Impacts of Stress on the Young Brain

Children’s brain development and social behavior can suffer when exposed to long-term stress, but early intervention can help, said two neuroscientists at the July Capitol Hill briefing, “Violence, Stress and Child Development.” The event was organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) through the support of the Dana Foundation and in conjunction with Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA).

Dana Alliance members Judy Cameron, Ph.D., and Felton Earls, M.D., discussed their research on the topic at the event: Cameron spoke about how early exposure to stress affects brain development and later, adult behavior and health; Earls discussed a longitudinal study he led in the 90s on risk factors associated with violence in 343 Chicago neighborhoods.

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Stroke Recovery

Time is of the essence when identifying and treating stroke, but at a recent Capitol Hill briefing we heard about new research that’s showing success in stroke rehabilitation even six months after onset. The briefing, organized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and supported by the Dana Foundation, was part of a series designed to educate members of Congress and their staffs about issues in neuroscience.

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Brain Mapping

On June 5, three scientists spoke on Capitol Hill about brain mapping research and how the proposed decade-long BRAIN Initiative could impact the neuroscience field. The briefing was part of a series organized by AAAS and supported by the Dana Foundation, designed to educate members of Congress and their staffs about topical issues in neuroscience.

Presenting at the meeting were Dana Alliance member David Van Essen, Ph.D., a professor of neurobiology at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis; Michael Roukes, Ph.D., a professor of physics, applied physics, and bioengineering at California Institute of Technology; and Emery Brown, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of computational neuroscience at MIT.

AAAS reports,

The BRAIN Initiative has been compared to the Human Genome Project (HGP), which successfully identified most of the DNA base pairs that make up human genes, by coordinating researchers and standardizing the technology needed to do so. The BRAIN Initiative would also help standardize technologies for brain observations and make them more widely available, Van Essen said. But unlike the HGP, its work would never really be done. Humans have a finite set of genes, but there is an almost infinite number of ways the brain can be organized. Each person’s brain is folded differently, and has a different pattern of brain wiring. That’s true even for identical twins, who share the same genes, he said.

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Combination of Tests May Improve Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

Using both imaging and biomarker tests for Alzheimer’s disease leads to more accurate diagnostic results, a Duke Medicine study suggests in this week’s Radiology.

In the press release, study author Jeffrey Petrella, M.D., explains, “This study marks the first time these diagnostic tests have been used together to help predict the progression of Alzheimer’s. If you use all three biomarkers, you get a benefit above that of the pencil-and-paper neuropsychological tests used by doctors today… Each of these tests adds new information by looking at Alzheimer’s from a different angle.”

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DABI Member Involved in Parkinson’s Study

Dana Alliance member Suzanne Corkin, Ph.D., of M.I.T., is the lead author of a newly published imaging study, which better shows the progression of Parkinson’s disease in living patients, and could lead to more tailored treatments.

According to yesterday’s New York Times:

[The investigators] worked out a way to combine four different sorts of M.R.I. to get clear pictures of damage to two brain structures in people living with Parkinson’s. In doing so, they have added support to one part of the recent hypothesis, which is that the disease first strikes an area involved in movement and later progresses to a higher part of the brain more involved in memory and attention.

Dr. Corkin was awarded a Dana Foundation grant in the mid-1990s to study the pathophysiology of cognitive decline in Parkinson’s disease.

– Ann L. Whitman

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