October 22: International Stuttering Awareness Day

More than three million people in the United States share the common experience of stuttering, a condition that disrupts the production of speech sounds (also known as “disfluencies”), according to the National Stuttering Association (NSA). Oftentimes developed during childhood, stuttering now affects more than 70 million people worldwide. Since 1998, October 22 has been regarded as “International Stuttering Awareness Day,” an opportunity for organizations such as NSA and the Stuttering Foundation to advocate for greater awareness around the stigmas and scientific progress that surround the fluency disorder.

In August, we published a news story, “Seeking Clues to Stuttering Deep Within the Brain,” which highlights the latest breakthroughs scientists have made with the help of neuroimaging technology. In the article, neuroscientist Soo-Eun Chang says:

Because very little was known about this complex disorder, there were wild theories…[Nowadays] there’s consensus among many researchers that stuttering is a neurodevelopmental disorder, not a psychiatric or emotional issue. With neuroimaging, we’ve just begun to find subtle differences in brain structure and function in those who stutter.

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Celebrate World Alzheimer’s Month with Brain Healthy Steps

There are approximately 46 million people living with dementia, costing $818 billion worldwide. By 2050, this number is estimated to rise to over 131 million people, according to Alzheimer’s Disease International (ADI). With so many people living to be older, dementia is becoming one of the world’s most urgent healthcare issues.

This September marks the fifth annual World’s Alzheimer’s Month, with people around the world hosting events to raise awareness. The theme for 2016 is “Remember Me,” with people sharing memories on social media using the hashtags #RememberMe and #WAM2016. Alzheimer’s disease, along with vascular dementia, is one of the most common forms of dementia.

Recently released in honor of World’s Alzheimer’s Month is ADI’s annual Alzheimer Report. This year’s report emphasizes the importance of transferring responsibilities to primary care services from more specialized services, such as geriatrics, and psychiatrists. “As the numbers of people affected and the demand for services increase, it is unlikely that full coverage of dementia healthcare services can be attained or afforded using the current specialist care model,” the report states.

With all this worrisome news about the rise in dementia, the most important thing we can do is lead a brain-healthy lifestyle. Small changes can significantly delay the onset of dementia, reducing costs and strain on our health care system, and more importantly increasing quality of life for seniors. The Dana Foundation has a new set of four steps, based on research by the Institute of Medicine, to help keep the brain functioning into old age:

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Inaccurate Statistics on Football Safety for Kids

With all the controversy surrounding the link between traumatic brain injury and professional football, the National Football League (NFL) has been adopting certain initiatives over the last couple of years in an attempt to reassure the country that their national pastime is becoming safer for kids and athletes. Together with USA Football—youth football’s governing body—the league endorsed a new educational program called “Heads Up Football” back in 2015. The program involves a series of in-person and online courses for coaches to learn new safety procedures and proper tackling drills to reduce the risk of head injury. The NFL and USA Football said that the program reduced the number of concussions by an estimated 30 percent and injuries by 76 percent.

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Photo credit: Shutterstock

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Dana Grantee Aims to Offer a More Personalized Treatment for Depression

DrEtkin_Jan2013_8880_5x7eIn an effort to create a more personalized approach to treating depression and to better understand its underlying circuitry, Amit Etkin of Stanford University is studying the use
of repetitive transcranial magnetic stimulation (rTMS) in combination with whole-brain EEG and functional MRI. According to Etkin:

By stimulating brain activity and assessing circuit-level changes as they happen, we can garner important insight into what is wrong in depression and how to fix it in an optimized, personalized matter.

I’ll give you one concrete example: It matters whether stimulation is done to an area in the patient’s brain that is abnormal or normal. For any treatment in any psychiatric disorder, we don’t actually know whether the goal of treatment is to normalize abnormal brain activity or to engage compensatory circuitry. It’s a fundamental question that we cannot answer without a direct tool for manipulating brain systems and assessing the effects.

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From the Archives: Treating Opioid Addiction

It is estimated that between 26.4 million and 36 million people abuse opioids worldwide; the US government estimates that 2.1 million people in the United States have substance use disorders related to prescription opioid pain relievers in 2012 and another 467,000 are addicted to heroin. Consequences include a spike in the number of unintentional overdose deaths from prescription pain relievers (including the recent death of the musician Prince), and growing evidence to suggest a relationship between increased non-medical use of opioid analgesics and heroin abuse in the US.

OBrien_Charles_featWhat can we do to help? This spring, Charles O’Brien and colleagues reported results of the latest in a series of studies testing the drug naltrexone as a preventive against opioid relapse in people greatly at risk for relapse: formerly addicted convicts. “This U.S. multisite, open-label, randomized effectiveness trial showed that among adult offenders who had a history of opioid dependence, the rate of relapse was lower among participants assigned to extended-release naltrexone than among those assigned to usual treatment,” they write.

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