. My instructors have always taught me that artists have an important role to play in society, but dancing with Fran and Murray drives that idea home for me.

The first time I met Fran and Murray, they watched me take class in the same studio that they dance in every week. They were so engaged and supportive. It inspired me to know that all of us dance in the same place, and despite the differences in our ages and reasons for dancing, we understand and respect each other.

Murray said that I have a lot to teach him about dance, but I think it's the other way around. I've already learned that the way dance makes us use our brains and bodies can help people with movement disorders. I learned that dancing together can help reduce feelings of isolation as we age.

More than anything, I learned that I have an important role to play as a dancer that goes far beyond perfecting my technique.

I feel a greater sense of responsibility to make sure that as many people as possible can experience the benefits dance offers. I want more people to see themselves in the art that I create. And I want everyone to know that they are capable of creating beautiful movement.

Maybe I've taught Fran and Murray something about their port de bras, but they have given me a new reason to dance.

Rachel Bar (Choreographer)

"No matter who they are or why they dance, everyone can bring beauty to movement"

I have lived the benefits of dance my whole life. Starting as a student in NBS' Professional Ballet/Academic Program, I loved experimenting and exploring new ideas in the Stephen Godfrey Choreographic Workshop. I carried that passion with me throughout my dance career.

Today, I'm the School's Manager of Health Initiatives and Research, and I'm completing my PhD in Clinical Psychology at Ryerson University. In 2013, I helped NBS start the weekly Sharing Dance for People with Parkinson's classes. I understood the wide-ranging health benefits that the classes offered people like Fran, but I was amazed by how much beauty I encountered each week. I realized that true artistry is not limited to elite dancers - it's in everyone.

I knew I wanted to choreograph a piece exploring this idea, working with dancers of different ages and different stories. The choreography will highlight the unique quality that each dancer brings to the art form, while emphasizing the elements they share. It will be set to live violin and cello, which will inject an energy into the piece that mirrors the way the dancers feel when they perform.

I hope the audience leaves seeing more beauty in themselves and the world. I hope they realize how dance connects us all.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Parkinson’s disease is caused by “Vatha”.

reposted from

This page consist of News articles, features and interviews published in the media.

According to Rasa Shashthra, Parkinson’s disease is caused by “Vatha”. Generally most of the people suffer from some kind of affliction. Some people sometimes realise that they are not healthy only when some sickness emerges. Certain sicknesses develop very slowly and take time to become full blown. According to the wisdom of Eastern Medical Therapy, Vatta, Pitta and Kapha are the root causes of all ailments.

Parkinson’s disease has a history of more than 5000 years. It was called by “Kampa Vayu” by Estaren Medical Practitioners. The disease is named after the English doctor James Parkinson, who published the first detailed description in An Essay on the Shaking Palsy in 1817. The most obvious symptoms are movement-related; these include shaking, rigidity, slowness of movement and difficulty with walking and gait. Later, cognitive and behavioural problems may arise, with dementia commonly occurring in the advanced stages of the disease. As the disease progresses, a complication called Dyskinesia or involuntary writhing movements of body starts occurring.

Demographical analysis shows that people in middle ages mostly become victims of this disease. Especially those who are afflicted diabetic and suffering from disorders in the nervous system are prone to this disease. Today many people are going through untold hardship in search of a lasting cure.

However, Rasa Shashthra, the age old time tested Eastern Medical Therapy invented by the Sages who lived in India thousands years ago has a definitive cure for Parkinson’s disease. This uncommonly great and very rare form of treatment is an integral part of a rich medical heritage of the age old medical therapies of the “Belideniya Ancestry” one of the renowned the forefathers of Eastern Medical System in Sri Lanka.

According to Rasa Shashthra, primary cause of Parkinson’s disease is “Vatha”. Moreover, it is also affected by the toxics that enter the body through the intake of food and water. Rasa Shashthra treatment entails regular use of medication prepared by detoxifying Mercury, Gold and other Metals in a manner that suits the human body and taken in the form of powder and tablets in appropriate doses on a day to day basis to achieve permanent cure.

There is a school of thought that believes that King Ravana used Rasa Shashthra as a prominent system of medical treatment.

Dr.lalith Kularathna the leading Rasa Shashthra Practitioner in Sri Lanka, a descendant of the Belideniya Ancestry stated with confidence that Parkinson’s disease could be cured permanently through the Rasa Shashthra Therapy without any risk of side effects. Dr.Kularathna further stated that Gold which is heavily used as in ingredient in Rasa Medicine possesses powerful medical properties which could be used for genetic engineering whilst confirming that Rasa Shashthra Therapy has given relief to many hapless people who have been suffering from Parkinson’s disease.