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.”

 

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

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.

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.

Will Parkinson’s be diagnosed by a simple sample of blood in the near future?

A step towards more accurate diagnoses of Parkinson’s and other similar neurological diseases was recently reported in Nature. And by CNN which picked up the story: Parkinsons disease blood test study

Up until now, many diseases have been diagnosed based on symptoms, with patients asking, “How do you know I have this?” Meanwhile, doctors are not always correct, Wright said. This is true even of Parkinson’s, which is diagnosed based on symptoms, a patient’s history, neurological exams, a patient’s response to medicine and, in some cases, brain imaging tests.

As a person with Parkinson’s among other conditions, related or unrelated, this would be a big deal. When a diagnosis is based on having a specific array of symptoms, some of which might not be present in all cases (tremors, for instance), one wonders whether medications for reducing certain symptoms might not prevent the presentation of all the symptoms required for a diagnosis of Parkinson’s.

It does me little good to play “what if” since one doesn’t know how one would have reacted to an earlier diagnosis at an earlier age. One can only refer to Victor Frankl’s work on the search for meaning in our lives, and approach the present as though one has already been at this decision point and are being given a second chance to make a decision just as wrong as the original decision. At least that’s how I remember that particular quote.  Here’s another quote from Frankl:

the meaning of life always changes, but that it never ceases to be. According to logotherapy, we can discover this meaning in life in three different
ways: (1) by creating a work or doing a deed; (2) by experiencing something or
encountering someone; and (3) by the attitude we take toward unavoidable
suffering. The first, the way of achievement or accomplishment, is quite obvious.

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…

Dance for Parkinson’s – some links/citations

Just posting some links to materials on dance as therapy.

MJFF blog Feb 1, on Dance for Parkinson’s

A Good ole Boy a’Dancin an’ a’Prancin’ Again

This just came in: A physiotherapist in Oklahoma has discovered gait training with the use of favorite music and posted the anecdotal results as a video on Facebook. I remember my first experience with Dance for Parkinson’s  and how it got me swinging my arms to the rhythm. Recently found that Walk Like A Man reminds me to get my shoulders back and my head up, instead of stooping over like Quasimodo. (YouTube of WLAM below).

Someone needs to put together a playlist on YouTube of Gait Training For Parkinson’s videos and songs. Who will beat me to it? Bueller? Bueller?

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