Medical News Archives: Brain

Playing Guitar During Brain Surgery

Playing Guitar During Brain Surgery

Brad Carter, an actor and guitarist in Los Angeles, underwent brain surgery to fix benign tremors after medications failed to cure them. He was awake for six hours of the surgery, playing his guitar to help doctors implant a wire inside his head. Chief medical editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman share their comments about this unique during a video interview.

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New Helmet Sensor Detects Concussion

New Helmet Sensor Detects Concussion

It’s no secret that head injuries are rife in the NFL, last year alone there were over 160, and it’s a problem that’s becoming more prevalent as players get bigger and stronger. But a company based in Ontario hopes to prevent the long-term effects of these head injuries with a new helmet sensor that detects when players been hit too hard.

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Common Neurological Disorders

Common Neurological Disorders

The brain makes us who we are, largely defining our uniqueness as individuals and as a species. For this reason diseases that attack the nervous system – whether suddenly as in stroke, insidiously as in Alzheimer’s disease, or with recurrent attacks as may occur in multiple sclerosis – strike at the core of our being. Imagine being unable to speak, being unable to move your limbs at will, or experiencing difficulty recognizing common surroundings or close relatives.

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Human Connectome Project

Human Connectome Project

An ambitious project, started in 2009, to map the pathways of the human brain is finally becoming a reality. The Human Connectome Project (HCP) aims to provide a comprehensive map of the brain presented in 3D images with which users can “fly through major brain pathways, compare essential circuits, zoom into a region to explore the cells that comprise it, and the functions that depend on it.”

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Brain Tapeworms

Brain Tapeworms

Tapeworms are parasites generally associated with the intestines, but in some case, these gastrointestinal dwelling mites can migrate to brain, where they unleash a barrage of irreversible damage on the brain.

Otherwise known as Neurocysticercosis (NCC), brain tapeworms can eat away at brain matter leaving the muscle looking like a rotting apple eaten by worms.
Tapeworms are parasites generally associated with the intestines, but in some case, these gastrointestinal dwelling mites can migrate to brain, where they unleash a barrage of irreversible damage on the brain.

Otherwise known as Neurocysticercosis (NCC), brain tapeworms can eat away at brain matter leaving the muscle looking like a rotting apple eaten by worms.

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Researchers Invent Mind Reading Typing Machine

Researchers Invent Mind Reading Typing Machine

Researchers have invented the world’s first mind-reading system that allows any person to type words letter by letter just by thinking about them, in real time.

The technology will not only allow people with serious motor disabilities to communicate, it could also be utilized to revolutionize the way we interact with devices.

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Paralyzed Woman Controls Bionic Arm With Brain

Paralyzed Woman Controls Bionic Arm With Brain

Cathy Hutchinson hasn’t been able to drink anything without the help of her carer in 15 years since she suffered a stroke. But recently, thanks to a bionic arm and the most advanced brain-machine interface ever built, she was able to sip coffee though a straw simply by thinking about performing the action.
Cathy Hutchinson hasn’t been able to drink anything without the help of her carer in 15 years since she suffered a stroke. But recently, thanks to a bionic arm and the most advanced brain-machine interface ever built, she was able to sip coffee though a straw simply by thinking about performing the action.

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Four-Year-Old Girl Joins Mensa With 159 IQ

Four-Year-Old Girl Joins Mensa With 159 IQ

A four-year-old girl from Hampshire, England, has been accepted into Mensa after scoring 159 on her IQ test.

Heidi Hankins from Winchester, taught herself to read and count by the age of two. British Mensa chief executive John Stevenage praised the parents for noticing her exceptional abilities, saying they “correctly identified that she shows great potential”, adding that Mensa aims ” to provide a positive environment for younger members to develop.”

According to Mensa, the average adult IQ score is 100. Heidi’s’ score is just one point below Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. Signs of gifted children include an unusual memory, reading at an early age, awareness of world events and an intolerance of other children, they also tend to ask questions all the time.

Surprisingly enough, Heidi is not the youngest person to have been accepted into the elite circle of logical thinkers. In 2009, two-year-old Oscar Wrigley became the youngest child to join Mensa with an IQ of 160.


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Meditation Can Make You Smarter

Meditation Can Make You Smarter

Recent studies have shown that exercise is good for the brain, and now new research has shown how meditation also has proven health benefits for those who practice the holistic discipline.

The new research, conducted the UCLA took 50 meditators and 50 non-meditators, and analyzed their brains using MRI scans.

The team found that the long-term meditators showed an increase amount of gyrification – the amount of folds in the cortex of the brain. The cortex plays a major part role in memory, attention, thought and consciousness and there has been a number of studies that support the fact that the more folds in the brain, the quicker it can process information.

meditation make you smarter

How Meditation Makes You Smarter

Researchers also found a direct correlation between the increase in gyrification and the amount of years the participants had been practicing yoga. The findings suggest that the longer one practices yoga, the quicker the brain can process information.

Eileen Luders, assistant professor at the UCLA Laboratory of Neuro Imaging, involved in the study said:

“Meditators are known to be masters in introspection and awareness as well as emotional control and self-regulation, so the findings make sense that the longer someone has meditated, the higher the degree of folding…”

Mediation is bot the only holistic practice scientifically proven to have noticeable health benefits for your muscles. Other recent studies have shown the massaging immediately after exercise can reduce muscle pain and help improve muscle repair.

The article appears in the online edition of the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience.


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Why Exercise Is Good For The Brain

Why Exercise Is Good For The Brain

Whilst its long been known that exercise is great for both a healthy body and mind, scientists have had a hard time proving it. But now a new study has shown that exercise increases the brains energy supply, which in turn leads to more efficient thinking.

Previous studies have shown how exercise can help boost learning and stave off dementia as well as other health conditions, however scientists had never been able to pinpoint why.

Lead researcher Mark Davis, a physiologist at the University of South Carolina, and his team say that the new findings explain why exercise seems to reduce age and disease related.

why exercise is good for the brain

Why Exercise Is Good For The Brain

This is because the brain seems to take advantage of the same energy delivery system as the muscles. When we exercise our muscles create small packets of energy known as mitochondria, and these mitochondria also affect the brain.

In tests on lab mice, the team found that running half an hour per day on a treadmill increased levels of mitochondria in the brain. This increased energy supply allows the brain to work faster and more efficiently.

Davis said:

“The evidence is accumulating rapidly that exercise keeps the brain younger,”

The study was published in the Journal of Applied Physiology.


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iPads Help Improve Math Scores

iPads Help Improve Math Scores

A pilot program in California has found that students who were given iPads to aid the learning of math were able to increase their overall score by 2) percent.

The program, initiated by publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, found that 78 percent of participating students advanced their scores in the California Standard Test for spring 2011, compare with just 58 of students who were given traditional text books.

ipads improve maths score

iPad Can Help Improve Math Score

HMH also found the students using iPads to be “more motivated, attentive, and engaged than traditionally educated peers.”

“By engineering a comprehensive platform that combines the best learning material with technology that embraces students’ strengths and addresses their weaknesses, we’ve gone far beyond the capabilities of an e-book to turn a one-way math lesson into an engaging, interactive, supportive learning experience.” [HMN]

When it comes to computer-based learning there are two schools of thought, those all for increasing the amount of computer-aided learning through the use of such devices as iPads would argue that technology is essential to learning, especially being as many job these days are technology-related. The other side of the coin is that technology in the classroom is distracting and in some cases, can actually hinder the transfer of knowledge.

Personally I think its more a case of tailoring the best learning applications to best situations. It’s hard to deny that all people, including children get attached to their pads, and if educational software can then help tablet wielding kids learning faster and think more intuitively, then I’m all for it.


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Man Shoots Nail Into Brain

Man Shoots Nail Into Brain

A Chicago man is expected to make a full recovery after a he accidentally shot a 3.25-inch nail into his skull. Dante Autullo, 34, was working in his workshop when a nail gun he was operating recoiled and struck him on the forehead.

Left with a cut on his forehead and in relatively little pain, Autullo thought that gun had simply hit his forehead.

When cleaning the wound at home, his fiancée, Ms. Glaenzer, also overlooked the full extent of the damage. However, when Autullo started to become nauseous the next day, the bride to be quickly took him to the Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Illinois for examination.

At the hospital it became clear that the nail gun did not only strike Autullo’s forehead, it also send a 3.25inch nail into his skull. Luckily the nail came within just a few millimeters of the area used for motor function.

dante autullo shoots nail into brain

Dante Autullo Shots Himself In The Brain With Nail Gun

[BBC]

There are pain-sensitive nerves on the person skull, however there are none within the brain itself, which is why Autullo only felt the pain of the nail penetrating the skull.

To remove the nail, a section of the skull was removed and replaced with a titanium mesh. Ms. Glaenzer, told the Associated Press on Friday that he was in good spirits after the two-hour surgery.


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Electrodes Could Fix Damaged Brain Tissue

Electrodes Could Fix Damaged Brain Tissue

A controversial new study, which involves tampering with the brains of heavily sedating rats, hopes to uncover new methods of treating conditions such as strokes and Parkinson’s.

The research, being carried out at Israel’s Tel Aviv University psychology department, aims to replace parts of the brain with digital equipment. Prof Matti Mintz, a psychobiologist at Tel Aviv University who is involved in the international project, explained.

“Imagine there’s a small area in the brain that is malfunctioning, and imagine that we understand the architecture of this damaged area…

“So we try to replicate this part of the brain with electronics.”

To do this researchers implant electrode 1 cm deep inside the rat’s brain. The electrodes are then connected to a microchip embedded under the rodents’ skull.

scientists implants electrode in rat brains

Scientists Implants Electrode In Rats Brains To Repair Brain Damage

Image Credit: Jean-Etienne Minh-Duy Poirrier, 2007.

The chip receives sensory information from the brainstem then interprets it and sends the info back just like healthy brain tissue would.

Animal activists claim the research is ‘grotesque’ however researchers claim it could lead to discover effective ways of fixing the brain. Prof. Mintz explains:

“For example, there’s a region of the brain that controls one simple motor movement – breathing…

“Right now, if a patient loses this area, there’s no way to recover. But if we’re able in the future to replace such an area that is responsible for very discrete but extremely essential movement, it will be great…

“And it is on the horizon.”


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Valkee Brain Stimulation Device Improves Mood And Reaction Time

Valkee Brain Stimulation Device Improves Mood And Reaction Time

A new study has found that the Valkee brain stimulation device, a light therapy headset originally marketed to improve seasonal affective disorder, may also help improve reaction times.

When the device first emerged in 2010, many were skeptical about its claims – claims that are still under scrutiny. According to the company just 8-12 minutes a day are wearing the device is all that’s need to help improve mood during those dark and dingy winters.

However continued research into the benefits of such light therapy have uncovered a rather beneficial side effect of the mood-enhancing portable headset.

valkee-brain-stimulation-improves-reaction-time

Valkee Brain Stimulation Device

The recent study conducted by Verve Research in Finland, involved members from the Finnish national ice hockey league. Some were given the device to use, and others were given a placebo device for control.

The researchers found that those who has been exposed to 12 minutes of light every day sped up their reaction times by as much as 20 percent. Lead researcher Mikko Tulppo in a news release:

“The placebo-controlled study showed a significant improvement in motoric reaction times of top athletes using bright light via the ear canal.”

With all the research that suggest sunlight provides the body with essential vitamin D, it’s completely plausible that light can have a great affect on the body and mind. Still I have to say I remain a little skeptical.

Nevertheless, should such research continue to produce positive results, the treatment would not only increase the performance of athletes, but it could improve safety in situations where reactions times are key, e.g. driving, operating machinery.


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Brain Cells Eat Themselves When Starved

Brain Cells Eat Themselves When Starved

A new study has shown that dieters struggle to lose weight because brain cells begin to eat themselves when starved of food.

Just like other parts of the body, cells in the brain begin to eat themselves as a way of replenishing energy to ward off starvation. In response the body produces fatty acids, which increase the hunger signal making us want to eat more.

brain cells eat themselves when starved

Dieters Struggle To Lose Weight Because Brain Cells Eat Themselves When Starved

Image Credit: Gideon, 2005.

Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine at Yeshiva University in New York hope that the new findings will lead to scientifically proven weight loss treatments.

When tested on mice, researchers found that using a process called autophagy – which stops brain cells eating themselves – prevented hunger impulses from rising in response to starvation. The effects caused the mice to lose weight and become slimmer.

Dr Rajat Singh, who led the study, said: “A pathway that is really important for every cell to turn over components in a kind of housekeeping process is also required to regulate appetite.

“Treatments aimed at the pathway might make you less hungry and burn more fat, a good way to maintain energy balance in a world where calories are cheap and plentiful.” [Telegraph UK]


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Floatation Tank Therapy

Floatation Tank Therapy

Scientist have long been aware of the mind altering effects that sensory deprivation can have on a human, but the beneficial side of the technique has not gained quite as much press as the negative effects that are often the result of interrogation methods, until recently that is.

Flotation tank therapy claims to help alleviate stress, depression, anxiety and even chronic pain. People who endorse the therapy say the results are almost immediate, and each session gets better as you learn how to relax more. The therapy has also been shown to relieve symptoms of hypertension, insomnia and arthritis.

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No Brain Damage From Ecstasy

No Brain Damage From Ecstasy

A new study into the effects of ecstasy on the brain claims that there is no evidence to show that the illegal party drug can lead to brain damage. The results of the study are set to shock those who have long campaigned against the use drug.

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Girl Must Digest Brain Fluid To Stay Alive

Girl Must Digest Brain Fluid To Stay Alive

A teenage girl who suffers from a rare condition which causes fluid to build up in her skull has been cure by a rather unconventional procedure.

Because of her condition, Melissa Peacock, 17, endured years of frequent migraines due to the pressure exerted on her brain by the excess fluid.

melissa peacock intracranial hypertension

Melissa Peacock

But now, with a pipe connected between her skull and stomach, Peacock is able to digest her excess brain fluid in her stomach.

Peacock was first diagnosed with the condition, known as Intracranial Hypertension, when mother Carolynne noticed that her daughter was unable to walk straight. At the time Melissa was just 9.

At first, doctors were worried that she may be suffering from a brain tumor because of the pain she was experiencing. However scans quickly revealed her rare condition.

By the time it came to operate, Melissa had been experience bouts of blurry vision in the left eye as the fluid built up against her optic nerve.

‘It felt like I was constantly trying to see through a steamed-up window. Sometimes I’d have almost no vision at all…

‘I went to the cinema once with my friends and ended up in A&E after I tripped on the stairs – I just couldn’t see where I was going. [Daily Mail]

Doctors believed that a simple procedure, in which surgeons puncture her spine to drain excess fluid, would be sufficient to reduce her symptoms. But it wasn’t long before the fluid had collected again.

Mellissa was to undergo a further 8 operations before doctors made the decision to perform the more drastic surgery.

x-ray of pipe that drains fluid from brain

X-Ray Of Melissa Brain

‘I was a bit shocked when I realized exactly what the doctors were planning on doing,’ Melissa said:

‘The pain was just unbearable at times, so I agreed to go ahead with the operation…

‘Before, there were weeks at a time where I just couldn’t get out of bed because of the pain – and even when I did, I couldn’t do all the things my friends did.’ [Daily Mail]

Now, a tube which carries excess fluid from her skull to her stomach to be digested along with her food has relieved her symptoms and potentially saved her life.

Melissa said:

‘My friends think the fact that I digest fluid from my brain is a bit weird – but my quality of life is so much better since I had the shunt put in place, I don’t care…

‘People often struggle to understand what exactly is wrong with me. Because I don’t look ill, some people think I make it all up…

‘It has been a long journey but I can start to get on with the rest of my life now…

‘I am studying photography at college now and hope I can go on to live a life that isn’t controlled by my condition.’ [Daily Mail]


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Brain Machine Interface Controls Wheelchair

Brain Machine Interface Controls Wheelchair

Brain-control seems to be all the rage, and quiet rightly so. For decades the dream of operating devices controlled by the mind was nothing more than science fiction. But now such technology is upon us, the world is beginning to see just how useful mind-controlled brain ‘bots can be.

A new Brain Machine Interface (BMI) developed by the Japanese government research company Riken – in collaboration with Toyota, Toyota R and D Labs and Genesis Research Institute – allows a wheelchair user to direct their movements using nothing but their own thoughts.

riken brain controlled electric wheelchair

Riken Brain Machine Interface

The Riken BMI wheelchair utilizes a technology known as electroencephalography (EEG). To ‘drive’ the wheelchair, EEG sensors mounted on the users head pick up brainwaves which are relayed to a laptop and translated into control signals. The signals are then displayed on a screen to give the user visual feedback for ‘efficient operation.’

To power and steer the chair, the user simply has to imaging their movements, left, right, forward, etc; and to stop, a puff of the cheek applies the break.

The whole translation from brainwave to control signals, to visual feedback, takes under 125 milliseconds – a duration beats other BMI systems by ‘several seconds,’ This extremely short latency appears in real-time to human eye.

The company claims that with just three hours of training a day for one week, users can operate the system with 95 percent accuracy.

As you can see from the video the main application of Riken’s new BMI is pretty obvious, but the company noted that the technology is already being extended to read brainwave patterns given off by certain mental states and emotions.

Rivals Honda is also in the midst of developing a BMI to control its famous ASIMO robot. Honda’s BMI also utilizes EEG technology and works in near-real-time.

honda asimo robot brain machine interface

Honda ASIMO BMI


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Plastic Surgery Procedure Cures Migraines

Plastic Surgery Procedure Cures Migraines

A recent clinical trial has found that plastic surgery techniques, which target facial muscles and nerves linked to headaches, can be used to null the painful effects of migraines.

Michelle Cramer, a graphics illustrator in Williamsburg, Va., suffered about 15 migraines a month for almost a decade, until she underwent surgery to disarm the nerves responsible for her frequent headaches.

“I get maybe two migraines a year now,” she said.

Using surgery to correct migraine is a relatively new idea. Dr. Richard Lipton, director of the Montefiore Headache Center in New York City, who was not involved in the new study, said:

“The theory here is that there are sites outside the brain in the face and back of the head that can trigger migraines and, if you surgically remove the migraine trigger, the migraine will improve and there’s certainly a precedent for the idea,”

According to the article, approx 30 million Americans suffer from migraines, a large number of them being women.

The study involved 75 patients with moderate to severe migraine headaches. Once the migraine trigger sites in the forehead, cheek and back of the head/neck had been identified, doctors injected Botox to these areas to see if they could be disarmed.

Plastic Surgery Can Cure Migraines

If the trigger sites responded to the Botox, then the patients underwent surgery to remove the trigger areas.

Forty-nine patients were randomized to receive “real” surgery and 26 to “sham” surgery. The surgeries differed depending on the trigger points. Dr. Bahman Guyuron, lead author of the study and professor and chairman of the department of plastic surgery at University Hospitals Case Medical Center in Cleveland, explained:

“For the patients with forehead headaches, we removed the frowning muscles. That’s why they look better, more cheerful…

“Those with temple headaches underwent an operation on a small nerve, which also lifted their eyebrows…

“And, for those with a back-of-the-head trigger, [we] replaced a small amount of muscle around the occipital nerve with fatty tissue to shield the nerve from being squeezed by the muscle.”

After one year, nearly 84 percent of patients receiving actual surgery reported a 50% reduction in migraines, while more than 57 percent said that their migraines had completely disappeared, 57.7% and 3.8 %, respectively, in the sham group.

Some patients did experience temporary numbness in parts of the face, said Guyuron, but it usually went away.

“One thing that’s impressive is the migraine-free rates,” Lipton said. “The other thing that was impressive is they did a year of follow-up. Usually, everything is placebo-responsive but those responses are usually short-lived. A year is really impressive.”

Guyuron believes the procedure, which he has already performed on more than 400 individuals, could benefit a wide range of migraine sufferers:

“It really is not invasive surgery. It takes about an hour to do the operation for each trigger site, three-and-a-half hours is the maximum…

“They go home right after the surgery and go back to work within a week.”

But Lipton wants to see another study, and feels surgery should be reserved for the most intractable cases.

“This is obviously not for everyone. This is for people who are really suffering, who’ve had adequate trials of medical therapy and who have an identifiable trigger point and get better following a Botox injection…

“There are a lot of hurdles someone would have to jump over before I would send them for surgery.”

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