Today in medicine: New test and treatment options for Alzheimer’s patients

New test and treatment options for Alzheimer’s were presented at the Society for Neuroscience Conference.

This month’s Society for Neuroscience Conference in New Orleans unveiled the latest research into some of what goes on in our brains.

The science behind our smiles
Researchers announced the results of studies determining how the brain processes facial expressions and emotions. In monkeys, for example, it was discovered that special neurons in the brain’s amygdala — the part of our brain that deals with emotion — respond differently when monkeys look at a smiling primate versus a neutral-faced primate. Principal investigator Katalin Gothard, M.D., Ph.D., from the University of Arizona, said that because “normal social behavior depends on the activity of [neurons] … It is not surprising that in many brain disorders associated with abnormal amygdala function, such as schizophrenia or social anxiety, eye contact and social interaction is impaired.”

In humans, researchers found that smile mimicry might depend on social status. People deemed powerful often suppressed a smile toward peers, while powerless people returned everyone’s smile regardless. Researchers also found that crow’s feet around the eyes aren’t enough to deem a smile authentic. You may be able to tell who’s bluffing by mimicking that person’s smile and seeing what feelings come up for you.

How we make social decisions
Researchers looking at the “social brain” in humans and primates  — the structure of our minds that helps us understand people’s intentions, beliefs, desires and how to behave appropriately — studied human sharing and altruistic behavior. They found that we have different areas of our brain that deal with altruism when it’s rooted in general concern and altruism when it’s rooted in preserving our reputation.

Rewiring the brain after trauma
Scientists studying mice for more insight into what goes on in the brains of post-traumatic stress disorder patients think they have discovered how the brain disposes of the kinds of bad memories associated with PTSD and other similar cognitive disorders. They noted that the antidepressant ketamine, as well as the turning on and off of the brain’s dopamine neurons in the brain’s reward center, can cue symptoms to leave. Other research looked at the brains of teenagers before and after the 2011 Japanese earthquake and found that brains with weak connections in certain areas could be at a high risk for PTSD and anxiety after a traumatic experience. Studies in mice revealed that repetitive violent and competitive engagements change the brain’s chemistry.

New tools to fight Alzheimer’s
New developments presented at the conference include PET scanning to monitor changes in brain function before Alzheimer’s symptoms occur and a new drug tested on mice that targeted the biochemical changes in proteins thought to occur in dementia patients. Also, a probe that uses nanotechnology and MRIs is thought to be able to distinguish between diseased and non-diseased brain tissue, thus aiding early diagnosis.

With the elderly population growing, Alzheimer’s disease, which is the most common cause of dementia, is a new epidemic currently affecting 5 million people in the United States alone. The number is predicted to increase to 13 million people by 2015.  metro/lc



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

MTA announces service changes for Sunday

The MTA has announced service changes ahead of Sunday's People's Climate March, which will be held from 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday. Riders using…

Local

NYPD launches Twitter account for L train

The NYPD recently launched a Twitter handle dedicated to the L train and its riders. According to @NYPDLtrain, officers went underground Thursday morning to hand…

Local

Bushwick community space offers activists a place to…

A new Bushwick community space offers community activists to meet, create, learn and throw back a few cold ones. MayDay, located 214 Starr Street in Bushwick,…

Local

Activists gearing up for Sunday's "historic" People's Climate…

If all goes according to plan, more than 100,000 people will gather near Central Park West on Sunday morning and march through midtown to raise…

Movies

Kevin Smith makes peace with the Internet

I was thinking about Ain't It Cool News and Harry Knowles last night, wondering if anyone from Ain't It Cool had reviewed my new movie…

Movies

Art imitates life in 'Swim Little Fish Swim'

There's a certain comfort to be taken in finding that young artists are still moving to New York and trying to make it — and…

Movies

Review: Terry Gilliam's 'The Zero Theorem' is better…

Terry Gilliam's latest, "The Zero Theorem," concerns a reclusive malcontent (Christoph Waltz) struggling with the search for the meaning of life.

Music

Esperanza Spalding and a being called Emily get…

Esperanza Spalding is about to spiral off in a brand new direction that may or may include an alter ego named Emily.

NFL

Oday Aboushi ready for increased role, and to…

Oday Aboushi might feel comfortable enough to engage in some trash talk the next time he is on the field.

NFL

Giants vs. Texans: 3 things to watch

The Giants host the surprising Texans (2-0) in what may already be a must-win game for Big Blue.

NFL

Eric Decker misses practice again, could miss Monday

Jets wide receiver Eric Decker missed practice Thursday as he continues to rehab a hamstring injury suffered last Sunday.

MLB

Derek Jeter still focused on baseball as final…

Derek Jeter has effectively hid his emotions for 20 years in the Bronx.

Parenting

A sneaky way to serve kids fruits and…

"My First Juices and Smoothies" gives smoothie recipes for kids.

Style

3 things we love from Day 1 of…

The highlights from Day 1 of Milan Fashion Week.

Sex

Why don't more couples use condoms?

  Call it the “condom moment.” That’s the name the authors of a new study have given to the pivotal conversation every couple should be…

Sex

Need an idea for a first date? Here's…

Picture your idea of a nice first date. Is it dinner and a movie? A visit to an interesting museum exhibit? Instead, an expert on…