Saturday December 15, 2018

Can our brain regulate its loss of control?

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New York, Our brain could actually be regulating the progression of glaucoma and other neuro-degenerative diseases, researchers say.

The result has implications in the pursuit of neuroprotective therapies. Glaucoma is a neuro-degenerative disease where patients lose seemingly random patches of vision in each eye.

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medicalxpress.com

Scientists have long thought that glaucoma’s progression is independent of – or uncontrolled by – the brain.

However, the study found that the progression of glaucoma is not random and that the brain may be involved after all.
The study said patients with moderate to severe glaucoma maintained vision in one eye where it was lost in the other – like two puzzle pieces fitting together (a ‘jigsaw Effect’).

This pattern of vision loss is in stark contrast to lose from a brain tumor or stroke, which causes both eyes to develop blind spots in the same location.

“This suggests some communication between the eyes must be going on and that can only happen in the brain,” said study’s lead author William Eric Sponsel from the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Sponsel found that the jigsaw effect begins at the earliest stages of glaucoma and discovered clues as to which part of the brain is responsible for optimising vision in the face of glaucoma’s slow destruction of sight.

“Our work has illustrated that the brain will not let us lose control of the same function on both sides of the brain if that can be avoided,” Sponsel said.

The progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s diseases, which have neuro-degenerative biology similar to glaucoma, may also be actively mediated by the brain.

It seems likely that the same kind of protective mechanism will be at work with other neuro-degenerative disorders.”

The researchers say if the brain regulates neuro-degeneration – that is, if the brain controls how it loses control – then scientists now should be able to look for opportunities to slow or stop the progression of these diseases.

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Travelling To Space May Alter Brain, Says Study

Upon return to Earth, this process is then gradually reversed, which then results in a relative reduction of white matter volume

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Keplar, NASA
According to co-author Andrew Casey, it was previously believed that the first stars that formed in the universe could not possibly still exist today. VOA

Spending long periods in space not only leads to muscle atrophy and reductions in bone density, it also has lasting effects on the brain, suggests a study.

The study, led by a team of neuroscientists from the University of Antwerp in Belgium and Ludwig-Maximilians-University (LMU) of Munich, showed that differential changes in the three main tissue volumes of the brain remain detectable for at least half a year after the end of their last mission.

“Our results point to prolonged changes in the pattern of cerebrospinal fluid circulation over a period of at least seven months following the return to Earth,” said professor Peter zu Eulenburg from the LMU.

“However, whether or not the extensive alterations shown in the grey and the white matter lead to any changes in cognition remains unclear at present,” he added.

The study, reported in the New England Journal of Medicine, was carried out on ten cosmonauts, each of whom had spent an average of 189 days on board the International Space Station (ISS).

The magnetic resonance tomography (MRT) scans performed in the days after the return to Earth revealed that the volume of the grey matter was reduced compared to before launch.

ISS Launched First satellite For Cleaning Space Junk
Space travel can alter brain: Study, Pixabay

Seven months later, this effect was partly reversed, but nevertheless still detectable.

In contrast, the volume of the cerebrospinal fluid, which fills the inner and outer cavities of the brain, increased within the cortex during long-term exposure to microgravity.

Further, the white matter tissue volume (those parts of the brain that are primarily made up of nerve fibres) appeared to be unchanged upon investigation immediately after landing.

But, the subsequent examination six months later showed a widespread reduction in volume relative to both earlier measurements.

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In this case, the team postulated that over the course of a longer stint in space, the volume of the white matter may slowly be replaced by an influx of cerebrospinal fluid.

Upon return to Earth, this process is then gradually reversed, which then results in a relative reduction of white matter volume.

According to the researchers, further studies using a wider range of diagnostic methods are deemed essential, to minimise the risks associated with long-term missions and to characterise any clinical significance of the findings. (IANS)