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New Study on Epilepsy

In unique cases of traumatic head injuries chemicals released by the brain’s immune system’s attempt to repair the injured site may provoke chronic seizures – and that might be good news because it could help to prevent one of the most common forms of adult epilepsy. That’s the report from researchers at the University of Colorado Boulder.

Researchers have focused for decades on neurons as the bad guys in seizures, often described as “electrical storms” in the brain. The new research indicates that micro-glial cells – supportive cells that constitute a major part of the brain’s immune system – may play a major role in seizures. In the brain, glial cells cluster when a severe brain injury – a head injury or an infection – has occurred. As the immune system is activated and attempts to counteract the damage and repair it, these glial cells migrate to the damaged area and release chemicals – cytokines) that profoundly increase the excitability of the neurons they are near. The result appears to be that the neurons in the damaged areas are sufficiently excited to cause seizures.

The study report appears in the July 2009 issue of the journal Brain. It was co-authored by CU-Boulder professors Daniel Barth, Linda Watkins and Steven Maier, CU-Boulder graduate students Krista Rodgers and Alexis Northcuff and Professor mark Hutchinson of the University of Adelaide in Australia.

It is known that acquired epilepsy is one of the few forms that has the potential for being prevented, because known head injuries are often followed by latent (delayed) periods of several months where nothing seems to be happening. If the brain’s initial immunity reaction can be temporarily shut down, the development of acquired epilepsy might be prevented.

For additional information, please see http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/07/090706161308

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Epilepsy: “The electric storm in the brain”

Effective treatment of patients with active epilepsy may need some dynamic improvements, including developing effective means of promoting compliance with appropriate medication regimens..

Epilepsy, often described as an “electrical storm in the brain,” involves more than a major neurological dysfunction. Data collected in the 2003 California Health Interview survey (CHIS), at the time the nation’s largest state health survey, indicated that epilepsy takes a toll on physical and mental health and often interferes with daily activities, according to study authors Rosemarie Kobau and David J. Thurman.

The study found that almost 300,000  (1.2 percent) of adults had a self-reported history of epilepsy, while 182,000 (0.7 percent) were living with active epilepsy – either taking medication or experiencing at least one seizure within the past three months.

Of those living with active epilepsy, 36 percent reported being physically disabled or unable to work, compared to just five present of adults without the disorder. Alt patients with recent seizures reported between nine and 12 days of impaired physical or mental health in the past month or days when their daily activities were limited – compared with only two to four days for those without epilepsy.

Significantly, individuals with epilepsy were found to have worse overall health status and to engage in some risky behaviors including smoking. Most startling of the authors reports was that about one-quarter of active epilepsy patients reported not taking any medication for their disorder.

For more information, see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/10/071029130925.htm

At Brain Training Centers of Florida, we are utilizing the new technology of brain wave optimization with real time balancing developed by Brain State Technologies, inc. to help our clients who suffer from epileptic seizures.
Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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Bulimia Nervosa – Brain Connections and Therapies

           There may well be more than just meets the eye in the physical and emotional crisis that is Bulimia Nervosa according to recent research. Eating disorders affect more than just the body.

 

            In fact, women with bulimia nervosa appear to respond more impulsively during psychological testing than those without the disorder, and they display differences in nerve pathways – frontostriatal circuits – that help individuals control their voluntary behaviors.

            Patients with bulimia nervosa displayed greater impulsivity than did healthy control participants, in a study conducted by Rachel marsh, Ph.D. and colleagues at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute. In the study, patients with bulimia showed greater impulsivity than control patients, responded more quickly and made more errors on “conflict trials” that required self-regulatory control to respond correctly. In the research study, the frontostriatal circuits of bulimia patients did not activate to the same degree as did those of women in the control group.  

            For more information, see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/01/090105175031.htm

            In an earlier report, it appears that the brain’s opioids receptor system – also known as the endorphin system – may hold the key to understanding and treating bulimia. Researcher Angela Guarda, M.D., assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore, found differences in the brains of bulimic and healthy women in specific receptor sites in the left insular cortex of the brain. The insula is involved in processing taste, as well as the anticipation of the reward of eating. It is also involved in drug addiction and gambling.

            Bulimia, which is 10 times more common in females than in males, affects one to two percent of adolescent girls and young women in the United States and, in rare cases, may be fatal.

            J. James Frost, M.D., Ph.D., professor of radiology and neuroscience at Johns Hopkins, indicated that medications that affect the brain’s opioids receptor system and approaches to the treatment of substance abuse disorders – including Cognitive Behavioral Therapy and 12-Step-like programs – may be helpful in treating bulimia.

            For additional information, see: www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/08/050811092434.htm

            In 2008, the team at Brain Training Centers of Florida began working with a number of women with eating disorders – especially bulimia nervosa and periodic binging – to assist them in harmonizing their brains and, as a result, limiting or eliminating their eating disorders. To date, the results have been extremely encouraging and the staff of BTC-FL is expanding its services in this area.
 

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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Bedtime for Teens and Adolescents Is Very Important

There was a time when the late night TV news began with the statement/question: “It’s 11:00 p.m. Do you know where your kids are?”

            Parents concerned about adolescent mental health and reducing the risk of depression and suicide ought to be able to answer “At home and in bed,” according to a newly released report from the National Institutes of Health.

            Teens whose parents allow them to stay up after midnight on weeknights have a much higher chance of being depressed or suicidal than teens whose parents enforce an earlier bedtime, NIH scientists reported at Sleep 2009, the annual meeting of the Associated professional Sleep Societies convened in early June 2009 in Seattle.

            The research team led by Columbia University Medical Center’s James Gangswisch examined surveys of 15,659 teens and their parents who took part in an NIH study of adolescent health. The findings are the first to examine bedtimes’ effects on the mental health of children and adolescents. The results indicated that middle- and high-schoolers who  are not required to be in bed before midnight school nights are 42 percent more likely to be depressed than teens whose parents require 10:00 p.m. or earlier bedtimes. Teens allowed to stay up later are 30% more likely to have suicidal thoughts in the past year.

            The reality, researchers found, is that middle and high school students need about nine hours of sleep a night. The NIH survey found that kids whose parents called for a 9-10 p.m. bedtime said they were in bed, on average, by 10:04 p.m. and slept for 8 hours and 10 minutes, compared to 7.5 hours for kids allowed to stay up past midnight. Significantly, the new data come from NIH surveys before 1994 to 1996 and Gangswisch believes the disparities between teens with and without prescribed bedtimes are even greater today – in the era of the Internet, Twitter and Facebook.

            For more information please see: http://www.usatoday.com/news/health/2009-06-09-bedtime-teen-depression_N.htm

 Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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The Word From Sleep 2009 Regarding Overweight and Obese Adolsecents

There’s important news out for parents and teens concerned about overweight and obese adolescents and physical fitness: Cut down on the technology and caffeine and get more sleep.      

            That appears to be the word from Sleep 2009, the 23rd Annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies.  Reductions in adolescent sleep could be related to higher caffeine levels, more hours of technology use – from text messaging and/or tweeting to Facebook and YouTube, and these could cause increased symptoms of other types of sleep disorders (such as snoring).

            The report by lead author Amy Drescher, PhD., research specialist at the University of Arizona in Tucson, reflect data gathered from 320 children who completed detailed dietary and physical activity questionnaires. The research indicated that children who slept less consumed more caffeine and had more hours of screen time – television, Internet, computer and video games. A higher body mass index (BMI) was associated with shorter sleep duration; more hours of screen time were also associated with higher caffeine consumption.

            For more information, see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090609072707.htm

 Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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Sleep Apnea May Cause Brain Damage

Obstructive sleep apnea (OSA) – one of the most common of all sleep disorders – can cause brain damage. That’s the word from a French study of 16 adults, each recently diagnosed with sleep apnea.

The study, published in the March 2009 issue of The Journal of Sleep research, found a loss of “gray matter” – brain tissues that contains nerve fibers and nerve cell bodies – in apnea patients. There was also a decrease in brain metabolism. The authors suggest that these changes may explain some of the impairments that occur in people with sleep apnea.

Moreover, a report from a UCLA research team and published in the June 2008 Neuroscience Letters reported that people with sleep apnea have tissue loss in the “mammillary bodis” – regions of the brain involved in memory storage. The UCLA study included 41 individuals with moderate to severe sleep apnea and 69 control subjects matched by age. Subjects with sleep apnea showed extensive alterations in “white matter” nerve tissue in the brain that contains fivers insulated with myelin – a white, fatty sheath.

The structural changes appear in brain regions involved in mood control and memory, areas that also play a role in adjusting blood pressure. The authors suggest that sleep apnea, which involves breathing pauses that can occur hundreds of times during a night of sleep, causes dramatic reduction in blood and oxygen levels in the brain

For more information, see the Web site of The American Academy of Sleep Medicine: www.Sleepeducation.com

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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Affects of Television on Young Children’s Brains

            For almost three generations parents have been telling kids to “turn off that television.”

            Now comes scientific evidence that, if parents want to help their children begin speaking and learning to understand the spoken word they’d better “turn off the television.”

            That’s the word from lead researcher Dimitri A. Christakis, MD, MPH, director of the Center for Child Health, Behavior and Development at Seattle Children’s Research Institute and professor of pediatrics at the University of Washington school of Medicine.

            Young children and their adult caregivers uttered fewer vocalizations, used fewer words and engaged in fewer conversations when in the presence of an audible television. Television during infancy has long been associated with language delays and attention problems but, until now, researchers were not able to pinpoint the reasons why.

            This study of 329 infants aged two months to four years old found that each hour of audible television was associated with significant reductions in child vocalizations, vocalizations duration and conversational turns. Children in the study wore business card-size digital recorders on random days for up to two years. The recorders captured everything the child said and heard during continuous 12 to 16 hour periods.

            On average, each additional hour of television exposure was associated with a decrease of 770 words – a seven percent decrease in words heard –  the child heard from an adult during the recording session and 500 to 1,000 fewer adult words were spoken per hour of audible television. Although adults typically utter approximately 941 words per hour, when the television is on parent’/adult-communication to infants is almost completely eliminated. From 500 to 1,000 fewer adult words were spoken per hour when the television was audible.

            In fact, in 2001 the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Committee on Public Education specifically recommended against screen-time for children under two yeas of age, urging more interactive play instead.

            For more information, see: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/06/090601182830.htm

            The article also includes some valuable tips and resources for parents and caregivers.  It’s one present and future parents, caregivers and grandparents ought to read and follow-up on.  The full report – “Audible Television and Decreased Adult Words, Infant Vocalizations, and Conversational Turns: A Population-Based Study” – appears in the June 2009 edition of the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine.

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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Unintended Consequences

A decline in the numbers of newly diagnosed cases of depression in the US may be an unintended consequence of government warnings about increased risk of suicidal behavior among children and teens receiving antidepressants.

             A report on the changes in the number of new diagnoses appears in the June 2009 edition of the Archives of General Psychiatry.

             From the time of the 2003 Food and Drug Administration issued its warning about selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRIs)  through June 2007, primary care physicians wrote 44 percent fewer prescriptions for pediatric patients than historic trends predicted, and 37 percent fewer for adults.  During the same time period there were no changes in alternative medications or psychotherapy to compensate for the decline in SSRI prescriptions.

             In October 2003, http://healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=627661

             A more extensive report – “Antidepressant Medications for Children and Adolescents: Information for Parents and Caregivers: – is available from the National Institute of Mental Health at from the National Institute at http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/child-and-adolescent-mental-health/antidepressant-medications-for-children-and-adolescents-information-for-parents-and-caregivers.shtml

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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Stroke: Time Is Of The Essence

For anyone who has had a stroke, “time lost is brain lost,” according to Dr. Jeffrey L. Saver, a professor of neurology at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a member of the American Stroke Association/American Heart Association.

            In fact, during every minute immediately following a stroke, two million neurons (brain cells) die, making immediate medical intervention critical.

            A “mini-stroke” – a transient ischemic attack (TIA) – may serve as a life-saving and critical early warning sign of a greater and more devastating stroke to follow.      

            That’s the word from Dr. Peter M. Rothwell, a professor of clinical neurology at the University of Oxford (England) and senior author of a study in the June 2, 2009 issue of American Academy of Neurology’s journal Neurology.

            The study authors note that if you’ve had a TIA you should “seek medical attention immediately, particularly if you have either weakness or speech disturbance that lasts more than ten minutes.

            “Don’t wait until the next day – it may be too late.”

            A Tia is a momentary blockage of blood flow in an artery of the brain and researchers found that about half of all the recurrent strokes in the seven days after a TIA occur in the first 24 hours – highlighting the need for emergency medical/neurological assessments.  

            An emergency assessment should include the “ABCD” stroke risk factors:

·         A – Age over 60

·         B – Blood pressure reading that is high

·         C – Clinical symptoms of physical weakness

·         D – Duration of the TIA

 

            A stroke is a medical emergency in which every second counts. Among the signs of a stroke are:

·         –Sudden numbness or weakness of the face, arm or leg, especially on one side of the body.

·         –Sudden confusion, trouble speaking or understanding

·         –Sudden trouble seeing in one or both eyes

·         –Sudden trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination

·         –Sudden, severe headache with no known cause

 

            For more information on the warning signs of a stroke and what to do, see: http://www.strokeassociation.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=1020

             The risk of a major stroke can be reduced by up to 80 percent by initiating standard treatment – aspirin plus or minus clopidogrel [Plavix], statin therapy, blood pressure reduction –  immediately after a TIA.  Clopidogrel and aspirin are aimed at the clots that cause a stroke by blocking a brain artery. Statins are drugs such as Crestor, Lipitor and Zocor that lower blood cholesterol levels.

            For more information, see: http://healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=627567

             According to a new analysis published in the May 28 online issue of Stroke, a potent blood clot-dissolving drug – tissue plasminogen activator (tPA) – can be given up to four-and-a-half hours after the symptoms of a stroke.  The study extends by 50 percent the previous 30 hour recommendation.

             For more information, see: http://healthday.com/Article.asp?AID=627496

Francis J. (Skip) Flynn, Psy. D.
7740 Southwest 52 Avenue
Miami, Florida 33143
(305) 271-0973

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