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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A Bayesian Approach to the Brain

The July Report on Progress, by Florent Meyniel, Ph.D., explores the Bayesian concept of the brain, a mathematical theory to neuroscience.

According to the article, Bayesian concepts are appealing to many researchers in fundamental and applied research, including neuroscience. Bayesian tools, part of probability theory, are useful whenever quantitative analysis is needed, such as in statistics, data mining, or forecasting. However, Bayesian concepts have much further reaching implications in neuroscience. They are essential to the way we think about the brain.

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Brainy Reads for Summer 2016

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Need a book to take with you on your summer vacation? We have six brainy suggestions, all written by members of the Dana Alliance for Brain Initiatives (DABI) or prominent neuroscientists, that are perfect for a sunny day:

The Teenage Brain: A Neuroscientist’s Survival Guide to Raising Adolescents and Young Adults, by DABI member Frances E. Jensen, M.D., HarperCollins

“Jensen provides her sound scientific expertise and presents experimental brain data, as well as her firsthand practice of parenting through vignettes about her sons’ sometimes questionable behavior—hair dye, a car crash, her response to a son having too much to drink as a college student. Jensen also presents humorous, cliché, and disheartening teen stories and testimonials from parents who have sought her advice.” – Marisa M. Silveri, Ph.D., Cerebrum

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Myasthenia Gravis Awareness Month

It’s not a common household word, or a name that spends a lot of time in the limelight, but myasthenia gravis (MG) is an autoimmune neuromuscular disorder that affects approximately 20 out of 100,000 people in the US. According to experts at the Myasthenia Gravis Foundation of America (MGFA), this disease is “considered under-diagnosed and the prevalence is thought to be much higher.” With June being Myasthenia Gravis Awareness month, our goal is to help inform the public about the disease by sharing verified facts and resources for further information.

The name myasthenia gravis, which is Latin and Greek in origin, literally means “grave muscle weakness.” It is often referred to as “the snowflake disease” because no two cases are identical. The degree of muscle weakness and general symptoms vary greatly from patient to patient, but common signs include drooping of the eyelid, blurred or double vision, slurred speech, and difficulty chewing or swallowing. The neuromuscular disorder is caused by a breakdown in the normal communication between nerves and muscles, and muscle weakness tends to worsen as the affected muscle is used repeatedly. While MG can affect people at any age regardless of gender or ethnicity, women most commonly experience first symptoms in their 20s and 30s while men are generally affected later in their 70s or older. Avoiding stress and having a well-balanced diet can help improve conditions.

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