Visual tests, distorted pictures of cats and dogs, dementia and Parkinson’s…

Medscape reports on new research results from the International Conference on Parkinson’s Disease and Movement Disorders, held in Vancouver, BC, Canada June 4 – 8 2017.

Pictures of Cats and Dogs suggest identification of high risk for Parkinson’s dementia.

When viewing pictures of cats and dogs with no distortion, medium distortion, and strong distortion, Parkinson’s Patients did worse than controls in distinguishing between cats and dogs in the medium distortion condition, pointing to possible improved tests and treatments to prevent dementia in Parkinson’s.

Autopsy studies of patients with PD confirm that this area of the brain — the infero-temporal and parieto-occipital cortex — is affected, she noted. “So we already know that there is some clue that the visual processing part of the brain is important.”

Current visuo-perceptual tests measure only one or two aspects of visual processing and tend to be “too easy,” said Dr Weil. “Everyone does very well on them and by the time they do badly, their disease may have progressed quite a bit. We need trickier tests.”

As well, current tests measure visual processing only in small numbers of patients. Online testing enables access to large numbers of patients.

“People think of PD as a disorder of movement but it’s much more complex and affects much more than just movement.”

A key question then, she said, is how does PD affect the brain? “Whatever it is that causes PD doesn’t just involve the deep part of the brain, but also involves the thinking and memory parts, and the fact that people have trouble with these tests suggests that those bits are involved.”

 

Music research: a scale to get beyond the non-musician/musician binary classification

This is just a reference to an article and its abstract, nothing more, nothing less.

Multidimensional measurement of exposure to music in childhood: Beyond the musician/non-musician dichotomy

Hugo Cogo-MoreiraAlexandra Lamont

 

Abstract

Much research in music psychology characterizes the music background of its participants in a dichotomous manner, labeling participants as “musicians” and “non-musicians” or professionals and non-professionals. However, this terminology is inconsistent from study to study, and even more sophisticated measures fail to accurately represent music experiences; moreover, there is no standardized measure suitable for use with younger participants. This article presents a new measure, the Exposure to Music in Childhood Inventory, for capturing the amount and type of exposure to music activities suitable for use with children. Children from public and private school, aged 5 to 13 years old (N = 1006; M = 8.36 years old, SD = 1.5 years) completed the inventory, and through a combination of exploratory and confirmatory factor analysis a two-factor solution was obtained. The first factor includes personal music listening activities, home musical environment and the influence of television and the internet; the second reflects more social, active and public elements of music-making, playing an instrument and performing. This scale is suitable for use in a wide range of future research to more accurately assess the kinds of music activities children have access to in a dimensional way, which can have a bearing on their understanding of music.

 

 

An NIH-Kennedy Center Initiative to Explore Music and the Mind

Link to full article:  http://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/fullarticle/2630954

(I know how to embed a link inside text – just chose not to do it that way this time, thanks for the advice, folks).  Here’s a couple of quotes from the article:

Music is fundamental to the human species in ways that reach beyond entertainment or pastime. In Musicophilia, Oliver Sacks noted that music can “calm us, animate us, comfort us, thrill us, or serve to organize and synchronize us at work or play, [but] it may be especially powerful and have great therapeutic potential for patients with a variety of neurological conditions.”

. . .

Processing music is one of the most cognitively demanding tasks our brains undertake, and creating and performing music is even more complex. We are just beginning to understand what neural processes underlie the effects of active music making, and a better appreciation of these processes would likely enhance understanding of brain responses to other stimuli and tasks. There is already compelling evidence that in children, music training assists development of language skills, auditory processing, and educational achievement compared with untrained peers,2– 4 and anecdotally, many top professionals across different disciplines have musical training in their background.

The article describes the beginning of this initiative and why it is important – it will be interesting to follow this topic in the future.

Here’s the reference list from the article. More good info there.

References

1.

Schlaug  G.  Musicians and music making as a model for the study of brain plasticity.  Prog Brain Res. 2015;217:37-55. doi:10.1016/bs.pbr.2014.11.020PubMed

2.

Hallam  S.  The power of music: its impact on the intellectual, social and personal development of children and young people.  Int J Music Educ. 2010;28(3):269-289. doi:10.1177/0255761410370658Article

3.

The Arts and Human Development: Learning Across the Lifespan. National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with US Dept of Health and Human Services. https://www.arts.gov/sites/default/files/TheArtsAndHumanDev.pdf. 2011. Accessed April 5, 2017.

4.

Moreno  S, Bialystok  E, Barac  R,  et al.  Short-term music training enhances verbal intelligence and executive function.  Psychol Sci. 2011;22(11):1425-1433.PubMedArticle

5.

Bailey  JA, Zatorre  RJ, Penhune  VB.  Early musical training is linked to gray matter structure in the ventral premotor cortex and auditory-motor rhythm synchronization performance.  J Cogn Neurosci. 2014;26(4):755-767.PubMedArticle

6.

Patel  AD.  Why would musical training benefit the neural encoding of speech? the OPERA hypothesis.  Front Psychol. 2011;2:142. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2011.00142PubMedArticle

7.

Norman-Haignere  S, Kanwisher  NG, McDermott  JH.  Distinct cortical pathways for music and speech revealed by hypothesis-free voxel decomposition.  Neuron. 2015;88(6):1281-1296.PubMedArticle

8.

Limb  CJ, Braun  AR.  Neural substrates of spontaneous musical performance: an FMRI study of jazz improvisation.  PLoS One. 2008;3(2):e1679.PubMedArticle

9.

Salimpoor  VN, Benovoy  M, Larcher  K, Dagher  A, Zatorre  RJ.  Anatomically distinct dopamine release during anticipation and experience of peak emotion to music.  Nat Neurosci. 2011;14(2):257-262.PubMedArticle

A treasure trove of learning

Found an interesting site out in Califrnia, an educatioanl institution naturally, with several thought provoking titles availble for reading – originally got to the site by a link to the paper on the positive effects of music therapy .

http://digitalcommons.csumb.edu/caps_thes_all/  is a cresaative commons digital archive for the  California State University, Monterey Bay.:

There is an account registration, but it is not needed to download all of the files. Some of the Capstone projects and theses that I found interesting were:

PDF  A Discussion Regarding Various Animals’ Abilities to Make Music and Move Rhythmically to Songs, Emilie R. Bufford

PDF And The Beat Goes on: The Story of the Drum Machine, Ismael Medina

PDF Engineers Throughout Jazz History, Alex Declet

PDF  Sound Synthesis: Methods and Techniques, Christopher E. Hilker

PDF  The Benefits of Music in Child Development, Dulce-Paola Ixtupe

PDF  The Positive Effect Music Therapy Has on People, Rita Oby Ebo

PDF  Accommodating Students Different Learning Styles with the Use of Technology, Jaime Prieto

PDF   Comparing the Cost of Preamplifiers to Their Sonic Fidelity and Frequency Output, Jackson O. Hunter

PDF  Self-Expression Through Dance in Early Elementary School, Emily Blythe

PDF  The Benefits of Outdoor Education and Experiential Learning in Elementary Schools, Elizabeth F. Valentino

PDF  The Benefits of Outdoor Education Curriculum for Elementary School Students with Nature Deficit Disorder, Madison L. Allen

PDF  Incorporating Music and Arts to Enhancing the Learning Experience of Elementary School Students, Ashley Fernandez

PDF  Making the Garden a Viable Part of Curriculum, Laura Forbes

PDF  Variety for Vocalists, Jonathan Morgadinho

I’ve got a (gut) feeling…

Here’s a sample of links to Gut Microbiota For Health’s website and some of the research articles they’ve published, mostly in the last year. One talks about the linkage between certain bacteria and motor system disorders, another about relief for constipation for Parkinson’s patients, Another is a compilation of several articles, and finally, an article that explores the gut to brain relation regarding Parkinson’s, and to top it all off, the relationship of the bacteria in your stomach to the chemicals in your brain, and how the various microbial communities communicate. Life goes on within you and without you, it would seem.

Eat now, exercise later, protect against insulin insensitivity – and more news!

From Medical News Today:

 “Harm from a weeks overeating may be canceled by exercise”

That’s the limit to the good news, though. The article also reports that even occasional binging can cause problems, and a week of overeating could have a negative effect on insulin sensitivity. Exercise could protect against this metabolic damage.

 For certain, a lack of exercise and an unhealthy diet have been linked to obesity and metabolic syndrome. The article is at this link: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/313881.php

related article “Healthy living linked to higher brain function, delay of dementia

A diet high in vegetables and fruits leads to better cognitive functioning, and when combined with exercise, the effect is extended downwards to those who reported eating half as many vegetables.

the original research article is at http://jpubhealth.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2016/10/28/pubmed.fdw113

 In other news…

Mayo Clinic researchers found that it only takes 1 mutation in the PINK1 gene to increase the risk of early onslaught PD. Until this report, it had been thought you needed to have 2 mutated genes to make it happen.  Here are links to the pages:  http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/releases/313885.php or

Heterozygous PINK1 p.G411S increases risk of Parkinson’s disease via a dominant-negative mechanism

 

 

Genetic risk for Early Onslaught Parkinson’s upped by PINK1 variation

Single mutation in recessive gene increases risk of earlier onset Parkinson’s disease

“A collaboration of 32 researchers in seven countries, led by scientists at Mayo Clinic’s campus in Florida, has found a genetic mutation they say confers a risk for development of Parkinson’s disease earlier than usual.

The major study, published in Brain, is important because the risk comes from a single mutation in the PTEN-induced putative kinase 1 (PINK1) gene. Investigators had believed that this rare form of Parkinson’s developed only when a person inherited mutations in both PINK1 alleles (one from each parent).”

 You can download a copy of the original research article at this link: Heterozygous PINK1 p.G411S increases risk of Parkinson’s disease via a dominant-negative mechanism

 

Standing up can reveal cognitive difficulties.

Unmasking cognitive deficits by standing up

Published at the end of November 2016, the linked article found that folks with orthostatic hypotension revealed more cognitive deficits on standing up than when measured sitting down or lying down.

Since most cognitive tests are administered while the subject is sitting or lying down,  cognitive difficulties faced in day to day living might be underestimated.

Participants with PD and OH were far more susceptible to posture-related impairment on several tests, including those that measured math skills, the ability to produce words easily, keeping information in mind while working on it, paying sufficient attention so that later memory is efficient and searching for items quickly and accurately.

Diet as medicine for depression

Medscape reports on a new study from Australia which apparently shows that eating healthy can be good for the mood as well as the pocketbook.

Two researchers, Felice Jacka and Michael Berk, led a consortium of Australian Institutions based at the Food & Mood Centre at Deakin University in Victoria, Australia. Over 3 years, they recruited several hundred patients with moderate to severe depression and entered 67 into a 12-week parallel group trial. The treatment group received seven 60-minute sessions of dietary counselling. The parallel control group received a matching social support protocol. All but nine of the 67 participants were receiving another active treatment—either psychotherapy, medications, or both. . . .

… participants were implored to increase consumption of foods in 12 food categories. The food categories, as you may guess, included whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and legumes, and lean meats, chicken, and seafood, and to decrease consumption of foods that are correlated with a higher risk for depression: empty carbohydrates, refined starches, and highly processed foods. . . .

. . . The outcome was quite robust. The researchers found a statistically significant 7.1-point difference on the Montgomery-Asberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) in favor of the treatment group, which was their primary outcome. The researchers extrapolated that there was a 2.2-point reduction in the MADRS for every 10% adherence to the healthier dietary pattern.. . .

. . . They developed that pattern, which they called the Modified Mediterranean Diet, or the Modi-Medi Diet, by combining recommendations from the Australian government and the Greek government, and data from an earlier analysis by Felice Jacka and her colleagues[2] that determined which dietary factors played the largest role in fighting depression with diet. . . .

source of quoted excerpts:  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/875236

Contributing data for scientific research

Got my genome sequenced by the folks at 23andMe, and consented to having my data used in research studies. As a result, some new genetic sites have been identified through the sifting of the aggregate data of other folks like or unlike me.

We humans are pattern identifying organisms. So if you have Parkinson’s but not one of the gene mutations/variations known to “cause” the disease, it is only natural that we would look for correlations and associations that might also result in Parkinsonism.  So scientists mine the DNA data of thousands of people with Parkinson’s and find some additional markers

DNA and Parkinson’s – discovery by association

A related article

Not having been trained in the field, I think in broader terms – for instance, if 50% of depression diagnoses eventually become PD cases, and 25% of essential tremor cases result in Parkinson’s cases, doesn’t it stand to reason that a person with depression and essential tremors will have a greater than 50% chance of developing Parkinson’s, assuming their lifetime is long enough?  Or would it be greater than 75%? It would be interesting to see a Venn diagram of overlapping diagnoses…