Dana Newsletter: October

Below is the latest Dana email newsletter. You can sign up to receive this (and other Dana email alerts and/or print publications) by going here.

cere_0716_articleimage_contThe Evolving View of Astrocytes

by Philip G. Haydon, Ph.D.

Scientists have found that one type of glial cell that is prevalent in the cortex—the astrocyte—may play a role in sleep, learning, and memory.  From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

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Brain Game Setback

cere_110114_article_featTwo years ago we published a Cerebrum article, “The Brain Games Conundrum: Does Cognitive Training Really Sharpen the Mind?” Complicating the issue for our co-authors, Walter R. Boot and Arthur F. Kramer—both neuroscientists who had spent years studying cognitive psychology, neuroscience, and aging—were two open letters to the neuroscience community from more than one-hundred scientists, one objecting to effectiveness claims made by brain-game companies and the other a rebuttal saying brain training has a solid scientific base.

Near the end of a Q&A with Boot and Kramer following the article’s publication, Boot predicted that “maybe in ten years we might know enough to make more definitive recommendations.”

Boot’s prediction was reaffirmed earlier this week with the publishing of a comprehensive evaluation of the scientific literature on brain games in the journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest. Seven scientists, including Boot, reviewed more than 130 studies of brain games and other forms of cognitive training. The evaluation included studies of products from industry giant Lumosity.

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Dana Newsletter: August

Here are some stories recently posted on www.dana.org:

eblast augMaking Mental Health a Global Priority

by  Patricio V. Marquez, ScM., and Shekhar Saxena, M.D.

The World Bank Group and the World Health Organization are leading an initiative to find solutions to a mental health problem of global proportions. From Cerebrum, our online magazine of ideas.

eblast aug 2Center Stage for Targeting Migraine and its Treatment

Migraine is not a fatal disorder but can ruin a life and a family, writes Michael Moskowitz, M.D. Clinically, migraine varies from patient to patient and reflects a highly choreographed interplay between brain and the environment.  Here is the latest on what now is understood about migraine and what are becoming effective drug targets for treatment.One of our series of Reports on Progress.

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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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Unraveling Individual Variability in Hormonal Mood Swings

Guest post by Brenda Patoine

The stereotype of women’s “inexplicable” mood swings has long provided fodder for comics and cartoonists, but for scientists trying to understand the underlying biology, hormonal depression is no joke.

Endocrine-related affective mood disorders show up in different forms in different phases of life, from premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) during otherwise normal menstrual cycling, to post-partum depression following childbirth, to mood disruptions around and after menopause. Yet these disorders don’t affect all women, and in fact, most women do not experience them.

“How is it that some women experience a change in affective state as a result of hormones whereas a majority of women do not?” Peter Schmidt, M.D. asked in a July 8 webinar sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). “That really is the million-dollar question.”

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