Archive by category | Neuroscience/mental health

Common autism pathway opens the door for new drug treatments

Common autism pathway opens the door for new drug treatments

The definition of autism has undergone constant evolution — as any architect of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders can attest — and now refers to a broad spectrum of various developmental and social disorders with many distinct genetic causes. This understanding of the disorder obviously complicates the development of therapeutics: if every person with autism is different, identifying drugs to treat everyone seems like a Sisyphean task. But research published today suggests that the disorder’s complexity may not beckon the end of drug development.  Read more

New drug pathways under investigation for ALS

New drug pathways under investigation for ALS

A diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS) is considered a life sentence. Most people with the neurodegenerative disease, which attacks the neurons responsible for motor control, only survive two or three years after their diagnosis — and 5,000 such diagnoses are made each year in the US alone. Despite the need, however, there is only a single drug on the market that targets ALS: Rilutek (riluzole), made by France’s Sanofi. But this agent only prolongs life by two or three months on average.  Read more

NEWS FEATURE: A raw nerve

NEWS FEATURE: A raw nerve

At a walkathon one Saturday in September, nearly 5,000 people traced two miles of Chicago’s lakefront to raise money for research into the progressive nerve disease that is thought to have killed baseball star Lou Gehrig. Janice Caliendo was there collecting blood samples from friends of those affected by the incurable disease to be used as controls in future genetic studies. Caliendo, a lab manager at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in the Streeterville neighborhood of the city, often attends these sorts of fundraisers, but this time she was getting more attention than usual.  Read more

EDITORIAL: Risk-takers wanted

Treating costly conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease may soon collapse healthcare systems around the world, yet companies hesitate to invest in the long, large clinical trials required to discover disease-modifying therapies. New incentives are necessary to turn this tide.  Read more

New Parkinson’s therapies aim to halt disease, not just symptoms

NEW YORK — The introduction of levadopa therapy more than 40 years ago marked a milestone in the treatment of Parkinson’s disease. The dopamine replacement drug helps control the motor symptoms associated with the neurodegenerative disease, but it does not prevent the further loss of dopamine-producing neurons, so researchers have been on the hunt for more neuroprotective treatment options.  Read more

New guidelines for early Alzheimer’s diagnoses found wanting

New guidelines for early Alzheimer’s diagnoses found wanting

Like with any neurodegenerative disorder, treating Alzheimer’s early is key to arresting the disease’s inevitable mental decline. But this is easier said than done. The earliest stages of Alzheimer’s disease — before the symptoms of dementia become apparent — are vague and undefined, and neuroscientists remain divided about how best to characterize the distinct clinical phases of disease progression.  Read more

New mouse model for autism could open door to new drug testing

New mouse model for autism could open door to new drug testing

A new mouse model of autism created by scientists at the University of California-Los Angeles promises to mimic the disease more closely than previous animal models, according to a paper out today in the journal Cell. The mice possess the same mutation in the gene contactin associated protein-like 2 (CNTNAP2) seen in a small subset of people with autism. When individuals have two non-functioning versions of the gene, as found in two Amish families, they suffer a suite of symptoms such as epileptic seizures, language regression, hyperactivity and autism. The mice created by the UCLA team exhibit all of these symptoms, including the deficits in vocal communication and repetitive behaviors characteristic of autism linked to CNTNAP2 mutations.  Read more

Deep brain stimulation hinders Parkinson’s for ten years and counting

Deep brain stimulation hinders Parkinson’s for ten years and counting

In 1993, French scientists first reported that electrodes implanted into the brains of people with Parkinson’s disease could drastically improve motor function and slow disease progression. And in the intervening two decades, this surgical technique, known as deep brain stimulation (DBS), has been used in around 60,000 people with the neurodegenerative disease. But given the brief availability of DBS, researchers have a poor understanding of how well the treatment works in the long-term. A new study, however, suggests that the treatment can improve the symptoms of Parkinson’s disease patients even up to a decade after doctors first implant electrodes.  Read more

Scaled-up study of soldiers points to doubled risk of dementia from head injury

Scaled-up study of soldiers points to doubled risk of dementia from head injury

PARIS — A massive review of the medical records of nearly 300,000 US veterans lends weight to the notion that traumatic brain injury might contribute to the risk of cognitive impairment later in life. Neurologist Kristine Yaffe of the University of California–San Francisco and her colleagues reviewed seven years’ worth of data from the files of the former military troops, and found that these types of head injuries were linked to a doubled risk of dementia.  Read more