Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Changes in Specific Gene May Up Risk of Some Mental Illnesses

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today. "In a new study, brain scans reveal the disruption or mutation of a specific gene increases the risk of schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression.
Investigators believe the genetic mutation affects the structure, function and chemistry of the brain. They believe the findings could help in the quest for new treatments.In the study, researchers led by the University of Edinburgh scanned the brains of people that have a specific genetic mutation that causes part of one chromosome to swap places with another. This is interesting in that the chromosome swaps places with another one.  All I know is that I hope before I die they find out why I have this disease.
The article goes on to say: "The mutation results in disruption of a gene called DISC1, which is associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and recurrent major depression. The team found that people with the genetic mutation had changes in the structure of their brain. These changes were linked with the severity of their symptoms of mental ill health. Investigators also showed that carriers of the mutation had lower levels of a neural signaling chemical called glutamate in certain areas of their brain. Reduced glutamate levels have been strongly linked with schizophrenia in previous studies. Researchers say their findings confirm that the DISC1 mutation is associated with a significantly increased risk of psychiatric illness. They just said it has to do with the severity of the symptoms.  Is that why there is serious mental illness and some people have less severe symptoms?
The article ends with: "'They hope that continuing to study people with the mutation will reveal new insights to the biological mechanisms that underpin these conditions. The DISC1 mutation was first identified in a Scottish family that showed unusually high rates of major psychiatric disorders. Scientists have been studying generations of the family for 40 years but this is the first time they have scanned their brains. The study appears in the journal Schizophrenia. Professor Stephen Lawrie, head of the Division of Psychiatry at the University of Edinburgh, said: 'This study confirms and extends the genetics of DISC1, and shows how that and similar genetic effects can increase the risk of major mental illnesses.'" I do not understand this genetics as no one else in my family has this disease and I do not wish it on them.  Even though I hold down a job.  I know other people with this disease do not fare as well as I do.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Exercise can tackle symptoms of schizophrenia

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today. "Aerobic exercise can significantly help people coping with the long-term mental health condition schizophrenia, according to a new study from University of Manchester researchers. Through combining data from 10 independent clinical trials with a total of 385 patients with schizophrenia, Joseph Firth found that around 12 weeks of aerobic exercise training can significant improve patients' brain functioning. The study by Firth, Dr Brendon Stubbs and Professor Alison Yung is published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, the world's leading journal on Schizophrenia and one of leading periodicals in Psychiatry. Schizophrenia's acute phase is typified by hallucinations and delusions, which are usually treatable with medication. However, most patients are still troubled with pervasive 'cognitive deficits'; including poor memory, impaired information processing and loss of concentration. The research showed that patients who are treated with aerobic exercise programs, such as treadmills and exercise bikes, in combination with their medication, will improve their overall brain functioning more than those treated with medications alone."  I have a treadmill where I live although it is always busy that is why I used to prefer to just take walks since I had the surgery for lung cancer I cannot walk so far in the summer.  I do not know if it because of the fires around or I am just going to have trouble walking.  I am going to try again this winter because I really need to walk not to lose weight because I lost enough with the surgery.  Just to exercise.
The article goes on to say: "'The areas which were most improved by exercising were patients' ability to understand social situations. their attention spans, and their 'working memory' - or how much information they can hold in mind at one time. There was also evidence among the studies that programs which used greater amounts of exercise, and those which were most successful for improving fitness, had the greatest effects on cognitive functioning. Joe Firth said: 'Cognitive deficits are one aspect of schizophrenia which is particularly problematic. 'They hinder recovery and impact negatively upon people's ability to function in work and social situations. Furthermore, current medications for schizophrenia do not treat the cognitive deficits of the disorder.'" It does not help memory but to understand social situations that is not enough for people they need help to hold down a job.
The article ends: "'We are searching for new ways to treat these aspects of the illness, and now research is increasingly suggesting that physical exercise can provide a solution.' He added: 'These findings present the first large-scale evidence supporting the use of physical exercise to treat the neurocognitive deficits associated with schizophrenia. 'Using exercise from the earliest stages of the illness could reduce the likelihood of long-term disability, and facilitate full, functional recovery for patients.'" I did not walk as much as I have these last few years although I have always walk as I do not drive.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Genes Tied to Smaller Brain Area in Those At Risk for Psychosis

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today. "Scientists in Switzerland have uncovered a link between certain genes and the size of important brain structures in individuals with a heightened risk of schizophrenia psychosis. The findings are published in the scientific journal Translational Psychiatry. Schizophrenia is a severely debilitating mental disorder characterized by hallucinations, delusions and cognitive decline. The condition has been linked to a variety of biological, social, and environmental factors as well as to changes in brain structure. For example, the hippocampus in the temporal lobe is usually smaller in people with schizophrenia compared to those without the disorder. Researchers have been unsure whether these changes to the brain structure are a result of the disorder and/or its prescribed medications, or whether these changes were already present before the onset of symptoms. For the study, a research team at the University of Basel examined the brain structures of individuals who were at risk of developing psychosis as well as those of patients who were experiencing the onset of psychotic symptoms for the first time."  I do not understand what they could have found because everyone with the schizophrenia have different ways the mental illness affects some are lower functioning some are higher functioning.
The article goes on to say: "Initially, scientists from the Adult Psychiatric Clinic of the University Psychiatric Clinics (UPK) and the Transfaculty Research Platform Molecular and Cognitive Neurosciences (MCN) observed no notable differences between the hippocampi of individuals at high risk and those of patients. Next, in collaboration with scientists from the Transfaculty Research Platform, the Basel researchers investigated whether any known schizophrenia risk genes were associated with the hippocampus structure. They did, in fact, find a connection. The researchers found that the greater the number of risk genes a person possessed, the smaller the volume of their hippocampus. This was true regardless of whether they were a high-risk study participant or a patient."  There have been other studies with the hippocampus  I wrote about them a couple of years ago.
The article ends: "'This discovery suggests that a group of risk genes is connected with a reduction in the size of a critical region of the brain before the disorder manifests itself. The findings offer a greater understanding of neurobiological factors contributing to schizophrenia. It is well-known that none of the wider risk factors (e.g. genes, environment, unfavorable social situation) can be used to predict the onset of psychosis in any specific person. However, the discovery may be of use for the treatment of schizophrenia. 'It is quite possible that individuals with smaller hippocampi will react differently to therapy compared to those with normally developed hippocampi,' said lead researcher Dr. Stefan Borgwardt of the Neuropsychiatry and Brain Imaging Unit. The scientists are planning more studies to further confirm the therapeutic potential of this new finding.'"  They do these studies but we get no answers.  Like I would like to know why I have this disease since it does not run in my family.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

How Exercise May Help the Brain Grow Stronger

That is the title of this article I am reviewing today. "Physical activity is good for our brains. A wealth of science supports that idea. But precisely how exercise alters and improves the brain remains somewhat mysterious. A new study with mice fills in one piece of that puzzle. It shows that, in rodents at least, strenuous exercise seems to beneficially change how certain genes work inside the brain. Though the study was in mice, and not people, there are encouraging hints that similar things may be going on inside our own skulls. For years, scientists have known that the brains of animals and people who regularly exercise are different than the brains of those who are sedentary. Experiments in animals show that, for instance, exercise induces the creation of many new cells in the hippocampus, which is a part of the brain essential for memory and learning, and also improves the survival of those fragile, newborn neurons. Researchers believe that exercise performs these feats at least in part by goosing the body’s production of a substance called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, or B.D.N.F., which is a protein that scientists sometimes refer to as “Miracle-Gro” for the brain. B.D.N.F. helps neurons to grow and remain vigorous and also strengthens the synapses that connect neurons, allowing the brain to function better. Low levels of B.D.N.F. have been associated with cognitive decline in both people and animals. Exercise increases levels of B.D.N.F. in brain tissue."  I used to exercise by taking walks before they took out my left lung.  I cannot do it now but am looking forward to the weather cooling down so I can try again.  I do not know if it is the hot weather or the fires that make it impossible for be to walk like I used to.
The article goes on to say: "But scientists have not understood just what it is about exercise that prompts the brain to start pumping out additional B.D.N.F. So for the new study, which was published this month in the journal eLIFE, researchers with New York University’s Langone Medical Center and other institutions decided to microscopically examine and reverse engineer the steps that lead to a surge in B.D.N.F. after exercise. They began by gathering healthy mice. Half of the animals were put into cages that contained running wheels. The others were housed without wheels. For a month, all of the animals were allowed to get on with their lives. Those living with wheels ran often, generally covering several miles a day, since mice like to run. The others remained sedentary.
After four weeks, the scientists looked at brain tissue from the hippocampus of both groups of animals, checking for B.D.N.F. levels. As expected, the levels were much higher in the brains of the runners. But then, to better understand why the runners had more B.D.N.F., the researchers turned to the particular gene in the animals’ DNA that is known to create B.D.N.F. For some reason, the scientists realized, this gene was more active among the animals that exercised than those that did not. Using sophisticated testing methods, the scientists soon learned why. In both groups of animals, the B.D.N.F. gene was partially covered with clusters of a particular type of molecule that binds to the gene, though in different amounts." Well I see exercise is beneficial for a person.  I used to pride myself on being able to walk all over town.  Maybe this winter I can again.
The article ends with: "In the sedentary mice, these molecules swarmed so densely over the gene that they blocked signals that tell the gene to turn on. As a result, the B.D.N.F. genes of the sedentary animals were relatively muted, pumping out little B.D.N.F. But among the runners, the molecular blockade was much less effective. The molecules couldn’t seem to cover and bind to the entire B.D.N.F. gene. So messages from the body continued to reach the gene and tell it to turn on and produce more B.D.N.F. Perhaps most remarkably, the researchers also found a particular substance in the runners’ brains that fended off the action of these obstructionist molecules. The runners’ brains contained high levels of ketones, which are a byproduct of the breakdown of fat. During strenuous exercise, the body relies in part on fat for fuel and winds up creating ketones, some of which migrate to the brain. (They are tiny enough to cross the blood-brain barrier.) The brain uses these ketones for fuel when blood sugar levels grow low. But it appears that ketones also cause the molecules that hinder the B.D.N.F. gene to loosen their grip, as the scientists realized when they experimentally added ketones to brain tissue from some of the mice. Afterward, their B.D.N.F. genes were not blocked by nearly as many of the bothersome molecules, and those genes could get on with the job of making B.D.N.F. None of this occurred in the brains of the sedentary mice. 'It’s incredible just how pervasive and complex the effects of exercise are on the brain,' said Moses Chao, a professor at the Skirball Institute of Biomolecular Medicine at N.Y.U. who oversaw the study. Whether the same mechanisms that occur in mice occur in our own brains when we exercise is still unknown. But, Dr. Chao pointed out, like the mice, we have more B.D.N.F. in our bodies after exercise. We also create ketones when we exercise, and those ketones are known to migrate to our brains. Generally, however, this process requires exerting yourself vigorously for an hour or more, after which time your body, having exhausted its stores of sugar, starts burning stored fat and making ketones. If an hour or more of intense exercise seems daunting — and it does to me — don’t despair. 'We are only starting to understand' the many ways in which exercise of any kind and amount is likely to alter our brains, Dr. Chao said. For now, he says, 'it’s a very good idea to just keep moving.'" Just keep moving anyway you can.  It all helps for the better.  I would not want to lose my memory or anything because I did not move around or walk.